Sunday, 11 March 2012

Madrid: first impressions

People keep asking me if I prefer Barcelona or Madrid.
     I've told them to ask me again in 3 years (that's how long I was in Barcelona). That way I can make a fair and informed comparison. Right now I miss the beach terribly. Sounds awful doesn't it? Get the violins out quick.
     Madrid, Barcelona. They are very different. The people, the way of life, the bars, the food. Here there's great banter, and tapas with your drink for free which goes a long way. There seems to be a big party scene and it doesn't feel too different to London - both big, cool capital cities with a lot going on and a lot of people moving fast around you, all the time. I'm sure I'll love it.
     After 9 days I have worked a full week in my new job, lived in two flats while searching for one to really live in, still don't have a mobile but yes I do have a lot of dirty clothes. Fingers crossed I'll have a home from Tuesday and will put a wash on.
     It's all gone so amazingly fast that I have to catch my breath.
     Just three weeks ago I was mooching around Buenos Aires reflecting on my many months of travels, gazing down at my tanned feet and snapping away on the camera. All of a sudden I have a job again (a really great job), with a title and a desk and a computer and a phone and workmates and an office and it feels a little like Let's Pretend. As quickly as you jump out of reality, you're thrown right back in.
     Would I opt to live travelling? No, I wouldn't.     

Sunday, 4 March 2012

It's the end of the road

Moving swiftly on, from politics to geography: the Iguazu Falls. Wow.

You have to see it to believe how mind-blowing it really is. It’s the kind of thing that reminds you how tiny and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things, like, for example, nature. Nature has the tendency to make me feel about as big as an amoeba; its almighty power, size, age, in comparison to me, a whipper snapper whose time on earth is more than fleeting. But you soon forget all those thoughts when you hit Buenos Aires, and all of its buildings and shops and offices and banks and parks are all built for you and the fourteen million others that live here. You quickly get into the swing of urban things, and we were really lucky to be taken in by a lovely couple we met earlier in Cafayate over a glass or two of wine in a winery. These lovely porteños made sure we tried the most delicious of wine, beer, asados, pizza… I can’t go on because I’m too hungry. We went for a Sunday asado at their family’s home and saw how its done: pretty damn well!
     I’m writing this back in London, but I have to explain how absolutely grateful and humble I was by the end of our trip of four and a half months in Latin America. It was when we were, as my friend Facundo so eloquently put it, with one foot there and one foot back home. It wasn’t a particular place, a thing, a person, a landscape, a sunset. It was everything. It was the whole, full, wonderful experience of being able to travel and see so many different and amazing things, meet so many beautiful people that made me so aware of being a very lucky and happy person.
     In Buenos Aires, our lovely porteña host said one day, “Europe isn’t the world”. First I thought, “Well of course Europe’s not the world”. It took me a while to think about it and understand what she meant. We have it so good, crisis or no crisis, with our access to health and education, to fresh water, to hot water, with a minimum wage, housing, social security. And some people (lots of people) have it so, so bad. At one point in Bolivia, rain water was privatised.
     So yes, I am extremely lucky and privileged, and I need to remember that, always. When you’re having a bad day and everything feels a bit shit, think for a moment that you are living in an old man’s right knee, or think of how teeny tiny you are compared to this:

If you have loved the sound of any of the places I have talked about in this journey, please, go there.

This is the end of the travel road, and the beginning of another. As soon as I got back to London I landed myself a job in Madrid. The next chapter of this blog, I mean my life, will be all about that.