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".