Populärmusik från Vittula … Barcelona … Buenos Aires &c. 3rd of March, 2006 ANTE·MERIDIEM 01:37
Saw Populärmusik från Vittula a few Saturdays ago, in Swedish and Finnish with German subtitles. It’s really good, sort of a School of Rock but set in a part of the world where the surrounding society is not a hackneyed theme—it’s a part of Sweden in the sixties and seventies above the Arctic Circle, where half of the families speak Finnish as a first language, where poverty (in Sweden!) is rampant, where a scarier Finnish version of the Janteloven is in force (c.f. […] Swedes […] are effeminate sissies who have enjoyed the blessings of peace while we have done all the fighting for them).
Also, and more interestingly, spent the last two weeks of January in Barcelona (three days) and Buenos Aires (the rest). The weather in Barcelona was perfect; light rain, occasional sun, temperature in the low teens. Food was good, and cheap. I heard almost no Catalan, I was surprised at how difficult it was sometimes to communicate through English or French, and managed to use my German like, twice. (I’m sure I weirded out, a little, the chica I addressed in German based on the language of her mobile phone display.) Must work on my Spanish.
Some fuсker stole my camera; this was in the course of stealing my whole bag, with my passport, from an internet café where I was sitting on the strap. He spent ages lying on the floor working the strap out as I was leaning forward; I know this because an onlooker came up and explained it to me, after looking on the whole time, bless her fresh-off-the-boat heart. (As I understand it, it was her first day in Barcelona, with the intention of learning Spanish—her English was certainly much better than her Spanish.) So, I went to the local police station to report it, and sat around for forty minutes swearing to myself about how long it was taking, because the (honorary!) consulate was never going to issue me replacement travel documents in time for the flight that evening. Eventually, a pair of be-sunglassèd police come in with my bag and I thanked them effusively once I saw the passport. But, fuсk!, I could have done without that.
Then to Buenos Aires and the land of an unbelievably hot January, of cheap beef, of good, cheap pizza, of minimally-belligerent neighbours, of vast natural resources, using the best available standard language (Spanish. Pros; very phonemic writing system, huge numbers of people speaking it, morphology an order of magnitude less annoying than Russian, vocabulary held in common with the rest of the West. Cons: inanimate objects have genders. Beats all the competition, insgesamt), where the invention of refrigerated shipping lead to, as my guidebook described it, „märchenhaftes Reichtum“ (yes, the translation of that is the boring phrase “fairytale riches,” but the „märchenhaftes“ brings an allusion to the Grimms in that it doesn’t in English), but where, despite all this opportunity, poverty is rife, and even the wealthy—who, materially and in the details, have among the best qualities of life on the planet, since if you’re wealthy in a rich country, the small things done by servants that are easily economic in a poor country with wealth become less of an option—the wealthy go to psychotherapists obsessively, they’re not happy. I had trouble liking the place.
But, that said, two weeks hanging out with my friend Jena, in a city I’d never been before, seeing some of the rest of the New World (vs. the US), having it reïnforced that learning Spanish is very worthwhile (my rustling-up-some-Spanish-by-means-of-cognates-from-French was by far the more effective side of lots of the conversations I had, and that rustling produces terrible Spanish)—in sum, I very much enjoyed it. That said, if you want info on more details of Argentina, read Maciej—he’s seen and he cares about more of the place. (Patagonia? Fuсk no!)
Since then I’ve been back in Berlin; getting more sleep, enjoying work more (a result of the sleep), reading more, learning more of foreign languages, liking German more (strange, though—even today, where I definitively prefer German-language culture to French-language culture, there are days where I’d really like to speak French, just for the sake of it; I still have an æsthetic preference for French over German), in general amusing myself well, thanks for your concern :-) .
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