Thursday, February 26, 2009

Carnaval: The Sacred Festival of Preparation for the Holy Seaon of Lent

...And by that I mean drinking and dancing on the beach, of course.

As all of you know, this past Tuesday was Fat Tuesday, the day to go wild and eat and drink and party before Ash Wednesday and Lent. Some of you may have even gone to Mardi Gras down in New Orleans. Well, that's basically what I did...except in Spain it is known as Carnaval, and the giant celebration spans the entire week, culminating on Tuesday night with a giant parade, fiestas on the streets, and the biggest dance party you've ever seen on the beach. And by that I mean the biggest dance party you've ever seen...which just so happened to occur on the beach. Not just the biggest dance party that you've ever seen occur on a beach. It's very important to note that distinction.

In addition to all of that, Carnaval is basically like Halloween in Spain, so there were people all over the city in masks and crazy costumes. I was also told that the city we were going to, Sitges, is the gay capital of Catalunya, the Spanish province that Barcelona is in. This was confirmed by the parade which seemed to be composed of about 70% drag queens. However, I paid little attention to the parade, which I slightly regret, as we made our way from the train directly to La Playa..the beach.

The city itself was a mess of confetti, glitter, trash, beer/liquor bottles, cops, and drunk kids. I'm trying to think of a good comparison, but unless you've been to Mardi Gras I'm not really sure how else to describe it. I'm sure most people who live in Sitges were partying as well, but I feel bad for anybody in the general area who was not in the mood to party, because their hometown was raging until at least 7 in the morning. And I can't imagine the army of people and the amount of time it would take to clean up the giant fi-mess-ta that was Carnaval in Sitges.

First off, we elected not to take the buses from Barcelona and try our luck on the train. In the end, we saved about $1oE, and the frustration after people's buses back did not show up and they had to take the train anyway. The train on the way was ridiculous. At each door at the major station where people get on, there were 2-3 police officers whose sole purpose was to pack the trains as tightly as possible. As we were waiting in the giant crowd pushing towards the door, I started asking people when the next train was coming, because there was no way we were going to get on this train. But oh, how wrong I was. Well, I actually wasn't that wrong, because I was literally the last person let on the train...rather forced onto the train. As the doors were closing I was pinballed back and forth between the back of the person in front of me and the cops hands pushing me, but I made it. I've never been in a more perfect situation to use the phrase "packed like sardines," but the train ride wasn't so bad considering i had a full flask to accompany me. I had gotten a bit split up from my friends...about one foot...which meant there were like 15 people in between us, but like I said it was fine. It was enjoyable when the whole train erupted into this Spanish drinking song:
In English, they're saying: "Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol! We came here to get drunk and the result doesn't matter at all!" Also, I still have a bit of a blood spot in my eye from the little incident I recounted in my last post, and two Spanish people thought it was some special contact lens to go along with my costume. I had to explain to them the whole story, but we ended up having a nice little conversation.

I probably should have said this earlier, but I was dressed as a pirate. For throwing it together in a day or so I think i looked pretty darrrrrrrrrrrn good. My costume consisted of: white button-down shirt, black vest (my senora's), gray pants rolled up a bit (capri-style apparently), a black scarf i tied around my waist to hold my sword (also senora's...the scarf not the sword), and this cheap pirate hat I bought at this shop around the corner. Now, you may be wondering..."Hey, Joe, what about an eye patch?" Well, I'll tell you. The eye patch was actually the whole reason I decided to be a pirate. I'm not super self-conscious about my eye, but it still looks a little weird with that big blood spot, so I thought having a costume that allows me to cover it up would be a perfect idea. Well, I bought an eye patch, and I brought it with me...but I somehow forgot it in my friend's room before we went out. An Alanis Morisette song comes to mind. Oh, well.

But, back to the action. We got off the train around 11 or 11:30 and I'd say by midnight at the latest we made it to the beach. Right on the boardwalk-type area, there were 2 giant with a DJ and some sound equipment, and the other that was selling drinks. There were also two..I think there were bottle and one can..20 foot tall inflatable Estrellas (one of the two most popular beers in Spain) and a pretty wild dance party going on. But, we didn't bother with those clowns (not necessarily people dressed as clowns, although that's quite possible, but just the way I sometimes refer to a group of people not associated with me) on the boardwalk and hit the beach (la playa). Strangely enough, out of the thousands upon thousands of people we could have run into, we literally walked right into a group of our friends who took the bus and we were set. At this point the amount of people was not overwhelming, but the beach filled up more and more until 2-3 blocks of beach was totally packed with crazy dancing was quite the jungle out there.

Some highlights from my time en la playa:

-The various times I danced and pranced around in the Mediterranean. It seemed like a great idea at the time, which it was, but my black leather dress shoes surely paid the price. When I got home they were still pretty soaked and absolutely caked in sand. Whoops.
-Acheiving one of my goals of the night: Getting into a swordfight with another pirate. I told my friends on the way to Sitges that I was going to find another pirate on the beach and have a swordfight, and I did not dissappoint. I'm not even sure how it started, but it was up further on the beach. We were going for about a minute when the other guy..who I later found out was Italian..thought it would be better and more pirate-like AKA badass to sword fight in the ocean. I don't even need to tell you whether or not he was correct. However, I did fail at my other pirate goal, which was to call a girl pirate a wench and see what happened to me. My reasoning was, if they were truly in character then it wouldn't have phased them at all, but if they got pissed and walked away or slapped me or something, then they weren't worth my pirate time.
-Petting a baby goat. This was obviously not a goal or an expectation for the night. I'm actually pretty sure no one in the history of the world has gone out at night with their goal being to pet a baby goat, but that's neither here nor there. Someone told me that this guy was carrying around a baby goat and I had to go see. In case you don't believe, there is photo evidence of me petting it, and photo evidence of the guy whose goat it was looking like a real creeper. Apparently there was also someone with a rooster as well? Crazy.

I finally made it home around 7 am Wednesday morning, and got to sleep until noon or so. I felt great on Wednesday, but hit a bit of a wall today and I'm feeling pretty tired. Next week will be quite a a good way and a bad way. I have to outline a final paper for a class tomorrow, have two midterms and a presentation next week...annnnnd Sean's coming to visit Saturday-Thursday. Woooo! But once I survive that it's time for Dublin and my birthday, so some exciting times are ahead to say the least. I'll be checking back as soon as I can and I'll be sure to give you an update on the Brothers McNelis adventure through Barcelona. Here's hoping at least one of us survives to tell the tale.

Hasta luego! See ya later!

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