False Shutter

(An excerpt from some journal entries in Spain. 4/5/2006)

They asked me to take their photo.

I don’t know why.
They are complete strangers on the street.

The first words they said to me:
<<¡Un Foto!>>
They would never see it.

Why do they want me to have a record

of them

of their stupidity

of their drunkenness

of their narcissism?

Why waste my film, my time, my money for them?

But I pointed the camera, adjusted the lens, pressed my finger on the shutter release.

<<OK>> I tell them, and smile.

Except it’s a lie, I never released the shutter

released the mirror
revealed the film

They were doubtful.

<<No hay flash>> I explain to them. That was true.

And they went off satisfied with my lie.

And I am OK with that.

Except that now I don’t remember how they look.

Advertisements

International Dvorak Layout

Before my study abroad in Spain, I realized that I was going to be doing quite a bit of writing en español, and that this was going to require some new keyboard adjusting, since I didn’t feel like doing the alt-01249 key combinations to get characters like ñ € ó ç º ü ¡ ¿, etc, since they would be quite frequent.

This is great and simple, if you use a QWERTY-style keyboard. The problem for me is that I use the Dvorak simplified keyboard layout, and I have been since my Junior year of High School. Though I can type in QWERTY, I find it uncomfortable and slow. There exist several Spanish-Dvorak keyboard layout setup files for Windows, however they are all designed for the Spanish keyboard layout, not the US layout. This moves around some keys from where I am used to having them on my US-Dvorak layout, which again is uncomfortable. I already know two layouts, why should I force myself to learn a third? All I wanted was my US-Dvorak layout with the special accented characters and symbols. This shouldn’t be too hard.

Doing some long and tedious searching, I stumbled upon Colin at carfreeuniverse.org’s US-Dvorak with Spanish Chars implementation. This was a great starting point, but it still lacked some of the symbols that I wanted. I can’t remember what at this point, as it was a year ago when I first looked at his layout. I believe I needed most the €, º, and ç symbols, especially if I wanted to write some Català. So I modified his layout for my own purposes, and added characters as I found necessary.

Now, I’m trying to teach myself Português, and along comes a whole new set of letters that weren’t needed in Spanish – ã, õ, à, ô, â, ê, etc. So, nearly a year later, I open up the old Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator and start doing some edits, and add the characters I need. Finally, this is installed on my desktop, so I can send e-mails in Spanish and Portuguese to my friends without looking like a fool and causing vowel confusion.

The result is a keyboard layout that can be used as the default keyboard dvorak layout when typing in English. When special characters are needed, the ‘, ~, `, and ^ characters are all “dead keys” which are used to modify the following character. The layout thus will not get in my way for any of my everyday typing, and allows me to hold IM conversations and write Spanglish/Esportuguês with zero transition between languages. This may even cover French, but its probably not quite there yet. Maybe in version 3.0. The only thing I modified was swapping the shift state of the ~ and `, since ~ characters are used much more frequently. This may be confusing, because its opposite of the key printing on the keyboard itself. I may change it back if it gets confusing.

Here are some screen shots of the layout:

US Dvorak with Spanish defaultDefault

US Dvorak with Spanish ShiftShift


US Dvorak with Spanish Alt-CtrlAlt-Ctrl

I figured I would post all my hard work for undoubtedly enormous population of US-dvorak-native tri+linguists out there. I can think of at least 2 other people who may find this useful that I actually know, that is, if they even use Windows. More importantly, I’ll be able to access this website and install the layouts from anywhere.

Feel free to comment on the layout. Perhaps I missed some characters or made a goof somewhere. I’d be happy to fix it, so long as I’m in agreement 🙂

Click here to download installer

Jo estic català

Today was rough. In fact, it is less like one day, not even two, but more like three.

I slept two hours before going to the beach, and felt rather exhausted when I did wake. Kaitlin and I went anyways, and it was ok, but the weather could have been better.

Then the coming back and the going away dinner and the despedidas to everybody I met in the program. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too sad about it all. Yet.

Later, I went to meet some of my other friends at a bar, then a club because the bar closed before I even got to it. On my walk, I heard some guys behind me talking, basically wondering where I was from. One seemed pretty confident that I was from here. Enough to actually ask me, “Eres Catalán?”. I replied yes, to see if I could go with it, but somehow they could tell right away by my pronunciation of “sí”. Oh well, it was worth a try.

Later, after some hard goodbyes and feeling like my whole life here is slowly being pulled away like a thread from my belly button until it is all gone and I am completely empty, ready to be refilled when the plane touches down in Cleveland, I realized something – I passed as Catalán. The last few weeks, people have been asking me the time, how the food is, directions once and a while, which side of the train to take. People think I fit in, people assume I know the language. I am not the blatant American, I no longer scream “speak English to this tourist”. I am, for the moment, Catalán. Jo estic català.

I have triumphed.

My mission, complete.

I can now go home rest assured that I have, without a doubt, reached my cultural experience here, and not just remained a long-term tourist. This was real. The friendships permanent, though soon-to-be long distant. Barcelona stays, but I will not, and that is just something that this place and I are just going to have to figure out and deal with.

Twenty-four hours to go. I want to be sedated. These words have never meant so much to me.

Emotional Fútbol War Ground

Today began, perhaps, the emotional roller coaster ride of leaving Spain. I am, without a doubt, excited to come back home. However, there are certainly aspects I will miss about Barcelona, mostly, if not only, the people I have met.

My good friend, Iana, left today to Bulgaria. For some reason I wasn't really sad at all about it until I went back to her apartment to meet my friend/her roommate, Kaitlin. I walked by Iana's room and saw it completely empty, but it still smelled like her, and it suddenly hit me that she was gone. Then, I remembered that I really do plan to see her again and everything was fine.

After meeting Kaitlin, we went a few doors down from her apartment to see the Barça championship game in a bar. It was absolutely ridiculous, as not only was it my first Spanish/European public soccer game watching experience, but they won, and they won the European championship. Now, I've seen quite a bit of crazy fútbol fan action on the streets after the game, as I live one block from where everybody likes to congregate, drink, urinate on the street, break things, shoot off fireworks and flares, make police angry, fight, chant, sing, whistle, scream, and provoke all kinds of sirens and alarms. However, this time was absolutely insane, as one would probably expect. The Plaça Catalunya by me was entirely full, so people backed up all the way to Plaça Universitad to celebrate there. I've never seen so many people in the streets, not even for the nearly-civil-war-declaration Estatut marches.

I met up with some friends, and we observed the craze for a while before heading off to a bar, and then later to a club. At this point, I was feeling pretty good since my city just won a continental championship, people were happy, I was happy to see my friends before leaving, etc. Normally, the idiots on the streets near my house tend to bring me down a bit, mostly because its near my house and I have no way to escape it. Even with my windows and doors closed it is loud and obnoxious. This time, though, I was out so it couldn't bother me so much.

After a full night of dancing until 5am, a normal night out, it came time to leave and say goodbye to a few of my friends. This is the hard part. Saying goodbye to Iana wasn't too hard because I have plans to see her again, and it seems perfectly feasible. However, this group is going to disperse back to several different countries or stay in Barcelona, which I'm not certain I'll be coming back to visit any time soon.

Of course I knew I would miss these people before hand, but it never hits until you say goodbye. For some reason it just bubbles up all kinds of emotions that you couldn't naturally bring up before. And it is weird, because it is quite possible that it is not goodbye, as I may be seeing them tomorrow, Friday, or at the airport. Who knows. My friend, Dan, said that he never says goodbye anymore, but see you later. It seems better, to me.

The hardest was probably when Tonny, my one friend who kind of initially accepted me into this group of friends started going off about how he is so sick of meeting good people and making friends and then they all just leave in the end. I could feel nothing but terrible and guilty. I had such a good time with him and the whole group, and it was all thanks to him, and I just leave him in return. But, what can I do? It was destined from the beginning and not something really under my control. Even if I had the rest of my life free with no plans, I'm not so sure I would want to stay here much longer than I am. Of course I would want to stay with all of my friends I've met here forever, but it simply isn't possible. I told him I completely understand, and that is exactly why I am ready to go home. The nature of Barcelona is temporary. People come and go, come and go. They use this city for whatever reason and then when they are done with it they abandon. To anybody living here, it must be exhausting seeing such a throughput of people, but I don't see it changing any time soon.

The thought of settling down, for the first time in my life, is really beginning to excite me. Making friends that will (hopefully) stay around a while. Forming relationships with people that can last maybe 10 years will be amazing. Truley getting to know a place, inside and out. Culture, food, stores, roads, parks…. everything. I want it to feel like home. It seems like every time somewhere starts to feel like home, it gets taken from underneath me. Settling down and permanence used to scare me, but now I can't wait for it. I am, in fact, getting older.

Walking back to my place, I was enlightened with the aftermath of the massive street-party that took place around my apartment. Near Plaça Catalunya was a Levi's store, front window smashed and entirely robbed of all merchandise. Quality citizens. Obviously, winning a championship is a good time to do a little rioting and lifting. A further walk towards La Rambla revealed missing or torn down lamp posts, traffic signals, park benches, crosswalk signs, newsstand signs, etc, etc, etc. The streets were filled with beer and urine and vomit and broken glass and garbage and everything. There were still cops hanging around to disperse anybody who wanted to form a crowd. It seems disgraceful that these people treat their own city this way.

I am ready to come home. 48 more hours. Many people to see. Dinners and beaches and packing. I will soon get to do it all over again in a week, but next time in Rochester. I knew it was coming, I knew it would be like this, but I was willing to accept the consequences and here I am now, forced to go through with them.

Eighteen Years of Lecture

I meant to write this on Tuesday, the 9th. I was going to backdate it, but decided not to. It was, however, written in my notebook on that date, and is being transcribed here on this date. My good friend, Derek, somehow, seemed to know that I was going to write this as he had sent me an e-mail about this "latest blog post" which, at the time of his writing, didn't exist yet. It indeed really creeped me out, but maked me realize that I had yet to post it to my blog. Here it is:


So this is it?

The anti-climax.

The last class

de mi vida.

Eighteen years of studying

of sitting in lectures

of exams and tests and homework.

And I'm sitting here

hardly understanding a word

complex spanish vocabulary

of topics I'm not sure interest me

so much

so much

so much paper

so much walking

so much tardiness

so much time

so much experience

so many pens

and hours and bookbags and pencils

and calculators and shoes and crayons

and staples and eraser shavings and folders

and adgendas and wins and losses

it was all so much

And right now I feel so, so little.

The Streets are Always Wet

I guess once the initial barrier is broken, it is easier to write random thoughts about Barcelona. I should have done this a long time ago.

Wet Street

There is something that really bothers me about the streets here.

They are always wet. Always.

Sometimes they are completely wet, as if it just rained.

Other times they are only wet in patches. Small puddles around the street, in the center, or little rivers.

And it always smells bad. Always. Fish, urine, cleaning water, road water, mud. It smells.
I prefer to not know what the liquid is. But sometimes I do know.

Sometimes it is from a woman who just poured out the contents of a washbucket.

Sometimes it is from the BCNeta street cleaners who wash the streets with sea-water nightly.

Sometimes it is spilled beer.

Sometimes it is a puddle of urine collected from people urinating on the walls alongside the street.

Sometimes it is vomit.

But rarely, ever, is it from rain.

If you ever wonder to yourself why it is not acceptable in the States to drink and urinate on the streets, live in Barcelona for a while and you'll realize what wonderful laws we have and follow. In the meantime, I'll be playing hop-scotch while avoiding other people's mysterious liquid waste.

Day of Coincodence

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.

Sumiko 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.

Necklock
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.