More a Passion Than a Language – Catalan

The estelada, the flag of Catalan independence, during a demonstration in Barcelona. Photograph: Manu Fernandez/AP

The estelada, the flag of Catalan independence, during a demonstration in Barcelona. Photograph: Manu Fernandez/AP

Catalonia,the northeastern corner of Spain, is heading to polls. A move in which we could possibly see a new independent state. Amid the political predictions, the election narrative closely shadows what has held this population together. The Catalan language. One that finds its being in the fact that banning something could lead to its preservation.

This Catalan reaction is also expressed by a Catalan writer exiled in Mexico, Pere Calders, in his 1955 short story, “Catalans in the World”. A Catalan traveller in the Far East, at an evening party encounters a parrot which, to his surprise, utters Catalan phrases. He was overcome by emotion: “Many were the things which made us different but there was a language which made us one… Early that morning, when I left, I had a softer heart than the day I arrived.”

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In The Line of Fire

A firefighter monitors the flames in Cualedro. PHOTO: Pedro Armestre

A firefighter monitors the flames in Cualedro. PHOTO: Pedro Armestre

The Mediterranean climate, particularly the prolonged dry and hot summer season, is naturally favourable to wildfires. Their frequency and impact have increased over the last few decades in southern European countries, mainly due to land-use and socio-economic changes. Many traditional rural activities (e.g. firewood collection and livestock grazing systems) have been partly or totally abandoned in favour of alternatives (e.g. fossil fuels and factory farming). These changes have led to more homogeneous landscapes and the accumulation of dry matter in forests and rangelands, resulting in a greatly increased fire hazard.

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Keeping Flies Away from Olives

 Every year in Catalonia, Spain, farmers have to fight the olive fruit flies so they don’t ruin the year’s crop. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Every year in Catalonia, Spain, farmers have to fight the olive fruit flies so they don’t ruin the year’s crop. PHOTO: Wikipedia

The olive fly (Bactrocera oleae) is the single major pest for olives, causing widespread crop damage and significant financial losses to Europe’s olive farmers. The control of the fly has been largely based on the use of chemicals, but the intense use of insecticides leads to development of insecticide resistance, which makes control problematic. In addition, legislation on insecticides have seen some of them being phased out. An alternative? The almost-DIY fly trap.

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People First at This Public Regrigerator

Issam Massaoudi, an unemployed Moroccan immigrant, checks out what's inside the Solidarity Fridge. Massaoudi says money is tight for him, and it's

Issam Massaoudi, an unemployed Moroccan immigrant, checks out what’s inside the Solidarity Fridge. Massaoudi says it’s “amazing” to be able to help himself to healthy food from Galdakao’s communal refrigerator. PHOTO: NPR

Last year, a small act of kindness in the desert country of Saudi Arabia warmed the hearts of many across the globe. An anonymous individual put a fridge outside his house and called on neighbors to fill it with food for the needy. And now a pioneering project in the Basque town of Galdakao, population about 30,000, aims to eliminate wastage of perfectly good groceries and food. Solidarity refrigerator is showing the world how a little generosity can go a long way.

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Camino de Santiago Part 1

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There are good signs everywhere along the Camino. Photo Credit: Kayleigh Levitt

Before coming to India, I was traveling for a month in Spain, walking the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage to the cathedral of Santiago, where the apostle Saint James is said to be buried. Nowadays, people walk the Camino for a range of reasons including the traditional Catholic. Everyone I met was walking for a different, personal reason, but many fell into similar and overlapping categories of health, spirituality, personal journey, and cultural experience.

Many of us on the Camino were far from home, but the shared intention of being there was this thread that bound us all together, beyond language barriers and cultural differences. The Camino has its own culture and so we shared that. There were lots of people who were alone, but we were together.

The most popular part of the pilgrimage to walk is the Camino Frances, from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Traditionally, people walked from their house. Although that is less common now, people do still start from their own doorway. There are many places people start the Camino besides St. Jean Pied de Port (as well as many places to end it- there is a walk to Finisterre, the coast of Spain and through Portugual, the Camino Portugués as well). I have been told there are fewer way markers- which are yellow arrows and scallop shells- before the Camino Frances.

Part of the fun of the Camino is hearing about the different ways people have done their journey. I heard of a woman walking alone, starting in Switzerland, with only a compass to guide her (there are fewer albergues too when you start from that far). I met several people who walked 1000 kilometers by the time they reached St. Jean Pied de Port, where I was starting.

I started in St. Jean, which is right at the border of France and Spain. Photo Credit: http://www.caminoguides.com/route.html

At the first albergue I stayed in, which are essentially hostels for pilgrims, our French hospitalera described it something like this: The Camino is not about walking. Walking helps you do the camino, but the camino is an inner camino, when you walk inside yourself.

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Green House Redefined

Use of natural light, passive and active energy saving systems, relative position to the sun, air flow, leaf moistened air….

This doesn’t sound like “business as usual” for a municipal building. But the Noain City Hall in Navarre, Spain designed by Award winning Zon-e Arquitectos stems  logically from the fact that the region leads Europe in its use of renewable energy technology.  Continue reading