Happy Pancake day everyone! It’s been a while since my last blog post, but I’ve been busy celebrating the start of Lent the traditional English way at home, as well as the Spanish way back in Logroño this weekend. I’ve got two weeks’ worth of news so I’ll try to be concise!
Pancake day is probably my third favourite religious festival, closely following Christmas and Easter (though I’m still undecided as to whether or not chocolate trumps pancakes). For any non-English readers, Pancake Day (or Shrove Tuesday) is the last day before Lent. Traditionally, Christians would fast during Lent, so they would make pancakes the day before to use all the eggs and milk which would go-off. Nowadays, people don’t fast, but they still make pancakes!
Every year, my Dad mixes up and fries his famous (in our family, at least) batter and we race to eat as many as we can (…I really hope other families do this, and don’t think we’re greedy!) So I didn’t miss out this year, we held a “Shrove Monday” and held our “Annual Pitkin Pancake Competition” (we don’t actually call it this… but we should!) while I was at home last weekend!
I had a lovely and relaxing time at home with my family. Aside from eating too many pancakes, I also managed to eat too much Mexican food with my friends, cheer York City on to a not-at-all-disappointing 0-0 draw and almost get blown off the moors.
To beat the post-home blues I’ve had each time I’ve returned to Spain before, I’ve been keeping really busy since I got back here. On Friday, I treated myself to a session at the fantastically cheap municipal spa. It doesn’t have all the frills you’d expect at an expensive spa – the robes and slippers, champagne, fruit etc, but it did have steam rooms, a sauna and a jacuzzi and only cost 8 euros for two hours! A quick trip could become a frequent indulgence!
Going to the spa was quite an experience. Spanish ladies have a lot of body-confidence and absolutely no qualms about nudity. (Before anyone gets hopeful, there are no photos of my spa trip!) There are no individual changing or shower rooms, just one big wet room. Lots of women were strutting around in their birthday suits – and many of them certainly wouldn’t fit into Bershka jeans! Good for them, I thought, until one lady struck up conversation with me whilst changing and I had to struggle to keep eye contact. She completely forgot about getting dressed and looked at me pityingly as I tried to do the knicker-trick (anyone who ever swam competetively will know what this is, but for anyone else: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Knicker%20Trick).
So you don’t have to cover your body, but you do have to cover your head! It’s obligatory to wear a special silk spa hat, which I didn’t have so I worsened my Spanish and cried poor little foreign girl until I was taken pity on and lent one (I am a little bit ashamed of this)! I thought the reason might be to stop loose hair coming out in the swimming pool, but some women just wear their hair down and balance the hat on their heads. Strange.
Also, there is no queueing for the rooms and no one seems to follow the rule that once a room is full, you can’t use it. The sauna, in particular got very squashed, and even hotter than it would have otherwise been!
Saturday was the day of carnaval, which is probably Spain’s pancake day equivalent. Lent is welcomed here with a party, of course! Everyone dresses up (anything goes, literally!) to take part in or watch the parade and then it’s out to the bars and the clubs! I’d intended to watch the end of the parade and the prize giving, but because the weather was absolutely horrible the participants were speed-marched around the city and finished ahead of schedule, so I missed it. However, here’s a picture a friend sent me:
My friends and I had an animal theme. I was a ladybird:
My outfit got two outings because I was also invited to a carnaval dinner hosted by one of the teachers I work with. We had octopus (octopuses, octopi?), which I was a bit wary of but which were absolutely delicious! It’s encouraging that I was able to follow the majority of the conversation, even after a few glasses of vino!
Faux-pas of the week: In between having all this fun, I’ve also had to go to work! In one of my classes of five students I held a competition where each child had to speak for as long as possible about a picture. I wrote their initials vertically on the board, ready to put the times next to: PINAS, which made them giggle. “Yes,” I said, thinking they hadn’t outsmarted me, “It says pineapples.” But no, I found out, piñas means pineapples and pinas is a slang term for something eleven year olds shouldn’t know very much about. Oops.