Moving to Spain requires some physical adjusting to. Forget the sensation of actually feeling hungry. The intense heat kills any appetite. I’ve mastered the falling asleep part of siesta taking but haven’t yet gotten the waking up part down. And just the mere exposure to the sun from being outside has made me tanner than I’ve been since I moved away from California in 2005. But it wasn’t until recently that my body really was really put to the test. And it was a curve ball that I didn’t even see coming.
It started out innocently with a call from the in-laws. It was the Moros y Cristianos celebration, an annual celebration that commemorates the battle that took place between the Moors and the Christians during the period known as the Reconquista from the 8th century through the 15th century. Celebrations and festivities sweep through the southern Valencian community, with each village trading off and launching their own festivities throughout the summer. The time had come for Cox, the small village where David’s aunt and uncle live (the same ones who work at the market), to have its own week of celebrations and it was one of such importance that even David’s hardworking aunt, uncle and cousin had taken vacation to partake in the fun.
So David and I set out on our scooter (this is when we still had our scooter) for the village located 30 minutes away at the foot of the Sierra de Callosa mountain range. We arrived in the late afternoon and sat down with David’s aunt and uncle to talk about doing business in the markets. Meanwhile, Aurora, the youngest of their children busied getting herself ready, transforming from casual to sexy before our eyes while Elisabel, the middle daughter, arrived in heels. I wondered where they were going that night.
I soon found out that wherever they were going, I was going too, and, when David’s aunt started taking clothes out of one of her daughter’s closet, I also understood that wherever it was we were going, I – in my tank top and pants suitable for scooter riding but not going out – was not dressed for the occasion.
Once the mom started on the project, the daughters joined in. Obviously, this required a team effort. They swept me into the room, closed the door, and started laying out dresses, tops and pants on the bed for me to try. I had only met this part of David’s family once before this in 2002, but it got real personal real quick as Elisabel tugged on and off tops and the girls evaluated each look. One top seemed to please, but when I finally realized that they were trying to tell me it would be too hot for the evening activities – whatever that might be – I nodded in agreement. Soon, the winning outfit was chosen – tight fitting pants and an even tighter fitting top.
But my makeover was only half done. Aurora pulled out all of her cosmetics, and, after asking David whether I wore makeup and David responded “a little”, she set to work on my face. Foundation, mascara, eyeliner, lipstick and gloss – it was more makeup than I had worn in a long time. The final touch – pulling my hair back with bobby pins. The whole process might sound like it was a process, but the girls were focused and worked surprisingly fast and I, too, went from casual to sexy – in 15 minutes.
Now that I looked respectable, it was time to eat. David’s aunt had cooked up a hearty meat dish along with what apparently is a necessary staple: a heaping plate of prawns. Oh, how I remember those prawns! When David and I had traveled to Spain in 2002, we had a similar dinner at David’s aunt and uncle’s house, and, for the first – and only – time in my life, I felt physically ill as I watched the whole family suck and devour the heaping plate of prawns. At that time, David’s aunt didn’t quite know what to do with me – the sole vegetarian – and she still didn’t know what to do with me now. She brought out bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers and asked if that was OK. I assured her with a smile and a nod that that would be perfect, but when she proceeded to put the beautiful but raw and whole vegetables on my dish, my dismay must have been apparent because David rushed them off to the kitchen to make a salad while I was left to ponder exactly how she expected me to gnaw at a whole bell pepper, tomato and cucumber – and still look respectable.
When all was prepared and the plate of prawns had taken their designated spot in the middle of the table, we sat down to eat. It was 10:00 pm, and the celebratory parade was just getting started. We turned on the TV to watch the procession taking place in downtown Cox. When the meal was finished and the plate of prawns sucked clean (I avoided watching and succeeded in not getting sick this time!), we set out to watch the parade in person. We walked outside, rounded the corner and, 2 seconds later, arrived in downtown Cox – in the exact spot that we had seen on television. We took our place among the villagers lining the sides of the street and watched what seemed to be the entire village pass in front of our eyes. But more surprising than the size of the parade that this little village had organized or the decibel of the booming music that shook the whole village was how beautiful the women were! Each one was prettier than the next, and I discovered one of the world’s best kept secrets: some of the most beautiful women can be found in Spain’s small villages.
At 1:00 am, the parade was still going strong but the parade goers – or at least us because everyone else was still avidly attentive – were tired of standing and we ducked into a lively cafe for a shot of espresso. As I sipped my bombon, I mused at how I had never seen a midnight parade nor such a lively little village. Little did I know how much I would need that shot of caffeine. While I thought the evening was over, it had, in fact, only just begun. More to come in my next post!