It has been over a week since I wrote last, but I swear I've been busy doing other things much more exciting than updating my blog. So I hope you'll forgive me. In fact, the only reason I've decided to update now is because I'm putting-off studying for the exam I have this Thursday. :)
My weeks have been spinning by, each day filled with classes, delicious meals, and an adventure of some capacity. I am learning and discovering at a rate I never have before, and it is incredibly invigorating. The past weekend was particularly notable so I'll describe it more detail beginning with Friday.
Most Fridays after class our program faculty takes us on an adventure of some sort. This Friday we took the metro to the most Northern part of Getxo where we found ourselves at the foot of a mountain called Serantes. Beginning at 2 pm, we hiked up that bad boy for toy hours, chatting and getting to know one another along the way. The sights were breathtaking, and the weather was deliciously pleasant. Upon reaching the top we gathered for a picnic lunch before making our way back down.
The next morn' I was up bright and early to enjoy lunch at my host aunt's house about an hour away. She and her husband live in a big, beautiful Spanish-style home on acres of land with a fruitful and gorgeous garden to show for it. In fact, this is where my host mom sources most of the veggies for my meals during the week. We cooked together, worked in the garden a little, and then enjoyed a hearty feast of shrimp, iberico ham, salad, fresh bread, and steak cooked over their fireplace. I was introduced to my host aunt and uncle, cousin and her boyfriend. Everyone was incredibly kind and warm, I even got to Skype with my other host cousin that is working in Vienna currently.
The next day I was invited to attend a wine tasting excursion with my friend Annie and her host mother in the Rioja region of Spain. You may not be familiar with Rioja, but if you've ever had a decent wine from Spain, it probably came from a vineyard in Rioja. We left Getxo around 9 am with a bus of about forty 50+ year old Spaniards. The next portion of my day will go down in history as my most embarrassing moment. Ever. Let me preface this story by saying that I consumed copious amounts of coffee and orange juice with breakfast this Saturday and that I also did not use the restroom before leaving the house. Rookie mistake, I know. Anyway, the ride to Rioja was well over an hour long and about 20 minutes in I had to pee, like really badly. I was a big girl for the next 40 minutes or so but knowing that public restrooms are rarer than gold in Spain, I knew I had to speak up. About 10 minutes away from our destination the bus driver pulled over, Annie's host mom led me out to a grassy knoll, and told me to squat. Mind you, this was a huge festival and there was a line of cars behind me...just watching. I awkwardly started at her, repeating "no," thankfully this word is the same in Spanish. However, she was persistent and made me feel like an alien for thinking twice about such an act. Just then Annie came to my rescue with an umbrella that she used to cover my lady parts while I did the deed. I then boarded the bus where forty 50+ year old Spaniards broke out into a congratulatory applause after which I returned to my seat and died.
After that business was behind me, we headed onward to the Rioja Wine Festival! The festival opened with a boy and girl from each region of Rioja carrying a bucket of grapes from their vineyard and adding it to a single large bucket. After each region had added their grapes, a selected couple smashed them with their feet. The wine was then served to the crowd. It was a beautiful ceremony.
After trying three wines at the festival while listening to traditional Basque music and watching Basque dances we boarded the bus again and headed to lunch at a nearby restaurant. There were courses upon courses of delectable Spanish food grown and processed locally. Of course the wine was every-flowing, and the conversation vibrant and lively. Annie and I did our best to keep up with our Spanish-speaking friends, but our brains were fried at the end of our 12 hour day. After dining, we visited a beautiful medieval town with oodles of charming shops, cafes, and homes.
Without a doubt, Sunday was an experience like I've never had before and am not likely to have again. It was so amazing to learn about and share in the Basque culture than has been suppressed so intensely over the course of the last century. Watching the Basque people sing their songs and speak their language freely was so moving. It's moments like these that restore my faith in progress and equality. Life keeps swimming along here, and I am brought to life each morning with intense gratitude.