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The Art of Conversation Lives On

In front of Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, 26-year-old Adrià Ballester (above) sets up two foldaway chairs and a sign in large letters that reads: “Free conversations!”

Anyone is welcome to stop, sit and chat with him in Spanish, English or Catalan about anything they like. “The idea is just to talk freely for a while,” the 26-year-old writer and storyteller explains. “We have lost the art of conversation,” agrees a young Italian psychology student among the day’s visitors.

“We live in a world where it’s often easier to send a message to someone from another country than to say good morning to our neighbours,” says Ballester, who uses Facebook (Free Conversations Movement) and Instagram (@freeconversations) to promote his project. He posts photos of himself and those who choose to chat along with their reflections and sometimes startling revelations.

At times he feels like a therapist. “You hear good, positive stories and really tough ones, too. A lot of people will tell you about a tricky episode in their life, maybe heartbreak or a job loss. There’s a bit of everything,” he says. A 70-year-old Lithuanian woman even talked about the years she spent in a Russian concentration camp.

During the coronavirus crisis, Ballester took the conversation online, setting up randompenpals.com, a site that invites users to “get a quarantine PenPal in 10 seconds”. He plans to publish a manifesto and aims to spread his initiative to other major cities around the world. [Source: El Pais]