Friday, October 29, 2010
As of late I have become a night owl, falling into the Spanish lifestyle despite my Minnesotan roots. Tonight I break from my recent fashion by getting into bed before 4 am. Despite my regression to earlier hours, I cannot help to appreciate Barcelona at night.
At night, the city becomes more personal by showing its intimate side without the distractions of a bustling populace. The true agony of the streets cannot be disguised as they mourn from a day of abuse. My beloved neighborhood Gracia is typically littered in feces and piles of trash by sundown. Not until the early morning garbage crews and street cleaners with high pressure hoses pass down Llibertat does the barrio lighten up and welcome the sunrise.
Night also showcases the lateros, the drug dealers, and the prostitutes, our clandestine servicers of the city that--while present during the day--take on a more desperate form at night where they more aggressively pursue the increased number of drunks, hoping to reach their daily quota. I do not mind these illegal workers. Their existence exposs the harsh reality of the city, a reality too easy to overlook on the sunny beaches and inside the art galleries of the day.
This week introduced me to a new undercover industy, Telecopas, an after hour delivery service of life's vices. On Wednesday at 3:00 am, Telecopas delivered to my door a bottle of whiskey, ice, a bottle of Coke, and a pack of smokes. I declined the Meal Deal. While the local Ayuntamiento discourages this industry, I am proud to support hard workers in an economy with the worst unemployment in the EU. If only the rest of Spain could learn how to provide such exemplary service, I doubt this economy would be so weak.
Ah, the nights have taught me so much. Perhaps more some other time. Now, I'm going to try some early sleep being that it is only 2 am.
Monday, October 25, 2010
For my entire life, I lived and worked in the United States, consuming, earning, and saving Dollars. I never saw a need—nor should I have—to follow the currency markets. Those were reserved for some fat cat bankers who erroneously felt they could exploit arbitrage opportunities. Their daily tradings had no effect on my life.
Then, I moved to Spain where I consequently incurred some very large expenses (Have you checked the cost of an MBA? Don’t.) due in Euros. Having all my savings denominated in Dollars, I quickly realized that the fluctuations of Dollar-Euro exchange rates could increase the price of my tuition by thousands of Dollars in just a few hours. A bad week could leave me destitute, forcing me to survive by selling knock-off handbags to tourists.
I never expected that I would constantly monitor the Greek debt levels, the Spanish unemployment rate, the US trade deficit, and the Chinese foreign investment portfolio. But all these have sent me—along with the Dollar—on a 14 month roller coaster ride. Fortunately, I have officially ended this nightmare. Aside from a $5 bill that my mom sent me in the mail, I am more or less out of Dollars thanks to my last tuition bill. My puny savings are now all in Euros.
While I no longer worry about the strength of the dollar, my focus has just switched to the Pound. I recently accepted a full time job with Amazon in the UK. My future paychecks will be in Pounds. Will England’s austerity measures make my pay worthless, making me unable to afford the extremely long British vacations? I hate this uncertainty.