Hola from Spain! The past several days since I have last posted have been full of adventures, learning and fun! And school. A whole lot of school. (Which is the main reason why I haven’t posted in so long). Here’s a look at what I’ve been up to…
A typical morning for me includes waking up to yet another day of glorious sunshine, hearing the wind blow through the palm branches, and thinking about the many places I can go exploring later on in the day. I attend classes daily, but I am rarely stressed about school. That’s one of the things I love about this program. Yes, we go to school and it can be challenging, but our homework load is small so that we are able to go out and fully immerse ourselves in the incredible language and culture around us. However, in these past few weeks school has been at the forefront of my mind. At my particular institute, if a teacher misses a day of class then we have to make up that day at a later time. So, for the past two weeks I had classes until 9pm some nights. But, thankfully, we have finally made up most of them just in time for…
MIDTERMS! Yep. This is the week of midterms. I had four of them this week and will have my last one next Thursday. I am so glad to be done with the majority of them!
My favorite moment from the past few weeks of school was one of my grammar classes. We were supposed to be discussing preterit vs. imperfect, but instead we spent an hour and fifteen minutes listening to our professor’s lecture on different types of bull festivals in Spain. Thankfully Ruby captured a picture of this moment which I have included below…
Las Fallas is something that is nearly impossible to explain without actually experiencing it for yourself. Since it is just beginning, I’m still not exactly sure what to expect. It is one of the largest and most famous festivals in Spain and it happens right year in Valencia! In the next few weeks one million extra people will descend on the city to take part in the festivities. If you would like to learn more about Las Fallas you can do so on this website (it is in Spanish, but you can watch some videos of recent fallas happenings and see pictures): http://www.fallas.com/index.php/es.
The city is currently being transformed with beautiful lights and chocolate and churros stands are everywhere! I rewarded myself for spending a day inside studying for midterms with delicious churros and chocolate! The main events of Las Fallas are coming up in two weeks (and I don’t have school, so I can enjoy them all!), but a few have already happened which you can read about below.
La Exposicion de la Ninot
People spend a significant amount of time making these creations, called ninots, which are all burned each year at the end of Fallas on March 19. Well, all of them, but two. The city has an exhibition of the special ninots in the days leading up to Las Fallas. Everyone who visits the exhibition can vote for one ninot from the children’s division and one ninot from the main division to save from the fire. These two ninots are placed in the Museum of Ninots in Valencia forever.
A group of us went and decided to see what it was all about. There were so many people at the exhibition. There were also so many ninots. The ninots ranged from political critiques to popular children’s cartoon characters. We even found several Despicable Me minions. At the end, we each voted on which ninots we wanted to save. Here were my choices. I picked the first one because I love the movie Up. I picked the second because it included some of the items I associate now when I think of Spain: oranges, colors, and ceramics. I also thought it was absolutely beautiful.
La Crida means “The Calling” in Valenciano, the language spoken in the province of Valencia. On this night, a large portion of the city turned out to celebrate the start of Fallas. There was a spectacular acrobatics and light show on the Torres de Serrano (towers that used to be a gate to the city) which was followed by a speech by the Mayor and Fallera Mayor of Valencia. (Fallera refers to the girls who chosen to represent their neighborhood during Las Fallas. Of all of these girls, one older girl (the fallera mayor) and one younger girl (the fallera infantil) are chosen to represent the entire city. Falleras are present at all major Fallas events and I see falleras from all over Valencia walking around town in their traditional dress and hairdo).
The night finished with fireworks. I learned that Valencia is right up there with China for amazing fireworks. There were shapes and colors that I have never seen before.
There were so many people in traditional costumes, gathered together with their neighborhood to celebrate the night. It was impossible to see from where I was standing where the sea of people even ended. When it was over we walked through the Rio where people were throwing firecrackers, singing and dancing. Alyssa and I got caught up in the music and danced on our way out of the Rio. Afterwards, we searched for a cafe to order a Fallas favorite, bunuelos (fried pumpkin dough balls sprinkled with sugar) and cups of chocolate. I am happy to report that I finally finished my entire cup of chocolate!
GBU, Church, and Bible Study
I love my Wednesdays at GBU studying Hosea with people from all over the world in Spanish. What a blessing they are to me! We had an international Sunday at church last week and I read a scripture passage in English as well as brought some zucchini bread to share. It was a great Sunday filled with worship in multiple languages!
Here’s a photo of the GBU girls!
La Fiesta de Tapas
Thankfully my host dad Enrique reminded my host mom and I from Germany that last Sunday was La Fiesta de Tapas. We headed out to the beach and enjoyed sampling many different tapas. Some of my favorites were a bunuelo de mozarella (deep fried mozarella ball with ham and zucchini) as well as duck (yes for those of you who know how much I love ducks…I ate one and I liked it) on bread with crispy onions. Mmmm delicious. It was a beautiful afternoon with my host mom.
These past few weeks I have finally been able to get together with my intercambio, a native Valencian who is learning English. We meet twice a week to help the other person in our native language. On Mondays we practice Spanish and on Tuesdays we practice English. My intercambio is incredibly kind and fun! We’ve spent time exploring the old city of Valencia, learning English words in the grocery store, and chatting over tapas and coke in a local cafe. (Sidenote: something I love about Spain is how people eat their salads. You put them in the middle of the table and everyone dips their fork in the same bowl or plate). Next Monday we’re spending the afternoon on the beach, and in a few weeks I will be going to her house to have homemade paella (the national dish of Spain) with her family. I have heard that the best way to experience paella is in the home of a Valencian. Valencia is actually where paella is said to have originated. I am SO excited! We’re also planning on going out to order octopus one night too.
El Museo Muvim
Two of our professors took us to an amazing museum one weekend that highlighted different periods of Spanish history through a multi-media dramatic presentation in Spanish. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the museum. It was visually stunning, and an amazing way to learn about history.
Some of my favorite moments are the little things that I do on a daily basis. Whether it is chatting over tea in a cute cafe, spontaneous trips to the historical district with my camera, or laughing with my host mom as we share stories about our days, these are the moments that I treasure.
I feel so at home here. I recognize and chat with some of my neighbors. I know my way around the city. I’m involved with a great church. I absolutely love my family.
My host mom and I have decided that I’m not coming back to the United States. She’s going to kidnap me and I’m going to stay here forever. Except…now you all know…so we’re going to have to come up with a new plan.
I think two people have reminded me this week about how little time that I actually have left in Spain. I’m tempted to just plug my ears when I hear that and wander around the city until every little detail is permantenly cemented into my mind, and I can carry it with me forever.
Coming to Spain has truly been a life-changing experience. I cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store! As for today, I’m planning on heading out to see some beautiful neighborhoods all lit up for Fallas with my mom this evening! (Expect pictures and posts about that soon!) And my mom bought me a scarf and a personalized Fallas pin to wear to all the events.
Hope all is well wherever in the world you may be!
Lots of love from Spain,
P.S. Thank you Mom for organizing the most incredible mail blitz ever. And thank you to all of you who have sent me cards and letters. I have had so many letters pour in over the last few weeks, and each of them have been such an encouragement and a blessing to me.
P.P.S. Yesterday, I experienced my favorite day yet in Spain. I explored this beautiful castle and there are so many great stories and pictures that the day has to have its own blog post. But in the meantime, here’s a picture.