My Weekend in Words
I can never decide which is better – one ridiculously long post or multiple easier to read posts within a day or two. Which do you prefer?
Carnaval is a huge party that is traditionally thrown Spain-wide right before Lent. The American equivalent is Mardi Gras – which I never celebrated or participated in. There isn’t much more to Carnaval, it is basically just parties, dressing up, dancing, and orejuelos. I originally decided to stay in Aguilar for all of Carnaval (we got Monday and Tuesday off of school for it).
We took a nice long walk below the reservoir of Aguilar. The reservoir is huge and gives water to places as far away as Portugal. It was very interesting to see. We then made orejuelos (see previous post for pictures).
Here in Aguilar de Campoo, Friday night is El Dia del Cambio del Sexo (Sex Change Night). I was fortunate because Aguilar is not a huge town but they take their Carnaval very seriously. Aguilar is a bit of a hot spot for the Palencia region. My host brother and his friend dressed as women. I went with my host family to a couple bars like we normally do. Things were about the same as every other Friday night, you just saw people dressed up as the opposite sex. This included Mexican women, Jamaican men, flappers and other such things. Some people did just drag and others did a theme to go with it. It was primarily males who were dressing up as women – I didn’t see a lot of women as men. I was tired so I left early and went to bed – skipped dinner.
A relaxing morning, a couple bars for our afternoon drinking, lunch at home, and Olleros for the afternoon was my day. Olleros is the town my host mother’s parents live in (it is spelled incorrectly in another post). We went to get chorizo. The chorizo we made a month ago when the pig was slaughtered is now cured and ready to eat. We took a lot of chorizo home sealed in airtight plastic bags. During the day, I talked to my friend Sarah who had thought about joining me in Aguilar and we decided to take a trip to Palencia and then Bilbao. I booked the first hotel in Palencia and figured out all my trains and buses so that I knew I would be able to get home and such. I spent the rest of my afternoon/evening hanging out at home.
I had previously told my host mother that I wanted to dress up so she got me together with her sisters for the night. Her sister and her sister’s husband picked me up and we walked to her other sister’s house. There were six of us: two sisters, one sister’s husband, a female cousin, a female friend from Burgos, and I. We ate dinner: pizza, chorizo, jamon, bread, and cheese. This was a typical Spanish dinner in that we then ate dessert, drank coffee and sipped shots. Even though dinner wasn’t even started until 10, we were in no hurry. I was very proud of myself because I understood almost all of the dinner conversation – close to 95%. I have found younger Spaniards are easier to understand. We then took another hour getting ready. We dressed as the six chicas – punks (even the one male in our group was a chica). Spain is more of a collective society. Groups of friends coordinate and dress as the same thing – sometimes even buying the exact same costume. I won’t translate for you what they wrote on the shirt of the one guy of the group. I will just comment that Spaniards have a lot of curse words and use them more casually. (I was called a c**t affectionately once and this same person told me he raised his kids in a whore house (but he used one of the Spanish b***h words). Once we were finally ready we went out. We stayed as a group and ended up going to five different bars. At each bar, each person got one drink (I skipped out a couple times). The bars were so packed that you could barely move, so we would just enjoy the music and drink. Once everyone was finished we would shove out and move to the next bar. A lot of people were dressed up – almost everyone I saw. Each bar was dressed up too with a different theme and their bartenders fit into the theme: Olympics, cavemen, cherubim, robots and a scare house were the ones I went into. Most of the costumes I saw were not scary and some of them were downright hilarious because American culture doesn’t always transfer accurately to Spain. We as punks were more like Madonna 80’s instead of current day punks. I also saw some costumes that would have been considered offensive here – rich Arabs and people just dressed up like they were black. There were no tapas – way too many people. After the bars we went back to the house to munch on leftover dinner. I was under the impression that we were done for the night and told them I was ready to go home (it was about 5AM). They accompanied me home and “on the way” we went to a discoteca. Here in Spain there are bars and there are discotecas. Discotecas are for dancing and don’t open until 5AM (average). We danced for an hour – no drinks and then they walked me home. There were still a ton of people out but I had a 10:20 bus the next morning and had to get a little bit of sleep.
A couple comments about Spain partying:
First of all, under half of the people I saw at 5 in the morning were really drunk. Also, the guys here are way more respectful and don’t dance all over you or hit on you in the same way. I had one guy who jokingly put money down my shirt but he was “a rich Arab” and he was doing it to every woman he knew in the bar.
Sunday Morning (cont.)
I tried to sleep but I had a lot of adrenaline still in me so I woke up around 8 (after going to sleep at 6:30AM). I decided to just get up because I didn’t want to feel super groggy on the train. I got myself ready and my host father took me to the train station. I arrived at around 10:10 for my 10:20 train. He dropped me off. When I went into the station there were a group of dressed up boys around my age. One of them asked me why I wasn’t chupa. I had no idea what chupa was so I told him I was American and only knew a little Spanish. (Translation: he commented that I wasn’t drunk – I looked this up later). We ended up having a conversation that I followed and responded appropriately to and when he left the train for his stop he told me to have a wonderful time in his country. His group apparently partied all night and then took a train back to their hometown about 20 minutes away. Once I arrived in Palencia I went straight to the tourist center and got myself two maps (an extra for Sarah). I then got a phone call from Sarah saying she was going to be later than she expected. I used my map to find my hotel and checked in. One night cost me 38 euros (the cost of which I split with Sarah). The hotel was clean, not overly pretty with two twin beds. I decided to sleep and took a nice long nap. I was woken by my host mother calling me who told me that her cousin (who is a priest) lives in Palencia and wanted to meet up with me to show me the cathedral. I had a couple hours so I got myself a coffee and then switched to a bar to get lunch. Spain has two sandwich words: sandwich and bocadillo. A sandwich is what you think it is while a bocadillo is their crusty bread with either jamon or tortilla put on it without toppings or mayo. Super tasty. I went with a bocadillo de jamon. I then wandered around town until the priest was ready to meet me. This is the same priest who had connections to the jamon factory. He brought along two Moroccan boys around my age. I was the only English speaker in the group. We saw Palencia’s cathedral which is three cathedrals built one on top of the other. All that remains of the first is a couple pillars, which are in the second (underground). There was also a little art museum. My friend the priest knew the tour guide who was 86 and stayed later than his previous tour to show us around personally. We then headed to the train station to pick up Sarah. It was so nice to see an American. She is the first of my fellow program Americans that I have seen since we were all together at the beginning. We went out for coffee (paid for by the priest) and I opted for chocolate (as in Spanish hot chocolate) – more caffeine was unnecessary. He then invited us to tour Palencia with him and his adopted Moroccan friends. So, we decided to stay in Palencia instead of going to Bilbao the next day. Sarah and I then ventured out to eat dinner after hanging out in the hotel for a while. This is the first meal I have not been impressed with in Spain and it was just bad quality. It was weird, we finished at 12 and there was NOBODY out on the street. Maybe we are in the wrong part of Palencia but it was strange to not see anyone.
Monday We slept in Monday morning and took our time getting ready. I think it was around noon when we ventured out to breakfast. Our friend the priest had recommended a pastry shop close to us for breakfast. Our cashier was dressed up as a medieval individual. I got the biggest palmera I have ever seen. It was delicious and a nice change after our terrible dinner. We then wandered around Palencia for a while including the Calle Mayor. We were able to shop because the stores were open (only a few bars and no stores are open on Sunday). We went into a shoe store that the priest had recommended to us and both got beautiful boots for under 50 euros. I have had difficulty shoe shopping here in Spain because most of the women aren’t tall. I wear a 40 or 41 in shoes (just depends on the shoe) and there is a very small selection of shoes that come in 41. I also bought some pants because mine no longer fit – they fall right off of me. We then searched for food that was better than before and I managed to buy the worst bocadillo de jamon that I have ever eaten. After lunch we met up with the priest and his Moroccan friends. We went to two different small towns outside of Palencia to see a church (with a monastery of nuns) that had a church art museum and to listen to Gregorian chants in another church (with a monastery of monks). We also stopped in to see a dairy that had about 200 cows. The nuns made sweets to sell so we bought orejuelos and some other type of pasteles (pastry things). We then returned to town and went to a bar to drink beer and the priest introduced us to a French friend of his. We then went to our hotel to hang out and wait because the priest had to meet up with some friends of his and was going to return later for the guys. Sarah and I showed the guys a map of Florida and where we live. After they went home we laughed over our stupidity at buying “take-out” food and not having silverware or a way to heat it up. Fortunately a bocadillo de tortilla can be eaten cold without silverware. Garbanzo bean soup – not so much – that went home with Sarah for later.
Tuesday We woke up Tuesday and ate breakfast at the hotel. Sarah had not yet seen the awesome cathedral on the inside so we went to go see the cathedral and ended up exploring the opposite side of the river and then tagging along with a guy who was giving someone a tour of the cathedral. I also managed to lock myself out of my phone and we had to go to a phone store to have them help me out so I could call my host mother and tell her I was alive. We then ate a (good) meal at a bar close to the bus station. We took a taxi to go see a huge statue of Jesus (on the sign it was said to be the second largest in the world but I just found on the internet that there is a lot of debate about that). We had no idea what we were going to do for the next two hours (after our adventure on the city bus back) and as we were wandering away from the bus stop we ran into the French guy from the night before. He insisted on taking us for tea and we spent the rest of our afternoon talking to him. He is here in Spain in order to get his driver’s license (it is easier and cheaper to do so in Spain and then he can use it in all of Europe). Once at the bus station we realized we didn’t have a picture of the two of us so we asked a guy next to us to take our picture. He (of course) asked where we were from and when he realized we were American he had to call an American he knew who lived in Palencia so that we could talk to him. So, I talked to a guy from Philly (who I’m now friends with on Facebook – hi, if you are reading this). He invited us to come back to Palencia and asked how we knew the guy whose phone it was and I had to explain that we didn’t – we asked him to take our picture. We then returned to our respective cities safely.
This is Spain – meet up with cousin/priest who introduces you to two Moroccans and a French guy, stop in at a dairy to say hi to a friend, randomly run into the French guy and he pays for you to have tea right then and there and talk to some guy in a bus station and get contact info for another American (and someone who lives in Aguilar).
I know this post is already way too long but I wanted to include a list of my favorite quotes/moments from this weekend:
1. Trying to explain to our Moroccan friends that Sarah was referencing the song from Finding Nemo when she saw the sardine pincho that was served.
2. In conversation with our French friend, learning that the priest told him we were from South America but we were really white so he wasn’t sure which part we were from.
3. Me: “I have a problem.” Phone store lady: “Tell me.” Me: “I’m American.” Her: “That’s no problem!”
4. You girls are very happy now. -Lady at the boot store after we bought beautiful boots.
5. After the conversation the night before about getting up at 9AM. Me: “It is 9AM!” Sarah: “I said I wanted to be up at 9:30, yeah, 9:30.”
6. “Are you ticklish?” Long conversation ensues explaining to us that the word was ticklish (I didn’t know the Spanish word). “No, not really.” “Are all Americans not ticklish?”
7. Sarah and I got talking (in English) about our schools and the guys asked us to translate. When we declined because it wasn’t relevant to them they accused us of talking about girl things.
8. Crying over lunch about my brother and how much progress he has made in the last year or so.
9. Randomly exploring an abandoned mill.
10. Paying twice as much as necessary for our city bus.
11. Not being able to rely on someone else who knows more of both languages than I do.
12. Being complemented by multiple store owners on how good my Spanish was (not that it is).
13. Stressing over texting in Spanish because I don’t know how to use the indirect object pronoun form of vosotros and I’m not confident in my ability to write Spanish anymore.
14. Finishing my weekend in Aguilar – watching a giant biscuit burn in the Plaza Mayor.
15. Being told that if we didn’t open our mouths, Sarah and I both look Spanish.
16. In describing his skin color, “I’m cafe con leche.” -one of our Moroccan friends.
17. Giving my full name to bus stop guy so that he can look me up on Facebook.
18. “Don’t your fingers hurt?” -one of our Moroccan friends after watching me take a million pictures in a brief period of time.
My weekend (including my shopping) cost me under 150 euros. I will definitely be returning to Palencia within the next month.