O and I finally met again at the Madrid Barajas airport at 22.40 on Saturday evening! I almost felt a little shy, as we hadn’t seen each other for 3 months – an incredible long time apart. O’s father and youngest brother J-I picked us up, it is 268 km between the airport and O’s hometown in Aragón (somewhere between Calatayud and Zaragoza) so it was quite a long drive for them to do twice in one evening.
We arrived at home at 02.30 and guess what; O’s mother was preparing our 3-course dinner!! I couldn’t believe my eyes, dinner at 3 o’clock in the morning! I would have preferred to just go to bed… However, I ate my dinner, I couldn’t refuse especially as O’s favourite dish was served; borrajas (not to be confused with Barajas, the airport!). Borraja is a vegetable (gurkört apparently in Swedish) (it seems to be unique for Aragón in Spain, the only Spanish friend of mine who knows the vegetable (and dish) is also from Zaragoza), it looks a little bit like a mix between a nettle and a celery (??). We eat the stems boiled with potatoes, mash them together with some olive oil – it’s very simple but tasty.
On Sunday we slept late, and then walked through the village (it has 3000 inhabitants) in the sunshine to O’s parents’ plantation where we picked fresh figs from the trees. They have quite a big plantation where they grow apples, pears, cherries, walnuts, almonds, olives, figs, peaches etc. O’s dream is to build a little house there where we could have BBQ’s and enjoy the sun by the river.
Lunch was served really early for O’s family – at 14.00, I realised during the meal that O’s parents had forgotten to change from summer to winter time – so for them it was 3 o’clock!
After a long siesta, O and I joined his oldest brother M and his wife M-J and their son M (same name as the brother and O’s father but we call him by the diminutive) at Plaza de España (the main square by the town hall) for the vaquillas (young calves). This weekend was the fiesta of San Crispin y San Crispiano, the saints of the shoemakers (the main industry of the village), and it is one of the main celebrations during the year (together with the patron saint of the church San Juan in June and the patron saint of the village which I can’t remember at the moment!). We had already missed the small religious procession of the saints on Saturday (the biggest processions are of course during Easter) but the festivities continued on Sunday with the “bull fighting” which is not a proper bull fighting but more like a teasing of young calves. The square had been cordoned off and galleries had been put up for people to sit on, sand had been put on the ground and it almost looked like a real bull fighting arena.
The bulls were teased by young guys who were more or less courageous (or stupid, depending on who’s talking!) and teased the bulls to run after them. In the end really small calves were let out (one by one) and young children (probably from 7-8 and up) were running around trying to provoke the animals. O’s nephew M who is 4 thought that it was really exciting to watch, and O told me that he had participated when he was young. However, I think it is cruel to the animals… but O defends the tradition by underlining that they don’t kill the bulls! One of those topics that we could discuss forever probably…
Despite the warm day, it became quite cold once the sun had set and we warmed ourselves with some fiesta-compulsory churros (deep-fried dough sticks) before we headed to Zaragoza (85 km from O’s homevillage) to have dinner (bacalao i.e salted cod) with O’s sister E and her daughter M (15 months). It’s quite funny to be called tia (aunt) in front of the children, but I melted completely when O’s niece spontaneously gave me a big hug!
We spent the night in Zaragoza and on Monday we went for a walk in the capital of Aragón, which is the 5th largest city in Spain and is famous for Nuesta Señora del Pilar, the big basilica built in the honour of the Virgin Mary who appeared on a pillar to Saint James (Santiago, the patron saint of Spain) and for being very windy! In 2008 Zaragoza will host an International Expo on water, which should be very interesting to visit, the topic is highly important – especially in such a dry country as Spain. I hope that the Expo will increase the interest in Aragón for tourists, Spain is so much more than the different costas with their playas, golf courses and ugly hotel complexes!
O showed me his university and we had some tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette, so yummy!) as tapas in one of the bars he used to frequent as a student. In one of the bookshops I finally found what I had wanted to buy for O’s birthday – Asesinos sin rostro, the first Wallander book by Henning Mankell (Mördare utan ansikte / Faceless killers)! There was a whole shelf dedicated to Henning Mankell’s books, and I also saw books by Marianne Fredriksson (another Swedish author) being displayed on a table by the entrance! I hope that O will like the book, because there are 8 more in the same serie about the police inspector Wallander in the town of Ystad (I have so far read 3).
We met O’s sister for some more tapas and some mosta (grape juice) before we headed back to E’s apartment where O’s mother was preparing lunch and babysitting O’s niece. It was another favourite dish of mine, ternera rebozada [en huevo y harina] which is veal coated in egg and flour and then fried – we usually get it as a filling for our sandwiches when we travel from Spain! For lunch the veal was served with pimentón [dulce], fried red peppers, it’s so tasty.
My Spanish is still not very good and I get quite tired after a while from listening to O and his family talking, trying to concentrate to understand. However, depending on who speaks and what the topic is, I can follow quite well – in the evening we went out for dinner with just O’s sister E and the 3 of us had a nice time – I understood most of what was being said and I managed to contribute to the conversation as well! I can’t wait for next time I visit Aragón and I hopefully speak much better – I will focus on learning Spanish once I have arrived to Puerto Rico (and will try to avoid adopting any kind of strange Caribbean accent😉 ).
On Tuesday O and I took the high speed train from Zaragoza to Madrid (1,5 hours), took the metro (3 changes) and ran to the check-in… almost too late but with a little bit of insisting we managed to get our boarding passes and I even had time to buy a perfume for my mother before we headed to Copenhagen and Skåne! I hate rushing and I don’t really understand why you can’t give yourself some bigger margins but like I have already said… having a Spanish boyfriend forces you to change your perception of time and planning (but also vice versa of course!!)….