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December 2007

Saturday, 01 December 2007

Warm Greetings from Spain!!!

What a beautiful day!!

Hi everyone!! Hi Jonathan!!


First of all, I'm grateful for the opportunity and the trust the BBC staff placed in me by choosing me as this month’s student blogger. It’s a pleasure to be here!

Secondly, sorry in advance for all the mistakes I’ll surely make. I’m a non-English speaker, and writing skills have always been my weak points. I hope to improve them with your help ;) So, I appreciate that anyone correct me if I’m wrong, or you don’t understand what I’m talking about.

Now, let me introduce myself a little bit. I’m Silvia López. I’m 24. I come from Elche, a city close to Alicante in the southeast of Spain. I’ve lived in Elche since I was born. I’ve a sister, a sweet niece, and a lot of people who believe in me…..my family, my boyfriend, my friends, and my colleagues from “el quinto pino” or “ the back of beyond” (It’s the funny way to call the department where I’ve been working).

I’m finishing a degree in Telecommunications Engineering. Actually, I still haven’t finished it because I’ve to defend a final project to be an Engineer. I’ve been working hard on my project for the last year, and I’ll probably defend it about the middle of the next month..... I’m getting nervous about that.

Recently, the company where I was doing my project’s research offered me a job there. I’m really excited about working as a real Engineer, but I need to learn a lot...Sometimes I get the same feeling I got when I first tried to drive a car. At first I thought I’d never been able to achieve it, but in the end it was such an easy thing, that just needed practice and experience.

Well, I’ll give you a brief introduction about my hometown.

Elche is the third largest city in the Comunidad Valenciana region in terms of population size and resources. Elche (or Elx, in the Valencian dialect), as a Mediterranean city, has mild temperatures round the year, and more than 9 kilometers of beach coast. Actually, the beach coast is ten kilometers away from the city center, but in any case it’s just fifteen minutes by car.
The inhabitants of Elx are very proud of their city because Elx has achieved two world heritages status. The first one for its Palm Grove, which is extremely impressive (Palm Grove has over 200,000 palm trees) and ancient (the palm tree has been in Elx since prehistory). The second one has been achieved for The Elche Mystery Play, a lyrical drama dating from the Middles Ages that is the last surviving example of European medieval religious drama and is performed every year during the month of August. Also, Elx is the Spanish footwear capital and produce almost half of the footwear manufactured in Spain today.

Therefore, if someone decides to come to Spain, don’t forget to visit Elx and its surroundings. There are plenty of lovely Mediterranean cities, towns and beaches to discover here, and, of course, a lot of “fiesta”. This area is widely known because of its night life. Probably it’s due to the good climate here. If it was cold out, people wouldn’t hang out ‘til so late at night.

I’m not sure if some of you know something about the Spanish way of living (particularly the Mediterranean), culture, gastronomy (the delicious paella valenciana), etc…..if not, I’ll bring you up to date little by little.... By the way, Christmas is coming! Do you celebrate Christmas in your country? If so, what do you usually do for Christmas?. Do yo have any special plans?

Well, that's all for now! I accept any suggestions for the coming blogs. I’m open to any questions or topics :)





The first picture is an aerial photo of the city center and its Palm Grove. The second one shows a scene of the Elche Mystery Play. The last photo is a picture of my sister, her daughter and me that was taken last Christmas.

Leila: It was nice to get to know more about Finland and about you, as well. Hei!!


See you tomorrow!!

Best Wishes,
Silvia

Sunday, 02 December 2007

Christmas is coming...

Hi everyone!

Christmas is coming!….I can feel it in the streets, now dressed in red with the typical Christmas lights, trees, plants and all those Santa Claus standing for the whole day in front of every big store entrance. Kids are dying for the Christmas Day to come and find their desired presents under the Christmas tree or into the stocking…
Santa Claus hasn’t been known in Spain for very long. That tradition was picked up from Europe and, above all, from the USA and their influence through the TV and films. Here what is really traditional are The Three Wise Men. They supposedly come on camels on January 5.That evening in every city take place a “cabalgata”. It’s a parade of floats symbolizing the coming of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehen, but the religious meaning has been forgotten. At that right night they get in every house and leave the presents beautifully wrapped. However, to get those gifts is advisable to leave a glass of milk for the camels, and some biscuits for the three kings, and if you do so, the next morning you’ll discover that there’s no milk or biscuits left, the window is a bit opened and the presents are there. It’s said that if a boy or a girl has been naughty, he or she will get only coal as a gift, but it’s a sweet coal suitable for eating :).

Apart from dressing the Christmas tree, in Spain it is traditional to have a belén at home for Christmas. It’s a nativity scene that contains figures representing the Holy Family, animals, the shepherds and the Three Wise Men. Every town and city has also a belén viviente, in which real people are playing the characters (I’ve also seen it in US films). Both kinds of belenes are all around.

The bad side is that nowadays a lot of people seem to have lost the Christmas spirit. Take a look in any shopping centre. For them Christmas is their golden time. They are crowded with people carrying more bags than fingers they have. From my point of view, it’s a direct consequence of the consumer society in with a lot of people (including me) have grown up. Some people have no sense of moderation when it comes to spending money. Here, everybody wants to be who has the best car, the best dress, the best shoes, etc….and, of course, who gives the best gifts just to show off. I think any present has to come from one’s heart and not only from one’s pocket.
It has all come into my mind because yesterday evening I 'tried' to go for a walk to one of that shopping centre. There aren’t many choices, since all the cinemas, many fun centers and restaurants are in them. So, everyone ends up going there. Personally, I prefer to go out for a walk and get some fresh air. However, in countries where it’s too cold out, it’s more convenient to be in.

Jonathan:
Yes, you are right. Elche is that place. Actually, it surprises me a lot that you know Elche because it isn’t as touristic as Alicante. I don’t pretend to seem meddling, but what is your connection with Alicante? Have you been here on holidays or just on a business trip?

“El quinto pinto” is literally translated “the fifth pine tree”, as you mentioned. I tried to express the Spanish idiom into an English way. I know it’s very difficult to express the context, but incredibly there’re many similarities between English and Spanish idioms. It’s curious how these idioms have a history behind. The same happens with plenty of everyday expressions or words. For example (literally translated) : “to be a fittipaldi” means to drive at a high speed and carelessly; “to be in the Ubeda hills” means to go off as a tangent.

Upss! I’ve noticed that I wrote the wrong preposition. The right one is ‘to’…. A brief introduction to….. I always try not to translate literally from Spanish, but sometimes I do it unconsciously.

I’ve surfed the Net looking for info about the town you live in. I’m really curious about discovering new places and also I’m a beach lover. I’ve found that beaches there are incredible, and almost wild. Here we have good ones, the “untouched” ones, thanks to the fact that they were protected by the government years ago. If not, nowadays it would be impossible to find wild beaches, due to the high rate of construction that directly affects our coast lines. The so called land speculation, I suppose.

Now, my answers to the question that you proposed me are:

I’d appreciate it if you could help me with my research
I’d like you to help me with my research
I hope you can help me with my research
I wish you could help me with my research
I’d be grateful if you could help me with my research

Jonathan, I think that I see what’s wrong with that sentence….The good one would be:
”At first I thought I’d never be able to achieve it” . Is it now right?


That's all for now!


See you tomorrow,

Silvia

Tuesday, 04 December 2007

....town or city??

Is Elche a town or a city??

It’s a good question. Well, Elche is a city, but if you ask someone from Alicante, he/she will probably answer that Elche is a town. The reason for that is the rivalry among Elche and Alicante due to football. Both of them have football teams playing in the same division, and it seems to be a tradition not to get on well with one’s neighbour.

I’ll tell you briefly the history of Elche. Elche has had two important settlements. The first one was two kilometres away from the today’s city. There are remains from the Neolithic period until the Visigothic period. The settlement had a strategic location and the river Vinalopó, which made it easy to defend. After that, by the 5th century BC, the settlement developed into the Iberian city of Heliké, which eventually was invaded by the Carthaginians. The famous Iberian sculpture, the Dama d’Elx, is the best example of the art of this period. At present, you can see it if you visit the Madrid’s National Archaeological Museum.

Then the Romans invaded the Iberian Peninsula, and the city was granted the title of Colonia Julia Ilice Augusta (that’s the reason why the inhabitants of Elche are named ‘Ilicitanos’), a high status that just had the cities of Ilice (Elche) and Valentia (Valencia) in what is now the Valencian Region. The city even had the imperial privilege of minting its own currency.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Elche was plunged in a period of destruction up to the appearance of the Moors. Then, in the 13th century the Christian king Jaume I conquered the city, forcing the Muslims and the Jews to live in two humble neighborhoods.

In the middle of the 19th century the espadrille industry acquired a high importance, and it encouraged the growth of the city, not only economically but also culturally. Before that industrial revolution, Elche was a town that lived from the agriculture, but thanks to the creation of lots of new work places, a lot of immigrants came to work to Elche throughout the 20th century.They got a new life and settled down in the city. Nowadays, Elche’s population is about 250000, and it's rising...


Yes! The city exploits the fact that it produces nearly half of Spain’s footwear. There are museums, but you can also visit a real footwear factory, because it’s still a major centre of shoemaking. Some worldwide-known footwear brands were born in Elche, and others manufacture their goods in this area.

It’s really interesting to know the making of a shoe or a boot, from the cut of the leather to the packing. If you want to know more about that issue, next time I can explain it in detail with images. I’ve been working as an eventual in a factory shoe for many holidays, and I’m an expert now!

These days, the problem of the Spain’s footwear industry is the competition from other countries. Their factories sell quality shoes at a price that cannot be competed, due to the cheap labour among others.For that reason, the number of footwear factories has been falling for years. The footwear sector in Spain commits itself to further rise of the quality of the shoes, and to popularize its brands round the world. On the other hand, the construction and other industries have grown quickly, which means new jobs there.

Now, you know more about Elche's industry. Could you tell me how most of people where you live in make a living?



Jonathan, thanks very much for your corrections and explanations. They throw light on points I wasn’t sure of. My Spanish mind is always running!

At that right night… I tried to say that they leave the kids’ presents “ the night of January 5th” .

My answers to your latest homework are:

1.
- A “cabalgata” takes place that evening in every city.
- A “cabalgata” takes place in every city that evening.

2. Everybody wants to be the one who has the best car.

3.
- The period of time just before an important event such as Christmas = the run-up (to Christmas).
- To have a quick look al something = to cast a glance at something
- To say something that is exactly right or appropriate = the correct version

4. Life and sole….it sounds the same as Life and soul. Looking it up on Google, the first result is a page of reflexology, what seems quite suitable to the homophone ‘life and soul’….

5. I’ve written two possibilities to introduce a question that may be a bit too personal or inquisitive:
- I don’t want to pry, but would you mind telling me a single quote you live by?
- I don’t want to be nosy, but could you tell me what your favourite film is?


How time flies!! It’s time to do some jogging to keep fit!

Thanks to everybody for all your comments!! It's nice to know from you!!....Tomorrow I'll answer all of them, and I'll try to include a recipe of a typical spanish dish, as the Paella... but I'm opened to more suggestions!

Best wishes,
Silvia

Wednesday, 05 December 2007

more traditions

First of all, thank you very much for all your warm support!

Well, I didn’t tell you about some Christmas traditions originated from Spain. The first one takes place at New Year’s Eve.At midnight every clock strikes 12, and if you want to have good luck in the coming year, you have to take a grape seed at every ring of the bell. As it sounds twelve times, you’ll have to take twelve grape seeds. It’s seems pretty easy, but in fact the peals go one after another. So, you have to swallow fast! My trick is to remove the seeds beforehand :)

The second tradition is the Christmas Lottery. It shares out lots of good prizes, and it’s very usual to spend a lot of money on it. If the company where you work in play the lottery (every year the same number), and all of your colleagues buy a lottery ticket, you will be forced to buy a ticket. Imagine if that number would be the winner, and you hadn’t bought any ticket!

The last tradition is culinary and originated from the Alicante Region. It’s the “turrón”. It’s a kind of candy traditionally eaten at Christmas. My dictionary translates it as nougat-like candy. It’s made from toasted almonds mixed with sugar, egg white, honey and wafers (to cover each side). There are different sorts of “turron”. In the hard “turron” you can see the almonds in pieces, while in the soft “turron” the almonds are ground up with the mixture. There’s also chocolate “turron”…that's my favourite.
In fact, not only is typical the “turron”, also marzipan and “mantecados” are best-sellers at Christmas. They are made mainly from lard and almonds.
It’s also traditional the chocolate yule log….and, of course, it’s ‘typical Spanish’ the Spanish omelet and the “jamón serrano” (it’s translated as Parma ham….but I’m not sure of its reliability). Actually, the last two aren’t sweet things, but once you have tried them, you’ll get addicted!

I’d like to know more about your Christmas traditions, and the typical Christmas dishes of the country you live in. By the way, do you think that you are good cookers?.... If not, remember that it's the thought that counts. I’m beginning to feel really hungry!

Jonathan, I’ve just read your post. Tomorrow I’ll tell you more about the valencian dialect, my hobbies and my favourite film.

Now, some comments……

James, the Internet TLD of Spain is ES because it refers to “España”, not to Spain.

Ana Paula, We’re quite similar!… You seem to be full of energy and to be a person with a strong character, and so do I. Well, if I won the Christmas Lottery, I’d travel round the world. Be sure I’d visit Brazil. I’m a nature lover, and there are a lot of places to discover……

Leila, thank you very much for your posts and support! Finland is a great country. Its landscapes are incredible, and it’s said to be the first country in a ranking of culture diffusion. I know it has to be extremely cold there. I’ve ve a very good friend from Finland, Mikko, who has brought me up to date about Finland, its culture, its people and traditions. He lives in Helsinki and last spring came to Spain to visit me. I’m looking forward to seeing him again…this time in Finland!

Anastasia, it’s nice to get to know you!....I’m sure you’ll be a great teacher!

Wagar, yes! Granada is just 250 kilometers away (nearly two hours by car). Here are some good links to listen to Spanish radio online. I’ve chosen my favorite links (click on “escúchanos” (listen to us), or on play button).
http://www.los40.com/radio/40principales.html
http://www.europafm.com/
http://www.kissfm.es/web/home.asp (click on the left window “escucha kiss fm en directo” )

Andrey, how to summarize my final project in a few words? I’ll try it! It’s about broadband wireless technologies, focusing on WiMax standards, and the feasibility to plan a network based on that technology to connect nodes which require the use of industrial equipments, such as automatons (taking account of the existing protocols of communication, and of the driver of communications used by the control centre).

Antonio, you are right! The smell of the orange blossom is something else. However, the smell that I am most impressed of is the smell of jasmine. It brings to my mind the Summer time, the beach, the warm, the cool breeze, the sun….The reason for that is that my parents own a bungalow in a little town at the coast line where my family and I go every Summer, and there are always jasmine there.

Vital, to be honest, I cannot miss snow, because I’ve never seen a snowfall. Elche is a southern city, which is quite near the beach. It hasn’t snowed since 1983, and it wasn’t a truly snowfall. Also, the temperatures have never dropped under 0 degrees, even at night. In other parts of Spain,including the hinterland of the Alicante region frequently snows. So, the Mediterranean cities are a world apart! ….however, all those good things related to good weather conditions have a bad side. In this case is that it doesn’t rain so much. Although there are systems to save and purify water, it’s always a big problem. I do believe that we have to become aware of the water scarcity and the desertification that many countries suffer from, as a result of the climate change…and it’s a direct consequence of the human beings acts.

Teresa, I hope your students get addicted to this site! This blog and the whole learning English web are really helpful!

Nicolette, thanks for pointing out that Spanish Christmas traditions are different from the USA. Well, I would like to ask you if all those traditions that US movies shown are trustworthy. Not only Christmas, but also those related to the American lifestyle and the university life and traditions. By the way, how long will you be staying in Spain? Are you going to spend your Christmas holidays in here?

Ernesto, the Paella is a typical dish from this region, the Comunidad Valenciana. But what’s more typical from Elche is “arroz con costra” or “arroz a banda”. In both cases the main ingredient is rice. The first one is thicker, and is covered by scrambled eggs mixed with pieces of meat. The second one is a very thin one, has any pieces of meat or extra ingredients, and has a seafood taste. As you said, all of them taste delicious!. Tapas are small portions of food served in bars with a drink (typically sangria or beer). There’s a wide variety, including Spanish omelet, “montaditos” (a kind of sandwich but with bread), seafood, cheese, ham, cold meat, salads, different kinds of cooked potatoes, etc. A tapa is normally included when you order a drink. You will find lots of “ tapas” in Andalucia. “Irse de tapas” means to go from one bar to another to have have some “tapas”.

Naheed, you are right! The ingredients can vary a lot. There are Paellas that contain meat, seafood, vegetables….. really, it’s depends on the chef’s imagination!

Rosa, I’m writing a recipe of the paella, but I haven’t finished it yet….I hope you can cook a tasty paella following my instructions!

Christine, Hallo! Wie geht’s dir? I’ve been learning German for four years. I’ve some relatives living in Düsseldorf, and I’ve been there twice. I’m planning to go there again to improve my German skills…but I’ve already planned so many things, that I’m not sure if I’ll be able to cope with all of them! When I was there, I got impressed by the Köln cathedral, although there was a lot of mold in the façade, which made it look not so beautiful and bright as it actually is….and I went up the endless spiral staircase!

Paula, I didn’t know anything about the gastronomy of Venezuela. But it’d be nice if you could explain me how to cook “ Hallaca”, it sounds really good…..The “Gaita” is also a typical musical instrument from the Celtic culture. In the north of Spain is traditional, too. It looks the same as the instrument played by the Scotsmen. Am I right?

Sayaka, Children are wonderful. One can learn a lot from them. They are spontaneous and crystal clear. They never lose their energy, and make you fun. I see children as little scientist, because they are always questioning the whys of everything…..I’m a proud aunt, and my niece is my most valued treasure. She’s so little, but so cute and smart!

Filippo, ummm…I change my paella recipe for one of a typical Italian dish. I love Italian food!! I don’t want to be nosy, but do you speak Spanish?

Mariangela, yes! I like being active and keep fit. It also helps me to give all the stress away.

Eric, Wow! Taipei 101 is an impressive building! It should have a superb view from the top of the building.

Thanks to everyone who I haven’t mentioned and commented on the last posts! You're great!


Here are some photos. the first one of a beach of elche where I spend the summer. The second one was taken in Valencia. It's the 'ciutat de les arts i les ciències' built by the famous architect Calatrava. The last one shows my niece dressed up as a 'sevillana' and I.










See you tomorrow,

Silvia

Thursday, 06 December 2007

Valencian. Past....and future

Valencian is, actually, one of the two official languages of my autonomous community. However, there’s still a lot of controversy over the origins of the Valencian and the Catalan, and their relationship. Which one born first? The discussion is still opened among the linguistics, but the most widespread theory in this field is that the Valencian is a language stemmed from the Catalan, which is the official language of Catalonia.

What I learned at school is that, historically, the Valencian language has always existed as a Romance language born after the split of Latin language and dating, in early 1121, the roots of its own linguistic standards. Valencian, as Catalan (which acts nowadays as its Big Brother, and it’s the language that is struggling for international recognition), was totally developed in the 13th, 14th centuries and reached the peak of its literature in its ‘Golden 15th Century’ when the language spoken in the Kingdom of Valencia was named ‘Valencià’. There are famous classical writers from that age, such as: Ausias March (author of Tirant Lo Blanc), Jordi de San Jordi, Jaume March, Jaume Roig, Roiç de Corella, Joan Esteve , Pere Martínez, Marti de Viciana, etc. Surely, you won’t know any of them. Later, in 1982, the old Kingdom of Valencia was set up as an Autonomous Community, and the Law for the linguistic normalization of the Valencian language was approved on 23 November, 1983.

Valencian has more phonetic sounds than the Spanish language. It has also special features, such as the use of two different accents, one opened (à) and one closed (í), different pronouns, different grammatical rules, and so on. It’s said that if you can speak Catalan or Valencian, it will be easier for you to learn French, because they share a lot of sounds and also words. So, in one word, if you haven’t learnt Catalan or Valencian, you’ll need an English-Valencian or Spanish-Valencian dictionary to understand it properly.

The Valencian is the language used for everyday life in many places of the Valencian region, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. It’s more or less used depending on the place and its linguistic tradition. Both of these things are related to the history of that area. For example, Elche is traditionally a Spanish spoken city, whereas its surroundings can be classified as Valencia spoken areas.

Nowadays the use of the Valencian is declining in this area, despite the efforts of the regional government to promote it through the education, since you can choose among studying all the subjects in Valencian or in Spanish; and by forcing the regional government employees to have a high-level knowledge of Valencian. However, in other regions, such as Catalonia, the Catalan is the most spoken language, even among young people. The reason for that is that people from Catalonia have always been quite nationalists defending their own language and history. There, what isn’t common is to hear somebody talking in Spanish! Of course, catalan people do understand Spanish, and have learned Spanish for years. But, for them, Spanish is a second language, like could be English.

There’re also many regional TV channels, and regional radio programs. You can find regional newspapers written in Valencià, magazines and plenty of books which have been translated into Valencià, or written originally in it.

In my case, there’s also no particular quote that I live by, I just try to be happy, look for my own way, and enjoy every simple thing in life. I cannot remember right now any film that has particularly marked me, though I’m a staunch supporter of Woody Allen, Tarantino and Hitchcock, among others. I go to the cinema every weekend to watch any film that seems to be interesting. I don’t like silly films. The more a film is commercial, the more it’s silly and foreseeable. You know, for example those nonsense comedies, the bloody films without makings or the typical boy meets girl film.

I also love reading all kind of novels, and I don’t have any favourite writer. One of the last novels I’ve read is The Da Vinci Code….yes, it’s a long time after its first publication, but I like choosing what novel to read next by friend recommendation, by the word of mouth. That’s why I’d appreciate it if you help me to choose a good one. This Christmas I’ll give me a pair of books as a self-gift!

Jonathan, Yes. I meant that I was a temporary worker. During my summer holidays I used to work to give me some whim. It helped me, moreover, to learn the price of the money.

Again, thanks a lot, everyone, for all your support, comments and suggestions ….......I’m still ‘cooking’ the Paella recipe ;)

That’s all for now!

Love,

Silvia

Saturday, 08 December 2007

Paella recipe

A promise is a promise….My paella recipe.

Here are the instructions on how to make a traditional valencian Paella. This is my mother’s recipe, and I’ve chosen a typical paella made of meat, because it’s my favourite. However, instead of meat you can choose to cook a paella made of fish, seafood or a mix of meat and seafood.

Paella (serves 6):

Ingredients:

- 100 grams rise for each diner
- A liter and ¾ water
- 100 ml of olive oil
- ½ chicken cut up into little chunks
- ½ rabbit cut up into little chunks
- A can crushed tomatoes. Approximately 500 g
- A red bell pepper, sliced
- A head of garlic
- Salt
- 1 teaspoon of yellow food colouring or saffron

Directions:

1.Cut the red bell pepper into strips. Roast them using a pan; set aside.



2.Fry the head of garlic until it's medium done; set aside.
3.Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Place chicken and rabbit pieces into oil and fry lightly until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes; set aside.
4.Fry crushed tomatoes, adding some salt. Cook for 5 minutes; set aside.
5.Boil water in a saucepan. Stir in the meat and the fried tomatoes. Let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes until it’s well combined and the meat is well done.



6.Heat a bit olive oil in a very large pan with two handles or paella pan over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. In Spain there’s a burner specifically designed to cook paella. See it in the picture below.





7.Add all rice in one go, stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick.



8.Immediately mix in the meat and tomatoes stew. Stir it again.



9.Add yellow food colouring or saffron.



10.Taste the mixture. Depending on one's liking, add a pinch of salt if necessary.
11.Stir the mixture again to make sure it doesn’t stick.
12.Place rise to have the same thickness all around the paella pan, and put the pieces of meat well spaced (it’s a question of good appearance, because once the water has evaporated, you won’t be able to move any piece). Remember that the bigger a paella pan is, the better, since a good paella mustn't be thick.



13.Let the paella cook at a medium heat for 5 minutes.



14. Put the fried head of garlic in the middle of the paella, but if you don’t like the garlic taste, you can omit this step.
15.Decoratively place the strips of pepper into the paella (drawing a daisy shape is the most common way)



Continue cooking for 15 minutes over medium heat until the rice is done and the water has evaporated. Be careful! It’s advisable that rice isn’t over cooked. Rice, in any good paella, has to be a bit hard, or chewy, but never tender. So, you’ll have to control the water level and the tenderness of the rice. If the rice appears to be getting too dry during the last 10 minutes, add more water. If the rice is too wet at the end of the 10 minutes, uncover and evaporate unwanted liquid.



16.Put out the burner or switched off the plate if you don’t have any paella burner.
17.Cover the paella, and let it settle for 5 minutes.



18.Garnish with lemon wedges to serve.

Cooking a paella is as easy as it seems to be! Your delicious paella will be ready in no more than one and a half hour!



Probably your first paella won’t be a resounding success….but I assure you that after having cooked ten paellas you’ll become an expert Paella cook. There’re no tricks to cook a good one, just practice. So, try it over and over again and you’ll succeed in the end. Good luck!


Today is my dad’s birthday. I and my whole family have eated out to celebrate it. We have ended up in Arenales del Sol and I’ve seized the opportunity to go for a walk along the beach. As Jonathan, I love those walks. They’re so relaxing!.

Arenales del Sol is the town where my family and I spend every Summer. Actually, it’s the place where I grew up, because my granny lives there and I used to be there for the weekends. As I said before, Arenales del Sol is just 15 or 20 minutes away by car. The weather has been extremely nice today, with high temperatures. That’s why a lot of people were on the beach or walking along its promenade. Even, there were people sunbathing and taking a dip. Here are some photos that I’ve taken.








….See you tomorrow!!

Thanks for all your comments. Tomorrow I’ll answer all of them :)…..Now I’m in a hurry!!

Silvia

Sunday, 09 December 2007

quite a normal day

I’ve been the whole day working on my computer…programming and programming.....what a boring day!!

Today what I’m going to do is trying to answer most of your comments….You are a great support!

First of all, Jonathan, thanks for your corrections and your inspiring post. I've enjoyed your walking story and all what you've told us about the dunes and Leba. I’d be grateful if you could talk about polish traditions and what the main attractions of Poland are.I don't mean to be personal, but after having lived in Poland for so long do you still miss any english tradition or anything special from the UK?

Antonio, Yes! It’s usual to eat churros con chocolate for breakfast. For me it's something usual after long nights out. As you said, churros with hot chocolate are eaten the whole year round. I can’t wait any longer for you gazpacho manchego recipe. I agree with you, I like the manchego gazpacho much more than the andaluz. For all what you’ve said, you’ve to be an excellent cook. To be fair I consider myself as an average cook, and as Anastasia has pointed out, what I most enjoy is cooking for someone else. It’s much funnier and gratifying. If I’m alone at home and I’ve to make something to eat for myself, I get too lazy and I end up eating just a sandwich or a salad.

Ana Paula, I like your Christmas traditions. It’s another way of seeing Christmas. I think that the way one has lived Christmas and its traditions, influence a lot the Christmas feelings one has, and one's Christmas mood. Traditions of Brazil sound pretty exotic for me, even when here in Spain it isn’t by far as cold as in other European Countries. I’d like to experience them. Well, as you know, I’m a sea lover. So, having a dip at midnight and jump seven waves has to be really funny, and coming into contact with nature is one the best choice to start off a new year on the right foot.

Leila, I agree with you. The daVinci code is a good reading to improve the English fluency, but personally the plot was foreseeable, and it recalls me other books. therefore, I found it a bit naïve, too.

Ernesto, yes! I like Mecano, although they don’t belong to my generation. They got extremely famous in the late 80s till and the early 90s. However, they made history in the Spanish pop music. Their songs have never died, and they're as famous as they used to be. In Madrid is running a successful musical of Mecano and all their songs. And guess what? My plan for this New year’s Eve is going to Madrid to see it in an special performance for that night. I’m going to spend four days in Madrid and its surroundings. In fact I’ve been to Madrid for many times and it’s quite familiar for me, because I’ve some relatives living there and I don’t miss the opportunity to go there every time I can.

Habooba, Olive grows in every southern region of Spain. From Castilla La mancha to Andalucia. However, the major olive producer is Andalucia.

Hyoshil, thanks for your comment! You’re so kind.

Naheed, Thanks you so much for your comments and corrections. I’ve to say that I also like those intelligent comedy films, many of them in black and white, but they're timeless.

Mariangela, in spain there’s no typical cake that people usually eat for Christmas. On the other hand, there’re typical regional cakes. For example, in Elche you'll be able to try tarta de elche or tarta de almendras. It’s a sponge cake made of a mixture of almonds, sugar and honey, all cover by meringue. Personally, I prefer a home-made chocolate cake made with layers of biscuits dunked in milk, custard and hot chocolate, of course, after it has been cold down for two or three hours. By the way, I love panettone! It’s delicious….In fact, I’m an Italian food lover!

Christine, thanks for your comment! I didn’t know about St.Nicholas Day festivity. In Spain, St. Nicholas isn’t as traditional as there is.

Anastasia, related to one of the quotes you said.....you need someone to love you, while you're searching for somebody to love....I think it’s true that everybody likes to be loved and desired. But, in my opinion, first one must love oneself to find one’s Prince. You have to know, love and respect yourself to be then respected and loved. If not, you could get confused by all those admirers and not know clearly what is what you really want…. That’s from my own experience.

Silwal, it would be nice if you could talk about some of your traditions….As you said referring to Christian culture, I’m not up-to-date on other traditions and I enjoy learning new things, above all related to culture differences. Do you have any special festivity?


That's all for now! I hope you've enjoyed my paella recipe :)

See you tomorrow!

Love,

Silvia

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A little bit of everything

Don’t be in the dark about Spain, its celebrities and traditions!

First of all, I had to attend a two days seminar, which is why I haven’t written for the last two days. I’ll certainly make up for lost time!

Today, I want to write more about books and films, and my preferences, but first I’ll give you some basic knowledge to have a global view of people who most influenced the history of Spain and its culture.

Let’s start from the beginning!

- Isabel La Católica was the Queen of Castilla y León from 1474 to 1504. Thanks to her Colón discovered the new world, since the Spanish Crown financed such an odyssey.

- Juana La Loca ascended the throne upon the death of her parents. She finally matched the kingdoms of her parents, Castilla and Aragón, to shape the current geography of Spain.

Cristobal Colón. It’s still a mystery where he came from. Some experts mantain that he was from Italy, whereas others claim he could be from Portugal or the old Castile. However, the name of America was in honor of Americo Vespucio, an Italian seafarer who wrote about his journeys to the new world. Years later, the cartographer that had to draw a new world map found those documents and he granted Americo for the discovery.

Fernando de Rojas was a famous playwright, author of La Celestina. That dramatic work is supposed to be the precursor of the modern novel and of the Quijote.

Miguel de Cervantes was a novelist, poet and dramatist who is still considered as one of the most outstanding figure of the Spanish literature. His novel, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, has been described as the first modern novel and one of the best pieces of work of the universal literature. It has also been translated into nearly any language. The first sentence of this adventure story is distinctive and remembered by everybody. It says: “ En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme…..” (In a certain village in La Mancha, which I do not wish to remember…..) Actually, that beginning broke with the existing rules for writing, since it doesn’t even mention where the action takes place, just giving to the reader a vague idea.

Talking now about art, the most influential Spanish painters have been: Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, Dalí, Juan Gris, Picasso and Miró. All of them were art revolutionaries. However, the most prolific and worldwide known is certainly Pablo Picasso. He was the most important painter in the twenty century. He was a pacifist and had a communist ideology. He underwent different artistic periods till he achieved his artist maturity, and one of his masterpieces is the Guernica, which captures the tragedy of the war and expresses all the grief and terror that the inhabitants of Guernica, a northern town, suffered during the civil war.

El Greco, or the Greek, was born in Greece. However, he moved to Italy to carry on with his art study, and he eventually spent most of his life working in Spain. One of his masterpieces is Entierro del conde de Orgaz. You cannot imagine the vivid colours of his paintings until you see them. He had an original way of represent the human being, in which he deformed people’s bodies, lengthening them exaggeratedly.

Velázquez was a baroque painter. He was influenced by the Italian painters of his age, especially Tiziano, and by his good friend Rubens. One of his masterpieces is, without a doubt, the Meninas, which isn’t by far as impressive as it’s when you’re in front of it. It’s a huge painting that was brilliantly painted.

Francisco de Goya. Goya is a well-known painter. Although he was deeply marked by Velazquez, he found his own style and some of his most remarkable works of art are: El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid: los fusilamientos en la montaña del Príncipe Pío, La maja desnuda (the naked woman) and la maja vestida (the dressed woman). You can admire most of his works in the museum del Prado, which is located in Madrid.

Salvador Dalí is one of my favourite painters. He was an artist, a painter, a photographer, a film director and a sculptor. He was quite a character and his style is distinctive and unique. In his paintings, labeled as surrealist, he tried to capture his dreams and obsessions. At first sight these works seem to be non-sense. However, after having studied them quietly you’ll discover that they reflect the deepest thoughts of the artist.

Gaudí was a 19th-century modernist architect, who was really prolific, and designed a lot of buildings, a spectacular cathedral (the Sagrada Familia) and some parks (Güell Park) in Barcelona. I strongly recommend you to visit that city. I’m sure that you’ll fall in love with the artist works, and with the city itself.

Calatrava is an architect that tries to break the usual building rules, changing the way of thinking about which materials to use or which shapes can be built. The ciudad de las artes y las ciéncias in Valencia is a good example of his work.

Nevertheless, those prominent people aren’t as well-known as those who are currently in the limelight due to the fact that they enjoy a tremendous popularity because of their job, such as actors, politicians, sport players (mostly football players), or directors. These celebrities appear much more frequently in the papers, gossip magazines or on TV. That’s why their names surely ring a bell.

Have you heard of any of the following names? Could you guess what they do for a living?

Alejandro Amenábar, Pedro Almodóvar, Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Juan Carlos I de Borbón, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Rafa Nadal, Fernando Alonso, Arturo Pérez Reverte, Ramón y Cajal, Severo Ochoa, Carlos Sainz, Pedro Duque, Plácido Domingo, Miguel Induráin.

I’ll give you a couple of hours to think about it. Tonight I’ll write the answers.

But now, if you are curious to know more about those notable people and others, click on the link below, and you’ll find a really long list of the most famous people of Spain:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Spaniards

Jonathan, I’m learning a lot from your corrections. Thanks again for your explanations!

I like the Polish Christmas tradition you talked about. I believe it’s very important to keep the Christmas spirit alive, and enjoy a wonderful family holidays. Both, Poland and Spain have similarities. The polish tradition says that you have to taste twelve dishes to ensure good luck during the coming year, whereas in Spain what is typical is to eat twelve grape seeds, but at New Years’ Eve.
I’d like to know whether the fact that you mustn’t eat meat for the Christmas meal is due to religion or a tradition.

Well, I’m attending German lessons in the evenings. So, I must leave right now, but tonight I’ll make some more comments about the polish Christmas (that I’ve found really interesting) and all the others’ comments :)


Laters!

Silvia

Thursday, 13 December 2007

time to read......

I hope I haven’t bored you a lot in my last post.

I’m waiting for your comments about whether you know any of the people in the list….After having gathered your answers, I’ll tell you something about those celebrities :)

I’ve to admit that I’m very fond of reading, and it has always been one of my hobbies. I like Christmas time because it means that I've much more time to read, relax and have a cup of tea peacefully (I'm a tea lover....how british I'm!).
As reading is my favourite hobbie, I spend a lot more money in books than I'd like to…and, of course, a lot of time reading them afterwards. However, from my point of view, all that money has been well-invested.What I really enjoy is going to those huge book stores, and coming across books of authors I didn’t know before, since I like reading different kinds of books, from novels to art books, including those ones more technical, though my final choice often depends on the mood I’m in that day.

My biggest problem is that I get hooked by books, and I can’t stop reading. I literally eat one book after another. Honestly, I’m not fan of any particular writer. I prefer to vary across all sorts of possibilities, and ‘taste’ different writing styles. I sometimes follow the word of mouth, and I get some books that someone has recommended me. But that technique won't assure you of the success in the purchase.

One of the last books I’ve read is The shadow of the wind, a novel written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It’s been a worldwide bestseller, and it’s translated into English and other languages. So, don’t miss the opportunity to read it for Christmas! It’s a thrilling and a spellbinding novel, in which I got immediately immerse, and I finish reading it in just a couple of days.

Another writer that I like is Arturo Perez Reverte. In his beginnings, Reverte worked as war correspondent, and wrote lots of good articles for national newspapers. From then on, he became a well-respected writer.

As you imagine, I’m always expecting a new book of him to be released. He’s very prolific, and he’s the author of many well-known novels, such as The board of Flandes, The Dumas Club and the Adventures of captain Alatriste, which were eventually adapted for the screens. The other two were adapted, as well. The American film The Ninth Gate, by Roman Polanski , is based on the Dumas Club, and the board of Flandes is another American film which was directed by Jim McBride. Have you seen any of the film that I’ve just mentioned?

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Spanish cinema, and who are currently its more important figures.

By the way, oranges grow in the Comunidad Valenciana, which is my region, and also most of almonds trees grow here (that’s why it's so tradicional the turrón and the almonds cake).You’re right Christine, it’s time for oranges. I suppose that the ones you buy in summer come from South America and not from Spain.

Now I’m too tired to go on typing…so,tomorrow I’ll drop you some lines about some of your suggestions, questions and my own thoughts about what you’ve said…Thanks a lot for being there!

To end with for today, I’ve tried to correct the mistakes….It’s been rather difficult! I hope I’m not too mistaken.

1. I get always confused when I’ve to write a sentence like that.
2. Thank you for the information about Warsaw, I knew very little about it.
3. On that day folks groups usually drop in the houses.
4. The smell of the orange blossom at night
5. Italy is in the run-up to Christmas
6. It’s impossible to stop the trend
7. Their factories sell quality shoes at cheaper prices
8. Do you like jogging? So do I
9. Job cuts in footwear industries have been compensated by a growth in construction and other industries….
10. Above all, people are happy
11. There are traditional cakes of the region
12. Your explanation about Valencian was very interesting
13. For Christmas I often make a delicious soup
14. I’m completely in the dark about Christian culture
15. Some people were sunbathing
16. It reminds me of other books



Bye for now,

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Christmas meals

Hi everyone,

Yesterday was my company Christmas meal. I couldn’t post anything, because I was out for the whole day (and night).

In the morning I went to work as usual. Then, in the midday the company staff was invited to eat in one of the best hotels of Alicante. The meal was great, and it was really funny to be with the colleagues out of our workplaces, since many of them are quite different depending on the environment. Also, many gifts were raffled. Unfortunately I didn’t get any. I never have luck!

After the long meal, all the people there went to a pub that is in a disco area just in front of the hotel we had been eating. That area is actually in the city harbor, and has always been quite in fashion among people from the whole region of Alicante that go every weekend there.

It was really strange to be in a disco at 7 o’clock in the evening. Normally, people go out at that time to have a coffee, a tea, a beer, or something like that…but never to go to a disco to dance, drink rum with cola,whisky, or beer….or water. Usually, people go out round midnight till daybreak. First, they go out to have something to drink, or do a “botellón”. This one is what most young people do. It consists of buying bottles of alcohol, cola or what one prefers to mix it with, and then go out to a meeting point where there are lots of people drinking and listening to the music of their car radio. A botellón can last a long time after midnight. You couldn’t imagine how many people meet in those places just to drink as much as they can….it’s insane! Aftewards, if you aren’t tired enough, you can go in a club, a disco or wherever you prefer to.

In my case, after being for more than 3 hours in the disco, some of us decided to leave to have dinner. Once we have had dinner, I was completely drained, and my feet hurt me too much. It was past one o’clock, and it had been a long day. So, I came back to Elche, and I slept till midday….I needed it!

Now, I’m full of energy for my next dinner, which is tonight, with my university friends…..I don’t know why, but I’m having the feeling that I’ll come back home early in the morning. I haven’t been in contact with most of them for a long time, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again!

If you didn’t know it, I’m working for a company that is established in Alicante, but actually belongs to a big company from Barcelona. It’s one of the most important water companies in Spain. If you have recently been to Barcelona, one of the newest buildings that stands out above the others is the company headquarters, the Agbar tower block. It has a cone shape,it's also covered with glass panes and has a multicoloured lighting at night.

Jonathan, I’ve been reading your latest posts, and all the comments I haven’t been able to read for the last two days.

Well folks, today I haven’t answered your comments. However, tomorrow I’ll be back, and I won’t forget to make you some comments about what you told me about, and also about the celebrities that I didn’t mention who they are.

Jonathan, thank you for correcting my mistakes. You are all so kind!

Jonathan, I really appreciate both your and others bloggers’ words. You help me a lot!

Now, I want to show you a couple of photos of my company meal.








See you tomorrow,

silvia

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

flu....flu....flu

Sorry!

I’ve been ill :( I’ve had an stomach flu, and I’ve been in bed for these days.
I’m not used to be in bed for so long, and I get exasperated easily.

Actually I don’t like those kind of situations in which I’m not the one who controls them. I know that there are many times in which I’m just an observer, and all things that could happen won’t depend directly on me. However, those times when I think that I’ve all under control, something unexpected happens. Then, I realize that I was wrong, and I can see how many determining factors are behind every single action. For example in a car crash, in which you get involved because you were there, in the wrong place at the wrong time. All seem to be a game of chance…. If last week I hadn’t been attending a two-day seminar, I wouldn't have met the one who gave me the flu.

I haven’t told yet you what I do. Well, I told you that this is my first year in a water company. I’m working for its development department. This is actually my training period, and I should end up knowing about almost everything that is done there. The question is, what is done there? Well, the company has remote stations, such as pumping stations, water deposits, sewage station, water treatment plants, and so on. These stations have to be remotely supervised and controlled (for example, opening and closing pumps or valves). The master station does also the polling of the remote stations of its net.

As you imagine, there are a lot of remote stations widely scattered! Well, to communicate with those stations any operator needs a graphical interface to interact with, and that’s what I’m programming….or trying to. Its name is Scada. There isn’t a standardized platform to program it, since there are many software developers, and each one offer different approaches and different ways of programming. As usual, price is what makes a difference.

I like this sort of half visual programming language, where one has to program the graphics (which is quite funny, because I like graphical programming) and at the same time write new scripts to adapt each interface to the particular case in its remote station.

I’ll also have to learn how to work with the automatons that the company gets. Nowadays, just two people can program those robots and are experts in the field. That’s why the company requires that more people get familiarized with them. Basically because every station is managed by a automaton, which will be “bigger” or not (in the sense of more analog/digital inputs, analog/digital outputs and a higher calculation power) depending on the complexity of the stations, and all the water processes carried out there. A simple automaton can cost more than 1,000 euros.
Tomorrow I have to go to a water treatment plant. You can't get an idea how it stinks! The worst thing is that I get used to that…..One can get used to almost everything, as long as one needs to….

That idea scared me a lot, because most people don’t usually question whether something is wrong or not. For example, some people avoid thinking about what’s happening with forests and oceans and how it will affect themselves, is it ok? And what about politics? I particularly disbelieve in any politician. They aren’t insincere and most of them just want to make a profit from their positions. It's true that in their beginnings they had honest aims, but power mixed with money end up corrupting anyone in charge.

From my point of "rational" view, it’s advisable to get one's own convictions, and not to support any particular theory blindly. On the other hand, for many people it’s important to cling to the hope that some convictions give to them, to feel relief , to face difficult situations or to tale a load off one’s mind…..


That’s all for now!

See you tomorrow

Silvia

Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Cards

Hi there!

Yesterday I couldn’t write anything because I was for the whole day out due to some stuff that had to be done before Christmas holidays. When I came home at midnight I was drained….and also literally, cause I had had to cope with a lot of stress to solve the connections troubles of a water treatment plant….

Spanish people aren’t farsighted at all, and we wait for till a few days before Christmas Eve to do all the Christmas shopping. If three weeks ago it was crazy to go to a shopping centre in the ‘rush hour’, now it’s a completely madness just to try it. You will get exasperated after doing long queues, or after being looking for a car park for more than ten minutes. I look around and what I find out is that people seem to be under great stress. Surprisingly, during this time of the year a lot of people get irascible and for them holidays doesn’t necessarily mean being relaxed, peaceful and enjoying of one’s family. Well, I told you about that in another post. But I’d like people don’t bother so much about gifts….which nowadays are linked with money. I ask myself why people don’t even try to be creative and imaginative, giving out their feelings, and their way of seeing the life.

For example, if you don’t have much time it’s a good idea to do personalized Christmas cards. If you aren’t good at drawing, you can do a collage, or even use a photo software editor to retouch some pictures to create cards.

For me, what is extremely difficult is to express my feelings by writing. In every Christmas card I like to write all the good things that the addressee of it has for me, to show off how highly I think of that friend or relative. However, organizing ideas isn't easy at all. By the way, do you have any special gift for any special person?

As a Spanish girl, I’m now doing all my cards! This year I’ll send a photo of my niece to all relatives. To my friends, I’ll do something funnier…..but I’m thinking about what I can do to surprise them….

Jonathan, I’m ok by now! But I’ve had some troubles. First, I was ill for a couples of days. For that reason I had to get up to date with my work, and I came home too late at night….exhausted after long days working out. Also, it’s the run-up of Christmas, and I’ve had to do a lot of stuff to be Christmas-ready (cleaning, buying what we’ll have dinner, helping my mum and granny,etc) :)
I like getting to know more about Poland, its places and culture. For what you've told about, Krakow is a place that has a lot of charm. Your photos are great....Photo taking is an art form that I'd like to learn. I think that the first step will be taking my camera wherever I am, to get what to express when it happens. That moment usually lasts just a few seconds. For example, a child smiling, a daybreak, people expressions, and so on.

Thanks to everyone for worrying about me. I’m fine, and I’ll blog again regularly, as I used to do..... You know you’re wonderful!

I'd like to show you one of the pictures that I’ve taken of my niece (dressed like a little shepherd). She’s the sweetest child I've ever seen, isn’t she?.



See you tomorrow,….and believe me, it’s true!

Silvia

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Fogueres of John the Baptist

Hi everyone!

Today, I'll tell you about one more tradition of Alicante.

Do you know what Les Fogueres are? If not, have you ever heard about Les Falles of Valencia? They are quite similar from their beginnings till now......

Originally primitive people worship fire. Later, Christianity spread itself and the fire worship was dedicated to John the Baptist. Throughout centuries, Spanish people and especially those in the Mediterranean coast, lit purifying bonfires to celebrate the arrival of summer solstice.

In Valencia and Alicante, that fire ritual survived throughout centuries. This was a farming ritual in which farmers celebrated the longest day of the year and prayed over the crop harvest. Later, this tradition was taken to the city, since Alicante and its region were always suffering from bad harvests. The first primitive bonfires date back to 1822.

On the other hand, authorities forbid bonfires year after year, but people went on lighting them. In 1881 was published a law that didn’t forbid to light bonfires due to a city hall mistake. For that reason, neighbours grouped on the streets to celebrate the “festes de carrer” (street festivals), with popular games, music of “dulzaina” and “tabalet” (popular instruments in this area) and the performance of the ancestors of “ninots” (some kind of dolls), shaped in grotesque figures imitating any person criticized by the neighbourhood.

It wasn’t till 1928 when an association was created to promote the city tourism, because in that time Cantabrian beaches were more popular. This group was authorized to organize the first “Fogueres of Alicante” (Alicante Bonfires) allowed by the city hall.

Later, this celebration was made official with the idea of attracting tourists.
In a few years more than thirty bonfires appeared with the complement of a “Barraca”, which is a limited place set up in the street and decorated with an allegorical door to access in. That place, the “Barraca”, is set up next to the bonfire it belongs to. There are also "Barracas" that were set up as neighbours’ associations. These Barracas contain the night festivals and it is possible to enjoy the wonderful Alicante gastronomy in there.

Besides, there is a maximum representation of the Fogueres, who is “La Bellesa del Foc” (Fire Beauty), who is elected every year among all the Beauties that represent each bonfire.

Years later, the number of bonfires has gone up to roughly ninety, distributed across all the city neighbourhoods, the same has happened with "Barracas", nowadays with more than seventy, and being more than ten thousand the people participating in this celebration. This festivity lasts a week, from the "Plantà" (the day in which the bonfires are placed) to the "Cremà" (the night in which the bonfires are burnt).

You can choose among living "Fogueres" during the day or at night. Every morning there is a “mascletà” (a Mascletà is a mascletà. There’s no good translation. It isn’t just firecrackers, because of its high power. It's more like a symphony of noise). “Mascletàs” are very significant, and it’s seen as a competition in which takes part the best pyrotechnics companies. Before, during and after any “mascletà” you can go from one “barraca” after another to have a cool beer or something to eat. Some of these “Barracas” serve drinks and meal for free!.

In the evening you can see different kind of parades, from a carnival parade to a more serious one, in which “festeros” (people who take part in the festivity) bring the patron saint of Alicante a bunch of flowers as an offering.

During that week Alicante also doesn’t sleep because there are daily concerts, music on the streets, and party out (it is summer time, and all the pubs pour out onto the streets with their bars and music).

The burning of bonfires takes place on the night of June 23rd, or The John the Baptist Eve. This burning is controlled by firemen due to the dimensions of the bonfires, the materials they are made of (Bonfires are made basically of wood and cardboard), and the crowd that is around every bonfire. Frequently these firemen give out water to the crowd, who is always asking for more water. It’s too hot in there. On the other hand, it’s a kind of tradition to kid firemen while asking for more water.

But remember that if you hang out all night long, you won’t be able to live neither morning acts nor beaches. You'll have to choose whether being dead during the day, or alive at night..... My advice is to taste a little bit of everything.

Now, a couple of pictures of Fogueres.


A general view with some details of Fogueres.


The Foguera on the Harbour is traditional.


This is one the Fogueres labelled as special category.


This is the flower offering parade. The girls are wearing the traditional dress.


The cremà of a Foguere in a neighbourhood.


After Fogueres come a week of fireworks in the Postiguet beach.


Laters!

Silvia

Monday, 24 December 2007

My merry Christmas...

Have a jolly Christmas Season!

Christmas is all about togetherness. I wish you a joyful Christmas. Have a nice Christmas holiday!

If you haven’t gone on holiday, or back home, I’ll see you tomorrow and I’ll tell you how I’ve spent Christmas Eve, and what Santa Claus has brought me.
Tonight I’ll be among family. We are having dinner in granny’s home. The whole family will be there. Actually my family isn’t big at all, since my dad is a single-child. It could be for that reason that traditionally my mum’s relatives (who just are two sisters and four nephews and nieces) have met us, as well. We are a very tightly-knit family, and we get on well with each other. So, I like this time of the year, because I can spend much more time with them.

That is Christmas! Every blessing to you and yours throughout this wondrous season.

See you tomorrow,

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

back home....back working...

Hi everyone!

I'm back home and back working, but luckily for just a couple of days. I go to Madrid to spend there this coming weekend and New Year's Eve.

As feared, I've gained 1 more kilo in two days, which is pretty usual on Christmas and holiday season.

On Christmas Eve we had a traditional dinner (or at least, traditional for us) at granny’s home. To start with,we had all kind of seafood on the menu. Then, the main dish varies year by year between salmon and roast lamb. This year we only ate fish.

Besides, it’s traditional to drink champagne or "brut" (a sort of cava) and to eat Christmas sweets after having dinner. As I told you before, the most traditional candies are “mantecados” and “turrón”. Unfortunately, if one want to keep one’s figure, one cannot eat too much of them. Why delicious food, such as sweets, chocolate, cured Iberian ham and sausage, are so fattening!

Like in other countries, many families go to midnight mass. It’s a custom more deeply-rooted in towns and villages. Spain hasn’t been a secular state for long. The country lived under Franco’s dictatorship between 1936 and 1975, when he died. During that period of injustice and repression in social life, Franco gave a lot of power to the Church, and he imposed the Catholic religion as the state religion. Everyone had to be Catholic, go to mass every Sunday and sing his national anthem at school or at any public event. Franco, who called himself “The leader”, was a fascist. However, during the Second World War, though sympathetic to the fascist powers Franco keeps Spain out of direct involvement in the conflict.

It wasn’t after his death that Church and State were separated. But nevertheless the Church still has influence on the government, institutions and education, since almost every high level school in the country is Catholic, private and almost elitist (because of the high rates that have to be paid monthly). Later on, Spain began to receive economic aids and was eventually admitted to the UN and to the NATO. Afterwards, Spain became a member of the EU. From then on, Spain grew incredibly fast. This growth was due to a combination of factors, including tourism and industry, among others, as vibrant means of economic development.

Well, after wandering from the topic, it’s time to pick up the thread of the theme again. Yesterday was Christmas day, and as most of you, I spent all day long with my family. We had our traditional Christmas lunch, in which we finish all that is left after Christmas Eve dinner. Although we were sixteen for dinner, it’s quite common to buy too much food. Typically our mind works following the quote: it´s better for it to be left over than to be not enough.

Nevertheless, in Elche there’s the tradition of eating broth with “relleno” or “pelota”, which is a very big meatball. This dish is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. If you didn’t know it, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets, since it’s based on vegetables, peas, soups and broths (for us it’d be literally translated: spoonsoup dishes) as well as on seasonal fruits. For instance, orange is the Valencian fruit, and green grape is gather in Alicante province. Now, it’s orange and grape time.

Jonathan, you are right, there have been accidents caused by the bonfires, but any too serious.

There are different causes. One of the main causes is that it’s boiling hot in the crowd, and even more near the bonfires. Other causes are that people drink like a fish during the festivity. It’s huge problem, because they make careless mistakes. Also, they might put themselves into risk, as well as others.


On the other hand, the bonfires are constantly controlled by firemen. So, there’s no burning hazard to people who are all around the bonfires, despite their big dimensions.

What I haven't tell you is that the night before the “cremà” people go to the beach to burn a bonfire, and have lunch there. It’s a pagan tradition, in which you have to jump over the bonfire, write a desire in a piece of paper and burn it afterwards. Besides, if the sea is calm, taking a night bath is the funniest thing to do…and the one which will bring you good luck. I’m not superstitious, but it’s something that I’ve always done just for fun.

I agree with Jonathan. My scientific way of thinking can’t fully understand how such a heavy huge “bird” can be held over air. I dislike travelling by plain, and I avoid it if possible, as well. However, I have to admit that the views from that height are outstanding.

Yes, I’ve sent most of my Christmas greetings by email, too. I’ve made most of them using some graphic design software. It isn’t just laziness, but also that sending them by post is too slow in this time of year. On the other side, I go on making elaborated cards for a handful of relatives. Drawing and painting is my hobby, and a kind of therapy for me.

In Spain, smoking is banned in every pub, café and restaurant. It’s usual to be in a wedding dinner party, and seeing how most of guests are out smoking. I don’t sympathise with smoking at all. I prefer smoking-free places. It’s all about respect for the people who don’t smoke, and have got no reason to swallow smoke cigarette.

I hope you all had a great Christmas celebration this year!

Laters!

December 2007

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