Monthly Archives: November 2008

Pulpo, pulpo, pulpo, pulpo, pulpo

Since there’s not too much time left before I leave this place, I’ve got something to complain about.. Pulpo, squid, or ink fish, as we call it in the Netherlands. What’s with it?! I mean, I’m trying to be an open minded guy. so i would trie most things that I get offered.

Here I’ve eaten morcilla, stomach, tongue, pork cheek(see other post) and yes, squid. Now I have to admit that the taste wasn’t even that bad, sort of rubbery chicken, although opinions on that vary..

The point for me is that in this case I prefer not to be confronted with the looks of the animal involved. I realize I’m being a spoiled brat that’s used to perfectly clean food from supermarkets. However, this squid really looks awful to me. LOOK!

Did you? Well, honostly, do you feel like chewing one of those tentacles now? I don’t anyway.. But people here and in Spain are just crazy about it. They even have special restaurants, called pulperias.

PULPERIAS, for heavens sake, pulperias! That would be a squidery, octopuseryor a ink fishery!

A sidreria okay, a pulperia, no way!

Topic less with a little confession

As you can see on the website I didn’t post that many blogs lately, this is because I had the flew and stayed in bed for a good week.

During that week I was thinking about subjects for my future blogs. I could write something about the people here, my feelings, observations, stories that I’ve heard and trips that I’ve made. Even whit in this categories I could specialize more because I keep seeing new things that interest me so I’m observation the whole day.

Doing some more observation

Doing some more observation

For example when I’m walking down the street I notice the respect of the people for the pedestrians over here. The cars always stop for young and old crossing the street by foot, no matter how slow they walk they will wait.

In the Netherlands so many times when I was walking down the street or riding my bicycle (a very popular means of transportation the Netherlands) I almost got ran over by a bus or car. It’s like people are much more in a hurry in my country then over here and that is making them act very selfish, even in de traffic. They don’t care about damaging you, as long as they are ok and on time.

Well anyway, I could continue writing a full blog about a observation like this.

An other subject in the category people could of course be the Basque boys.. For sure before I go home on the 18th of December I have writing a blog about them because I have been doing some good observation on them the last months.

What also got into my mind yesterday while I was exercising at the gym is the difference about the importants of how people look over here and in the Netherlands. I could just walk back in my sport cloths without doing my hair or anything, nobody would care. I see people walking in their trousers on the streets over here all the time. In the Netherlands, and of course this also is a little personal, I would feel so ashamed walking down the street without paying attention to my appearance like that. People, especially the women, always check each other out on the streets and where ever in the Netherlands. Next to that I know I’m a little conceited because I like standing in front of the mirror in the morning putting up my make-up and dressing myself up before I go to a party. But over here.. It really feels like it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares and because of that I get more relaxed with not carring for my looks on the streets over here.

The same happens in the gym, in the Netherlands there are always a few persons (or `losers´ as I like to call them) who are showing off and want to be pretty even during excercise. Like `come on´! Over here people are just covered with sweat and look like a mess, me included. And I love it because everybody is just there for a good workout!

Another thing to write about is the differences that I can bump in to when I will return to the Netherlands. For example the view that I have here everywhere I look and while I’m looking true the bus window on my way to Bilbao. The beautiful mountains! I just love looking at them so much! In the summer and also now in the winter, when their tops are all nice and white covered with snow. Just looking at them gives me energie because they remember me of how beautifull the world and life can be.

And so I can continue writing about things that I’m going to miss or that will be different for me, like the outside views, I can keep boring you for blogs and blogs. But don’t worry I will maintain myself (For now).

Actually I have a little confession to make. In my study, journalism/communication, I never liked the writing parts that I had and still have to do. Thinking about a subject for a item, making sure that I have the right sources for my item, going out there to get the information, that are the things I love in my field. Especially when it includes a camera. Filming, editing, just the idea of it is exciting to me!
I really want to go into that direction.

In the first year of my study I had to write about so many uninteresting things and I had to write them by so many rules that I got really sick of writing actually. So when we came here and I heard about my job at the EITB for which I would have to write every week I wasn´t to trilled to be honest. Of course I loved the idea of working for a news station this big because in the Netherlands we don’t get a opportunity like this to often, but the writing part..aargh.. I wanted my camera.

(Let’s hope that my boss doesn’t fire me instantly after reading this little confession of mine)

Now why did I tell you all about it? It is to explain how surprised I am about me enjoying telling you about all my experiences here in by blogs. (No, for real!)
I think it’s because the Basque Country had been and still is one big adventure to me and I know nobody, except the other Erasmus students over here of course, that I can’t tell something new about the Country and my life in it. I just love sharing everything and it would be nice for people when they go and visit the Country that they will recognize a thing or two that I have mentioned in my blogs. My family that has visited me already did.

How’s that, Saskia telling that she likes writing. A good way of ending this topic less blog I guess;)!

Fishy adventures in the Basque Country

Eating fish is quite a popular thing to do in the Basque Country. It might have a relation with the sea, that makes up for the northern border, but I haven’t figured it out completely. But what’s for sure is that Basques enjoy their piece of tuna, cod or snapper.

A fine tuna pintxo, cod pil pil or whatever the pintxoneers (pinxto makers, just invented it..) here feel like putting together, fish enjoys a well respected status in the Basque diet.

For that to happen, I guess you need people to take that fish.. Yes! That must be it, the fish live in the sea, Basques eat fish, so somehow, the fish comes to the Basques! And that’s what all these small villages are for! Must be my egg of Columbus..

I went to a few of those places where they make all this happen, fishing villages you call them, and they are inhabited by fishermen and women. Traditionally, the men take care of the fishing part and the women of the on shore activities such a repairing nets.

Women repairing the nets in Donostia

Because nowadays people often feel like drifting off from reality, fast lives, traffic, office jobs, etcetera, they occupy themselves with things that make them feel basic. And yes, some of them go fishing. It looks quite relaxing to be honest, you just stand a bit, watch the sea, and just wait… All these hobby fishermen, cause somehow it’s always men(of a considerable age), appear to be bothered by nothing. Just enjoying the fresh sea breeze..

However, this sea breeze might be too fresh sometimes. Because when I started talking to one of them, the guy got a bit over excited and threw out all his social isolation out on us! He was just so proud of his latest catch, that, while bombarding us with unintelligible phrases, he did not satisfy with just showing it.

The ever so quiet fisherman, agitated and all, simply had to stuff that red snapper in my hand. Muchas gracias tio!

Big worship for the little

Every Basque town or village has it’s own church or sanctuary and each of them has it’s own character. I’ve visited a lot of them in the last few months because I like old churches and monuments. They often have a nice story behind them, sometimes noticable by just the way in which it is build.

Last Teusday one of or teachers took us to Arantzazu to visit the church over there. We were very lucky because her uncle, who is a priest active at the other side of the country, traveled many hours to come and join us so that he could show us a thing or two in the church of Arantzazu.

A half hour drive from Arrasate, passing by Onati, lies Arantzazu. It is placed high between the mountains and therefore it was very cold making just six degrees. Unfortunately for us it was raining which made the temperature felt even worse.

Running towards the church in the hope to hear a good story there, and of course to find some shelter from the rain as well, I noticed that the entrance of it was considerably small while the church itself and everything around it where impressive big.

Going true the entrance it wasn´t the temperature that I felt rising, it was my curiosity.
Right in front of us where wooden benches, above us was a big platform with many seats for a big song chancel and right in front of us at the end of the church was the alter.

The alter was the one that rose my curiosity. It wasn’t a common one, on the contrary. In a oval shape with depth the alter was shaped. Up on the high wall was a big pies of art, made out of wood. The attention was drawn to the center of this pies of art. Up on a three stump, right there in the middle, a little figure was presented.

The virgin in Arantzazu

The virgin in Arantzazu

While we took place at the front row of the benches a priest of Arantzazu, who has been with it for fifty years and is a contact of the uncle of my teacher, starting telling us the history of the sanctuary. Soon it was clear that the little figure in the middle placed of a three stump played a big part in the historty of the church.

According to the tradition that the priest told us, the virgin, that is how the little figure is called, was found by a shepherd named Rodrigo de Balzategi. He found here in a hawthorn bush and asked her “Aranztan zu?”, which means “Is it you in the hawthorn?”. And that is how Arantzazu got its name.

In the continuance of the story the priest told us that at the time in which the virgin was found there were wars in the country during that period the country was suffering from a big dry. They al praided for hope. Then Rodrigo brought the virgin among the people and it suddenly started to rain. They saw this as a sing of the virgin being a saint and the country made peace.

I guess this story could also be the reason for the many rainfalls that the Basque Country still knows now a days..who knows?

What made a impression on me was the dedication of the priest for the sanctuary of Arantzazu. He had been with it for 50 years now and started there when he was 19th. The same goes for the uncle of my teacher, he also was around 20 when he decided to became a priest.

priest with the robes

priest with the robes

In the Netherlands people becoming a priest is almost a non-happening now a days. There are religious people and every town has it’s church but for real religion is not as big over there as it is over here. That is quit interesting to me. Especially because it seems like here in the country the religion makes the close communities over here even closer.

After we heard the story behind Arantzazu, what was wearth hearing, we got a tour true the church. We walked true the galleria of the sanctuary.  “A galleria in a sanctuary?”, whas the first thing that I thought. But yes it has one, a very unique one actually because there has been a contest about what the alter should look like and all the suggestions for it are exposed in the galleria.

There was a contest about the design of the alter because the original artist that was building it died of a stroke before he could finish it. There was decided to held a contest about how it should look like now the official creating could not me be performed any longer. From all over the world 41 artists turned in a piece of work that contained a suggestion for the looks of the alter.

The pieces of work in the galleria were all very unique in there kind. It was for sure that the people really felt like using the rebuilding of the sanctuary of Arantzazu as a oppertunity for expressing there feelings. All the paintings were really strong some spoke of freedom and others of hope.

We continued or tour to the basement of the church were the old alter that is still in use is kept. I was astonished by the sight of the room while I entered it. The walls of it where all covered with very strong colors of paint and behind the alter that was at the front of the room was drawn a blood-red priest rising his hands above him and looking with much anger towards us. I have never seen a alter like this, it expressed so many strong feelings in its paintings. It really felt like the painter of these drawings wanted to express anger and protest for the gaining of freedom. Even more surprising is that I saw this paintings in a sanctuary in the Basque Country, here were the people are known for being so shy and helt back.

The alter in the basement of Aratzazu

The alter in the basement of Aratzazu

The priest told us that people still get married in front of this alter. Personally I woudn’t feel comfortable by giving the ‘I Do’ in front of paintings looking quite angry at me.

I’m sure that by now it is clear that the uniqueness of the sanctuary interests me very much. But what maybe got my interest even more was the loyalty of the priest for it. He told me that when is was around 20 he decided to became a priest and he is with Arantzazu for 50 years now. The same age of becoming a priest goes for the uncle of my teacher. How dedicated they are..

In the Netherlands of course there are religious people but have the strong impression of way more Basque persons being religious. The communities that very tight over here seem to be drawn even closer by the religion.

We were very lucky with the contact of my teacher because our tour and guide were very good. The priest also took us op to the virgin. By stairs we could go up behind the alter, that is reversible in a way that she goes out of side in the front and appears at the back were she can be looked at very closely.

It turned out that the lady that is worshipped and loved by so many is a very small little lady! Usually she is dressed up in handmade robes that the priest showed us later. If the people from and around Arantzazu accepted that big of a influence from such a small woman then they must have been good people with a good will for trust.

Tight schedule!!

Only three more weeks left before I’m heading back home, and so much left to do! It kind of stresses me out; I have places to visit, friends to spend time with and what not.

The bad thing about places is that they become better when you get to know them.

How many of these villages can I still visit?

That goes for the Basque Country as well. In the beginning we had to depend on other people to see places because we didn’t know anyone, but now we’ve made friends we can visit and we know about more places we should go to. But where has the time gone we had in the beginning?

It’s a shame the weather has changed so rapidly cause I would really like to go hiking in the Pyrenees for a couple of days, but it’s wiser to keep that for summer. Then there’s the French Basque Country which should be worth visiting, Navarre and the Basque part of la Rioja, numerous lovely villages and other beautiful hikes that just need to be done..

But I’m never going to squeeze that in four weeks, and even if i had time, my wallet wouldn’t approve all this. So I have to make choices, not my greatest talent.. Painful times, but on the other hand, even if I had done all, mentioned above, I would have found other places to feel bad about for not going there.

How many of these mountains can I still climb?

In the end I think I should just enjoy the time here, not worry about what and what not to see, and just have the best time with my friends here. But who to see when and where?

Diary of a motivated student

After I had been attending my only college for the day, poor Erasmus student I am, I went to the Spanish class I’m doing. I hadn’t been there for a week or two because of all my visitors, so I was motivated to get back to it. Okay, I know I should be learning some Euskera while I’m here, and honoustly, I am! I can say ‘ ‘kaitxo, zer moduz?’, order ‘sagardo bat’ in a bar and some more basic stuff.

However, Spanish might help me out just a bit more in the future and is A LOT easier to learn. As I was saying, I went to my language school in Arrasate to see if I hadn’t missed out on too much, and if I could still know what they were talking about. But what happened? My professor appeared to be sick at home.. Bummer! I was kind of looking forward to get started again, and I didn’t feel like waiting for him to get better.

The guy who told me though, happened to be the teacher for the higher level class (I started at level one, cause I hadn’t ever had Spanish lessons). He told me that I could have a trie in the second level class if i wanted.

And it was brilliant! The level was higher than in my other class, but in the end I went home with a more satisfied feeling than before..

Monday’s madness

We’ve done many traditional parties since we’ve been here, and I would have loved to bring my three visiting Dutch friends to one, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any nice jaiak, happening when they were here. Therefore, we had to find a place to have fun or create our own party somewhere. That’s just what we did!

After an awesome day in Donostia (sights, pintxos, cider and txakoli), we headed for Arrasate to spend our last night together. Unfortunatley, the calendar said it was Monday. and what can you possibly do on a Monday?!

All our Basque lagunak(friends) were panikcing over deadlines, so we invited our Erasmus friends. Cause Erasmus people aren’t known for having the tightest schedule, as I experience myself! But as the mood was kind of weird the whole weekend, we decided to thematize the party as a dress-up-as-dumb-as you-can-party. Great fun, most people showed up, and they had even bothered to put on something stupid.

Somehow people loosen up a bit when they dress up, as if they can hide behind a different personality. They act, and that can be for the good. Everyone was dancing to my wacky, fast Romanian music and having such a great time!

My Dutch friends and I made us some dinner at two o’clock at night to keep the energy level steady for some more fun, and it worked. We ended the festivities around 6, cause we figured our neighbours would like to have a peaceful breakfast. Still wonder if they managed to sleep at all that night..

Ai ama!

That is how I feel about this weekend “Ai Ama!”.
It all started a month ago. Two of my sweet Dutch friends decided to come over to the Basque Country for a visit. I felt like ‘yeah that would be nice’ but I didn’t miss them that much actually because I knew that they would still be there by the time that I’ll return to the Netherlands.
The days went by and I didn’t have that much contact with them because I was busy with having other visitors in the Basque Country and next to that I was just busy with me normal life over here.
Then a week ago we started to have more contact because their arrival was coming near. They would arrive around nine pm in Santander so I would book a hostel because in that way we could spent the night partying over there and on Sunday we would go to Arrasate.
Their arrival was coming closer and closer and I imaged us talking and laughing and having fiestas por todos noches. I liked the idea of introducing them to all my new friends here and the idea of getting them in touch with the Basque Country.
Most of all I thought about how I would feel around them. They know the way I think, what kind of jokes I enjoy. We would probably be talking and laughing all night long while we would catch up all the gossip and stuff like that. It Would be so relaxed.
Online I had looked up some good places to party for the Saturday night In Santander and I had booked a hostel at the beach for the three of us. Filled with excitement I took the buss on Saturday together with some erasmusfriends and Tieme because some of his Dutch friends would Arrive by the same airplane.

During my trip my friends had called about arriving safely in the airport and being ready for take off. Relaxing a bit I was listening to some music while I suddenly noticed that my phone was ringing. 
Five lost calls from friends and two messages to call them back.

I looked at the time; 19.05 and their plane should have took off at 19.00..

All worried I called them back. “Girl I it sucks so bad but I have to tell you something”, answered one of my friends with a sad voice. It turned out that there are two airports in Dusseldorf (they booked a flight from Germany because it is cheaper then a direct flight from the Netherlands to Santander). They were just aware of one airport in Dusseldorf and waited and waited at the one they knew untill they noticed that their was no departure for their plane.

It turned out that they were in the wrong airport and there was no more chance for them to get to the right one in time. They had missed their flight and there was no way for them to book another.

“No just go on a plane to somewhere in Spain I will come to you..this can’t be!”, was my first response. Of course then I realized that there was no point.. and I felt so so sad! I just really felt like seeing them and now I mis them because they were so close. It sucks..

Maybe I should look for smarter friends when I return to the Netherlands (just kidding), but for now I realized how happy I am with the people that I already had in my life and with the people that got in it during my time here in the Basque Country.  I needed to be with them and have their support when my Dutch friends didn´t make it because I felt so sad and a bit lonely.

I always thought that managing without real friends and just some lose contacts would be fine but now I’ve learned how much I actually do need to have them wherever I am.
Luckely for me that the Basque Country is a good place for making friends as well 🙂

Keeping up the pass in Zarautz

Some time ago, we happened to be in Zarautz, a lovely coastal town, close to Donostia. It’s a very Basque place and its waves are well known by surfers all over the world. I went there with some friends to enjoy the most important traditional party of the town, called just Euskal Jaiak(Basque party). As it was my second week in the country, I had my first encounter with Basque traditionalism.

Even though people were dressed up for a party, you just knew that they had a strong feeling attached to it. In Holland we only dress up for queens day, but the ridiculosity has the upper hand in this celebration. We put on our most lunatic orange outfit, cause in a way we feel uncomfortable expressing pride of our country.

This fear of expression however, was nowhere to be found in Zarautz. There was traditional Basque dance on different stages, there were plenty of parades and gatherings to express political feelings. But the thing that impressed me most was the fact that the youth participated in a traditional way too. They wore the traditional clothes, knew the old songs and they were very able to dance to them, as their ancestors have done for centuries.

Since there are supposed to be over 400 dances I wouldn’t know which [kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

my friends were performing, but it looked pretty easy. Hands up, wave a bit, some footwork, a turn here and there and that’s it! Okay, maybe not.. These guys and girls have been doing these dances since they were kids, so they managed quite well, and fast!

I had a go, but lost track soon, which the Basques found hilarious.. Well, what was I thinking anyway, I’m even unable to do the Dutch clog dance!

ongi etorri Holland!

Me and my Dutch friend(see previous) wanted to lay back for a night, after a tiring one in Bilbao. Therefore we went home to Arrasate, cause what could happen there? Well, we discovered it’s not easy at all to avoid the fun here! After dinner, we got called by our Erasmus friends, who just happened to be a couple of minutes away. They just insisted that we came for a drink, just one they said.

My friend didn’t know anyone at the start of the night, but he felt like he met the whole town at the end of it! Cause of course this one drink turned in to a second, a third and so on.. Each time I looked at my friend, he was talking to a new person, Basque or Erasmus, who ever.

He discovered that Basques in Arrasate enjoy having a drink, a chat and a game of table football when they’re going out. So that’s exactly what we did. Luckily, my friend is a enthousiatic guy, who enjoys meeting new people, what a great introduction to the Basque social ways. Ongi etorri Holland!