Welcome to Spain!

Some of the festivities

One of the things I love about Spanish culture is the great value they place on the family here. In accordance with this cultural feature, I was whisked off to a huge family dinner at a charming local restaurant within minutes of arriving at Puri’s (whose house I call home while I’m in Spain. There I was introduced to a staggering number of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandchildren, and everyone was—as is typical of the Spanish, I’ve found—extremely warm and friendly, welcoming me as one of the family. I’ll admit, I was a bit overwhelmed at the time, due to the lingering effects of jet-lag and language skills which were far more limited two days after my arrival than they are now, after three weeks of living in Spain. Looking back on that afternoon, however, I grow to appreciate that time with Puri’s family more and more.

Since that quintessentially Spanish meal (which is a two-hour-long event replete with paella), I’ve met more members of Puri’s extended family, and they’ve all been incredibly kind and welcoming. This weekend, in fact, during my recovery from a bit of a stomach bug, Puri’s sister Rosa came by to check on me when Puri was at work for the afternoon. I’ve felt very cared-for since arriving in Spain; I greatly appreciate my Spanish family!

My first plate of paella, a delicious rice-and-seafood dish that originated in southern Spain and is a huge favorite in Alicante

During my first week at Puri’s, I was able to get to know her nephew and his family, who were visiting for the week…and one member of the family happened to be an adorable ten-month-old named Sara. Especially during my first-week language struggles, it was often quite comforting to simply babble to Sara, who didn’t notice or care if I paused for inordinate amounts of time between words or simply devolved into coos of “cariño” when I just couldn’t find the words I wanted. It was also during my first week that I got to witness, first hand, the type of communal festivities which are such an integral and valued part of Spanish culture. A typical week in the barrio (neighborhood) of pescadores (fishermen) where I live? This involves live music played until late into the night and a neighborhood-wide celebration of the history of the community.
Sara and I...is she not adorable?

I was rather taken aback by the scope and scale of the festivities at first, and I couldn’t help chuckling to myself during the first few nights of the week-long party when I mused to myself that a similarly hearty and animated celebration being held on the street until the wee hours of the morning would surely violate some noise-level ordinance in most US neighborhoods. One evening, I watched the municipal band of Alicante parade up the street behind local denizens bearing the figure of the Virgen del Socorro, the patron saint of fishermen, to the hermitage where she is housed. As all of this happened to take place right beside
Puri’s balcony, I had a highly convenient, front-row view of all the goings on. Another evening, the loudest round of fireworks I’ve ever heard was set off, and on the final evening of the celebration, a neighborhood-wide costume contest was held. All in all, I would say that my first week’s introduction to Spanish culture was quite exciting!