Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My $650 Photo Story

OK, so good to be home! The entire trip was overall really nice and full of different experiences but let me finish updating everyone on the $500 photo - now worth $650.00.
As one can see from the photo posted, it's just a shot of a stage at an empty , small, amusement park, not far from our hotel, on the side of the street.
As we were making our way to the Familia Sagrata, and just 5 minutes from the hotel, we came upon this area and I stepped off the sidewalk to take this photo. At the same time, a man approached Zakka and my Mom on the sidewalk asking for directions. I went over there and he was first speaking in Spanish then English. He said he is Italian and was trying to find his way to somewhere. Of course we told tim we are not from there and did not know where he was trying to go. In the mean time, 2 men appeared out of nowhere, flashed some sort of badge and told us in english that they were undercover narcotic officers and sort of guided us back into the Amusement ground. First they told us that there are lots of drug dealers and users in the area, be careful, don't carry anything flashy however he wanted us to show him our passports and how much money we were carrying. At that point, the only thing that flashed through my brain was National Geographic Locked Up Abroad scenario, and of course being only the first day in Barcelona, we were totally jet lagged and can hardly comprehend what's happening. Also we are law abiding citizens, so I took out my passport, showed it to him and my money. They checked everyone's passports and money and gave everything back. At this time, the man asking for direction was mumbling on about how he was only carrying a couple of $20 bills (of course later on we thought it was strange an Italian was carrying US $). Then they gave us the speech of being careful in Barcelona, blah, blah, blah and let us go.
As I walked up the hill, suddenly I turned and asked everyone to check all their money. Luckily Zakka and my Mom (who was the smartest, because she left everything in the hotel, only carried a little) were OK, but they took $500 and 100 Euro from me! That's $650!!! They gave me back $11.00
At this point, we ran down the hill and saw a policeman in uniform so we approached him and told him what happened. He wanted us to go to the station and fill out some forms, but we knew that was pointless. He told us that policemen should all be in uniform (however they told us they were undercover) and these people are just after money, and will probably go away if we did not show them our money - not so fast - because after my uncle and cousin came down to meet us the next day from London, they told us so many stories how their friends actually got physically beaten and their money stolen that way.
Now in hindsight, the person asking for direction was part of the gang and we were the marks. And as he was talking about his money, our eye all went that way, and I'm sure that's when they took the bulk of my money. Because up to that point, my eyes were on my passport and money as they were holding them. Can you believe this?! Yes we were very careful about pick pockets, etc, but never thought I actually handed them the money. Wait, this was not the only incident - there's one more the following day - but you have to stayed tuned - will update again.
Needless to say, that was a huge eye opener to Barcelona. So for those who are thinking about going there - think again. Almost everyone we know now who's being there, something happened to them or someone they know.
So that photo is worth some $$$