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This is one of two urban stories that we want to share about Barcelona –  in both, we almost became a victim but luckily escaped.

Our return flight home was in the evening so we still had time to walk a few more miles in Barcelona before leaving for the airport.  IT had already left a day earlier. We initially decided to go and check out the aquarium by the port, but by the time we got there, we had about one hour or so before we had to leave for the airport.  Yes, we certainly could have done it.  One hour?  Hah!  It’s too much time: by now, we are used to fast paced walk and whipping our heads around to catch as much as we can at the same time.  However, we didn’t want to rush through the aquarium.  So we decided to sit outside on a bench, have an ice cream, soak in the sun and relax.  We sat on a bench you see in the picture below.

Then two girls approached us each holding a notepad.  One stood next to me (Sue) and the other next to Chris and started a conversation.  They asked where we were from, whether we were visiting Barcelona, etc.  Then the girl next to me showed me a note pad with two logos/pictures on top along with some explanation written in Spanish and English.  She explained that they work for an organization that helps poor children in the world and the handicapped people.  She pointed out the 2 logos on the paper (seriously terrible copies, by the way): a UNICEF logo and a picture of a person in a wheelchair.  Below the logos and the description of the “organization”, there were three columns:  Signature, Nationality, and a third one which she partially hid with her fingers, but I can see that it was Donation Amount.  To help the poor children in the world and the handicapped people, can we please sign and put our nationality next to the signature.

Are you serious?  Do we look like we were born yesterday?  UNICEF?

Before we can say “eff” off with a smile, the men selling purses on the street ran from one end of the plaza to the other in a rush.  It was a bit startling because the area was nice and peaceful then all of a sudden there’s yelling and 5 or 6 men all running in one direction with large sacs.  We all turned to look at the men running.  The girls stopped explaining, turned around, folded the notepad in half, stuffed it under their T-shirts and casually walked away from us.  Not even a good bye or talk to you in a little while, they just walked away as if we weren’t even having a conversation.  Then we notice a police cruiser slowly driving around the plaza.  By this time, the girls approached a snack stand and stood in line as if they were going to buy something.  When the cruiser drove away, the girls moved away from the snack stand and took out the notepad again.  Chris and I were laughing at this point.  Chris said “You should have told them you work for UNICEF” (we know where their HQ is in Geneva).  That would have been perfect, no?  Why didn’t I think of that?  Crap.  Anyway, we started to tracking their movements while continuing with our ice cream.

This man was their next mark.  He listened to their spiel but said no (see the hand gesture?) and walked away.  He wasn’t born yesterday either.

Then we saw the girls approach this nice Asian couple.  Unfortunately, they were born yesterday.  They handed over some cash to the girls.   Don’t give me any flack for not stopping the girls taking money from tourists.   By this time, we left the bench and was walking towards the subway – we had to retrieve our luggage and head to the airport.  The couple were far away and by the time we noticed the girls, they were already forking over the money.  But you know what?  The girls left smiling (duh!) and so did the couple, believing that they did some good for the poor children and handicapped people in the world.

Moral of the story?  When people ask for donation without proper ID  (e.g., holding a shoddy piece of paper with a photocopied logo of a charity on top), don’t give it to them. And don’t feel bad about not making a “donation”.



  1. If the girls were cute, I might have been born yesterday.

  2. Paul is just kidding. Paul only thinks that Asian girls are cute. : )
    By the way, happy birthday!!!
    We miss you terribly. it seems like you are literally traveling the globe. Please make a pit stop in good ‘ol NYC sometime soon.


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