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A Foot in Two Campos

Thoughts from a brand new home-owner in the Axarquía region of Málaga. I hope there might be some information and experiences of use to other new purchasers, plus the occasional line to provoke thought or discussion.

149 - All You Need is Fruit
16 July 2015 @ 10:49

Sometimes you just need fruit.  It was the big food distribution day at Los Ángeles Malagueños de la Noche, and the end of lunch service until September.  The people in the queue had already queued for breakfast and queued to get a numbered ticket for the groceries, and it was way too hot to be standing in a queue.  Even the volunteers were wilting in the heat, and we knew it was nothing like as bad for us as it was for the people in the queue.

We had put up extra shades, extended the covered area, but it was never enough.  Especially on groceries day, when the queue was longer than ever.

149-counterA line of volunteers inside the over-heated portakabin poured olive oil from big drums into half-litre bottles, banging the caps on, and stacking them in crates.  Another production line scooped sugar from huge sacks into little bags, tying a tight knot, and tossing them into boxes.  At the other end, three more volunteers did the same with powdered drinking chocolate.  I started unboxing biscuits and stripping the outer plastic off the triple-packs, and stacking the single-packs in trays.  Bags of rice and macaroni were left in the factory boxes, shouldered by the male volunteers and stacked under the tables outside.   Milk, a thousand 1-litre cartons of milk, never enough, everyone always asks for more than we can give.

149-vanThe small van arrived and Cisse unloaded boxes of sweets, an added bonus, something to make the day’s distribution marginally less prosaic.   The large van arrived from the storeroom, and Diego, Falli and Celestine unloaded big crates of green peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and watermelons.  The 44th Al-Andaluz Boy Scouts arrived and began stacking the tables and sharing out tasks.

La Jefa de la Caseta gave me my task – I was on milk.  The queue began slowly so I was able to offer the choice of full-fat or semi-skimmed.  Those with children could have the cartons with added calcium.  But no second carton, not for anyone.  Almost the first sentence I had learned at Los Ángeles had been “Lo siento, solo tenemos lo que tenemos”– sorry, we’ve only got what we’ve got.  

149-pastaOur friendly Policía Local was scrutinising the queue, calming things down, avoiding pushing in.  The number system worked well, but people with a long wait wouldn’t go far away, wouldn’t go round the corner into the shade.  Too anxious.  Too needy.  Too hungry.

The Boy Scouts accompanied the older or more frail people in the queue, carrying their bags as the heavy groceries became too much.  On the last table, fruit and vegetables were collected, armfuls of green peppers tipped over the precious groceries, and a watermelon gently resting on top.

The queue was endless.  Maybe the knowledge that we weren’t going to be giving lunches for the hot summer months.  It was blazing hot, 40°.  A pregnant woman was taken out of the queue and brought to the front in the shade.  The queue shuffled back a pace or two, uncomplaining.  A Boy Scout stripped the plastic from the six-packs of milk to stack them beside me.  They ran around, seeing what needed to be done, without being told.  They brought jugs of water and plastic cups for the volunteers and for the hot, tired, thirsty people in the queue.  Being prepared, putting others before themselves.

149-melonFinally the last person filed past.  Macaroni, rice, biscuits, sweets, chocolate powder, sugar, milk, oil, vegetables, and a watermelon.  There was little left.  Four watermelons, so Antonio (our president) brought a big knife out of the caseta and carved slices for the volunteers and the scouts.  Nothing had ever tasted nicer.  Across the concrete plaza people from the queue were sharing watermelon too.  149-scoutsWe waved and raised a slice to each other and relished the cool melon.  Thoughts of “them and us” or “givers and receivers” (had they ever been there) dissolved in the heat.  We were all grateful recipients of nature’s bounty, of the generosity of the huge network of collaborators who donate to Los Ángeles, and of the fruits of our labours.

A day later, in the dentist’s chair, Angel explained what he was going to do.  Root canal treatment, never a favourite.  For once I didn’t try listening to his conversations with the dental nurse.  Sometimes, even this obsessive doesn’t want to practise!  He gave me quadruple anaesthetic, but I still dug my fingernails into my palm to take my mind off what he was doing.  But suddenly I tuned in.  “Más fresas” said Angel.  More strawberries? “Vale, ¿cuantas fresas?” asked the nurse.  “Dame más fresas” repeated Angel.  I concentrated.  Was this the best time for him to take a fruit break?  In the middle of my rather sensitive treatment?  If he took a break, it was a short one.  Another x-ray to check all was well, and we were done.  As he detailed how long I should continue the antibiotics, I remembered the strawberries.  “In the middle, why did you ask for strawberries?” I asked him.  “Si, fresas” said Angel.  Then he laughed and explained that the Spanish word“fresas” doesn’t only mean strawberries – it also means drill-heads!  Probably just as well really ….


©  Tamara  Essex  2015                              

Like 0


Lifeline said:
16 July 2015 @ 16:45

Great work! We run a small charity visiting families in need.It is always difficult to assess REAL needs although some are obvious. Do you have a way of assessing or do you serve everyone who comes?

tamaraessex said:
16 July 2015 @ 23:59

If someone is willing to stand in the blistering heat for two hours for free food, in a queue alongside people who mostly don't have easy access to showers, washing machines, or deodorants, then we kind of figure they deserve the inadequate handouts we can offer. A bag of rice, a melon, and a litre of milk. Would you queue if you didn't need to? And ultimately, if someone does, well, let them have the stuff. What kind of assessment would you want us to do?

coolcat1951 said:
18 July 2015 @ 11:48

A really lovely story albeit sad that austerity puts people in this position around the world.
I have a holiday home in Andalucía Sevilla province and I'm not sure if there are similar initiatives close to me.
How do people donate?

maggs224 said:
18 July 2015 @ 16:06

Sad that this state exists for so many in Spain, but heartening that this is the response of one group of Malaga Angels :D

Thewrights said:
19 July 2015 @ 20:47


A good job well done, but Lifeline only asked. No need to bite someones head off, or that's what it read like.

tamaraessex said:
20 July 2015 @ 14:12

Dewr The Wrights - I'm sorry it came over that way to you. Actually the question Lifeline asked is a very important one, and one I am asked frequently. I have thought about this question, and my answer was careful, and thoughtful. My question back to Lifeline, was genuine. Perhaps it could have been better phrased. But fundamentally, that answer is the only one i have. And I am genuinely interested in what degrees of vetting people would think appropriate. Many of my friends donate telephones, clothes, sanitary peoducts, bicycles, children's toys etc. They have occasionally asked how we know e people in the queue are "genuinely" needy, but have been content with my response. And they have put themselves out to donate. I don't wish to sound brusque, but it really is the only answer I have! If that puts you off donating to this or sny ither charity, that's a shame. But after 30 years of working in UK charities, I know that sometimes gatekeeping can put off the most needy, as well as occasionally weeding out one person deemed as not in such need. It is s tough one.

Lifeline said:
20 July 2015 @ 15:47

I had no problem with T.'s answer.We watch on at another larger charity piling up Cruz Roja food because they have so much paperwork to do and only give to people who are 'legal' or have taken the long steps of applying to S.S. and may even then be turned down.That is why we ask few questions. We are free to distribute where there is perceived need by visiting most homes and they are more than happy to show us what they do not have.Started with 6 families 18 months ago, depend on donations etc and have ever increasing numbers (now 39 families). If we have extra food on our fortnightly visits we give it out when people come to us.Yes, some have less need than others and we do sometimes overlap with other charities.A few sweets are enough to bring a big smile to a tiny child's face! Let's keep going. The problem only gets bigger!!

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