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Odds and ends… - Chuck Fisher's LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
From Bay Area to Barcelona

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Odds and ends… [ Wednesday, 15 Jun 05 | 18:03 ]
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Last Tuesday morning I went to my bank, “la Caixa”, in order to open an investment account. “La Caixa” is short for Caja de Ahorros y Pensiones de Barcelona and is the largest savings bank in Spain. There are offices all over Barcelona. Even El Masnou has four branches. Caixa is catalán for box or bank.

Anyway, I petitioned for a contrato de depósito garantizado referenciado al IBEX 35®. In English that’s a certificate of deposit guaranteed and referenced to the IBEX 35. The principal is guaranteed and the rate of return is based on the índice IBEX 35, which is the leading bolsa or stock market index in Spain. It’s similar to the DJIA in the US. Just like in the US, you can’t take your money out for a period of time and then there’s a penalty for early withdrawal until the term is complete.

Normally a transaction like this would take about ten minutes to complete in the US, but in Spain it takes more than half of an hour. That’s because you typically spend time engaged in “small talk.” They always ask how I like Spain, why did I move here, etc. And this time we compared banking practices between the two countries. The whole conversation was in castellano and I felt quite comfortable expressing myself. I only “choked” a couple of times, usually on figuring out the proper tense and conjugation.

People here appreciate that you are learning their language. After all, 500 million Spanish speakers can’t all be wrong. And they don’t sneer at you if you don’t have a traditional castellano accent, few people here do. The French are more particular about how well you speak their language and sometimes will feign not understanding you if it’s not up to their standard. Spaniards, on the other hand, will prompt and correct you politely.

I must be changing…

The daytime temperature the pas two weeks has been hovering around 24℃ or 75℉. I thought that was my upper range for comfort, but with a breeze, it seems cool to me. The high temperature here is still between that of Richmond and San José. Although the nights are warmer here, it’s still very comfortable sleeping as well.

Yesterday we had some unexpected showers. As usual there was thunder and lightening accompanying the rain. Later in the afternoon when I was getting ready to go to town, I looked out the window to see if I needed to take a raincoat with me. It was threatening, but I didn’t see any rain. Five minutes later and I could see some showers headed my way. And when it arrived a few moments later, it rained hard.

This was one of those showers El Maresme is famous for. The normally dry local stream beds became torrents of muddy water. The Mediterranean was stained brown where the streams emptied.

On the other hand, I took the opportunity to clean off the terraza during the downpour. And like California, rain is needed here. We are having the worst drought in 60 years and they are concerned that there may be a prolonged period of several years with diminished precipitation. Here they say it is part of the effects of global warming (which the US officially refuses to admit is occuring.)

Produce…

It’s nearly summer now and produce prices are dropping. Maduro or ripe tomatoes are about 1 € a kilo, or $0.50 a pound for you Stateside folks. Today I bought a melocotón agua or “water” variety peach. It felt very ripe and juicy. These go for about $1 a pound now and are grown in España.

One of the discoveries I have made here is gazpacho, a tomato-based soup that is served cold. The container of Alvalle gazpacho suave says, in English:
Ingredients: tomato, water, onion, [sweet] pepper, extra virgin olive oil, salt, wine vinegar and garlic. Content of vegetables 74.7%. Contains no additives or preservatives.

There are a number of brands and types of cold-serve soups here. They really are refreshing during warm weather. I usually have a bowl a day.

And to practice your castellano, here is some of the marketing hype on the bric container.

“Es un alimento ideal para los que buscan lo mejor de la dieta mediterránea en cualquíer momento, en cualquíer lugar.”

In general, my diet has changed to having much less meat and more vegetables and grains. The cookies that I have for dessert are labeled “digestive” and are made with oatmeal, whole wheat, and covered with dark chocolate. Not too sweet and good chocolate flavor.

Well, enough about food!

Fireworks…

I received a circular in the mailbox about fireworks for sale for the upcoming dia de San Juan. There’s even a place right around the corner that is selling pyrotechnics. And we’re not talking just “safe and sane” sparklers, snakes, and camelia bloom flowers. Here they have three classes of fireworks, with class one being relatively tame and class three includes big firecrackers and aerial bursts. Class two includes smaller firecrackers and bottle-rockets they call “California thunder.” Indeed!
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