Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Strange Fruit 2

I ended the last entry in this series with a note about a pet peeve-- the infuriating and ubiquitous Spanish bar napkin. So I'll start with another one for this second edition of "Weird Things Spanish People Do That You Probably Didn't Know About."

1) They leave dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk
Obviously, this is a problem in the US, too, and in other countries. But as someone who is hoping to hit 41 countries by the end of this year, I can say that I have never been anywhere where the dog poop situation is quite so bad. My theory is that this problem is due to a lack of green space or bushes (for disposal) and a culture of impunity. Spaniards leave poop everywhere. The river walk in Talavera along the Rio Tajo is like a damn obstacle course. I can't count the number of times during my stay in Spain that I was walking along looking at the scenery -- wrought iron balconies over windows in sugary colors, charming side streets under stone arches-- or even just looking at a map and ... SQUISH. Ugh. It's true that laws exist against such practices, but they are poorly enforced. Gross.

The famous balconies of Madrid. But don't get too distracted...

2)  They say completely meaningless things to fill the silence
While it's true this kind of phrase exists in every language,  the phrase "bueno, pues nada" (which translates directly to "Okay, well... nothing") is surprisingly ubiquitous. It usually pops up at the end of a conversation, when things have more or less finished up and neither party has anything left to say. Where an American would probably stay mum and look around awkwardly (and, let's be honest, pretend to text a friend), a Spanish person is more likely to pull out this bad boy. The phrase is a good indicator that the conversation is now finished; the equivalent of "So, uh... yeah." It is a placeholder. It literally serves no other use.

3) They narrate their actions
This is something specifically that I've noticed since my arrival in Talavera. Maribel, one of my co-teachers here, often will come into the staff room Morgan-Freeman style (that is, doing voice over for her life.) "I'm going to wash my hands," she'll announce to no one in particular. Then; "Well, I guess I'll go upstairs." Similarly, my roomate, Judith, would never dare going to sleep without announcing: "I'm going to bed! Goodnight!"

I'll admit it, my American reaction is: '...So? Why are you telling me? What do I care?' But when I asked Judith about this habit, she explained that it's about being polite. If Maribel merely walked into the staffroom without saying anything, it would be like not acknowledging my presence; similarly, if Judith went to bed without telling me it would be an indication of bad blood between us.

Spaniards: human news tickers

4) They mean something totally different than Americans/British people do when they say "Let's meet this morning" or "I'll talk to you this afternoon" 
You probably know that Spanish people eat on an entirely different schedule than Americans/Brits/most of the non-Mediterranean Western world. Lunch is between 2 and 3; dinner is between 9 and 10:30. What you probably didn't know, however is that the eating schedule affects the working definition of "morning" and "afternoon." One is permitted to say "Buenos dias" until 2 pm and "Buenas tardes" until 8 or 9. Thus, I offer you the following tip when making plans with a Spaniard: keep in mind that meeting "this afternoon" means that any time between 3:30 and 8 is up for grabs. This can be especially confusing when talking to a Spaniard in English. He or she may say "I am only free this morning," and although the language is English, the idea of morning is still Spanish-- leaving lots of potential for misunderstanding.

5) They eat bread with EVERYTHING
Seriously, everything. My favorite story to tell about this habit takes place in Santander, with a couchsurfing host.We were preparing lunch from some leftovers: tortilla de patatas (kind of a quiche with potatoes inside) and arroz a la cubana (rice with peas and meat), plus some pasta we made to finish the meal off. There, amongst this cornucopia of carbohydrates, my host exclaimed in horror, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry! I forgot the bread!" Needless to say, I did not mind.

The classic "tortilla" with potatoes ... and bread

From what I can tell, this only applies to Manchegos, people born in Castilla la Mancha, where I live this year. When asked a question they don't have an answer for, instead of saying "Yo no sé" (I don't know), they say: "Yo qué?"-- "What do I know?" I don't know what it is about that little difference that gets me, but I always enjoy walking around and overhearing people say "What do I know?" What, indeed, do any of us know? That's deep, Castilla la Mancha. That's deep.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Strange Fruit, 1

A barman at his station in Cadiz
After two and a half years living in a foreign country, the idea of what is "normal" has redefined itself many times over. The strange quirks that jumped out at me so dramatically when I first arrived now seem obvious. It's easy to forget that I ever didn't know that a long weekend is called a "puente"--or bridge-- because it often connects a legitimate holiday with the weekend, taking innocent days with it. And it comes as second nature that I have to think about what time I take out the trash because if a policeman saw me bring it out before 8 PM I could get fined. Although it takes some effort to return to that everything-is-new state of mind, I've been meaning to post some observations for awhile, so I'll do my best.

Thus, I present to you: 4 Strange Things Spaniards Do (That You Probably Didn't Know About.)  And if you enjoy these, I'll post four more next week, as well!

1) They say goodbye instead of hello
I've written about this before in a different form, so it makes a good place to start. One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Palencia two years ago was my neighbors' insistence on saying "Buenos dias (good morning)/"Buenas tardes (good afternoon)" and "hasta luego" (see you later) during our brief interactions in the elevator. It struck me as very odd, since American elevator etiquette relieves the rider from interacting with his/her riding companions at all. Why, I thought, waste the energy to greet someone, only to have to say goodbye to them 15 seconds later? (Plus, I found the Spanish way of saying "Hasta luego", which seems to elide multiple syllables into the linguistic ether, endlessly mysterious.) I was told, however, that not acknowledging one's companions in elevator travel would be a serious insult. Greetings are of tantamount importance here.
The strangeness only grew over the years: during walks in the evening paseo, I heard neighbors greeting each other, and once in awhile instead of hello's I heard instead "Hasta luego!" It seemed very strange that a person would start an interaction with someone by saying "See you later!", but after my previous assumptions I kept this thought to myself-- until I started to hear it more and more after I arrived in Talavera. Finally, I brought the topic up with my roommate. She looked at me like I was crazy. "Why would you open up a conversation with someone if you had neither the time nor intention of talking with them?" she asked me. "This way, we're saying 'Yes, I've seen you, but I don't have time to stop. We'll talk later, another time.'" I admit that this is a much more sensible explanation than I was expecting.

2) They tell strangers 'bon appetit'
Spaniards eager to improve their English often ask me what Americans say to each other before they eat. I am forced then to explain the awkward fact that we don't have any special phrase-- that, in fact, we stole the French phrase 'bon appetit' for the purpose (and that, actually, we stole a lot from the French... and the Germans and the Greeks and so on). 
 This is often confusing to them because the phrase "buen provecho" is an important part of Spanish etiquette, and it's hard for them to imagine a language that doesn't have its own version. Here, one says "buen provecho" before eating with friends or coworkers (usually in more formal settings), the same way one might use "bon appetit" in the US. But the big difference is that some people also say it to anyone they see eating, even strangers. They see it as a breach of etiquette not to do so. 
How seriously do they take this etiquette, you ask? Let's take Saturday a few weeks ago as an example. Hannah came to visit me from Jaen, and I took her to the monthly medieval-style market that takes place along the ancient walls here. (Did I mention that Talavera has 800-year-old Moorish walls? Cool, right?) We bought hunks of empanada, pastry stuffed with meat and veggies, and took them down to the river to eat by the Roman bridge (which is actually a Moorish copy of an earlier Roman bridge. Double cool!), while watching the water birds fly by. As we were tucking in, a bicycle came whizzing down the path in front of us. We barely had time to register his blur zooming past us before he was gone, with merely the call of "Buen provecho!" to let us know we hadn't imagined him.
So: really seriously.

The "Roman" bridge, Talavera

3) They continually use napkins that don't actually work
 Spanish bars are a nationwide gem: of this there is no doubt. On any corner in any Spanish city or town you can find one: a little counter, tucked in a corner, shabby but clean; a polished espresso machine, buzzing and whirring; a beer or cider tap flowing at all hours of the morning and evening; and a small TV playing a talk show, bullfight, or soccer game in the corner. There's always an old guy in a great hat having a beer (even at 11 AM); there's usually a leg of ham, half decimated, by the cold tapas display. Depending on the region, the walls are full of Basque slogans, hung with Real Madrid posters, or decorated with elaborately-painted tiles. And there are always, always napkins in polished chrome holders-- napkins which sully the good name of Spanish bars; napkins that defy logic and even, it seems occasionally, the laws of physics.
For the truth is that these napkins seem specially formulated not to actually do anything. Pulling one out of the dispenser, they always seem unobtrusive enough. They usually say something like "Thank you for your visit" on them; they're of normal size and close-to-normal texture. AND YET. Try to do something napkin-like with them, such as wipe off your hands after a gooey chicken wing or sop up a puddle of spilled beer... and you will somehow find yourself somehow messier than before, the napkin seemingly untouched. They are the scourge of the Spanish bar because of their low level of evil: they are just unobtrusive enough that after this particular instance you will forget all about your hatred of them... until, yet again, you find yourself helpless against an olive oil spot on your sleeve. They are everywhere, in literally every bar in this country, which means that people persist in buying and using them. I am baffled. BAFFLED, I tell you.

4) They throw napkins on the floor of perfectly respectable bars and restaurants
Oh, and another thing about napkins. A traveler walking into a Spanish bar (as described above) might be confused and disgusted to find the floor littered with crumpled paper. Fear not, however: actually, this is a good sign. Traditionally, throwing one's napkin on the floor of a bar has been a compliment, a way to show one's approval of the food. In fact, when I went to a famous Madrid tapas bar last year to write a story for GoMadrid (which you can find here), the owner told me that during the restaurant's golden age they used to employ people whose sole job was to sweep crumpled napkins and shrimp tails off the floor every 20 minutes. That means that, at least in theory, the more napkins on the floor of a bar, the better you can expect the food to be. Or, you know... maybe it's just a really dirty bar.
 (If I'm honest, the feeling of finishing up a tapa-- a nice piece of cheese and bread or some grilled pork in rich, savory sauce-- and throwing my napkin on the ground is thrilling in some small way. Plus, it's a chance to put those damned napkins in their place.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On Horcruxes and Homes

What a view. Cape Elizabeth, Maine

It’s twilight, and I’m at my parent’s beach house outside of Portland, Maine. I am out at “the Point,” which I regularly describe to people as my favorite place in the world. It is a rocky promontory jutting out a few hundred feet into Casco Bay, surrounded on three sides by sighing waves; wheeling seagulls; and idyllic views of other cottages, seaweed-covered rocks, and lobster buoys. Across the cove, the world-famous Portland Headlight twinkles once every few seconds; on foggy days you can hear its low moan, as well. This place, in its tranquil perfection, is a three-minute walk from my parents’ house, and I go there every chance I get. However, living the expat life I do, those chances don’t come very often these days.

This particular evening, I’ve come out to the point with a friend and a glass of wine. We’re having one of those deliciously meandering evening discussions about life, but as the sunset deepens, we can’t help but grow silent. The heavy clouds of earlier in the day are giving way to a radiantly-setting sun whose rays are somehow intensified by the low angle, seeming to set alight the thicket of weeds and wildflowers that grows down the spine of the cliff. Openmouthed, we watch the conflagration grow, staining the water pink. When the show is over, we pick up our empty wine glasses and walk back to the house. But as we start down the path, I feel a deep ache at the idea that in a few weeks I am going to have to leave this place again. I take a breath, straighten my shoulders, and put it out of my mind. This is the life I’ve chosen.

So, what I’m saying is: I was going to write about this anyway, but Pico Iyer got there first.  A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to Mr. Iyer's recent TEDtalk-- he has long been one of my favorite travel writers-- and I was excited to see the topic: "Where is home?"

Mr. Iyer's family is from India; he was born in the UK and has lived in Rio, Japan, and the US. He spent much of his TEDtalk discussing just what that means. When people say, "Where do you come from?" does that signify, "Where were you born?", "Where do you see your doctor and your dentist?", or "Which places goes deepest inside you?" When I got to this point in the lecture I actually had to pause it so I could bang on the table and grin and send it on to other traveler friends.

I remember the first time in college that I referred to going back to Wesleyan as "going home," and how strange that felt; how quickly going back to my host family's house for lunch in Kunming became "going home;" how I struggled to figure out if my apartment in Allston was 'home' in Boston or if going to eat dinner at my parent's house was "home." In Spanish the word casa translates as both 'house' and 'home,' which is confusing but poignant. Although I'm glad English separates those concepts, the word is still equally slippery. 

The ruins of a Visigoth temple in the basement of the Palencia cathedral, one of my favorite Palentino secrets

Going back to Boston (so easy to type the word "home" there, but that’s the point) this summer, everything was comfortable, familiar, full of love and history. But in the TEDtalk, Mr. Iyer talks about how the "beauty of being somewhere foreign is that it slaps you awake," which is a perfect way to explain a feeling I never had a name for.  So I wonder: is home friends and shared jokes and comfort? Or is it where one feels challenged and excited, always facing newness, that special kind of ‘awake’? Is it where one learns, where one works, where one loves? What if home could be all those things, could be multifaceted instead of one address and one family? My favorite line of Mr. Iyer’s entire talk was about the community of travelers and expats he’s built around himself. They, too, hold this idea of a multifaceted home. “Their whole life,” he says, “will be spent taking pieces of different places and putting them together into a stained glass whole.  It’s less to do with a piece of soil than a piece of soul.

That piece of phrasing is particularly perfect for the idea I wanted to write about even before I saw Mr. Iyer’s talk. Walking back that night from the point, full of an exquisite mix of sadness and joy, I was reminded of nothing so much as a Horcrux. Fans of the "Harry Potter" series will be familiar with the idea of a villain who made himself immortal by cutting his soul in parts and hiding them throughout the world (does that still merit a spoiler alert if the last book came out seven years ago?). I don't seek immortality, exactly, and I'd like to think I'm something less than a megavillain. But it still seems that the life I've chosen requires this process of dividing my soul and leaving it in places that are beautiful, meaningful, or otherwise part of my stained-glass ‘home.’ I feel that same sweet pain when I see the moon reflecting on the Charles River or walk through the colorful chaos of Haymarket in downtown Boston. I feel that loss, small but sharp, when I remember voices raised in harmony with a jangling guitar in a stone basement in Linares, the bustle of Calle Mayor in Palencia at 7 o'clock paseo, Bai farmers scooting their way across the wire bridges in the lush greenery of Nujiang valley, or rainy mornings listening to the foghorn across the water from the warmth of my bed in Portland. I’m coming to terms with the cost of exploring, adventuring, and setting down roots. Letting in beauty and kindness, continually constructing my stained-glass home, means making horcruxes-- leaving tiny pieces of my soul around the world.

And in a way this realization goes a long way toward explaining my feelings in the last weeks. As I’ve settled into Talavera, I’ve found myself thinking longingly of Sunday mornings in my favorite Watertown diner, Friday nights eating tapas and listening to Linarense flamenco, rock concerts at Lemon Society bar in Palencia, or the brilliance of fall colors on my family’s customary apple-picking trip in inland Maine. And I’ve been confused, almost resentful, at the realization that it's possible to be homesick in such a mixed-up confused way, for multiple places and times. I thought I could only miss Boston this way, but that was, in retrospect, a silly assumption. Boston has never been my only home, and when I really think about it I know I would never want it to be. Deep down, this is how I am made: to leave horcruxes like breadcrumbs in my path through the world and always be looking back to find them again.
My blended Pumi-American family in Nujiang, Yunnan, China

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Please excuse our appearances while we rebuild!

We are redesigning for your comfort. Please standby.

(Have a look at the new Instagram while you're waiting! @wideeyeswideworld)

(Expect a new post and new, polished look early in the week.)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flamenco Lessons

The magic of flamenco. I have to say: I'm pretty proud of this photo

On a cold, grey day last March, I arrived early to the nondescript door, and it was still locked. That meant I had the time to sit on the stoop and look around. The neighborhood was modern, bordering on industrial, marked by a vivid mural of a lighthouse. Finally, about fifteen minutes later, I was greeted by a grizzled man in a button down shirt with the top three buttons open, slicked back hair, and wrap-around sun glasses: my teacher. I had signed up to learn to sing flamenco, that intense Spanish musical tradition whose intricate rhythms and sinuous melodies are a world apart. Ever since my arrival in Spain, I'd sought out flamenco concerts any chance I could. Now, a flamenco school was opening in town, as the municipal government sought to keep alive a rich tradition fed by the terrible mining life many Linarenses led during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The man was Jose, or in public Joselete, a nationally renowned Gitano (gypsy) singer whose fame had earned him the right to one name. Over the next four months he would guide, coax, and laugh me through my love affair with flamenco. We'd spend many hours inside the Peña Plomo y Plata, a music-lovers' social club whose canary-colored walls were stenciled with green snaking vines and red guitars. But that was all in the future; for now, we were still strangers.

We sat, introduced ourselves -- I had one other classmate, and the school's director was also in attendance-- and began with a simple lesson. Jose sang the first line of a fandango, and I was expected to repeat it. As if in a nightmare, I opened my mouth but couldn't make a sound.The silence seemed to expand as they watched me and waited. The florescent lights flickered, almost in slow motion; the table was sticky with beer. After what seemed like hours, I managed a squeak, then a croak, then a rough melodic line; and finally something acceptably similar to the line Jose had sung.

My first fandango wasn't easy, of course, or particularly good. I didn't understand the lyrics until they were dictated to me, and not having grown up steeped in the culture and tradition put me at a distinct disadvantage in following the complex rhythms and unpredictable key changes. I spent that class, and the ones in the weeks that followed it, feeling overwhelmed and outmatched. I'd always loved flamenco, this I knew. But I worried perhaps I'd been overly ambitious in beginning my studies. Maybe this was a terrible mistake.

However, later that evening, at home reflecting on my first lesson, I realized something important: as adults, we rarely force ourselves out of our comfort zones. After the rigors of high school physics or geometry (well, in my case), we are no longer required to do things we aren't already good at. In fact, adult life encourages the creation of a niche; each individual doing what he or she does best, finding his or her 'calling'. That, as they say, is what makes the world go 'round-- and that is also what made singing in front of other people such a challenge for me. I'd always enjoyed singing in the shower, was in chorus for a year in middle school, and tried out for a handful of a capella groups in college. But this was entirely new territory: new language, new skill, new world. I had no training or applicable knowledge. I felt entirely out of my depth, and it made my vocal cords freeze.

A concert at the Peña Carmen Linares, fall 2012

When I managed to get over my fear and insecurity, however, the following months were rich, fascinating, and deeply fun. I have a good auditory memory, which helped me in developing my own learning system -- writing down lyrics overlaid with squiggles that attempted to approximate the loops and dips Jose's supple voice executed with such ease. Little by little, I stopped worrying about what would come out when I started singing, whether throaty, creaky, or off key. I barely even minded when Jose giggled at my accent, especially once I noticed that it usually happened because I had faltered, uncertain of the next run, giving him tacit permission with a nervous laugh of my own. Doing something I knew nothing about and wasn't yet good at was actually wonderful. It was freeing. And it was all the more rewarding when, little by little, I improved. I left my comfort zone and then reconstructed that comfort zone around me.

This blog was silent for some months over the summer, and here I'll explain why. For reasons that are boring and long, my application to renew for a third-year in the Spanish Ministry of Education Language Assistant program was denied on a technicality. With some scrambling, I was able to come up with a few stop-gap measures to keep myself in Spain the following --that is, this--year. One, in the north, would not provide me with health insurance. Another, in Linares, would require lengthy and complicated visa procedures and a pay cut. The last was in a completely different, unknown-to-me part of the country and in a much more serious program.

None of the options seemed ideal. At that point I had settled comfortably into Linares. The flamenco community had embraced me in a flurry of cramped, intimate concerts; sweaty, half-drunk dinners; and one 17-hour countryside music-and-food adventure that merits its own recounting. I was happily ensconced in my own apartment with a few good friends and a lot of favorite tapas bars. The idea of leaving was difficult, but the pay cut and visa complexities made it impossible to avoid. Finally, I made the more difficult, practical decision.

A flamenco concert in a cave in Almeria, southern Andalucia

... All of which is a complicated, long-winded way of saying that I find myself now in Talavera de la Reina, Castilla La Mancha, a Roman-founded city of 90,000 an hour and a half southwest of Madrid, in the same county as the more famous Toledo. I am in still a language assistant, but this year I am an employee of UCETAM, a group of American universities developing bilingual programs here in Spain. This means more hours and more money per month, but it also means being the only language assistant in the city: the Ministry's program was cut here two years ago due to continuing economic issues, and UCETAM is a Madrid-based program that is just beginning to expand outside the capital.  There is no established curriculum, dynamic, or social system, no pool of other foreigners for me to turn to for easy friendships. Luckily, I've stumbled upon a friendly, funny roommate to keep me company. Luckily, I've found a few couchsurfers with friendship potential. Luckily, my coworkers are by and large easygoing, helpful, and kind. Still, though, I know by now that the first months in a new city are not easy under any circumstances; and these in particular seem like breeding grounds for loneliness and discouragement.

This summer, I spent 10 weeks in Boston working at an English school and remembering everything I love about my city-- the diners, the live music, the intellectual atmosphere, the diners, the old friends and shared history, and the diners. I was fresh from my late-spring Linares tapas/flamenco adventure filled with warm nights and good people, and as I started packing and mentally readying myself, I couldn't quite believe I'd chosen the hard choice AGAIN... another new city AGAIN, another new school AGAIN, another new life AGAIN. I was mad at myself, freaked out, scared, but I took a deep breath and left anyway.

In these first few weeks, the beats, lyrics, and melodies of some bulerias and tangillos I learned from Jose have occasionally come to me unbidden, in my apartment or the hallway of my new school, and I think I know why. If being brave is feeling afraid or uncomfortable and doing something anyway, then singing taught me an important lesson in bravery. Learning flamenco meant learning to push through and continue to do things I'm not good at yet, instead building that confidence little by little where I am. At the beginning of my time in Talavera, it's important to remember that I already learned this skill. Flamenco taught me how to do this: to step out of my comfort zones-- in this case literally, physically--and build something new.

Joselete in concert at Los Patios in Cordoba

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer hiatus

After weeks beating myself up for never posting, I have decided to give myself a blogging vacation. I have a lot of ideas to share with you all in the fall, when I will move to the Toledano town of Talavera--and I aim to put less pressure on myself as a blogger and accept shorter or simpler or less perfect pieces in hopes of publishing more often. So, I encourage you to watch this space starting in early September. Much like the majority of continental Europe, Wide Eyes Wider World is off during August.

Coming in the fall:
-Reflections on "Coffee and Confidence" and my Linares experience, a year on
-An essay on the challenges and joys of learning flamenco
-RyanAir 2.0: my personal tips and tricks for a painless experience

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Los Patios: A glimpse

For someone who has to know what is hidden around the corner of every winding European street, the Cordoban festival 'Los Patios,' which takes place every May, is something of a gift. The city is known nationally for its gorgeous courtyards, which are hidden in almost every centuries-old house in the old town; Cordobeses take special care to landscape them with cascades of flowers, specially-curated plant arrangements, and even water features. Once a year, these courtyards ('patios' in Spanish) are opened to the public in a contest to see who can create the most exquisite space.

I went to Cordoba last weekend specifically to see Los Patios, and I was not disappointed. Jars of geraniums in blood reds and lurid purples checkered perfectly white-washed walls; waves of impatiens and lines of orchids spilled over stoops. There were flowers dripping, almost literally, from every wall and windowsill. The city was truly transformed.

For me, Los Patios was just as much about the private nooks not opened to public eyes as it was about the (spectacular) contest entrants. For every open patio, there were three just as beautiful left locked away. But not closed completely: the door to such courtyards were often left just a bit ajar, protected but still visible behind elaborate grates made of wrought iron and glass. Maybe it's 'super American' of me to think this way, but I saw those slightly-open doors as a gentle invitation: "Come in and see what we've created." And so I did, ducking into archways and peeking around door frames. I was rewarded with artfully-arranged greenery, gorgeous plaster and stonework, hand-painted tiles, and small glimpses into private Cordobes life.

On Saturday I spent late morning immersed in the floral glory of the Patios contest entrants, then emerged unexpected into a sunny plaza whose western edge was occupied by the typical tin chairs and tables of an Andaluz bar. I luxuriated in a long, late lunch under a tree. I read, drank in the sun, a couple of beers, and the chatter of diners around me. After the last sip of beer and the last crumb of bread, I decided to take a walk in the quiet of siesta (which on a Saturday in Andalucia means Absolute Stillness of a quality rarely encountered elsewhere.) I plotted out a vague route on my map and set off, pausing to snap pictures of roadside shrines and romantic alleyways.

As is my habit, I caught sight of a particularly nice-looking patio in a doorway, behind a wrought-iron door full of curlicues and flourishes. I took a moment to appreciate the artistry of ceramics and miniature palm trees carefully arranged, and as I ducked out of the doorway I saw an old man slipping out of his own house with a little white dog roughly the size of his bushy eyebrows (that is to say that the dog was quite small and his eyebrows were enormous.) For a second, I hoped he might keep the door open--fumble with the keys, perhaps, or adjust the dog's leash-- so that I could catch just an eyeful of his courtyard, which I was sure was as lovely as his neighbor's. But the door clicked shut, and I continued on my way--

-- until a few steps later when I heard "Ccccch!" (This is Castilian Spanish for "Hey you!") I turned, and the little old man motioned me forward, dismissing my look of bewilderment with a wave of his hand. He turned around and unlocked his door again, telling me, "Come have a look inside."

The patio was as lovely as I expected: a medium-sized space, large enough to be comfortable and small enough to be cozy. It was filled with sunlit greenery, a set of tables and chairs (which I immediately fantasized about using for warm, slow coffee-drinking mornings), some enthusiastically blooming flowers, and an exquisitely-painted tiled Virgin Mary as the centerpiece. There were no cascading fuschias; no florescent geraniums. This was a less showy, more self-effacing beauty. It was obvious someone (or someones) spent much-beloved time here. In its flourishing potted plants and slightly askew tiling I could see a sweet and beautiful slice of this man's life-- one he had decided to share, temporarily, with me.

I stood there, taking it all in, and from behind me he explained, "It's because I saw you come out from next door. I said to myself, 'That girl likes patios. I'm going to show her a little bit of trust.'"

I agreed, telling him how much I'd enjoyed discovering the patios, both those in the open and those  hidden away. I took a few photos, then followed him out. He re-locked the door and shook my hand. "Have a great stay here!" he said. "There's a nice garden up the block if you're interested."

I watched him shuffle away, the little white dog trotting along behind him. It seemed remarkable to me. This weekend the city was overrun with visitors, inundated with foreigners, and it would have been so easy for him to be hostile toward these interlopers, or even just indifferent. Instead, he opened his home to me, if only for a moment.

Friday, April 26, 2013


 The San Francisco church, right after its Nazareno blessing

The first time I heard about the madruga processions in Semana Santa was last year in Palencia: a friend mentioned casually that if I thought Easter was intense in the north, I should know that down south processions often went through the night; some even began at 3 am. “But why!?” I asked, puzzled.

“I think it must be the heat,” my friend said, in that way that suggests a person doesn’t actually know the answer to the question you’ve asked. “Sometimes in April it’s already very hot in Sevilla. They want to avoid the heat of the day.” And that was that—we wended our way through our own cold, rainy Easter week, and I didn’t think about late-night processions at all—until I arrived this year in the south.

As I wrote here in my last entry, Semana Santa in southern Spain is more intense on a variety of levels. It occupies a special place in the collective consciousness, and as such it is on everyone’s lips even in the heat of September and the cold of January. From almost the moment of my arrival, people had been talking to me about the wonders of of a Linarense Easter. They mentioned the centuries-old pasos; the special, electric atmosphere; the haunting power of the saetas (the spontaneous flamenco performances I also mentioned last entry.) And almost without exception they recommended the Nazareno, a madruga procession that begins at 3 am on Jueves Santo (Thursday night) and ends in a powerful town-wide blessing in the Plaza San Francisco (madrugar means 'to get up in the middle of the night'.) I knew my parents were coming to visit, and even months before, when we hadn’t made any plans about our travels together, I had already decided we would see the Nazareno together.

In the end, we spent five non-stop-full, gorgeous days in Mallorca, then three more exploring southern Andalucia. We arrived back in Linares in the early evening on Thursday, and despite exhaustion my mother and I managed to get ourselves to Plaza San Francisco to see what all the fuss was about. Despite the fact that I woke up with a terrible stomach bug the next morning, my expectations were more than exceeded. And so here, I present to you a minute-by-minute narration of the unique Linarense madruga: the Nazareno.

10:15 PM: It’s really a carnival atmosphere tonight, although of course outside Carnaval time. Linares feels abuzz, electric—there’s no other word for it. People are running everywhere to and fro, calling to each other “Oye, tio, donde estais?”, buying popcorn from the little mobile snack carts that have materialized around town. People in colored robes, carrying brass instruments or the traditional, eerie coned masks under their arms, cross the road every which way.Walking down the street to catch a couple of processions despite the threatening rain, we say to each other, “Man, this is a weird atmosphere.” and “Have you ever felt anything like this?”

10:30 PM: We end up in the main shopping street, waiting with a chattering mass. The DaVinci café, where I’ve had so many cups of tea, is filled with people, as is La Minera tapas bar across the street (which I have never seen open, let alone full.) Exactly on time, we see a Santa Maria paso come down the main street. The saint is in her raincoat, a thick sheet of plastic, to protect her from the dripping sky. The crowd claps and whoops as the paso passes. I can see the white sneakers scuffing the wet concrete, cut off by hanging material under the platform; the costaleros (men or women who are charged with the holy duty of carrying the paso) call to each other, grunt, make adjustments in their route. I turn and watch them continue into the main plaza, their outline silhouetted against the lit-up green letters of the Cortes Ingles department store. I’ve walked past that store perhaps 50 times; tonight it is transformed into something altogether different.

10:45 PM: The second procession is called on account of two drops of rain. We head home to rest and prepare.

1:15 AM: Lights out, in that strange space of anticipation when you know you will have to wake up very, very soon. My apartment is on the procession route of many brotherhoods; I am not expecting to sleep very well, in any case.

1:45 AM: Just drifting off. The insistent, hard, enormous beat of a drum catapults me out of bed to my window, before I can even remember I’ve gotten up. Below, in a haze, I see blue uniformed bands in epaulets, smudges of maroon with gold braid next to them. They are walking to meet the rest of the procession.

2:10 AM: Roused again by upbeat melodies drifting through my earplugs. I go to the window again and see a group of at least 25 standing in the road by the plaza (not in the plaza, mind you— something I see as indicative of the kind of odd lawlessness that’s taken over the night.) They seem to be talking and hanging around with the band. Maybe they’re warming up?

2:35 AM: Yes, they were warming up. I get out of bed again, more resigned: the insistent beat is back (but not so enormous). Now the band is marching away through the plaza. Outside, more people are walking back and forth than usually do except at the busiest time of the day (when the elementary schools down the street let out.)

3 AM: Try to go back to sleep. Even with earplugs, I’m hallucinating band music. Give up and watch an interview with Amy Poehler online.

3:17 AM: The drums start again. Things must be beginning. I go to wake my mother.

3:27 AM: Hair in bun, shoes on, camera packed, eyes bleary. We walk toward Plaza San Francisco. From all over, people are streaming in.

3:32 AM: We come out in the plaza face to face with another Maria, a gorgeous flower-lined paso fronted with at least 40 3-foot-tall candles, all lit. She’s being lifted out on the street. I stop short. She’s so beautiful.

3:35 AM: We stand, frozen, watching them maneuver Maria. In the process of being lifted onto the costaleros' shoulders, she lists dangerously to the side. I gasp along with everyone else in the crowd.

3:36 AM: Plaza San Francisco is already crowded and filling fast. I can see a second Jesus paso at the far end. They seem to be maneuvering him into position.

3:38 AM: We find a spot in the center of the plaza, facing the church, with the Jesus to the left and Maria up a little hill to the right. A breeze has already blown out several of Maria’s candles and most of Jesus’ as well. People are streaming in, packing tight.

3:40 AM:  Some women in their 30s arrive and settle in a spot a few feet away. They’re talking loudly among themselves, and they have opinions on everything-- who should or should not be taking photos now, how other people should stand etc. I listen to them for awhile and crane my neck toward the church door.

3:52 AM: A few drops of rain start to fall from the cloudy sky. I swear under my breath—if it rains, all this will be cancelled out of concern for the pasos. Umbrellas sprout up immediately, and the crowd around me bursts into complaints. “Ey, paraguas!” they yell; “Put down the umbrella!” Obviously, the women next to me have an opinion on this. When a single umbrella remains up, blocking our view, one yells. “Que fuerte! Pero que fuerte! Poca verguenza!” What little shame you have!

3:56 AM: The sky is holding out. The lone umbrella goes down. The whole crowd around me cheers, and we hear the sound of trumpets. Thirty seconds later, the trumpets sound again-- and all the lights in the plaza go out.

3:58 AM: Waves of silence flood around the plaza, as much quiet as 2000 people can produce, before rolling back into whispers and noise. There’s a slight movement up front, what looks like feathers out the door of the church. I can’t see.

4:01 AM: The people around me are talking about whether this is enough rain to stop the procession. “Is it coming out? Should we wait?” As they talk, we hear more trumpets. People around me are starting to yell some kind of slogan, but I can’t tell what they’re yelling yet.

4:10 AM: The doors open. At first all I can see is candles, then branches attached to those candles, then an enormous paso—probably 25 feet long—filled with glass candelabras and Jesus of Nazareth (El Nazareno). The paso pauses; the whole crowd bursts into applause—maybe 1500 people at 4 am, telegraphing their joy.

4:13 AM: More trumpets, more yelling—this time I can make out what they’re saying. Someone will yell a name, and another group will yell “Viva!” (long live ____!) I deduce that it’s names of Cofradias, brotherhoods that are in charge of parading the saints during Semana Santa. And then people are yelling “Viva el Nazareno!” and the whole crowd is yelling “Viva!” and clapping.

4:19 AM: More trumpets, longer lasting this time. At the end, a true hush goes over the crowd. (Except the group of seemingly drunk 30-somethings next to me. Isn’t it always the way? They’re giggling and chatting and joking. I try to shoot them some dirty looks, but it doesn’t work.)

4:25 AM: They finally shut up, making way for a deep silence and a single ringing note of a triangle. Then a few more notes ping ut in the dark, still, breath-held plaza. A moment more, and clarinets and flutes join, then the whole brass band, and the crowd breaks into the largest cheer yet. A light goes on, illuminating the front of the church. I think we’ve been blessed.

4:27 AM: The Jesus paso starts to move again, with its accompanying band. It moves into position on the road that goes through the plaza. The costaleros lift it, with many preparatory grunts and yells, and a final dramatic jump from knees to standing, with 60 kilos on their backs. I’ll never get used to that; I don’t think it will ever stop being impressive.

4:29 AM: Before they can move out of the plaza, trailing the penitents with the black pointed caps and silver staves, the costaleros stop—a woman is singing a saeta to the saint. In Linares, the costaleros are required to stop any time anyone wants to sing a saeta.

4: 33 AM: It’s a long song and extremely difficult. The woman’s voice is serpentine, undulating, threading in and out of the sounds of the crowd talking in undertone around me. At the most difficult parts, the crowd shouts “Ole!” like we’re at a concert instead of on the street. When she finishes, trailing off, there’s applause. The costaleros jump; the Jesus on the cross moves off around the corner.

4:42 AM: Now focus shifts to the Nazareno Jesus, his candles flickering in light breeze and fine mist. People all around are taking pictures; the band starts to play but again we’re interrupted by another saeta, the woman’s voice strong in the air like cord, sinuous, passionate.

4: 48 AM: To watch the Nazareno be mounted is something truly incredible. The full sculpture and platform must weigh at least a ton, maybe more. I would estimate there are 40 people under there. The paso is trailed by cofradia members dressed in legionnaires outfits, including hats with elaborate white plumes—now I can see what the feathers were before, the cofradia members coming out of the church. The candlelight casts shadows on the dwindling crowd; people are starting to go home to sleep.

4:52 AM: We have more room to move, so we move closer to the Maria. All of the candles in front of her have blown out, but her beauty is unmistakable. The trumpets sound again, followed by gentle processional music. The costaleros jump, grunt, and move out. We linger, watching Maria disappear around the corner after her companions.

5:01 AM: The rain starts again, this time heavier and more insistent. We walk home, feeling truly touched. To see a community come together like this is something powerful. And to see such beauty and magic come to life in a place I think about as a kind of “home” is something extraordinary. Tonight, Jueves Santo, is a night full of “madrugas,” and the same kind of things are happening in Cordoba, in Sevilla, in Jerez, in Granada, on bigger scales—more pasos, more people, more processions.

But to see these streets transformed, to see the places where I walk to go to the post office, to go to school, to get tapas, to drink coffee candle lit, made new—that’s something different. It’s like seeing something ordinary and every day made sacred. Or maybe it was sacred all this time.

The lovely Maria before her candles blew out

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I was on the verge of posting my promised second entry on Semana Santa in Linares. I edited and worked out the kinks on the train ride back from a long-weekend trip up north to Palencia. But then--two enormous things have happened; suddenly. (And I punctuate that strangely because in reality that is how they have been punctuated, incredibly strangely.) Semana Santa will have to wait.

Since the beginning of winter, my Linarense friends have been warning me that northern Andalucia has only two seasons: broiling and freezing. As a Bostonian born and bred, I admit that I brushed them off. In Boston, your reward for surviving the long, dark cold is glorious warmth, an overabundance of flowers and blue spring sky, and ducklings at the Public Garden. Spring means a gradual transition between harsh grays and lush greens. It's logical; it provides continuity. Spring, between winter and summer, makes sense.

Which is part of why I struggled this past Tuesday morning, and all through this week. It's true, they warned me, but I didn't believe them. All through January, February, March, up until as recently as two weeks ago, the sky was grey and dripping. I needed a heater almost constantly to avoid shivering in my drafty apartment. I wore two pairs of socks to bed under two blankets. The trees were bare, the ground barren.

Then, after Easter, I got sick--horribly stomach-bug-bronchitis-10-days-of-antibiotics sick--and when I managed to emerge from my apartment and return to an approximation of my former routine, the smallest signs of change had begun to appear. I noticed buds on the trees in the plaza. On the train up north, the fields were a neon, almost noxious, green, full of new growth. My weekend at "home" in Castilla y Leon with my friend Hannah featured coffee in sudden, absurdly warm sunshine; picnics in the park; and my first sunburn of 2013... And then, back in Andalucia, I returned to a world altered.

The first thing we noticed when we got off the train in Linares was that everyone was wearing flip flops and t-shirts. We stripped off our sweaters waiting for the bus, and when it came the air conditioning was on. Dropping my suitcase in my apartment before my weekly flamenco lesson, I saw that the trees in the plaza were in full leaf, that kind of deep, shady green that seems like it's always been there. "This is some 'I Dream of Jeannie' sh*t," I said to Hannah. "You know, *blink blink* and pop! flowers in the gardens; pop! leaves on the trees."

I had my lesson (more on the amazing time I am having learning to sing flamenco in a future entry), and then strolled the usual 15 minutes back to my apartment. The strange feeling of having walked in on the middle of summer persisted; the twilight was that special purple that characterizes late evening in July. In Plaza Colon, one of the nicer plazas in town, palm trees shaded playing children in the fading light, teenagers in short shorts gossiping and chewing gum and flirting, old couples sitting on benches enjoying the breeze. Trees flowering a lurid shade of magenta bent their heads downward, heavy with blossoms. The scene was absolutely free of any hint of spring. I texted Hannah again: "I feel like I've been Rip Van Winkled, slept for 100 years and woken up in the middle of summer. I feel like I missed something."

It was an important sentiment to hold onto, because when I got home and signed onto the internet, the first thing I saw was my friend Maya, in Boston, posting: "Boston people: STAY AWAY FROM THE COPLEY SQUARE AREA. There have been two explosions at Boylston and Exeter, down by the Marathon finish line." Reading that sentence, I felt an echo from an hour before-- that feeling that I had skipped over something important and arrived in a profoundly unexpected place, one I had to struggle to understand.

That was beginning of a long, awful several days for many people, in Boston and around the world. Maya sent me the news feed she was following, and I lay on my bed, eyes glued to the computer, for some 6 hours. I felt lost, unable to process this sudden turn of events. I read some paragraphs repeatedly, trying to find a way in to understanding. But I just couldn't seem to believe the terrible things I was reading about what is supposed to be one of the happiest, most positive, most festive days of the year in a city that so many people (myself included) presumed without question would be free of violence of this kind.

For me, the most unsettling part was the idea that the happiest time, crossing the finish line-- a place that another writer on another blog called "the site of the most human potential"-- could be so suddenly altered. I had taken for granted the natural transition of winter to spring to summer; we as Bostonians had all taken for granted the easy logic of safety and order during one of our most hallowed days. But there was nothing logical about how easily this bubble of security, the one we all carry around with us that allows us to go about our lives without fear, could be so suddenly burst, nor about the perpetrators' desire to inflict such suffering (physical or psychological) on innocent people. Nothing made sense about going away for a weekend up north or for an hour to a flamenco lesson and coming back to a world that looked so profoundly different. I thought back to my "I Dream of Jeannie" comment, which now seemed weeks earlier. I wished I could *blink blink* this away, too. In my enormous, empty apartment I felt very alone and very far from home.

The next day I got out of bed with some difficulty, having slept perhaps 3 hours, feeling like a heartsick, shaken zombie. I went to school dreading having to put on a happy face, although surprisingly my hours of teaching that day were the easiest, providing something else to think about. The day was incongruously bright with that same strange mid-summer sunshine, its accompanying chirping birds and lush greenery. Around me, people went grocery shopping, drank coffee, talked to neighbors-- another normal day. Between classes, I checked for updates, found my eyes welling up at descriptions of the victims and the injured, the paramount importance of Patriots Day in New England life, and the kindness of strangers in the face of such sudden upheaval. A few teachers offered kind words. The rest were unaware.

I came home, went straight back to my news feed, and found a post from a fellow expat in China. Somehow, his words managed to echo my own thoughts, and it was a comfort. 

"Today I’m sitting in a virtual corner, all alone in my Chinese office," he wrote. "I’m surrounded by nice people (very nice people, I fact), but they don’t get it. They can’t get it. None of them are from Boston. Hell, none of them are even Americans. The few quiet words that they offered when I first arrived were nice, but they barely helped. Not since my first days after moving here, when I didn't know anybody in this huge megacity, have I ever felt so isolated. What I really want are some Bostonians to commiserate with, to hug."
"Exactly," I thought.

The next days were still difficult, but sleep and time heal many things. I was lucky-- no one I knew was injured (or worse) in the bombings-- and as Boston held vigils, I started to move toward healing, too, across the ocean. I napped, I talked with friends, I discovered a new cafe in the old town behind my house. Its umbrella-shaded terrace seemed the perfect place for a mid-day beer and a tapa of bull's tail in savory brown sauce (it may sound bizarre, but actually it's quite delicious!) Sitting on the bleached brick streets, watching the light mid-day traffic roll by, I soaked in the contrast of orange tree leaves against the sky. I watched a man lean his bold red Vespa against the brown stone of the house next door at an angle so perfectly picturesque that it almost hurt-- and felt peace for the first time in days.

But then Friday morning: chaos again. A friend had arrived for a weekend visit, but I could hardly leave my room and tear my eyes away from the news coverage. It was almost too intense, too bizarre, to be believed. Police chases snaked through what amounts to my childhood, tearing down Mount Auburn street, where I waited for the bus to Harvard Square in my bored and rebellious high school days; past the Town Diner (still my favorite in Massachusetts), where I've eaten dozens of eggs over leisurely Sunday brunches. I watched with horror as the media set up camp at Arsenal Mall, the site of many back-to-school shopping sprees. How could it be possible that the suburban streets five minutes from my childhood home could so suddenly become a war zone, transformed with the same surreal abruptness that had heralded this strange Linares summer?

With relief, Friday night brought some closure. My tired eyes stayed open until 3 am, waiting for the all-clear call, having to know how this was going to end. I fell asleep breathing a sigh of relief along with my fellow Bostonians, imagining our exhalations making my window panes rattle all night. And this weekend, although the summer has continued to blossom,  the temperature has fallen back a little. The trees are still in full leaf, and that specific summer light persists, but the temperature whispers of spring.

I wish there were an easy moral to this, a neat way to sew up the parallels I see here. But in the search for meaning (in something as enormous as the violence and upheaval Boston experienced this week or as small as a sudden season change) things are rarely so simple. That's as close to a moral as I can find: to hold fast to the small beauties-- the sweaty achievement of a goal, a beer on sunny bleach-bricked streets, a neon-green field full of new growth, or a picture of a city you love-- and to understand that that the logic and continuity of New England spring is an unusual luxury in a world that is most often abruptly unexpected, uneven, inexplicable, unfair. Winter can become summer or the dream a nightmare in an instant-- but (as I watched my city prove from afar but always knew in some part of me) together we can make it to the otherside.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Palm Sunday, Mallorca

I've got another Semana Santa post almost ready to go, but the realities of living (in Spain and in general) sometimes get in the way. So, while you wait, I offer you this portrait, which I was thrilled to capture. This little girl was posing for her mother with her palm (almost taller than her!), a traditional craft for Palm Sunday. This picture was taken after the Pollenca Palm Sunday procession, which featured a significant percentage of the townspeople marching through the medieval streets with their elaborately-folded palm fronds and traditional olive branches

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Semana Santa 2013: Passion and light-heartedness in the Andaluz streets

 Hooded penitents march in a Semana Santa processions outside the cathedral in Jerez de la Frontera

After experiencing it last year in Palencia, I thought I knew from Semana Santa. Castilla y Leon (the Spanish state that contains Palencia) is known as an area with amazing Easter festivities. It's true: the processions, in which enormous pasos (statues of bible scenes, sometimes hundreds of years old) roll through town, followed by penitants in eerie hooded costumes and accompanied by complete silence, are affecting and impressive. People come from all over to see Easter in Salamanca, Burgos, and Leon, and I understand why. Something powerful and unique is at play there.When I moved south, people kept telling me: “Semana Santa in Andalucia is different.” They insisted it was both more passionate and less serious, which was a hard combination for me to imagine. In the end, though, that is exactly what I found.

The biggest difference is immediately obvious in any Andaluz Semana Santa parade: the costaleros. Andaluz pasos are similar to their northern brethren in that they are enormous platforms topped with statues, although these tend to be images of saints and Jesus’ last days and beautiful renderings of Mary (well, Maria) on top. Instead of being rolled by the penitents, they are carried by teams of “costaleros” (the ones who carry), between 15 and 40 people depending on the size and weight of their burden. For the weeks leading up to Easter, the costaleros practiced in my neighborhood, training like marathon runners--and it’s a good thing, too, the pasos can weigh more than 1000 kilos.

I would come upon them suddenly, rounding a corner to find them moving slowly, almost silently, along the street. The clues to their presence were the soft thud-thud of their sneakers moving in under an enormous but as yet empty platform, a borrowed police light on top warning drivers to stay away, the ding of a triangle keeping rhythm. A week before Semana Santa, they added weight, building the metal skeletons of their saints on top to simulate the distribution of weight. Later, though, in the processions themselves, the costaleros were almost invisible behind a curtain of cloth, only their sneakers visible, always moving in unison. They'd move a hundred meters, then stop to rest and put the paso down. Then, with grunts and yells from hidden places, they'd jump up, suddenly, landing dramatically with knees bent and the paso on their backs again.

In the course of a few days, I saw processions in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, and here in Linares, and it’s true that by and large the atmosphere was light, funny, social. People chatted with neighbors, penitants texted on their phones as they marched, mobile stands sold snacks and plastic trumpets for the young ones-- all behavior that would never be permitted up north. It felt like a big street party, crowds of people dressed up in their best dresses and slacks, bows in the kids’ hair, gossip and salty snacks on everyone’s lips. There was never a moment of silence, even as the costaleros shuffled by.... but it all stopped for the saetas. These long, intense, deeply-felt and often improvised flamenco songs are sung for the saints as they are paraded through the streets, and they are unique to southern Spain. I heard three saetas during Andaluz semana santa, and each time I was struck by their vocal acrobatics,  pure emotion, and the silence and stillness that would sweep over the scene for just a moment.

That’s where the passion comes in, I think—no, Easter may not be a silent, serious time here in the south, but people certainly feel very intensely about it. Some hate it ("A bunch of hypocrites, they don’t go to church the rest of the year," one friend commented to me); others look forward to it all year with mounting excitement. The costaleros go through enormous pain and suffering in the name of the holiday and their savior. The saeta singers pour their hearts out in front of crowds who turn out from all over town and at all hours (more on that next entry.) And when it rains and the pasos can’t go out (most are considered priceless works of art due to their age and provenance), the people hold each other and cry—real tears.

It was a rainy Semana Santa all over Spain, especially in Andalucia, and ESPECIALLY in Linares (I read in an article today that up to 4 times the normal amount of rain fell in March. In some places up to 6 times!) so there was a lot of crying this year. But one particular, particularly impressive procession took place at 4 am on Thursday night, and I was there to witness it. Stay tuned for my next blog entry to read all about it.

 A late-night procession, bringing a paso home to its church in Jerez de la Frontera