Just as it’s hard to argue with finding oneself on the shores of Lake Balaton, I’m hard pressed to find anything to complain about now that I find myself in Barcelona.
Actually, I have a single complaint about my time in Hungary – someone needs to tell these people that it’s autumn. I decided to make a concession to European formality and give my talk wearing a suit. As it’s late October, I brought a lightweight wool suit. But it was about 25C outside, and roughly 45C under the lights on stage where I gave my talk, and I spent much of my time on stage with the right hand on the mouse and my left wiping my brow with a handkerchief. One of the people who heard the speech approached me afterwards and told me, “That wasn’t public speaking, that was public sweating.” Great. I always prefer to be known for my perspiration than for my perspicacity.
I’m in Barcelona for a three-day workshop being organized by friends at CUIMPB. The course is called “Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens“, and I’m speaking on the final day, on the general topic of “innovation”. I’m still working through what this will entail – the friend who asked me to speak suggested that I talk about innovation in the NGO sector. I spent a couple of days thinking about this and concluded that most NGOs I’ve worked with innovate really slowly, if at all, and my talk now is focusing on innovating from positions of constraint… which lets me point to lots of brilliant African examples via Afrigadget. It’ll all come into focus in the next 24 hours, I’m sure. (It better.)
Unlike Tihany, I’ve been to Barcelona before. I’ve spent almost no leisure time in Europe – I generally get to see cities in the few hours before and after business or speaking commitments – but I took myself for vacation in Barcelona a few years ago, “killing time” between a meeting in London and one in Rome with three days of Gaudí, Picasso and arroz negro. So, as I sit here outlining slides for Friday’s talk and trying to catch up on the vast pile of writing assignments I owe various people, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, I can’t tell myself, “You’ve never seen this city before – you’ve got to get out and experience the city.” On the other hand, I have a sense for just how remarkably beautiful it is, which makes me want to show up Friday with no slides at all and talk about all the gorgeous buildings I spent Thursday staring at.
Barcelona, from one of the steeples of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, taken on a previous trip. It’s really one of those buildings you need to see before you die.
My solution so far has been to run errands and get lost in the process. I went out for a bottle of water earlier today and wandered aimlessly for an hour, encountering:
– a vast cathedral containing a cloistered garden with moss-covered fountains
– pedestrian malls crowded with teenagers with complex designs shaved into their hair
– an open air pet market
– elderly couples dancing on street corners, surrounded by a crowd of admirers
– baguettes stuffed with Iberian ham
In typical fashion, I also failed to buy a bottle of water. At the moment, that’s my only complaint.