School’s off today for the national holiday of Santiago! – and I’m headed to Algorta for the Concurso Internacional de Paellas!!! By the way I was not in that train wreck in Galicia, Spain, and I am ok.

I am very much an independent person, but if I can go with friends I will. And so, I planned on meeting with a group of university students at the Algorta metro at 11am. I waited for a half hour and then decided to walk to the Concurso internacional de paellas alone, sola. Going unaccompanied and being independent has become a lot easier with practice (i.e. Barcelona). I made friends with an elderly Spanish couple and walked with them most of the way to the festival. They were very kind and friendly. The man offered to take a picture of me, one, in front of the old windmill “molina” and, another, in front of the cliff overlooking the port. We said goodbye and then I walked the rest of the way to the festival where I saw the traditional dance, clothing, and music.

Near the entrance, I listened to men playing wood music called “Txalaparta.” They used this all over País Vasco a long time ago to communicate between cities. Then I took myself over to the stage where two men played music – “flute and drum” txistu (la flauta) y tamboril. Adorable Euskaldi children dressed in traditional outfits danced to the traditional music. Llevaban ropa azul marino de arrantzale (pescadoras) de neskas e hicieron danzas vascas – They were wearing traditional navy blue outfits “of the mariners/fishermen,” de arrantzale in Basque. De neskas is Basque for “of children” and danzas vascas are “Basque dances.” It was an event for both families and young people con demonstraciones tipicas de folclore. Euskaldi flags were everywhere, which is understandable. I was surprised by how popular pirate flags are, especially among the young people, Lourdes says it is a sign of rebellion. That seems to me to be similar to the attitude toward pirate flags in the U.S. Cooking the paella is a big deal—but nowhere will you find paella you can buy. This paella is not for outsiders! Each group of people sets up their own tent and cooks their own paella to share with their party. I walked around for about an hour just looking at the people cooking various types of paella, not expecting to eat any. Who did I know? I didn’t belong to any party and came independently.

Then I unexpectedly saw Joseba, the Spanish many I made friends with at the beach party that one night in Sopelana. He was with a party of people cooking paella, drinking sangria, and hanging out. He invited me to join him and he introduced me to his friends, all of them were Spanish and most were of Basque blood and had Euskaldi names that were difficult to remember, like Iratxe. We spoke in Spanish. A few of them tried to practice their poor English skills with me and when I couldn’t understand I asked them to just speak castellano (Spanish). I made friends really fast! They are such nice people gente maja and I got to be the “exotic friend” because I am American. They asked me how old I was and I answered 20, how old do I seem? She expected 25. Maybe she thought I was older because of my maturity, or maybe because I came alone.The girls and I partied all night. By the end of the day, there was trash everywhere and everyone was drunk. People don’t hold anything back during the summer fiestas because it rains so much, they usually stay in their homes. Iratxe accompanied me on the metro, she got off at Areeta and I got off at Sarriko.