28 June 2006

My song blog

I know several of you are really into music and this will seem perhaps silly, but it's my turn to blog about music.

Dar and I like to think up song compilation ideas. We had one going for itineration for a while with lots of road songs and travel songs. We never actually go create the proposed compilation but we have fun making the list and thinking of it. The aforementioned one helped pass many hours in the car on our way to some church.

Recently I had the idea that you could do a work compilation. Now depending on your perspective of work, your song choices might not be as, shall we say, dark as mine. This grew out of a day when I was being micromanaged and I felt like my value as an experienced professional was, ah, not on the radar. The first song on the list occurred to me at this point. Then Dar and I started batting around songs that occurred to us in other work settings or circumstances.

I know all you song aficionados surely can come up with some work related songs either in theme or in lyrics. Is there a cd to create for frustrated workers everywhere? I'm wondering what Golden would come up with in light of the recent training challenges and the soon coming hiatus. What are your additions to the list?

I'm alright, don't nobody worry 'bout me...Kenny Loggins

That's the way you want it... Journey

Dirty Deeds done dirt cheap...AC/DC

Dirty Laundry...Don Henley

Dust in the Wind...Kansas

Working Man...RUSH

Live and Let Live...Bon Jovi (Not sure about this one, what do you think?)

23 June 2006

Summer Solstice

A red bike.
A dirt road.
Fresh cut stalks of wheat
lying shiny on the ground.
A pink-gold orb of sun
sinking behind a rim of cloud.
Magpies and bunnies jump,
startled by my evening ride.
Twanging overhead lines
announce a coming train.
Welcome inexplicable
cool spots in the air.
The whir and thrumming
of the season's first cicadas,
the crunch and slip
of rocks beneath tires.
Gray twilight encroaches
on the yellow dusk.
Sweat trickling on my skin,
the scent of honeysuckle
hanging sweet around me.
Almost there,
but 4500 miles from home.

21 June 2006

Fiesta de Villalbilla

The little burb we live in here had a fiesta last weekend. It actually began Thursday night. Each night there was a mass scheduled. Turned out the mass was occurring in the tiny ancient little church around from the miniature town square. The square, plaza if you will, is so small I never noticed it even though I had driven past it dozens of times. It was just a paved area outside an anonymous building until now.

They put up your typical little stage with construction lights to shine on participants and a sound system. Thursday night was a local dance school recital type thing. I didn't stay just sort of passed through the plaza and headed on home. I was self conscious alone - Spainards tend to do things en masse.

Friday night Dar and I went down and one of our co-workers who lives around the corner came out too. There was a procesione after mass. A band of brass instruments and drums strolls, nay, drags along to a funeral dirge. Behind them came the kids who were doing first communion this year. Girls were dressed up in fancy white or cream dresses (a la Honor Star) and the boys had new suits or sailor/commander type suits. Not very many of them, less than 10. Then the local priest in fancy cape under a little canopy. Then came the congregants. We heard the music and skedaddled around the corner to watch not knowing which way they were going. We realized we were behind them and if we walked that way basically we'd become part of the parade. Not being members of the local parish, we opted to go back around to the plaza and wait for them to come by. It took awhile as the beat and thus the forward movement was limited by their mournful music and small steps.

A little while later the band came back without the church following this time, much more upbeat. They marched into an open area by tables. Everyone hanging out seemed to know that we were all supposed to move over there. After we were the only ones still sitting in some chairs, we decided we'd go over too. Apparently the tune is one that a local dance is done to and a slightly crazy tiny little woman was trying to get people to dance with her. Yes, I did. I'm not sure I got the steps but we had a good time.

After band-time, was free refreshments time indicated by "Apertivo" on the schedule. This was about 9:30pm or so. They set plastic plates of cheese puffs, potato chips, lunchmeat and cheese on the tables and you could get a free cup of soda or beer from a little bar they had set up. We were intrigued by a large group of people all reaching into plates with their fingers. Not sure that would fly in the U.S. at an official city event. Everyone suddenly knew it was time to go sit down in the chairs in front of the stage.

An operetta ensued. The dictionary had fish casserole or operetta as the definition of the word, so Dar kept referring to it as the Seafood Spectacular. It was a good show. Lots of traditional costumes (No! I didn't bring my camera!) Dancers between sets did traditional dances with the long ruffly skirts and castenettas. Every act or group had a costume change each time they came out, so it was pretty elaborate. The opera part was an actual troop from down in Alcala the bigger city nearby. People talked in the back, dogs fought, people shushed the teens who got loud, and came and went with none too soft goodbyes and greetings. This is Spain. At 11:15 pm, they announced an intermission, so another hour + was in the wings. We decided to head home.

Saturday morning Tif and I went to the choclotada. Free churros (like a donut with no frosting) which you dip in the hot thick chocolate drink they give you. The evening activities were rained out. We did a puzzle.

Sunday night "Fuegos Artificiales" were on the agenda. We guessed this was fireworks. I figured it'd be rinky dink from a little town. As we walked toward the plaza, we saw that the soccer/basketball court half way down the hill from our house had the fireworks set up. We sat on the sidewalk directly across the street from it. No one shooed us further away, it's that not major league on the safety thing again. We laid back on a Spanish sidewalk and were barraged by the concusion of the effects leaving the ground and again when they exploded in the air. We were so close they were bigger than what you could see at times. Other moments you were busy dodging the chunks falling out of the sky. Definitely a display I'm going to remember. I tried humming Stars & Stripes forever, but I was drowned out by the immense sound of the fireworks.

One would think this was it, right? On Monday night, I don't know why, they served a traditional stew at 9pm. You just stood in line and got a bowl of stew, basically big lamb or mutton meat chunks in a greasy broth. Plates of group French Fries stood on the tables. I asked a guy if that was his plate, he gestered and spoke enthusiastically that no, no, no, take some, take some, please go ahead. He was adamant. I wasn't really hungry but I was curious to see what all the events were. The stew wasn't bad, I'm not a big fan of cordero (lamb). It's a regional stew they told me each area has their own typical thing they serve. I probably won't be looking the recipe up for that one, but what a moment. It would be like being in some little town in Kansas on their special city day and you're the only tourist. By the end I was recognizing the people, so I wonder do they recognize me as that one American girl that's been coming?

17 June 2006

Adventures on the road

Honestly, when I knew I was spending 11 days continuously with everyone I work with I was nervous. That's a long time to be cooped up with co-workers, whatever the belief system you all share. I was pleasantly surprised that there weren't major incidents and only minor irritations that were swallowed without much extra water. Getting to drive our own car was a blessing. We could control our own environment and could run to the store or bank without depending on someone else to take us. More stressful for Dar since he did most of the driving, but I think we trusted his driving more than anyone else's anyway. We missed one turn-off for a different highway because Dar, wisely, didn't cut in front of a semi and follow the lead car (a la Italian job and the subway train). One turn off missed in 3700 kilometers, not too bad. We doubled back within 5 minutes or so.

A part of France looked exactly like Florida. The part that has the huge pine trees and the sandy soil. Even some of the houses looked Floridian. It was very interesting and we weren't the only ones who noticed it. That was near the coast.

Then we drove through a corner of the Loire valley. Very green, picturesque farm land, a bit like Missouri. We had fun remembering our trip to look at chateaus there about 12 years ago. Alas, our time in France this trip only involved toll roads and truck stops. The truck stop food in France leaves a lot to be desired. I recommend if you go to France get off the toll roads and explore, it's lovely out there. The producer who is British was saying by the end of the trip the worst chicken he ever had was in France, the second worst chicken he ever had was in France (both this trip in truck stops) and the third worst chicken he ever had was in Delhi, India.

Dar has blogged about the actual work. It was terrific to be part of what we worked so long and hard to be here for. So much of life is mundane office work, the production days are really rewarding, if somewhat exhausting.

In Holland, they have special roads for bicycles with their own street lights in some cases. Everyone rides bikes, old grannies in skirts, young girls on cellphones, guys smoking cigarettes, you name it. The bikes have a very tall profile. I noticed hardly anyone had a bike that they had to lean into the handle bars.

One of our young associates kept bugging me that we should go ride bikes. I don't know why but it was somehow up to me to organize it. I wanted to do it too, so finally the last few days I talked to the hotel about bikes. For E5.70 you could have a bike for the DAY, and it took a day's notice to get them so we were down to bicycling our last night in Holland. We worked all day, packed the equipment for the trip and manged to get out of the Bible Museum at a reasonable time and took to our bikes. One guy who came in from the states, the young associate, a 13 year old nephew of someone in the group, a summer college intern, and me!

The bikes in Holland are tall. Even with the seat all the way down I had to leap on and off, like riding a neighbor friend's bike when you were a kid. The handlebars are higher up and so if you were taller than me there would be little or no leaning involved. Being shorter, I had to lean a little but less than my normal bike. They also had very hard seats, I'll let you take what you will from that.

The little roads made riding a breeze, smooth, flat. We got off those and rode along a cannal for a little while. We saw sheep and hot air balloons. It was really a wonderful final night in Holland. We were about 50 yards from the hotel and somehow in that short distance we lost the intern. She's very young for her years and naive. We'd just passed a strip club (that sort of thing is common and legal in Holland) and I was worried she was being kidnapped and sold into the black market. Okay, I wasn't sure that was what happened but didn't feel like I could turn in for the night until we found her. We split up and went up all the side streets looking for her. As the only official "missionary" in the group I felt responsible for losing the intern. She turned up and a couple of us were a little harsh telling her she had to let people know where she was when she's in a foreign country, it's a safety issue. She'd been making a flower necklace in a church yard. It was 10 pm and still twilight, but we called it a night. Two days of driving were ahead.

Biking in Holland