Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Once (and only once!) in a Lifetime Experience

Though it seems to be February’s buzzword of Europe, up until last weekend, Carnaval had been a foreign concept to me. But Saturday night, we got to know one another quite personally. For all you fellow Wolverines, imagine a Greenwood block party plus Nightmare on Elm Street, but multiply it by 100 and take away the police arriving at 11 pm. For all of you who have never had the privilege of experiencing an Ann Arbor block party, try to visualize the masses in Times Square on New Year’s Eve dressed in the most ridiculous costumes you can think of. This should give you a general idea of Carnaval, or the rest of the world’s version of Mardi Gras. Carnaval in Cadiz is one of the biggest street festivals in the world, where people come from all over Spain, and even Europe, to celebrate.

But to celebrate what? To be 100% honest, I couldn’t tell you. I’d say it’s somewhere along the lines of celebrating life in general. Carnaval begins the weekend before the start of Lent, and was originally intended to be a meat-eating holiday, as all the Catholics prepared to enter a 40-day fast from meat. But unless churros with chocolate now have some sort of meat in them, I unfortunately think the original purpose has long-since been lost. As my group stepped off our tour bus into the throngs of people, we turned to each other a little confused and said, “But what do we DO?”

The fact that there really seemed to be nothing to do besides walk through the streets socializing with all the elaborately dressed people just added to the novelty of Carnaval. Our groups mission quickly became to make as many friends as possible and find the best costumes on the street before the night’s end. I had chosen to forego the 30 euro cliché costumes that filled every store in Sevilla and put my creativity to the test, spending 5 euros on glow-in-the-dark stars, glow-stick style glasses, and some face paint, from which I morphed myself into a starry night sky! Despite the face that I started the night with 40 stars covering my clothes and returned home with only four remaining (turns out that star tack doesn’t work too well on clothes!), I’d say it was a general success. And though arriving in a group with both a lamp (Haley) and a tree (Lyndsay) heightened our standards for creative costumes on the streets, we still managed to find Shrek and Fiona, a bush to match Lyndsay, and a transvestite wearing a dress I own!

While the night was clearly a blast, I would definitely put it into the category of a ONCE in a lifetime experience. It was fun while it lasted, but I don’t plan on going back anytime soon. Leaving my house at 7:30 pm to not return until 6 am is not something that I would like to do on a regular basis (I now know why the Spaniards love their siestas so much…)

And on one final note, after an inspiring video passed along by my dad, I have decided to trade in my current salsa dancing partners (Shakira and the bathroom mirror) for my dog, Rhumba. Enjoy ☺

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