Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Las Fahyas....said in your best Rhode Islandese.....

So I just finished my weekly lesson with one of my students, Alejandro, a super intellegent soul that is aiming to be a military pilot here in Spain. (big goals!) We do an hour of conversation every week, but it usually results in him teaching me something! (Today I learned all about the forces of planes and some physics too!) His English is getting better which is cool and we have some great conversations! I wish every student was like that!

Haha. End of the trimester here in Spain...everyone is itching for Semana Santa to begin. Karli and I leave on Saturday for the south of Spain...beach weather baby! The sun has finally decided to show its face around here. It just makes everyone happier.

Today is our big presentation in the Language School. It's their culture week, and we have been asked to give some talks about the United States. Karli's talking about the Native Americans, Emily's talking about the top ten things to do in Seattle, and I'm discussing the University life, with focus on the Northeast. Definitely should be fun. The university here is quite different than the USA, so I'm interested in seeing what these kids think about it. Hopefully I don't start tripping over my words! blah. We will see.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Valencia with Sonia (This girl is taking me everywhere!) for Las Fallas, the most important festival in the Valencian province. It all started back in the day when carpenters needed to burn the materials and things that they no longer needed, so they started making large bonfires and burning what they needed to burn. They coincided the burning to fall on St. Joseph's day, the day of the carpenter! haha (coincidental? I think not...) So over the years, the festival evolved into the different neighborhoods each banning together and building their own 'creymera' or 'falla' that during the week before St. Joseph's day, would be judged. The winning falla would be spared for the following year, while all the others (There are hundreds!) would be burned throughout the city on the 19th of March.

As the years evolved, each of these bands of people got together, and along with building their own falla, they decided to form a club that during the month of March became like a big place to party and enjoy the festivities. There were fallas everywhere! Luckily, Sonia lived right next to one, so I could see it up close and personal. (Not so nice the next day when they started playing music at 11 in the morning.)


The Valencian Post Office

We enjoyed ourselves though. One Sonia's friends was celebrating her birthday, so for dinner we went to a comedy club....I didn't think they even existed here in Spain! It was awesome, the comedian was absolutely hilarious, and I actually understood most of it! Afterwards I got to meet more of Sonia's friends and we went out dancing until dawn. Valencia was really pretty....warmer than Calatayud, yet still cool. We were able to walk around in light jackets and be ok. There's something about a place that is near just makes the atmosphere so much more relaxed. I was happy to be near the ocean though...there's something about it that made me feel closer to home. I'm going stir crazy in this landlocked town!!!

The Falla next to Sonia's house

The Falla from Sonia's balcony

Throwing fireworks in a parking lot....a Falla tradition
I threw my first ones!

This is for you dad! Look at all the paella possibilites.....

The club where there is music and dancing and food and merriment....
All ready to go out!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 I'm a little late on this one....

Teruel, Aragon

The bridge connecting the old city with the new part of the city....

Ok, follow up on the Teruel lovers until now, I know, I know....

The weekend was awesome. My friend Sonia took me here (she went to college there) and we spent the weekend amongst the middle ages royalty. Teruel is a really old city (the story alone was from the 1200's) and its famous for its mudejar architecture. So, add a whole bunch of people dressed up in medieval clothing, and you've found that you've teleported back to the middle ages.

The Teruel town hall....note the mudejar styling

The town gives the people three days off from work to enjoy the festivities (thrusday, friday, and monday) and the important parts of the story of Isabel and Diego are reenacted in the streets and churches of the town. (It's really impressive too see!) Two college students from the university are elected to play Diego and Isabel, and they learn all the parts. (It's very Romeo and Juliet-esque!)

Bread anyone??

Dad and Grandpa...this one is for you! That's right, open flame baby! It doesn't get any fresher than that!

You betcha there was wine in those barrels. They aren't joking around here...

This one too....Grandpa would go nuts for all those olives!

The market place!

Also, many people form jaimas, which are most similar to a club, but it's a group of people who get together and form a group. They research a name, and a coat of arms and build a tent/clubhouse kind of thing...true to medieval form. In the jaima, people cook over open fire, drink out of lambskin flasks and enjoy their time dressed up like their ancestors. It is super fun to see, and it is not at all uncommon that they will invite you in!

This guy let me into his jaima....
(just kidding, we knew him..well, not me personally, but my friends did...)

Outside the jaima, I put your focus, not on the three lovely ladies, but on the cauldron brewing over an open flame....
The blonde is Sonia!
Gotta love new Spanish friends....

We started the night off with some txakoli...a wine-like drink famously known in this city, mostly tasting like white wine. And we sampled things all night long.....empanadas, crepes, pacharan, you name it...we tried it. We ended up in a jaima at one point, dancing was involved, and lots and lots of coldness! Overall, it was an exciting night.

The next day, we returned to catch some of the drama demonstrations, and Karli and Emily joined us from Calatayud. The mudejar architecture surrounding in the city is absolutely gorgeous and really sets the stage for this festival. (I just realized....think King Richard's Fair....only ten times bigger, and much cheaper) Every available space was covered in peƱas, so many people participated! I guess that is what was the most impressive thing for me. There were truly people of all ages there, and everyone was really into the festival....many people not in a jaima participated and dressed up. It was really exciting! Calatayud has a similar festival in June, so I'll be sure to keep you all posted! It was really neat to see a town celebrate its history so proudly.

In other words, Calatayud is settling in nicely. Teaching is going well, and my students are actually learning things. Back in February two of my sixth grade classes started doing an email exchange with April's daycare students, we ask them a question, they ask us one. This week's homework is the kid's have to look up what a 'bubbler' and a 'grinder' are!!! This should be interesting! (Especially since the first thing that shows up when 'bubbler' is searched for is a bong! hahahahha. I had to explain that one a little bit! hehehe.

Also, six of my class have started a letter exchange with my friend Lindsey's classes in Mallorca. They actually got super excited about the project and wrote really great letters (in English!) to these kids. Hopefully we get a response soon!

My kids taking pride in what they were writing!

Weather is finally warming up here....well, I hope I'm not speaking too soon, but the hotness factor should be going up, and maybe we'll get a nice weekend. And we're growing up....we've been making friends! We had a nice dinner in our apartment last week where a wicked good risotto was made and devoured in one sitting. Haha. Betty Crocker, here I come. Also at this dinner, it was sung, and recorded, the Spanish version of the theme song from 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.' You all know you want to hear it..... I'll get it up here someday ;)

A beautiful risotto!

It doesn't get much better than good friends. Especially ones that can make a pyramid....

I'll try and get more in this week!