Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The 22nd

It is Tuesday the 22nd of July.

Just a silly video to see how well it works. A short snippet of my ride to work on my bike.

Tuesdays are a busy day for me relatively speaking. I have class at 9:30 to 12 and then come home for lunch and siesta before riding 9 kilometers out to the beach for my 4:30 class, which has begun starting at 5 for some Spanish reason. I think my boss talked the mother of my students into a two-hour class even though she really didn’t want to subject her boys to such a long class. I actually appreciate it even though I lose about 2 and a half ours a week in pay because Fran, the eight-year-old, has a hard time staying with me for two hours. Nando, the twelve-year-old plays tennis quite often so there is a chance that the class could be cancelled on ay day in favor of tennis, which he likes much more than English.

Getting started this morning was tough. I woke up, begrudgingly forsaking my bed, at 8:45 this morning after having fallen asleep definitely no earlier than 4. It has been hard to get to sleep early here for some reason. I think it is in part because I relish a bit of time to myself after everyone has gone to bed and the house is quiet, and here that means at 1:00 am or so. Although last night I was awake until 2:30 preparing for my classes today. I spent time locating the type of exercises that I wanted for my advanced class and tailoring them to my desires on the computer. Then I tailored some reading comprehension and vocabulary questions for the exercises and printed them all out. Quite a bit of work. I remember hoping when I agreed to this job that there was a bit of curriculum already in use and I was just going to step in and teach from a currently existing base, but it seems that it is up to me to decide what and how the students learn. It would be great if I had some personal learning theories that I wanted to test out or a method that I preferred, but since I do not, I’m struggling a bit. It is nice for a change though. A challenge.

I was riding home from Burriana today and realized that there are many small things that I have said nothing about.

As I ride down the roads between the orange groves I am usually riding next to open concrete irrigation ditches; it can be a tad dangerous fur a careless motorist. Between the road and every field there are irrigation canals of various sizes and depths that are usually flowing with water. There is a system of gates(much like locks on a river on a much smaller scale) that open into various fields that are operated by hand-crank wheels which allow the raising and lowering of the gates to alter the flow of the water.
The caretakers who are responsible for the various fields ride around on little Vespina mopeds in their dirt-covered clothes with a milk crate usually strapped to the back filled with tools for tinkering with the gates and such. This irrigation system is a remaining legacy of the Moors here in Spain. The method of water transport and usage is so sound that it has not changed in over 800 years. The Moors valued water highly because of the scarcity of rain in this region, and the chosen crop, oranges (,which are also a Moorish legacy,) love to be watered. Think about a fruit that is mostly juice having to grow in a climate where it rains only 45 days a year… The irrigation has to be good.

The fields or campos are not filled with grass but are solid dirt; the orange trees usually reside on a bit of a hump or ridge a few inches high to allow the trunks of the trees to stay out of the water and to allow the water to flow freely through the fields. I have never seen anyone using a tiller, and the keepers are always covered in dust, so I assume that most of the care of the grounds is done by hand. The entire length of the roadside next to the fields is littered with trash and debris. (The Spanish are notoriously and admittedly infamous litterers.) I’m sure it takes up quite a bit of the caretaker’s day just keeping his irrigation canals relatively debris-free, but the debris is just thrown in the field. So even though the orange trees or los naranjos are picturesque and beautiful they are generally surrounded by a smattering of wine bottles, water bottles, paper, and just about anything else people throw out. I have also seen a suitcase, some wooden stairs, a thrashed mo-ped, and an armchair, just to name a few of the stranger things. (But to be fair to the Spanish, as a community here in the Communitat Valenciano, they are much more faithful in their recycling efforts than most of us Americans. There are bins on just about every other corner for paper, cardboard, plastic, and glass, and the people are always making time to put their used products in the bins.)
In nearly all of the sections of the fields, which are usually defined by the surrounding roads, there are old small rundown houses that are empty.
These are las alquerias after which my pueblo, or town, is named. Las alquerias is an archaic word meaning “the farmhouses.” The houses are usually small, concrete or a similar substance, and roofed with tile. In the past the caretakers of each individual grove would live in the house the better to care for the surrounding trees. I am not sure why this practice was abandoned, but now they are generally used for storage or for nothing at all. The occasional old house as one nears the beach has been renovated by a wealthy town dweller into a summer home, although the vestiges of the original structure are generally lost. There is not a huge trend here that I have seen toward preservation or restoration of older homes to their original state. People with the money build a new house, and everyone else is content to live in a flat. I really enjoy the old Mediterranean style architecture. There is beauty in its simplicity and function. It is definitely a practiced and learned response to the climate in which it is found.

Nothing like a bit of Anarchist graffiti in support of the environment. “NO MORE TOXINS IN THE ORCHARD ” is the message.

On another note, Happy Birthday to my brother Matt. He turned 24 on Sunday.

I had my first slight bout with homesickness a couple of days ago. Nothing major. Definitely not a cry-myself-to-sleep affair, but I was reading a book that I found here in the house that I actually had read about 15 years earlier on a recommendation from my grandfather. It was The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter. It is an enjoyable nostalgic autobiographical account of a boy growing up with his grandparents in the mountains of Tennessee. It made me think of family, and home, and mountains, and streams, and all of the things from childhood that I remember with fondness. It’s just that kind of book. In reality, I know it is hot and humid back home, and the only things biting are the mosquitoes, and the creeks are drying up, and the grass is getting brown. I would probably fail to spend enough time with the people I care about when I’m on the other side of the ocean anyway. But, it’s the idea of those things. It’s easier to love the people and things you love when you can’t reach out and touch them for a while. Then I remember that I will be home soon, and at that point I will miss riding to the beach and swimming in the ocean everyday, eating fresh from the boat Mediterranean seafood, taking siestas, sipping café cortado in the café on the corner before class, watching the old men in the square, and the ever present fact that it actually cools off here at night in the summer.

My Street.

Bright bright blooming flowers.

Self Portrait on my evening paseo, Almost home… (The green light at the end of the street is the neon sign for a brothel.)

This is the bar/cafe on the corner about 200 meters from my house; believe it or not I have not yet been there.

Oh, yes. I’ll see you all soon, and will be glad of the meetings, but ‘til then, I think I’ll make it just fine here.

Hasta Luego.



andy said...

Dynamite writing, bro. You really pretty much are living the dream I love the photo regarding the orchard toxins...you care if I use that at some point?

wes said...

i am jealous, and happy for you........i like photo regarding the brothel. see you soon. outage.