Saturday, May 2, 2009

L'hora dels adéus (time to say goodbye)

Four years ago, I started my first blog, Catalonia, Politics and Supply Chain as a reaction to a New Yorker, Ale, who trashed my city, Barcelona, in one of her posts when she still was Sempre Primavera.
These have been 4 very interesting years in my life, both personally and professionally. It has been, however, very difficult to combine my literary and political ambitions with my private and professional lives. In the last 8 months, this has become impossible. My new job required that I travel constantly (about 90% of my time) and I have to devote to my family the little free time I have left. Just as a reference, I will tell you my next 5 weeks schedule, Boston, Germany, Boston, The Netherlands, Boston, Ohio, Boston, Mumbai, Boston, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Boston.

In addition to that, I may be moving to another country in North Europe in the summer to optimize my travel and try to spend a little bit more time with my wife and children.

I want, however, end up this blog with a post that I would call, "Se'm cau la cara de vergonya d'ésser espanyol". It is really upsetting to see that Spain is governed by real idiots and that Catalonia is at the mercy of those morons. During the times of absolutism, it was somewhat logical to be ruled by idiotic monarchs. For instance, Charles II "the Hexed" DNA was more inbred than the average even for brother-sister matchings, his speech could barely be understood, and he frequently drooled (wikipedia). But now, we elect those same idiots. It is not that they are imposed on us and we cannot do anything about it. No, we are masochists and we elect them. No one wants to invite our monolingual politicians anywhere, we have to beg every time to be invited to the G20, even Sarkozy joked about the intellectual challenges of the Spanish prime minister, "but he wins elections", he added.

The Spanish prime minister just reshuffled his government. The new ministers are two Galicians, two Andalusians and one Basque. The Catalan representation in the central government is pathetic, Corbacho (born in Extremadura, I do not consider him a Catalan, neither does he, I think), and Chacon (no Catalan roots either, I am afraid, and strategically put there with machiavellic intentions). She is the Secretary of Defense, the civil head of the Spanish Military, the same army who has the mandate to shoot to kill if someone challenges the unity of the country, as proven during the heroic defense of the "Perejil island". I would describe her as a weakened virus inoculated to the Catalan society to prevent it from developing the Catalan nationalistic flu (pandemic among Catalan Prussian pigs). The only positive note has been the departure of a national disgrace, an Andalusian ministress who would be uncapable of managing a post office in a village with 3 inhabitants. Listen to this video clip and do not forget your Kleenex.

I left the country 17 years ago as a Spaniard with strong Catalan sentiment. I do not longer feel myself Spanish. Spain is for me like my ex-wife. I loved her, she was attractive and fun, but if I had continued with her, I would be now emotionally destroyed and financially bankrupt. Filing for divorce was a difficult decision that I never regretted. Catalonia should do the same with Spain, it will be tough at the beginning, but we will never regret.

In the fall I may come back with a new name, and maybe a different language. My style will continue to be the same, maybe a little bit bolder, since I will not show my real family name, but those who know me, will easily recognize me.

See you again - A reveure - Hasta la vista

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Aruba Ariba: All Inclusive

During the first 20 years of my life, I spent every year my summer vacation in the same location, a village on the Costa Brava, a few miles north of Cadaqués. I would spend there 2 months with my mother and sister and my father would join us for 4 weeks. I love l'Alt Empordà. I always enjoyed my time there, I made great friends, I enjoyed the beach, I started to learn about the Catalan culture and values (something that was totally absent where I lived the first part of my childhood, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat), I improved my Catalan and even though my Alt Empordà accent is long gone (turned into the ugly Barcelonian accent), I still remember phrases and expressions I loved ("Poc que ho sabia jo" - I have no clue), I still use the "pas" to negate (Això no m'agrada pas), I often do the past participle accord ("No les he vistes") and have a weakness for the Gallicisms ("carrotes i tomates").
In Costa Brava, I also improved my English as a teenager, I learnt basic French and decided that Catalonia and Spain were far to small for me to stay.

My chidren's life is totally different. My wife works and only has two weeks vacation a year (very normal for those who have worked in an American company for less than 5 years) and even though I have more vacation days, I do not like to go alone with the kids, when my wife is working, although I do it some times.

On the flip side, my kids are also used to going somewhere "exotic" for winter vacation. Last year we went to Bahamas, this year to Aruba. We went to this resort called Divi Aruba, a very nice place, beautiful beach, great facilities, quiet and relaxing. I needed this week of relax with my family. Since I took my new job in October, I have traveled every week, Europe, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, etc. I needed one week to try to regain ground with my kids, especially the little one, who was drifting a part from me. The resort is an 'all inclusive" resort. You can drink and eat, anything you want, any time. From the famous Aruba Ariba cocktail to popcorn or ice cream.
Aruba is an interesting place. A separate nation, part of the Dutch Kingdom, achieved the "aparte" status in 1985, thanks to Betico Croes, a politician with "cojones", unlike his Catalan counterparts. Betico died in an accident, the same day when Aruba became a separate state. Many believe that he was killed, but the conspiracy theory was never proven, something not surprising, after having seen how incompetent the Aruban police was in the Natalee Holloway case.
Aruba is worth visiting, even though most of the island is pretty run down (do not expect lots of idyllic places, outside the hotel areas). Prior to the "aparte" status, their only source of income was the 2 refineries (one already gone) and I am told that it was Betico Croes, "Libertador di Aruba", who proposed the diversification of the economy through tourism. The west side of the island has many hotels and resorts, white sand beaches and lots of restaurants and places to relax.

Aruba's independence process is an interesting one and should be studied but Catalan politicians as a model for the future. Unfortunately most of the Catalan politicians have brains, the size of their testicles, and they prefer to study how to beat more students and journalists per square meter during demonstrations. I believe that the way to independence may have to go through using the King of Spain as the umbrella of two (maybe three) sovereign nations (Spain, Catalonia and Euskadi, although I could not care less what happens with the Basques). It is a bit hard to admit that the solution is based on an institution which is in the midst of the current status of Catalonia, but strategy should be put ahead of emotions, and this may be the way to go.

To finalize, I will talk about the Aruban language, Papiamentu. In the island, Dutch is nowhere to be heard or seen (with the exception of Dutch tourists and the traffic signs). Everyone speaks English, many people speak Spanish and the national language that everyone uses to communicate with one another is Papiamentu. This language has a strong Spanish foundation and it is spoken with a strong Portuguese accent. I could read the newspapers in Papiamentu with no effort, most of the words are Spanish and Portuguese and some are Dutch and English and I understand all of them, but when they spoke, I understood little. There are some interesting things in the language, like the way the do plurals, by adding the suffix -nan (hovennan is youth, joven = hoven and -nan for the plural). The phonetic spelling is also worth noting. See below a couple of examples of the language.

Note: I still believe that my childhood was happier than that of my kids and even my wife's who lived in communist China in a single room, sharing kitchen and restroom with 8 other families was happier. I am doing my best, but it is hard. It is now 3am. I am just back from a round the world trip and I am jet-lagged. Let me go upstairs to give them a kiss while they sleep.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sauna thoughts

Last week Friday I was in Budapest. I had decided to spend the weekend in Barcelona, since Monday I had to go to Hamburg and I did not have time to go back home. I was tired. I checked the flight schedules and there was no direct flight to Barcelona, I had to go and change flights in either Vienna or Madrid. So I decided to take a flight to Amsterdam and try to relax during the weekend, while catching up with my work.
Destiny always goes against us, Catalans, and now that a group of Catalan businessmen and the Catalan government decided to buy an airline to bring business to Catalonia and the Barcelona hub, we ended up buying an airline with the name of Spanair. We are either "botiflers" or unlucky. Now, if we change the name for the much more attractive of BCNair, they will boycott it, if we keep it, it will be a permanent reminder of our submission and "cojonesless-ism". When the Cat Air group decided to name its new airline Clickair to avoid boycotts (following the long Catalan cojonesless tradition) , I already declared myself a Clicktalan.
Therefore, since from Budapest you can fly directly to Urumuqi, but not to Barcelona, plus I was very tired and I had to work over the weekend, I decided to go to this hotel on the beach, west of Amsterdam. It is a great hotel, quiet, with great facilities and a very attractive rate. I love sauna and this one has a great sauna and spa. I spent the weekend working on my laptop while looking from time to time to the North Sea, going to the sauna, cold and hot spa, working again and walking on the beach. It was rainy and a bit windy, but the temperature was acceptable, around 3 degrees Celsius.
I called home and I talked to my daughter. I told her that I was in that hotel on the Dutch coast and she asked me: the hotel where people go naked? I said yes. She knows that she needs to switch her cultural profile when he moves from continent to continent and that in puritan New England, she has to take a shower with swimming suit, but saunas in North Europe are mixed gender and swimming suits are not allowed.

When lying in the steam room, I could not help but thinking on the Catalan politics, since they were the reason why I ended up in that sauna, instead of having a good dinner with my university friends at the Tastavins. I was thinking about Convergencia i Unio, the party I feel closer ideologically, but totally useless due to the level of mediocrity and lack of integrity of many of its politicians, including those at the top. It is funny to see Duran i Lleida (now in the middle of a controversy about the alleged misappropriation of EU educational funds by members of his party closely related to him), criticizing Zapatero in his blog for going to bed with the Andalusian president, Manuel Chaves, and agreeing on the boundary conditions for the 2009 Catalan budget, while illustrating his comments with a picture of Zapatero hugging Chaves. A simple Google search demonstrates his level of hypocrisy.

PS: Today I watched Pink Panther 2 with my kids and I had a good laugh. Even if it uses all the typical stereotypes to create comic situations, I felt it was on the acceptable side (clearly they had the advice of a good lawyer). I even found the bullfighter and flamenco scene acceptable (hard to believe, since John Cleese was in the cast), obviously, I assumed it had nothing to do with me. I only feel touchy, if they wear "barretina".

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The big C

I am tired, really tired of hearing people qualify Catalan nationalism as Nazi. I do not have a big issue with people calling us misguided, provincial, old-fashioned, narrow minded, selfish and things like that. but Nazis, no way.
Three weeks ago I spent the Jewish weekend in Jerusalem, one of the rare times when, while traveling for business, I could do some sightseeing. I visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum. There I could witness the horrors of Nazism, I could see pictures and videos with piles of famine-stricken bodies (pure bone ans skin) bulldozed away by Nazi officers, people forced to remove their clothes and jewelry in front of a ditch and immediately shot in their heads in front of those waiting their turn and German doctors experimenting with a crying nude10 year old girl (I do not know exactly what they were doing, since I could not watch the video for more that 5 seconds).
Not long ago, I read the comment of an alleged Catalan woman, Anna Sevillé, equating the Catalan C levels requirement to the number that the concentration camp inmates had tattooed on their arms. I feel disgusted when those comments come from non Catalans, but when they come from Catalans, I feel deeply saddened.
Even if I do not agree with some of the rules established by the Catalan government and despite my critical views on the Catalan education system, I understand that the key objectives of the Catalan government are genuinely positive:
  • Integrating everyone in Catalonia and not having a split society
  • Preserving the Catalan culture and language
That is the diametral opposite of NaZism.

I despise all those who use the N word linked to Catalonia in any form. I think that all of you who link Catalonia and Nazism are "fills de puta".

The reality is that Catalan naCionalism, with a big C, C as in Catalonia, as in Caring, as in Civilized, as in Calm, as in Charming, as in Clean, as in Clear, as in Colorful, as in Conscious, as in Correct, as in Confident, is integrating and welcoming. If we had a solid border around us, we would be called patriotic, but the lack of borders turns us into a nuisance.

At the end, I think that the person who described better Catalan nationalism, was one of the ones who despised it the most, Sabino de Arana, the father of Basque nationalism.
While trying to belittle Catalan nationalism, this is the way he described it:
"En Cataluña todo elemento procedente del resto de España lo catalanizan, y les place a sus naturales que hasta los municipales aragoneses y castellanos de Barcelona hablen en catalán; aquí padecemos muy mucho cuando vemos la firma de un Pérez al pie de unos versos eusquéricos, u oímos hablar nuestra lengua a un cochero riojano, a un liencero pasiego o a un gitano".

[In Catalonia, they"catalanize" every person coming from the rest of Spain, and the locals love the fact that even those from Aragon or Castile in Barcelona speak Catalan. Here (in the Basque country) we suffer a lot when we see some Basque verses signed by someone call Pérez or we hear a carriage driver, a Catabrian fabric merchant or a gypsy speak our language (Basque)].

  1. I also read the book "The boy in the striped pyjamas" I liked it but I would have preferred a slight different end. I would have preferred that the kids swap.
  2. Even though I admire the Jewish people and I think that catalans have a lot to learn from them, I do not agree with the way Palestinians are treated. I hope that Obama will settle the issue with a 2 state solution based, as much as possible, on the 1967 borders. It is also clear that not only Catalonia and Spain have stupid politicians, Israel and Palestine suffer from the same disease.
  3. Yesterday I attended the Boston Catalans Xmas dinner for the first time. I had a real good time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama, my president

I landed in Ohio two hours ago and I rushed to the hotel. I arrived in my room and tuned one of the networks. It was 10.50 and Obama was leading. At 11pm, 5 minutes ago, the networks have called for Obama winning the presidential race. I have tears in my eyes. This was my first presidential election as a US citizen. When this morning I was driving to my town high school to cast my vote, I could not stop thinking about the old "La trinca" song "For the first time" (Me la busco i valga'm Deu, no me la trobo).
I voted Obama, even though I am a Republican. I would have gladly voted for McCain, had George W Bush not existed and would have he not chosen Sarah Palin to appease the far right. I am financially conservative, I support small government, low taxes, policies which support growth and limit protectionism.
But I am socially quasi-liberal (very liberal in USA): I am pro-choice, I am pro-gay marriage (though I oppose gay adoptions for two reasons, if they choose same sex relationships they should live with the anatomic consequences of that, and I think that a child has the right to be raised by a standard family) and I am pro universal healthcare (privately managed and privately funded, except for low income people who should still have the same type of coverage, but subsidized by government).
Clearly McCain was a better fit for me, but I gladly voted for Obama and experimented a special pleasure when I introduced the ballot in the voting machine, much more pleasure than in the previous 20 over years voting for Convergencia i Unio.
I was voting for the first black president (mixed race for me), I was combating the Bradley effect, I was contributing to stopping the war in Iraq, I was sending a message to the world that we finally understood that having an IDIOT as president cannot be tolerated. I hope that the two other IDIOTS, Zapatero and Montilla, will follow soon Bush's trail.
I have tears in my eyes (I just listened to McCain conceding speech and Obama's victory speech. I am really happy for Obama, for USA and for the world. I love Michelle Obama, she is great, she is as talented as Barack or more. The Bradley effect has been defeated.

Unfortunately, the Roca-Junyent effect, a theory that proposes that some voters tend to tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a Catalan candidate, and yet, on election day, vote for non-Catalan opponent, is still there.
I have seen a Black president in USA. I will never see a Catalan president in Spain.

La Trinca - Per primer cop (For the first time)
És avui quan ho faré,
per primer cop
perquè un dia és un dia
o ara o mai
que en tingui necessitats
és llei de vida i també el cos m'ho demana,
què carai!
quan arribo ja m'ho han dit,
hi ha gent fent cua,
acotat demano tanda
per entrar a la cua
n'hi veig molts que dissimulen
però hi ha alguns que ja la tenen a la mà
després d'esperar-megairebé mitja hora
em diuen que passi
a un apartament
i allà es troba ella
tota seductora
que sembla esperar-me temptadorament
me la busco...i valga'm déu!
no me la trobu...
ja la tinc! ja me le tret
quina emoció...
serà cosa de posar-la a l'orifici
i em preparo a efectuar la introducció
tota a dins li faig entrar!
no toco vores i així l'acte finalment
ja he consumat
dins de l'urna ja he papereta
ja he votat per primer cop... ja he votat!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Noiseless vibration

I am tired. Since I took up new responsibilities, my traveling has gone from 60% to about 90%. I love traveling, even for business, but being gone almost all the time is hard for the kids and for my wife. Sometimes I try to compensate my absence by buying to my kids all kind of useless stuff and later I regret it, they are somewhat spoiled. I had such a strict upbringing, no presents outside the standard festivities (birthday, day of my Saint and Epiphany).
Last week I landed at Schiphol in the evening. My flight home was in the morning and, even though my hotel was at the airport, I decided to go to downtown Amsterdam. I dropped my things at the hotel, I took a train and I went to Amsterdam Station. I was hungry and I was looking for a restaurant where I could eat "mosselen witte wijn met fritjes" (mussels cooked with white wine with fries) or Japanese food.
After wandering for 20 minutes, I ended up in a Japanese restaurant someone had mentioned to me. It is a sophisticated "all you can eat" restaurant, but quality is pretty good. You can order 5 rounds of anything you want (during happy hour there is no limit on how many dishes you can order every round). I ordered maguro, hamachi and sake sashimi, all kind of rolls and makis, miso soup, edamame, shrimp tempura, and several other dishes accompanied by a bottle of cold sake. My third round was just dessert, lychees. Service was a bit slow, but food was fresh and I would have paid double anywhere else. The name of the restaurant is Genroku.

I finished at about 10 pm and I decided to go for a stroll to the red district. I always find it a very interesting tourist attraction, though, amazingly, there's guys who actually go inside the rooms. How can anyone have sex behind a shopwindow?
I decided, however, to enter a sexshop and buy a present to my wife. Most probably I was feeling guilty about my prolonged absences and my lack of stamina. I had never ever bought a vibrator in my life. The shop attendant was extremely helpful and gave me all kind of explanations, a real lecture on comforting devices. I did not know, for instance, that women's main complaint is the noise they produce. Good to know. Finally a bought a neutrally shaped pink and silent device for €35.00.

However, the raw reality is that, at the end, a good pair of glasses is more important than a dildo if you want to have a satisfying sex life.

I forgot this was a political blog. OK, I am a republican, but I will vote Obama.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Barcelona: the movies

In the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talk about Woody Allen's new movie 'Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona'. Last Saturday I decided to go to the movies with my wife and watch it. I felt a little bit nervous, because I was not totally sure how my city and my country Catalonia would be portrayed. I was hoping that Woody Allen would, at least, reflect a little bit the Catalan culture and language.

The movie was OK, no masterpiece, but, in a way, entertaining. However the way Barcelona was portrayed was a total disappointment. Barcelona was only used as a postcard, as a beautiful setting and that was all. At the beginning of the film, there were a few references to Catalonia as a result of the one million Euro subsidy by the Barcelona mayor (by the way, and excellent investment, since I am sure that American tourists will pour into the city), but the plot was more suited for Madrid, Seville, Oviedo or Albacete. The non American protagonists, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz had nothing that I would qualify as Catalan, not even the name, Bardem's character, the Catalan painter, was called Juan Antonio Gonzalo and was born in Oviedo. In addition to that, I found Penelope Cruz's character vulgar and uninspiring (and she even had a line with a very racist comment against Chinese that embarrassed me and my wife, not her fault but the Director's, but really unacceptable)
I think that "Vicky, Cristina, Oviedo" would have been a much better choice for title. It is funny that in the Catalan version of the movie the Americans speak Catalan and the "alleged" Catalans speak Spanish to each other (though the trailer tries to hide this fact). Not even the signage was in Catalan.
The only good news for Catalan Don Juans is that if the approach a pair of American girls having dinner in a Barcelona restaurant and they propose to them a one night stand, there is a 50/50 chance that they will not be rejected flat out, and the probability improves if they sport a 3-day beard.

The best thing of the night, however, was dinner. We went to Legal Seafood in Peabody (MA). We had Cape Cod oysters, pan seared tuna (almost raw) with soya sauce and wasabe, crab cakes and Sam Adams summer ale. After two minutes, my irritation was gone.

On the flip side, a few weeks ago, while trying to Netflix Woody Allen's movie to put it in my cue, I discovered a 1994 movie called Barcelona. Though that movie was no masterpiece either and actually had some remote similarities with Woody Allen's one, I found that it reflected Barcelona's character much better and avoided the stereotypes in many occasions. The main female characters are called Montserrat Raventos and Marta Ferrer, they have fair hair and there is clear evidence that the movie Director Whit Stillman understood the differences between the Catalan and the Spanish culture and was sensitive enough to have Catalan actors playing the secondary roles (Pep Munné and Núria Badia).
Despite all this, he succumbed to the pressures of the producer and had to add a flamenco scene (you know, the usual flamenco dance that Catalan girls rehearse after the daily nap*).

* Note for the "guiris": I am kidding