Monday, April 13, 2009

Buenos amigos of the Cruz Roja (Red Cross)

Given that Javea had a disproportionate population of EU expats, it was often hard to get to know the locals. One of the most valuable and rewarding experiences for me personally was to sign up with the local Javea Red Cross. They had just started up a new environmental program, called Medio Ambiente, with the purpose of improving and preserving the local environs around Javea. This group was made up of a handful of young people (30-somethings), all with a common love and passion for the outdoors. For me it was a perfect opportunity to meet and connect with other like-minded individuals, practice my spanish and get out to see everything Javea had to offer. We met in the evenings on a weekly basis to begin building a "business plan" for how to care for the various parks and trails in the area by hosting montly cleanup days. I learned a great deal about budgets and local politics (particularly the region of Alicante versus the national directives) and did my best to keep up with my colleagues when they would break into passionate, rapid-fire dialog, often reverting to Valenciano, a dialect I could not speak and barely understood. Often during the weekends, we would go off on hikes to document areas that had been degraded or worn due to heavy use in the hopes of convincing others to support and fund our cleanup and preservation effort. We would also attend lectures from local park guides in Denia, who would give fasciating lectures about the geology and flora and fauna of the area. Raul was the ring-leader of this effort, and his dedication and tireless efforts to make Javea a better place were an inspiration to me. Plus he was a good friend, who would go out of his way to include me in conversations and invite me along various excursions. Other key people included Lorena - the organizer driving the effort through the Red Cross, as well as other local volunteers like Jordi, Marco, Santi, Johanna, and Bianca. Everyone was incredibly friendly and would go out of their way to bring me in to their conversations and make sure I was understanding what they were saying. All in all, it was a fascinating group of people and an amazing experience. Through the Cruz Roja, I have made some wonderful life-long friends and I look forward to following their future endeavors to keep Javea beautiful.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Semana Santa - Domingo de Pascua (Easter Sunday)

Today is Easter Sunday, marking the end of Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Spain. While the most significant Santa Semana celebrations take place in Andalucia (primarily Seville) and central Spain, several towns in the province of Valencia also host their own local versions. In particular, the mountain town of Pego hosted a number of processions throughout the town this entire week. I took the opportunity to see the final procession in Pego, which celebrated the moment when the Virgin Mary is reunited with her resurrected son for the first time. The procession began with two different parades leaving from different churches, one carrying a statue of the Virgen Mary and one carrying the risen Jesus. Each procession slowly wound its way through town with bands following -marching slowly to the beat of trumpets and drums - and culminated when the two statues were carried triumphantly into the town square to reunite. The bands then bursted into the "Hymn of Alegria", with children throwing caramelos and adults throwing flower petals at the statues. Of course, no festival in Spain would be complete without a mascleta (firecracker show) to cap off the celebration, and then the townspeople gathered up and returned to their respective parishes to celebrate Easter Mass. While the easter bunny is not well known in Spain (although he did make a surprise visit to our villa this morning - quite a feat considering the distance he had to travel!), the locals tend to spend the rest of the day with family, often heading down to the beach after mass to fly cometas (kites) and later enjoying a tarta de mona (a sweet pastry with a whole egg in the center) or a tarta de pasas y nueces (raisin and nut cake). For us, tarta de nueces was the hands-down winner of the day.