Monthly Archives: April 2011

An update and an apology.

The update: I am back home in foggy, rainy Oviedo after my trip to Andalucía for Semana Santa. Sadly, I am not at all ready to go back to school on Tuesday as I was struck down during my holiday by a particularly vicious head-cold that I still can’t kick.

The apology is for being so far behind on my blog posts! I have about six weeks of stories and photos to share, so once I am fully recovered you can expect to have your inbox or Facebook feed stuffed with updates from me.

I will leave you in the meantime with one of my favourite photos of the trip (out of the 800 or so I took…). It is of a woman taking part in a procession in Granada, holding her candle and swinging her rosary.




Filed under Andalucía, Update

For my sister.

Las niñas en el mar by Joaquín Sorolla.

One of the best things I did in Madrid last weekend was visit the Museo de Sorolla. This painting struck a particular chord and so here it is for all of you to enjoy.




Filed under Madrid, Spain, Things that blow my mind, Travel

Wordy Wednesday: Ferretería.

Speciality shops in Spain generally have titles that end in the suffix “-ería”. For example: “panadería”, a shop that sells bread (“pan”), or “papelería”, a shop that sells paper (“papel”) products. If you want to sell something in Spain just take the name of the product, add “-ería”, get yourself a sign made and you have your own niche market. When I first saw shops labelled “Ferretería” my first instinct was to cut it straight down to the English word “ferret” and assume that ferrets were very popular pets in Spain and consequently that there were numerous speciality stores selling them. I thought this was unlikely however, and decided that perhaps it was the word for a general pet store.

When I finally got around to looking it up I discovered that a “ferretería” is a hardware store or an ironmongers (although I don’t think those really exist anymore.) It is from the Latin root “ferrum”, meaning iron (which is where we get the “Fe” symbol for iron in the Periodic Table) and, disappointingly, has nothing to do with ferrets.

Now the question is, why in English do we use a word with a Latin root meaning iron as the name of a small, furry creature?



Filed under Wordy Wednesday

Carnaval Take One: Dancing till dawn.

The first weekend of Carnaval, with nothing going on in Oviedo, I headed out to the Western side of Asturias for the first time to a pueblo (small town) called Navia. After a two hour bus ride I arrived in the seaside town to meet up with another language assistant who lives there.

Navia might be a fairly small town but for Carnaval it seems that everyone under 25 dresses up in outrageously good costumes and hits the town. I was very under-dressed in my peacock costume that entailed a mask with peacock feathers and green and blue clothes, if I’m ever in Spain for Carnaval again I will have to make much more effort. There were groups of girls dressed as Andalusian señoritas or Minnie Mouses, a couple dressed as Ken and Barbie (in boxes!), Lady Gagas with questionable genders, the whole cast of Grease, vampires and zombies, Wallys from Where’s Wally? books, super-heroes and the list goes on. A lot of the costumes are rented from shops, leading one of my private students, a 12-year-old boy, to very succinctly dismiss Carnaval as “una fiesta para los comercios” (a festival for the shops).

Still, it isn’t every day that you get to go to a “botellón” with a ninja! A botellón is when a huge crowd of young people meet in the street to stand around and drink alcohol they’ve brought from home. This is totally normal behaviour in Spain and happens every weekend, rain, shine or freezing temperatures, such as the weekend of Carnaval. I sometimes wonder how bars and clubs make enough money to survive, because at last count I have bought a grand total of three drinks at such establishments and have very rarely seen anyone at the bar of a club. Instead, everyone is outside at the botellón drinking their “calimocho” or “tinto de verano”, red wine mixed with cola or lemonade respectively. No, I am not joking.

Once everyone was sufficiently lubricated at the botellón, and we had frozen half to death, we eventually made our way to the real fiesta: a former cinema turned into a night club for Carnaval, DJ and cheap drinks included. Considerably warmer, we danced the night away, only pausing to watch the costume competition. They give out real money as prizes to the best costumes for individuals, pairs and groups, and I was starting to understand all the effort with the costumes! The music was good, some apparently universal English-language classics and some Spanish party classics thrown in together. The stamina of the Spanish when partying is quite something to behold, the place was packed until about 6am, and when we left a bit after 7am there were still quite a few people going for it and bartenders dancing on the makeshift, trestle table bars. When in Spain, party like a Spaniard, and dance till it’s light outside.

The next day, after grabbing a couple of hours sleep, I got to see Navia by daylight. My friend showed me around and we went down to the beach to enjoy the sunshine and warmth. I feel really glad to still be living quite close to the sea, and the coastline up here is gorgeous. In Navia the beaches are mostly at the feet of small cliffs, one little bay actually reminded me a lot of Green Bay at home in Port Elliot. Navia is also on a river and has beautiful views of the hills around it.

That evening I took the bus back to Oviedo, catching up on some sleep as I did so, and started wondering what I would wear to Carnaval Take Two the following weekend.



Filed under Asturias, Carnaval, Navia, Spain