Thursday, November 15, 2012

Vaga General - Strike Day (Again)

One thing I've noticed about life in Europe... they like to strike.  I know we have occasional strikes at home, but they are nothing in comparison to the ones here where entire cities are completely shut down as a result.  These strikes are organized months in advance and so people overall, can act accordingly knowing that public transit won't be working or the like.

However, I must have missed the note on this one because I only found out about it on Friday.  Ever since the email last week from the school announcing there would be no bus Wednesday due to the vaga general I've been in obsessing mode. How would the kids get to school and home?  How would we do our us consulate appt?  How would I do my last driving class if I now had to pick up the kids?  All stuff about me, I know. But with a full schedule this week, people striking and essentially shutting down the whole city is something that I'm just not cool with. 

We had a big strike back in March and while I didn't see the violent acts up close and personal, I had friends that did and it was enough that when I heard about today's. which is supposed to be more intense than March (apparently the people are more pissed off than in march), I immediately went into planning mode. It's as if I were expecting a snow storm. Do we have enough food (to last us the one day of the strike, ridiculous I know but this is how my warped brain works)?  How will I get the kids home from school - and remember to make sure to send them with their scooters as its a long 6k back home!!

In the end we rescheduled the consulate appt. We got up earlier than normal, I had to miss the gym (for those that know me, know that this is also what has put me over the edge today) so I could take Josh to work on the south western side of the city to then drop off the kids on the northeast side. Yes totally opposite. Then I had to drop the car seats at home as I had to drop off the temp car right near Placa Catalunya - the heart of where the protests will be today. 

During the time I was driving between 7 and 9 this morning, I saw a few things already kicking off - some more disturbing than others.  Now let me just start by saying, I have no problem with protesting. What I do have a problem with is destruction and violence. The economy here as many may know, is in the shitter - there just is no money to repair damage that is done and it just makes no sense.  The peaceful protesters, I have no issue with you.  Do your thing.  Though I don't appreciate the inconvenience you cause by shutting down public transit to prove your point.  I contribute to the economy here, so why must I suffer along with you?  Anyways, I digress.  What I saw this morning was three things, initially.

1.  At several busy intersections the traffic lights were not functioning.  Not a blinking yellow, just not ON.  And NO POLICE to handle the traffic.  So you are playing chicken and hoping you don't get slammed by the guy who's either not paying close enough attention or just thinks he should have the right of way.  Not safe and so not cool.  You've now endangered my life, my family and thousands of others people's lives.  We saw one accident right after it happened.  I'm sure there were more as that was just after 7AM when there isn't much traffic yet.

2.  Dumpsters overturned into the streets.  If this is anything like the one in March, I fully expect many of these to be ablaze later today.  In a city that prides itself on cleanliness, I just find this sad.  No joke, people mop the sidewalks in front of their storefronts daily, constantly sweeping, q-tip level cleanliness in stores, etc - the street cleaners follow at the end of parades.  CLEAN.  And now there is trash everywhere.

3.  Protesters standing in front of tunnels blocking cars abilities to get to their destinations or find alternative routes.  Somehow the police were here though protecting them from being hit by said cars... I'd rather the cops be at the intersections with no lights personally - if you want to block a tunnel, do it at your own will.  

Josh got to work safely and the kids to school likewise.  I did pretty much do a drop and run, didn't even walk them to their class as I knew I still had to get the car to Placa Catalunya and I wasn't too thrilled about going into the heart of the beast, even this early in the morning.  That and I had changed my driving class to 10AM since I had changed the consulate appointment - so there was a time crunch involved too.  

I got to VW with absolutely no issue.  However, I went to park in the parking garage next to it and the guard came up to me and asked me (in Spanish), if I knew there was a strike there today and what in the world am I doing there?  I responded that I had to drop off the car and yes, I do realize there is a strike today.  He shrugged his shoulders (probably thinking crazy woman) and guided me to the VW spots.  I handed him over the keys as well as our revised car contract to give to our VW contact (I hope she gets both!) and made my way out to the world.

I didn't notice much on my walk to my driving class.  Being it was almost 9, most things aren't open on a normal day yet.  There were a few cafes serving food/coffee and that was about it.  Totally normal.  And even when I got to my driving class, things weren't quite at opening time.  But as we were driving through Pedrables and Turo Parc, wealthier parts of the city, as time went on, I noticed more and more stores and restaurants were open.  Hmmm so maybe today won't be so bad.  

I walked home from Turo Parc and as I neared Gracia, my neighborhood just north of the city center, I noticed more and more storefronts closed.  I also noticed that even the cafes and restaurants weren't open.  Now keep in mind, in this city, everything is closed on Sundays, EXCEPT restaurants and cafes.  Same goes for holidays.  So for even these to be closed is significant.  As I neared my barrio, the helicopters loomed ahead, trash was piled up outside the bins (this rarely happens as it's collected daily), and often there were spray painted walls or store fronts with VAGA or other descriptions (one said Assassins outside a guess is they are saying this because there have been a high number of suicides from people who's homes were repossessed from the banks).  

My day started early but it's not near done yet.  Because due to the strike, there is very limited public transit, as in, it will be closed during siesta.  As in no transit.  And those that are running are at risk for being vandalized or worse - to me the lesser of two evils is to walk.  I don't want to have the kids in a taxi that is then stuck in traffic due to protests and then comes under attack.  We are safer on the streets walking.  (  One line that I feel I need to point out:  

La Generalitat ha establecido unos servicios mínimos para los transportes públicos del 33 % de los servicios habituales durante las horas punta, de las 06.30 a las 09.30 horas y de las 16.30 a las 20.30 horas.  

Assuming I am translating correctly - the transportation will be at 33% of normal ONLY during the hours of 6:30-9:30 and 4:30-8:30.  Otherwise they will be closed.  So there is only transit for a few hours a day and even that is running at 2/3 less than it normally is (and those are the prime hours).  There may be a taxi here or there but even those are in limited supply.  And so I still need to pick up the kids from school.  My plan, to run.  I missed the gym this morning so might as well get some exercise in right?  But it's 6km uphill from here.  It means leaving well ahead of the normal time and it meant planning ahead so the kids would have their scooters to make the 6km trek (at least it's downhill) back home.

And in the end, I did run to school.  It's a LONG UPHILL run.  I'll admit, I had to stop once or twice, the incline was killer.  I took the kids out about 45 minutes early.  We didn't see much on our way home other than storefronts closed....though the American Store was open (so of course we stopped in).  Just about 15 minutes before getting home, we heard sirens - then 9 Mosso vans (they are kind of like the State police) flew by us followed by one ambulance - it was a good counting opportunity for Liam ;)  But to me that also meant trouble potentially loomed ahead.  So I was glad to see that we were almost home.

We made it home unscathed and from what I've read, these strikes, at least as far as Barcelona is concerned were not as bad as the ones in March.  However, in other cities in Spain, they were worse.  In Tarragona, a city about an hour south of here, a young boy was beaten.  A kid.  I mean really, who does that?  I know 99% of protestors are peaceful but that 1%, they get you... and they make you mad.  There were many arrests in Madrid as well.  Josh said the metro was fine, he had to wait about 10 minutes instead of 3 for his train but also made it home no worse for the wear.

Today, it was back to life as usual as if nothing had happened.  Cleanup commences, stores open their doors and people go back to sitting at their favorite cafe enjoying a coffee with friends.  With almost 3 years left here, I have no doubt this is not my last strike... though I promise next time to take it a little calmer than I did this time.


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