Sunday, August 29, 2010

Domingo a Sábado: My First Full Week in Spain

So you may be wondering “Sean, what did you do in your first full week in Spain?”

Well I’ll tell you!

On Sunday, the four of us (Arantza, Maren, Michelle and I) went to the festival in Bilbao (Aste Nagusia). We stopped to watch an interesting group that combines traditional Basque music with flamenco. The group used a Txalaparta (a wooden xylophone-like percussion instrument for two players) and a Txistu, which kind of looks like a recorder. They would play Basque music for a while, and then they would switch over to the flamenco dancers. After stopping at a bar to enjoy a glass of wine, we went to la Plaza Nueva to watch traditional Basque dancing. There was this big circle of people in the Plaza and they would dance a different jig depending on the tune of the pipe and the beat of the drums. Then, we stopped at bar in the corner of the plaza to eat a sandwich and drink some more wine before the fireworks show and let me tell you, the fireworks were absolutely spectacular. That whole night was so much fun and it’s definitely something that I will remember forever.

On Tuesday, Michelle and I got up early to go to the Guggenheim Museum, a museum for modern art. The architecture of the museum is absolutely stunning. It was designed to look like a ship and the titanium sides are meant to represent the scales of a fish, both paying homage to this important port city. Personally, I liked the outside better than the artwork on the inside (see my post below this one). My favorite part of the Guggenheim is the giant dog statue made of flowers, which is near the entrance of the museum; the people of Bilbao affectionately call it “el puppy”. After lunch, Aranzta and Maren took us to the little fishing village of Plentzia, which is about 5-6 miles away from Getxo. It was just this sleepy little town on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and it was absolutely gorgeous. My pictures from the town are linked on the side of this page, and I’m going to go back this week to take more (or you can just click here to see them).

On Wednesday, Michelle and I went back to Aste Nagusia at night to see an Irish band that she likes. The group’s name is “Altan” and I would strongly suggest checking them out if you like traditional Irish music (here). On Thursday we were back in Bilbao, but this time to see the musical “Chicago” at the Teatro Arriaga. Before the musical, we checked out some more traditional Basque dancing in front of the theatre. This time, it was professional dancers dressed in all white with a black hat and a green cloth wrapped around their waist. They had these sticks that they hit in sync with each other as they twist and turned. Oh yeah, and “Chicago” was of course a lot of fun.

Michelle left on Saturday, so now I guess it’s really time to sink or swim (I affectionately called her my lifejacket). Now I have to speak Spanish to her host family without her help or assistance. So far I’m doing pretty well, I can string a sentence together without a problem, but I struggle with trying to tell a story or when I have to switch verb tenses. I’m not beating myself up over this, cause I’ve only been in the country for 11 days now; I just need to practice more. As my parents would say “what’s the key to learning anything?” Práctica, práctica y más práctica.

On Saturday, we also went to the Vizcaya Bridge, which is the oldest transport bridge in the world and a site protected by UNESCO. We went on the elevator that took us up to the top on the bridge so we could walk it; it was very cool. We had such a great view of the bay, of Getxo and Portugalete (another town near Bilbao). After spending some time in Portugalete, we got on the suspension part and crossed the river back to Getxo.

Tonight, I’m going to Bilbao for the end of Aste Nagusia; it supposedly ends with Marijaia in flames (!) and a spectacular fireworks show.

Up next for this week: Going back to Plentzia on Monday (I need to take more pictures!), a blog post about cultural differences on Wednesday, my first Youtube video with panoramic views of Gexto on Thursday and my last day in the Basque Country on Friday.

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