For culture class we had a big project to complete for today. It was a scavenger hunt that sent us throughout the entire city, asking questions, taking pictures, buying snack foods, and documenting what we saw. I learned many things. There is a common saying around here, a la luna de Valencia, which refers back to the time when the city was walled. They closed the gates at a certain time every night and if travelers did not make it in time they would have to sleep outside the gates until morning, under the Valencian moon. Now people use it when referring to going out late. Parts of this wall still exist, some of which are Arab ruins. We had to discover the parts of the outfits worn by falleros y falleras, or those involved in Las Fallas festival. One authentic complete woman's outfit can run upwards of 15,000 euros, including earring and a necklace dripping with pearls, like a bunch of grapes. Hair is braided and woven into three large buns pinned with gold and silver needles. The skirts depict images and are immense and elaborate, heavy silk embroidered with gold and silver. We had to buy a few food items from the market, including Christmas candy, some sausage-y item, and these encased moist nuts that easily shoot across the room when first trying to uncover them. We learned that things that are considered to be bad luck here are the same things that cause bad luck in the states (black cat, walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror, etc.) save for one thing, looking into the eye of a one-eyed person. That puts too much pressure on the one-eyed population of Spain, if you ask me.
Of my ten-or-so non-student friends living in Valencia, two of them have been recently fired. Times are really economically rough here right now. Something like 40% of the population in Valencia is unemployed, a shockingly high number.
I am trying to pick up a little bit of the Valenciano language, a mix of Spanish and French more or less. It's spoken in the region between the two countries. All the street signs and signs in my building are written in this language, and a lot of my new friends are natives and speak it as well. I can pick up words here and there, but it a completely different language. People here speak at least two languages, most of them around three. A lot of them speak English here and there. Mateo, a friend from the cafe we frequent, learned most of his English listening to American music. He is a huge Wilco fan and always wants us to talk about lyrics.
It's another beautiful day. I am sitting in a little cafe about to study for my film mid-term that I have tomorrow morning. A crazy old woman just walked by the window wearing at least three aprons and striped socks with heels. A couple, both wearing North Face jackets, is sitting at a table in the courtyard, a sure sign they speak English. Some of the French doors of apartments in the plaza are open wide, letting in the slight breeze that moves the potted flowers on their balconies on it's way in.