I often feel like Spanish lives revolve around fiestas, hoping to go to as many fiestas as they can in a year. I often ask one girl in my class what she is doing doing for the weekend, and she often replies with, "Well... there are fiestas in my town, so..." I often am asked what the fiestas in my town are like. When I tell them that my town, my dear Glenbrook, has one big fiesta a year, during the Spring, that starts at 8am and goes through till 3 pm, they stare at me like Australians are crazy. Spanish fiestas are something that has to be experienced. They have this great sense of celebration running through their blood, through the soil of their land. There are fiestas for the smallest of things, and the smallest of towns, and the last three, four, five days. They are filled with long nights, no sleep, patriotism, and lots of noise. Fiestas are not something that they do to celebrate their lifestyle, their culture, their country. Fiestas are their lifestyle, their culture, what makes their country so unique and different.
Two weeks ago was the Fiestas del Pilar. As I have already explained in previous blogs, Pilar is the saint for all Hispanics, and is situated in the Basilica del Pilar in Zaragoza. It is celebrated as their national day, or I should say, week. I was lucky enough to go to Zaragoza for seven of the nine days that it was celebrated.
We arrived in Zaragoza on Saturday afternoon at around lunchtime, where we had lunch with the Yaya, the grandma. After spending a good couple of hours feasting on good food, and relaxing, watching the autumn leaves dance in the wind, we headed off to the apartment, and were bombarded with noise. I read in a book I bought about Spain, that youth suffered from hearing impairments more than a lot of other countries because of the noise they make. In school, out of school, during fiestas, there is always something going on. (Except for Sundays!) There is always a constant noise - music, yelling, singing. The apartment that my host family has is situated perpendicular to the main street in Zaragoza, where all of the different things were going on. Surprisingly, I slept quite well! The next few days were spent relaxing in the mornings and going out in the afternoons, watching everything that was happening. There was an abundance of music, from all over South America, dancers from around the globe, markets, food, lots of things to keep us occupied. On my adventures out into the celebrations, I immediately noticed that all the teenagers were wearing the same things.
Something that is different to Australia, and I assume a lot of other countries, is their markets. In Australia, my favourite part of a market is the food section. There are often food markets, or lots of little stalls with different types of food at Australian festivals. I have so many fond memories of going to markets, and having lunch there; a spring roll from the stand with all Chinese food, an Egyptian pancake from that small stand in the shade, a smoothie from the fresh fruit stand, some Thai noodles from another stand, a garlic naan bread for afternoon tea. I associate food with markets, with festivals. A conglomeration of food from all over the world, a variety of tastes, an array of colours. In Spain, it isn't like that. They sometimes have some food stalls, but one stall may sell a leg of ham, another cheese, another chorizo, and another sweets. But they don't often sell meals, or things that we can try, small portions of things. At Zaragoza, they had some food stalls that sold things like jam or honey, that you could try, so I went along and ate the tiny pieces of bread dipped in honey, the spoons filled with different combinations of jams... It sufficed, but made me miss an Australian aspect of markets and festivals.
I really enjoyed the entertainment aspect of the Fiestas del Pilar. All along the Paseo de Independencia, the main street, there were musical groups from all over Spain and South America, as well as dancers and percussionists. I spent a great deal of time watching these groups, listening to famous Spanish songs being sung in Spain, by Spanish people. It was really amazing and caught me off guard, making me think, "Wow, here I am in Spain, hearing these songs that I learnt the Spanish colours and days of the week to." This group on the left were really great. There was a cafe right next to where they were playing, so I'd bring my diary along, have a coffee and relax listening to them play.
One dance group. As you can see, there were lots of people that came along and watched.
Percussionists playing to a crowd of people.
The 12th of October was an incredible day, that showed a great insight to the history of Spain and how they dressed. Everyone dresses up on the 12th of October, in traditional dress. This is a tradition that goes back around sixty or seventy years. Sixty years ago, the Spanish wore different clothes, obviously, than today. They had clothes for working, for going out, for church, for weddings, for at home, etc..., and for fiestas. The clothes they wear today, are the clothes they wore for fiestas. Each province wore a different style dress, but they stay true to the clothing back then. María and Javier dressed up on the 12th, with tradtional Zaragoza clothes. María wore a necklace that was fifty years old, a scarf that was 125 years old, a skirt that was decades old... everything that she wore had been worn first by a relative during those times. I was blown away by the completely different style of clothing it was, and the accuracy it held to what they really did wear.
This photo is of the Virgin Mary and her 'dress' of flowers. As you can see, a lot of people didn't dress up as well!
I really enjoyed being able to see another different part of Spain, and participate in another one of the innumerable fiestas!
I have been kept busy since then, as my grandparents from Australia have visited me! We went on a little trip, which you will soon hear about.
Apart from that, I have been attending school, and have been really enjoying it. Saying that, I really feel restless. It is such a weird feeling, knowing that I have three months left of my exchange, which will go really quickly, and then I'll be in Australia. I am beginning to understand how little time I have left, and how I need to keep grabbing everything my exchange has to offer with both hands. Exchange is not easy, but I think I've been given an extremely incredible year. Here I am, in another country, living a culturally different life as a local, speaking a different language and gaining a second home along the way. Some days are great, where I don't have trouble speaking, where I feel like I'm progressing everyday, and other days where I feel like I haven't improved at all and that I should just pack up and give up. The excitement of the adventures, the family, the friends that await me in Australia are so alluring, that I need to tell myself often to focus on the now. On the today. On Spain, and what it has to offer. Before I came to Spain, I was petrified of the whole year aspect of the exchange. I thought that a year would mean that when I came back everyone would be gone, that everyone would forget that I existed... that if I left, I wouldn't come back to the same Australia. I can't say that nothing has changed and that it'll be like I never left, because I don't know that yet. I don't know what going back will be like. All I know, is that there was no reason to be petrified. There is no reason not to go for the year. I will have Australia for many more years to come (I hope!), but I will only ever have Spain, this experience, this time of my life once. That is a blessing that I still don't comprehend. This year has been the perfect year for me, filled with so many good times, so many challenges, so many events that have made me grow up a little. So many times where I've realised how much I need God in my life, how I need to follow Him, and celebrate the life He has given me. Life here in Spain has shown me a new type of celebration, a new type of joy, a celebration that is as old as this country, a joy that is as strong as its people. A joy that I pray I've been able to bring into my life, so that when I come home in February, I'll be able to have a little bit of Spain and the people I love dearly with me. There is a warmth here, that I love. A passion for life, a sense of 'eat now, work later', that both infuriates me and makes me laugh. Spain is filled with contradictions. Spain makes me angry, frustrated, but also content and joyous. Australia will, hopefully, be seen with news eyes. Eyes that have come from a country that celebrates everything, enjoys everything, that loves everything, that is passionate. I hope I will be able to see Australia with these things in mind.
Sometimes I wish I could bring Tudela back to Australia. It would make things so much easier.