Monday, April 30, 2012

General Strike in Spain

There was a general strike in Spain on March 29th. Everything was closed. Well...everything but the bars. My vacation started early, because the bus schedule was limited.

A nice gift from some friends

This made me smile. Someone sent this lovely gift to me.

The candy is already gone. Yes, I am a cookie monster and just a plain old chocolate monster. Don't judge me!

More photos of las fallas


view from the castle in Sagunto

another view from Sagunto

the arts and sciences building

the arts and sciences building


the falla before...

the falla after they burned it!

the finished product of the Virgin



the burning of Elvis and Jimi

the 1am ceremony in the town hall square

the day after march 20

More photos from Las Fallas

the other side of that strange falla...

signifies how the "chinese man" is overcoming US.

the former president of Spain

Italian president

People's party of Spain

Las meninas

Da vinci


Plaza mercado

The beach in Canet d'en Berenguer 

A nintendo falla!

Las Fallas- (March 15-March 19, 2012)

Dr. Sandarg, a professor of Spanish at Augusta State University in Augusta, GA once told me that there are three festivals that a person must attend if he or she travels to Spain: Sanfermines in Pamplona (July), Semana Santa in Seville (April), and Las Fallas in Valencia (March). 

I attended Sanfermines with her July 2010. I knew that I wouldn't be able to experience semana santa in Seville so I made up my mind to stay in Valencia until all the fallas were burned to the ground.

I have never attended anything like Las fallas. It is celebrated in conjunction with el día del padre ( St. Joseph) which is every March 19. Fireworks are set off at the beginning of the month to signal the beginning of the festival. The main events of Las fallas happen March 15-19. Because this is one of the biggest parties in the world, people must make their hotel reservations really early. I tried to make hostel reservations in January, but they fell through. With the help of friends, I found other accommodations.  We all stayed together in a village outside of Valencia which had its own fallas celebration.

The fallas are puppets (ninots in valencian) that are constructed of paper maché and wood by various neighborhoods throughout valencia( casal faller) There are large sculptures for the adults and small ones for the children. The fallas usually make political statements, although I think I saw some innocent ones. On March 15th, the construction of the fallas are completed and the five-day party begins! During this period, people from all over the world crowd the streets and throw firecrackers. It's a mad house, but very exhilarating. Officials also make rounds to judge the fallas. During the week, there is also a mayor (woman) and a minor fallera (girl) chosen.

There are several important events that happen during those 5 days:
La despertá- bands from all the communities begin their parades. I was not able to hear the ones early in the morning, because I stayed in a small community near Sagunto called Canet d'en Berenguer. I'm glad we were here, because it was much more peaceful than Valencia city with all the tourists.

La Mascletá- This is the daily fireworks show in the town hall. We saw this our first day in Valencia. We arrived in Valencia on Friday morning, rested a little, and made our way to the town hall.

La Plantá- when the fallas are supposed to be finished or ...planted.

L'Ofrena flora- This is the offering of flowers to the Virgin. A wooden structure of the Virgin Mary is constructed and then filled in with red and white flowers. Flowers are then offered to her. Flowers surround the hall where she is placed. Plaza de la virgen. The workers begin by placing paper of the the structure to outline where the flowers will be placed. The structure is complete by the last day.

Ells Castells- These fire works are at 1am outside of the old castle in Paseo Alameda

La Nit del Foc- these fireworks happen at 1:30am on March 18th. They are the largest fireworks before the burnings. They can be seen on the bridge or near the castle.

La Cremá- the burnings of the fallas. The burnings of the children's fallas (fallas infantiles) begin at 10pm on March 19. It is impossible to see them all, because there are hundreds of them placed through Valencia. I was able to see the one outside of my hostel.
 The children's falla that won first place is burned at 10:30pm. At 11:00pm, the children's falla that is in the town hall is burned.

The burnings of the adult fallas begin at midnight. At. 12:30am, the adult falla that won first place is burned. And finally, at 1am, the falla in the town hall square is burned. There are fireworks before the burning and then music is played at the falla burns to the ground. It's the most amazing display of pyrotechnics that I have every seen. After the burning of the main falla, I went back to my hostel and happily went to sleep.

So how did I feel? I loved las Fallas. As my friends know, I hate being around crowds of people. I was  just glad to be there. I was frightened and excited at the same time. I'm grateful that I was able to stay until the burnings. I mean why go if you don't stay until the end?

So I've been to 2 of the 3 most important events in Spain. I'm satisfied. I'll catch semana santa another year. I'm sure of it. Some people may say that I may never have another chance to come back to Spain. Well, someone said that to me in 2010...and look at me now. :)

About Valencia:

Valencia is an autonomous community located on the mediterranean coast of spain between Catalonia and Murcia. It is of course famous for its paella, warm weather, beautiful beaches, las fallas, location, the city of arts of sciences, and various other things that I can't remember. The official languages of Valencia are Spanish and Valencian, a dialect of Catalan.

Some of the things I did while there:
-I went the the arts and sciences building
-I played volleyball on the beach with Belgians
-I ate paella on the beach and then was entertained by a friend who complimented the Indian chef.
-I went looking for a bank in a town where I was sure some little girls were trying to distract me so they could throw firecrackers at me.)
-I at at cien montaditos
-I drank horchata in Sagunto
-I danced at an outside concert in Sagunto
-I at churros and chocolate
-I went to the beach in Sagunto
-I saw the castle in Sagunto
-I walked to the top of the Cathedral of Valencia
-I went to a ham fair in Valencia
-I literally walked around all of Valencia city
-I will add more things as I remember them. :)

Ayuntamiento de Valencia - Town Hall square

the falla in the town hall square

Elvis and Jimi Hendrix

haha. alice in wonderland

View from the cathedral

Another view from the Cathedral

Preparing the Virgin

The cathedral that I went up

falla infantil

a very strange falla- the back of this falla will be in the next posting, brace yourself

the castle

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Birthday

Hello all,

I have yet to write about my trips in the past month. I've been very busy with things. The third week of March I went to Valencia to observe las fallas and the first two weeks of April I traveled to Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba, and Sevilla. I will tell you all about it this weekend. I never really had a chance to rest before I started work today. I returned from Sevilla yesterday. Sevilla to Córdoba, Córdoba to Madrid, Madrid to Logroño. I traveled for 11 hours but with breaks in between each trip. When my birthday began, I was still on the bus. I returned to Logroño at about 1:30am. Exhausting! I didn't get a chance to see Granada.

In fact, I haven't been to all of the places that I planned to visit. Money limits my travels. :( Anywho. Now my goal is to visit the remaining autonomous communities of Galicia, Extremadura, and Murcia. I want to visit friends in Naples and Dublin, but I might have to wait for another time.

Anywho...My birthday
So I didn't get to do anything special, because I had to work. I spend all my Mondays in Haro. The first thing I did was give myself the gift of sleep. I allowed myself a couple more hours than usual. I sat around some more and then went to work. I had a fairly easy day. Only two of the teens showed up for conversation class. It turned out great. We talked about our vacations and then told jokes. I told them corny jokes. They told me corny jokes. Good fun.
For example: (told by a 16 year old)
Doctor: I have been trying to contact you. I have some good news and some bad news. Which one do you want first?
Patient: the good news
Doctor: You have only 24 hours left to live.
Patient: Woah. If that's the good news, what is the bad news?
Doctor: I have been trying to contact you for 23 hours.
here are the ones I told them (

At the adult school, I taught the students about American weddings, and they described spanish weddings for me. There were some very bitter people. One guy said that "I do" means "yes, I will be your slave and carry this ring to... I mean have you seen Lord of the rings?!" He also said that the groom is the victim and the vicar should be called liars. mmk.
Afterwards, I had conversation practice with some basic 2 students. They said it was tradition to pull the ears of the birthday person. So two people pulled my ears simultaneously. Haha. So instead of birthday hits or birthday candles, I got birthday ear pulls. Woo woo!

After practice of course, I went to my sevillanas class and was surprised by how much I remembered after a two week break!

And how will I finish my night? By sending in my federal and state taxes, of course.

Well, at least I'm Spain. I've never spent my birthday out of country. I'm alive and well and on an 8 month trip. That's good enough for me.

Pura Vida!

Monday, April 9, 2012