CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Spring 2012
Home School: Portland State University
My eldest sister, Rana, did a study abroad in Spain almost 10 years ago. During her year in Cantabria, she met O, a friend of one of her Spanish roommates. It is my belief that they were setup to fall in love, but that is open to debate. Rana says that the roommates told her to watch after O for the day. O assumed that Rana could not speak very good Spanish, and so spoke to her very slowly. Rana assumed that O spoke slowly because he was mentally slow, and responded with equally slow Spanish. They spent an hour behaving this way before they got coffee. When Rana spoke to the waiter, O realized his error. After a laugh over the situation, a few weeks, and several more walks and coffees, they fell in love. Rana returned to the states to finish her degree, and a year later went back to live with and eventually marry O. Rana and O now live in Maliaño, a town outside of Santander.
So this weekend I took another trip to Cantabria to visit Rana and O. Friday I ate lunch with Rana's in-laws, a friendly and open bunch of people. They make me feel right at home, just like visiting my own aunts and uncles. O's parents, brother, and grandmother live together in a flat in Santander.
On Saturday, we drove up into a mountain in Cantabria. We enjoyed the sites of the winding road, speckled with tiny villages along the sides. It was cloudy on the way up, but the mountains are a site to behold all on their own. We drove mostly through a canyon, with nets placed on the cliff sides to keep falling rocks from landing on the road or anyone using it.
In one town, we stopped to take a walk around. The small flows of water that come down from Spanish mountains are important for getting fresh water in the city. While in the US fresh water is hardly scarce, here in Spain it is a valuable and diminishing resource. Over the last few years, the country has suffered summer drought, and Cantabria, usually known for heavy rainfall, has also been quite dry.
O and Tiki's father, Doro, is a friendly fellow that enjoys his drink and making other people drink. Within three minutes of entering his home, I had a drink in my hand. He is trying to learn English in order to communicate with Rana and my parents. It is a bit like reading Dick and Jane books with a very heavy Spanish accent, but he gets the point across. It is also his self-proclaimed duty to ensure that everyone does everything correctly. Namely, he tried to teach me how to use a fork "the right way." I hold my fork the way I hold a pencil. Useful end down, handle between forefinger and thumb, and other end on top of hand. He wanted me to put the other end against my palm. Try writing or drawing like this, I dare you.
Doro's wife, Dori, is a cheerful and warm woman. She is the very example of a Spanish mother, always wanting to feed everyone. She is also the very example of a Spanish woman, always causing a fuss. While riding in O's car to visit sites on Saturday, she suddenly pulled out her perfume bottle and began spritzing it into the air. The remainder of the day, the two of them argued about it. But, she is a wonderful cook, patient when speaking to me (as my Spanish lacks almost as much as Doro's English), and means well with her actions.
We went to another village to enjoy some typical foods of the region. This noodle filled broth is made from the water used to cook garbanzo beans.
Garbanzo beans, various sausages and meats, and boiled cabbage make up the regional food traditions in these mountain villages.
The Spanish love meat. They eat cow, pig, sheep, goat, and yes, horses. This pasture was filled with mares, all pregnant with fowls.
Before leaving the mountain, we made one final stop at a cafe. The cafe is owned and operated by a pastry factory. These flaky and delicious desserts are called Corbatas, which in Spanish means bow-ties. A sweet filo-dough topped with almonds and an almond based, hard, frosting.
It is always enjoyable to visit my sister and her Spanish family. I am aware that most people do not even know where Santander is, let alone plan to visit it. But if you like folksy small towns it is lovely to visit. And the beach, while not as warm as Barcelona, is very beautiful.
Santander Travel Guide: http://wikitravel.org/en/Santander
See Emaelia's last post here: http://study-barcelona-all.ciee.org/2012/01/museu-de-la-xocolata.html and her blog here: http://usagirlinaglobalworld.blogspot.com.es/