Yecla - Working without a common language

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An Olive Orchard, Yecla, SpainWhile we were in Yecla we worked with a local Organic Association. We worked mostly with Jesús, a few days with Paco and one afternoon with Elie.

Jesús is a retired criminalista and a talented carpenter who owns a country house near the Sierra Salinas. Our second day in Yecla we were met by Paco and Jesús and driven to the country house. Jesús and Paco could not speak English and we were furiously typing on our phones to understand what we were doing and where we were going. Jesús and Paco shook their heads, I assume in bewilderment over how this would ever work not being able to even communicate.

An Olive Orchard, Yecla, SpainSoon we found ourselves pulling into a house where we connected a trailer and loaded bags of worm humus (lombris). We then drove further on and stopped next to a field of olive trees. We disembarked and unloaded the trailer. Paco proceeded to fill buckets with the soil and gave us each one and showed us what to do with it: pour it evenly around the base of the tree approximately one metre from the base but not beyond the reach of the branches. We did this for 70 trees gradually working out a rhythm that had Paco continuously pouring soil into bucket while the three of us made rings. It worked so well that Paco ended up telling us to take smoke breaks to slow us down. Once complete we went to Jesús’ country house and while Paco prepared lunch, fertilised another 30 trees.

After lunch, Jesús asked us philosophical questions, in Spanish, which we had to answer, in Spanish. He asked Rina “What is liberty?” This is a difficult question of most people but we sat a while and discussed it in our poor Spanish. He asked of me “What is it to love a woman?” Once more a difficult question but he accepted my answer once Rina confirmed it to be my truth.

Another day we were greeted by Paco and Jesús and revisited the country house to plant Garbanzo (Chick Peas). Rina and I planted the seeds while Paco and Jesús loaded olive branches into the trailer. It was an excellent day that left us wanting rain so that our seeds could grow. There was a little rain but we don’t know if it was enough. We had lunch with Paco and Jesús again, and once more had a philosophical discussion.

Elie met us one afternoon after lunch and we accompanied him to his orchard where he is building his home and also uses to educate his class about organic gardening. With Elie we planted a field of tomato seedlings, covered them in plastic and a fine mesh to protect them against the cool spring nights and ran irrigation for when it was needed.

Planting Tomatoes, Yecla, SpainPlanting Tomatoes, Yecla, Spain

The best work experience we had during our time in Yecla though was with Jesús on Elie’s house.

Working on the house, Yecla, SpainOur first day on this project we had no idea what was wanted of us. Paco had walked us to the house to meet Jesús. At the house there was a lot of toing and froing as we assembled our tools. We had no idea what the Spanish word for the tools were but helped as best we could. We had a jig saw, clamps, hammers, drills, wood panels and beams, varnish and brushes, chisels and more.

The first day was the most difficult due to the limited language we shared. Thankfully Jesús was incredibly patient with us, often times trying to help us make the connection between words, objects and actions. Each day brought improvement in our understanding of what was required and what we could do. Whether it was measuring and cutting panels, cutting and assembling frames, drilling concrete, or varnishing, we improved and on the final day of work, we had installed the wood panel ceiling and the job was complete.

Installing a ceiling, Yecla, SpainInstalling a ceiling, Yecla, SpainInstalling a ceiling, Yecla, Spain

That day, looking on our completed work, Jesús told us that he was glad for our help, efficiency and initiative. I have rarely felt as proud as that day with this man, our friend and foreman, giving us thanks.

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