An un­pleas­ant in­ci­dent in Barcelona be­comes a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Larry Lee BARCELONA JOUR­NAL Contact the writer at lar­rylee@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Af­ter a se­ries of busi­ness meet­ings in Barcelona last week, a col­league from London who was with me on the trip pro­posed a cel­e­bra­tion din­ner.

Be­ing a fan of Pi­casso, he chose the pop­u­lar 4-Cats restau­rant, the artist’s fa­vorite, in the old town area a few metro sta­tion stops from our ho­tel.

Af­ter din­ner, we went to a square, where three opera lovers were singing pop­u­lar pieces from Car­men, Aida and oth­ers. A cir­cle of passers-by ap­plauded them warmly. At the other end of the square, a man did a fla­menco dance as ac­com­pa­nists beat drums.

I ad­mire Spa­niards’ tal­ent in the arts world. The coun­try of Pi­casso and Cer­vantes, and the city of great ar­chi­tec­tural works by An­toni Gaudi have at­tained a high level of cul­ture.

An in­tense travel and work sched­ule over sev­eral days had taken their toll. We bid farewell to the street per­form­ers and headed to the near­est Metro sta­tion to re­turn to our ho­tel.

As soon as I walked into the crowded car of the train, a short man in his mid-30s fol­low­ing me closely threw an elec­tric shaver onto the floor.

He knelt to get it, but then his hands sud­denly held both my an­kles tightly, and he even flipped over my trouser legs, seem­ingly search­ing for his shaver. Af­ter a few sec­onds, he had his shaver and rushed out of the train even be­fore the door was clos­ing.

The train set off — and so did my cell phone from my jacket’s lower pocket. There must have been at least two thieves: An­other guy un­zipped my pocket steal­ing my phone while the short man served as his de­coy. What a well-planned and or­ches­trated theft!

When I re­al­ized that a rob­bery had oc­curred and the thief was prob­a­bly still in the car not far from me, I had no clue how I could de­ter­mine who he was.

When I got back to my ho­tel room, I turned on my com­puter and deleted all the data that was on my stolen phone.

Af­ter a sleep­less night, my col­league in­sisted on see­ing me off to the air­port, con­cerned that if some­thing un­ex­pected happened to me again, he wouldn’t know since I didn’t have my cell phone.

With a sense of fore­bod­ing, we again got on the Barcelona Metro. But the im­age of that short man and his dropped shaver trick rode with me. It had tar­nished my sense of beauty for this won­der­ful city that I had longed to visit since 1992 when it hosted a Sum­mer Olympics. Af­ter 24 years, I was fi­nally here — and I had been robbed.

A friend who lives in Barcelona told me that it’s not un­usual to be robbed in the city, and quite a few of the thieves are il­le­gal im­mi­grants. But there was no way for me to iden­tify the coun­try of origin of the two thieves on that train.

Dur­ing my flight from Washington to Mu­nich — where I went prior to go­ing to the Span­ish cap­i­tal of Madrid and then Barcelona — Don­ald Trump was elected the next US pres­i­dent. One of his win­ning prom­ises was to curb the num­ber of im­mi­grants.

Sup­port­ers of Brexit have hoped that it will mean the UK can say good-bye to glob­al­iza­tion and the in­flux of im­mi­grants.

And Ger­many’s Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel’s ad­vo­cat­ing that more refugees be ac­cepted into her coun­try has caused back­fire from fel­low cit­i­zens.

Some opin­ion lead­ers call this anti-im­mi­grant re­ac­tion pop­ulist na­tion­al­ism. But so much of it is xeno­pho­bia-ori­ented.

I don’t jus­tify thieves’ acts. But if we want to see fewer cases of theft in rich coun­tries by poor peo­ple and im­mi­grants, we should im­prove the liv­ing stan­dards of the whole so­ci­ety, and shrink the in­come gap be­tween poor and rich.

I hope Trump, UK Prime Min­is­ter May and all other global lead­ers will do that. Putting a high wall be­tween the US and Mex­ico won’t.

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