Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What happened yesterday, and a bit about today. Que ha passat ahir, i una mica sobre avui

Today first, cause it is fast and easy.  Worked, the usual stuff, but got a LOT of exercise it.  20K round trip bike ride to and back, topped off with a 3K run as the dog needed out and I was already sweaty.  Had I known, I'd have gone for a swim too, and done a tri!

Avui primer, perquè és una historia ràpida i senzilla.  He treballat, com sempre, però he fet MOLT d'exercici.  Un 20K d'anar i tornar a treballar a la bici i a més a més, he anat a córrer unes 3K perquè el gos ha hagut d'anar fora i jo ja estava suada.  Si havia sabut, havia hagut anar a nadar i podria hagut acabat un tri!

Ho sento molt, però aquesta historia a baix està massa llarg per fer aquí en català també.  Ho faré, però apart.


OK, a little back story so you have a clue what I'm talking about.  I am doing a trade, a language lesson trade.  The architect who worked on our house badly needs to improve his English, and fairly quickly.  I don't do free language lessons, so we're doing a trade, for every hour I help him, he helps me for an hour as well with Catalan.

SO, since he and I are currently talking to each other for about 6 hours a week, quite a lot of hours, I find it easier sometimes, and more interesting, to go walking for part of the time, so we do.  Chuck likes this aspect of things as well.

Yesterday, the architect (I may have to come up with something faster to type!) and I were walking up into the mountains here in the village and we were just coming off the end of a road to head onto a trail when we say a young man coming towards us.  I have to give you more back story here to understand all the implications of this.

There are a lot of people living in Spain who have emigrated from Africa, all over Africa. They are almost all fairly young, under 40, and almost all of them are men.  They are, quite simply economic refugees.  I have recently come across an area where many of them are living near here, and it reminded me of nothing so much as a very small part of the images you see of the Townships in S Africa, how they used to look, I've no idea now.  Tiny shacks, cobbled together from whatever can be found, narrow dirt alleys between them, clothes lines and TV parabolas.  My estimate is that anywhere from 50 − 200 people are living in there, depending on crowding conditions.  I didn't go in to ask.

Anyway, most of these men, though by no means all, work as day labourers.  Some of them have gotten jobs and papers, but many of them work selling purses and scarves in the tourist areas, or doing day labour on farms.  My assumption, and I do want to underline assumption, is that something similar to what goes on in much of the US also goes on here.  There is a parking lot somewhere where guys who are willing to work for the day show up, and people who want to hire them drive up and pick out 6 guys, or 8 or 2, they load them into the trucks and drop them off somewhere to work before picking them up at the end of the day and driving them back, hopefully with pay.

They guys, I imagine, don't know what work they will be doing till they get there and have little choice.  Please note, I image.

That said, there is a look to these guys, and the fellow we saw coming down the road towards us didn't have the look.  Snazzy shiny basketball suit, nice runners, sort of an amateur gangsta look, if you know what I mean.  Not the kind of guy you see walking in the hills.  The only place he could have come from was the abandoned factory off in a different direction.  Where they sometimes hold raves, where kids hang out to sell, buy and smoke drugs, where graffiti is EVERYWHERE, and it isn't great graffiti.

Turns out the Architect is working on a project for that property, and is friends with the guy who wants to do the work, so when we got a little further up into the hills and heard the sound of a generator and metal grinder at work, he was sure that someone was in there cutting out the beams to steal them.  Now I know things are bad in Spain, and that theft, even crazy stupid theft is going up and up and up, for instance a large number of people have died trying to steal high tension power lines, for the copper in them.  Here's the catch, they are trying to steal them while they are in use.  Not good for your health.  Sometimes they succeed.

So, knowing this, I could believe, on an intellectual level, in the possibility that some guys were in there cutting out I-beams to sell them, but had my doubts.  Turns out he was right.  He called the guy trying to get the work done, his client, and he wasn't working there, so they called the cops.  There were three guys working there, one doing lookout and two inside.  Those two were cutting away beams that were fully loaded with a concrete beam floor above, that they were standing under. There was a w.i.d.e. span and few columns.  They had one grinder, one hammer and two pairs of sunglasses as protective gear.  You can see what was going to happen with that floor and those guys, right?

Unreal.  They were all African guys.

The cops showed up, the guys had taken off to hide in the woods, where we had just been hiding waiting for the cops....too weird.

As we're standing around with the cops, for I know not what, one of the guys shows up.  The cops start asking him for his papers, and going through the knapsack, etc etc etc, we leave, the Architect and I.

I felt bad for the guy, honestly.  I assume, and I grant this is an assumption, that he may or may not have even known what he had to do that day, and he certainly wasn't the one who organized the deal.  There was, for example no truck.  How those three guys were going to get the beams, tools and generator through town without a truck, I cannot see.  On their shoulders?

And this guy was likely to take the fall.

Just seemed....unfair...injust.

The Architect did point out that if we hadn't called the cops, one or both of these guys might well have died or been seriously injured, they were already about half way through that beam.

It has left me unsettled.  We talk about 'first world problems' but that just highlights our ignorance of how some around us are living.  This is a first world, but those people are living in a different world, parallel to ours, crossing tracks with ours, walking many of the same streets, but profoundly different.

And not so comfy.

And that is unsettling.



Beth said...

Very unsettling. And sad.
Those “different” worlds are never very far from our own.

thecatalanway said...

It's a strange world and what a story. Metals of course fetch a great price and so i suppose some feel it is worth the risk. But to abandon common sense about concrete and beams and supports! Hard to imagine the desperation there.
Today I was looking at some of the guys with trolleys piled high with cardboard. All African, all walking around Granollers collecting this material to sell for pennies I imagine. It feels like they are in a parallel world which sometimes almost touches but somehow always moves past. I wondered who they are, where they live, how much they get for a trolleyfull?
See you this week? For an adventure free walk? K xx

Peter H said...

Copper wire stealing is also common in Australia.......especially a while back when copper prices were so high. Have not heard of steel beam stealing though....same issues here, unemployment in the main. We do not have the same refugee issue though, but if you read the Australianmedia you might think we have a lot of asylum seekers, most certainly a major political topic. How are things going in Spain for you? we only hear bad times in the media. Have not been to your blog for a while.

Anonymous said...

sad, and pretty dangerous, too... I have an uncle who works in construction. Last time I saw him he was telling me they were having lots of problems with raw materials theft, although he didn't comment on the thieves' ethnicity or origin...

kate said...

Yes, it is easy to forget sometimes... I wonder what all came of it in the end (not that you are likely to find out.)