5 Reasons Why I love Basque Country

The Basque Flag
The Basque Flag

Basque Country will always hold a special place in my heart. When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to live in western Basque Country over the course of three year. Each summer I spent a few months living with the locals in Bilbao and Ea. I spent my time hiking the mountains, swimming in the ocean, and, of course, enjoying the Basque’s never ending summer fiestas.

It’s been three years since I’ve been back. I’ve been writing posts here and there ranting and raving about various aspects of Basque culture that I enjoyed. There were parties, singing and dancing. The people are very joyous and proud of their heritage. I miss the country and cannot wait to go back.

It was a delight living there and I’m excited to share with you a few of the reasons why I love Basque Country:

 

 

5. Architecture

When Emilio Estevez’s movie “The Way” came out, I immediately recognized the countryside in the film as northern Spain. There are very few places that I can identify so easily. The architecture style of the Basque region in northern Spain is distinct. Although Basque Country is in the middle of eastern Europe, it’s language predates latin. The culture is old and somewhat independent of its neighbors.

Immediately what comes to mind when I think about Basque Country is its muddy brown and orange rooftops. They are everywhere! In the large cities, there is a haze of orange roofs. Out in the tiny villages, the orange contrasts heavily with the lush green mountainsides.

Most of the buildings are an off white with bright red trim. The streets in the villages and the sidewalks in the cities are cobblestone. Every town has a center where the one road that goes through the mountainside comes through. From the windows, people hang flowers. Not just here-and-there, but everywhere.

 

Elantxobe, Spain
Elantxobe, Spain
Bilbao, Spain
Bilbao, Spain

4. Parties

The Basques know how to throw a party. Almost every week of the summer there is a fiesta in a different village. Each one is distinct from the others. Some of them are full day parties, where you spend the day cooking omelettes and drinking at night (Natxitua). Others are all night with large concerts (Gernika). I’ve run around cities in my underwear at 3 in the morning and danced in buildings older than the USA. No matter how you look at it, Basque Country knows how to throw a party!

Ea, Spain
Ea, Spain
Random Party
Random Party

3. Landscape

There couldn’t be a better location for a country. Basque Country is found in northern Spain and southwestern France. Much of this land is mountainous and filled with lush greens. Many of the cities reach towards the ocean and are almost built around it (see Elantxobe above). No matter where you are, you’re surrounded in beauty. Whether it be the countryside where you can see for miles or in the wild (see Oma Forest).

Hiking in the mountains
Hiking in the mountains
Oma Forest, Spain
Oma Forest, Spain

2. Food

This could be its own category. The food is mind-blowing. Kokotxas, percebes, markitako, txipirones, and kalimotxo to drink. It’s enough to visit the country with only the purpose of eating. Even though it’s not distinctly Basque, Padrón peppers are incredible as well. This country has engineered food to a different level. One that makes cooking into a fine art.

Cooking Omlettes in Natxitua, Spain
Cooking Omlettes in Natxitua, Spain
Showing pride for Euskadi in a delicious potato omlette
Showing pride for Euskadi in a delicious potato omlette

1. People

The number one reason why I love Basque Country is definitely the people. After all, they make the cities and cook the food. The Basque people are energetic. Being around them feels liberating. They have a strong sense of patriotism and love for the area that they live.

Party in Natxitua, Spain
Party in Natxitua, Spain
Last days in Ea
Last days in Ea

BLOGtober day fourteen!

Edit: Added pictures and more text! Hope you enjoy!

Big thanks to Jagoba and his family for hosting me each year. They shared their culture, their home, and so many wonderful experiences with me. You have all impacted me in ways that will last a lifetime. Thank you.

First photo together in 2010
First photo together in 2010
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Partying in Ea (Ea, Pais Vasco, Spain)

Of all the places I’ve stayed, Basque Country definitely takes the cake for ‘craziest’. It seems like each day there’s a new fiesta. The only thing I found that they love more than partying, was the alcohol they brought to the parties. The popular drink? Kalimotxo, 50/50 Coca-Cola and cheap euro wine.

In 2012, there was a party in the village I was staying in, so I decided to go hang out with some of the friends I made. The stage was set up in the center of town in the frontennis court and everyone was dancing around. It was so funny to hear ska being played live. This is what they listen to. There were many nights spent running around listening to this style of music.

I loved the people. Everyone was so friendly and tried to get me to dance. Even without speaking English well, they dragged me around and showed me Basque Culture. Which, to be honest, seemed to consist of endless laughing and relaxing with one another. The teenagers I hung out were always laughing and telling jokes. I remember that more than anything else.

The parties lasted through entire nights and usually didn’t end until the people dispersed. Entire villages would swell with massive amounts of people, then drain out in the morning. It was a lot of fun to experience a different culture that we don’t have here in the United States. The Basque people are fantastic at throwing parties!

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Do you ever have moments that you wish you could go back to and just relive them? This photograph was taken a few years ago while I was staying with a friend in Spain. It was the third year I had been there. I took the experience for granted.

I wish I could go back and just live it again. Breathe in the salty ocean and the taste of fresh seafood. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever get another photograph with all of them. What I would give for one more night on the coast in Ea.

Memories like this serve as a reminder to pay attention each day. You never know what you’ll miss until it’s gone.

The Cold and Rain (A Love Letter to Minnesota)

Shoveling snow off the car!
Shoveling snow off the car!

Growing up in the north, winter always was the major season. Minnesota sometimes has snow all the way from October till May. With that being said, it’s hard to feel like a northern without mentioning the cold. It defines us – gives us a common distaste. We experience it together every year.

Where I’m from, we’re always talking about the weather. We bond over how we managed to get out of our driveways with a foot and half of snow. I once had my car doors freeze shut and I had to grab an extension cord and hair dryer. Yes, I was outside in the cold, at 6 in the morning, defrosting my car locks. It was awful.

Since moving down to South Carolina, I feel like I’ve lost that social aspect of my life. Here the weather barely drops below freezing. A friend from here had never even seen snow. Instead of winter being defined by snowplows, starting your car fifteen minutes before you leave home, or using a broom to clear the newly fallen snow off the roof of your car, it just gets cold here.

The days get shorter. The leaves don’t change color, they just fall from the trees and rot on the ground. There’s a dryness that keeps the air feeling sharp. When it does rain, it becomes gloomy. There isn’t any jokes about snowfall or any hope about getting school cancelled.

Everyone that I work with comes from different parts of the country. My coworkers are from New York, Alabama, California, Texas, and everywhere else. Winter means something different for them – whether that be holidays or, for my friends in Florida, waves of travelers hoping to escape winter for a few days.

See, in the north, winter isn’t loved. Facebook floods with agony when the first snow falls. There’s a collective groan because everyone knows they’ll soon have to plow their driveways again. Yet, we’re together in our stewing.

In Charleston, we’re caught in sort of purgatory. Winter isn’t loved here either. We no longer go to the beaches on the weekends or walk downtown in shorts. We put on our jackets, in the 40 degree weather, and stay inside. But it’s different from the north.

I think there’s an appreciation for winter in Minnesota. It isn’t loved, by any means, but it’s an inevitable part of our lives. We must face winter each year. In each direction we look there’s either a ‘winter wind advisor’ or, yet again, an incoming onslaught of snow. Greeting the cold is almost a reminder that life has difficulties – we must all face it together. When spring arrives, we know that we’ve conquered something. We’ve grown in a way.

In Charleston, we’re not quite “winter”. We’re between the north, which has mountains and snow, and the south, where we could escape winter’s cold breath. We’re entangled in a mix. The temperature drops but nothing really changes. The days get dark but we don’t really have any struggle. There aren’t many funny stories you can tell about a cold, snowless winter day here.

In the Minnesota, you can go to a Target anytime January through March, and expect to see cars running in the parking lot. It’s so cold that people leave their vehicles running while they shop. Their doors aren’t locked and you can spot each car that is left on. The exhaust leaves a plume of smoke that reminds you how cold it really is.

If you take boiling water into the Minnesotan winter and throw out in the air, it turns instantly into vapor. The water from your cup never reaches the ground, it goes straight into a fog. When you want a drink cooled off, you walk outside and put it into a snowbank for a few minutes. If you own cats, their company at night is invaluable to keeping your feet warm.

While, yes, there is a lot of hate tossed towards winter in the north, I think it’s a lot better than the cold and the rain. Secretly I think we love the snow, broomball, and wearing flip-flops the moment the temperature reaches 45 degrees. There’s something we can call our own about all of it. We’ve all survived the fallout and winter’s cold grasp. We can appreciate sleeping with six blankets on or going for a walk in 5 layers.

It’s bizarre, perhaps that’s the reason we love it, because inside we know that we could leave. We could disappear from the glistening snow. Why would anyone want to go to work in -30 degree weather or wait for their car to warm up? I think we love it because it’s absurd to think about living there. Where else can you freeze your hands to your steering wheel? Where else can you rejoice about seeing the snowplow clear the two feet of snow that had fallen last night?

It’s absurd that anyone would want to experience Minnesota but for those who live there, it’s really something else. The winter is a challenge that we overcome each year in the north, and I miss that. I miss Minnesnowta. Exploded cans of soda in the trunk and all.

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P.S. That picture at the beginning of the post was taken by my loving mother, who mocked and videotaped me while I shoveled.

 

Going Home

As the end of the year approaches and the holidays finally roll around, many people are going home to visit their loved ones. If they don’t already live near their family, people will be traveling all over the country. Last year, when I began this project, I wrote a lot about home around the holidays. I wrote some pretty dreary posts, ultimately saying that I didn’t plan on going home for the next four years.

There was a lot of emotional angst with the mentality of I wanted either all of it or none of it. I wanted to go home and stay home or wait until I could stay. It was a rough time. I did end up going home for a couple weeks in March but, for the most part, I stayed out of Minnesota.

As that time of the year comes back, I guess I wanted to bring it up again. I’ve been in Charleston for the last 240 days, or 8 months. I really haven’t left the city since I’ve arrived and some of that angst is coming back.

I won’t finish my contract until May 2017, which is quite a ways away. It’s a long time to stay in South Carolina. However, I still feel the same way as before. I can’t imagine going home just to come back down here. Leave is valuable and takes a long time to replace.

Eighteen years of my life were spent in Minnesota, I want to use my leave going to visit somewhere new. Maybe go to Portland or Boston. In the last year and a half, I’ve been home for 14 days. Yet, I can’t bring myself to use my leave just to go back to someplace I’ve already been. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but I thought it was worth bringing up.

Has anyone else experienced this? I left home a year ago and it seems like everyone here is pushing me to visit. Especially this time of the year. Yet, I don’t know where to go or why exactly I don’t want to go home. It’s just I don’t. Do you have any advice?

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Playlist Live Tickets

At work, I watched as Playlist-Live tickets were sold. The number of available tickets dropping from 77 to 70 to 69. The last event looked amazing and I was really bummed about not going. So, today I bought a ticket. I don’t have a car to get there yet. No hotel booked. Not even a guarantee that I’ll be able to attend. But I decided that I have things that I want to do in my life and I can’t wait for all the details.

I can’t plan every aspect of my life. $200 is a lot of money, especially for an event that doesn’t have a lineup released yet. I’m not sure I’d spend $75 for a band concert. But I know that this is something I want to do, even if I’m alone.

I fear driving for 5 hours to go a city where I don’t know anyone. Especially with having to return to work a few days later. What if I have complications and I’ll be back late? I could get lost or experience any number of difficulties. My family is on the other side of the country; I can’t just call for help. These are all the things that limit me and run through my mind constantly. They keep me at home and in my bed. But I can’t experience life from under my bed sheets.

While I don’t know everything that will happen, I plan on going to Playlist-Live 2015 in Orlando, Florida. It’s nearly 6 months away and a 300 mile drive, but I’m really excited. Maybe I’ll get back into making videos or change how I blog. Who knows? Plus I’ll be finished with my 365 in just a few months! Maybe a vlogging 365 will follow? Mm, probably not. But who knows! I’m liking this mystery and daringness that I’m finding within myself. There are obstacles we put in front of ourselves that we must overcome and tonight I feel like I’m surpassed one.

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P.S. ONLY 90 DAYS LEFT! WOOT!