En fin•In conclusion
Hola amigos,
This will be my final blog entry re: this Spain adventure. We have been home for almost two weeks, and have even gotten over jetlag. I would like to tie up some loose ends here.

Eric did FINALLY make it to join us after the third week on the farm, and stayed/worked for a week before we bade a teary goodbye to Bea, Pablo, Elena and the kids, and to Antonio and Charo. At the time, I didn't want to write about Eric's presence, since this journal is open to everyone, and who knows...someone interested in stealing our beat-up furniture might have decided to raid the empty house...? So I apologize for leaving off like that, just when Eric was getting there.
As a whole family, we had some good times at la mas before leaving. I stayed in my corral-cleaning job and helping in various kid enterprises (and we always helped with dishes and cleaning the kitchen), and Eric was a fix-it guy and helped to put up a rudimentary fence, keeping Artax, the horse, out of the winter garden (he had already raided the potato plants, which we had to dig up before they withered underground. It was a good harvest of red potatoes! And the fresh potato-rosemary-meat stew we had the next day was heaven).
We spent our last week in Spain in a nearby resort town, Peñíscola, famous for its casco antiguo, or old town, complete with castle and various churches (I think there are 3 there, including the one within the castle), situated atop a small rock peninsula jutting out from the mainland. We opted against the long trip south to Granada. Lucia's carsickness would have made the trip unbearable, and at about eight hours by car, getting there and then later back to Madrid would have eaten up too much precious time. Fortunately this means we MUST return to Spain sometime (hopefully often) because la Alhambra awaits our visit.

1. Lucia y Ángela: Dos enemigas que se han enseñado mucho la una a la otra. Two enemies who have taught one another quite a bit.

My estimate is that there would have been at least 50% less fights between these two, had they had a native language in common. Whenever Ángela, the former oldest girl before Lucia arrived, did something that seemed unfair, Lucia would step in and physically try to fix the problem, for lack of language. This inevitably led to screaming, hair pulling, scratching, and in a few cases, rock-throwing and stick involvement... The first few of these issues were hard for Lucia, but she maintained her self-control and never lashed out to hurt the 5-year-old back. After the rock-throwing, though, she'd had it. I was removing Ángela from the group to hand her to Charo, her grandmother, when Lucia charged us with fire in her eyes, and scratched Ángela's leg. The fights, after that, became more brutal in style. Also, teams were formed, even after we had the week-long hiatus, with Ángela staying with Charo and Antonio. Ángela recruited Aitana and sometimes Raquel (who usually was preoccupied with bugs, books, or other more important things), and Lucia had Simon. I found out later that when my kids were mad at the others, they would get revenge by making off with their toys and favorite sticks, and stowing them in special hideouts at the edge of the woods surrounding the house/hotel buildings/animal pastures.

As the days, weeks, and fights progressed, however, Lucia presented her hardships to me in a slowly morphing manner. She began to substitute in more and more Spanish for English in her explanations of the fights, during our attempts to hash over the problems. I had to hide my smile, smugly grateful to Ángela, as I realized that conflict with her was a major contributor to Lucia's (and also Simon's!) language acquisition this summer. I became a second-language teacher twenty years ago. My mind is bent toward noticing and figuring out how real-life or lifelike experiences cause learners to acquire and retain language. Never in my attempts to teach had it dawned on me that fighting is, in fact, an experience capable of causing someone to learn language. Of course. Why hadn't I thought of this before? All it has to be is meaningful. No one said anything about pleasant!

2. El castellano, el catalán, y el valenciano

El castellano evolved in the center and the south of Spain: Colón and his crews brought this spanish to the Americas. There were also numerous other explorers and missionaries that came, most likely speaking a few different tongues, but the language of Castilla spread. I wonder if Ferdinand and Isabella mandated that? Whether or not they did, the people from that peninsula unknowingly left quite a legacy in this beautiful code.

Valencia is a community made up of the three provinces of Valencia, Alicante, and Castellón. Each one of these provinces has a capital city by the same name. The community is bilingual, in castellano as well as valenciano. For a long time I was unsure as to what this language entailed. I had heard that the people north, in Cataluña, made fun of el valenciano, saying it was really catalán (the regional language there in Cataluña). What I learned this time around is that el valenciano is, in fact, the same as el catalán, but for regional purposes, when one is in Cataluña, it is referred to as catalán, and when in Valencia, it is called valenciano. In the past 20-30 years, Valencian students from preschool onward are learning in a majority of valenciano these days, for fluency. I think only 30% of their learning is now done in castellano, since castellano is the predominantly spoken language throughout the country. Without this, el valenciano could go completely obsolete and things would function nearly exactly the same there. The preservation of their language, and thereby their culture, is just inspirational. I wish we embraced multilingialism in the United States like this. We as a people of many cultures would have so much more to know about ourselves.

Other regional tongues in Spain I've heard of...
The region of the Balearic islands (Mallorcan, Menorca, Ibiza y Formentera) also parlays this coastal language of valenciano/catalán, and they call it mallorquín. El asturiano (region of Asturias, in the north) is said to be going obsolete. El gallego is the secondary language spoken in the region(s) of Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain. In el País Vasco, or Euskera, el euskadi is maintained as a secondary language. This is the only language in the peninsula having no latin roots in common with the other spanish languages. The mountainous geography of the region, as well as the strong, defensive nature of the people, has warded off invaders for centuries, keeping the ancient language and customs intact.

3. Now what?

We have been home for almost 2 weeks now. I have got to keep speaking to my kids in spanish. Lucia is forgetting words. Simon is asking me less and less questions like: "What does '¿Qué pasó?' mean?". I speak occasionally with them, but still need to either commit to full-time in spanish, or at least to certain days of the week, maybe when I have them and Eric is not around. When we talked about the process of guiding them to fluency in spanish, he was concerned with not understanding our conversations. But maybe he'll just figure them out. ;)

I hope everyone has had a great summer. Thanks for reading, and if anyone has questions about second-language learning or about this trip, I am around and can check messages. ¡Que os cuidéis! (take care!)

A trip, and a phrase
19 julio. Excursion with family to Benicàssim/La Renegá

It is tuesday, the clients are gone until friday, and today we get to take off to the water. Ángela is already there; she is Elena’s oldest (going to be 6 August 8th), the one with whom Lucia has been clashing since we came, and went to stay for the week with grandparents Charo and Antonio, “’Bueli and Abuelo.” Little did I know, until she was already gone, that my Spanish family had schemed to separate the feuding parties for a week, to try to give my kids a chance to bond with the rest of them. I think it is working; this week has been quiet. No fights, for which I am so thankful. Bea, Pablo, Oscar, and Aitana are in one car. My kids and I are in another car with Elena and her younger one, Raquel, who is 3 and a RIOT. Simon and Lucia decided on the first day that she was their favorite. She has already begun to read, loves stories, makes very pertinent comments and says what she means, no fooling around. She is not interested in the cliquey thing that other short people sometimes do around here. “Raquel va por su aire,” says Charo (“Raquel does her own thing,” or literally, she goes by her [own] air.). So we have a great time riding together. We drop off the dog at their home in Benicàssim. Elena and Jorge have a beautiful home, 4 bedrooms, three bathrooms, three levels, a block or so from the beach. But we are going to another beach in a nearby neighborhood, because there is not such a drop in the water level, thus it is better for kids.

The beach is called Playa Voramar. There are hotels lining the long golden strip, which started way before we got on the coastal avenue. But the hotels are pretty and not too tall. Hotel Voramar is the last one, and we enter the beach to one side of it, with a beautiful cliff to our left. We get down there and it is too windy to stay, the sand flies in everyone’s eyes. Bea, Pablo, the kids, Charo, Antonio, another family of second cousins have already been there and are already packing up. My kids are crestfallen again. We have to go through all this trouble to get to the beach, only to leave again (The road was very windy; Lucia had to take her dramamine. Translation: we are starting behind the eight ball.)? They are throwing mini-tantrums, I make for the water, they follow. We swim, the view is gorgeous, Elena waits for us, the kids’ spirits are lifted, we keep swimming, the kids start throwing sand, which is my cue. Amidst all this there are women with their tops on, and women with their tops off. Guys in all kinds of speedos, small, medium and largeWe already talked about the clothing optional thing before leaving for Europe. Our second trip to the beach and they don’t seem to care. Lucia refuses to wear her top and I don’t seem to care. I kept mine on, just for the record. Guess I’m just an old dog.

Elena is so patient. We must have been in the water for 15 minutes. She sent Raquel with family so she is waiting alone on the beach for us to get our fill, her legs covered with towels to avoid the wind-whipped sand. We take off to Charo and Antonio’s summer home in nearby Renegá. The coast there is “cruda,” all rocks and cliff, so we stay at the house, swim in their piscina, and I absolutely devoured my section of a HUGE paella that Charo made. We also enjoyed chilled Don Simón sangria, which I like even more because it comes in a plastic bottle. Charo’s paella was made with chicken and rabbit. Elena loves to eat the head! I'm sorry veggie friends, but I checked out the teeth! And I apologize that...I just kept on eating. Red peppers and, of course, saffroned rice, probably onion, garlic, chicken broth, and…not cinnamon or rosemary this time, I don’t think. Here people have paella burners with varying circumferences to accommodate which size paella pan is being used. The flame is absolutely necessary for paella. Note to self: buy one of those.

23 julio. Someone is a gas.

“Me tiro un pedo, me tiro un pedo, me tiro un pedo…”
I don’t know when Simon started singing this song. I laugh while telling him to stop, while I hang laundry to dry on el tejado (the roof), or while we are sitting in la cafetería en el pueblo. When we are on the roof, he sings it into the mini-satellite dish, so as to make it echo and delight/annoy me even more. A week back or so was when he must have caught on. He pronounces it so well; of course, he doesn’t know where one word ends and the next begins. He told me he was just copying 3-year-old Raquel at the dinner table. It means, “I am ripping a fart.” Previous to this, Lucia and Simon did know that “un pedo” is a fart; near the beginning of our stay, someone had used the word, and I translated it for them, hoping that a semi-taboo subject might spark someone’s interest…

A week's worth of stuff and thoughts
Again I have found my way down to la plaza with mis niños and again they don't stop with shenanigans. I must have forgotten that I swore not to take them with me anymore when I have to use the computer. Hmph.

We just ate some lunch at a little bar called Los Porches. Tortilla de patata (Spanish tortilla), croquetas de jamón (ham croquettes), and bocadillo de queso y paté (sandwich of cheese and paté). El paté was slices of ("I don't know, pig?" said the bar owner) ground meat. We eat, I start trying to write, and hoards of men ages sixty and up begin congregating at the tables around us, of which there are only three. We are in the middle. It is siesta time and they are all getting together to play cards. Political talk. Money. On my left, suddenly one of them stands up and is literally yelling at another one across the table, as others try to shush him. He comes up to me and pulls out his crisp white hankerchief, covers his head and eyes, and points at his nemesis, saying that the guy can't see. The terraza of this bar is actually a tunnelled sidewalk, and with the echo, it's getting kind of loud in here. On my right is a larger group of men playing cards, and one continually repeats, "Asesino eres. Asesino eres. Asesino eres ("You're an assasin.")." After a bit of this along with a chilly breeze and an inability to open this site, we try to make it work across the street, on the sunny side. I want to surround myself with this culture, but there is only so much I can do with two jumpy kids and an internet addiction!

11 julio, de noche. A stubborn Sy-guy acquires language, despite himself.

“Guapooooo. Guapo. Guapo. Guapa. Guapooooooo.” *
It is 11 pm, finally rainy; Simon, Elena, Elena’s Chow named Pepa, and I are walking down the short hill from la casa to la casita, a little cottage just above the animal pens and corrals. Hearing his babble gives me some hope that maybe this experience could be considered successful… Despite his resistance, Simon seems to have absorbed words. “¿vale?” means “okay,” “más leche, por favor” means “more milk, please,” and there are probably 2 handfuls of other words or expressions that he definitely recognizes, some which he randomly produces on his own. Before jumping into the pool the other day, he yelled out, “One, tw—I mean, uno, dos, tres, bomba!” Vaya, Simón!!!!

* “Guapo” or “guapa,” in our Spanish language textbooks, means “good looking,” as I’m sure many of us might remember. The presence of many little creatures here, human and otherwise, demonstrates another use for the word… as people caress and croon “guapa” or “guapo” to their pets and children, they are saying they are “cute,” or “sweet.” I studied in Spain for a year, but never lived with a family until now. What a goldmine.
Real life is so much more fun than textbook!

12 julio. Friends, employment opportunities and paella valenciana.

Bea and Pablo’s friends come and stay here, and if they are close friends, they help out with cooking and cleaning. Two very old friends, Ana and Gema, have been staying here. Ana is coming back and forth on weekends from just outside of Madrid. She and her boyfriend have recently started a business in Madrid, a dental clinic, and they are happy with how it is progressing. Right now there is a lot of unemployment in Spain, people are not content with the way the government has managed the crisis. There are many peaceful “manifestaciones” or protests, concerning the lack of work and the unjust mortgage situation. When someone can’t pay their mortgage (because there is no work), law allows the banks to not only take possession of their property, but to require that they continue paying their mortgage.

Gema is “en paro,” or “stopped,” unemployed for the past year and a half. She is staying for a week or two, also from outside of Madrid. She told me it has been horrible, the situation is very anxiety-provoking for her. Gema is multi-talented: she specializes in marketing, advertisement design and promoting products; she also is a guru in bird pathology. She also studied for a year and a half in human internal medicine, and is fascinated with human health. Coincidedentally, one of our chickens ended up with an inflamed foot this week, she apparently stepped on something that became lodged. Gema is on the case. Two days and the inflammation is down. Also coincidentally, this week Bea invited her new friend Yago, natural horse training specialist, to come stay as well. Yago’s business has been growing in leaps and bounds since he started it 15 years ago. Bea and Pablo took his classes last month, and learned all they needed to know to ride and manage Artax. In any case, Yago’s business has now become so big (mostly by way of facebook!) that he needs help; he is traveling internationally to teach his 2-day workshops. He is all over Spain, now has been going to México, and is planning to expand to all the Spanish-speaking countries. The only issue is that his curriculum desperately needs editing and the business needs professional promotion. He also doesn’t have help for everything else, namely general management. Gema has a job!

This afternoon, after the kids ate and went to play on the swings, we all sat around a huge paella pan outside, which took over most of the table. We ate out of it together, each with our own fork. This communal sharing of paella-out-of-the-pan is typical, I learned. ¡Pero, qué chulo! But how cool! Pablo had spread the saffronend rice thin. He cooks it over a fire (that is the only way to get the real paella taste), his is butane. The paella we had today started with a fish broth, sautéed onions, tomate frito and saffron, and was graced with bacalao (cod), mejillones (small clams) and sepia: related to calamari, it is a squid of sorts that is a little bit smaller than the calamari. Pablo put canela (cinnamon) in, and we all squeezed lemon onto our portions. The edges were a bit burned, a sweet burn, which people scrape into their portions and mix in. I am so glad we came here.

14 julio, jueves. An unexpected party

I had no idea we were headed to “el fin del mundo.” At lunch today we were told that we were going later to a fiesta at friends Celia y Josevi’s home (provided that Ángela and Lucia didn’t get into another disagreement, but that is another story…). They have Blie, 3, and Mel, 4 months. They only live 8 kilometers from here, but the place feels like it is way off the grid. The people who own their house don’t charge them any rent. It is a two hundred year old stucco home on the top of a neighboring mountain, and the owners only want the tenants to maintain the house as payment. Stunning views were in nearly all directions. I had to cover my mouth upon arrival. We had pisto, Spanish version of French rattatoille or Italian giambotta, cooked with egg and stuffed into barras de pan (“bars” of bread, or what we call baguette) for la cena at around 10:30, and then sat together, played instruments, sang, and danced, while kids also drew on the cement floor with colored chalk. Josevi and Celia have their own performance company. They both act, and Celia designs and makes costumes and clothes. Their creativity also shows in the way they keep the house so beautiful. My favorite song in their repertoire was about “mocos,” or boogers! You don’t find that kind of vocabulary in the classroom.

15 julio, Excursion out of Lucena del Cid/el almuerzo vs. la comida

Last night at their party, Josevi and Celia invited us to go down to the area of Castellón to see a children’s puppet show and then go to the beach! I did my animal work earlier in the morning, and we left with Celia at 9. The show was two separate fables reenacted by a wonderful storyteller (and his puppets), a friend and theatre business partner of Josevi’s from Colombia. Josevi worked the sound. We were at a wharf just south of Castellón. Noticeable were remnants of a nocturnal fair…It was 11 am, the fish sellers were churning out nicely cooked sardinas y vino, gratis… for breakfast? I thought. Then I realized that “el almuerzo,” or morning snack here, is at around 11 am. (The girls bring their almuerzo with them to summer school. Pablo makes them a typical u.s. lunch). Qué rico. I dug into las sardinas and my headache disappeared. The wine brought it back a bit, glad it was only half a glass.

We enjoyed the puppet shows, and afterwards we went to Playa Arenal. This was the first time Lucia and Simon swam in el mar mediterráneo. No big deal for them, but a big deal for me! We were in a city south of Castellón, called Burriana. We left Burriana, drove to a neighboring town (I forget its name now) and made lunch at Celia’s mom’s house. She is away in France right now, looking for work. Celia’s grandmother lives in France, so her mom has a place to stay there while she is searching. In any case, the presently vacated house is a beautiful old stucco “casa del campo.” The expanse of orange trees surrounding it has been owned by other people for a while now, since well before Celia’s mom bought the place.

La comida is the largest meal of the day. The typical time people have la comida is between 2:30 or so. It is a large and hot meal, like dinner in the U.S. So people wake up and don’t really have much to eat. Coffee, hot or cold chocolate (“Cola Cao” it is called. Ojo: the cola nut is a tree nut, allergy sufferers. Needless to say, we found other treats for Simon) and maybe something cakey to eat. Then at 11 am is el almuerzo. Followed by the large la comida around 3, and then la cena is eaten between 8 and 11, not a big meal.

We ate la comida, then some people retired for a nap while the kids watched some cartoons. I did the dishes with Gabriel, the 18-year-old Austrian “woofer” who is staying with Celia and Josevi. Then, along with Celia, Blie, and Carlos, (Celia’s father who came to visit on his little moto) we went to walk among the trees. We followed las acequias, old irrigation canals, which are now outlawed because they wasted too much water. Orange producers are now required by law to water de manguera, by hose.

Los árabes, when they came to the peninsula, were fascinated with the amount of water there. If I came from desert, I would have been the same way. It is said that they invented water channeling. La Alhambra, the fortress in Granada (the last of the Arabic strongholds before the empire’s demise is Spain) is full of channels, fountains, in homage to the resource. Water flows there by gravity alone. The idea of channeling water caught on and was surely helpful for many centuries.

In mid-fascinating-conversation with Celia about these irrigation canals, it suddenly occurred to me that Simon and Lucia would try to come looking for me and get lost in las acequias. So I doubled back, and there they were, setting out. We walked the same route and turned around. Simon insisted on throwing rotten clementines, despite Lucia’s disdain. We were lucky enough to find a few oranges that had not gone bad, and ate them. The next crop had already passed the blossom stage, the fruit small and green.

18 july Simon’s tree nut allergy vs. Nocilla, Cola Cao, and everything else sweet:

We invented leche de vainilla for him, before bed instead of Cola Cao, or Spain’s Nesquick. As if we’d ever pump him with sugar before bed otherwise. ;) Instead of Nocilla (Spain’s version of Nutella) and galletas Maria, Pablo awarded him, to all of our jealousness, with una cuajada! An individual serving of sweetened sheeps’s milk, made into the most heavenly yogurt/custard. I wish I had his allergies.

Other topics I hope to write about:
Ángela y Lucia: strong personalities
El valenciano/la catalán, y el castellano

En el pueblo de Lucena del Cid, and other affairs
martes, 13 julio? I think. it is...2 pm.

I was just writing an email to my family and realized it would be a good journal entry. I am so pressed for time, I can’t check email or read any responses on here that people may have written. I hope everyone is enjoying summer! But below is what happened so far today.

For the sake of repetition, we are really way up on the mountain and it is hard to communicate! I could have used a car to come down to la plaza every day to use the wifi here, but keeping in mind that Pablo and Bea can get us down here when they come down, skipping the car rental has been a good savings. The only hitch is, I have to wake up at 7am to get my farmwork done in order to be able to hop in the car with Pablo and the girls, who leave at 9:45 for el colegio de verano, summer preschool for july. But of course we are up so late; the kids eat dinner at 9:30, then we get them to bed, then the adults make their own dinner and are up eating and taking until really late. I was the first to leave the table last night and it was 1 am! I guess that’s why there is a siesta….it all comes together…. We are not up that late every niht. But Bea ad Pablo have lots of friends, and a hotel/restaurant, and it is summer. Visitors come sometimes and it is fun!

Anyway, today we walked through the center of town, and the kids were totally aghast at the sights!! Now we are sitting outside at a cafetería, and I am trying to post the photos to facebook. I haven't had time enough to learn how to post the photos of our walk to my livejournal.com blog. Pablo is coming to pick us up in 35 minutes! But I will try to send you guys a few of the videos I took during the walk. Lucia asked me if we could go to church on Sunday here! The church is big and pretty but the view of the facade is partially blocked by a much newer apartment building.

Down here en la plaza, everything is close together: the fountain, the church, the pharmacy, the grocery, the periodicals vendor, the doctor, the government, the bar/restaurant/cafetería, the bakeries. And people's homes are apartments, all on top of one another. Mountain views from many spots, geranium spilling out of apartment terraces, steep narrow concrete streets with steps carved into them. There are around 1500 people who live here and they all know there is a family of americanos that are here in Lucena del Cid for the month of July. They all say hello to us and some have offered us advice.

The town must date back to before or around the moorish settlement period (they occupied the region from 711-1492), it seems to be built around the natural spring in la plaza, and there is a building that used to be a mosque, a temple, a church, and a shelter for the unfortunate in the past. I only know this because Eloisa, a friend, came up the mountain for lunch one day and talked about this ancient building, because her home is attached to one side of the actual site.

Our friend in the bakery told us to go around the side of the old municipal bulding, to look at where the people used to come to wash their clothes in the spring's runoff, which seems to have been meticulously directed to facilitate its use. Having a natural spring in the center of your town is "no big woop" for these people, and they seem so surprised at our fascination over it!

ok too much for you all to read. Visuals! I think they are on facebook now.

Love Elena, Lucci & Sy

Domingo el 10 de julio
10 julio
Jorge, the husband of Elena (Bea's sister), miraculously comes down to la plaza every sunday to grab his Prensa to read all about Hercules, CF, his team out of Alicante. We are down here in the bulding of el Ayuntamiento, he is reading, I am writing. No hay niños, it is quiet. La plaza is full today of an outdoor market that has everything, food clothing, stuff. I wish I brought my money and my own car! Today Pablo is cooking for three parties. Always paella on sundays. La comida is lunch, around 2:30. He has 3 propane tanks going with three big pans. His special version includes bogabandes, which look just like lobster, but they insist that bogabandes are different from lobster so I just nod. They buy these bogabandes down in Castellón, the big city near here, and freeze them. they arrive alive, of course, from Canada....I tried to give them the heads up that lobsters would come out of my ears if I asked them to, that I am a girl form Beverly, Mass, very close to Canadá, and there, we call those things lobster. But hey, there is only so much I can say. I think there is some meaning caught up in the word "langosta" in Spain's peninsular Spanish. But those bogabandes are really good in paella!

5 julio
Feliz aniversario de boda, mi amor
Today is mine and Eric’s wedding anniversary. I have no internet access up here on the mountain which is a good thing—we are at almost a kilometer high, away from the rat race—and a bad thing, for cummunication. Today we were lucky to hitch a ride down to the plaza with Bea, who was bringing Óscar, their little one, to the pediatrition. While they were there we were able to skype with Eric, finally a nice long FREE conversation. We were down there for 2 hours. After that, we had la comida at around 3:30, and spent the afternoon playing.

Simon and Lucia have been running around with Ángela, Raquel, Aitana and Óscar, throwing a ball to each other from one landing to another (The hotel is four different rooms built at different levels of the incline, amidst trees and walkways. Turns out these rooms were put up only 18 years ago), dancing to out-of-tune songs I am attempting to play on a resurrected kids’ guitar that Bea found, creating stone sculptures with the kids using wood glue (which will wash away when it rains...) and putting them on exhibit in the planters, in between the struggling specimens, whose livening up will be part of my job, I think next week?

Pain in Spain
Unfortunately with all the playting, Simon fell on the rocks and got hurt. His right knee sustained a pretty deep one. Then, a few hours after he was patched up), and after a few glasses of TriNa (Citrus no-bubble sweet drink…I reasoned that the poor kid’s on vacation…) he and Lucia are running around, the adults are having beer and chips, it is 9 pm, nobody is anywhere near even feeding the kids dinner yet, let along the grown-ups…Simon and Lucia are chasing each other again. Down he goes on the same gruesome cut (padded slightly by the bandage). Red spot soaks through right away… ugh. He screams in utter pain. I have to monitor my own breathing as I carry him to get cleaned up. The overloaded maletas, or suitcases, come in handy. Cotton balls, Bactine, antibiotic ointment, gauze, and bandaids. I wish I had packed the Epsom salt, though.

Now we are sitting here, Simon is keeping his knee straight in bed, eating his dinner at 11 p.m. like a good little injured Spaniard. He asks me, “Do you want me to stay in bed for five, four, or six days?”

“Qué pesadas son las moscas.” Bea, waving them away
We have a fly problem here in Lucena del Cid. Flies outside and in. Not a buzzing hoard, but enough to notice that these are too many. There are screens, but the doorways are open all day and have the hanging chains or beads to walk through Maybe the flies hitch a ride when people are walking through. They don’t bite, but many will land on you at once, like seven of them, sometimes, and it is a weird tickling feeling. I look over at Lucia and she’s got about 3 sitting on her head, camouflaging into her brown hair. I wonder how I must look. We are trying to kill them with our quick hands. “Hey. I know another way to kill flies—sit on them,” says Simon.

On the topic of flies, one of our assignments is to sometime take a walk in the forest and collect wild chamomile, which will repel them, and braid the herbs into arbor and garland-length adornments. With those we could decorate the outside eating area. I think I should weave myself a chamomile face and head mask for the mornings, when they come to fan me with their wings just before sitting on my earlobe, forehead and eyebrow.

9 julio, sábado
Swept away
Last Friday, later in the day, in a flurry, Bea assigned me to sweep dirt, leaves and pebbles from the walkways and concrete areas into the bordering brush, before guests arrived for la cena, dinner. The driveway is concrete, there are walkways and different levels where lighter-colored flagstone has been laid. Very pretty to look at, very difficult to sweep. More difficult with the instrument I was provided, a somewhat large and heavy pushbroom. Those little leaves and stuff are so hard to move when you’ve got a multitude of cracks to sweep them through. It was a bit like searching for an inland waterway to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific: I got a little stuck. Two items ensured the job was done: my bullheadedness, and Simon’s asking for an additional broom from Pablo. The smaller one he acquired was helpful in retrieving stubborn debris. Both Simon and Lucia applied themselves in helping me with the enterprise.

Then yesterday was Friday again, and I realized…by the way conversations were heading, and by Bea’s use of the passive voice while addressing the topic…that this must be my special weekend job. The dread! Haha. Not only that, but there is also a lower recreation spot, a concrete area the size of a large playground basketball court, just above the animal corrals and fields. It has a hoop to one side, there are great views, and the space can be used for anything. Shows are going to be put on each weekend this month; the location needed to be majorly cleaned up. So much dirt had accumulated in a few places there, as a result of rainwater carrying it downhill during the past year. Between the upper sweeping and the lower, it was probably a 6-hour job. Simon repeatedly asked me when I could come in the pool with him, to which I continually replied that my job was too big. It felt good to be able to say a guilt-inducing sentence out loud and to know that probably no one would understand me but him. Finally he decided I must need help, so he swept like a madman, then literally filled a whole wheelbarrow with dirt (what?!), which I carried away and filled again. He’d been hounding me to try a Fanta limón soda. Boy, did he earn one. We did it! The show was muy guay (awesome). After all that we were up quite late with cubatas (drinks) and now I am half-dead. ☺

Por fin (finally), wifi...I must be an addict...it has been 5 days!
4 julio ¡Feliz día de la independencia! We got to this town on Thursday, it is Monday and finally we are down in la plaza, and there is free wifi (pronounced WEE-fee here in the hills. In Madrid it was said to me in the English pronounciation!) throughout the plaza. We are sitting in La Panadería-Pastelería-Cafetería Enrique Negre (a bakery-pastry-caf, we had un pastel de chocolate, y magdalenas, which are little breakfast cupcake-muffins. I tried to paste a foto here of L&S in la cafeteria, but now I realize I can’t stick photos here without paying extra, so they are on facebook. Below I have a bunch of things that have happened to us since we got to Madrid. 29 junio We spent half the day getting from Barajas to Hotel Mediodía. The other half, we miraculously stuck it out for much longer than expected. I had previously contacted and made plans with my sole friend in Madrid, Jorge Gómez. I met him almost 20 years ago while living here and studying to complete a Master’s degree. Ok, yes, we dated back then, and Eric was understandably a bit hurt, but it was half our lives ago. Also, when you have a friend in a faraway place, you call when you are planning to visit! I had thought we would walk in el Parque del Retiro (big huge beautiful Central Park-style park) and see a couple paintings in el Prado, but Jorge ended up taking us to his and his girlfriend’s piso (flat), in the outskirts, to a town called Manzanares el Real, 30 miles north of Madrid. They fed us sopa de lentejas con arroz. Jorge and Maribel met because they both love to rock climb. There is an amazing reserve there of mountains made up mostly of rock, called la Pedreza. This is what brought them together, and I can see why. It is beautiful, and a rock climber’s dream. We also met Maribel’s mother and their two hens! We didn’t climb, but had the opportunity to walk a bit along the river, at the base of la Pedreza, and Lucia went in. We all got at least a little bit wet. It was a fairly hot day, and we had been on the move a lot. The river, along with lunch, was exactly what we needed. Simon climbed big rocks near the river. The two of them ended up climbing the rocks along the path back to the car. It was about 8 pm when we got back to our hotel. Lucia delighted in Spongebob, Madagascar cartoons, and I, Carly in peninsular Spanish. She would suddenly laugh at key times, commenting that certain events were really funny in Spanish! I wonder why…? I have always felt that the sound of an outburst in Spanish is extremely convincing… 30 junio 2011 9:50 a.m. We are traveling at 299 km/hr on el AVE (Alta Velocidad España) train, on our way to Valencia, where we will pick up another train for Castellón, and from there we will catch a bus to Lucena del Cid. Simon and Lucia are little powerhouses. We woke up this morning, looked over the plaza (two terrazas, or balconies, open up to the view and morning air! It was a triple, spotless, new bathroom, free wifi, outdated but all we needed, €86!), cleaned up, packed the huge maletas, then down the ascensor y al estación de ferrocarril, Atocha. The station used to be called Mediodía; that must be where our hotel got its name. 1:30 pm Pablo met us at the side of the bus saying “Estoy reciclando, ¡tengo que lavarme las manos antes de saludaros!” or, “I am recycling, I have to wash my hands before greeting you!” And he went and rinsed his hands in the natural spring that is tapped in the center of the plaza. That was the first image we had of Lucena del Cid! Bea and Pablo’s place is at the top of a mountain, not a hill, at the end of the road. Views in all directions. Terraced farmland, picturesque. It is totally safe for kids and pets, I am so happy they will be able to run wild! It is an estate, the land used to be owned by a woman named Madalena, a few centuries ago. The restaurant and hotel rooms (4) were built more recently. Bea y Pablo came here about 6 ½ years ago. 1 julio 5:37 p.m. We went to bed at midnight last night. It gets dark here at around 10:15. Yesterday there was a group of kids of all ages here, from babies to ages 12 or so, because friends of Bea y Pablo’s had gotten a bunch of their friend’s children together to do a week-long camp, full of all cool ecological things to learn and do. They came last night to see the new horse, Artax, who has recently been added to the family of animals here. Also they came to make pizza for dinner and have the grown-ups bake it in the wood-burning oven. I can’t say enough about these people. Not even a day passed and I felt comfortable. Everything they do with such care, with the type of consciousness I hope to develop more and more in my own life. It is a small town of around 1500 people or so. Bea ran down to the plaza for a municipal meeting yesterday to raise funds and figure out a name for a library for their town. They have to travel an hour to get to the nearest library, in Castellón. They mean to get things done around here, to improve their community’s existence. They are educated and have chosen to simplify life, out here in the country. Not to become extremely rich, but to live well. 2-3 julio The rest of friday I spent learning about feeding the animals and caring for them, e.g. mostly cleaning the corrals and caring for Artax, applying natural bug repellent on him. The kids’ daily job is to help with feeding. Before anything we gather wild alfalfa from around , dandylion (diente de león!), and another wild plant that the rabbit Luna loves. We feed these to Luna and her babies (who can enter and exit whenever they want, they fit through the chain link fence). The other animals, the chickens and ducks, also get some of the greens. But we also give the ducks a mixture of water and wheat casings, the chickens get the leftover human food as well as wheat and corn, and the rabbits get a mixture of varied rabbit food. They all have their water checked and changed if necessary. We don’t have to feed the goats, donkey and sheep, but Artax gets fed twice a day. Then I get to send the kids to go play while I clean the sheep, donkey, goat corrals, and the chicken coop. In the coop, I scoop and mix their buggy poop in to the area where they are picking at various and sundry other things. They pick and pick and eat all the bugs, and all of this together, keeping in mind all of the food is organic, makes for a damn good egg. We gather any eggs that have been laid and bring them up to the fridge. All the manure goes in a compost heap, and I clean up any pee by spreading dry dirt over it and then sweeping up. I think this process could take 2-4 hours, depending on starting time, re: how the weather is. Saturday we rode Artax, the big white horse they only have just acquired 2 weeks ago. I have not ridden much, but he is the tallest horse I have mounted. He is simultaneously beautiful and frightening. Lucia has had experience with horses, at a riding camp a few summers ago, and feels confident in her abilities with horses, so naturally she was let down when Pablo walked her and Artax around the meadow. There will be many more chances. ☺ 3 julio I am getting really good at cleaning poop! Started weeding the potted plants around the house/hotel/restaurant entrance.

Autobus aeropuerto-estacion de ferrocarril (Atocha): €2/persona
We sort of slept on the plane, then suddenly the lights went on, coffee wafted under my nose. The two of them probably got 2ish hours of sleep. First cultural experience was nutrition-less expensive breakfast (muy madrileno). Second: el autobus, instead of taxi. Espanol is heard all around. For me, this is paradise, albeit a slightly aromatic one (we all are holding on to the bars...). Good a.c. in here.

Working on posting a pic of the exhausted angels in autobus...

¡Voy a España! With 2 kids!?!
This is my first blog entry ever. Muy bien.

I am writing this because my son's kindergarten teacher suggested it as a way to record our adventure in Spain this summer.  Thank you P, for the idea, and for the confidence that even I can figure out how to set up this thing (We'll see if that is true in a few minutes...or days...). 

I taught Spanish for 10 years before having my 2 kids. Learned it painstakingly in school, from a host of amazing and fluent teachers from 6th grade onward through graduate school, when I finally lived in Madrid for an academic year. Gracias, Mamá y Papá. Recently back to teaching through a long-term substitute position, I now realize there is no more waiting around. If my kids, 9 and 6, are going to learn Spanish with some degree of fluency, I have to get on it, like, yesterday.  But I need a jumpstart, something to give me las ganas, or the desire, to persevere through this rough terrain I have created for myself ("Mommy, speak English! I don't underSTAND you!"). I am going to have to be a mamá who sticks to her guns. Spanish all day long, nada de ese inglés. We are going to work on an organic farm in Lucena del Cid, a small town in Spain, for 4 weeks this summer, in exchange for room and board.   We land at Barajas, el aeropuerto de Madrid. We connect by metro to Atocha, la estación de trenes to catch el AVE bound for the east. Okay, maybe we will stay a night en Madrid, I might try to drag them through el Prado (it is right near the train station!) or el parque del Retiro, and at Café Comercial, we could learn how to drink chocolate (cho-co-LAH-teh).  True, they already know how to do that...but now they must do it en español.

But I have got to be crazy.  Bringing my kids with me, a woman, alone through a foreign country an ocean away from home.  But I speak the language.  But I still don't understand them when they get angry.  Oh what the hell, I have the tickets, I wrote to my farm family that we are coming.  The online ticket agency is not a farce. Sigh of relief. Inhalation of anxiety. Clapping of hands. Patty-cake. Stomping of the feet. Castanets snapping in my head. Vaya.

Lucena del Cid is located in the province of Valencia, maybe about 30-40 miles inland of the cities of Valencia and Castellón, which are located on the central eastern coast.  People there speak both castellano (the spanish that came to the americas) and valenciano (french-spanish-italianish. Right?) 

I learned about an organization called WWOOF, or Worldwide Opportunities in Organic Farming, from two friends.  (Thank you, M and B.  You two would love each other!)  I paid 20 euros via internet to wwoof España, and ya está-- I became a member and could browse Spain's many organic farms, gathering information about each one's location, approach, size, produce, farmers, etc.  I also had access to the farms' contact people. I emailed many, explaining about myself, my Eric and our kids, our talents, hard work ethic, and great interest in organic gardening.  I communicated (en español, but there was english all over the wwoof españa website, and as we know, the world is forced to at least try to learn English. If you are thinking of doing this and don't know Spanish, it is probably not an issue) back and forth with a few, and they were all very kind in their correspondence.  The people I finally settled on are a husband and wife running a small albergo, an inn, in the hills (mountains? we will see) near the cities of Valencia and Castellón.  They have a girl and a boy as well. I feel good knowing we will be in a family environment, and the 4 children will entertain one another.  The name of their place is Mas de Madalena.  "Masía" in valenciano means "house (M, gracias for providing me with crucial info like that word and a million other things)."  They also have their own home on the property, lots of land, orchards, and animals: chickens, goats, a donkey, cats and dogs, and possibly more that I can't remember right now.  My kids are very excited to gather fresh eggs.  Caracaracara...  (Spanish for "bok bok.").

The agreement I have made with Bea y Pablo is to work for 6 hours/day, 6 days/week, in exchange for room and board for 4 weeks.  For the 4th (and last) week, my sweet Eric will join us to work.  Then we will go off for a week somewhere else, I don't know where, and sit on a beach.  I hope to take them to see la Alhambra, in Granada, for a day during that week.  Then it's back to Madrid and home on the plane.

Theirs is one of possibly the 10% of farms I read about that automatically accept children.  Many places accept children as a negotiable component.  Of course I don't expect my children to work, but they might want to lend a hand on occasion.  They are busy people and might enjoy the feeling of "earning one's keep."  I look forward to seeing what they do and how they interact with their new Spanish friends.

We are leaving soon!  But... I have to get the dog's food all figured out, do laundry, get travelers' health insurance, take the kids to the allergist, map out  our train travel and our post-farm tourist accommodations, make dinner, see my friends, visit my mother, pack, learn all the organic farming vocab, teach the kids something in Spanish before we go, be a good wife to Eric, whom I am certainly driving crazy at this point, throw a birthday extravaganza for my girl, go to church, sleep, pretend I am paying attention to and interacting in conversations, not planning logistics in my head as I stand here smiling, then grimacing, then....

I really want to thank L, who thought she might just ask if I was interested.... This job, for which you thought I might be good, had me teaching Spanish again, after 8 years of being at home with children. Getting paid to leave the house and have fun with a bunch of very intelligent, creative individuals? Yeah!  And thank you to my other L; you unknowingly breathed life back into my love of Spain.  I never would have thought to do this, had I not had the opportunity to be placed within such a compelling environment, your curriculum. Gracias, mujer.


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