Monday, September 10, 2007

Ferias y Fiestas


¡Ay carumba! I have so much that I need to catch up on for this blog…I’ll start with the fiesta since it is freshest on my mind. It is definitely more than the array of rednecks and expensive food at Riverfest. We started off with the parade for the Virgin de la Vega, it’s been so long since I’ve seen a parade. The costumes were elaborate and the flowers for the virgin were unbelievable. They had displays of roses and arches of flowers that took 2-4 people to carry. After the parade, we hit up the casetas, which are street vendors that sell drinks and pinchas. They are very similar to the corn dog and funnel cake stands in the States except the food is Spanish. Let’s see…I ate a bocadillo con lomo (pork sandwich), a bocheta (kabob with bananas, chicken, and ham), huevos holandes (fried egg on bread – sounds bad but is actually very good), and some paella which was not so good. I got all of this and drinks for less than five euros total! At festivals in the States, you pay five dollars for a corn dog alone, I still can’t believe I spent less than 10 euros last night.

After pinchas, we went and watched the fireworks show which was absolutely breathtaking! I know I’m so corny, but you should have been there. I had this moment where I thought “I am standing in the middle of a city that is so old and beautiful that it should really be a museum, watching fireworks with all of these Spanish-speaking people among whom I live and function.” It’s a very strange feeling.

So back on topic, after fireworks we went to a bar. Please keep in mind that going to a bar is different here than in the States. There was definitely a baby in the bar who was still awake and perfectly happy to be there at midnight on a Friday night. Every time someone would mention that they were getting tired around 11 or 12, we would see a toddler waddling down the street with their family having a grand old time. We all felt so lame that even the infants can stay out as late as we usually do at our prime party age. Also, there were definitely some grandparents rockin’ out at the concert at 11:00 or so. Speaking of, I forgot to mention the concert. Between casetas and the bar we stopped by the concert in the Plaza Mayor where a British band was playing called “The Waterboys”. They were pretty good, so if you want to check out some new music then see if you can find some of theirs.

Where was I? A ves, we ended our night at a discoteca (dance club) which was a lot of fun, but it was full of Americans and techno music. Not that Americans are in any way bad (considering that I am one), but I got the feeling that the club was one of those places where Americans go to hang out with other Americans, which I don’t want to be pulled into. So we definitely had an eventful night last night!

So that brings us to today, which has been as fulfilling as last night, but in a different way. This morning I went to the train station and bought tickets for San Sebastian!! It’s always really disappointing when you are trying to speak Spanish to the natives and then they start talking to you in English because they speak English better than you speak Spanish. Well, the person who was helping us at the bus station spoke English to the person in front of us because he was having trouble, but when it was our turn he never started speaking English! That was our first little victory of the day. Then we needed to get to the ticket office for the bull fights this week and we didn’t know how to get there so we needed to call cabs. Well, it’s still really hard to communicate with people when you can’t see their face so we weren’t so confident about calling for a taxi. I volunteered and successfully ordered to cabs to where we were, alas, victory number two! Then I didn’t have any cash at the ticket place and needed to find an ATM. I had to ask some of the people in line if there was one close and someone gave me directions. I was able to understand and follow the directions (and we all know that I am directionally challenged even in my own language), and what d’ya know…I found the ATM! Yes, that is the third triumph so far. I lost at the ATM machine because it wouldn’t give me money, but it turned out okay because my friends bought my ticket for me. The bank will soon be receiving an angry call, though, for not putting a memo in the system about my and my bankcard being in Spain. I’m almost positive that the problem is that I bought a train ticket and that sends a red flag to the bank. Anyway, I’ve come to appreciate the small things in life because it takes such baby steps to learn a new language.

Alright, flashback now to the past week…I just finished my first week of school. It’s going pretty well, except I didn’t expect to be so busy all of the time. I have 5 hours straight of class a day starting at 9. I haven’t had that since high school, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds. My classes are really easy, but it really helps to learn Spanish from professors who will not speak English to you. In the States, I had classes that were taught in Spanish, but if a student didn’t know a word or understand a concept, the professor would always go over it in English. Here, if you don’t know a word, the meaning is explained in Spanish, so there is no easy out and it really does make a huge difference. Some of my professors don’t even know how to speak English.

As for the life at home, Gina and I got really lucky. A lot of people already have some complaints about their families, not necessarily serious ones, but I have had a perfect experience so far in my homestay. My señora is so such a good cook, first of all. More importantly, though, we talk to her so much about everything. When I first got here, she was the only native speaker that I didn’t find intimidating to talk to. I still get nervous when I have to talk to the directors of my program. I can talk to my teachers pretty well. In fact, I saw one of my teachers at the fiesta and we had a casual conversation. Then one day when I was in class, another teacher asked about a concept and I answered in front of the class in Spanish. He was so impressed that he broke his chalk in half and gave it to me (a gesture that meant at that moment I was his equal – not a Spanish gesture, just from this particular professor because he’s a little eccentric, but a very good teacher!). I feel like I’m 6 years old as I’m writing this, being excited that I got something right in class, but again, even the simple things like that are what count here right now.


M.Smith said...

Jessi! I love reading your blog! Spain sounds like a blast and I wish I could be there with you but you have to be my eyes and nose while you are there so I can secretly live through you! Keep the emails coming!

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