While it might not be instantly obvious, this photo is emblematic of the slow pace of life in Barcelona, and I’m guessing the rest of Spain. Nothing happens quickly: people walk slowly in the streets, a quick meal in a restaurant doesn’t exist and getting anything official accomplished requires jumping through endless hoops. I admit, being a (somewhat) impatient person this is something that I’m still getting used to even after 9 months. It would be easy to say people here are lazy or unmotivated but I have decided it really is just a cultural difference.
On any given day when I walk in Barcelona I am continuously scanning the street to look for ways to pass the people around me because I feel like every else is walking so slowly. I weave in and out to Jamu’s dismay and often for no reason. I’m not in a rush to get somewhere, I’m rarely running late, it’s just that I dislike walking slowly. Then we went to London last week for a few days where we were passed by nearly everyone moving in the same direction. It reminded me of this video and the comments on walking pace (4:48 in but the whole thing is worth watching) and societal norms. He basically says the in the Latin world there is less focus on future so why rush?
The question of pace comes up in all aspects of life and where I have noticed in quite acutely is getting work done on the apartment. While our landlord is a nice guy and easy to communicate with he lacks a certain sense of urgency. Normally this wouldn’t matter but since we have lived in this apartment there has been no shortage of instances to be in contact. By no fault of ours and mostly due to poor timing we have had to address leaks with: the washing machine, the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, the hot water tank and a large section of wall with water damage. The hot water tank alone has been “fixed” 5 times and there is still the need for a bucket underneath.
The fixing of the wall has by far become the emblem of the “mañana” culture of Barcelona. The top photo is a close up of paint damage on the wall. It had been freshly painted when we moved in in March to fix some water damage. Within a month we saw a fresh stream of water on the wall, the landlord came the same day I called but said not to worry. More isolated water drops followed and then in late May one long brown streak ran down the wall. I called, he came 2 weeks later only after we ran into each other in the street. By this time large chunks of paint had started to lift off the wall and pop, showering the floor with shreds of paint. He came again with an architect friend maybe a month later and nothing happened. After finding a small puddle of water where the power bar sat we moved the computer desk to the opposite wall and forgot about it. Fast forward to early September. By this time I could sometimes see large patches of wetness on the wall and mentioned this when the landlord came to fix something else. He finally talked to the building president and together they went to the building next door and found out that the source of the problem is there (we have an adjoining wall). A shower drain in the unit one floor up and beside us in the adjoining building was not connected to anything and was pouring water into the concrete wall. Then it became an insurance issue and our landlord left the country for a 6 weeks holiday in South East Asia assuring me they had our number and would phone. Nothing happened. Around early November while I’m out the landlord came with 3 other guys and Jamu told me that they appeared to argue in Spanish. When I spoke to the landlord I found out the shower in question is in the suite of a woman who has forbidden the work crew to enter her apartment as she is insistent that they stole something. The men who had come to our apartment included an insurance guy, an architect and a guy form the city who then had to get the police involved to make her allow the work to be done.
Today in December 14th and the wall looks like this. Unchanged. We have been assured the work will happen this week and will only take 2 days. For the past 3-4 days we have heard some very loud work happening next door but haven’t been told when to expect them here. Thankfully we don’t really care, we like to think of it as our own private moon scape or a piece of contemporary art. And besides, I’m sure it will happen “mañana.”