Year of Grace, Day 126. Conversations

The other day I had a lively conversation with a neighbour as we were on our way home. My neighbour volunteers at a children’s clinic.  It’s amazing what interesting and fun things happen right here, specifically with children in mind. In the summer there are Teddy Days held over several days. What is a Teddy Day exactly? It’s when kindergarteners from all the local schools bring their “ailing” teddies and other stuffed toys to be seen by doctors and properly treated. The “doctors” are students from the  medical school, and there are “nurses” — volunteers who bandage, give shots or pills, set casts for “broken” arms, and even sew on missing parts — ears, noses, eyes — or repair burst seams. Each child is asked what seems to be the matter with his or her “ward,” and once a boy, very grave and serious, said his stuffed toy had a heart attack. It turns out that someone in the boy’s family had had one just a few weeks before. The more usual treatments require a bandaged head or a sewn ear.  When all the cases have been treated, the “parents” and their now fully-taken-care-of “wards” are amply rewarded with cake and ice cream. Such rollicking fun!

Another conversation I had later that evening with a young mother revealed that children are not now taught proper German spelling in the early grades. They are allowed to write as they hear or speak. (!?!) Only much later are they taught the rules of proper German orthography. The young mother and I were skeptical that this would be a more effective way.  It would be much more difficult, we thought, for anybody to learn proper spelling after having written in an idiosyncratic manner for years. This is supposedly the prevailing fashion in teaching the German language in primary school. At least here in North Rhine-Westphalia.

With the sunny days we’ve been having, the snowdrops will soon be setting seed.  Before I bid them a final farewell until next spring, I am posting these two charming blooms from my garden.

 

Year of Grace, Day 125. Thinking of home

Yesterday afternoon — perhaps because it was a dreary grey day — I suddenly felt I wanted to go home. Not to my current home in Bonn, but the home that I once knew as a child. Home, as in a place that encompassed and still encompasses all that was and is safe and familiar, where I am not a stranger, where friends and family are, all the time. Or so it seemed then.

Born and raised in Manila, I realize with great sorrow that that city is no longer home, and has not been for a long time. My family moved to the States not long after I graduated from high school. All but a few relatives remain in Manila. And friends that I grew up with have also moved to the States. All the people that made me feel at home in Manila, save for a handful, have made the exodus to America.

My last three visits to Manila in 2008, 2010, and 2011, made me feel as if I were Urashimataro or Rip van Winkle. The city that I had once known had become unrecognizable – all the familiar landmarks torn down or obstructed by massive overhead road infrastructure. Even being in the family home, I did not feel the same. First of all, neither my parents nor all my siblings were there. I kept seeing from the side of my eyes flickering images of friends who had once habitually dropped by. And once or twice looking at someone walking in the neighbourhood, I wistfully hoped that when that person turned around, it would be someone I had known from way back, just by some odd chance passing by. Weird isn’t it – this unsettling feeling of switching between past and present, just by being in one’s family home after a long, long absence.

What is this home that I hanker for, that leaves me with such a deep, deep yearning to go back to? Home is where we are comforted when we feel rather out of sorts. Home is where when we are down, we find encouraging words and comforting warm hugs. Home is where we are delighted and uplifted by someone’s joy at a new job, or a great adventure, a new addition to the family. Home is also where we find solace when sorrow and despair invade our lives. Home then is not merely a place, but a distinct space in time, occupied by faces and feelings. And although we can go back to a place, we cannot, at least without divine or other intervention (technology perhaps still to be developed?), go back in time. Nor have people who have departed this earth, fill once again those spaces they once did. Home, the home I yearn for, is ultimately lodged in my heart.

Do not our close friendships and family provide somehow some vestiges of these familiar comforts of home? And in the reality of our far-flung lives, is it not the next best thing to being at home, the home we all once had when we were growing up – having some of our friends and family from different slices of time and space to connect with synchronously on Facebook?

I know that virtual connections cannot ever replace being there in the moment together with friends and family, sharing the same physical and emotional space. But for now, my friends and family that I meet with and greet and chat with and connect with on an almost daily basis on Facebook are, in a sense, Home for now. Sad, I have to admit and inevitably accept, but true.

It’s sunny out this morning. I leave you with one of the delights of early spring here in Bonn – the ephemeral magic of snowdrops blooming in the forest just a few minutes’ walk from the house. They bloom and set the seed for future flowers all in the space of a few weeks. Once the trees’ leaves are out and form a closed canopy, these tiny understorey plants have no chance of accessing much-needed sunlight. Nor can they compete for nutrients or water with tree roots. And so they have accepted and adapted to the inevitable reality of these conditions and go dormant, biding their time to be in the spotlight once again in early spring, when the trees, in their turn, are dormant still.

Snowdrops in Venusberg

Snowdrops in Venusberg

Year of Grace, Day 124. Cards and socialized medicine

I went for my quarterly eye exam the other day, and that’s when I realized that among the other casualties from my brush with Barcelona bandits was my medical insurance card. The receptionist at the eye doctor’s, despite having seen me regularly over several years, insisted on my calling the insurance provider to have them send a fax confirming my coverage. It would take ten days to have a new card mailed to me. Until then, every time I access any medical service, a fax would have to be sent by the insurance company. I am grateful that my insurance provider has English-speaking assistance, a concession no doubt to the proliferation of UN offices here. (Under duress, my facility with spoken German declines.)

The other card taken was my Bonn commuter’s card. This allows me to go on all the Bonn transport services – bus, train, metro, tram — with a minute reduction for over 60s, unlike the very generous free bus pass to seniors in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. I shall have to reapply for this in person. Quite annoying.

How fortuitous then that I had removed all the other cards normally carried in my wallet just before we travelled. My library cards for the Bonn University Library and the Bonn public library; my loyalty card for Knauber’s, my favourite craft and garden shop, etc. What would modern life be like without these handy pieces of plastic we habitually carry and use?

There’s a new opthalmologist at my eye clinic, and being new, or perhaps this is how he is usually, he was exceedingly thorough. The only one who ever came this close to painstaking was the one I went to in England. The new doctor went repeatedly over what must have been every capillary and vein in my retinae. It is comforting to have this level of meticulous investigation on what I consider my most important sense. And I learned something new – those who have extreme myopia are at greater risk of retinal detachment as they grow older. All is well with my eyes, the new doctor said. There are no holes or tears. My eyesight has not deteriorated, I am gratified to hear, and I am to come again in three months, as usual. Unless, he said, I see flashes. If I do, then to come without delay.

My dilated eyes were extremely sensitive to the bright afternoon sun as I went home, but I was gratified to have my eyes declared fit. Not 100% perfect, but at my age, one does not expect the clarity of eyes belonging to someone aged 20, the doctor said. “Or am I allowed to say that?” he asked, perhaps anxious that I would consider his statement ageist.

I am truly grateful for modern medicine and the range of excellent medical services and facilities available here in Bonn. Especially as Bonn University has an excellent medical school for which it is renowned, and the University Clinic, actually a research and practice hospital, is just minutes away from the house. Contrary to those who decry “socialist” medicine, I am deeply thankful that I live in a society where medical insurance is compulsory and affordable and available to all at the same highly professional level of treatment, irrespective of social status.

It is interesting that Maimonides, the Jewish sage, born in Cordoba in 1135, and physician to the court of the Vizier Saladin in Cairo, had this to say, among other things, on how to live a good life — “Reside only in towns or villages where you know the following are available: a physician, a surgeon, … flowing water, a school, a teacher, a scribe, an honest treasurer of charity [the ancient equivalent of today’s social services?], and a court” (Simon Schama, 2014, The Story of the Jews, page 343).

I leave you with contorted hazel catkins, photographed the other day in the back garden: the long tassels are male, the small bud ending in tiny red rods, female. Unless you come very, very close, the female flower would be all but unnoticeable.

Flowers on a contorted hazel

Flowers on a contorted hazel: the long tassels are male, the tiny bud with red tips, female.

Year of Grace, Day 123. The tenacity of plants

While clearing out the dried leaves and other winter debris in the garden yesterday, I noticed that certain plants that I thought wouldn’t have a chance over the winter have survived. I am in awe of some plants’ resilience to freezing temperatures.

One in particular, a purple variant of mitsuba — one of my favourite Japanese herbs and often called Japanese parsley, though it is not a parsley relative – is full of new shoots. It is heartening to see how robust this fragile-seeming herb is. I had planted it in a pot together with some chives, instead of in the ground, as I did not wish to lose it to the voles and moles who have free run of the garden. And even without any winter protection for the pot (fleece or burlap sheets wrapped around the pots), both mitsuba and chives are now sending forth new leaves. I shall position the mitsuba in the shade this year, so that the leaves and stems stay tender. Last year they were a bit tough and stringy. I am looking forward to the delicate scent of its leaves floating ever so gracefully in suimono (clear soups) or adorning the quivery silken surface of chawan mushi (steamed custard soups).

Purple mitsuba leafing out

Purple mitsuba leafing out

Another plant that has not suffered too much is an Argentinian plant – Verbena bonariensis – whose tall stalks are tipped with clusters of tiny lilac flowers. These have a delicate perfume that carries well on a light breeze. I was surprised by its scent while working in my garden in England, as I had not expected it to be perfumed. To hedge its chances here, I planted some in the front garden which has a southern exposure and in the west-facing back garden, close to the protection of the house walls. But even those in planters out in the open have done well.

The tiny sedums have also come through. I am acquainted with the robustness of the larger sedums, but this is the first time that I have planted these smaller ones, and with the good drainage in the tall herb pots, they have survived.

Sedum

Sedum

On the other hand, the clary sage did not fare well. I thought I had provided enough drainage for this Mediterranean native, but apparently not. As with all else in life, in the garden there are always gains and losses. And unless it is a tree that takes years to mature, I am not too bothered about annual or biennial plants that fail to thrive or survive the winter. It takes a while to become familiar with a garden’s micro-climate, and 2.5 years is nothing at all in the life of a garden.

Today I am thankful that there are more survivors in the garden than I had expected. The tulips are leafing out, and so are the narcissus. Primroses are blooming too. It’s another sunny day today – perfect for gardening!

On another note, I have this irrational and rather whimsical hope every time I pass by my jewelry box, that my turquoise earrings and necklace lost to those odious Barcelona bandits, will miraculously appear. I realise a miracle like this would be rather far-fetched. It just occurred to me that the last time we were in Spain, we had been robbed as well. It was the 28th of December, Día de los Innocentes, or Spanish April Fools, and someone had helped themselves to No. 2 son’s clothes. Ay, ladrones!!

Year of Grace, Day 122. On Tortosa: pondering places and sushi

The sun is out today, but overnight there’s been a hard frost. Winter seems determined to hang on by its chilly claws, a sharp reminder that there are still a good two months to go before the Ice Saints (Eisheiligen) declare in mid-May that its frosty breaths are, officially at least, no longer welcome.

I’m reading a fascinatingly engaging book on Jewish history by Simon Schama, and in it he mentions a scribe, Menahem ibn Saruq, eloquent assistant of Hasdai ibn Shaprut, the trusted right-hand man of the Caliph of Al-Andalus, Abdalrahman III. Menahem was born and raised in Tortosa. Now Tortosa is the provincial capital of Tarragona, on the lower Ebro River, and over the past two weeks most of our wanderings have been in the towns along the Ebro. It is this kind of serendipity in what I am reading about and experiencing that enthralls me – the links that bind the immediate to the ancient. And Menahem and the “minister” Hasdai and the Caliph lived in the 11th century!

Menahem penned the letter that the minister Hasdai sent to Joseph, king of the Jewish kingdom of Khazar in Western Asia (a vast one –extending from the lower Volga to the Caucasus mountains). It was among the documents in the Cairo Geniza collection, now stored in Cambridge. It described Spain as:

“[a] land rich, abounding in rivers, springs and aqueducts, a land of corn and oil and wine, of fruits and all manner of delicacies, pleasure gardens and orchards, fruitful trees of every kind including the leaves of the tree on which the silkworm feeds of which we have great abundance.” (Simon Schama, The Story of the Jews, page 264).

Had I not been there, Tortosa would have remained a mere name. Just as Trier and Cologne and Bonn, also mentioned in Schama’s book, would have been, had I not been resident here and experienced being in those places. But having once been in a place and lived in it, or even spent just a few hours in it, one comes to place (pun intended) a town in one’s mind map. Not simply in the geographical and morphological sense, but the psychological as well. I had written earlier about the spirits of place, and I do feel that places – whether houses or villages or cities – possess not only a structural form, but an emotional content as well.

It’s a pity that we did not have time to explore Tortosa. We might have made the effort, if it weren’t for the quasi-sushi that we had in the Restaurant in Tortosa Park. We had expected quality sushi. There’s the Mediterranean and the wonderfully fresh catch of all manner of marine ingredients, right? And there’s the Ebro Delta, where rice flourishes with overflowing abundance. (And I digress here a bit, but the agronomist in me suspects that rice, much like coconuts, might relish a bit of salt intake from brackish water or the rainclouds that form over the sea). Put these local treasures of seafood and rice together, and of course the local specialty has got to be none other than paella. But hang on – what other food combines, so exquisitely, that inimitable pairing of seafood and rice? But of course, what else but the globally and gastronomically fashionable sushi. Naturally our Tortosan gourmet restaurant offered sushi as the day’s special. And we — naïvely assuming that with such abundant and good-quality local ingredients, no chef worth his or her salt could bungle such a simple dish — took the bait.

Big mistake! For a start, the rice was too decidedly al dente, as so often happens with paella. And it was unflavoured. I could go on about the underwhelming quality of the ingredients – why use fake crab when fresh is so easily available, and most likely cheaper than kamaboko masquerading as crab? Oh, and they also offered a set meal of “tempura” squid. (Our neighbours had it.) It turned out to be none other than calamares fritos. The dish was not even remotely presented like tempura: the sliced tubes of squid were just piled on a plate, indistinguishable from the less-pretentiously named calamares fritos at less-pretentious eateries. A gratis bottle of cava accompanied the sushi and tempura sets for two. On a positive note, on taste alone, I would imagine that the “tempura” squid might just be a tad more palatable.

Sorry to be such a sushi and tempura snob, but it’s a crime to foist such blatantly inauthentic food on Tortosans. On top of it all, the waiter was obviously not having a good day – he was surly and rude, and scowled throughout. Evidently, being around food and customers who enjoy food is not his niche.

Lesson learned: the exquisite meals we had enjoyed all along the coast of the southern Catalunya had been in simple eateries. The Tortosa Park restaurant was aspiring to be – trying too hard to be — in the gourmet category, with the waiter dressed head to toe in modish black and the artful cobalt blue glassware and matching (plastic) water containers. Those who appreciate food – good, honest, well-prepared food – are not fooled by faddish frippery. This is one Tortosan restaurant I would never contemplate going back to again.

Seriously, sushi is more – oh, so much more — than just raw fish and rice. Let me sweeten this with a gracious end note: the mandarin and orange curd served with the almond-citrus pie was lovely. (Yes, this area is justly famed for its citrus.)

The size of the sushi topping is the first knuckle of my thumb.

The size of the sushi topping is the first knuckle of my thumb.

Mandarin and orange curd with almond pie

Mandarin and orange curd with almond pie

Year of Grace, Day 121. The garden’s welcome

I had expected the snowdrops to be over after my absence of two weeks. But happily, they had waited and yesterday all were in the full flush of flowering. And under a brilliant sun too! Apparently, Bonn has been having a Spanish spring over the past few days.

The second stalk of the amaryllis has a similarly prolonged blooming, and it has an amazing six blooms, instead of four on the previous stalk. Four blooms have opened, with two more waiting for their turn to shine. A brief turn around the garden revealed more crocuses out, the yellow ones too, and the hazel catkins have unfurled their long, yellow tassels, enjoying the welcome warmth of the sun. Behind them, the cornelian cherry’s yellow buds are fattening, soon to bloom.

Hazel catkins -- the twisty hazel below, normal hazel above. To the right and behind is the cornelian cherry.

Hazel catkins — the twisty hazel below, normal hazel above. To the right and behind is the cornelian cherry.

This morning though is back to wintry grey, drizzly, or more precisely, mizzly – a misty drizzle – that is supposed to last the whole day. Back to the reality of a typical early spring day in Bonn.

Still… I have had two weeks’ of brilliant sunshine stored specifically for days like this. And the plants certainly need the watering. And I’ve got plenty to occupy me indoors, as I get back to the routine of la vida cuotidiana in Bonn.

I am using M’s camera, which is a later version of my little one, until I get a replacement for the one that someone else is probably enjoying in Barcelona.

Year of Grace, Day 120. Light and shadow and dichotomies in life and art

Sometimes a failure turns out to be a blessing. I am speaking of Park Güell, which was conceived by its entrepreneur-owner as a gated forest community for the Barcelona wealthy at the end of the 1800s. Had the enterprise succeeded, Barcelona would not now have one of its greatest draws, not to mention a wonderfully forested mountain park with the eccentric flourishes of Antoni Gaudí, open to the general public. Rather fortuitously, only two mansions were ever built on the site: only one paid for; the other became Gaudí’s home. And that was the object of our visit on our last day in Barcelona.

I appreciated seeing in what surroundings Gaudí lived. Simple and frugal. I loved that the few furnishings he had did not have the excessive ornamentation that are the hallmarks of his designs: a rather interesting dichotomy and thoroughly logical and understandable. One detail stood out about his personal preferences. The nuns who took care of his needs, after his housemates (his father and niece) had died, took note that his clothes were  mended and patched multiple times. This reminded me of my friend Okuyama-san who could not bear to discard torn well-made clothing, and this personal fact further endeared Gaudí to me.

The house’s tall, narrow windows, strategically placed, looked out onto the trees and woods that surround it. It must have been such a haven and inspiration, as it was to me, just from that brief visit. Music from local buskers at obscured locations in the park enhanced the magical atmosphere: a trio of flamenco guitarists and a male flamenco dancer, and just wafting out from the shade, engaging variations on Pachelbel’s Canon as we exited.

We next headed for Sant Antoni Market, remembering that we had had an excellent meal inside many years ago. It was closed, being a Sunday, but we wondered around, and astonishingly, the majority of inhabitants that we met looked Filipino. We spied a small diner called Myramar, and approaching its posted offerings, saw puto and lechon kawali and other familiar Filipino dishes. Well, that day’s lunch was decided. It was indeed a local hang-out, and it was buzzing with a birthday celebration ongoing. We took one of the last tables available. Lechon kawali (crisp fried pork cubes), sinigang (sour soup), and pinakbet (braised tropical vegetables) were some of their specialties. Haute cuisine it was not, but it was honest, comforting home cooking. As it was a Sunday, they didn’t have one of my faves – adobong pusit (squid adobo-style). Pity. And for dessert, there was no puto (steamed rice muffins) or buko pandan (young coconut and pandan-flavoured jelly) either. Oh, and when a Filipino says the rice serving is small, remember that “small,” to a confirmed rice-eater, is relative. We could have done with just one order of rice, and we would still have had some left over. Nevertheless, it was a comforting reminder of home.

In the same neighbourhood is Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Culture (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, CCCB), and what I love about it is that on Sunday afternoons from 3 pm, admission is free. (We didn’t know this beforehand.) What a great way to develop ordinary people’s aesthetic and cultural sensibilities! There was a multimedia glass-enclosed library on the ground floor, with what appeared to be inviting upholstered cubes in nooks to sit or lie on, as the mood takes you. And there were young people there, clearly enjoying themselves, relaxed and lounging with headphones and laptops. No cautionary “Keep your feet off the seats” signs, as the seating cubes were clearly intended for total relaxation.

I was very much drawn to the current exhibition of Antoni Arissa’s black-and-white photographs titled “The Shadow and the Photographer,” featuring local people in the early 1900s as they went about their daily life and scenes from the community. Long forgotten, Arissa’s work has been recently unearthed from archived negatives and printed as Arissa would have done them in his time (he was also a printer). This exhibition is one of the museum’s projects of bringing to the public the brilliant work of unsung Catalan artists.

The Kiss, Antoni Arissa, photo from CCCB website

Photo from CCCB website.

A satisfying day in all the senses – a walk accompanied by snatches of music in the shaded woods of Park Güell, a visit to GaudÍ’s simple and serene home, Filipino comfort food, and seeing light and shadows through the eyes of Catalan photographer Antoni Arissa. As we left, Filipino teens were practising a choreographed performance surrounded by the charmingly painted and decorated walls of the open atrium of the museum. Lovely!

We arrived in Bonn well past 1 am. Travelling and discovering new places and having adventures are nice, but coming home is even nicer.

Year of Grace, Day 119. Daybreak over Barcelona

A thousand words could not paint what I have before my eyes: day breaking over the Mediterranean and Barcelona below. Streaks of lilac, pink, orange on ultramarine clouds, framed by the lighter blues of the sky. And below, the sea, still unlit by the sun, is a grey-blue, hazy with mist. High above the city below and the sea, roosters are crowing.

Our last day in Barcelona, in Catalunya, on this house-hunting trip. Each day we have fallen in love with one house, superseded by the next day’s favourite. We have a checklist of must-haves, but in the end, it is the feel of a house — the spirit of a place and the feelings that have filled a house — that give a house and its environs its own particular character. A home’s spirits of place, if you will.

How do you choose a house? For me, aside from the usual requirements of sufficient space and number of rooms, I love having distant views. The last one we viewed, just three-quarters of an hour by car from Barcelona, seemed to radiate the peace and serenity of its owner, a yoga and Bach Flower Remedies practitioner. And it had views of mountains and the sea. There is a botanical garden, a famous one, and three more renowned municipal gardens nearby.

We have tough decisions to make ahead.

Year of Grace, Day 118. Orchids, violets, and turquoises

A posy of orchids and perfumed violets picked for me that very instant was placed in my hand by a lovely woman whose home we viewed yesterday. Distant views of mountains and the sea, framed by a natural pine forest and four terraced gardens — this was the serene setting for her home. But it was the garden she had created of select plants and fruit trees — three kinds of apple, loquats, olives, almonds — and her soft-spoken gentleness that gave the place its unique welcoming spirit.

Later, we drove north along the Costa Brava to meet my friend Carme in L’Escala, famed for its anchovies, with a museum wholly dedicated to this silver fish. Lunch was at Origens, whose windows looked out over the cobalt sea: the perfect setting for prawns wrapped in thinly sliced roasted courgettes, fresh bacalao a la plancha napped with ratatouille, and dessert of Revolución Cubana. What is a Revolución Cubana? A mojito sorbet, mint ice cream, a cube of tart lime jelly, and a similar-sized cube of buttery cake —  bitingly refreshing and hitting just the right endnote.

What a difference a day can make! The day before, an unfortunate encounter with Barcelona bandits; yesterday, a charmed meeting with a gardener and a long-time friend and sharing a memorable lunch by the sea.

And today? A leisurely, late breakfast, afterwards a stroll along Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella (Old Town) on a warm spring day under brilliant skies. The only thing that I rued about the robbery was the loss of some turquoise jewelry: earrings and a necklace of irregular beads —  the last, a prezzie from my daughter. Both had been  in the stolen handbag, alas. I had intended to wear them today with a white shirt. It’s not actually the jewelry as such, but the link to their givers and the love that accompanied their selection that I rue. What do you do when you’ve lost, through no fault of your own, well-loved things?

Replace them at once, of course! Looking forward to a nice hunt in Bonn!

Year of Grace, Day 117. Banditry in Barcelona or beware the kindness of strangers

It is early March and I am eating under a bright moon outdoors, looking out over night-lit Barcelona below. This would be unthinkable in England or Germany. I am calm now. Unlike earlier when I was deeply shaken. My camera and handbag were stolen from literally under our noses. Within seconds!

Just as our car was leaving Plaça Alfonso Comin, a motorcyclist signalled for me to look behind the car. I rolled down the window, and saw we had a puncture. We were just about to take the corner into Carrer Collserola where there was a petrol station, so we parked into the nearest parking space. M started taking our luggage out of the boot, and I helped. In minutes another motorcyclist comes over, speaks in good English and says, “If you need help repairing the wheel, there’s a garage near here.” And he signalled with his hand where, and we followed that hand. And we said no.

And I thought to myself, “How amazingly helpful.  Had this been anywhere else, I would have been suspicious.” And as I went back to the front seat, I realised that my bag and camera were no longer there.

Ah, yes, do please beware the kindness of strangers, especially at the corner of Plaça Alfonso Comin and Carrer Collserola in Barcelona. A worker at the petrol station there said that it is a common incident there. So why, oh why, don’t the police do something about it?

It is not so much the loss of things, as those are covered by insurance, unless it’s a passport. It’s the feeling of being violated and the aggravating loss of time having to report the theft to the police station.

I reflected that a) neither M nor I was hurt, and b) we were alive. And more importantly c) my Thyroid meds were not in my bag. They would have been, had I been following my usual orderliness. Thank goodness, I decided not to put them in my handbag this morning. Losing a camera or money is not fatal; not taking a required daily medication for the next few days until I get back home or get another prescription could be. For this fortuitous thing alone, I am deeply and truly grateful.

For these two bandits in Barcelona, karma will surely catch up. If not sooner, then later, as eventually it will.

Let this mishap be a lesson to all. This is a common modus operandi of bandits all over the world today. Not just in Barcelona or Manila, Rome or Paris. Beware the “kindness” of strangers when your car has a puncture. The puncture was an intentional prelude. Perhaps through a caltrop thrown by the first motorcyclist.

I have no photo of tonight’s brilliant moon over Barcelona to share with you. But they say that the best photos are the ones that we store in our eyes and minds. Just close your eyes and imagine a clear, clear sky and the Barcelona moon. Good night, everyone.