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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Saturday Commute

I have been teaching English on Saturdays at a super-fancy private high school in Rocafort, a small town about 12 kilometers outside of Valencia. The pay is great. I wish that I could pick up another couple of gigs like this one and I would be doing really well, not the I have much to complain about as far as money goes these days. The teaching is a lot of fun and I think that I am pretty good at it. I have spent a good part of my life learning languages and I have learned a thing or two about how to go about it. More on that later. The best part about this new job is the bicycle commute from home.

The ride takes me about 40 minutes or so depending on traffic lights, train crossings, slow Joes in the bike lane, etc. I ride down to the Turia river park until I reach the Turia metro station, from here I ride up out of the river and follow the bike path past El Corte Inglés and Nueva Mestalla (the new football stadium for Valencia CF under construction with no plans for finishing because of money problems with the team). This bike path goes all the way to the Empalme metro stop where the metro goes above ground for the rest of its course.

From here I ride through the village of Burjassot and then Godella. Although these villages are now connected directly to Valencia—by metro and by car—they have retained a village feel. People here speak a lot more Valenciano than you hear in the city—not that I ever hear anyone speaking Valenciano in the street in Valencia and especially not in my immigrant-laden neighborhood of Ruzafa. It is just really nice out there and I haven’t passed a single café that I haven’t wanted to stop in to have a coffee or a beer. Another great thing about my commute is that the weather has been absolutely spectacular these past five weeks that I have been working at the school. It is perfect outside again this morning as I write this. My windows are wide open and there isn’t a cloud to be seen.

On the way home yesterday I noticed some guys playing baseball in a nice field in Turia Park. They were playing real baseball—fast pitch hardball—and they were good. The third baseman made a Brooks Robinson grab to make the final out of the inning and as they were changing sides I asked one of them where they were from. The Spanish De dónde sois? seemed to throw him for a second (Latin Americans don’t use this vosotros form). He made some sort of wise-ass answer.

I asked him if they played here every week and got sort of another wise-ass answer, not insulting but the kind of thing you’d expect from young guys during a sporting event. Then he asked me where I was from. I told him Seattle and then he asked me what my team was. I told him the Mariners, of course. One of the worst teams in baseball I said. He said that we had some great players. I agreed and said that we used to have the great Freddy García (I had guessed he was Venezuelan by his accent). Of course then the tenor of his responses changed completely and he named a couple of other prominent Venezuelan players who had played as Mariners. A couple of other guys joined n the discussion and then they invited me to come to their next practice. I told them I was a little old and slow to play actual games but that I wouldn’t mind throwing a ball around and taking a few swings.

It was such a beautiful day that I rode through the city center on my way home just because I was shooting a video of my commute and I thought it would make it a little more interesting. It was November 7, 2009 and the temperature at 14:30 was somewhere around 24 degrees. I was wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt. I see a very mild winter on the horizon.