The Road to Santiago.

October 5, 2004

Photo of construction.


My friends think that preparing copy and sending photos for this Web site is easy. They think that all I do is jot down a few notes and take a couple of pictures and — viola! — a Web journal. I can assure you that it’s not the case. Sending text files across the Internet is amazingly quick and easy with electronic technology. But transmitting photos is another thing entirely; they take time depending on the size of the files. The better the quality of the photo, the larger the file. Also, using a modem and telephone line is a snail’s pace compared to broadband. To make matters worse, Spain’s landline system is obsolete (hence the popularity of cell phones here).

I’m complaining because I spent over an hour last night and two hours this morning glued to my laptop transmitting photos — two hours. Oh sure, I hear someone say, just use Photoshop (a computer software program) and compress the files. On this computer, Photoshop functions very slowly.

And they don’t call it a laptop computer for nothing. Many a night, I have sat with the computer on my lap, which is not very efficient. Most of these inexpensive hotels are very small and what functions as a table is narrow — not wide enough for a laptop. And then there is the issue of where the power outlet is located, if there is one.

Also, the keyboard is very small and has a different feel from the standard computer keyboard. One of the problems I have from the diabetes is that my manual dexterity has diminished. This is due to a condition of the connective tissue in the hands similar to arthritis. So my fingers don’t work like they used to. So, I make many typos which I often miss, causing problems for my editor.

Speaking of my editor, she is the reason this log is legible. Jerie has spent and will spend several hours editing my material — making me look good! She’s very good with English grammar but her Spanish is not that strong, so she spends a lot of time with a Spanish dictionary checking the spelling of my Spanish. She doesn’t want me to embarrass myself among my Spanish friends or the many Spanish teachers who read the journal. Also, she verifies the cultural or historical information to make certain I’m correct.

What I write about is another problem for me. I take notes of what I see and experience and then try to put it into an interesting format so that the reader can get a sense of what it’s like on el camino. But I am somewhat of an oddball (I like to think of myself as a renaissance man.); my interests tend to the eclectic, some might say eccentric. Jerie/editor occasionally has to give me a verbal slap and remind me that not everybody wants to know what specific kind of trees are in the forest or about the birds riding on the back of sheep. But, after collaborating together for over 30 years, she understands my style and helps me mold my material into a better product than what I give her.

But it doesn’t end there. After she edits the material she forwards it by email to Jeff, my webmaster, who formats it and posts it on the Internet with the appropriate links and buttons so that the reader can navigate the Web site. He also modifies and places the photos in relation to the text and enters the captions.

Jeff and I go way back. In the mid sixties we were classmates at Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts. He and I established a photo lab at the school to produce our 1965 high school yearbook. For my last trip, in addition to the webmaster services, he loaned me a digital camera. He’s still generously giving his time, effort, and advice to support this cause.

The pictures are an important aspect of the Web site. It gives the reader a sense of where I am and clarifies some of the subjects I’m talking about. I have received many compli­ments about the Web site, and the pictures are often the reason. My Spanish friends really appreciate the pictures because they feel that I have captured their sense of their country’s landscape, culture, and history.

I try to learn something new every day so after being cooped up in the room for several hours, I decided to roam the city a bit. I have seen many things that interest me, and would like to share with you a few aspects of Spain that I appreciate.

Photo of recycling containers.

One is the presence of recycling containers placed throughout the cities and villages. There are generally three: one for paper, another for glass, and the last for cans, plastic, and cartons. Sometimes, especially in a business district, there is one for cardboard. The inscription on the side of the containers is a play on words. Tu papel es importante (your paper/role [part] is important).

This is a big change that I have noticed in the last 27 years that I’ve been visiting Spain. Although the Spanish government has always swept the streets and sidewalks, individuals weren’t always so careful about their trash. Now there are dumpsters in many places — even in the countryside and the people make use of them. The Spanish have embraced recycling.

Photo of tecket dispenser.

Another intelligent approach to modern life is the absence of parking meters. Instead of meters on each block of a parking regulated area, there is a small ticket dispenser. The motorist enters the time he expects to use the space and pays with coins. The dispenser prints out the requested expiration time on a ticket the size of a dollar bill. The motorist places the ticket on the dash of the vehicle. The officer then patrols on foot, checking the times and ticketing appropriately. You pay only for the time you’re there. No expired meters, no broken meters! Boston Mayor Tom Menino — take note!

After a couple of hours on parole, I went back to my jail cell.

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