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Fireworks, Family and Feeling I Belong
Fireworks, Family and Feeling I Belong

Isabel G. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for our Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Loomis Chaffee School. Read more of her work throughout the year here.

It was the final night of Pilares, two weeks worth of delicious foods, exciting concerts, and bonding with my host family behind me. I still was unable to believe that we had been given days off from school to truly embrace the surrounding culture. To look outside of my bedroom window and see people of all ages singing and chanting on their way to to the Plaza was magical! To wake up at 7:00am on a Saturday morning to watch the bulls. And to see the normally tranquil streets and caf├ęs I've grown so familiar with, filled to the brim with excited travelers and locals. There was a palpable energy in the air, a feeling of anticipation for the events to come. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced and was one of the many times that I have felt disbelief at the fact that I was actually here in Spain, ready to take part in it.

I thought that the festivities would somewhat fade over the two weeks, with some days being more lively or exciting than others. That, of course, proved not to be the case. It seemed that with each morning the excitement only grew and the fiestas appeared never ending. Thus, the last night was no exception. While I was saddened that this time in Zaragoza was over and that the holiday had come and gone so fast, it was also that final night that has imprinted itself as one of my most defining moments of Pilares.

My host mother, Rosa, my host brother, Jorge, and I grabbed a multitude of blankets from around the house and began walking through the park to the Pilar. We were joined be a sea of other people, crowding me on every side and each with smiles so wide and screams so loud. It seemed as though they had saved up energy for this one night, one last time until the following year to celebrate their city. Along our walk we stopped into an El Rincon, scrambling along with everyone else to purchase bags of gummy candies and spicy Doritos that Jorge claimed would make your mouth burn and eyes water.

Finally, we had arrived. It was a small opening through the trees, shielded by the dark sky and illuminated by Pilar's lights in the distance and reflected on the water. Several others sat patiently, awaiting the final fireworks show to come. We sat closely, huddled beneath blankets, laughing about aimless things and kicking our feet over the calm river waters. In just a few moments, the dark night sky would be clouded by colors and the hushed whispers overpowered by loud explosions.

When the fireworks started, I felt tranquil and comforted by such a magnificent display of Zaragoza. I felt rushing pride for this place I could suddenly start calling home, but the most powerful emotion were for those people sitting beside me. Yes, the fireworks were beautiful and impressive, and my camera-roll was stacked with photos of bright lights and cheers. And yes, I had never seen Pilar or the water look as gorgeous as it did in that moment. But it was almost a moment of contentment in the understanding that my home was not only this amazing city, but with my host family.

While there is still a very prevalent language barrier, the awkwardness has seemed to completely dissipate. I look forward to coming home after dance class and watching an episode of Narcos with Jorge. I eagerly await the afternoons when Rosa and Pablo, my host mom and dad, teach me how to cook authentic, homemade Spanish cuisine. And I will never tire of sitting outside on the terrace with my host sister, Natalia, sipping Colacao and making efforts to understand one another. Pilares was one of the most memorable and fun times I have had this year. But what I will remember, more so than the rest, will be a sense of belonging and true comfort with my new family.