Today was interesting. It is a shame that this is actually my first post about Barcelona, but so it goes. I create a blog to document my happenings here, and of course what doesn't happen is exactly that. Since I have given you no previous Barcelona background, you will have to learn about my time here from context. If anything, it will certainly not be repetitive from something you have read before.
Everything started out pretty normal. I went to Spanish class and had an exam. Wait, I guess that really isn't normal at all, because I've never had an exam in Spanish until now. How many weeks I have gone without having any clue as to how well I was doing or seeing if I have made progress. Even then what I tell is a lie. It was a practice exam, one week before the actual thing. I did fine, a 78. Apparently "the ideal", according to the professor, is a 60. This means I am set to pass with flying colors. Wonderful.
After class, my Japanese friend, Sumiko, and I decided to go out to lunch together. My friend Sara, who is also a vegetarian, had recommended me an all-you-can-eat "Japanese" restaurant close to the university. We had been to a similar restaurant that we liked, but was somewhat far away. I gave Sara a call, found out where it was, and off we went to look for it. After finally figuring out where we were and what street it was on, standing in line to get in, we were greeted by a rather unhappy man. I told him I was vegetarian, and asked if there was anything for me to eat on the all-you-can-eat merry-go-round of food. Not really, he said. I asked if there was something on the menu I could order then, and he said yes, so we sat down. Lies. There was nothing on the menu I could eat, and he knew it. So we left and found a nice Arab restaurant with service that didn't suck.
Somehow, we got to talking about blogs, diaries, journals, etc. This blog came up, and she mentioned how I don't have a single thing written in it about Barcelona. It was true, and I and many others knew it. Perhaps that is why I'm writing this now, or maybe it is because I have to write a journal entry for my photography course and I don't want to write this twice. Something that sparked my attention about what she had said about her own Diary is that she writes about her roommates in it, but in Japanese. It is certainly encrypted from them, should they want to read it. Its not that she writes bad things, but it is certainly personal, and she certainly wants her thoughts to be hidden which is completely respectable. We all have things to hide, and that is OK.
Why this was so interesting is how it was so relevant to my photography project. When I initially came to Barcelona, I was amazed at how much effort people put into locking up bicycles, stores, restaurants, motorcycles, and homes. It is not just paranoia, it is necessary. Sometimes it does seem overboard. Is it really necessary to chain and lock your trees to your storefront? It makes you wonder if they didn't if somebody would actually come and steal the plants.
These photos of locks evolved to photos of barricades, walls, fences, and other ways to try to deter people from property they should not enter/see/disturb. The only problem with this is that people can only look at so many photos of locks and walls before they get really mind-drillingly bored. To make things interesting, I wanted to make the photos become more personal. I wanted to include how people choose to lock their things, and why. I wanted to show their paranoia and fear. I wanted to show how they not only lock their property, but also their personality and identity. This is a challenge, but I had some ideas. People hide their identities in wallets, and I don't just mean photo ID. They have business cards from clients, photos of children and lovers, entry passes to clubs, discos, gyms. Certainly almost everybody has a secret in their wallet. Certainly everybody has a secret in a drawer or filing cabinet or closet or under the bed or in the glove box. We all hide things and everybody knows it, but nobody seems interested enough to document it.
The diary, though, is something I hadn't considered. It should have been obvious, but it wasn't. People write some of their most intimate thoughts in a diary or journal, and they write them to not be shared with others. Sumiko said that sometimes she writes things that she doesn't think others will understand. People write things that they want to express, but don't want others to hear or judge. We write things in private to not hurt others. There are books containing the true identities of people which will never be shared, and will always be hidden. It is really amazing, and it needed to be shown in my photographs. Sumiko agreed to participate, and later, after lunch, we did a quick shoot with her writing in a planner. Not her diary, but a book which still contains information that she doesn't want people to see. Often times she looks through it, blocking others from viewing it by holding the pages close together. That was how we shot her writing, and that is how I will remember her and her book.
After that, I headed off to the photo lab to check out some photos that I had recently developed. When I got off of the metro at the stop, a man who was entering the train as I was leaving carried in his hand a newspaper, which, on the back side had a portrait of Picasso by Irving Penn which I had written an entire paper about for my Photo course. The odds of seeing that photo on my way to the photo lab seemed so small, that I smiled and wanted to strike up a conversation with the man. Too bad he was on the train, and I was not. I did catch a glimpse of which paper it was, El País. I would buy it later.
Inside of the store, while waiting in line, suddenly somebody grabs me by the waist and really startles me. It was my Bulgarian friend, Iana, who was also there to get some of her photos for class. Neither of us knew that the other would be there, it was purely coincidence. We sat and analyzed some of our photos, picking out the ones that we liked and disliked and gave each other some advice. She left earlier than I, and I stayed around to order some prints, which again I had to wait in line for.
At this point, everybody had gotten off of work, so the store was a bit more busy than when I had gotten there. The line was kind of long, with about 10 people waiting in it. I sat patiently, and noticed that the girl waiting in line behind me looked very similar to Audrey Tautou from Amelie. Turning to look at her, my mouth must have dropped to the floor when I noticed that over her bright red shirt she was wearing a bicycle lock around her neck, sporting it like a fashion item. It was perfect, and I asked her if I could take her picture. She had no problem with it, but seemed so amazingly uninterested in the whole ordeal that it was almost disappointing. She did ask if she could see my work, but said nothing. I'm not entirely sure, but it seemed that Spanish was not her native language either. Now, I have several photos of a girl wearing a bicycle lock in a photo lab while looking at my photos of bicycle locks. I can't wait to see how they turn out. Perhaps one will go in my final project.
Later in the night, I was to meet Sumiko at a metro stop so that we could go to a restaurant for a surprise dinner party for her roommate, as she is getting married and moving out the same day that I leave for the US. As I was waiting, she called me rather distressed, and said that she had to tell her roommate everything because they couldn't convince her to go to dinner, that the dinner was no longer a surprise. More interestingly, it is my understanding they had also discussed many of the things with her roommates that she had confided to her diary, but had never talked to them about openly. It seemed to be a pretty emotional event, and everything worked out quite well in the end. The dinner was wonderful, and her roommate had a great time even though she didn't initially want to go out.
Midway through our time at the restaurant, I noticed that the person sitting back-to-back with Sumiko's roommate looked a lot like my friend, Jose-Alberto. It was impossible to tell if it was him though, since I couldn't see his face, only the back of his head. Anyways, the odds of him being there as well seemed so low considering the huge number of restaurants in Barcelona, the somewhat strange location, and large populace of the city. Sure enough, once he got up and his face was visible, I confirmed that it was him and went chasing after him to say hello. Apparently he was there with his co-workers. Neither of us could believe it. It was the second time we had randomly bumped into each other in Barcelona.
After dining, we went out in search of somewhere to go have fun. We must have walked an hour and a half, and finally ended up at the front of a discoteca. However, after walking for so long we were all so tired that none of us really wanted to dance, and we decided to go to a bar. It was ironic, though, because if we had decided to just go to a bar from the beginning we could have walked ten minutes instead of over an hour. I could not find a good way to translate Catch-22.
The night ended with us waiting in Plaça Universitat for the #2 Night Bus. We waited, and waited. Other numbers came, and came again, and then again, but the #2 never did. We saw two busses marked "Especial" (Special) go by, and figured that somehow, somewhere along the route, something was turning these #2 busses into Special busses that wouldn't stop. I didn't need the bus, but Sumiko and her flatmates did. I finally gave up after over 45 minutes of waiting and told them I was going home, and did, and slept in my comfy foam twin bed and it was a wonderful way to end such an interesting day.