I had the most by-the-book Spanish day yesterday.
After class, three friends and I went to the open market by the beach. Endless stands full of flowers and clothes and underwear and mismatched shoes and kitchen supplies and sketchy objects. I bought a beautiful floral scarf for one euro. That afternoon several of us attended a bull fight. An actual, Spanish bull-fight. There are bull-fights all week for Las Fallas. I did not know how queasy it would make me feel, but I suppose all of the years at the hunting club in Moncks Corner as a little girl prepared me sufficiently. It felt so traditional, so Spanish. The people of my generation in Spain, and most people, pay no attention to this sport and it's supposedly a bit antiquated. The crowd was full of old men smoking cigars. But the colors and the energy! Tickets were divided into two sections: sol y sombra (sun or shade). We had sol tickets.
The first fight: Before the bull is released, four or five men in sparkly outfits and tight, tight suits come out with pink and yellow capes. Their bright uniforms look fantastic against the backdrop of bright yellow dirt, especially when the sun grabs the attention of one of the millions of sequins they wear. The gate is opened. The massive animal charges out at full speed straight toward them. Huffing and puffing and angry. They divert his attention with their capes and then hide behind a little wall until the bull is distracted once again by one of their comrades on the opposite side of the ring. Waving and calling and confusing the bull. A man on a blind-folded horse comes out next, the horse's saddle is decadent. The bull rams against the horse as the rider stabs the bull's back with a spear. Cue the matador. The matador's back is arched dangerously because his chest is so full of pride. He is the sparkliest of them ALL. He carries two pipe looking things I soon realize are knives of some kind. The matador stomps and saunters into the middle of the ring, getting the attention of the tiring bull. The bull perks up and charges quickly towards it's shiny target. The matador jumps quickly, stabbing the two stakes into the bull's back, then instantly darting away from the angry bull. The other men come out with their flags to distract the bull once more. The bull is stabbed four more times in this manner, dark red blood thickening on it's back. It is completely weak and confused by the time the matador returns to the ring with his red cape. And so it begins. The elegant dance between them. He waves the red cape, the bull charges and they spin and it continues. There is a rhythm. The matador daringly drops to his knees and flourishes his cape as the bull charges around him, back and forth. The bull occasionally drops to his knees as well, but not to impress the crowd. The bull does it because it's tired and bleeding and constantly confused. Soon the matador is handed a sharp sword and a fresh red cape, which he whirls around a few more times before facing the bull. He lines up his silver sword dramatically with the center of the bull's back and lunges it deep between the shoulder blades. The bull stumbles and falls, but gets back up. The other men come out to wave their capes around it's head until the bull collapses completely. One of them finishes the job by stabbing the bull in the head. A chain is wrapped around the horns and two horses drag the dead, stiffened body off the ring. We watched three bulls get killed. Occasionally the matador would miss or mess up or something, and the bull would be stabbed repeatedly. The crowd would get angry when this happened. It's hard to watch after a while. Really hard to watch. It's very easy to be on the bull's side. I enjoyed the spectacle for the energy, the colors, the tradition, and the bluntness of it all. But it's safe to say I will not become an afecionada. These were also amateurs. If it had been the elegant Pedro Romano from The Sun Also Rises, it might be a different story. But there it was: The Famous Spanish Bull-Fight.
Then I went to a fútbol game! A big one. Against Germans. A friend let me borrow her Valencia CF scarf and we were off. One of our teachers, Celia, who is wonderful, came with us. We were sitting very, very high up. We got there a bit after kick-off, thus we had to rush in. Flights and flights of stairs and the energy was palpable from everyone trying to find their seats. There was so much noise coming from within the stadium as the players were introduced. People were cheering wildly as they climbed up to their seats. We came out of the stairwell and into the stadium where I finally got a view of the field. The field is shockingly green, the stands shockingly full and excited, and the players shockingly far away. I got really into the game, cheering along with everyone and reacting appropriately when I didn't know what was going on. Che Xe Bo! Che Xe Bo! We tied the Germans, 1-1, but supposedly away goals count for more, so we lost. What a game though, full of excitement. We met up with all of our friends and went out on the town. A very, very Spanish day.
I was woken up today by random loud explosives on the street, as I have been every day this week. Apparently it's only the beginning. Bring on Las Fallas!
Other news: I bought my tickets to go to Portugal for Semana Santa! Our friend's family from the program has a beach house right on the southern coast and Ashley and I plan on spending time there before hopping towards Lisbon and Porto. Also bought a plane ticket from Paris to Rome for very cheap to meet Scott in Italy this May. What a dream... a ticket from Paris to Rome to hang out with one of my favorite people in the world. ¡Que suerte tengo!