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Europe [May. 26th, 2007|10:14 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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I seem to have a love-hate relationship with Europe. The events of last night are a fine example. Here they are, in reverse chronological order (because I've always wanted to do that.)

12:30 am. "A la una de la mañana," the woman replied. I can understand simple sentences easily now. "Until 1 in the morning." Coming in response to my question of when the last train left, the words were music to my ears. I'd be able to make it back after all, and get some sleep before my morning flight.

12:15 am. I start walking to the metro. The plaza I'm in seems to be the equivalent of Austin's sixth street. Unlike Austin though, everyone looks different, if you know what I mean. Like, everyone has their own story. You could meet someone and talk to them for hours and have amazing conversations. On sixth street, on the other hand, I get the weird feeling that everyone, especially the girls, came out of some sort of assembly line.

I could be wrong, it could simply be that I am in a tourist part of town. But I suspect that it's more than that, and that Europe in general is a lot more diverse than the US, and conversations more interesting.

There's also all the languages. I don't think the stereotype about monolingual Americans is true -- Europeans are pretty bad at languages too, and seem to have as much trouble in other European countries as Americans do in Europe. I'd love to see some stats on this. But because so many cities in Europe are metropolises, there is a significant foreign population everywhere, and so many languages around you, which is very exciting to me.

12:10 am. I stumble out of the bar after several large beers. My buddy wants to take the train but I don't feel I'd be able to walk there. So we part ways and I get in a taxi. We're in this ridiculously narrow one-way street that seems quite the norm here. An average American car won't even fit side to side in it. There's this big garbage truck in front of us, blocking our way. Two of the sanitation workers are standing next to it, arguing about something. I have no idea when it's going to move. I'm reminded of streets in India. I wait for about 2 minutes. No progress. By this time the meter's racked up 5 euros -- about 50 times more than it would in India.

That's when I see it clearly -- I could never live or work in Europe because of the absurd disconnect between the standard of living and the cost of living. It's a really really raw deal. That's part of the hate side of the equation. [Actually, people consider the taxis to be very cheap here by European standards. I wonder what it's like in Paris.]

I also simultaneously realize that even after all the beers, I'm actually not very drunk, and perfectly capable of walking as long as it took to get to the metro station. This is the second time in 3 days I've tried and failed to get drunk. Can't have been a coincidence: Spanish beer must be quite weak. But then again, I usually just ask for a cerveza and have the default beer from the tap brought to me (which is quite convenient); I'm sure I could have gotten something stronger.

So I throw a five Euro bill at the taxi driver and get the hell out, poorer but wiser. I don't know the way to the bus or the train station, but I'm not getting in another taxi even if it takes me all night to get back.

11:00 pm. We've just finished dinner, me and four other guys from the Ecrypt hash workshop. I've had 3 large beers so far. I'm feeling great. When I started out, at around 7:30, I was feeling ill (which I've been all week) and also really weak. I'm so glad I still decided to go. The beer seems to have made a big improvement. Not hard to understand -- I think I've been getting too few calories here, and the beer made up for that.

I'm also having a great conversation with this awesome dude who's done modafinil and adderall and other groovy shit, and echoes a lot of what I've written here. He also reads Vernor Vinge, does rock climbing and is in his second startup. If I weren't me I'd be this guy.

Conclusion: I'd love to go on a 3-6 month backpacking tour all over Europe, living for a few weeks trying to blend in with the locals in each country. If I didn't have to worry about money or a job, I'd totally be doing that right now. As it is, I dunno.

[User Picture]From: medryn
2007-05-27 07:15 am (UTC)
shouldn't all those "pm" be "am" (except for 11:00 pm)
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-05-27 07:19 am (UTC)
I can never remember that stuff. Thanks!
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