Monday, August 18, 2008

the new eyes

Lets see, my last post was Wednesday of last week. So I’ve got a bit of catching up to do… What has happened since then…

Ah, yes Thursday. Thursday of last week I was abruptly awakened at 10:30 by a phone call. I went to bed rather late I think, although I don’t actually recall. Nevertheless I was sleeping in. My alarm had gone off at 10 and as is my custom, I punched snooze or turned it off or something. So I got a call at 10:30. I half expected it to be someone from back home who was up really late and decided to call, but no, it was Monica, one of my bosses asking if I remembered that I had class at 10:30. I told her that I did not. Evidently she had told me when I was sick the week before and I had very little recollection of the conversation. So I showed up at 10:45, having just woken up and looking like it, to teach an eight-year-old. He was pretty easy because I had luckily printed out worksheets for another class the night before, then I had his mother in class at 11:30. She is an English teacher in Castellon, so it was not difficult to communicate with her or teach her because she mostly wanted practice speaking English, then another at 12:30 with Jose, my Madrileno student. So I got a break from 1:30 to 3 and had to roll out to the beach for a 3:30 class, Then back to Burriana for my 5-6:30, then to the grocery for some veggies, then back home just in time to teach another student at 7:30. All that to say Thursday was a busy day. Luckily, Friday was a very chilled out day. It was a national holiday; and nothing was open; and we had no classes.

Friday Katie and I went for a ride around the surrounding area, invaded some old abandoned house places and explored a bit, found a broken down pomegranate tree and some date palms, picked some grapes off of an unattended fence around an old house called “La Salmantina”, trespassed down a long driveway to check out a cool old houseplace and stumbled on fields of artichokes and tomatoes hidden in the midst of the orange groves, and just generally looked around a bit. I had no idea that artichokes turned into bright purple flowers when they are actually mature. I have eaten quite a few since I have been here. I think that I will try and remember to plant some in next years garden.

It was a good day. I covered lot of ground, got a little dirty and little scratched up, and got a bit of the good kind of tired. That night I taught Katie and refreshed Jeff’s memory on how to play Texas No-limit Hold-Em’… We had a few hours of hanging out on the patio and playing with pennies, and I got my butt kicked by two people who never play poker. But you know what they say…You teach a man to fish and he might strangle you with the line…

Saturday, after sleeping in until some embarrassing hour, I got up and pretty much just lounged around the house, cooked some good food, and watched the Olympics. I don’t get to see a whole lot of the games unless a Spaniard is competing, but it’s still fun. Saturday night was a lunar eclipse here. I don’t know if it was back in the States or not. Katie and I went out walking about dusk with Jenn the Canadian, who lives in Alquerias with her husband Nanny, ( I mentioned them a few weeks back) and her daughter Sira who is about 18 months old. We walked around until the eclipse peaked about eleven o’clock or so. It turned about ¾ of the moon a dark purple red color. I took some pictures, but they are not much to look at. Sunday was Jeff’s birthday. He turned 24. So I stayed up until after midnight to wish him “feliz cumpleanos”. I broke out a busted classical guitar that will not stay in tune and played Happy Birthday in English and Spanish along with a few other requests. It was a pretty good day.

Sunday was good too. Saturday night while we were walking around with Jenn we arranged to head to the mountains on Sunday. I have been dying to get to the mountains ever since I have been here. I can see them there every day looming on the horizon only 15 kilometers away. I could get there in under an hour, but then I would not know where to go. But Jenn has a car… ah yes.

We took off about 11 and headed up through Onda toward a town called Ayodar. Onda is a sprawling industrial city with tons of factories and warehouses and such situated right at the foot of the mountains. Ayodar and Fuentes de Ayodar (fountains of Ayodar) are right in the midst of a bunch of hills that look a bit like the Rockies in New Mexico but on a bit smaller scale. I think most of the mountains are between 2500 and 3500 feet, but after coming up from 0.0 feet at sea level they are impressive. What we were hunting was a waterfall that Katie had visited before with her boyfriend Miguel… we actually found the place where the waterfall had been, but Katie had been there about 2 months ago, and now there was no water. I was a bit uneasy about wandering around searching for this waterfall because we were obviously just on a little dirt track road that was surrounded by someone’s well kept orchards and gardens and I felt like I was trespassing. I think that trespassing is a bit different here than at home. Pretty much I think everyone just goes wherever they please until they see a sign that says they should stop.

We made our way to a public spring place called Fuentes los Chorricos. It was nice… but not really what we were looking for. By this time we were getting hungry so we headed back to Ayodar for some food. We went to a local bar/cafe/ restaurant and ordered up some fresh olives along with a potato and fish dish for lunch from a waiter who looked like he had had a long night on the previous evening. We learned that there had been a festival in town that had culminated the night before with Toros in the streets and a Discomovil that didn’t start til’ 1 am. I am guessing he had gone to bed about 7 or 8 and had to work at noon. There was not a soul at the bar when we sat down on the patio.But people began to filter down the steep steps to the bar, which was on the lower valley side of the mountain village, one by one until it was more or less full by the time we got our food. I think everyone was probably just getting up. It was about 2.

I have noticed that usually when I am doing something in Spain I am the only one. When I wear pants, everyone else has on shorts. When I wear a hat, no one else wears a hat. When I drink coffee, everyone else is drinking beer. Sunday was no exception. I was eating a big meal of fish and potatoes with an ice cold Fanta at about the usual Spanish mealtime, and everyone else was sipping coffee or brandy. And not one of them was eating anything. I think it would take years to truly get into the rhythm of this place.

After lunch we went to another fountain, the Fuente Larga, just outside of town. Everyone comes here and fills up water bottles with this cold clear water. There are 6 pipes just coming out of the mountainside into a white tiled basin that is overhung with fig trees.

Seeing water made us hopeful that the river above the spring might have some water in it. We were really really wanting to go for a swim by this point, so we started following the path up the dry river bed. We walked for about a mile or so and that is all it turned out to be… a dry river bed. We did, however, find some nice blackberries along the way. I ate several and was shocked that they did not taste like the blackberries back home at all. You’d think I would have learned by now that I am in a new place and things are different.

We continued on our search for a swimming hole. Jenn stopped the car at a bridge and she and Sira went for a dip in a small but clear pool near the bridge. Katie walked up the river to look for a swimming hole, and I wandered around in the shade and kept an eye on the car. Katie found a promising looking spot so we all grabbed out gear and walked up to check it out. I could see a couple of people from a distance already swimming in the pool. I was leery about disturbing them, but I was hot and parched and ready to swim. As I was about to get in the water I noticed that the two people were a couple of my former students Daniel and Ana. We were a good 30 kilometers from my town and out in the middle of nowhere, and we just happened to bump into two of the thirty people that I know in this country.

The water was cold cold cold. It was fed by an underground spring and was about 15 feet deep and crystal clear. I thoroughly enjoyed swimming and floating around in it. I sat and talked to Daniel and Ana for a bit about the festival the night before, but when a van laden with about eight teenagers and four parents showed up Daniel and Ana took off. We stuck around for about an hour getting in the cold water and climbing out again to dry in the sun while Sira made friends with practically everyone.

A town called Ain that we went past.

The ride home was a very contented ride. We had satiated our desire to swim in water that was not salty. We took a scenic route home through some truly amazing little mountain villages. The older members of the population, true to form, were out on their evening paseo. I think they start a bit earlier in the mountains because it gets darker and cooler in the mountains much sooner than on the plain near the beach where I live.

The more I put my feet in the dirt of this place, and get scratched by its thorns, and smell its air, and see its trees and birds, the more I realize that I am not at home. Yet I can understand the people who love this place as their own. I can fathom being connected to the mountains by an invisible thread of familiarity and love. I am captivated by a desire to put my feet on the ridges of those hills and to follow the streams to their sources.

It was a good weekend. Perhaps the best that I have had since I have been here.

I hope this week is as good.


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