The Calm After the Storm

I don’t know what I was expecting this morning, after dancing the night away with friends from countries all over the world and tiptoeing in, drenched from the rain, around 6:00 am. Among my list of possibilities were extreme exhaustion, sleeping as long as I could, finding sand all over the floor from walking along the beaches at night, and maybe a bit of a headache. What I never expected was to be woken up at 10:30 am by the banging of drums and the blaring of brass instruments from just outside my window. As I was unceremoniously thrust from my beautiful, peaceful slumber, I vaguely recalled my host mother mentioning that today was a religious holiday. In the United States, we often have parades to celebrate nationally recognized holidays, and so I expected them to proceed down the street and farther out of earshot. Much to my groggy dismay, they remained just below my balcony for another thirty minutes before finally moving on to their next location. I stood out on the terrace, squinting against the glare of the sun through the clouds, and watched as the musicians played and surrounding onlookers cheered. I found myself smiling, despite being sleep deprived, sandy, and overall just a bit of a mess. Just when I start to feel as though I’m beginning to understand how things work in this beautiful city, something new and exciting happens, and I’m left struggling to take in as much of it as I can before the moment is gone.

My lovely alarm clock this morning: the basque musicians and spectators who could been seen through town for the rest of the day.

My lovely alarm clock this morning: the basque musicians and spectators who could been seen through town for the rest of the day.


I decided to get dressed and seize the day, despite the looming clouds that never quite cleared from the downpour of rain the night before. My body protested as I walked to meet up with a few friends for lunch, because I developed a minor case of shin splints from our “short”, very hilly hike through the Oma Forest the day before. A walk, full of very steep inclines, that my host mother insists is “muy facil,” or very easy. It was a beautiful location, but the muscles in my legs can attest to the fact that it definitely was NOT “muy facil.”

A brief glimpse of the view along our "muy facil" excursion yesterday

A brief glimpse of the view along our “muy facil” excursion yesterday

After filling my stomach with delicious food and a couple ibuprofen tablets, my friends and I set off to browse for souvenirs in the light rain that had begun to fall. Unlike the United States, many shops close on Sunday’s here in San Sebastián. After perusing the stores in our neighborhood and having no luck, my roommate and I decided to drag our aching muscles back to bed for our daily siesta. This is one of the many aspects of Spanish culture that I definitely have fallen in love with.

The rest of my day was spent indoors, bonding with my roommate through our mutual love of sleep and with our lovely host mother – an 87 year old woman with more spunk than most of my friends. After a family dinner, we headed out to meet up with a small group of people for gelato. This is a regular indulgence for many people in our group, almost to the point of becoming routine. After choosing my flavor of the day (I try a new one every time we order gelato), I joined my amigas in sitting along the stone wall, looking out over the ocean. The sky was no longer a gloomy grey, but instead a beautiful contrast of darker colors with the faint hint of a sunset peeking through on the horizon. We laughed together, sharing stories and making plans for the rest of our short time here.

A peaceful ending to a peaceful day

A peaceful ending to a peaceful day

As I licked my delicious dessert, smiling with a group of people I didn’t know two and a half weeks ago, it started to set in how fleeting this trip has been. The days feel long, but the time flies by. Every day is a new adventure here in San Sebastián, and my experiences have been exciting and revitalizing. My Spanish has improved immensely, but more importantly, I’ve experienced an entirely different culture and I’ve fallen in love with it. I’ve had the opportunity to bond with people from all over the world, and learn about their experiences and opinions. Over the past two weeks, I have made memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I’m almost dreading going home, back to a routine life without pintxos and ancient history. I don’t want this entire trip to become a memory. Whether I spend my time literally dancing in the rain, or basking in the calm after the storm, I am always left feeling fulfilled and perfectly content. If there’s one thing I take home with me at the end of this journey, it’s the desire to change my habitual life in the states to one that leaves me smiling at the end of each day, the way I am right now.

Rediscovering Peace in San Sebastian

“What does peace mean to you?” This was the first question my classmates and I were asked as we entered the Gernika Peace Museum on Saturday morning. What may appear as a seemingly easy question to answer actually turned out to be extremely difficult to put into words. Slowly but surely, my classmates began naming activities that brought them a sense of peace such as reading, sleeping, running or listening to music. This simple yet thought provoking question led me to dig deeper and discover what I consider to be peaceful. I soon came to the shocking realization that most of the things that I consider peaceful are non-existent here in San Sebastian, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Two Saturdays ago I left the country for the very first time to experience what for many would be a once in a life time opportunity. Traveling to a foreign country essentially meant that I would be leaving my family, my friends, and everything that I have ever known behind. As any young adult would be, I was both extremely excited but also anxious for what the future had in store for me. I was consumed with nerves about not knowing any of the students on the trip, not knowing more than a handful of Spanish words, living in an unfamiliar city, and the possibility of not liking any of the food. However, with the exception of not liking the food becoming reality, I have found that all of my preconceived notions have been proven to be false. As I am now taking a moment to reflect on my last two weeks here in San Sebastian, I am discovering each day that my old idea of “peace” was far from correct, and that I actually have found peace in many of the very same things that I was so worried about.

My time in San Sebastian thus far has allowed me to develop close friendships with sixteen of my classmates as well as friendships with students from Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands. I truly believe that these newfound friendships are ones that I never would have had the opportunity to encounter if I had not stepped outside of my comfort zone. I do not hesitate when saying that I am certain many of these friendships will far outlast the duration of this trip. I have found peace in being away from the people that I know best because I have come to discover that there is even more excitement in meeting new people.


If asked prior to this trip what activity I found the most peace in, I would have responded with sleeping. Being lazy is one of my most cherished activities in the summertime, but little did I know that all hints of sleep and relaxation would disappear when coming on this trip. With that being said, I speak for both myself and my classmates when I say that we hardly get any sleep here in San Sebastian, and we love it. Most days, I struggle to get out of bed after getting a “full nights sleep” of about five hours. My days are filled with Spanish class, excursions in and around San Sebastian, discovering the Basque culture, going to the beach on our free days, and exploring the city into all hours of the night. After experiencing all of my sleepless days and nights, I think it is safe to say that I no longer consider sleep as one of my many comforts; I have found a new sense of peace in adventure and the unknown. This trip has forced me to accept that I will not always know where I am going, what time I will be arriving or if I will even be able to communicate with anyone using my limited Spanish and their limited English. There is something to say about a city such as San Sebastian which can change someone’s idea of peace and their whole perspective on life. I have come to realize that it is healthy to be outside of my comfort zone and I have learned to find peace in the thrill of the unknown. Experiencing San Sebastian has opened my eyes immensely to the type of person I hope to become. I believe that this trip has helped me find peace in new experiences, new friends, and new places. If given the opportunity, I encourage everyone to visit another country where they will embrace a different culture, experience new things (even if it does seem scary), and take the time to rediscover themselves.


Food, Fun and New Friends in the Basque Country

To me, friendship is the key to a happy life. Growing up, I have always had a close group of friends with whom I spend the majority of my free time. I rarely ever made an effort to meet new people or build strong relationships with strangers. Traveling to San Sebastian for a summer study abroad program has given me a lot of opportunities to step out of my comfort zone, and also to take part in experiences I never would have known.

With knowing only one of my classmates prior to departure for Spain, I was very anxious for these three weeks. Upon my arrival to the airport on Friday July 16th, I realized that immersing myself into a totally new culture with no family or friends around would force me to rely on making new friends if I wanted to enjoy this experience ahead of me. Sitting alone in the airport, I decided that it was time for me to grow up and to come out of my shell socially. Never did I expect the results of overcoming my fears to be so fruitful.

Whether I keep in touch with my new friends once I return home or not, the relationships that I have built with my classmates on this trip will be ones that I will forever cherish when reflecting on my time in Spain. As a result of my decision to challenge myself socially, I was also fortunate enough to form friendships with people outside of my classes of all ages and from all over the world, including Switzerland, Germany, Columbia and more. The friendships that I have made with my classmates and others have led to some of my favorite memories from my trip including pickup basketball games, beach days, late nights, hikes, and ultimately the pinnacle of my trip to date—a meal at a traditional Basque gastronomic society.

About a week ago, I met my host and her mother at a cafe to have lunch. When I arrived, I was surprised to see some unfamiliar faces in chairs next to my host. I hesitated before walking over, a little intimidated by the unfamiliar people, but decided it was an opportunity to practice Spanish and to meet new people. My host introduced me to her two best friends, Cristina and Juan Carlos. I took a seat next to the man and he immediately struck a conversation with me. The conversation lasted for the majority of a three hour lunch and ended with an invitation to cook and eat a meal with him at his society on Friday July 29th.

Gastronomic societies are very selective all-male cooking clubs that can only be found in the Basque Country. The Basque gastronomic societies are places where the male members come together to prepare food and to socialize with one another, followed by joining the women guests for the delicious meal. These meals can last for hours as much socializing occurs, even some singing and dancing. A unique feature of the basque gastronomic societies is their exclusivity. Becoming a member is very difficult, as most societies have a maximum membership capacity and memberships are life long. Outsiders can only experience the camaraderie and the culinary creations of a society if they are invited by a member and women are prohibited from stepping foot in the kitchen.

My friend Sean and I showed up to the society on Friday and rang the doorbell. Juan Carlos greeted us with a handshake and a smile. He proceeded to take us downstairs to where the society gathers. Juan Carlos explained the basics of Basque societies to us while taking us through a quick tour of the kitchen and dining area. We set the table, working together to get everything ready for the women that would be joining us shortly. We had a beer before making our way into the kitchen to prepare the Marmitako, a famous Basque dish consisting of tuna, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. Sean and I worked on the easy tasks, like washing vegetables, peeling potatoes and salting the food, while Juan Carlos flew through the kitchen. We shared drinks, laughs, and stories while the fish cooked. When the girls arrived, we served the food and enjoyed the meal that we worked so hard to prepare.



As I enjoyed the evening with Sean and Juan Carlos, I realized what a special opportunity I was given. Because of the exclusive nature of Basque gastronomic societies, it is considered an honor to be invited to partake in the tradition. This realization showed me the importance of my decision to put myself out there in an effort to make new friendships. Had I not made that promise to myself while sitting alone in the airport, my trip to San Sebastian would not be anywhere close to as amazing and memorable as it has turned out to be. As Juan Carlos said to me while saying bye for the night, “Just remember, Grant, you’ll always have friends in the Basque Country.”


Euskal Kultura (Basque Culture)

The day of July 28 began with the usual weekday morning routine with class from 9:00-11.  This day was slightly different than the resr, however, because it was my first day back after missing the previous day because of sickness, and it was very difficult.  Sitting in a hot classroom for two hours straight was not the most enjoyable thing to do.  At my thirty minute break in between, I went outside and took in some of the fresh air from Donostia and drank some water.  I said to myself, “It’s only an hour and thirty more minutes.”  Feeling somewhat rejuvenated, I did my best to maintain a positive attitude and power through the remaining class time.  I do not know how, but somehow this positivity seemed to magically work as a cure, as the congestion and fatigue I had been experiencing suddenly vanished.  Even after class, I felt great.  I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of my experience in the Basque Country.

After class, me and a group of friends decided to climb to the top of Urgull, or as we had been calling it, “Jesus Mountain” because of the large statue of Christ at the top.  I was somewhat reluctant to hike all the way up, as I did not want to make my illness worse, but we set out anyways.  After climbing up about halfway, the group and I came to a stop that had one of the most amazing views I had ever seen.  From where I was sitting, I could see La Concha and Ondarreta Beach, and a beautiful view of the vast Atlantic Ocean.  I’m not really a nature person, but this view was truly something to admire.  This view was so beautiful that I wanted to see more.  I turned around and there was this natural rock slope that I decided I could climb to get an even better look at the city.  And I was definitely right when I say that this view was even more amazing than the last.  After getting a picture from up there, we had one more stop, the summit.  After a long trek up, we finally made it.  I sat down and took in the amazing view of the city and said to myself that I would come back at least one more time before we left.  Unfortunately, after basking in the beauty for thirty minutes, it was time to descend.  We hiked back down and met up with Julian, Sean and our Basque Language teacher, Stewart, and made our way over to the bar where we would sit down and begin our first Basque class.

The class was only more or less an hour long, but Stewart had my attention every minute of it.  He was a hilarious guy, but at the same time a very knowledgeable person about the language he was teaching us and most importantly, a great teacher.  He taught us basic phrases we could use here as well as some historic culture about the Basques.  He even showed us a song in the isolate language that as soon as I heard it, I felt obligated to learn how to play it on the guitar.  As soon as I got home, I looked up the chords to the song even though I don’t even have a guitar to play them on yet.  That’s how much I enjoyed the song and the class.

What I initially thought was going to be a bad day actually turned out to be one of the best days I had in San Sebastian.  Looking back, the view from the top of Urgull really emphasized the true beauty of the city.  It reminded me of all the beautiful places and sights that I had seen in the city as well as in other cities I had visited in the past.  It was precisely these views from the summit that really made me change the way I look at the world.  They instilled in me a much greater appreciation for nature’s beauty that I am going to more carefully observe for the rest of this trip.  Similarly, the Basque language class also made me develop a deeper appreciation.  The class showed me that language can be tough to learn, but I cannot stop wanting to learn more and more languages.  I consider myself truly lucky to have been able to partake in the experiences I had this day.



Moon Bathing

When traveling to a new country you are immediately given the title of a tourist. You become a stranger to the city in which you are traveling and begin to feel as if you stick out like a sore thumb. There is a sense of not belonging that comes with being a tourist that is hard to break especially in a country where you don’t speak the same language. Although this type of reaction was the initial feeling that I had when arriving in San Sebastián (and when we walked around in the traditional clothing while people stared at us) I have found that I no longer feel this way at all. San Sebastián has become a kind of home to me. I no longer feel like a stranger but instead I feel like it has become a city of my own. I love walking the streets and knowing exactly where I’m going. I love going into the same bar and having the bartender be so happy to see me. I love feeling embraced by this beautiful city and all that it has to offer.
San Sebastián makes even some of the simplest things in life seem beautiful and special. The night that we spent at the beach today became so much more than just a night on the beach with friends. It became a night of new friendships and memories that we will all never forget. While on the beach other people came over and joined us. We ended up making friends with people from all over the world; people from places such as Ireland, Brazil, Germany, and England. They shared with us their stories and we shared ours with them. Then together we all started singing while Spencer played the guitar. At that moment I realized how amazing of a memory I was actually creating. I was sitting with people of all different backgrounds, under the moon on a beautiful beach in San Sebastián with music that brought us all together. It was amazing that music is so universal that we were able to have this huge singalong with people from so many different places. This was something that many people would never get the chance to do but it was something that I was lucky enough to experience. Once the group singing died down I laid back on my towel and took everything in. The sand was soft and squishy underneath me and there was a nice cool breeze in the air. The street lights were shining brightly, lighting up all of the old buildings of Gros. The moon was casting dull light on us and I soaked it in as I laid there, like I would if I was bathing in the sun. I then closed my eyes and listened to the chatter and laughter of the people around me. The people who were once strangers, but had now become people that each of us would always remember. As I lay there I smiled to myself and felt proud to be a part of such a special experience. It became a night that I never wanted to end with people I never want to leave, and that feeling in itself is something that I will always carry with me and hope to be lucky enough to experience again.



Un Día de Comida

I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to indulge in a culture than to enjoy its food. However, we not only got to eat traditional Spanish food yesterday, but had the privilege of learning how to make it too. The dishes we assembled are called “pintxos” and are incredibly common around San Sebastián. When strolling through La Parte Vieja or Gros, as I often do, one can pass bar, after bar, with counters laden in these delightful morsels.

On Tuesday, we made our way to Euskal-Biliera which is one of the oldest Gastronmic Societies in the city. These are extremely exclusive groups of male chefs, and women are still not allowed in many of the kitchens due to strict tradition. However, since none of the other members were present apart from the head chef and his brother-in-law, all of us were allowed to observe the preparation in the kitchen. We sat at a long table lined with the ingredients for the original pintxo, La Gilda. Pickled peppers, green olives, anchovies, and toothpicks were all we needed for this simple bite of history. The head chef demonstrated the proper order to us, and we followed suit. Although not everyone liked the taste, it was certainly meaningful to be a part of. After that, we made four more pintxos: prawns dipped in olive oil and covered in coconut, boiled octopus with peppers, onions, olive oil, salt, and lemon, jamón serrano (thinly sliced Spanish ham) with cherry tomatoes laid on toast that was rubbed with a clove of garlic and spread with a thin tomato sauce, and a roasted red pepper stuffed with a mix of chopped tuna, peppers, onions, and salt. I enjoyed each and every bite, especially the octopus. For dessert, the head chef whisked together a big bowl of mandarin gelato and Pacharan Navarro (a common Basque liquor) and ladled it into glasses for each of us.


I am glad that we were able to learn how to make these dishes in a private Gastronomic Society rather than in a typical public restaurant. Because these societies are so exclusive and traditionally based, I knew that we were learning from people who were experts in the authenticity of the food and the culture. Even today, they practice traditions that have been carried out since about 1901. When the point of this trip is to immerse ourselves in Basque culture, I think this was a very appropriate way to do so.

  For the rest of the day, my friends and I enjoyed a leisurely walk around the city before the sun set close to 9:45pm. We then climbed the stairs all the way up Mount Urgull, or as we usually call it, Jesus Mountain for the statue on top. We stopped along the way to enjoy some small things nearby. The sun cast golden light on the buildings surrounding La Concha and illuminated the tall steeple of Buen Pastor Cathedral against the green rolling hills behind the city. On a terrace below the walkway, we watched two kittens play for quite some time, while rowers left the harbor. The view from the top was certainly worth the long trek up. Looking out, we could see far out across the Atlantic and the mountainous coast in the distance. I climbed the rock face even higher up the mountain where I could see farther out. The view was absolutely breathtaking and I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky I am to be here. I thought about how experiences like this are when I am really living instead of going through the motions of predictable day to day life. Like a sunset, eating is something that happens every day. However, how often do people really take time to cherish it? Yesterday, I got to savor both the Basque cuisine and the beautiful sunset, and this memory will continue to remind me not to take anything for granted, no matter how redundant.

Here is a link to a time-lapse of the sunset:



Mi Cumpleanos en Espana


“Why would you want to spend your twenty first birthday in Spain?” I’ve been asked about a thousand times. When this question is asked of me I look at the curious mind as if he or she has three heads and answer “Why the heck not!” While it may be a monumental event in some people’s lives, turning twenty-one was possibly the least notable part of my day on this 25th of July.

I didn’t know what to expect when I woke up this morning because I was out at the bars in Parte Vieja until 3 in the morning as the Basques often are, and I knew I wasn’t going to get enough sleep because of that. (Parte Vieja of San Sebastian has more bars per square meter than anywhere else in the world, so it’s no wonder why my classmates and I have felt the need to check out so many of them while we’re here.) When I did rise and shine, though, around 9 AM, my host mother, Martixu, and my German roommate, Marie, immediately greeted me by singing “Feliz Cumpleanos.” This was Reason #1 of why a birthday in Spain at a local family’s home is a once-in-a-lifetime, special experience that I am super grateful to have had. Marie surprised me with a slice of cake from a pasteleria that Maritxu recommended to her and she also got me a pretty bracelet because she is a sweetheart and a friend that I know I will keep in touch with after this trip is over.

Even though it’s Monday, we did not have school today because it is a holiday in Spain called La Fiesta de Santiago, which celebrates a Spanish military hero. There was a market on the street selling food but not much else was going on except that all the stores were closed. One of our tour guides from a different day, named Unai, joked with me and said that he would speak with Obama and tell him to make the United States have a national holiday on my birthday because Spain did that for me so my own country should, too. I don’t disagree.

I spent the next few hours of my day by going on an eight mile run around the city, going out to lunch with Taylor, Mckenna, and Jane, and showing Taylor my favorite spot to stare at the ocean, which is on a stone wall between La Concha and La Ondaretta beaches. Then, Taylor and I went to La Ondaretta beach and we really enjoyed the family environment and the peacefulness of it there.

The next part of my day was above and beyond the highlight. Our class activity was to take a funicular up Monte Igueldo and check out the breathtaking views from the highest and most lovely place in the city that I have visited. From up on this mountain, we could see France and the Pyrenees, as well as the northwest of Spain! There was also an amusement park up there and we got to ride a rollercoaster, a log ride, and take a peak at the interior of the tower I have been gazing up at during this past week.


Before venturing into this excursion, my professors Julian and Sean gave me a txapela to wear around all day to signify that I was the birthday girl. A txapela is a type of hat that a txapeldun (champion) wears once he or she has won some kind of competition. In the U.S. we would call this hat a beret or maybe just a goofy cap. I had no shame wearing it though because I am not easily embarrassed and I am also in a place with strangers that will never see me again so I can be as weird as I’d like and there are no consequences! I thought it was really cool that my teachers wanted to make my day feel like it was my day. They bought pastries for everyone and explained that a typical Basque tradition is for the birthday person to treat everyone to food or drinks so we had to pretend that I was the one that purchased them. As if all of the special treats weren’t enough, Julian had the entire class sing happy birthday to me in Basque on the front yard of a beachfront palace, so I really did feel like the birthday princess. I could get used to a life like this.

“Más mañana”

Each night at dinner, my host dad, Juan, asks me “Qué aprendes hoy en esquela?“ which means “What did you learn today at school?” I always know this is my time to shine, yet slightly embarrass myself with the few short Spanish phrases I learned that day. I always manage to stumble my way through simple phrases such as “ Yo tengo el pelo morena” (“I have brown hair”) or “Julia está a mi izquierda” (“Julia is to my left”). The whole time Juan and his wife, Carolina, gaze at me with looks of pride on their faces and a smile from ear to ear. When I complete what feels like my show for the evening, they both praise me for a job well done and Juan says “Más mañana”. This means “more tomorrow”, and I know that tomorrow he just wants to hear more of what Spanish I learned at school. But to me, tomorrow holds so much more than what I will learn in Spanish class. Each tomorrow is a new opportunity for exploration, self-growth, and a chance to create unforgettable lifelong memories.

Tonight I sat on the beach with my newly made UMass Lowell and international friends. The Jazz Festival echoed down the shore and Jesus disappointingly looked down upon us from his stoop on the mountain for staying out so late the night before. It was a relaxing night with good company and a breath taking view of the sunset that I am so lucky to get to watch with a front row seat every night. I will take home with me and cherish the simple nights like I had tonight and the more boisterous ones like I had the prior night where my foreign friends kept me out until the sun began to rise.  However, it is on the nights like tonight where I am able to sit back and reflect that makes me thankful for today and eager for tomorrow.

“Tomorrow” is a chance to learn more about the Basque country and those who inhabit it. “Tomorrow” is a chance to impress the shopkeeper I buy my daily croissant from by boldly stating “Eskerrik Asko” instead of my typical “Gracias”. “Tomorrow” is a chance to navigate this foreign city on a quest for the biggest bocadillo you can buy for less than 5 euro.

There is so much more to learning than just sitting in a classroom. And the extravagant and exciting tomorrows will not end when I leave San Sebastián. This is something that I will take with me from my time abroad. When I go home, “tomorrow” will be a chance to share all my wonderful memories with my loved ones. “Tomorrow” will be a chance to utilize all the knowledge and growth I have acquired on this trip. One thing that is always certain is that tomorrow should never be wasted. Tomorrow – rain or shine, sleep deprived or well rested, alone or with friends – is always an opportunity to learn, grow, adventure, laugh and most importantly – eat gelato.


Becoming One with the Basque Culture

Here in San Sebastián our days have been nothing short of full. There are so many different activities done on each day that the days are morphed together and it’s hard to believe something that felt so long ago was indeed just done a few hours ago, or that we have only been here a week. The excursions here in San Sebastián have been diverse. From an aquarium trip, going to the beach, walking tours of the city, Spanish language classes in the mornings, pintxo tastings around the city, or visiting a near by winery to see the process, we are really trying to experience all that San Sebastián has to offer in our three weeks in this beautiful city. Each thing that we do on a given day is just as important to our experience as anything else that we have done thus far.
The main reason I came on this trip was to emerge into the basque culture; a completely different culture than I have ever known before. I had never taken a Spanish Spanish class, tried a pintxo, or had to live with someone who did not speak the same language as me. I wanted to be apart of something completely different than lifestyle of my small town in Massachusetts, and see the way of life across the Atlantic Ocean and what better of a place than the beautiful and quaint city of San Sebastián.
Today in class we went to a nearby winery located in Zarautz, a nearby town of San Sebastián. A small family run company in its 4th generation, they create about 100,000 bottles a year focused solely on quality rather than quality. We were walked through the process of creating a perfect bottle of Talai Berri Txokoli, a white wine native to the basque region. There were many specific steps that went into creating a wine that meets the high standards. From hand picking each of the grapes to drinking the wine within a year of it bottling, there are so many crucial steps to make the Txokoli wine.

This excursion reminded me a lot about our time here in San Sebastián. Each thing that we do is crucial to becoming unified with the basque culture. My own personal battle has been the native food. Being a picky eater, the pintxo tasting was not exactly my favorite thing on the trip so far. When I saw a dish of anchovies, olives, and peppers on a dish in front of me I immediately cringed. I thought, I’ve ever eaten a single thing on that plate. That is how the pintxo tasting went for me. Most of the things put in front of me were things I thought I would never even think about eating. From that day, however, I have been trying to taste the things I could never imagine myself eating before. I have come to the conclusion that eating the native food is crucial to emerging into the culture. Just like how the Talai Berri winery examines every single grape to make every bottle of Txokoli of the highest quality, I must take risks I could never imagine myself taking to make the most out of my three short weeks here in San Sebastián, Spain.
Thank you Talai Berri winery for showing me that everything is a process and everything in that process is important to the end result.  Having a positive attitude and being completely committed to this lifestyle while trying everything will make for the best possible experience here in San Sebastián.

Gotta Get Down on Friday

Back at home, time flies by. Doing the same thing everyday is boring, not memorable. Here in  Spain, every day is different and worth remembering- at least for now, while we’re still fresh to the lifestyle. Most days have had planned trips for us so far, so our free time on those days were more limited, but today, Friday of our first week is the first time the class has no scheduled excursions.

I spent the past couple of days thinking, “How do I keep this day from flying by? What can I do that’s new?” Luckily I already had a good idea of what I wanted, and it was music. The Jazzaldia Festival was being hosted this week on Zurriola beach and tonight one of my favorite jazz-funk bands were performing, Snarky Puppy. They were scheduled to play a free show at midnight, and it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for weeks.

But that still left me 12 hours- from getting out of class until then- to kill. Luckily I have my guitarra and am in city where busking is commonplace.

Spanish Buskers

Busking is great fun for two reasons, you get to perform for people and you get tipped for performing. A lot of the time the people passing don’t give you much attention, but there’s the occasional mother who’ll let her child stare, or middle aged couple who wants to hear to the end of this Beatles song, and it feels good to play for them because you know they want to hear it. Also they tend to be the ones who tip.

The first time I got paid today was during my practicing of Norwegian Wood, by the Beatles. I say practicing instead of performing because it was exactly that, I kept my case closed because I didn’t want to imply I was looking for money as I practiced my music. I was a little embarrassed to be playing out here because with an open case, that’s exactly what I’d be doing. I chose a low traffic corner in La Parte Vieja and just played guitar for me. But in the middle of it all some guy ran up, placed a euro on my case, and as I protested, simply said “para la cerveza”, for beer. After that I opened my case and made a (very) little more, and then treated myself to la cerveza, courtesy of the people of Donostia.

After my busking adventure, I dropped my guitar off somewhere safe (a friend’s room in old town, to avoid carrying it for 30 minutes back to Amara) and decided I did need to rest and for the first time this trip, went home early and took a nap. I needed to be awake for Snarky Puppy! After a brief rest, I walked back toward the beach and met with people at a bar. A real bar, not a club, which is what a lot of these bars seem to be trying to mimick. A small drink later, we’re going our separate ways and I’m waiting on the beach for Snarky Puppy to blow my mind.

Snarky Puppy Zurriola

Their songs were long, loud, and syncopated. I was up close and seeing them perform was super fun, seeing the fingers work the instruments is another level of cool. They played all my favorite songs (which are coincidentally their more popular ones) which was fantastic, and their encore was my absolute favorite song which was super awesome. Hearing them start that song was probably the grooviest moment of my life yet. Here’s to hoping it gets groovier.