Sorry for the delay in posting here. It has been an eventful two weeks and I have not had too much time to write.
I have started my job and I love it. Teaching in a High School is certainly a new and fun experience. The English department has some great teachers, and I have been impressed with how enthusiastic the students have been, particularly the older students, who have a good level of English, and have just visited Exeter with the school. When I get time, I will try to get some pictures of the school. Basically I am helping with their conversational English, and as a result, I try to get the students speaking with some fun activities about the U.K. For example, last week we compared British food with Spanish food, and looked at the different timetables we have.
This week has been quite hectic for two reasons: firstly for the visit of my friend Lawrence, and also due to the Pilar Festival. We have been busy showing Lawrence around the city and also enjoying a variety of the activities which are on due to the festivals. Pilar is the patron saint of Zaragoza, and her feast day is 12th October. As a result, there is a weeklong festival in the city. Spain is famous for its fiestas, and this fiesta does not disappoint. The festival can be split into two sections: A week celebrating Aragonese culture, with traditional dancing and gastronomy, and secondly, as a non-stop party.
For anyone interested in learning a bit more about the festival, I suggest having a look on the official website, or on the facebook page.
Given that there has been so much to do, it’s probably best to tell you just a few activities, to give you an idea of the festival. Given that it is a festival, celebrating the patron saint of Zaragoza, the focus is clearly on El Pilar, and La Plaza del Pilar, which is the square in the centre of the town, with the basilica being the main attraction. On the 12th October, over 400 groups from Zaragoza and the surrounding areas, offered flowers to the patron saint of Zaragoza in the main square. This is a very impressive sight; not only because more than 300 000 people participated in the Ofrenda, with over 6 million flowers received, but also because the groups are dressed in traditional Aragon clothing.
Other events that we have seen include the national festival of La Jota, which is traditional Aragonese music and dance. This is also a surreal experience, given the use of traditional instruments and clothing. Here is an example of La Jota.
The gastronomy has also been very nice, with many people taking advantage of the holidays by eating tapas, and going to the regional tents. The regional tents allowed us to try typical food from Aragon and from other regions such as Andalucía and Catalonia. I particularly enjoyed the Ternasco sandwich, which is an Aragon speciality.
However, above all, the Pilar festival is a great excuse for a party. With many free concerts at night, and more areas to go out, there is a lot to do. One area set up specifically for the festivals is called interpeñas, which is a collection of tents which is located outside of the city centre. This has different tents which play different music. Before 1 o’clock there are normally concerts of famous singers, and then afterwards the party starts. It’s very normal to get home at around 8 o’clock in the morning. We had a great time with our friends at interpeñas, and it is definitely worth a night out there if you are in Zaragoza during the festivals.
In the city centre, there are free concerts, which allow many people to have fun without spending too much. These concerts include famous Spanish artists, with this year’s acts including Jarabe de Palo and Melendi. The main night in the square was Saturday night, with the opening of the festivals, where around 120 000 people saw the fireworks show and the official opening of the festivities. Also, on Tuesday night, the Maxima FM concert meant the square was full to capacity. Maxima FM is a famous radio station which plays house music. Thousands of people were in the square listening to the D.Js until the early hours of the morning.
One of my favourite attractions was the Oktoberfest. Every year, ‘La fiesta de la cerveza’ comes to Zaragoza during Pilares, with German bands and great beer. Although there was a lack of lederhosens, the music was very good and the food was very delicious. Lawrence and I particularly enjoyed this, and we are now desperate to experience Oktoberfest in Munich.
The last few weeks in Spain have been marred by protests and strikes. Teachers in Madrid and Castille y Leon have been out in the streets protesting against cuts in Education. Both regions, which are run by the Popular Party, have tried to rein in spending within their autonomies, and education has been particulary affected. In Madrid, schools have been left with less teachers who have to teach for more hours, with student numbers increasing in the classroom. In Madrid, many schools have been closed for over a week whilst the teachers have been protesting.
In terms of the elections in November, the PSOE party doesn’t seem to be making any ground on the PP. Today, El País have published a poll which suggests that the PP will win an absolute majority, even though they have been very secretive on what they intend to do. It appears a very difficult task for the PSOE, who will now be looking at damaged limitation, as they retain as many seats as possible in parliament. It seems that the Spanish public are disillusioned with the PSOE, and believe a change of Government may help to solve the countries problems, particularly the high unemployment rate.
The festivals have certainly taken it out of me, so I guess the next few weeks will be quiet ones. This week I start my French classes in L’Institute Français. After ignoring my French for a few years, I thought it was about time to put a bit more effort into improving my French, and hopefully these classes will help me a lot. It has been a good festival and I have had a great time with Lawrence in Zaragoza.
p.s A special thanks to Lawrence for the excellent photos.