Viajando alrededor del sur de Francia/ Traveling around the south of France

Castellano: 

El siguiente blog trata sobre un periodo de aproximadamente diez días a finales de marzo y principios de abril llamados Semana Santa. Es una semana muy importante porque los Latinos y muchos cristianos nos pasamos mucho tiempo durante esta semana celebrando la muerte y resurrección de Cristo. Yo originalmente tenía pensado quedarme aquí en Madrid pero al llegar al programa me indicaron que se requiere que los estudiantes dejen su alojamiento durante la semana. Entonces pues a buscar que hacer durante Semana Santa. 

Sabía que tenía dos primos aquí en Europa que estaban estudiando en Francia y pues esto me daba una buena oportunidad de poder conocer por lo menos uno de ellos. Lo bueno de ser mexicano es que tenemos familia por doquier y aunque no sea un familiar de la forma más directa, somos familia. Tengo varios recuerdos de cuando llegaba a alguna fiesta o reunión familiar y mi mamá o papá me señalaba a un señor o señora que no conocía y me decían: “saluda a tu tía” o “tu primo”. A final de cuentas se encuentra familia hasta en los parientes más lejanos en México.

(Haz click en las fotos para verlas en grande/ Click on photos below to enlarge them)

Entonces al empezar la Semana Santa abordé mi vuelo del aeropuerto Barajas aquí en Madrid hacía el aeropuerto Toulouse-Blagnac en el sur de Francia. El vuelo fue de aproximadamente una hora y me dieron cacahuates abordo. Bueno, pues llegué a Toulouse y entre que comprendía como funcionaba el tram y por fin llegué a la estación indicada, por fin conocí a Miguel. Miguel, gracias a Dios, es un chavo criado a la mexicana. Es súper buena onda, paciente, trabajador, entre muchas otras cosas. Lo bueno de ser mexicano es que donde cabe uno, caben dos; todos somos familia y todos somos buena onda. La verdad es que ya no queda escribir mucho más — el sur de Francia es hermoso y mi primo me cayó muy bien. 

English: 

The following blog is about a period of about ten days in late March through early April called Holy Week. It is a very important week because Latinos and many Christians spend a lot of time during this week celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ. I had originally planned to stay here in Madrid but when I arrived at the official program they indicated that this would not be the case. They required students to leave their housing accommodation during the week. So I had to look for something to do during Holy Week.

I knew that I had two cousins ​​here in Europe studying in France and this gave me a good opportunity to get to know at least one of them. The good thing about being Mexican is that we have family everywhere even if it is not a family member in the most direct way we are all family. I have several memories of me arriving to a party or family reunion and my mom or dad pointing me to a man or lady I did not know and saying: “greet your aunt” or “your cousin”. At the end of the day family is found even in the most distant relatives in Mexico.

(Click on photos below to enlarge them / Haz click en las fotos para verlas en grande)

At the start of Holy Week I boarded my flight from Barajas airport here in Madrid to Toulouse-Blagnac airport in the south of France. The flight was about an hour and I was given peanuts on board. I arrived in Toulouse and after figuring out how the tram worked I finally arrived at the station where I was going to meet my cousin, Miguel. Miguel, praise be to God, is a guy who is very Mexican. He is super cool, patient and hard working, among many other things. The good thing about being Mexican is that no matter what, we are all family, and we all have good vibes. There is not much more to write other than that the south of France is beautiful and meeting my cousin was a great experience.

 

Las Fallas de Vàlencia/ The Falles of Vàlencia

Castellano:

Antes de llegar a España, como todos aquellos que estudian en el extranjero, investigué sobre cosas que se pueden hacer en estas nuevas fronteras. Así encontré muchísimos eventos y fiestas que me llamaron la atención. Pero luego vi una fiesta que caía a mediados de marzo en la ciudad costera de Vàlencia. Una fiesta sobre la cual habíamos hablado en mi clase de español en la prepa. Recuerdo cuando mi profesora en aquel entonces, la señorita Browne, nos contó sobre una fiesta donde el pueblo se reunía para hacer grandísimas estructuras de madera en todas partes de la ciudad para luego quemarlas al final de la fiesta. Cuando nos explicó el concepto yo supuse que las estructuras iban a ser algo hecho muy de prisa y sin mucha atención, como a final de cuentas se iban a quemar. Pero luego nos mostró unas fotos y quedé verdaderamente asombrado de las maravillosas estructuras que podían hacer los valencianos. Eran verdaderas obras de arte que estaban destinadas a ser quemadas. Esto era algo que tenía que ver con mis propios ojos. 

La falla ganadora.

Las Fallas: Lo primero que vi al llegar a Vàlencia fueron las Fallas, estructuras de cartón y madera hechas por vecindarios enteros de valencianos. Algunos se tardan alrededor de todo un año para hacer semejante estructura. 

Mascletà: Es la exposición de “petardos,” como le dicen aquí, que hacen en la plaza histórica de Vàlencia. Petardos, para todos mis mexicanos, son cohetes, pero cohetes de ruido como las palomas mexicanas. La mascletà ocurre durante cada día de la fallas a las dos de la tarde.

L’Ofrena de flors: Significa la ofrenda de flores en valenciano. Esta sucede del 17 al 18 de marzo, cuando cada casal faller le lleva flores para decorar una reproducción de la Virgen María. Por cierto una casal faller es el grupo de falleros que hacen una falla. Por lo regular cada casal faller esta compuesta de vecinos y gente que vive en la misma vecindad. 

La Cremà: Significa la finalización de la fiesta. Ocurre en la madrugada del 19 de marzo. A las diez de la noche del 18 de marzo se empiezan a quemar las fallas infantiles que se ubican a escasos metros de las principales. Después, empezando alrededor de la media noche se empiezan a quemar a diferentes horas las fallas principales. Culminando con la quema de la falla municipal en la plaza histórica. Por cierto el nombre falla proviene de la palabra castellana de antorcha, por eso el nombre de las estructuras. 

La Nit del Foc: Si la cremà es la finalización de la fiesta, la nit del foc es la celebración de ella. Es una serie de cohetes que se truenan y explotan en el cielo que se traduce al castellano en la noche de fuego. Es el último acto de la fiesta y marca el comienzo de otro año entero antes de la próxima fiesta. 

Me encantó poder ir a una fiesta tan extraordinaria aquí en España. Cuando aprendí sobre las Fallas en mi segundo año de prepa yo jamás pensé que iba a poder ver con mis propios ojos esas grandísimas estructuras. Gracias a Dios y a mis padres he podido ver las estructuras erguidas y como se quemaron hasta el piso. Ese par de días en Vàlencia jamás se me olvidaran. 

English:

Before arriving in Spain like all those who study abroad I did a little research on the things that I could do within these new borders. While doing my research I found many events and parties that caught my attention. I then saw a party that fell on mid-March in the coastal city of Válencia. A party that we had discussed in my Spanish class in high school. I remember when my teacher at that time, Mrs.Browne told us about a party where the town got together to make huge wooden structures all over the city, only to burn them at the end of the party. When she explained the concept, I assumed that the structures were going to be something done very hastily and very rough, as in the end they would be burned. Then she showed us some pictures and I was truly amazed with the wonderful structures that the Valencians could make. They were true works of art that were designed to be burned. That was something I had to see with my own eyes.

The winning falla.

Las Fallas: The first thing I saw upon arriving at Vàlencia were the Fallas, cardboard and wooden structures made by entire Valencian neighborhoods. Some groups take around a whole year to make such a structure.

Mascletà: It is the exhibition of firecrackers as they say here, which they do in the historical square of Vàlencia. The mascletà occurs during each day of the  fallas at two o’clock in the afternoon.

L’Ofrena de flors: It means the offering of flowers in Valencian. This takes place from March 17 to 18, when each house faller brings flowers to decorate a reproduction of the Virgin Mary. By the way, a faller house is the group of falleros that make a falla. Usually, each house makes a falla, composed of neighbors and people who live in the same neighborhood.

La Cremà: Signifies the end of the party. It happens in the early hours of March 19th. At ten o’clock on the night of March 18th, the children’s fallas that are located a few meters from the main ones begin to burn. Starting around midnight, the main fallas begin to burn at different times. Culminating with the burning of the municipal falla in the historic plaza. By the way the name falla comes from the Castilian word torch, giving the structures their names.

La Nit del Foc: If the cremà is the end of the party, the Nit del Foc is the celebration of it. It is a series of fireworks that thunder and explode in the sky, this translates into the night of fire in Castilian. It is the last act of the party and marks the beginning of another whole year before the next party.

I loved being able to go to such an extraordinary party here in Spain. When I learned about the Fallas in my second year of high school, I never thought I would be able to see these huge structures with my own eyes. Thanks to God and my parents I have been able to see the structures erected and later burned to the ground. Those were a couple of days in Vàlencia I will never forget. 

La Marcha de Mujeres del 8 de Marzo/ The Woman’s March on March 8th

Castellano:

Con mis amigos minutos antes de marchar. With my friends minutes before beginning to march.

Como muchos de usted saben el 8 de marzo es el día internacional de la mujer. Así es que todo aquel o aquella que no acogió a las mujeres importantes en su vida, muy mal. Pero yo no soy nadie para decirlo, porque yo no lo hice con mi mamá o hermanita pero ellas saben cuánto las amo y las adoro así es que es algo que ni se tiene que decir. Pero venga, que el 8 de marzo Madrid se puso de gala. Bueno, quizás no tanto de gala pero sí retacado de gente, como yo jamás lo había visto.

El 8 de marzo se reunieron manifestantes en el distrito de Atocha y marcharon hacia Plaza España, pasando en su trayecto puntos muy importantes e históricos en Madrid. Es una huelga anual que ocurre en muchas partes del mundo. Pero este año fue distinto en Madrid porque la marcha creció a una escala abrumadora. Tanto que el gobierno Español decidió reducir la circulación del transporte público en Madrid y Barcelona.

Un brassiere hecho para la demostración. A bra made for the demonstration.

El incremento en asistencia a la huelga no es producto de simple casualidad, sino que esta fecha, hoy en día, esta cargada políticamente. La verdad es que la incorporación de la política y la desigualdad de las mujeres aquí en España me resulta muy complejo, así es que intentaré explicarlo, a ver si no meto la pata. Lo que si sé es que el PP (Partido Popular) se planteó firmemente contra la huelga, llegando hasta el punto de divulgar un documento de todas las razones por las cuales se oponen. El partido se opone abiertamente desde Galicia hasta la presidenta de la comunidad de Madrid: Cristina Cifuentes. La misma Cifuentes que ahorita se encuentra enredada en un drama por declaraciones de que su máster de la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos fue falsificado. Pero volviendo al tema, los integrantes del PP se han opuesto tan abiertamente que la ministra García Tejerina declaró que iba a hacer una “huelga a la japonesa” para “demostrar las capacidades que tenemos las mujeres en este país”. Esto significa que va a trabajar aún más de lo habitual. Lo cual me parece muy ridículo porque el punto de la huelga es que la sociedad vea que tan importantes son las mujeres, notando su ausencia. Que la gente aprecie a la mujer cuando no esta haciendo sus labores de día a día.

Lo que el partido dice es que la huelga quiere “romper nuestro modelo de sociedad occidental”, aislando la manifestación como una protesta anarquista. La verdad es que si se vió y escuchó un poco con ideales anarquistas durante la marcha. Pero también el punto principal de la marcha recalcaba la importancia de la mujer en la sociedad, un ser que no siempre es tan apreciado como sus compañeros masculinos. La desigualdad para la mujer es evidente tanto en España, como en EEUU y como en el mundo entero. 

La marcha no fue perfecta; éramos mucha gente para intentar organizar una sola cosa. Cada grupo gritaba y demandaba sus propias peticiones para las mujeres y por el cambio del gobierno. Aun así, a mi me encanta ver un montón de gente reunida en las calles por la misma causa. Demuestra que como seres humanos podemos unirnos para intentar mejorar los problemas que nos rodean. 

English: 

Unos señores nos pidieron que les ayudáramos a levantar su cartel. Some people asked us to help them carry their banner.

As many of you know, March 8 is International Women’s Day. So to whoever didn’t hug the important women in their life, very bad of you. But I’m not anyone to say it, because I did not do it with my mom or sister but they know how much I love them so it’s something that goes without saying. On March 8th Madrid was dressed for the occasion. It packed with people, like I had never seen it before.

On March 8th demonstrators met in the district of Atocha and marched to Plaza España, walking past important and historical landmarks in Madrid. It is an annual strike that occurs in many parts of the world. But this year was different in Madrid because the march grew on an overwhelming scale. So much so that the Spanish government decided to reduce the circulation of public transport in Madrid and Barcelona.

The increase in attendance at the strike is not mere coincidence, the date today is politically charged. The truth is that the interconnection between politics and the inequality of women here in Spain is very complex, so I will try to explain it, I hope I don’t screw it up. What I do know is that the PP (Popular Party) was strongly opposed to the strike, even to the point of disclosing a document of all the reasons for which they oppose it. The party is openly opposed from Galicia to the president of the community of Madrid: Cristina Cifuentes. This is the same Cifuentes that is right now entangled in a drama regarding statements of many who say that her master’s degree at the Rey Juan Carlos University is falsified. But going back to the issue, the members of the PP have been so openly opposed that Minister García Tejerina declared that she was going to “protest like the Japanese” to “demonstrate the capabilities that women have in this country.” This means that she will work even more than usual. I find this stance very ridiculous because the point of the strike is for society to see how important women are, by noting their absence. Let people appreciate the woman when she is not doing her day-to-day work.

El cartel lo dice todo. The poster says it all.

What the party says is that the strike wants to “break our model of Western society,” isolating the demonstration as an anarchist protest. The truth is that  I did see and hear some anarchist ideals during the march. But also the main point of the march stressed the importance of women in society, a being that is not always as appreciated as their male counterparts. Inequality for women is evident in both Spain and the U.S., as well as the entire world.

The march was not perfect; we were too many people to try to organize for a single, united thing. Each group shouted and demanded their own requests for women and for a change in the government. Although it was not the most organized protest, I love seeing a lot of people gathered in the streets for the same reason. It shows that as human beings we can unite to try to improve the problems that surround us.

The Wolves

 

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling to one of Spain’s finest national parks: Lago de Sanabria. Even though our program has 35 students, only a select 12 could go, given the awesome, peculiar nature of this trip. We were going to a place of natural solace, a place with distinct beauty, a place where we would need silence; we were going to track the Iberian wolf.

We made the two-hour-and-some trek to Lago de Sanabria where we eagerly unloaded all of our things into the homey, small, wooden cabins there in the mountains. The first thing I noticed was, lamentably, that I had not been in real, honest-to-God nature for such a long time. Finally, I was around pine trees, ancient moss covered oaks, clear lakes, and mountains. Whew, this was well needed! I am happy to report that my mental health improved by leagues as we stepped on to our first trail in the snow peaked mountains.

We spent the weekend in a natural paradise. The first morning we got to take a guided tour on the world’s first 100% ecological (motor) boat. It makes no sound, no waves, and is 100% powered by solar panels and wind power. As this is one of the most protected lakes in the country, the only way they would allow a boat on the water was, well, if they made one. Later, we went on another hike through the snow-frosted peaks of the area, passing through small mountainous villages as we went.

On the last day of the trip, we woke up early and headed to the wolf reservation. These animals, a species of grey wolf only native to the Iberian peninsula, used to roam most of Western Europe. Today about 2,000 remain. Needless to say, many of them live in protected environments in Lago de Sanabria. The problem is, however, they remains “undomesticated” and, consequently, extremely skittish. To see the wolves is to hide yourself entirely from their sight… and, even more challenging, out of their ear’s reach. We went at sunset, feeding time for the Iberian wolf. We hunkered down in a specialized camouflaged bunker, set on a tree line where the alphas are said to roam. Here, the rest would come. We just had to wait. So we waited, and waited, and then, out of the tree line came the wolves. They dominated the terrain. Inexplicably, they navigated so cautiously, so powerfully, so surely, that they had probably heard us before we had seen them. They had come to eat. It was if they had an internal clock. No sooner than it had turned exactly the hour, the wolves came. They knew. We were blown away by these animals and their intelligence. Most of all, we were amazed at how, in many ways, the wolf was more human than we were. Learning of their behaviours, family structures, and lifestyle, it became clear how special these animals were. We sat there in silence and awe as the beasts devoured their evening meal, and as the Spanish sunset put itself out on their backs.

Below is a poem I wrote (in Spanish) about the event. It was impactful in ways I couldn’t really sum up in a different way. I hope you all enjoy it, but be cautious of what you read on Google Translate. You can’t trust everything you see on the Internet.

Best,

El Lobo

Los bosques de España llaman a unas pocas personas

Que se atreven a responder

Entre la sombra caminan, sin camino, sin saber

Adónde van, qué quieren, qué van a hacer

Como todo el mundo, en su vida resulta igual,

los que con la voluntad de buscar

Les encontrarán menos mal

Pero en la compañía de los árboles, entre su ventosa conversación,

Tenemos claro lo que nos falta

Nos aparece nuestra aparición

Cómo suenan los ríos, qué bonitos son!

En su riqueza descansamos, su poder nos inspiró

Aunque son sencillos, sin vuelta, con patrón

Siempre hay mis pensamientos, allí, en montón   

Sobre todo vamos caminando, pase lo que pase

Por las lagunas, vamos, por las piedras y tal

Nos acuerda del pequeñez, la grandeza, de la vida real

Allí lo vimos, en su reino de robles y musgo,

Lo saludamos por su gracia

Viviendo escondido en sus tierras de vieja

One of the visitors centers that welcomed us at the park
This was one of the most beautiful animals I had seen. She was relaxing after her sunset meal.
Solar powered. Wind powered. Noiseless. Like a boat-Prius.
Just a couple of kids and a cliff, overlooking Lago de Sanabria, the largest glacial lake on the Iberian Peninsula.
I am debating with this guide about the efficiency of wearing 6 coats wrapped around my waist while hiking up hill. I did not win.
Here’s the group at the lake.
One of the “paths” up the mountain.
Here’s a wolf “hideout”. We had to view them through holes in camouflaged wood.
Here are two of the non-alpha females. As you can see, we were very close to the animals.

 

¡Fui a un Espectáculo de Flamenco!/ I went to a Flamenco Show!

Castellano:

España es un país que gracias a Dios tiene una gran cultura que difunde mundialmente. Como mencioné en el último blog hay muchas regiones dentro de tan pequeño país y cada región con su propia cultura. Cultura que proviene desde tiempos en los que éstas regiones eran sus propios reinos con costumbres únicas, que luego fueron tejidas bajo una sola bandera española. Hoy en día, esta unidad de culturas se refleja en cuanto a la cuestión del baile, porque cuando cualquiera piensa en baile típico de España hay solo una palabra que domina: Flamenco. 

El Flamenco es un baile que proviene de la región de Andalucía que queda en el sur del país, pegando con el Estrecho de Gibraltar y África. Es una de las regiones más ricas en cuestión de cultura Española. Andalucía fue la última región española que fue reconquistada por los reyes Católicos. Por eso gran parte de la historia de esta región fue teñida con rasgos árabes más que otras partes del país. Esa gran influencia en esta región tanto de lo árabes, romanos y posteriormente del reino español, causaron que hubiese convergencia de culturas y que de ellas florecieran muy bellas tradiciones y expresiones del arte. 

Para todo aquel que sabe de Flamenco, sabe que es un arte que trasciende mucho más que el baile y la música, en verdad es todo un espectáculo. El flamenco esta compuesto de varias partes, incluyendo: canto, toque de guitarra, baile, jaleo (vocalizaciones), palmas y pitos (no lo que piensan mis paisanos, sino tronar los dedos). Yo la verdad no estaba enterado que todo movimiento desde los aplausos hasta el trueno de dedos era parte integral del Flamenco. Eso lo aprendí hace unas cuantas semanas cuando fui a un espectáculo de Flamenco junto con mi programa. Fue una experiencia súper chida que de seguro no hubiese tenido sino fuera por el programa. Sí valió la pena haberme perdido en el metro de Madrid intentando buscar el teatro.

English:

Spain is a country that, by God’s glory, has a vast culture that it diffuses worldwide. As I said in my previous post there are so many different regions in such a small country, each with its own culture. Culture that derives from times when these individual regions were their own kingdoms with their unique customs, that were later all sewn together under a single Spanish flag. Today this unification of cultures is reflected in terms of dance, because when one thinks of a typical Spanish dance only one word dominates the conversation: Flamenco.

Flamenco is a dance that comes from the region of Andalusia which lies in the south of the country next to the Strait of Gibraltar and Africa. In terms of culture it is one of Spain’s richest regions. Andalusia was the last Spanish region reconquered by the Catholic kings. For this reason a great part of the history of this region is splattered with Arab similarity, more than other regions of the country. This great Arab influence as well as the Roman’s footprint and later the Spanish empire caused a grand convergence of cultures from which erupted different traditions and artistic expressions.

If you ask anyone that knows about Flamenco, they will tell you that it is an art form that transcends much more than dance and music, it is a real show. Flamenco is composed of several parts, including: song, guitar playing, dance, vocals, clapping, and finger snapping. I wasn’t aware that every component from the clapping to the finger snapping was actually integral to Flamenco. I learned all of this a few weeks ago when I went to a Flamenco show through my program. It was a very cool experience that I definitely wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t in the program. It was definitely worth getting lost on the Madrid metro attempting to find the theater.

 

Cheira Bem, Cheira a Lisboa

 

Lisbon, Portugal

This past weekend IES took us on a trip to Portugal. To be completely honest, as far as weather is concerned, the last two or three weeks in Salamanca have been… less than ideal. That’s to say, every single day for a pretty much constant 18-21 days, we have enjoyed a frigid cold rain. I can’t really complain, right? I mean a couple days of rain and temperature hovering around the 40’s is really nothing compared to what my compadres in Michigan are currently dealing with (sorry, Holland folks). Besides, I’m in Spain! Needless to say, a weekend bus ride out of the rain to coastal Portugal seemed to all 30 of us as a welcomed relief. Just at that perfect moment, you know, when you’re really excited about something, we all got an email: Severe thunder and rain storms moving through Portugal, Spain. Look out for floods. Rain all weekend. “Sweet”, we thought. At least we would be getting drenched by Portuguese rain, which, as I’ve heard, is a better, less wet, kind of rain.

The bus ride was about 7 hours to Lisbon, but we made a stop about half way – in rainy Coimbra, Salamanca’s sister city in Portugal. We had to do our planned guided tour from inside the bus (on account of the rain); we didn’t mind. We had a few hours of free time where most of us decided to split up and head to the cafes. I sat down, excited to try pasteis de nata (a typical and delicious Portuguese dessert), and instinctually ordered myself a coffee, “¿Qué tal, tío, me pones un café americano solo, y un….?” Then it hit me. I had just ordered my coffee in Spanish – only catching myself by not knowing how to say “pasteis de nata” in Spanish. The waiter looked at me in my sincere state of confusion. I stared at him for 10 seconds in silence as my brain decided whether or not we spoke Portuguese. Deciding we didn’t, “you, uh… you speak English?”, I said.

“Yeah, man. What do you want?”

It was not when we crossed the border, not when I stepped off the bus in Portugal, and not when I walked around Coimbra, that I realized I had finally left Spain. You see, I hadn’t even realized that for two months I had not left the country. Spain had been my only home for these eight or nine weeks and it had conditioned me to speak Spanish at all times in public places. Well, lucky for us, the Portuguese have an excellent and obligatory English education in their primary schools. They all speak English pretty well. With my first Portuguese “cultural collision” out of the way, we headed to Portugal’s capital city.

The first thing you’ll notice about the magnificent Lisbon is that it is oddly similar to San Francisco. From the dark-red suspension bridge, to the constant climbing and descending of hills, to the windy weather, Lisbon was an entirely captivating place. Although our first night in Lisbon was spent in a hotel listening to rain, (parts of) our next two days were unexpectedly lovely. Blue skies, t-shirt weather, and the sunny bay of Lisbon – it was truly a gorgeous experience. We got a great view of the city from the tallest point (a castle), we watched a Fado show (Portugal’s “flamenco”), we dined Portugal style (you must try the Bacalao), we saw incredible coastal cliffs, we enjoyed the marvel of Portugal’s monuments, churches, and basilicas; we did it all. Without spoiling too much of the experience for others who may venture to go, I will simply say that I adore this city and its charm, and only wish that I had more than two days to explore it and enjoy.  I will, without a doubt, be coming back to Lisbon. And IF you do come, among the countless pleasures that exist here, I cannot overstate my love of the food. For, as the traditional Portuguese song reminds us, cheira bem, cheira a Lisboa (It smells good, it smells like Lisbon).

Coimbra. We stopped here for a rainy bus-tour of the city’s quaint university.
We got a dinner and a show our first night in Portugal! Here, the performers blew the crowd away with a traditional style of Portuguese singing called “fado”. It was breathtaking.
Candid photo of yours truly having an episodic experience on top of this ancient fortress. I think in this photo I was listening to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack and pretending I was a pirate. Don’t knock it until you try it.
These cliffs on Lisbon’s coast were one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The name does not overstate itself, “Boca del Infierno” (Mouth of Hell). Here, the waves crashed with such immense force that salty spray would hit you from hundreds of yards away.
Here’s another view of Lisbon from on top of the castle. Check out the bridge in the background. It was built by a California bridge company AFTER the Golden Gate after Portugal had experienced some devastating earthquakes. The suspension bridge appealed to them as much for safety as for style. This castle was positioned for defending the port (pictured above), and still has cannons to this day watching over the main plaza (the square part touching the bay without buildings).
In Lisbon, the peacocks are as abundant as the fresh air.
Pasteis de nata (right). I would describe them as: flaky outside, custard inside. Worth the trip alone.
Again, Lisbon. Here the city is pictured during one of our brief hours with sun.

 

Lisbon’s “Central Park”

 

Hell’s Mouth. The raw power was mesmerizing; I sat entranced for an hour watching the crashing of the waves.

 

Un país más pequeño que el estado Tejano/ A country smaller than the Texan state

Castellano:

El imperio Español ya tiene varios años que caducó. El poder controlar colonias a miles de kilómetros de Madrid resultó ser imposible por obvias razones. El imperio que alguna vez dominó la mayoría de América Latina y muchas partes de Europa a lo largo de su historia ha sido disminuido a un terreno que cabe dentro del estado de Tejas. El país español sí es pequeño, pero igual es impresionante la diversidad que uno puede encontrar dentro de sus fronteras. Porque puedes viajar unas cuantas horas en cualquier dirección desde Madrid y llegar a un lugar donde todo es completamente distinto a lo que dejaste atrás. Yo creo que tanta riqueza cultural en tan pequeño país proviene de la larga historia que tiene España. Una historia que se ve por doquier en calles, catedrales, alcázares, mezquitas y, por lo tanto, en cada tabique que construye esta bella ciudad.

Yo, gracias a Dios, pude venir a España a mis muy cortitos veinte años. Me siento muy agradecido con Dios y mi familia que me han podido brindar estas oportunidades. Porque la verdad es algo muy distinto poder venir a España a los veinte años con chavos Americanos de mi edad a visitar este país en un punto más avanzado en mi vida. Gracias al momento en que vine y por las intenciones con las que vengo, he vivido experiencias que no hubiese vivido en otro punto de mi vida. Por ejemplo, por parte del programa de intercambio escolar he podido viajar a sitios como Cáceres, Mérida y Segovia, sitios muy bonitos que quizás no hubiera visitado si no hubiese sido por mi programa de intercambio. Estas experiencias que estoy viviendo aquí en España me recuerdan a cuando ando por mi bello país de México. Permítanme explicarles la paralela; cuando voy a México, muy seguido voy tanto a la CDMX y Toluca como también a los pueblos más pequeños de donde son mis papas: Bejucos y Caja de Agua. Para todos los que son del Estado de México, vaya que sí saben las enormes diferencias entre la Ciudad de México y un pueblo como Caja de Agua. Obviamente no es el mismo ambiente que se siente entre los pueblos y las ciudades aquí en España pero es mucho más parecido el estilo de vida de aquí a, por ejemplo, las ciudades y pueblos en EEUU. Es que a final de cuentas le debemos mucha de nuestra cultura contemporánea a los Españoles y si es bonito ver esas similitudes entre países tan lejanos. Por ejemplo en mi clase de historia del arte el otro día vimos un cuadro de un pintor muy reconocido aquí en España que toca temas típicos Españoles y varios de sus cuadros me recordaron a México.

    • Interior por Rusiñol (1892).

Los que son de pueblos de México creo que concordarán conmigo que este cuadro podría estar mostrando una casa mexicana como también una española. 

    Those that are from Mexican pueblos will agree with me that this painting could be displaying a Mexican house or a Spanish house.

En especial los que tocaban temas de los campesinos, por la ropa que llevaban las figuras, la arquitectura y muchos otros aspectos me recuerdan a mis experiencias en México. Por lo tanto, lo mismo se puede apreciar en los pueblos como San Miguel de Allende o Taxco que son ciudades mexicanas muy semejantes a ciudades como Segovia o Cáceres aquí en España. La verdad es que estás comparaciones no dejarán de aparecer en mis blogs porque es un tema que me fascina; las similitudes y diferencias de los países y la gente que los habita. 

Pero bueno, ya dejo de estar platique y platique de los mismo y vamos a lo chido. El resto de este blog se tratará sobre las visitas que he hecho a través del programa a comunidades afuera de Madrid aquí en España. El primer sitio que visitamos fue Segovia que es una ciudad justo al otro lado de la Sierra de Madrid. Es un muy buen sitio para visitar en una tarde porque es muy accesible desde Madrid y es un ambiente completamente diferente pero muy cercano a la ciudad. La razón por las cuales visitamos los sitios fue por su gran importancia histórica pero yo la neta no los quiero aburrir así es que solo incluiré fotos y algunos datos curiosos de los sitios que visitamos. ¡Vamos a darle!

El Alcázar de SegoviaWalt Disney utilizó este alcázar como inspiración para su castillo de Disney World. The Alcazar in Segovia. Walt Disney drew inspiration from this alcázar for his Disney World castle.
Contemplando el pueblo como una vez lo hizo la familia real en Segovia. El alcázar fue utilizado por varios reinos incluyendo el Romano, Musulmán y el de Castilla . Contemplating the town like the royal family once did in Segovia. The alcazar was used by several empires including the Roman, Muslim and Castile.
Un sujeto muy guapo posa en frente del acueducto de Segovia, acueducto que fue construido en tiempos Romanos. A very good looking guy in front of the aqueduct in Segovia, an aqueduct that was built in Roman times.

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English:

The Spanish empire expired several years ago. The power to control colonies thousands of miles from Madrid turned out to be impossible to retain for obvious reasons. The empire that once ruled over most of Latin America and several parts of Europe throughout its history has been diminished to a plot of land that fits within the state of Texas. The country is small, but it is still very impressive how much diversity you can find within its borders. You can travel a few hours in any direction from Madrid and arrive in a location that is completely different from what you left behind. I think that so much cultural richness in such a small country comes from the long history that Spain has found itself involved in. A history that can be seen everywhere from its streets, cathedrals, alcázares, mosques and for that matter in every brick that builds this beautiful city.

I have been blessed by God to be able to visit Spain at my short age of twenty. I am very thankful with God and my family who have been able to provide me with these opportunities. The truth is that it is a very different experience to come to Spain when you are twenty years old and are coming with people that are your same age than when you are older and you are visiting the country at another more advanced point in your life. For example through the program I have been able to to visit places like Cáceres, Mérida and Segovia. All of which are places that are very beautiful, but that I might not have visited if it had not been for the program. A lot of the experiences that I have lived in Spain remind me of when I visit my beautiful country of Mexico. Let me explain the parallel; when I visit Mexico, I often go to Mexico City and Toluca as well as the pueblos my parents are from: Bejucos and Caja de Agua. For everyone that is from the State of Mexico, y’all definitely know about the differences between a city like Mexico City and a small pueblo like Caja de Agua. Obviously it is not exactly the same atmosphere that you feel between the cities and pueblos here in Spain, but it is a much more similar experience than when you compare American cities and towns to cities and pueblos in Mexico. This is because we owe a lot of our contemporary culture to the Spanish and it is wonderful to be able to make connections between countries that are thousands of miles apart. For example in my art history class the other day we saw a painting by a very famous Spanish artist that touches upon very typical Spanish themes and several of his pieces reminded me of Mexico. Those that are from Mexican pueblos would agree with me that the painting could be showing a Mexican theme just as well as a Spanish one. Especially the ones that touched upon rural life, through the clothing, the architecture and many other aspects they remind me of my experiences in Mexico. For that reason we can see some cities in Mexico like San Miguel de Allende or Taxco which are Mexican cities with a grand resemblance to Segovia or Cáceres here in Spain. The truth is that these comparisons won’t stop appearing in my blogs, because it is a topic that fascinates me; the similarities and differences between the countries and the people that live within them.

Well, I will now stop talking so much about the same old thing and lets get to the good part! The rest of this blog post will be about the trips I have made across Spain through the program in communities outside of Madrid. The first place we went to was Segovia, which is a city that is separated from Madrid by a mountain range. It is a very good place to for a day trip because it is very accessible from Madrid and has a completely different atmosphere from the city. The reason we went to the places we did was for their historical significance, but I don’t want to bore y’all so I will include photos and some interesting facts about the places that we visited. Let’s do this!

Con mis amigos en Mérida. With my friends in Mérida.
Otra foto de un bello sujeto esta vez in Cáceres. Another photo of a lovely subject this time in Cáceres.
Teatro Romano en Mérida. Este teatro lleva desde el año 16 antes de Cristo en este mundo. Roman theater in Mérida. This theater has been on this earth since 16 years before Christ’s birth.

 

Running with the Bulls

Last week was “El Carnaval” in Spain. Traditionally, this time was designated for the people to, well, purge themselves before Lent. Carnival doesn’t have the same religious implications as it once did, but that doesn’t stop the party. For about a week (sometimes more), people eat, drink, and are merry in celebrations all around the world! Last week I had the distinct privilege to travel to a local pueblo near Salamanca called Ciudad Rodrigo. In this small corner of Spain there is a Carnival celebration unlike any other in the world; they run the bulls. As I’ve heard, this is not a common practice to do during Carnival, in fact, this may be the only city in the world that incorporates the running of the bulls into their Carnival. Either way, being a romantic myself, and always having idealized bullfighting as it has been described in works of literature (Hemingway, etc), I had to see it for myself- to run it for myself. I wanted to stare in the face of death – of a 2,500 lb horned beast – and, with the grace of a great bullfighter of old, at the very last moment, to slip past the animal, with adrenaline potent in the blood and sweat running cold down the neck.

Let me disclaim: I did not run with the bulls. I didn’t ever really consider it. We had been told (this was NOT an IES sanctioned event) by IES and many others: “People die every year, don’t run with the bulls, these people are trained professionals, this is not a game.” They were right. But that can’t stop me from dreaming, right?

Anyways, determined not to run, I set myself up in perfect position to watch the running. The narrow streets of cobblestone were fenced in, and me, perched high on top of a section of fence that allowed me a clear double-view of a bended section of road. Then, we heard it. Three rings of the church bells. People started to clear the streets at a leisure pace. Three more rings of the bell. Then three more. It’s starting, I thought. Why are people still just walking in the streets? Just then, the town’s church bells began to holler frantically, as if signalling a foreign invader; and they were doing just that. The wild beasts were coming. The streets literally shook as a tangible electricity passed through the crowd. The streets were empty before you could blink – save for a few, seemingly fearless, young men. These men weren’t drunk, they weren’t scared, and they didn’t seem distant and preoccupied. If ever there was a group of people alive, awake, in the precise moment with which they were presented, the bull runners certainly were it. They were electrified, vigilant, intently watching the road before them, feeling the very tremors of the cobblestone under their feet. And then they came. There we were, all together in one place: six bulls running for their lives, a handful of young men running for theirs, and thousands of onlookers holding their breath. The bulls charged onward trying to harm any man who stood in their way. Their horns, impossibly sharp, thrashing past at a break neck pace. It was hard, if not downright impossible, to watch. After an intense fifteen-second swirl of adrenaline and excitement, the bulls had all passed, and the crowd audibly exhaled.

Luckily, this year, nobody was injured. I imagine that the bull-goring specialist doctors that were there were relieved to be unneeded. However, their job was far from over. These bulls would continue to run twice a day for the next several days, to and from La Plaza de los Toros. On this particular day, I followed the bulls to their destination in the plaza, a small sand arena where, for 10 euro, you can sit and watch La Corrida, the actual bullfight. I decided I had to see it. Although controversial, I will tell you that my reservations about bullfighting were mostly resolved after watching a bullfight in person. Think what you will about the event (I certainly have my own opinions on it), the absolute artistry of these small town bullfighters nearly blew me off my seat. Their grace, their style, their showmanship, all eternally referencing, in a way, a respect for that great animal. I stayed for hours watching four bullfights and La Capea (where the people are allowed in the ring with the wild bulls) and truly enjoyed every moment.

This experience was undoubtedly my favorite so far of being in Spain. The cultural value of seeing, with my own eyes, a real running of the bulls was priceless. This will be one of the memories that I recall with extreme fondness that will have characterized my time here in Spain.

 

My view from on top of the fence lining the street shortly before the bulls came running through.
La Plaza de Toros, Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain
An amateur bullfighter tests his luck
View from on top of a hill of the city. The festival includes carnival rides, games, street food, parades, music, and bulls.

 

Dressing up in costumes is… required. As you can see, we chose the “farm animal” theme, although it is much more common for “groups” of friends to dress up as the same exact thing – to better identify themselves, I’m sure. I am depicted on the bottom row dressed appropriately as a bull.

 

Un Intento Hacia la Orientación: An Attempt at Orientation

Castellano:

Estas últimas semanas han sido de las más desorientates de mi vida y eso que tuvimos que venir con una semana de anticipación para la orientación.

Recuerdo como fue mi descenso del avión aquí en Madrid. Fue una experiencia tanto inolvidable como abrumadora. Primero me bajé del avión a un aeropuerto muy típico, pasé aduana sin problema: solo le dije al de migración que venía para estudiar y luego recogí mis maletas y pelé gallo. Venía con una maletota, otra maleta más chiquita y mi mochila atascada de cosas. 

La ultima foto antes de salir de México. The last picture before leaving Mexico.

Mi primer reto fue encontrar de donde salía el metro del aeropuerto. Después de preguntarle a un montón de gente local, que ninguno ayudo mucho, llegué con un guardia del aeropuerto que me guió hacia la parada del metro. Después de lidiar con la maquina de boletos de metro por fin me subí.

Luego empezaron la miradas. Toda la gente se me quedaba viendo porque iba bien cargado e iba en el metro. A mí me había contado una tía que viaja muy a menudo a Madrid que el metro era muy seguro y que no tenía nada que ver con el de la Ciudad de México. Por afuera yo me quería ver lo más calmado y tranquilo que pudiera, pero por dentro me estaba mordiendo la uñas. Cada vez que se me quedaba viendo cualquier persona apretaba un poco más mis maletas. No quería que me fueran a robar en mi primer día en Madrid. Mi temor nacía de ver este nuevo mundo a través de tinieblas; no tenía ni la menor idea de donde estaba parado y mucho menos de como era le gente aquí en Madrid. Esa incertidumbre que el ser humano a veces vive puede ser de lo más atormentador. En muchas maneras estaba como cuando un venado se atraviesa la carretera y no sabe que hacer antes de ser arrollado por un coche. Estaba de rodillas ante el mundo, completamente en sus manos.

Ese sentimiento de incertidumbre y miedo lo vive cualquier persona que esta en un país que no conoce. Pero esto lo saben muy bien los organizadores de IES. Así es que eso fue lo primero que repasamos cuando tuvimos la orientación del programa. Repasamos las normas culturales en España y como se comparan a las de los EEUU. También tuvimos una charla con la embajada Estadounidense y vaya que sí aprendí muchas cosas. Pero es que no hay número de explicaciones y recomendaciones que te preparan para Madrid. Nadie te prepara para la hermosura de las calles estrechas, el Palacio Real, Las Ventas, las catedrales y toda otra divinidad de esta ciudad.

¡Nevó en Madrid por primera vez desde el 2011!

Otra cosa para la cual no te preparan en la orientación es para le gente española. Hay que decirlo como es: la gente española es la más acogedora de europa, pero no tiene nada que ver con lo que somos los latinos. Yo recuerdo que muchos compañeros americanos me contaban que los españoles eran muy buena gente y esto es cierto desde un punto de vista. Pero la tortilla siempre tiene dos lados. Cuando hablé con mi primo Irwin, me dió un punto de vista mexicano; me dijo que eran secos, que sí te ayudaban si les preguntas pero igual hasta allí. Ahora que ya llevo tiempo aquí y lo estoy viviendo en carne propia les doy mi punto de vista. Los españoles no se esmeran en platicar y desenvolverse tanto como los latinos, pero todo esto no significa que sean payasos, sino que lo llevan empreñado en su cultura. Si no lo sabían, España tuvo un guerra civil justo antes de el comienzo de la segunda guerra mundial. En esta guerra pelearon el partido Nacionalista de Francisco Franco junto con Mussolini y Hitler contra los comunistas, anarquistas, socialistas y la Unión Soviética. Fue una guerra muy sangrienta que duro casi tres años. El resultado fue que España quedó con un dictador encargado del país desde 1939 hasta 1975 al morir Franco. Las consecuencias de esa dictadura permanecen hasta hoy en la manera en que se trata la gente y en muchos aspectos de la vida cotidiana. Un régimen totalitario como el de Franco marca y evoluciona a cualquier país. La gente es reflejo de su país y vice-versa. La verdad es que la gente aún esta sacudida y aún siente los efectos de esa dictadura tan pesada para el pueblo. Éste es el hecho que yo creo que más ha transformado a la gente contemporánea de este país tan bello. En cuanto a la percepción que tenemos los latinos de España y su gente, sea buena o mala, siempre hay que recordar que muchas de nuestras costumbres, manías y, más que nada, nuestra lengua proviene de España. Por lo tanto estamos más que enlazados, aunque a algunos no les gusten los españoles. 

Bueno, ya para no hacer esta publicación tan larga solo los dejo con esta anécdota. Cuando llegué a mi nueva casa de los siguientes meses, no tenía ni idea de donde estábamos situados en la ciudad. Pero al final de cuentas, después de tirar rostro por la calles, ya varias veces me fui dando cuenta que era un barrio muy bueno en donde vive mucha gente ya mayor. Entonces le pregunté a mi Señora con la que estoy viviendo que qué había para hacer por nuestros rumbos. Me dijo varias cosas pero lo que me quedó plasmado fue que vivimos a cinco minutos de Las Ventas. ¡A cinco minutos de Las Ventas! A cinco minutos de la plaza de toros más famosa del mundo, que además de ser la más famosa, es de las más bellas. Es una plaza que combina tanto influencias arquitectónicas Españolas como influencias Musulmanas . Yo la tenía que ver con mis propios ojos y les juro que fue más bella de lo que pensé. Desde ahorita ya sé que esa plaza es la construcción arquitectónica que más me va a gustar en Madrid. Es que dentro de esa plaza se vive un espectáculo único, con un ambiente repleto de fervor y adrenalina. La verdad es que no me aguanto las ganas que lleguen abril y mayo para ver y sentir mi primera corrida de toros. ¡Es un evento que siempre he querido vivir y que bueno que mi primera vez será en la plaza más famosa del mundo!

 

English:

These last couple of weeks have been the most disorientating ones in my life, and we did have to come early to be “orientated.”

I still remember my descent into Madrid. It was both unforgettable and overwhelming. First, I got off the plane to be greeted with a very typical airport. I passed immigration without breaking a sweat. All I said was that I was here to study; I picked up my bags and headed out of there. I had traveled with a very large suitcase, a smaller one, and my backpack was full to the brim.

My first challenge was to find where the metro stop was located within the airport. After asking a bunch of locals, none of which were very helpful I finally arrived with an airport security guard who guided me towards the metro. After fighting with the ticket machine I was finally aboard the metro.

Then the staring began. Everyone kept looking at me, because I had so much luggage on the metro. My aunt who travels regularly to Madrid told me that the metro in the city was very safe, a far cry from the one in Mexico City. On the outside I wanted to look as calm and secure as possible, but on the inside I was biting my nails to the nub. Anytime someone stared at me I clenched on to my suitcases with a firmer grip. I didn’t want to get robbed on my first day in Madrid. My fear was grounded in looking at this new world through the darkness, I had no idea where I was standing and even less of an idea of what these people’s intentions were. I was a deer in the headlights. I was at the mercy of the world, in their hands.

That uncertainty and fear is what anyone experiences when they are in a country they don’t know well. However, the organizers at IES know this all too well. During orientation the feeling of uncertainty was the first thing that we went over. We went over culture norms in Spain and how they compare to the U.S. We also had a talk with the American embassy, and I did learn a lot. But, there is no explanation or tips that prepare you for Madrid. Nobody prepares you for the beauty of the small streets, the Palacio Real, Las Ventas, the cathedrals and all other beauty within this city.

It snowed in Madrid for the first time since 2011!

Another thing that they don’t prepare you for during orientation is for the Spanish people. The truth is that the Spanish are the most open and helpful people in Europe, but nowhere near as much as Latinos. I remember that a bunch of American classmates told me that the Spanish were very nice, and this is true from one point of view. But there are always two sides to any story. When I asked my cousin Irwin, he gave me his Mexican point of view. He told me that they were very distant, and that they did help you if you asked, but nothing beyond that. Now that I have spent a bit of time here and I have lived it first hand I will provide my opinion. The Spanish aren’t very good at opening up and taking to new people like Latinos are, but that doesn’t mean they’re snobby; it is just something ingrained within their culture. If you didn’t know, Spain suffered through a Civil War right before WWII. In this war the Nationalist party of Francisco Franco fought alongside Mussolini and Hitler against the communists, anarchists, socialists, and the Soviet Union. It was a very bloody war that lasted almost three years. The final result was that Spain was left with a dictator in charge of the country from 1939 until 1975 when Franco died. The consequences of this dictatorship remain evident till this day in the way people treat each other and in several aspects of Spanish quotidian life. A totalitarian regime like Franco’s affects and evolves any country. People are a reflection of their country and vice-versa. The truth is that people remain shaken and still feel the effects from such a harsh regime. I think this is the event that has most transformed the contemporaries of this wonderful country. In regards to the perception that Latinos have of Spain and its people, whether it be good or bad, we always have to remember that a lot of our customs, mannerisms, and most importantly, our language, derive from Spain. For this reason we are more than connected, whether you like it or not, with Spain.

In an effort to not make this post too long I will leave y’all with an anecdote. When I first arrived to my new home for the next couple of months I had no idea where in the city I was. However, after walking through the streets a few times I realized that my neighborhood was very good and that there were a lot of older people living within it. So then I asked my host mom for recommendations in the area. She told me there were a lot of the things, but what stuck the most with me was that we lived five minutes from Las Ventas. Five minutes from Las Ventas! Five minutes from the most famous bull ring in the world, that, besides that, is one of the most beautiful. It is an architectural feat that combines both Spanish and Muslim influences. I had to see it with my own two eyes, and it was more jaw-dropping than I thought it would be. As of now I know that it is the site that I will most like in Madrid. The thing is that within its walls you live a unique spectacle, engulfed in an excited and adrenaline-filled atmosphere. I cannot wait until April and May so I can see and live my first bull fight. It’s an event that I have always wanted to live and it is awesome that my first time will be in the most famous bull ring in the world!

Sunday, Paella Day

Sundays in Spain, as they are traditionally known, are for making paella. For those of you unfamiliar with this Spanish dish, it is perhaps the most well-known and best tasting cuisine you could really ask for in Spain. It consists of a delicious mixture of seafood, rice, vegetables and sometimes (although not this time) rabbit. For those of you who have had paella, you certainly understand why it deserves a blog post of its own. This week my host mom asked me if I wanted to learn how to make this sea-food and rice wonder. I delightfully accepted. So, today, I intend to blog a step-by-step process of what I learned (for my memory’s sake as well as for you all). Although you can always find “recipes” online, my host-mom insists hers is the most authentic.

DISCLAIMER: All measurements are 100% eyeballed because according to my mom, “real cooking doesn’t have a recipe”. Let’s begin.

1.) We cut: onions, red peppers, and green peppers. Done.

2.) Heat up some olive oil in a saucepan (pictured below, the pan on the far right). Once the oil is hot, throw in all your veggies.

 

3.) The most important part of paella is the broth. This is where all the flavor comes from (there are no spices involved in paella). To make the broth you take basically all the stuff that the fish market throws away (fish bones, fish heads, skin, etc), and put it in water and boil it for 15-20 minutes (that’s what’s in the covered pot on the right). You’re welcome for forgetting to take a picture of this step.

4.) You take out the fish eye balls, bones, and guts, and, leaving the “broth”, throw them away. In the trash. My mom is depicted (above) picking the meat off the “trash items”. This step is optional. She really likes fish, I guess. Now we can get to the real cooking.

5.) Clean (slightly) some fresh mussels and put them into the broth. Boil them in the broth for 5 minutes or until they open up. Take them out, leave the broth. Set aside. Take off the side of the shell without any meat on it. Trash.

6.) Clean some fresh clams. Repeat step 5.

7.) By this time your veggies are probably ready. Take all that tasty fish/mussel/clam-broth you just made and pour it right into your veggie pan with a colander! The colander of course, to sift out the stray fish-eye here and there.

8.) Dump some rice into the mixture (about 1 cup per person) and boil it. You can’t really use basmati rice, or even long grain rice for that matter (the rice has to have no flavor to best absorb the fish flavor). Use round short-grain rice.

9.) Salt indiscriminately. I think my mom had her eyes shut for this part. Not sure. Like I said before, this is the ONLY SPICE/HERB/ANYTHING in this entire dish, and she barely put any in. Less is more, blah, blah, blah.

10.) Clean some fresh fish filet, and throw them right on top. I think you also have to say, “Ole!”, when you do it for it to be effective. (Remember, clean as little as possible in order to leave the flavor of the fish). Choose a fish you like. My mom chose her favorite (and Spain’s most popular paella fish), Monkfish. This fish is perhaps the ugliest living thing I’ve ever seen, but tasted magical.

11.) Cut up some fresh calamari, and throw it on top of this magical boiling Spanish stew. Keep a light boil going throughout this whole thing.

12.) Time for some gambas. Er, I mean, shrimp! Whole shrimp. Head, eyes, and all. My mom used krill instead, but shrimp is most common. Remember, fresh!

13.) Remember those mussels and clams? They’re already cooked, so go ahead and toss them on top of everything too. (Pictured below, you will start to notice you’re running out of room in the pot, and it becomes like playing Tetris, fitting in all the seafood!)

14.) Let the mussels and clams heat back up (face down, of course), let the rice finish its last few minutes, and remove from heat.

15.) Put the pot on the table next to a couple of lemons cut in half. Feel free to douse your rice with some lemon juice. This, so they say, is they authentic way to eat paella.

16.) (Below) Serve in giant heaps on your plate and dig in! Make sure you have a communal “trash plate”, where you can throw your shrimp tails, mussel shells, etc.

17.) A glass of white wine is MOST typical, but my host brother is 17 (sorry, man), and also my host mom forgot to pick some up, so water works fine too!

Note*** “Old style” paella typically contained saffron, a herb/spice that gave the traditional dish a yellow color. Saffron got too expensive to say the least. Buying enough saffron to make our dish today would have costed us about $50 USD. Since the flavor of saffron “really doesn’t matter or change the dish that much”, we didn’t use it today. I commented on the lack of color (I’ve seen pictures in textbooks, okay?) so my mom added some yellow food coloring at the very end just for me, so I could feel like my paella experience was more “authentic”. The things we do for our guests, I guess.

Enjoy!