Sunday, September 26, 2010

El Correfoc

Last night was the climax of the La Merce celebrations-Correfoc (fire run). My teachers have been talking about the Correfoc since I started class, so I had been looking forward to it, but I had no idea how absolutely insane it would be.

To start, a few days ago we all received an e-mail from IES warning us that if we were planning to attend Correfoc we needed to wear protective clothing (long sleeves, closed-toe shoes, hats...). I took this as a pretty extreme exaggeration, "how crazy can a parade really be," I thought.

The night rolls around and after much discussion, my roommates and i decided on long-sleeved shirts, tennis shoes and shorts (it's hot, we didn't want to be completely covered). I didn't even bring any head cover, again, I couldn't imagine needing a head cover for a parade.

We left early and made our way down the street toward the start of the Correfoc, as we approached, we were overcome by the sounds of various drum groups each jamming to their own specific beat. The street was filled, top to bottom, with people dressed in colors corresponding to their specific group. Each group had drummers, people dressed as devils who later would be the people with fire and, in most cases, some sort of huge beast that shot fire out of all orifices.

We made our way through the crowd, stopping at each beast to take pictures and walked toward the "Gates of Hell" where the parade began.

After about 20 minutes of anticipation, a man's voice came over a loud speaker. He spoke Catalan so I don't know what he was saying, but he sounded like an announcer for a haunted house radio commercial. It was kind of terrifying. Suddenly, ear-piercingly loud fireworks that were attached to the gates began to go off and a red cloud of smoke billowed out from around the looming gates.

By this time, we had realized that we were standing on the wrong side of the gates, so we slowly started to make our way through the crowd. The crowd was the most dense group of people I have ever been in, at times I felt like I couldn't breathe, not from claustrophobia, but from being squished so tightly between people that my lungs couldn't expand. Luckily, I made it through (with my purse and all of its contents) and found a prime location on the side walk right at the beginning of the parade.

Within minutes, we learned just how crazy Correfoc truly is. As the groups came through the gates, they lit firecracker-like torches that were attached to tall poles that individuals held and ran through the crowd with. These fire torches rain huge flaming sparks down on to the crowd. Not only did you need head covering (which luckily one of the girls I was with had an extra), but you also need to cover every part of exposed skin. I learned very quickly that the sparks hurt when the touch your legs, hands and neck.

Each time (every few seconds) that a fire runner ran in to the crowd everyone huddled and ducked to find relief from the relentless flames. There were, of course, the young locals who, instead of ducking, ran in to the street to dance and frolic in the sparks, but I was not brave enough to expose my bare legs to the sparks.

The parade went on for nearly 2 hours. Two hours of fire, drumming and constant firework sounds...I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I have to come back at some point in my life to experience Correfoc again. Everyone needs a Correfoc experience.

At the end of the night my roommates and I were talking about how a fire festival like this would NEVER be allowed in the U.S., thank goodness for study abroad or I would never get to experience such a wild festival!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Since I've been in Barcelona for a few weeks now, I am beginning to notice which foods are served more frequently than others. We have chicken a lot, and pan con tomate, but there's one thing that we eat more of than I can even fully explain, Potatoes!

We have potatoes with pretty much every meal, which I am happy about because I love potatoes, even if I'm going to have to buy an extra seat on my ride home. Normally we have the potatoes with something else like chicken and fruit to at least slightly balance out the carbs, but this weekend my lunch was the most carb-filled experience I think I'll ever have in my life.

I sat down at a beach cafe in Cadeques and decided to order tortilla de patatas, a traditional spanish dish made from eggs and potatoes. It's one of my favorite things that I've had so far in Spain so I was really looking forward to a nice hearty meal.

I didn't know just how hearty it would be.

Turns out that the tortilla de patatas was under the bocadillo (sandwich) section, which I didn't realize, so my 4 euros bought me a sandwich made from two thick (half loaf sized) pieces of bread, FILLED with cooked potatoes.

That's right, a potato sandwich!!! Potatoes and bread, nothing else!!

Needless to say, although it tasted good, I simply couldn't eat it as a sandwich, so I ate the potatoes by themselves.

As absurd as this seemed to me, carb on carb, I asked my Food as an Expression of Culture teacher about it and she said it's very common. If these beautiful, skinny Spanish girls really do eat potato sandwiches, I'm ticked out of pure jealousy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Desserts, a grave and Dali

I just got back from my adventure up and down Coasta Brava (the "wild coast," just north of Barcelona that reaches up in to southern France). It was beautiful, even with rainy skies. We were able to see Roman and Greek ruins, EAT (the all-caps to let you all know just how much eating I did) in beautiful costal towns, visit the Dali museum, watch TV in English, sleep in pillow-top beds with black-out curtains covering the windows and see a grave of one of the most famous Spanish poets that no one (at least on my trip) had ever heard of. All in all it was a wonderful, fast-paced trip.

Quite possibly my favorite part of the weekend was traveling to Collioure, a tiny french seaside town. We actually only made the trip to see the grave of Antonio Machado. Who is Machado, you may ask (as I did and am still wondering)? Machado was, apparently, a famous Spanish poet who was forced in to Exile during the Spanish Civil War. However, this is still the only information that I know about him. As the time approached when we were suppose to view his grave, there was a noticeable whisper throughout my 80 or so peers, wondering who the heck Machado was. We were all perplexed. But, because we were making a special stop just to view the grave we all assumed that it would be at least slightly spectacular, interesting, weird, cool, neat, pretty...

We got of the bus, made our routine bathroom stop (this time with no toilet paper, yay public bathrooms) and headed toward the gravesite. About three blocks up the road, we turned on to a side street and in to a grave yard. A regular graveyard. However, when I walked in most of the students who were simply walking in front of me in the group were already leaving. I assumed that we were at the wrong place, until a friend came up to me and said "there it is," pointing to an older-looking, but very unsuspecting grave.

We travelled to FRANCE to look at a normal grave!!!

Good thing the city was absolutely beautiful, and since we were in France I took the liberty to have two desserts with lunch:
1. A crepe (of course, nutella and bananas...nothing is better)
2. A semi-fired, semi-baked lemony pastry covered in sugar

Also, it turns out that in France, they speak French. This seems very simple, but when you've spent the past three weeks stumbling through Spanish when all you really know how to speak is English and you sit on a bus for 30 minutes, get off and are expected to speak ANOTHER language; it's a shock! I don't even know how to say water in french. So we spoke broken Spanish and everyone else spoke French and I got my desserts.

A wonderful weekend on the coast!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hace Calor!

After my two week stint in Barcelona, I was starting to realize that I was turning, well, grouchy. I wasn't my same smily self, I actually noticed myself frowning and aggressively pushing my way through the crowded metro. As I stepped back to really think about it, I was becoming a stereotypical big city girl and honestly I didn't like how that looked. But, what can you do when you smile at little old men and women (knowing that all of all the people who will smile back at you, they're sure things) and they give you dirty looks.

This cold facade has finally ended and I'm back to my same old self thanks to one lady on the Metro, Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning the Metro went on strike (little to my knowledge) so my train was 30 minutes late and I ended up being late to my first class (which killed my Type A tendencies). Once my train finally arrived and quickly after I rushed on, I was forced to move over a seat because a woman chose to sit directly next to me. I moved over, ticked off that the woman chose to sit directly next to me instead of at the more comfortable diagonal across from me.

Within seconds the woman pulled out a large paper fan and began fanning herself furiously (it's really hot in the metro). After a minute or so, she slowed to a nice calm pace and lucky for me, I was able to reap the benefits of her fan as she pushed air back and forth toward me. It really felt refreshing. Without thinking, I leaned in to her and said "gracias." She turned to me with a disgusted look on her face, so I repeated myself this time using my hand as a fan with an "I'm hot too, I feel your pain," look on my face. Instantly, it clicked and the woman bursted out in to straight up laughter. I was so happy to finally have someone respond pleasantly to me that I laughed too!

To my delight, she fanned us both for a good 3 minutes, I was able to ask her in my best broken Spanish what she knew about the Metro strike (which helped me get home that night in a timely manner) and she even offered me her fan if I was still hot.

When we reached our stop, the woman said "adios," with a big smile on her face. Even though I was terribly late to class, it was my favorite metro ride to date.

I've decided that I will not become a rushed, frustrated city dweller. I am going to retain my constant smile even when old women give me the stink eye in the grocery store.

On a side note, I found peanut butter today. There were approximately 8 jars of Peter Pan peanut butter for 4 euros each, I bought 2!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An entire loaf of bread

Since we didn't have Spanish class this Saturday (we did last was sooo lame!) I, with my roommates and a new friend, venture to Tossa de Mar, a small beach town north of Barcelona.

It was absolutely picturesque (besides all of the naked boobs, nearly everyone is constantly topless...not my favorite part of the beach). A 14th century castle sits literally on the beach and is open for you to walk around in. Although I did make it to the top of the castle, I quickly came back down for the laziest weekend of my life.

On Saturday morning, when we arrived at 9:00am, we stopped at a small tienda to buy fruit and water, however there was also 1.5 liters of Sangria for 1.97 euros which we of course couldn't pass up and an entire loaf of bread for 90 cents (my favorite buy since I came to Spain).

I spent 100% of the day (from about 10:00am until 6:00pm) laying on the beach, dozing in and out of sleep, people watching, starting and finishing my bread and listening to songs in English.

You're probably wondering, is she burnt to a crisp? The answer, surprisingly is "no." I did get burned on the right side of my calf, my right hand and my right ear (the sun was clearly on my right), but my numerous sunscreen applications, for the most part, were successful.

At night we took a bus to Lloret de Mar, a town that was supposedly 15 minutes away but turned out to be about 30 (luckily the bus ride was pretty) to stay in one of the few hostels that wasn't full in the area. I had pizza for dinner and we returned to our room to take LONG showers and watch TV (yes we had a TV and our hostel only cost 11 euros per night...a real deal!) however to our dismay all of the channels were in Spanish (we weren't shocked, we were just hoping for CNN or BBC, anything to veg out to). However, we did find High School Musical on the Disney channel (which in any other circumstance I would be opposed to) with English singing, they dubbed over everything but the signing, so we all sat around and waited for the characters to sing in English.

My favorite songs for a lazy beach day:
1. Simon and Garfunkel--The Only Living Boy in New York
2. Jack Johnson--Staple it Together (mostly all of Jack Johnson really, I mean he lives in Hawaii)
3. Kate Nash--Birds
4. The Temper Trap--Sweet Disposition
5. She and Him--EVERY SONG!!!!

It was a beautiful, restful weekend.

I can't wait to start classes tomorrow!! Finally, a routine!

P.S. My new school is Hogwarts...more to come!
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