The Other I

March 2, 2008

In praise of small steps

Filed under: Cultural Differences,Diet,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 4:51 pm

When Peter and I moved to Spain, we bought a villa (which refers to mostly anything we would call less elegantly “a house”) on a disused vineyard.  It was on a hill and was terraced, so the property stepped down close to 50 feet from the entrance gate to the property line below.  One of the first things we did was to hire Spanish workers to build a fence so our dogs could run free, and then we had a pool installed.

The three months during which the workers were on our property was an unusual introduction to Spanish culture.  Immediately after they arrived in the morning, one of the men built a fire while another went across to the local supermarket for their bottle of brandy and bread.  On his return, the crew sat around the fire eating and drinking breakfast, and eventually started work.  I think some of them were functional alcoholics, but they were functional.  At noon, the process was repeated, followed by the siesta.  Each of the men stretched out on the ground and went to sleep.  Those in search of greater luxury slept on a piece of old cardboard. 

One of the things I learned watching them was how much could be accomplished in small steps.  After the mechanical digger had dug the hole for the pool, an adjacent hole about ten feet deep and about twice as wide had to be filled with earth.  The earth, however, was about twenty feet lower on the property.  In the U.S., a mechanical shovel would have been used to transfer the earth into the hole.  In Spain, they used a plastic bucket.  One of the men walked up and down dumping earth, one bucket at a time, bucket after bucket, for days. 

But you know, the hole got filled.  And it left me with an appreciation of just how much can be done one step at a time.

All of which is a prelude to my next thoughts on my presently incomplete diet which I will save for tomorrow’s posting.

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