Have you heard of Agua de Valencia? It’s really one of the more delicious drinks ever invented. Ashley, Laura and I discovered this Friday night. Fresh squeezed orange juice, white wine, and vodka. The bar around the corner is famous for it, and one can see why easily. It comes in a big glass jar and lots of pulp sticks to the surface of the container as you pour it. I had the best time with Ashley and Laura. We sat around a table for nearly three hours. We laughed over everything and talked about how surreally incredible the trip has been so far. We danced and sang the words to the funny selection of American songs that came on. We talked to the people next to us, and met a really cool girl from the city of Buñot, where the largest tomato fight in the world takes place every summer.
The next morning, Ashley and I met Ken, the old man tutor, at the café for a Spanish lesson. It was so funny to talk to him about the things we noticed around us, the differences and similarities, the people and their customs. He nearly fell out of his chair when we started talking about grits. He hadn’t heard the word in over fifteen years, since he was in Atlanta last. He missed them even more than we did. He asked funny questions to prompt us speaking, like “Where does the universe end?” We asked him something we had been wanting to know. The young people hold a certain unexplainable reputation about American girls. They think we are crazy. We ask them what kind of crazy, and they cannot explain it. Ken says that American girls, and guys for that matter, have a tendency to think more. He was not insulting in any way to the Spanish, but was just stating it as a cultural fact. There are things about the Spanish culture, like their strict eating times, that are cemented into daily lives by tradition over dozens of generations. Everyone eats at two o’clock in the afternoon, everyone. When do we eat in America, he asked. When we are hungry, we answered. He said that’s what makes us crazy! I never really realized this about America. I have so much freedom and liberty on a daily basis that I don’t even think about. Strict cultural binds do not hold me back from small things that are simply second nature here, like when to eat, or from big things, like career choices. I have the option to think about anything I want at any time, and I could even write it down and then publish it if I wish. I can take any classes I want and groom them to fit my own personal goals. If independent thinking is what makes me a crazy American girl, then sign me up for the loony bin.
MTV Valencia Winter was last night. The Arctic Monkeys played. I had no idea how big they were in Europe. I haven’t heard their name in the states in over five years. There were at least 20,000 people at the free concert they gave. Masses and masses of people. The stage was in the middle of the architecturally modern and space-ship-like complex I wrote about earlier. There were five of us in my group, and we were actually really close to the stage. There were giant TV screens and the light show was incredible. Apparently the lead singer is half of the biggest celebrity couple in Britain and most of Europe. This was one of the coolest places I ever seen a concert. We were surrounded on our sides by two giant white stunning buildings, with their undulating lines. Purple lights shone on them. Behind us was the giant sculpture that looks like a mix between a sail boat and a harp. Beyond that more buildings. I can't imagine what it would be like to play there, considering how incredible it was to be in the audience. It was so interesting to see the differences between huge concerts here and huge concerts in the states. The chatter you hear between bands sounds different. The people are so much shorter, we felt like giants. The fist pump is a classic move to accompany any dancing at American shows, and here everyone holds up one finger, pointing up, while dancing. Another very strange thing: the Spanish people speak English with a British accent. We had noticed this before when one of our teachers spoke English. But it was more pronounced than ever when the crowd started chanting “Auu-teeck Moon-kees! Auu-teeck Moon-kees!” Definitely one of the best concerts I have ever been too and I don’t even particularly like the music.
This morning the park was lively. Sunday mornings are perfect for going to the park. In Athens it’s really hard for me to go running because of all those hills, but here it’s nice and flat and everyone is running and the park is so nice and there is so much to look at and I feel invigorated by it. There is a main path through the park but there are four or five subsequent paths running parallel to the main one. It’s quite a task to navigate. Is one for dog walkers? Is one for bikers? Is one for people with children? The fact that there is a set pattern is obvious, but the pattern itself is not clear. There is construction going on in the plaza I run through to get to the park. The chaos of the machines and the vibrations from the jack hammers on the marble sidewalks have caused oranges to fall from the orange trees that line the middle of the plaza. Many of the fallen ones bust on impact with the hard ground while others get stomped on by the people working their way to the other side of the construction zone. You can smell the oranges from 200 feet away; their scent fills the air around the plaza.