How many of you know what Carnaval is? If you ask my friend Garrett, he'll say that anyone who's seen Rio knows exactly what Carnaval is, and honestly, he's right. Carnaval is so many things, and one could simplify it to say that it's just costumes and parades and drinking and dancing, but it's so much more than that. Carnaval is a celebration of life. Historically speaking, it's actually what the old Catholics did right before Lent. Lent is the time where you hold off on the luxuries of life - such as meat on Fridays - and it occurs annually from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Most people give up something for Lent or add something for the betterment of themselves or the enrichment (religiously or what have you) of their lives. A lot of people turn it into a religious diet, giving up sweets and the like - if you ask me, while it may not be the intended purpose, it's a pretty smart concept. When you're on a Lent diet, how hard could it be to give up what you said you would? "Don't eat that candy, remember, God is watching." I don't know, seems like it would be pretty effective. Anyway, Carnaval is a celebration right before Lent, when all the luxuries of life must be consumed so that there is nothing left when Lent begins - and let me tell you, the Spanish like to make sure there is TRULY nothing left to consume - these people are nocturnal I swear.
Alright, so a bit of a run through of our day and then maybe some elaboration?
First off, Be and I - we aren't all that bright - were out until almost 4am Friday night just talking (on a playground swing set, as a matter of fact). We all woke up around 10am Saturday morning, and let me just say that six hours of sleep in no way prepared me for all things Carnaval.
We got our costumes together - meaning our 10 euro H&M black striped shirts, some leggings and a beanie - and headed out to start our day as ex convicts. We walked through Murcia on our way to the train and I would like to stop and take a moment to warn anyone who hates Valentine's Day to stay the HELL away from Spain anytime around February - there are freakin' flowers and balloons and happiness and sunshine and cuteness everywhere you look, and if you're not into that kind of thing, you'll probably throw up. So we finally got to the train station and bought our tickets to Aguilas, a coastal town with a whole lot of Carnaval in it right around this time of year. We left at 1:30 and arrived around 3:30. It was beyond beautiful. Sorry in advance for the tangent I'm about to go off on, but this is a beach city. I freakin' love the beach. I love everything about it - the sand, the water, the environment, the architecture of the buildings close by, the sound of the waves, all of it. Being back at the beach... it was the closest I've felt to being back home in a very long time. Anyway, we wandered over to a restaurant for lunch because if we don't feed Erin every other hour on the hour she turns into a 5'4 evil beast who will eat you if you don't watch out. By some uncanny stroke of unluckiness, her food came out almost half an hour after mine and Be's, but her coffee held her over and no one was lost in the incident.
So, no one told us that none of the actual festivities started until like 9, or else God knows I would have slept in later yesterday morning. We walked around the beautiful city for awhile, drinks in hand, and while walking, something caught our attention. The steepest set of discombobulated stairs anyone has ever seen in their lives, and it seemed to lead up to the top of the city. What kind of people would we be not to take this kind of opportunity? So we walked! And walked... and lost our breath.. and walked some more. And then we got to the top. I have no words to describe how beautiful it was, truly. Facebook friends, I posted photos, please enjoy. After appreciating the beauty of this amazing place, we decided it was time for another drink, so we went into a family owned bar whose owners thought that we, as Americans, deserved a few free rounds of cuerva. Cuerva, for those who don't know, is like sangria on steroids. I don't even know how to describe it other than exceptionally sweet and just as strong. They even put fruit in it that sinks to the bottom so that you can do what Be did and have drank enough by the end of it that you don't mind holding the glass upside down and hitting it till the fruit un-stuck from the bottom and fell into your mouth. Just kidding, she was sober, but it was still hilarious. By the way, I love the bars here. They aren't like what they seem to be at home, where if you're there you're trying to get wasted or find someone to go home with or both. They're very open, welcoming, and even family oriented. Anyway, we headed out of the bar and walked back to the main street where the majority of the parades and parties were happening.
We found some Erasmus friends along the way - Erasmus is basically the European organization for international students - and stayed with them for a few hours. We got pizza, frozen yogurt, some more drinks, etc. and somehow continued to dance throughout the streets of Aguilas. We even got on a parade float and danced on that - the float riders were very welcoming I swear. Eventually we decided to branch off and go meet some of my friends from class - Placido, Carmen, Alvaro, Fran, etc - and began what should have been a five minute walk to meet them (we get lost sometimes). Initially we couldn't find each other because it was so busy so I stood on the stairs and told Fran to look for the only real blonde in the whole freakin' country - and he found us. It was a pretty fantastic meeting - the three of us were exhausted and all of them were significantly intoxicated - but they were sweet as could be and gave us a few drinks before the rain began. When I say rain, by the way, I really mean rain. It came out of nowhere and then stayed strong for about a half hour at a time, with slight breaks. By the end of it, I looked like a wet dog rather than a convict. We moved our little party elsewhere and continued to enjoy ourselves until about an hour before our train to Murcia was supposed to come in (at 6am) and so we headed up to our secret little spot above the city to sit and appreciate everything we had just been able to experience. Honestly, the best comparison I can make is that it kind of felt like being Superman. We looked out over the city and we could hear everything - all of the music coming from different directions, all of the shouting people, all of it - and you could see much farther than you'd think at 5am in total darkness because of the lights of Carnaval, you could even see the light at the end of the pier. All of it, all at once. It was more than overwhelming. And it was just one of those times where you appreciate everything you have in life. I mean yeah, I'm poor and paying my rent causes me physical pain and pretty soon I'll have to sell myself on a street corner to pay for groceries, but hey, I'm in Spain.
Soon afterwards we walked our exceptionally tired selves to the train station, and apparently half of the rest of the city wanted to go home when we did, so we duked it out and ended up with three seats on the 5:45am train into Murcia. It was so full, people were sitting in the isles. There were also a bunch of drunken cows in the car next to us who refused to shut the door despite their incessant yelling and so I got angry and made the executive decision that if they didn't shut the door, I would. It was soon shut. You don't mess with me and my sleep, alright? We got to the station in Murcia around 8am and because, as previously mentioned, we are poor, we walked home. My house, luckily enough, is the farthest away from the station, and I had left my things at Erin's the morning before, so I got to walk to her house and then mine. Honestly. I didn't think I was going to make it. On the walk home I kept looking for places I could just lay down and take a nap - I even planned to write a note that said "Not drunk, just exhausted" wherever I ended up passing out in town - but I made it home around 9:15am and curled up into a little ball in bed. I messaged my flatmates to let them know I had just arrived at home and that unless someone was dying, I would really appreciate not being woken up. I did eventually wake up today.... at 7:45pm... I guess I really needed my sleep.
Sleep, by the way, has to do with my word of the day, "dormilona." It basically means "girl who is perpetually sleepy" and if you don't think that that is the absolute perfect word for my existence as a human being, you're wrong. It is my word. I claim it. I would get it tattooed on my body, but that would be a hard one to explain to mom and dad.
So the girls and I decide that the next time all three of us are in Spain for carnaval (never again) we're going to wear pajamas and book a freakin' hostel. My friends actually want to go again next weekend. I think they're trying to kill me. Like, seriously, I think they want me to die. How the hell do they do it? As if I didn't already know that I wasn't a party animal, I have been reminded.
In all honesty, it was quite a day. Well more than that, actually, more like a day and a half, but I digress. A lot happened. Dances were danced, friends were made, drinks were drank. Drunk? Drunken? Drinkded? Drank. I don't know, English is barely my first language anymore, leave me alone. Poor grammar aside, I am so blessed to have had this experience and it is one I will remember for the rest of my life. After all, who wants to celebrate Valentine's Day when you could celebrate Carnaval instead?
PS. Still sick. Wondering what Spain's laws are on sedation until this whole sick and dying thing passes.
I wrote this blog while living in Spain my second year of college - figured it wouldn't hurt to share.