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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

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mucos! Jake taught me that one.

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