Barça 3 x 0 Athletic de Bilbao

Amazing show by Ronaldinho & cia!!! Earlier in the week, critics were saying Ronaldinho was fat so after giving them a big show, he takes his tshirt off to show off his pecks…

Here’s a longer version of the commentary:

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First morning

I stepped outside at 8:45 in the morning. Outside, the streets are alive with people. The first thing I notice are the children – the streets were filled with little ones going to school. As I closed the door behind me and stepped onto the street, two little Pakistani girls walk by accompanied by their mother; the girls were singing Barça´s anthem as loud as they could. I smile as their childish “Barça! Barça!” recede into the distance. Welcome to the Raval.

The Raval

On the post below, my friend Regina asked whether the Raval is in Barcelona or if it’s another town. So here’s a little history of this neighbourhood west of the Ramblas.

Map of Old Town

The red line on the map shows the outlines of the old Roman & medieval town of Barcelona. To the left is the Raval and to the right is the trendy area known as the Born. In 1800 most of the Raval was made of small farms located just outside the town walls and a few buildings that go back to the Middle Ages like the hospital on C/ del Carme – which now houses an art school, the Biblioteca de Catalunya, the Institute of Catalan Studies, and a medical school – and the Royal Shipyards on the southern part of the neighbourhood, near the water. Map

With the nineteenth-century industrial revolution, many textile plants were opened in the area and the immigrants poured in from around the world. The Raval quickly became known as Barrio Chino in reference to the problematic parts of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The neighbourhood was very seedy, dirty and densely populated, making it a prime spot for many epidemics during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Drugs and prostitution characterized what was then known as the darkest side of Barcelona.

Like most parts of Barcelona, the 1992 Summer Olympics had a great impact on the area. The police cracked down and dismantled the drug rings and cleaned the neighbourhood of its prostitutes (a few sites still survive) and the area has been gentrified greatly in the past decade. It’s still rough around the edges and remains the area of Barcelona with the largest proportion of immigrants, particularly from Pakistan, North Africa & the Philipines. 80% of children at the local school are immigrants.
© Nancy Johnson, http://www.masterperiodismo.fbg.ub.es

Maybe that’s why it reminds me so much of Toronto’s Kensington Market, which is also a neighbourhood created by many waves of immigrants and despite recent attempts to gentrify it, it continues to have a character and style all of its own. That’s sort of what attracts me to the Raval. There’s an energy in the air that is unique to the place. If one looks past the seedy streets with its graffiti and suspicious stairwells, one sees that this is perhaps the one neighbourhood in Barcelona where children still play unsupervised on the streets. “Este és otro mundo” (this is another world), says Nuria Aparecido, of the Fundación Tot Raval, a neighbourhood organization. I can’t wait to be part of it, even if it’s just for two months…

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De la historia del Raval a la historia del mundo – the outline of a very interesting project assigned to a grade 6 class of a school in the Raval. The objective is to learn a little bit more about the history of the world by discovering the history of the Raval

Fundació Tot Raval

Short history of the area (in Spanish)

Moving to the Raval

We are moving to the Raval this weekend. Our rental contract is up on March 1st and since it’s not worth renewing it for another two months, which would have cost us another month of rent just to sign the paperwork, we’ll be moving in with our friends Jackie & Sebastian. I should be interesting to live in the old city for a while… Besides, I really like the diversity and energy of the Raval. It reminds me a bit of Kensington market in Toronto.

We’ve mailed a couple boxes to Canada this week but I think we’ll have to mail a few more before we leave on May 2nd. It’s amazing how much stuff one can accumulate in 11 months!!

Lunch on top of a mountain

Map of CatalunyaAs some of you know from Alan’s blog, last Sunday Sebastian, Alan and I took the train up to Vic for a bit of hiking.

What a day! We left Barcelona on the 9:22 train to Vic and our friends Pau & Mireia met us at the train station. We first met Pau & Mireia at Jackie & Sebastian’s place. Mireia is a PhD student who worked with Jackie at the research lab in Barcelona. Pau works as a contractor (sort of – they call it a “technical engineer” here) and, as a member of a hiking club up in Vic, he helps preserve the regions’ trails. They are a wonderful couple and some of the nicests & warmest people we have met here and the reason I get very deffensive when anyone says the Catalan are cold and unfriendly.

But I digress. Back to our hike. Pau had made reservations at a restaurant – Sanctuari de Cabrera – at a centuries’ old house on top of a mountain outside of Vic. It seems to be quite a local institution and families make a big outing out of hiking to the restaurant on the weekends. We drove part of the way and then hiked the last two hours to the restaurant. You can read all about it here. The path up there was wonderful and the building itself was…. well, you’ll see it on the slideshow below:

Click here to start slideshow

The place was obviously known only to locals. The owner freaked when Pau told her that we were from Canada & Brazil. It was the best trip we have done here. That’s what travelling is all about for me – going off the beaten track and connecting with the locals. And this weekend we got a taste of the real Catalunya…

Needless to say we had a wonderful time and will be going out with Pau and Mireia on another excursion soon… The question is: will it be the sleepy towns around the Pyrenees or the Costa Brava?

New Camper shoes!

When I got to Spain, a friend of mine in Canada mentioned I should look for Camper shoes. “They are amazing!” she said. Unlike many women, I’m not into shoe-shopping that much. It’s not that I don’t like shoes – I love them – it’s just that my mother was always like Imelda Marcos and since we wear the same size, I’ve always just borrowed her shoes. It wasn’t until I immigrated to Canada that I discovered that I actually only possessed two pair of shoes! I’ve bought some since then but somehow the habit is just not there.

Anyways, I checked out those camper shoes sometime back in the summer and I fell in love. They are so much fun!! Here’s the pair I bought back in the summer:

My first camper shoes!

The original Camper Store hails from Mallorca and in 1981 the first branch in Barcelona was inaugurated. Since 1992 it has spread around the world and they have become quite popular lately.

I wanted to get a pair of boots and couldn’t decide between two. So Alan offered to get me one pair as an advance birthday gift and I got myself the other one. Here they are:

Cute boots

Back Boots Alan gave me

The soles are what really marks a pair of Camper shoes:

soles 1 soles 2

Why I blog…

I’ve been indirectly tagged by Erin to give five reasons why I blog. My answers will not be as elegantly put, but here they are:

1. As a way of keeping in touch

In the past ten years I’ve lived in five different cities in three different countries. My family lives in Brazil and I have friends all over the world. When Alan and I set out to spend a year in Barcelona, we both knew it would be one of those life-changing experiences that we would like to share with our friends. This blog, as the title suggests, was created so that we wouldn’t have to stuff our friends’ e-mailboxes with pictures and stories. This way they are free to log on and catch up whenever they feel like it… And if someone else out there comes across it and learning something about Catalunya and Spain in the process, hey, that’s great!

2.  As a travel journal

Because this has been such an amazing year for us, both Alan and I felt that it was important to keep a record of it for the future. Ideally, I would one day host my blog in my own server so I can be sure the content would never be lost…

Like Erin, the act of writing about my experiences here makes me even more attentive than usual to what goes on around me.

3. To share my photographs

I’ve recently taken up photography as a hobby. It helps me get my mind off my studies and alleviates the stresses of an academic life. Plus, going out with a camera forces me to look at the world very differently and the fact that some of those photographs will end up here later forces me to be more sensitive about what is it about this place that I would like my friends to know, what sort of feelings I would like to share… Besides, my writing is not good enough to stand on its own, I need some pretty pictures to keep my readers entertained ;)

4.  The people

Internet for me has always been about connecting with people.

I still remembered the first time I went on the Internet, back in Jan 1996. Commercial internet was barely on its infancy in Brazil but a cousin of my cousin’s had internet at home since he worked for the WHO (world health organization. We dropped by for a visit, he showed us a couple of websites and then logged on to IRC, an online chat server. It blew my mind away. The idea of being able to talk on real-time with people across the globe was just amazing to me. I had internet at home a few months later.

Through this blog and the blogs of the people who come here, I’ve met many incredible people.  Some have inspired me to be more engaged with the world around me, others have touched me for their open-mindness and positive attitude, some I have met personally, others I keep meaning to, and some are friends or family who have since created their own blogs… The ability to be able to exchange opinions and learn from all the amazing people I have met since I created this blog, keeps me coming back…

5. It helps me think and take a position

People like Denise, Erin, Regina, and my brother Jota, have really inspired me to think more clearly about some of the issues that shape our world today. One of the things I enjoy most in life is to be able to have a good conversation with someone, particularly if that person has different ideas to share. This blog allows me to share something that has been bugging me lately with friends & family around the world, who can then discuss the matter with me…

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Anyone else out there wants to take this on? Let me know if you do!