July 29, 2010
Spain is number one in soccer right now, as everyone knows, but did you know that…?
1. Spain is currently number 1 in the number of cocaine addicts in the world. OK, not a great distinction, but I read about this in the newspaper last Sunday. It is a distinction which it shares with the U.S. and the UK, and currently Spain is on top.
2. It is number 1 in solar energy in the world. Spain does not have much in the way of resources such as oil or precious minerals, but one thing it does have – lots of sunlight!!!! When we were traveling by bus or train through the countryside, we noticed fields of not just olive trees and grape vines but also of solar panels and windmills. I asked one of my teachers about this and she said there is a law that any new house built in Spain must get at least 20% of its energy from solar. I asked if whole towns were powered by solar or wind energy but she did not know.
However, she did say that Spain is also number 3 in wind power. The windmills we saw throughout the countryside were not just the famous picturesque whitewashed cylinders a la Man of La Mancha, but primarily the kind used in wind power. Most of these are in groups on hillsides. What people do is lease out their land to be used for windmills. They can get 60,000 euros per year (I think this is the figure she said) from renting out a windmill on their land, so they can actually live on this income and not have to work at all! (This is provided, of course, that one has the land to do this in the first place). Much of Spain’s land is not even good for growing crops so using massive tracts for solar and wind energy makes sense.
3. On the news this week, there was a story about a man who had a total face transplant. He had been in an accident that destroyed much of his face, and a donor was secured to replace his entire face. The entire procedure took four months of surgeries. He could not talk before and now, shortly after the completion of the transplant, he can talk – sort of. His new mouth does not yet close all the way and one of his cheeks is puffed out, but eventually he will have a pretty normal face again, albeit different than his previous face.
This brings me to another thing Spain is famous for – it is one of the best places for transplants and organ donations. It is not a sensitive subject here as it is in the U.S. When a person dies, the doctor does not think twice to ask the family to donate the organs of their loved one: “We are sorry to inform you that your son has died…(etc, then)…we have an urgent need right now for a heart donor; your son’s heart is in good shape, do you give us permission to use it for the transplant?” If an organ is being donated, a convoy of police cars and ambulance speed through the streets, sirens blaring, and everyone stops so they can pass on their way to the hospital where the transplant is to take place.
Spain is no longer the strictly Catholic country it used to be. In fact, few people attend church these days, so religious considerations about cutting apart a body for organ donations is not an issue.
For this reason, people come from all over the world to apply for organ donations in Spain. This is a great thing!!