These past weeks' adventures revolve around what I'm going to preemptively call the Longest Puente. There were two holidays on the 6th and the 8th of December so the Spanish just decided to lump it all together into one big vacation. I normally don't work Fridays, so in conjunction with the holidays, I had Friday through Wednesday off! It was such a long weekend that this post turned out equally long. I apologize, but maybe I can keep you interested long enough to read through it. =)
Before we get to the heart of the action, how about a little back-story? Ha, I knew you'd say yes, anyway...In addition to working at the school, I started teaching private English classes. I only have two so far, but I hope to find a few more after the Christmas holidays. My first student is Manuel. His father, Jesús (that's "hey-Zeus" not Jesus The Son) is my principle/boss' brother. My second student is Jorge, who is Manuel's cousin and the son of Manuel's Mom's sister. Lost yet? Yeah, I know its a bit confusing but what can you do. Family relations are always hard to explain. Moving on. Jesús and his wife, Valle, invited me to go along with them during the puente to visit Valle's family in La Palma del Condado in Huelva. Huelva is one of the "counties" of Andalucia and is around a two-three hour drive from La Línea. They offered to treat me to everything and all I would have to do is speak English with the kids and help them out a bit. I hadn't planned any other trips and what could be better than spending the holidays traditional Spanish style? In my opinion virtually nothing, so I agreed.
They picked me up on Friday, the 3rd, around six in the evening. Oh, I forgot to mention that Manuel is six years old and Jorge is four. Valle and Jesús have another son, also named Jesús, who is two. I got the pleasure of sitting between the two kids and we enjoyed a Sponge Bob-filled ride to La Palma. When we arrived at La Palma, I was impressed. It is a little pueblo, very old, but not in anyway decrepit. Most of the small towns I have been through, if they are not tourist locations, have dirtier streets and some evidence of lower economic level. La Palma, however, was very crisp, clean, and enchanting. As soon as we arrived, I also realized that I left my camera in La Línea. I was in a bit of a rush to pack and I left it on the desk. Que tristeza y mala suerte. Oh well, as luck would have it, the Spanish love their pictures so I'll be stealing some of them for your viewing pleasure.
My first piece of criminal evidence is of the church in La Palma. This picture, and most of those to follow, was taken by Jorge's mom, Belen. Those not taken by Belen were caught by Jesús on his camera phone.
Next in line is the Teatro de La Palma.
The streets of La Palma.
The victim of my crimes, the foto-artista herself.
And her sister Valle.
Upon entering the town, we drove to Valle's uncle's house who lives in the same plaza as the Teatro de La Palma. Their uncle, Tito (uncle) Kaska, is a sweet old man who lives by himself in the bottom floor of a huge house. Here he is.
After meeting with Tito Kaska, the family and I went out with him for a traditional Spanish dinner. The dinner was, of course, excellent. We had an appetizer of what I'm pretty sure were cooked octopus eggs and I had pork for dinner. After throughly stuffing myself, we returned to Tito's house. At the house I met more of the cousins and one who used to teach Spanish in Jonesboro, Ar. It is amazing how we live in a world that is simultaneously inexplicably huge and incredibly small. Anyway, I had a nice reflective chat with her and her husband about Arkansas and the many differences of the United States. The husband said the most surprising thing to him was the difference in size between the United States and Europe. In comparison, everything in the States is larger. The cars are larger, the portions are larger, the towns are spread out, the houses are bigger, everything. It was so surprising to them that you could not get around without a car. After our mutual cultural revelations, we said goodbye, and the family and I headed off to bed.
The next morning, Jesús and I got up early, and grabbed breakfast at a café. Traditional Spanish breakfast is one or two halves of a small toasted baguette accompanied by jamón and olive oil with coffee to drink. We brought breakfast back for the kids then headed to the Sierra mountains to the north of Huelva. Throughout the weekend, everyone I met recounted to me the wonders of Huelva. It is the southwest most province of Spain. To the west is Portugal, to the east is the city of Sevilla, to the north the Sierra mountain range, and to the South are kilometers and kilometers of untouched beach.
The Sierra mountains are famous for none other than the production of jamón. The Spanish tradition is to eat a leg or shoulder of jamón during the Christmas holidays. Jesús and I went to pick the jamón rations for his family and their relatives who requested something. On the drive up, Jesús recounted to me some of the history of the area. In the 1800´s many British lived in the area and set up mines to extract the land´s minerals. One example is the river that runs through the mountains, el rio tinto, which is a red-orange hue because of its high iron content.
The jamón factory we arrived at was a family operated warehouse filled with jamón and other cured pork products.
Here I am in front of some jamón. Well, jamón as seen before the curing process.
After it has been butchered, the meat is left to cure.
|I´m not sure exactly what part of the animal this is, but its used as a base for soups and stocks.|
|From left to right: Patricio (a cousin), Manuel, Jesús, Jorge, and some random American.|
|Here are more cousins, except the big guy on the left.|