I wanted to take a picture of myself biking, I don´t know why...I guess just to document the first time I´ve been back on a bike since Phnom Penh and because I was having a great time. So there I am in the bottom right hand corner taking a picture in a mirror.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Barcelona and I had a beautiful day. I borrowed my friend, Rosa´s, bike, and suddenly the city was my oyster; freedom and mobility to explore the far flung reaches of the city edges (but not really that far flung…Barcelona is quite compact), but far enough from the tourists on Las Ramblas. Like many Western European cities, Barcelona is extremely bike-friendly, and even though there aren´t bike lanes on every street, the avenues are wide and there are plenty of car-less barrios and plazas where you can have a ball pedaling around, people watching, character observing. One of the coolest things about traveling around the world for a year is learning the nuances of certain cultures in the places I have been, and then witnessing how they play out in big cities where major diaspora has occured. My broski did a year of traveling around the world documenting Chinese diaspora ( and perhaps his project has made me more aware of diaspora as well. Heading into the hidden neighborhoods of Barcelona yesterday, I discovered pockets of Pakistanis in the familiar garb I witnessed in Punjab, North African neighborhoods with signs written in Arabic script and people greeting each other with Salaam Alaykums and men wearing jellabas, Sikhs wandering around together, and of course, the hardworking Chinese laborers in another ubiquitous Chinatown. I loved passing by a hole-in-the-wall Turkish restaurant and understanding the subtle references in the decor and in the naming, reminders of home imported by the immigrants who have come here in search of opportunity. I didn´t realize Barcelona, with its relatively small 1.6 million people, was home to so many cultures. And I saw some freaks, too, which made me happy: A man riding a bike naked with pierced balls, and two old women wearing exactly the same hot pink and gold outfit, with hair dyed silver, walking arm-in-arm. I couldn´t whip out my camera in time because I was too busy staring.


Barcelona BikeCity



Catalan tapas



Gaudi architecture takes over the city


I went to the World Press photo exhibit at the Centre Culturel Contemporaria Barcelona and liked this photo of an Angolan fashion designer

The day culminated with my friend Willy, a born-and-raised Barcelonian whom I had met in Essaouira, Moroccoo. Willy refers to himself as Catalan as opposed to Spanish. Indeed, the people of Barcelona, who speak Catalan instead of Spanish, pride themselves in their own language, cuisine, and even customs. It´s similar to the distinctive pride I saw with the Kurdish people in East Turkey, or the Berbers of North Africa. Countries are just borderlines created by governments, after all, and have little to do with the people. Catalan sounds like a mixture of French and Spanish, and at first it´s really weird to hear (at least for me) because it sort of sounds like French with a Spanish accent, or vice-versa, No ho entec. I can´t tell which language it is closer to…but go out into the countryside and you´ll be surprised that many people speak only Catalan and not Spanish. Willy speaks both. And English. And he is a rockstar and we went to his friend´s rock-and-roll show, which was cool since I haven´t ¨gone out¨, Western style, in a long long time. It was kind of funny to see a bunch of Catalan guys singing in English to a totally Catalan audience minus one (me). A real Barcelona experience, if you ask me.


The Midnight Travelers at Rocksound in Barcelona. I´ve noticed a lot of the "Indie" rock bands here have names starting with "the" and then some kind of adjective paired with an obscure noun. A takeoff of The Rolling Stones I guess.

Today I also finally remembered that I could flush the toilet paper down the toilet. Wow, forgot about that one, home smells close!


~ by ceciliabien on November 14, 2009.

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