Saturday, February 14, 2009

The rain in over for now

In Andalucía, as in most places, weather is a common conversation topic. Whether in the colegio (elementary school), frutería (produce shop) or cafes the chatter is often weather related. It had been mostly negative "it's so cold" or "it's so rainy".

In fact, here in Jaén and much of Andalucía this winter has been marked by higher than normal precipitation and, depending on who you talk to, colder than normal temperatures. According to sources at my colegio and local produce shop there were only a few truly rainy days in January, February and March. This past Wednesday we celebrated the reappearance of a bright, radiating sphere to the Andalucían sky. It had peeked out only occasionally during breaks from the two week long rains. Now, the local talk is more positive except when referring to the hot summer months to come.

Aside from affecting the local chit chat this weather has major impacts on the lives of Andalucíans. With the temperatures of summer come a drop in precipitation. In this predominately agricultural area water plays an essential role in the economy. Full reservoirs help ensure the success of vegetable,cotton and other dry crops. On the other hand, when this clay-rich soil becomes wet, it is difficult to get around in the field. The olive harvest begins in early December and usually continues until all the olives are collected, typically sometime in January or February. This year it's a different story. The main concern is not that the fruit will spoil in the field but rather that it is an inconvenience to the thousands of people in the province who are involved in the harvest. A fair portion of the olive pickers come from Morocco, Algeria and Senegal. Many of them just have to wait until the soil drys enough for machinery to move around again.

The weather now feels distinctly spring-like. Days are noticeably longer and the air has a fresh touch. It is perfect weather for biking in just a t-shirt and shorts. I enjoy this change, but at the same time I feel somewhat cheated out of winter. There was no snow, no sledding, no skiing. In Minnesota I appreciate the distinct seasons and the change that each one brings. I'm afraid my internal calendar will be off. Perhaps I will get a small taste of snow when I go to Munich at the end of the month. As we move more into the warmer months I hope to take get out biking more and possibly go kitesurfing after the water warms up a bit. By the time I get back in early June I will be ready for the lovely weather there, come rain or shine or, yes, even snow.