Sierra Conversations

Jug and Awning
Photo: Jarra and Terrace Awning

1.The Romanians

I was chatting today to two thirty-something Romanian guys who were cleaning a pool up here in the Sierra above Madrid. They told me something that interested me, that they would probably head back to Romania next year as the construction industry was going downhill so fast here that there was less and less work with the big contractors.

Plus the extra they did earn here compared to in Romania was hardly worth it these days, as prices in Spain continue to climb. “I’d rather earn 50 Euros less a week in Romania and live about the same”. I wonder if we’ll see a lot of Eastern European immigrants returning over the next few years.

2. The Ice Cream Seller

I was parking my scooter in Madrid the other day, next to one of those green plastic ice-cream and drinks kiosks you find on the streets of big cities. The owner appeared from the back and shook the remaining crumbs from an ice-cream cone bag onto the pavement. I was staring at him, so he looked up, smiled, and said, “It’s for the pigeons, they’ll probably all get diabetes. They need the extra sugar though, so they can, you know…”, and he slowly raised the index finger of his right hand and grinned, “…get it up and make lots more little pigeons!” Strangest conversation I’d had in a while. I must get out more.

[3. Conversation with myself]

[I had to delete a lot of unpleasant comments earlier this week, which made me think, “man, this place must be giving off some negative vibes, I can’t be doing with that!” Time to get back to the way things were, a return to the levels of Spain-loving positivity that actually drew complaints in the past, like the comment I found on another blog, “Notes from Spain is just too nice”. Hmmmm, feeling better already! Think I deserve a tinto de verano.]

15 thoughts on “Sierra Conversations

  1. skip

    There was an article in the Wall Street Journal recently about how all the Polish immigrants in Ireland were heading home, by some estimates up to half. The construction economy in Ireland is going down, and up in Poland…

  2. Ray

    @bill: the weak pound? …well, I do declare… I would that my dollars were as ‘weak’ as your pounds.

    I lost my job in construction in Madrid as well. Several of the laborers that worked on my crews were from Romania. The one’s that would talk to me, they said that they were either going to take what they had saved and go back home, or go all the way to the States, if they could get a visa, and then take everything they had bought in America back home, and re-sell it at a premium.

    The workers that wouldn’t talk to me? Well, they just took my tools and disappeared.

  3. frank

    I think all European countries will be feeling the same pain.
    Here in UK, a headline last week,

    Number of new houses being built plummets nearly 60%

    Also in 20minutos today,

    El número de viviendas iniciadas cae el 36,1% en el primer trimestre del año
    20MINUTOS.ES / EFE. 26.06.2008 – 11:26h

    * El importe medio de las hipotecas cae un 4,8% en el mes de abril.
    * El número de viviendas hipotecadas cayó el 9,4%.
    * La compraventa de viviendas sufrió una caí­da del 7,1%.

    Hard times are ahead for all, I fear!

  4. Jon Hundt

    Hard times ahead… maybe! But I prefer the positive outlook. If things are going bad (for a while) in Spain and Holland, the Rumanian and Slovakian and Polish workers can go home; chances are that their recent membership in the EU is leading to at least a mini-boom in their home economies. That is good for me (less low-price competition) and good for them (they can live with their families again, in their own country) and good for Europe (levelling out of wages, incomes, prices, etc)

    We all have to learn to live with the changes that China, India, Russia, and (so far to a lesser extent) Brazil are going to make on the world economy – that is indisputable, so I say: Get Used To It!

    But I like your personal conversation to yourself the best. I felt recently like the forum and the blogs were getting too confrontational, and pushing people into corners that they feel obliged to defend. Please, Ben, go back to pure enjoyment and appreciation of Spain. Maybe you can cock the occaisional eyebrow, but I’m not sure any of us are benefitting from the “Spain vs UK/rest of the world” posts.

    I’m sure there is a place for them… after all, people who are seriously considering the major life-disruption that will occur when they move to Spain need to know the facts, the opinions, and the truth. But I don’t think that your wonderful website is the best place for that.

    Maybe you need another forum, on another site, under another name?

  5. Jon Hundt

    Ray said :

    “The workers that wouldn’t talk to me? Well, they just took my tools and disappeared.”

    Ray, you are an American working in construction (like me)? Didn’t you learn early on that NOBODY uses your tools except you? And you DON’t leave your tools laying around where others might grab them?

    I learned all this long ago when I started out in the USA; here in Holland I am always amazed/amused at the guys who show up without tools/ladders, etc and want to use mine. I’m pretty generous, but I sure keep track of who’s got what, and at the end of the day I make sure I get it all back. The Dutch have a whole different attitude about these things, but I’ll save that for a “Notes From Holland” site.

  6. Ray

    @Jon Hundt: The tools were purchased on the company’s account, and assigned by me to the various crews doing different phases of the work. Usually they did a decent job of checking everything back into the locker by the end of shift, but near the end things got a little more chaotic. They were ultimately my responsibility, and I failed to institute a secure program of distribution.

    Have you noticed that there a couple of different types of Romanians, that kind of stick to themselves? The gypsy-like Romanians and the other Romanians? And even the gypsy Romanians don’t get along with the Spanish Gitanos?
    I am making a gross generalization, I know.

    Anyway, during this time of hard-to-find construction management jobs, I have temporarily? moved into the information sector. (Luckily.) The starting pay is waaaaaaay lousy, even for Spain, but at least they’re hiring.

  7. richardksa

    Item on TV recently about Romanian kids who have only ever known Spain as home being given language and geography lessons before their families return back home. The class shown was quite full.

  8. Pepino (Dave Hall)

    I’d have had to have told the ice cream guy to shove his Mr Whippy where the sun don’t shine! Feeding pigeons gets me riled up big time :-0 (Mind you, I was poo’d on recently, so I’m baring a grudge against the damn flying rats! jeje).

  9. Pepino (Dave Hall)

    Oh, and as for the recent spate of locura on the forum/blog, I’ll be happy to see a bit of sanity return too. I don’t know what’s got into people lately. I blame global warming, Gordon Brown, and this Euro-copa footbally thingy (in that order) 🙂

  10. Ben Post author

    @Jon – “pure enjoyment and appreciation of Spain” returning from now on!
    @pepino – I think you are right, it’s Gordon Brown’s fault 😉

  11. frank

    “@Jon – "pure enjoyment and appreciation of Spain” returning from now on!”

    I agree a lot of the comments got out of hand, but I find it a bit of a whimpish attitude that you feel you cannot comment on any negative thoughts you may have about Spain. I didn’t have you down as a zalamero. You’ll have to bite your tongue, and only praise Spain and all things Spanish from now on. I remember they started a “good news only” paper in UK, but it folded after a very short while! There will always be controversial subjects, but it should be possible to discuss these subjects without it turning into a slanging match, without personal insults being hurled around. We have had reasonable discussion here in the past, it’s only lately when it seems to have gone pear shaped. At the end of the day, we are all here because we either love living in, or visiting Spain. But like anywhere else, it ain’t perfect, but we’ll have to pretend it is from now on. 😉
    Anyway, I’m off to read 20minutos now, there’s always something controversial there! 😉

  12. gary

    Have to say I reckon the forum content is more or less back to its old self having kept a close eye for the past week or so.

  13. Ben Post author

    @Frank – “You’ll have to bite your tongue, and only praise Spain and all things Spanish from now on.” Don’t worry, I’ll still talk about things I observe that might not be totally positive, but I won’t be moaning.

  14. PattyN

    Ben – My reading/posting in NFS has really dropped off the past month or two, I think because I don’t care to spend my time on a lot of vitriolic conversation. Glad to see that you are returning NFS to it’s “too nice” roots. I loved the post on tinto de verano and the ice cream vendor.

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