Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Coming clean(?) about Lavapies

This is a rant, not just a little rant, but a big huge one. I love many things about Madrid, I have blogged the excellent seafood, the cafe culture, the buildings etc, but I have to confess I have come to the absolute end of my tether with the house and neighbourhood, Lavapies, in which I live. And these are my reasons (sorry to moan, but I'd rather do it here than force people to listen to my tales of woe):
  • My 'new' kitchen is about to be ripped out and re-plumbed for the 4rth time in 2 years, because the house is basically an ancient leaky bucket
  • I'm sick of stepping in dog poo every day
  • The whole building is falling apart
  • On weekend mornings you step out onto the streets to find all the wheely rubbish bins (and other unpleasant receptacles) have been emptied out onto the pavement by 'party goers' the night before.
  • I'm scared of some of my neighbours
  • I'm tired of being sexually harrassed by groups of layabouts on a twice daily basis (once on the way to work and once on the way back, and sometimes I actually avoid going out because of this, silly, I know)
  • I don't want to queue up for my groceries any more with a load of junkies in Carrefour (no offence, but they are stinky and scary)
  • I want to buy fruit and vegetables from shops where the produce isn't all mouldy
  • I've had enough of people coming and doing a 2am botellon with accompanying serenade right under my balcony
  • I am woken up my my neighbour 'doing it' very loudly on a regular basis (ok, this could happen anywhere, but the walls here are so thin that it sounds like they're actually in bed with me)
  • I have to poison the flat with insecticide in order to not get 2 inch cockroaches as flatmates (I always look before I step, just in case)
  • I could go on, but I won't

Ok, I feel a bit better now, just had to get that off my chest... The funny think is that lots of people (especially foreigners) really like Lavapies, but maybe that's because they don't live here or have different expectations to me?

Promise to be more cheerful next time.


MadridMan said...

Interesting read. You REALLY lay-it-all-out.

Some Spaniards have told me that, while Lavapies is how it is now, it used to be A LOT WORSE. I know, you didn't live there in those days so you can't compare.

I too am a recent transplant to Madrid as of nearly 4 years ago. I sometimes see news about the goings-on in Lavapies and it even makes me nervous because I come from a place (in the USA) which doesn't really have such neighborhoods or such issues in its downtown.

You live in Lavapies and you have to deal with these issues on a daily basis - and I really feel for you. On the surface, living in a place like this has a romantic, bohemian ring to it, very downtown, artists, cultures, color, great bars and terrazas everywhere. Those are the positives and they are a reality.

But as the saying goes, one must take the good with the bad because nothing's perfect although you - and I - may come from places where these issues you mention don't exist.

Surely your female Spanish counterparts living in Lavapies also get propositioned while walking by but their attitude about is probably different because of their cultural perspective. Some Spanish lady friends of mine actually LIKE this! They say it makes them feel (still) attractive!! As for junkies in line at the supermarket, some Spaniards would take pity on them, stinky-and-scary or not, and would see their struggling humanity.

Someone close to me did live in Lavapies for about 10 years - but in the 1980s - and things were much rougher then but it also had strong sense of community.

No one likes a noisy environment whether that noise comes from below your balcony or on the other side of the paper-thin wall.

No one likes cockroaches. I've only lived in one place in my life which had cockroach problems and, to me, this is the worst of the worst. I'd much rather have the noise.

People, like me (and maybe you) who come from quiet places with wide spaces, lots of rules and enforced laws, and clean environments often have real difficulty living in a place like Madrid.

Don't think I'm criticizing you because I'm not. I agree with all your points and your rant is psychologically healthy. I'm sure you've tried to forgive those who've made your life somewhat difficult, wanting to chalk it up as "This is Spain" and accepting, or submitting yourself to it. It can be hard.

Maybe it's time to move?

Saludos, MadridMan

natalia parisa said...

Jejeje! I live right between Lavapies and La Latina, right across from a Locutorio, on a very interesting street that I playfully refer to as "sexual harassment boulevard." ;o) My favorite is this old shop keeper that grunts, “URRGGRRGGG CUUUUUUEEEEERRRRPPOO!” every time I step out in my gym clothes (which are not that exciting, trust me).

I’m not sure how far you’re willing to walk for your fruits and vegs, but I have a wonderful produce guy on Calle de Toledo! He’s in the small market that’s in the entrance to the DIA supermercado (to be avoided). It’s called the Centro Comerical La Paloma—I guess it’d be around number 84 or so. When you enter, he’s the first guy on your right.

Nadya said...

Hi Madrid Man, despite my whiny post, I do actually agree with what you have to say! I think I was just having a mega-crappy couple of weeks and it all got to me, I've been in Madrid for 7 years and have been by and large very happ here :-) and whilst some aspects of Lavapies might be less tolerable (noise at night), others, such as junkies in Carrefour normally make me sad rather than angry. Interestingly, one thing I never feel in Lavapies is fear, I can happily come home alone late at night and feel a lot safer than I did when living in 'better' areas such as Goya as the streets in Lavapies are always so full that it seems unlikely that anything could happen to you. Another thing I love is that you can get hold of great ethnic foods which are otherwise hard to get hold of (unless you want to pay Corte Inglés prices), and you're right about the bohemian feel, the terrazas on c/Argumosa, the central location just minutes from all the museums (I'm starting to sound like the Lavapies tourist board now :-), but I have to admit it does have a lot going for it). I would like to be able to say my intolerant post was down to my background in some idyllic country, but the truth is I'm half Sudanese and lived there for 6 years, so I know what it's like to live in less-than-ideal locations... but there I have family which can make difficult conditions easier to bear. After my huge rant, I feel I should somehow balance my argument by posting all the positives about Lavapies too, as my previous post was very much one viewpoint on a particularly bad day :-) Thanks for your feedback, sometimes it's good to have someone remind you of the positives. Nadya (a normally more tolerant person :-))

Nadya said...

Hi Natalia, thanks for your comment, I will definitely check out the vegetable guy :-) I really don't hate everything about my neighbourhood, as I explained in my reply to Madrid Man I was having a particularly bad couple of weeks. Of course the negatives of Lavapies are a reality, but there are lots of cool things too (like the rooftop terazza on the uned bibliotecta, little shops selling baklava and much more). Jeje, your 'cueeerpooo!' comment made me laugh, it's true that the guys that do this sometimes say such ridiculous things, even if you go out wearing your oldest tracksuit! Thanks again :-)

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