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Hot Days in Aragon

The temperature these past few days has reached just under 40 degrees, making it very hot and the swimming pool a welcome form of entertainment. After a few lengths, I stretch out on the towel and read my book, but as I dry, the heat becomes so unbearable I’m soon in the water again.

Living with a family here has alerted me to the cultural differences that exist between Aragon and Barcelona, the only other Spanish city where I’ve spent such a protracted period of time. The Spanish countryside had for a long time been very poor, while Barcelona had a booming industry, whose profits helped create the beautiful streets which form a grid within the central Eixample district. The poverty that people experienced here has created a ‘waste not, want not’ attitude. Almost every morsel of food is saved, discarded plastic bottles of water are picked up off the side of the street and used without being cleaned with soap, fruit which is slightly going over is brought out to be eaten, each person has their own individual glass so that it does not need to be washed each time, the dishwasher is only put on when it is very full and food inside letting out an npleasant smell as it ferments, cloth napkins are used and washed only about once a week so that, again, you keep you own individual napkin to be used repeatedly, and don’t even think about leaving a light on. Sometimes, as we enter the house and climb the stairs, we fumble blindly in the dark to make sure that we don’t switch any light on that doesn´t need to be. Although I don’t think I’d go as far as picking up a bottle which had been discarded in the street, I do admire the family’s low ecological imprint.

A couple of days this week, I’ve been to a nearby city called Barbastro. The city is very small in size and, in many parts, not particularly pretty. Many areas are fairly run down and, overall, the city does not have the same antique charm as Estadilla. Still, the city has a lot of history and is definitely an interesting place. To kill time before a tour of the city’s cathedral, I went around the shops making the most of the sales that were on. Some of the bargains were so great I couldn’t resist, knowing I’d be unlikely to find much for the same price in England. I then climbed up to the cathedral and, due to the fact that no one else had booked tickets that day, was given my own personal tour. The cathedral was beautiful inside, but I got so much more out of the experience for being able to learn about all the history behind it. The next day that I was in Barbastro, I went on a tour on the important places in the city. This time, before the tour started, I killed time by going in to one of the many delicious bakeries which are dotted around the city and bought myself a pain au chocolat, or a napolitiana as they call it here. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

Yesterday evening, there was an activity organised by the mother of the family I am staying with. She is a very involved mother and understands the importance of ensuring her children are always busy and learning, although I do still think they should be in bed rather than staying out until midnight. We had a dinner of effectively raw hamburger (the excitement I felt at the mention that we were having hamburgers for dinner quickly dissipated when I saw the pink patty on my plate) and met up with some of the other mothers and children in the centre of the town, which they call the portal since it is where the gateway to the town stands. The children were then given fluorescent balloons, whcih we took up with us to the town’s fountain, taking photos of the flowing colours against the darkness of the night. Once there, I read them Goldilocks and the Three Bears, translating each sentence into Spanish and no doubt looking ridiculous as a I acted out the actions of the characters.

As we returned home after being at the fountain, the youngest child I’m au pairing for insisted that I hold her. I thus carried her up the steep inclines back into the main part of the town, gazing up at the glittering stars in the warm night sky. I asked the girl what she thought of the story and if she thought Goldilocks was very naughty. She insisted that she would never behave as Goldilocks had, in part, she confessed, because she would be afraid of the bears. She then pointed up at the stars and explained that ‘my grandfather and my grandmother Maria live up there’. It was adorable.

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