This week in Spain I swam in the ocean every day, celebrated a birthday, explored Vitoria- Gasteiz (a globally recognized green city), and flew to Girona to learn about housing rights.
Getxo, the town I am living in, is located very close to the ocean. I am living in a specific town within Getxo called Algorta. My home is roughly a four minute walk to the ocean and I have made it a habit this week to swim every day. My home in the US is located in the (very far) northern part of California. There, the ocean is cold and menacing. Sharks and steep shores a commonality. Here in Spain, the ocean is warm and inviting. Sharp rocks only scratch and tease. According to the locals, Basque people are never cold and swim regardless of the weather. Lucky for me, temperatures have been in the 90s so I can’t say I’ve been too cold myself. A deep appreciation for nature is apparent in the cultural activities of the Basque and Spanish people. This habit of swimming each day serves to connect me not only to this spectacular geographical location and nature, but also to the people. There are three beaches near by and every day, I see others participating in this activity. I am writing this from Girona, an inland city, and I find myself a little sad – missing the cold and salty cover of the coast.
Swimming is just one of the cultural activities that is common in this region. I wrote in a previous blog about the popularity of pintxos. I’ve found that this activity of drinking and eating small plates is just the tip of a deeper social culture. On Thursdays, Spaniards party. This week happened to be another student’s birthday and on Thursday we partook in the scene. Algorta is not only near the beach, but it is also the party spot. Students from other neighborhoods congregated in the plaza with the other Algortians and me. Starting late, as is customary here, we sat and drank and watched. As the night progressed and some walked home, we stayed. Some of us found our way to a club nearby and began to dance and speak with the locals. Tourism is uncommon here and people are very curious to hear English. In stark contrast from the American suburbs I am used to, I saw people dancing and laughing and speaking in Basque and Spanish and English too. Finally, at 3 in the morning I tore myself from the still bustling club and walked to the ocean. I made sure not to break my streak.
I do also attend school although that may not be immediately apparent from my posts to this point. This week in Spain, I learned about participatory governments and collaborative methods of urban planning. Each day, we have a new professor that shares with us their specialties. None of the professors have English as their first language which has added an infesting and interpretively creative layer to lecture. The way that language is used by non-native speakers is poetic in a way that illustrates a creative and open-minded method of collaboration. I found this particularly interesting in the context of participatory governments. We traveled this week to Vitoria-Gasteiz to see this in action. Vitoria is a globally recognized green city and collaborative governance has played an integral role in making that happen. The cultural identity of sustainability and wellbeing was highlighted again and again as the foundation of success in this city’s goals. In a post Franco dictatorship, citizens gained the authority to see the city through their own eyes. As not only a member of the EU, a member of Spain, but as the capital of the “Basque region,” Vitoria offers a fertile ground for creative collaboration.
As a cap to this week in Spain, we flew to Girona in Catalunya, another region seeking independence from Spain. Here, we will study rights to the city (as a response to gentrification) and housing rights (as a response to the 2008 financial crisis). But more on this next time! For now, adéu.