Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snow and Queimada

I expected Spain to be sunny, even after looking at the latitude (the same as the mid US) and reports of Madrid snow just before my arrival. So I should not have been surprised at today´s snow in La Alberca, near Salamanca. Some of you may have heard or read of the high winds that killed 14 people in northern Spain in the Gallecia and Basque areas. We had winds here too, but just some small debris from the oak trees.

This will be short. By Spanish standards it is not late, but 1:00 am is far past my normal bedtime. Half the folks are still going strong. But I will finish this and head to my room.

The process here is intense but fascinating. I spent several hours today, one-on-one with Spaniards, talking about whatever we wanted, as long as it was entirely in English. The things I am learning I would never learn as a tourist. I now know how people prepare tortilla....which is nothing like the Mexican tortilla. I learned that Gallecia culture and language is distinct from Castillian and the music and customs are Celtic. And that bit of information leads to our gathering after our 9:pm dinner (standard in Spain). I also know how sugar beets are processed and some of the issues in Human Resources, and public transportation communications and safety systems. As each Spaniard must make a five minute presentation on their job, and they like to practice ahead of time, I am becoming quite well informed. Other conversations have been with a Basque woman about the political issues in that region, the election of Barack Obama, immigration in Spain, hiking, typical Sunday afternoons with the family.

I am also having fun with the differences in English as the Anglo contingent here includes English, Australian, New Zealand, Scots, Welch, Canadian and American accents. I´ve learned not to refer to my pants as such. They are trousers. Pants are underpants to the Brits. Besides representing different countries, our ages run from early twenties to about 80. What we have in common is a love of travel, interest in other people, outgoing personalities. Part of the time is in one-on-one discussions, part of the time with presentations, part of the time with conversations over meals, part of the time is in skits and group activities. But there are also informal social times, like the evening shot here where Spaniards and Anglos mix and talk. The next two photos show one of the skits and a human knot. Those are ways, particularly the later, the organizers get everyone loosened up.

Tonight's after dinner activity was a Queimada (pronounce Queue matha). This is a Gallecian tradition to drive off bad spirits, to bring luck, to share times with friends. The roots are clearly Celtic. In a large pot they have poured a wine, orujo, like grappa, which is made from the dregs left from the wine making process. To that, they add some fruits. There was a lot of debate here among Gallecians about what fruits are the ¨right¨ones. Ours had orange, apple, lemon. After heating the alcohol, they light it. As it flames the person in charge of the pot, uses a ladle to lift some of the liquid and allows it to stream down in flaming cascades. While that occurs, ancient words are recited. We heard it in Gallecian, Spanish, and translated to English for us Anglos. This was the only time this week Spanish will be spoken on the grounds.

Finally as the flames turn from orange to blue, the stirrer added a few coffee beans to the concoction. He scooped out a large ladle full and each of us dipped a finger in the flaming alcohol, then put the flaming finger in our mouth, making a wish as we did so. Only after all that did we get to drink it. It is guarenteed to have all Spaniards speaking perfect English after two cups, and speaking Russian and Chinese as well after three. I stopped at one, but know I could have done a perfect flaminco with three.

There are bagpipes playing now...our Galecian goodnight fanfare. More another day.


Anonymous said...

hehehehe.....with one or two, you'd have probably done a perfect flamenco, but with three, perhaps a flamingo might have been achieved........

sounds like you're having a great time.

from your friends, the loosechickens, (nancy)

Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak said...

Sounds like great fun! Don't know if we could handle to the late dinners and nights, but guess we would adjust.

Jaimie and George

RV Mama said...

Ah mi amiga,
Es muy interesante!!! Estoy muy contenta a leer sus viajes.
I love the way you make community wherever you go. What great stories. Hmmmm. I smell a book? At least some great articles. Do I have your permission to use some of this in our e-zine? Mounting any photos anywhere?

Betty Prange, Nomad, from somewhere on the road said...

Ah, Alice. I have to pretend I didn´t get your Spanish is allowed here at Pueblo Ingles this week. Even the hotel staff is to speak English to all of us.

So....I will only respond to the later part. You know me, will I do articles? sounds like work. But I am already thinking about returning next year, tour northern Spain which I am missing this time and do two Pueblo Ingles programs, one early, one at the end of the visit.

Photos after I return home....and yes, you may use some of this.

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