Almost everyone in the group lost their voices, starting on day one. The second morning of Fallas, Marina, Cristina(not my host mom, but her friend), Maria and Josep slept over at the apartment we stayed at (it was an extra empty apartment owned by Cristina's parents). When I woke up, Marina was on the mattress across the room in her sleeping bag. She whispered loudly in a gruff voice (like I said, she lost her voice), "MELISSA. MELISSA. DO YOU HAVE A KLEENEX?" Maria was laughing because I didn't hear her, and Marina said "Guys, will you please help me over here?" referring to how they needed to gang up and shout to me because Marina couldn't do it alone. Then, about 15 minutes later (we were all still laying down), she said "I'm really hot." Cristina told her to take off her sleeping bag, and Marina replied, "I can't. I am not wearing any pants."
One of the nights over dinner, the conversation turned to the USA and cultural differences. Laura and her husband got married last fall and took their honeymoon on a road trip to the southwestern US. She was telling me about things she encountered, such as:
- "They had ice machines in hotels! They have these little tubs with lids in your room, specifically for ice! You go to the machine (there is one on every floor), and you fill it up with ice to keep in your room! We had one of our hotel rooms near one of those machines, but we didn't know how noisy it would be in the middle of the night! It was a learning experience!"
- "They like ice...almost every restaurant gave you ice in your water. I always had to ask for an extra cup because I like my water room temperature, so I always took out the ice."
- "What are those bags called for extra food from restaurants? Doggy bags? I love that phrase!"
Everyone at the table was as amused as she was by these American wonders. I asked her what the weirdest thing she ate was, and she said Beef Tartar. I have heard of it, but I didn't know what it is. She told me there was raw meat in it, so that is probably why I've never had it.
Then the conversation drifted to my American experience aka: my life, and more specifically, high school. Some of the questions asked:
- "Did you have cheerleaders at your school!?"
- "Did you have Prom? Who'd you go with? Did you get one of those wrist flower things? (corsage) Did they have PUNCH to drink at the prom?! Did people really pour alcohol in the punch bowl!?"
- "Did you have LOCKERS!?"
- "Do people really get rejection letters from universities when they apply? Is it really that big of a deal?"
They were so amused by these things and the responses. Everything they were referring to, of course, was something they had seen in a movie. So some were accurate, and some were not (like spiking the punch...since our school just had pop cans).
One of the nights was costume night, and Marina left right after dinner to meet with a friend, then came back for the dance part (after dinner, the casal turned into a private night club--fallas people only!). So she had to take off her costume, which she was wearing over street clothes. However, she decided to "change" right next to the table, so one of her friends made a comment that she was doing a strip tease (again, she was fully clothed underneath) next to us. In response, Marina took off her costume's belt and started swinging it around her head in this jokingly-sexy way, and almost hit three people at the table behind her. It was hilarious.
That night, during costume night, all of the men at one of the tables dressed up as the Village People. Then, later during dance time, the DJ played "YMCA" and "In The Navy." I thought it was great that people gestured the wrong letters during the YMCA, just waving their hands in a general upwards direction if they weren't sure (the letters are obviously said in English, which many don't know).
Mayte had a fairly new boyfriend, who wasn't in the casal, so she was constantly calling him on her cell, then sneaking off to chat for an hour. One of those times, she came back downstairs where we were eating after being gone for nearly an hour, and our whole table (my host family's friends) start singing the Spanish equivalent of "K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Mayte with the baby carriage..." She was a little embarrassed.
Anyways, the moment you've all been waiting for: The video for Las Fallas.
Some explanations of on-screen stuff...
0:00-0:31 La Mascleta--The noisy firecracker show they did every day at 2pm March 1st until the end of Las Fallas. Marina, Maria Carmen, Maria, Lucia and Pichon are all there with me.
0:31-0:37 Fallas monuments and lights throughout the
0:38-0:43 Nachete (Maria's nephew), Lucas, and Dani running around the casal when they were bored.
0:43-0:45 Dani, Maria and Lucia staring at our giant falla monument.
0:46-0:56 The DaVinci fall monument. It was huge.
0:57-1:02 Hospital-themed falla (the large falla of the casal that Marina made her falla for)
1:02-1:19 Various fallas monuments from throughout the city, including the AWESOME lights for the France-themed falla.
1:20-1:33 Photos. See my other post for descriptions.
1:34-1:41 Pasacalles with our casal faller.
1:42-1:48 Marina's carousel falla monument that she designed, painted and constructed. You can see the awards it won, also (3rd place in special section, 2nd place for cleverness and humor).
1:49-1:50 More pasacalles of our casal faller, this time in the morning.
1:51-2:00 Lucia, Lucas and Maria throwing firecrackers and poppers.
2:01-2:17 Various fallas monuments
2:18-2:21 Pichon made paella one night, and that's Jose Enrique trying it out.
2:22-2:27 A casal faller heading to the ofrenda in the morning, view from our apartment's balcony. Notice the bobbing dresses dancing to the music...
2:28-2:51 Laura, Maria Carmen, Mayte, Marina, Jose Enrique and Pichon, everyone dancing. Jose Enrique and Pichon reenacted the dance scene from Dirty Dancing when the DJ played "I've Had the Time of My Life." To be honest, they knew more about the dance than I did (I only remembered the jump-into-his-arms part)
2:51-2:58 Some other costumes in the casal on costume night. Yes, that is a man dressed as Snow White.
2:59-3:00 You can see some of the "Village People" dancing in the background...
3:01-3:02 Every night, before dinner, the fallera mayor descended down the stairs as everyone stood up and applauded. Then we all took our seats when she took hers.
3:03-3:14 The kids' costume night: Sherlock Holmes, cute kitty cats, Dani as a fireman, Maria as Minnie Mouse, and Nachete as a pirate. It was really cutely organized: The kids got to the stairs, were asked their name and costume on the microphone, then they walked down the "runway" to the front, where they got a pair of spring-loaded googly eye glasses.
3:15-3:17 Marina getting her prize with the little falleras from the casal that she designed her falla monument for. They go up on a stage in the town square, pose for a picture, and pic up a flag/banner to carry around town in pride.
3:18-3:19 Dani with Lucas's and his school mascots, Peca y Lino. Lucas had them over the weekend to take pictures of to put in Peca and Lino's journal, like the traveling gnome.
3:20-3:25 More pasacalles with our casal faller. Like our very own marching band that followed us.
3:26-3:33 Monday night there was a random Christians and Moors parade.
3:33-3:37 The giant virgin Mary statue, whose dress is made of flowers from the Ofrenda. It is huge, as you can see.
3:38-3:42 More of our pasacalle
3:42-3:49 Skirt fluffing, bandana tying, dancing, flower grabbing, veil arranging...all steps for the big Ofrenda! Marina is the one getting her veil arranged by Cristina's mom. To be honest, her dress was my favorite of the whole group.
3:50-4:02 The Ofrenda.
4:03-4:39 Monica lighting the wick (for the kids to go off and light firecrackers), Lucia's school's falla monument, kids from the casal setting off fire fountains, fireworks from the falla monument burning, our fallera prepping to set our falla monument on fire, Dani looking on in his fireman's costume, our mini falla monument burning all the way to the ground, as the music from our marching band plays on.
The falla from Lucia's school took three minutes to burn. The kids made it, and it was mostly paper and cardboard. The professional falla infantil from our casal took over 15 minutes to burn (it was the same size). The latter was made with styrofoam and wood.
Yes, it smelled bad.
Yes, I probably took 3 years off my life from being in attendance.
Yes, ash flew into my hair.
Yes, it was amazing to watch.