Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Castillo Peracense y Jota en Teruel

This past Monday was a holiday in celebration of San Jorge (Saint George), so we got the day off. There are a surprising number of holidays in April and May here. In fact, next weekend is a four day weekend. I'm having a lot of difficulty keeping up with why we're even celebrating, but I could get used to having all of these free days.

On Sunday, my roommate and I went to Peracense, which is a small village not too far from Teruel. I guess it would be more accurate to say we drove past Peracense, as we didn't even go through the town. Instead, we made a detour up a steep and winding hill to the real attraction, a castle. I've visited a few castles in Spain and Europe in general, but this one was quite unique by comparison. It's situated atop some giant rocks and, because of the color of the stones, blends into its foundation. From afar, I actually didn't notice it at first.

Note that when I say I didn't notice it, I saw it from another angle and from further away. I'm not that blind.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dinosaurs and Mortar Shells

This Thursday, instead of having one of my normal English lessons, I got to go to the local dinosaur museum/theme park in Teruel. By theme park, I don't mean giant roller coasters or anything. The small attractions are mainly aimed at children. It's still quite impressive, considering Teruel doesn't really have anything else that's comparable in terms of being so technologically advanced. One of the students gave us a tour of the main museum, which houses several large skeletal reproductions and even some real fossils and fossilized footprints. I commend the student for attempting to give a presentation in English, given the number of really specific vocabulary words he had to use and the typical shyness Spanish people seem to have about speaking in English. It was a nice change of pace in comparison to being in class and I didn't really have to do anything besides help with pronunciation and a few unknown vocabulary words. I'm also glad dinosaurs still manage to retain their strange allure and weren't just a passing childhood fad propagated by Jurassic Park.

Today, I headed with some students to Monterde de Albarracín to take part in an English-speaking activity. One of the students, Santi, owns an old country house in the small village of Monterde, which is located in La Comarca de Albarracín (kind of like a county that contains several small villages, including Albarracín, where I work). We had originally intended to have a weekend-long retreat, but due to insufficient numbers, we limited it to

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Semana Santa III: Teruel

I spent most of last Friday resting up from my travels, but I decided to go out with David and his lady to the city center to watch the Easter processions. I knew, to some extent, what to expect, which is the main reason I agreed to go. It's such a strange ritual from an American perspective, given the outfit was kind of driven out of style long ago for us by bigots:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Semana Santa II: San Sebastian

This is part 2 of my doings during Semana Santa. Part 1 is here.

I planned to use the midnight bus ride to San Sebastian as a moving hotel of sorts. As it normally takes around seven hours, I would ideally be able to get a full night's sleep and wake up in my destination. The reality was that the entire night was full of sleep-depriving terror as we sped through Spain. I would occasionally doze off momentarily, only to have my head slammed against the window, awakening me to the terrible shrill sounds of the brakes. Every time I woke up, I had to convince myself that I wasn't in a terrible plane crash about to happen. We ended up arriving about an hour early, as refreshed as you might imagine I would have been. Any other time, I may have been ecstatic to arrive early, but showing up in a strange city in near-total darkness, at least an hour before anything will be open, is not quite ideal. I suppose I was happy to have survived the bus ride, though.

I spent my first hour in San Sebastian wandering through the dark streets, trying to find a cafe or something that was open. A little after seven, I found one and had some breakfast and a coffee. I noticed that the newspapers on the bar were in both Spanish and Basque. Basque is not a language I can interpret based on similarities to Spanish or whatever, so I was thankful that most signs and museum information were displayed in Spanish as well. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Semana Santa I: Barcelona

The past week, Spain has been celebrating the Holy Week. Spanish Catholics apparently take Easter more seriously than anyone I've ever seen. Or at least their rituals and celebrations would imply that. I'll get to that later. The important part is that I've had the entire week off to travel. I chose to visit two cities that I've been wanting to visit for some time - Barcelona and San Sebastian. I'm breaking the week up into segments because there are lots of pictures to show and writing to do.

I found a Couchsurfing host named Victor who was willing to let me sleep on his couch for a few days in Barcelona, so Saturday I hopped on the 7:30 bus and headed that way. Along the way, I kept dozing off for lack of sleep. Eventually, I woke up and realized I couldn't read any of the signs. They were all in Catalan. We stopped at a little bus station and I went inside the bar to get something to eat. The bartender asked where I was from and I told him. He then proceeded to announce via microphone that we had an important American in the bar. He showed me his tongue-in-cheek "how to smoke in Spanish restaurants" device of which he seemed super proud. It was quite clever. In fact, here is a video someone took of the guy: