Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In which she FINALLY bakes, celebrates Carnival, and learns about politics

Let me begin by saying I really wanted to dedicate this post to my sister Tamar. In what has become a facebook craze for posting 25 Things About Me, my sister mentioned an obsession with public transportation. I really have not devoted nearly enough of my blog to praising Barcelona's amazing transportation system. And so, I had intended to spend this post detailing both how it works and why I am in love with it. But then I had an amazing week which I really couldn't gloss over. So you've been spared for a little while at least...

Last week I finally got my hands dirty in a kitchen after over a month of being baked-goods-free. Then I did it again the next night. Words can't explain how wonderful it was. Linda and I bought the necessary ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and then headed over to our friend's apartment to make use of his kitchen. As he lives with five other boys they were fairly amazed by the prospect of cookies made from scratch and promptly ate half the dough and most of the cookies. Though they didn't actually have any measuring utensils we did a lot of eyeballing-it and ended up with a massive quantity of delicious cookies. Also pretty big stomach aches from eating so much raw dough. The following night Linda and I headed over to the chabad rebetzin's house to help her bake for Shabbat and I got to make MORE cookies (I know, God is finally looking out for me, right?). We also made challah. Ironically, Genya uses almost the same recipe as I do at home except without the spices. I think there's some kind of magic rebetzin's use when making challah because it always tastes a little like heaven for no apparent reason.

Of course we were invited for dinner on Friday night where we met the usual crowd of visiting Jews who spoke a variety of languages and came from every imaginable country. At dinner I made the mistake of asking a Canadian who had recently made aaliyah (meaning moved to Israel) about the Israeli elections. Though it certainly lead to an interesting conversation, it did get a bit too heated for my taste. We also had some Venezuelans at the table who talked about the Chavez 'elections' and that was followed by a discussion of the political scandals here in Spain. Needless to say I am now very well informed about world politics. Or at least I am informed. I guess how well is subjective.

On Saturday Linda's Spanish roommate invited us to come to her small town (3,000 people total!) for celebrate Carnival. Carnival is the Spanish equivalent of Mardi Gras and it lasts approximately a week with parades and festivals all over the country. Ana lives in a town that is straight out of a fairy tale. About an hour outside of Barcelona, and then another 15 minute drive from the train station, her village is situated in the middle of the mountains with views that take your breath away. Her father owns and works a cow farm, so obviously I was in heaven. When your parents tell you they took the dog to go live on a farm with lots of open air where he can chase rabbits and roam free, they're referring to Ana's village.

After dropping our stuff at the farm, we went to the community center and painted little kids' faces for a few hours. I learned my new favorite word: Purpurina. It means glitter, and we used A LOT of it. I think Mitch Hedberg was right in referring to it as the Herpes of craft supplies. I think i still have some in my hair. The school organizes the costumes and each family is given specific instructions, because all of the costumes are homemade. Seriously. Who are these people? All the age groups have different costumes and they march together with their floats singing and dancing through the town's winding streets. The whole procession takes about two hours and is followed by an award ceremony at the town hockey rink. They're very proud of their hockey. Linda and I marched with Ana's friends dressing up as harlequinns and I have never had so much fun in my life.

There was such a warm comforting atmosphere, everyone knowing (and often being related to) everyone else. After dinner at a local restaurant we went to the town's one and only bar and danced until about 3 in the morning. As no one in the town knows English (Catalán is technically their first language) we spoke entirely in Spanish. All of Ana's friends kept complimenting us on our Spanish and were some of the nicest friendliest people I've ever had the luck to meet.

Around 3 we went to Ana's boyfriend's apartment which is equipped with a jacuzzi. Seriously. Heaven. When we woke up on Sunday morning (okay, afternoon) we went to the market to find some vegetarian food to take back to Ana's house where her mom whipped up a delicious lunch. We met part of Ana's extended family, talked politics (what else) and had lots of great coffee.

While I'm sure we were the only Jews around for miles, we discussed how the community was really a clear embodiment of hachnasat orchim (welcoming of guests in Jewish tradition). Friendly, welcoming, kind, giving, and open, I could not have dreamed up better company. Eventually we got a train back to Barcelona, stopping at a chabad event where there was even more homemade baked goods. Like I said. Heaven.

This coming weekend I'm heading off to Seville and on Monday my dad is coming to visit so it might be a while before I post again. But if you've managed to read all this you probably need the break anyway. And I'm sure I'll have lots to talk about when I post again.
Besos, abrazos, y vacas,

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