A New Adventure

I had been toying with the idea of WWOOFing for the last few years after hearing about it when I was working at the Casa Caracol hostel in Cadiz. At that point, it was an idea I pocketed but never acted upon. It’s only been over the last couple of years that I have been giving serious thought to my future. Where did I see myself in 10 years time?

Turning 30 has certainly made me take a pause in order to put together a rough plan for the next few years. Until now, I guess I could say that I have gone wherever the tides have taken me not really giving a second thought to a longer term plan. TEFL teaching has given me so much over the last 7 years of my life and I know that I can constantly improve as a teacher. Having said that, If I am honest with myself, my heart lies elsewhere.

So when I fast forward to 2024, where do I see myself? What I see is a little house with some land big enough to grow fruit and vegetables and to house a few animals. This little house will have been converted in to a small Bed and Breakfast where I can welcome people into my home and spend my days doing what I truly love to do… cooking!

The first step of my plan is to take a well-deserved break from teaching and get back in touch with nature. I felt it important to spend some time in the environment I am picturing my future self in. In reality my contact with the wild recently has been practically non existent. Not good.

So here I am, back in Sicily, a place I knew I would come back to after Mount Etna stole a piece of my heart back in 2009. This time, I am lucky enough to share this experience with someone who shares many of my philosophies and whose company enhances every happy experience in my life.

Volunteering on organic or self sustainable farms is the perfect way to get back in touch with nature and to meet new people. These new people can hopefully teach us valuable skills that we can put into use in the future. Along the way, we hope to share our ideas and philosophies and see some new and interesting places.

Our first stop has brought us to “Casa de Tizzy” on the foothills of Mount Etna, which is no surprise for those of you who know me! On this small farm live Tizziana, Santo and their 2 year old “bimba” Maya. They have a small area of land overlooking both the sea and the volcano and pride themselves on growing a little of everything.

IMG_20140925_161115199

The first week here has flown by. We live in our own little place connected to their home and are free to eat and try whatever we can get our hands on. We work in the mornings, enjoy a large lunch and are free to explore in the afternoons when we recover from eating!

IMG_20140924_105130474

Early last week, we cleaned and weeded the tomato patch from the summer harvesting the last of the sweet juicy cherry tomatoes of the season whist trying not to eat them all at the same time! We turned the soil  and prepared it for the next batch of plants by laying large pieces of plastic with holes in for the plants to go through. Under the plastic are irrigation pipes to feed water if the rain doesn’t serve.  Today we  planted broccoli, lettuce, cabbage and fennel for the colder autumn season.

IMG_20140924_115005209

Also last week we spent a whole morning collecting olives whilst the next day was spent smashing them and putting them in jars in order to start the  process of getting them ready to eat. We will flavor them later this week hopefully.

IMG_20140929_131733750

Over the weekend, we took some time off, enjoying a few thunderstorms (one far too close for comfort!) and doing some socialising. On Saturday night I met a few one of Tizziana’s friends, most of whom are fellow teachers, and was treated to a mini percussion concert in one their apartments. I also nervously played my ukulele in public for the first time and was encouraged somewhat by their reaction.

IMG_20140929_131655686

On Sunday we visited Tizziana’s cousin who also owns land a 400 metres higher up the volcano. There, we enjoyed stunning views of the Ionian sea whilst we helped what seemed like the whole family extended harvest the grapes for this year’s wine. The food was incredible and we ate and drank til all there was left to do was fall asleep under the sun.

IMG_20140929_103908390_HDR

Our return to work today has given us the opportunity to make wine on a smaller more intimate scale. We spent the early morning picking every grape to be found around the house. We then got rid of any bad ones and chucked the rest into 2 big buckets. With Santo and Tizziana only having a small quantity of grapes, no machinery is needed and so we were able to use the age old process of pressing the grapes with our feet!

IMG_20140929_121500477_HDR

We hope to spend at least another week here to see our plants grow and taste our olives. Unfortunately the wine won’t be ready until December so we may have to make a detour on our way back to sample some of our handiwork!

Posted in WWOOFing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Pigtastic Puente

You could compare Cadiz to a witch. She somehow manages to cast a spell over you and before you know it, you’re stuck here. And not only that, when you go away, you pine to come back. The strange thing is, you appreciate all that she gives to you but she also drives you round the bend.  She’s majestic yet mundane, she inspires you but she also frustrates you. You love her and you hate her. At least that’s how I feel.

Every now and again, it’s advisable to leave Cadiz as not to go a little bit insane. A couple of weeks before Christmas, we went to visit a friend of mine who lives in up in the mountains (la Sierra de Grazalema) in a small town called Benoacaz.  Her and her partner Benjamin had recently moved there and are in the process of renovating a small house that had belonged to Benjamin’s grandad. The perfect escape.

Benaocaz

We rented a car with two friends of ours and drove up into the abyss admiring the views on the way. On our arrival in Benaocaz on the Saturday, we were surprised to see so many people. Turns out it was the weekend of “La Matanza”. Good timing! La Matanza is the ritual killing of a pig to feed a family through the cold winter months. The pig would be killed in the family home and all the parts of the pig would be taken advantage of. Prime cuts would be salted and preserved, offal would be made into stews and cold meats and the blood would be used to make black pudding. To celebrate La Matanza, some of the small villages kill a pig and the next day cook it up in the central square and feed all its inhabitants. This would be on Sunday. Lucky us!

Our two friends left us to go climbing (a good job really since they’re both veggies) and we were taken up to Bec and Benjamin’s house. We were shown around and had lunch on  their roof terrace looking over the Sierra. We ate local meats and completely organically, washed down with Cruzcampo of course! We took advantage of the sun, lazing with full stomachs chatting until it got too cold that we needed to move.

Sunset

So we went for a walk through the old arabic ruins at the back of the town while Benjamin told us a little bout the history. We continued up the hill where we saw spectacular views of the sunset. I started to wonder why I didn’t live in such a place.

beno6

Later that evening, there was a Zambomba in the central square. A Zambomba is a gathering of people to sing Christmas songs. This took place around a massive bonfire whilst people got merry drinking local wine.  It was lovely to see all the generations of  families together enjoying the festivities and each other’s company.  Family togetherness is one of Spain’s most endearing qualities for me.  Around 11, we went to a Moroccan restaurant and ate ourselves silly once again.  Back at the house, we were lulled to sleep by the crackling of the log fire in our room. Lush.

Zambomba

MenudoThe next day we arose late and braved showers.  We had a light breakfast on the roof terrace knowing that today there would be a whole lot of pig on offer.  We made our way to the central square just after midday to find that the party had already started.  There were about 4 huge barbecues set up in different parts of the square each cooking a different part of the pig.  Also on offer were stews being cooked in massive metal cauldrons.  All you needed to do was get in there before it all disappeared! We soon realised our problem. No plates. The locals had thought ahead. I rushed to the shop and purchased the last pack of paper plates. Phew! We spent the next two hours gorging on pork until we couldn’t take anymore. Throughout the eating we were treated to some brass band music and some street theatre.

La matanza

Stuffed full of pig and stinking of it we got into the car with our two vegetarian friends and exchanged the stories of our respective weekends on the drive home. I felt melancholy leaving the Sierra and vowed to spend more time in 2014 exploring the surrounding countryside.

Posted in Cadiz, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Chavez Deception

hugo chavezThe death of Hugo Chávez on the 5th of March sent shock waves all over the world.  The reaction was, of course, completely polarised. While floods of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas to mourn their beloved comandante, other Venezuelans were dancing in the streets of Miami.

It was the coverage of the Spanish media that left me feeling angry and upset but at the same time not in the least bit surprised. The day after he died, I switched my TV onto “la Sexta” the most unbiased of the Spanish mainstream channels (and when I say the most unbiased, I mean least fascist) to see what they had to say about his death and the legacy that he had left behind. I was appalled. The programme “El Rojo Viva”,  a panel show made up mainly of journalists ad politicians who debate current affairs had 5 guests, one of which, was pro Chávez. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance. And what was even worse was that they kept playing one single montage of Chávez over and over. And yes, you guessed it, it was one of those montages that had been very conveniently edited, with most things taken well out of context and so portraying him as some crazy loon of a dictator who the world was clearly better off without. After calming down, I realised that this was a clear demonstration of how the media and the west are just as scared of a dead Chávez as a living one.  After all, he had just won his 4th presidential election in Venezuela, which has one of the “most fair and democratic election processes in the world” according to various sources,  if you choose to look past mainstream media that is.

In Venezuela, voters touch a computer screen to cast their vote and then receive a paper receipt, which they verify and deposit in a ballot box. Most of the paper ballots are compared with the electronic tally. This system makes vote-rigging nearly impossible: to steal the vote would require hacking the computers and then stuffing the ballot boxes to match the rigged vote.

To quote from Spanish journalist Pablo Iglesias; “to the capitalist west, a living Chávez is dangerous, but a dead Chávez is invincible”.

There’s so much more to be said about Chávez, so much that so often falls on deaf ears. So I won’t give you a history of his 14 year rule and list of everything that he has done for the socialist movement not only in Venezuela but in Latin America, but what I will say, is this: Do not believe what our media tells us about Hugo Chávez. Yes, this man wasn’t perfect nor was he a miracle worker but he gave the power back to his people. Do some research before you jump on the “Chavez was a dictator” bandwagon. Western media and governments lie about him and manipulate information because they are scared of him and other leaders who have the gall to stand up to capitalist countries like the U.S and Britain, depriving them of their own country’s natural resources in order to develop themselves and nationalise what is rightfully theirs. How dare Chavez kick out the IMF and give Cuba discounted prices on oil? Please inform yourselves, because I’m sick of hearing Chávez called a dictator by people who have nothing to base their views on but a few montages or manipulated news reports from pro capitalist western media, who clearly, have no agenda at all. It’s time to wake up.

¡Hasta la victoria, Comandante!

Posted in Random ramblings | 1 Comment

Anyone for a brew?

Just before Christmas, a friend of mine from work gave us the idea of painting mugs when she requested one for her mother’s Christmas present. We instantly loved the idea and after the holidays we ordered the pens. They arrived last week and we put them into action yesterday.

The process is pretty simple. You use a special pencil to draw your designs, draw over them with the pens, add colour and put the mug in the oven for 90 mins! They’re a lot more finicky than shoes and clothes but well worth it when you see the end product.

So, guess what people are going to be getting for their birthday presents this year?!

My Big Bang Theory mug

My Big Bang Theory mug

Ale's Cthulhu mug

Ale’s Cthulhu mug

Stay tuned for more creations from Danni’s Designs and Sick Art.

Posted in Artwork | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latest creations

Well, December has been quite a productive month for me and my designs. The more pieces that I achieve, the more I love dedicating my time to this hobby. If only it wasn’t just a hobby! Having said that, if it were my job, I’d probably end up hating it!

Anyhoo, here are my latest creations:

Image

Big Bang Theory shoes. Sheldon and Paper, Rock, Scissors, Lizard, Spock 🙂

Image

Game of Thrones House Stark logo. Matching shoes and hoody.

Image

Big Bang Theory Soft Kitty t-shirt.

Posted in Artwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Revolution in the air

Do you get the feeling that people are getting more and more angry of late, and are refusing to sit back and accept what their government tells them? All over Europe, austerity measures are being put in place leaving a trail of destruction and indignation, resulting in protests and strikes in those countries worst affected. But what reason does your average person have to protest? After all it’s our fault for living beyond our means, right? WRONG. Your average person should not be made to suffer because of the decadence of the banks over the last decade or so.  What’s more, our “democratic” governments should be on our side and not the side of the banks. They are quick enough to back up banks and the capitalist system, giving speeches that tell us that we must now pay for our own actions during the boom period when the banks were literally inventing numbers on computers and throwing money at us.  What a cheek they have.
But what else can we expect when the banks and the major corporations, in effect, run our political systems. Why not do a bit of research to find out who were the main investors in Barack Obama’s or David Cameron’s campaigns? Then you’ll see who really runs our countries. People like Rupert Murdoch. Is it not enough that he owns half the world’s press but also probably has a significant influence on what bills get passed or rejected in parliament too?

We need to be more aware. We need to read more and care enough to make a difference.  Sure, many people feel resigned to the their way of life and may think that if their votes don’t result in true democracy then what can be done? We must look within and change what we can ourselves to make the small steps towards overthrowing the capitalist system in which we live in. Why not boycott big supermarket chains and buy from local markets? Avoid the high street making an effort to know how retail companies do business in Asia? And most importantly of all, avoid watching so much television?It’s manipulating you whether you believe it or not. And even if you think you are not easily manipulated, then at the very least, it’s distracting you from doing more fulfilling or important things.

Luckily, people are starting to wake up and educate themselves on how our world really works. If we want a change, we must start small and think big. Yesterday there was a general strike in the European countries that have been hit hardest by the austerity measures put in place by their governments. Spain, is most certainly one of them. I live in a town of 65,000 people on the south-west coast of Andalusia and was heartened by the sight of at least 2000 people, including young people, marching through the narrow streets to show their solidarity to one another in this fight against capitalism. “El pueblo unido, nunca será vencido”. “A united people, will not be beaten”.

Posted in Random ramblings | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

If you tolerate this…

“If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next” is one of my all time favourite songs written by Wales’ very own Manic Street Preachers. This song was inspired by the Spanish Civil War which was fought between Franco’s Nationalist army and the Spanish Republican army from 1936-39. Franco’s army eventually won taking Spain into a fascist dictatorship that would last until the death of Franco in 1975 and leave Spain severely wounded for years to come.

Franco’s Falangist army was supported by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, and behind closed doors, British leaders who feared a communist revolution by the Republicans.  On the Republican side fought many foreigners who believed strongly enough in the cause to risk their lives on the battlefield.  The International Brigades were made up of non-Spaniards from all over the world.  Among these brave men were British authors George Orwell and Laurie Lee.

The song “If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next”, was written more specifically about the idealism of Welsh volunteers who joined the International Brigades to fight against Franco.  The song takes its name from a anti-fascist propaganda poster from the time, depicting a child being killed by Nationalist sky bombers.  The song also includes a quote from Orwell’s book “Homage to Catalonia” in which he gives an account of his experiences. “I’ve walked the Ramblas but without real intent”.

To me, this song has always been and always will be one that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.  Although it was written and released 14 years ago and is based around the events of the Spanish Civil War, I can’t help but feel that its message is more pertinent now than ever. We are still fighting fascism, but a fascism more dangerous than ever. One that is hidden amongst news reports,  advertisements and “democratic” political parties. We are still being dictated and will still be dictated as long as we allow it.  Listen to the song and feel the lyrics. I hope it can inspire you.

The future teaches you to be alone
The present to be afraid and cold
So if I can shoot rabbits
Then I can shoot fascists

Bullets for your brain today
But we’ll forget it all again
Monuments put from pen to paper
Turns me into a gutless wonder

And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
Will be next
Will be next
Will be next

Gravity keeps my head down
Or is it maybe shame
At being so young and being so vain

Holes in your head today
But I’m a pacifist
I’ve walked La Ramblas
But not with real intent

And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
Will be next
Will be next
Will be next
Will be next

And on the street tonight an old man plays
With newspaper cuttings of his glory days

And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
Will be next
Will be next
Will be next

Posted in Random ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments