Sunday, January 06, 2008

One of the questions I get asked the most is "can you get me/my brother/son/newphew/grandchild/the guy standing against the wall etc a job".

The major industry in my town is house building, which is a knock-on from the housing booms in Spain. Men from my region go to Barcalona, either legally or not and get jobs on house building crews. It is simple physical work, requiring little formal education and a lot of brawn. Most importantly it pays in Euro's, which are tradeing at around 11dh (compare with 7.5USD). This money is sent back to town in cheques, and brought back on vacation and used to hire the men who are still left in town to build a new house for the family, the men on these local crews then have the money to reovate their own homes. One Euro, three homes.

Lets be clear. The people in my town need a new house as much as you do. we dont live in grass huts, and only nomads live in tents (thier choice). The homes that people have now are made of mud, and from time to time it does have some problems (namely during the brief rains), but they certainly fulfill the functional needs of homes. Importantly, thick mud walls are fairly good insulators. Walls cooled over the night will soak up heat in the summer mornings. They will also absorb sunlight in the day for release during winter nights. People use mud and packed earth to build houses in the US, its true.

But, the nature of people is often to be unsatisified with what they have, and to want better/differnt things. It causes progress, also a lot of unhappiness. People here being no exception to this rule, want bigger houses, and nicer houses but often dont know exactly what it is they are losing. For them, a nice house is one made of brick and concrete. Thats a step up, they say doesnt melt in the rain. I have never seen a house in my town fall down, nor heard of it happening here but it has happened elsewhere during times of extream precipitation. Sadly, their new brick homes have no kind of insulation at all. However, it is a great way to show how you have made it in the world (or your kids have).

The result of this is that both abroad and at home my men are surrounded by home building, so naturally any thoughts of work in the United States are shovel and trowel oritented. I have turned down a number of well meant requests to build my parents a new home, I thik they are happy with the one they have. Similarly, while I am not opposed to building a new home for myself, Id have to say "not yet". This is little deturrent to them, and I suppose it never hurt to ask.

The bigger barrier comes from the government. I have never heard of a United States company hiring a crew of Moroccan men and getting them all Visas. Sometimes I point out that America has its own unskilled work force that we pay poorly who send money back home. 150 years ago we called them "Irish". Now we call them "Mexican". Either way, its tough going, and it is a lot harder to sneak into America illegally from Morocco than from Tiajana.
It is presumptius of me to think that everything around the world needs to conform to my own midwestern views. Ive been aware of this for awhile now, but I cant shake it off. There are some things like human rights that I feel are universals, and that no amount of history or tradition should stand against these. Other things are more pedestrian, like winter.

Snow should exist somewhere in winter. Im flexable, ice is an acceptable substitute. Plants should no grow in winter. This said, I talk about the "winter" weather in town ALOT. Maybe 10 time a day I say "its cold, im cold, are you cold". It is, its 55 degrees cold!

Wildflowers do not share the same ideas as I do. Its probally good, I like a diversity of openions and I like flowers. Over this last week I have watching at first the start of the yellow flowers that will soon blanket my region for a few weeks, slowly gaining speed like an avalnce that will never be here until in late March it will all disapear for another year.

One of the sign to me that winter has gone, is that smells like spring. It is the same wind as last week, but now its full of spring. It smells like fresh earth, like cool rains, like bright sunlight. This is the best smelling spring of my life. It smells like potential, and I take in deep whiffs of it as I walk though town watching plants green up and flowers comming to bud on bushs that I had walked by for the last nine months. It is a good season.


One really strange to me thing to watch is people collecting animal forage while using a station wagon. There is no reason why people need to use the old methods of transportaion, witness our very own President Bush 42 who drives around his ranch but has few horsey skills. When the prodigical son returns from Spain, it only seems fair he should help his long suffering mother by loading his new car up with mountains of food for the goats.


Moroccans are very particular people. Sometimes the sun is to hot, sometimes to cold. The ideal way to be during this season seems to be wrapped up in a few layers to stay warm, but sitting in the shade. I guess this cuts the amount of skin cancer, but it also seems a little...out of sync to me. I sit in the sun and love every minute of it.