Christmas and Reyes are now over. The weather here is still quite nice (haven’t worn a jacket during the day since ‘Nam). It’s almost always sunny and no one can complain about that. One could complain, however, about the amounts of studying I need to be doing and the paper writing that needs to be completed in the next few weeks. But after finals in two weeks, I’ll be heading off to Belgium for a week to desconectarme and to just relax.
Christmas this year was probably the most Spanish I could have ever imagined.
As the break was approaching, I went to dinner with my colleagues and my boss gave me this fantastic book by one of Catalonia’s most prized photographers. He also thanked me for all my work. That was really awesome of him. I was also given a keychain of the Catalan flag of independence as sort of a joke (or maybe not….). But the real kicker was what they gave me next. I opened the little packaging to find a tiny ornament of a man taking a hot dump. WHAT?! Yes, that’s the tradition here in Catalonia. They have a celebration what is called Caganer, which are these ornaments of people defecating. You can even see them in the largest Belén (or Nativity scene) in the city, decorated with famous politicians, actors, etc. all of which are posed taking large Cleveland Steamers right next to baby Jesus.
As if that wasn’t enough, on Christmas day, families set out a log, called the Caga Tió, where the children beat it with a stick, and the log “craps” out their presents.
However, the log crapping was something I didn’t personally experience because I headed for the high road and got out of Catalonia for Christmas.
I stayed in Barcelona until Sunday morning when I caught the 6-hour long train ride down to Alicante to meet up with Carreño, my roommate here in Barcelona. His family was so wonderful to invite me to stay in their home during the holiday. When I arrived to the sunny-and-warm beach city of Alacant (in Valenciano, another language spoken in Spain that is similar to Catalan), or Alicante (in Spanish, if you will), I spotted Carreño pulling up to the train station driving a car with the windows down, the music turned up, and some stylish Tom Cruise-style aviator glasses on. This is what Christmas should be like: Beach cruising, nice weather, sun shining, and not a hint of it actually being Christmas except for the lights strung around the city. You would have no idea it was the end of December the weather was so terrific.
Carreño took me back to his house where we’d spend the next four days eating, eating, eating, occasionally drinking, going out, visiting the beach, hitting up the Castle and surrounding views, and eating some more. His mother cooked constantly and she made up some incredible dishes with about fifty different types of shrimp, hefty plates of traditional Spanish meats that I’d never heard of nor will I remember what they’re called, amongst another array of breads, tapas, and munchies that will make even the skinniest of the skinny (such as myself) break the top button of their pants from devouring so much delectable gastronomy.
Christmas day we went out with some of his friends to a local bar. It was a pretty chill night and we played it kind of early. I think I was in bed around 6am, so not a real late night if you know what I mean (sarcasm). On Christmas day, we opened presents (I got me some gloves), and then we went and saw the Hobbit with Carre’s parents. My last day in Alicante was spent eating this fantastic lunch with all my Barcelona friends who just all happen to be from Alicante. That has to have been the best paella I’ve ever tasted, despite it being drenched in salt (Oh, Spain).
It was quite a trip being in a place I’ve heard so much about. All my roommates are from there and a vast majority of my Spanish friends here in Barcelona are from there. I’ve heard all the stories about the chanklis and the chungos (terms for the “difficult” people there), but in the end, I found the city to be small and charming and not full of these said punks I was afraid I’d encounter (everyone exaggerates). I think my friends were also pretty stoked on seeing me running around their stomping grounds. I was definitely thrilled to be there and to see my friends interact in their “natural habitat.”
Finally, I ended up catching the train all the way back to Barcelona. A huge thank you is in order for Carreño and his incredible parents for letting me stay with them and for taking such good care of me (stuffing me like a Thanksgiving turkey with all the food they cooked is definitely very much included in that).
Back in Barcelona, I had about a week and a half to do as I pleased. I had some friends over, went out, did the usual Graham-in-Spain type stuff: Burning down cities.
Patrik, one of my best friends here, had his girl friend come visit and I got to kick it with them for about a week. It was terrific to finally meet this girl friend of his that he always talked about. There was lots of going out and it was a riot every night. We all went out on New Years with my roommates and our Spanish friends. We went to Poble Espanyol, which is a miniature town of famous Spanish monuments from all over the country. The main party was thrown in the Plaza Mayor of Madrid. It was like being home (except it was about a fifth of its actual size). We all had a blast and I can’t tell you what time we all finally stumbled home that night. Later that week, we all celebrated Patrik’s birthday with some of our classmates all through the night. Basically, Christmas break in Spain is awesome.
My last weekend here I was visited by my two Madrid buddies, Tomas and Angel. I don’t think my blog could ever sum up what it’s like with those two because it’s basically straight chaos. We went out every night till past sunrise and then were relatively productive during the day. Laughter was something that never ceased during their quick stop in Barcelona. Their last day here, we climbed Montjuic with Patrik as our tour guide. Montjuic is a large hill that overlooks the coast of Barcelona with a spectacular guarded castle at the top. We explored the castle and just stared out in all directions. To the left you had the sea, the port, the water, and on the right you had the vast and immense city. We stayed till the sun about disappeared behind the small mountain range that guards the city. Eventually, Tom and Angel packed up and left me in Barcelona on my last night before I had to go back to class and work.
Christmas is never quite the same without family, because it’s been three years running since I’ve spent it with my real family, but each time I get to see something new or to try something different, I jump at the opportunity. Now, I’m back at work, studying for exams, and sluggishly dragging my feet along my daily routine of productivity (oh how I miss las vacaciones). Soon, we’ll be through the hell of exams and I’ll be sipping on my favorite Belgian beers with my best friend, Chloé.
Write more later,