The weather outside today is what we were promised. Crisp, cloudless, blue-bird skies form the backdrop. We took a detour when walking home from class today through el rio. Before the 1950s there was a river there that disillusioned the good people of Valencia when it massively flooded during a storm. So they drained the whole thing and made a beautiful park! Trees of many kinds, including palm trees, are distributed throughout the entire park and there are runners and children and many grungy-looking dogs with collars, but no leashes. Curious!
Our culture class yesterday consisted of listening to music from around the world, the continent, and finally from each province of Spain. Interestingly enough, north Spain is very closely related to Ireland and Scotland, as the Celts have a more ancient history in Galicia than the islands off the coast we typically think of associated with Celtic tradition. Their music involves bagpipes and the landscape is blanketed in green. The young teacher dances and sings along with most of the traditional tunes, and the boys in the class are in love with her.
I was lucky enough to get an in-the-flesh realization of the musical culture of the south of Spain at the flamenco concert last night. The bar was small, smoky, and packed with locals. We managed to find standing room right in front of the small stage. On the stage there was a cajón, a stand with a guitar and microphone stand. Up walks a giant Spanish man, dressed all in black with slicked back hair. He sits and picks up the guitar. The percussionist followed, squatting over the box that he begins to tap softly and rhythmically. The signature flamenco guitar starts, his hands running up and down the neck of the guitar, his ear practically pressed to the top of it. Then-- she walks onto the stage. ¡Que presencia! A curvaceous, powerful woman wearing a tight black dress, black tights, and black flamenco shoes. Her short, dark hair curls around her face, almost masking her heavily made-up eyes. She has a fringy black shawl wrapped around her torso. She begins to sing, deeply and yearningly. The pain expressed in her voice would break anyones heart. She starts of softly, but then the beat picks up to a quick pace, the passion in her voice amplifying at the same tempo. She is looking down when the music pauses abruptly, beginning again when she snaps up her head, her arms, and her eyes with attitude I have never seen before. She claps, claps, claps keeping up with the beat, while the crowd starts to get into it by clapping along. I can hardly keep up. She stands up and the crowd cheers. She is looking down and facing the side. Her feet begin to tap, faster than even the percussionist. She is whirling and twirling and stomping and tapping and clapping and snapping and feeling the music! She whips off her shawl, revealing even more curves, now glistening with effort. She sings and dances for nearly an hour without break, the crowd cheering her on, dancing to the music, clapping with her beats, and begging her to continue-- "Otra, Otra!" She acquiesces, topping the show off with the most passionate footwork I have ever seen. Her body is drenched and some one hands her a beer as she walks off stage. I am mesmerized.
Tonight- another night on the town, which means tons of Spanish speaking! Right now I am going to the roof of our building to read debajo del sol.
I will try to post more pictures soon, this time of Valencia.
Un abrazo fuerte.