Week Two Wrap-Up

As our second week comes to an end, most of us agree that exploring San Sebastián and the Basque Country have been nothing short of surreal.  The freedom to navigate the city on our own has definitely instilled a feeling of self-confidence and satisfaction in us.  Many times, we’ve encountered situations that seem overwhelming and daunting at first, but, with time, I think all of us have discovered that we are more than capable of making mature decisions, even in a place with a culture different from that of our own.  That being said, here are some highlights from session 2’s last two weeks in the Basque Country.

Sunset in San Sebastian on Pintxo Pote.

  Pintxo Pote (Pronounced P-een-cho) is a promotion in San Sebastián that many bars and restaurants (specifically in the Gros neighborhood) take part in every Thursday night.  Typically, a bar will offer a pintxo and a drink for one unit price, typically around only two euros!  This popular event often attracts many customers, and it was not uncommon for us to see massive crowds in line at a bar streaming out into the street.  Oftentimes, it can be a challenge to find the right bar to stay, because we don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed.  Bars with better pintxos will be busier, and therefore the longer the wait.  That being said, there is a certain charm to the crowded bars during Pintxo Pote.  Everyone is having a good time and enjoying good food, and it is truly a unique atmosphere.  Pintxo Pote is a great opportunity to socialize with friends and enjoy some delicious Basque cuisine, and it has quickly become one of our favorite parts of life in San Sebastián.

Sam and I try our hand at Salsa.

During our second week of classes at Lacunza, several of us heard about a salsa dancing class being taught.  While I’m not one to typically put myself out there (choreographically speaking) I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.  The class took place at a bar near our residence, and it was easy to get to.  Inside, it was hot and crowded. There were plenty of young people, but also plenty of older folks too which I thought was really cool.  The class was fast paced and challenging, and it was difficult to keep up.  Thankfully, doing it with friends helped to make the whole experience much more approachable.  As my friend Sam Hargett puts it, “Salsa is a very rhythmic art form, and it was great to experience a dance that so many people enjoy but that is also so intricate”. We learned a dance move called the ‘suzie’, which involves a type of criss-cross pattern with the feet, leading with the left foot moving to the right, then the right foot moving to the left.  This quickly became a favorite for many of us even when we moved on to partner work.  While we certainly are not professional Salsa dancers now, it was a great experience to put ourselves outside of our comfort zone and try something new.

‘Charmartin’ train station in Madrid, Spain

As the weekend fast approaches, many of us plan to travel elsewhere in Spain: a group of us to Madrid, and a group of us to Barcelona.  While it is a great privilege to visit areas of Spain outside the Basque country, it also comes with a set of challenges.  For most of us, this was our first time attempting to book a trip by ourselves, let alone in another country.  Attempting to find the best way to get there became an obvious challenge.  In America, flying is usually the expectation when traveling a longer distance, but in Spain, their public transportation infrastructure is so successful that we had many affordable and efficient options for traveling. Besides flying, there were many rail and bus services that were accessible to us. We decided to travel by train, although flying would have been only marginally more expensive. We used the Spanish rail network ‘Renfe’ to book our tickets and we were happy to discover that their website was very user friendly.  The only thing more difficult about traveling in Spain is the increased number of options compared to the United States, but this is something I think we could all quickly get used to.

 The past couple weeks have certainly flown by, and it’s hard to think we only have one more week to go.  It’s certainly been an amazing experience to try new foods and gain new experiences, growing more accustomed to the various nuances of the Basque cuisine and culture.