To give you a vague idea of an average weekend here in Zaragoza…
On Friday, we headed straight to Montessori for lunch. Montessori is a Spanish private school whose cafeteria we dine in…well, dine might be too sophisticated a word. More aptly, we satisfy our hunger there, and then have a large merienda when we arrive home. Due to the lack of quality vegetarian food, I generally subsist on bread, salad, yogurt, fruit, and a bean or potato soup if I’m lucky. Fortunately we have a long break at 10:45, perfect for a mid-morning snack.
After lounging around the cafeteria for a while, I accompanied my junior friends to Eroski to pick up some snacks for the SAT which they were all taking tomorrow. We then departed, and I headed home to say hello to my host mother before going off to the Escuela Popular de Música to practice the violin.
Not only have I begun to take lessons, but I have also joined a recently initiated band composed of a seemingly random blend of musicians and wannabes like myself. My lesson began at 7:30 and for some reason those from the lesson before, which is a group lesson of 3, stayed for a while longer. Having a different teacher than the week prior had already made me nervous, but having an audience of three other violinists, two of which are way superior, made me downright anxious! As would be predictable under the circumstances – the teacher with her hand on my wrist to correct my posture, then moving my fingers, all while playing, and the onlookers crowding the already-small room – I played horribly the piece which the day before I’d nailed. After a few tips on better sound from the instructor and the exit of my audience, I improved greatly and crossed the hall to the rehearsal room content.
My newly found confidence quickly dissipated, however, when I walked into the chaos of about 10 different instrumentalists playing as many pieces completely out of sync. I walked over to the oldest person there, a flutist, assuming he was in charge. He wasn’t, but I discovered this too late to avoid a full explanation of the “colegio Americano” – the vast majority of Zaragozanos have no idea that more than 60 Americans annually invade their territory for nine months. He sent me over to where the other three violins were seated, and I began to join in the pandemonium by reading off the stand of the violinist next to me, since I was without music and she seemed to know what she was doing.
After a sustained period of confusion on my part, the man who actually was in charge came in and handed out music. Our repertoire consists of a song titled “Go West”, a bluesy piece called “Watermelon Man” (try saying that in a Spanish accent), the Beatles’ “Let it Be”, and a lovely little medley from “Pirates of the Caribbean”, whose soundtrack is so good that I’d already downloaded the CD onto my computer.
I think I played reasonably well considering that I’d only been playing for one week, the horrendous flat-filled keys, that I was sight-reading, and that the room was a bit more crowded than it should have been. Or, rather, I played horrendously, but gave myself plenty of excuses to alleviate the feelings of shame.
Less-than-par playing or not, though, I had tons of fun – I hadn’t realized how much I missed playing in a group until I started again. So much was I enjoying myself that the next time I looked at the clock it read 9:45 – 15 minutes after curfew! I had told my host mother where I’d be, but I still felt bad, since we usually eat dinner around 8:30 and I hadn’t told her not to wait for me. I excused myself as soon as we finished that song, sent my host mom a quick text message on my way out, and rushed home.
Luckily, Carmen had remembered that I had violin and hadn’t worried – and she’d even held dinner for me!
But I seem to have gotten set back by a day. I was outlining Friday…after a quick run-through of all the pieces I’d gotten the night before, I had to leave the Escuela and meet my friend in the Plaza de España. She was going to join my vegetarian cooking class at the Casa de Juventud (Youth Center) in Miralbueno, a distant neighborhood of Zaragoza.
We boarded the bus for the long, thirty-minute bus ride. The class that day had scarce attendance: the two of us and another girl, plus the teacher. We made a rightful feast: roscos, a fried and sugar-coated donut-type sweet, and papas arrugadas con mojo verde picón, wrinkled potatoes with green spicy sauce, a typical dish of the Canary Islands.
We made the smallest batch possible of the rosco recipe, using just one egg, but the yield was still monumental: the little doughnuts kept piling up, and I ended up bringing home a tinful despite our best efforts to eat as many as we could there!
The potatoes were wonderful and rather healthier. The “wrinkled” effect is achieved by cooking the potatoes in an inch or two of water with coarse salt until the liquid evaporates, and then lowering the heat, adding some fine salt, and shaking the pot every once in a while until the potatoes dry out more and the skins look, well, wrinkled. The people who run the Casa de Juventud buy the ingredients, not the teacher, and they had bought thin-skinned potatoes instead of thick-skinned ones, but the tubers still came out wonderfully delicious, especially with the sauce: stir-fried green onions, whole cumin, fresh parsley and cilantro, garlic, vinegar, and the ever-present olive oil, all pounded together in a mortar and pestle. Delicious and with a delightful kick, I ate a couple when we all sat down after class and brought another home.
Unable to resist its spicy-fresh aroma, I heated up the potato as soon as I got home and sat down to watch the telediaro (nightly news) at 9. My host mother walked in and commented on the lovely meal I was having, and joined me. We decided to watch a classic Spanish movie, Los Santos Inocentes, from 1983. Slightly disturbing but good, we bid goodnight and I showered and headed to my room, with the best intentions of sleep.
However, a blank envelope on my desk called to be filled, and I wrote a letter to Becca until the clock hit far past 1 a.m. (A post-dinner snack on the chocolate-covered espresso beans my parents sent me also fueled this postal evening.)