Saturday, 22 June 2013

Careful Where You Step...

Translation: Who is the animal? Keep Burriana clean.

My nieces visit us here in Spain and they’re amazed at the amount of dog-mess there is on the streets. (N.B. Spaniards use the word caca, pronounced like the first two syllables in the word Macarena.) We find the amount of caca on the street quite interesting. When I was their age, younger even, dog-mess (that will be caca de perro) on the street (in London, my hometown) was an everyday obstacle. The idea that anyone should pick it up and put it in a bag was simply unheard-of. Madness.

I remember seeing an item on the news one night about a town in the U.S.A. (I think it was in California) where a law had been passed forcing dog-owners to do just that. Well, how we laughed! Those crazy Americans! There were a few other crazy ideas around at the time, I remember. Like forcing everybody to wear a seat-belt! Or not allowing them to smoke in pubs and restaurants. What lunacy.

I can’t quite work out why we laughed. I mean, I didn’t exactly like carrying mounds of caca de perro into our house and spreading it all over the carpets. (My mum wasn’t too keen on it either.) But laugh we did, and then, of course, everything changed.

When we came to Spain it was like we’d travelled back thirty or forty years. Heaps of caca de perro and not a scooper in sight. Until quite recently when signs and posters began to appear, like this one in Burriana. Things are changing in Spain. You see more and more people scooping it up. (You also have to wear a seat-belt and can’t smoke in bars and restaurants.)

And in case you think this is just a joke, note that in the UK nearly 100 children are partially blinded every year by Toxicariasis, the disease spread by the larvae of the Toxocara canis worm that lives in a dog’s intestine. I haven’t been able to find comparable figures for Spain, but common sense would suggest the figure would be higher.

So, while I do love living in Spain, there are still some things about life in the UK which are clearly better. 

N.B., this post originally appeared on my Zen Kyu Maestro blog in an extended format.
I'll wish you all a happy summer now as school here has just broken up for the holidays. I'm heading for the north of Spain where I'll have my eyes peeled for some more wierd and wonderful things to entertain you next term. 
Hasta pronto. JD. 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Huge Fun!

This looks fun, doesn't it?

And this...

...and this...

You should be getting a feel for how big this thing is. But what is it?

Any ideas yet?

This looks handy...

I hope you've got a head for heights...

Time to show you the full picture...

This is the Parque de Recreo Infantil Gulliver (the 'Gulliver' Children's Recreation Park) in Valencia. It's a 50m long (10m high) fibreglass model of Jonathan Swift's famous character. It offers children (and a lot of their parents) an opportunity to scramble up ropes, slip down slides and get themselves lost in the tunnels and caves that make up his sleeping body. 

You'll find it in Valencia's dry river bed. The river was diverted after a lot of flooding in the city, and the bed is now home to cafes, cycle-paths, football pitches, skateboard parks... and Gulliver.

If you ever visit Valencia, why not say hola to Gulliver?

Saturday, 8 June 2013

While waiting for the lights to change...

I saw this...

Good, eh? It's not often you sit at a traffic light (semáforo) and pray for them not to change. I was particularly impressed that his timing was so good. I don't mean the juggling, I mean that he knew when the semáforos were about to change and left himself enough time to pass his hat around the waiting drivers. He seemed to be enjoying himself too.

And yes, I did give him a couple of euros. Spain is suffering very high unemployment at the moment, and lots of people are looking for new ways to earn a bit of money. And anyone who can make waiting at a semáforo fun, deserves a bit of support.

Note: Do you know the English word 'semaphore'? It means to make messages (usually) using two flags. 

I guess traffic lights make messages using three lights. It should make semáforo an easy Spanish word to remember. If you're interested, put 'Semaphore' into Google images and you'll see many more ways of using semaphore.

Hasta la próxima.

Saturday, 1 June 2013


They call it 'patio' here, the event and the place. Well, they did until I arrived. Now it's 'playtime' and 'playground' they're having to learn. Who said English was easy?
So what do they do? Well, lots of things that I saw back home: footballs, dolls, cuddly toys, skipping, collecting beetles- Collecting beetles?

Manuel pelts towards me as I come out to do duty.
'Look thees, look thees!' he's yelling.
'Very nice,' I say, 'beetles.'
'Escarabajos,' he corrects. (Es-car-a-bah-hos.) And so I get a nice little Spanish lesson from a 6-year-old in return for the English vocab. I wonder about the Spanish word. Es-cara-bajo. Cara, you might know, means 'face', while bajo means 'down'; so does escarabajo mean face down?
Well, no. It doesn't. My word detective skills are not up to scratch and I'm reliably informed that escarabajo comes from the Latin, scarabaeus, from where we also get the word scarab. It's quite true when they say, 'You learn something new every day'. And that includes teachers.
It reminds me of a day when someone caught a grasshopper, a really big one. It wasn't as big as this one, I took this photo in Guatamala.

Anyway, back in Spain, I tell the children it is a grasshopper. They look at me, distinctly unimpressed. Then Marta proudly translates into Spanish. 'Saltamontes!' Hmmm, I'm not surprised, given the size of it. Can you translate Saltamontes into English? I'll give you a clue, it isn't grasshopper!
Back to the beetles. I'm not a beetle expert, so I'm not sure what type they are, Stag? So if you know, please send me an e-mail, and I'll include it in the blog.
'You want hims walking on you arm?' Manuel asks suddenly. We are now surrounded by a sizeable crowd of juniors, all jostling for position to see Mr. Dean have four (possibly man-eating) beetles crawling up his arm. I'm not a great fan of beetles, so usually I'd decline. But the expectant faces are all staring at me with eager brown eyes and missing teeth. 
'OK,' I say and (luckily, only) one beetle is transferred onto my wrist. It tickles as it scrambles up towards my elbow on the inside of my forearm.
The children smile all the more, except for Manuel, who seems slightly disappointed that I am (apparently) so brave. He spots Mrs. D on the far side of the playground, retrieves my beetle and heads off to see if he can scare the life out of her. (Yes, he can.) The screaming crowd follows him. They haven't had so much entertainment at playtime for years.
What's that I hear? The bell? Well, enjoy your patio- I mean, playtime.