Monday, February 13, 2012

Post 6: the South of France

La huelga in the streets of Bilbao
It's hard to believe that I've already been away from home for a month.  This journey is going quick, but I still have so much to look forward to.  For example, next weekend is Carnaval.  For those of you who do not know what this is, it's a lot like Mardi Gras in New Orleans with a touch of Halloween, and a dab of U of I's Unofficial St. Patrick's Day.  I'm pretty excited to check it out with the new friends that I've made here in Bilbao.

Last Thursday, I saw my first huelga (strike).  I was slightly alarmed when I saw some protesters put a sign on the statue of my fellow American John Adams that read, "Queremos tu pensiones!" (or "We want your pensions!).  I was tempted to remove the sign like a proud American, but quickly remembered that I was completely surrounded by angry protesters whose favorite colors are not red, white, and blue.  Apparently, many people here believe that all Americans receive pensions and are trying to obtain the same.  It's a nice fantasy, but I highly doubt that John Adams is going to be able to help the U.S. or Spain with making this fantasy a reality.
In Bayona, France, we turned a corner and
were surprised by this breathtaking castle.

On Friday I went to Bayona in the South of France and Hondarriba on the Spanish side of the border between France and Spain.  We didn't get to spend much time in either place so it kind of felt like I was speed dating each place.  Both places were beautiful, but if I had to choose, Hondarriba would definitely be getting the second date.  Both places were by the water, which is always a treat for a Chicago (or should I say Chicaaaaaago) girl, but the ocean view and the architecture in Hondarriba won me over.  Plus, I could actually understand what the people there were saying, which is always a big plus in my book.

On Friday night, I gave the Guggenheim a second chance.  I actually really enjoyed it this time; however, that could be because they were doing their monthly event "Art After Dark" and I didn't see any of the museum's so-called art.  For this event, they basically convert the museum into a club.  They bring in a DJ, bartenders, and set up a light display that reflects off of the silver exterior of the museum.  This month the DJ was a cross-dressing man who wore more make up than Mimi from "The Drew Carey Show."  

At this event, I tried my first calimocho, a drink that is a mix of coke and red wine.  It's really popular around here.  This was a bad decision for two reasons.  Reason #1: A calimocho is supposed to be the cheapest drink around; however, I ordered it at the Guggenheim so it ended up being the most expensive drink that I've ordered here.  Reason #2: I do not like coke or red wine.  This was therefore a poor drink choice, but it was definitely better than expected.  This just proves that you can't dislike something that you never tried.

At the beach in Hondarriba, Spain
My Spanish skills have definitely improved.  I don't think that I necessarily spoke slowly before, but I definitely speak faster now.  Sometimes I listen to myself speaking to locals and wonder to myself if I'm speaking too fast.  I know this is definitely not the case especially considering that this region of Spain is famous for having the quickest speakers, but it definitely gives me a confidence boost.  I've even made friends with a couple of women at a store located under the apartment that I live in here.  I made a  snack purchase at their store once and now they get excited whenever they see me.  They invite me into their store, introduce me to their friends who are hanging out with them in their store, and talk to me for awhile.  They love to ask me about home.  Many times, other customers will get excited and talk to me too.  It's an odd feeling to be liked here for being American, but I'll take it.  I definitely feel the love in that store.

Until next time... ¡Adios!

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