Okay so as I mentioned, I’m in Barcelona right now. However, I completely neglected to write about Norway! So here’s a quick piece of awesome information.
I was there for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
And no, I don’t mean, I was in town. (Obviously, I was.) I mean, I was there. As there as you can be without having an invite to actually be in the building. Dagfinn (an old friend of my grandfather’s) and I went to the little concert beforehand filled with young kids jumping to the tunes of some singers I don’t really know, and then after we went to the town hall and got to watch everyone come in! Granted, the winner, Liu Xaibo, wasn’t there (nor was his family) ‘cuz he’s in jail. For those not in the know, he’s a Chinese dissenter who was heavily involved with the Tiananmen Square protest in ’89. The Chinese gov’t jailed him for an undetermined amount of time. It’s kind of a really complicated situation because on the one hand, he was fighting for peace and human rights (hence winning the NPP). On the other hand, China’s kinda pissed at him. So it’s become a political issue where China is furious with Norway and anyone who went to the ceremony. In fact, there were several demonstrators supporting Liu, and then a large group condemning him, holding signs like “Criminal= Nobel Peace laureate?” “Liu Xaibo is a criminal”, etc. Was a bit weird. Anyway, so we got to see everyone go in, and even got to see Norway’s king and queen! No crowns, unfortunately. They looked disappointingly normal.
So then we drove around and explored the city a bit, but at 6.30 or so, Dagfinn dropped me off for the torch parade. Traditionally, the public has a parade where they carry torches to the Grand Hotel and the Nobel Peace Prize winner greets the crows from the balcony and often gives a speech or something thanking them. But since Liu wasn’t there, it was quite a bit different. Our torches were these MASSIVE things, over a foot long (that’s what he said) and they burned for a bit over half an hour, giving us time to walk down to the Grand Hotel and be greeted by a huge projection of Liu’s face on the hotel, and then we listened to a bunch of speeches and songs and things. And I got to see the king and queen again as they were driving by! Anyway, so that was REALLY cool, definitely something I’ll remember for a long time.
And now I’m four days away from home (yes, I will be coming home Mom, don’t worry), and still loving Barcelona. Today I walked..uhhh…everywhere. Up to the top of this crazy mountain with a gorgeous church. And an amusement park. I’m not sure who thought “Oh wow, this church has been here for a few hundred years, what a sacred place! You know what it needs? ROLLER COASTERS!”, but I guess someone thought it. So that’s weird. But this city is gorgeous. Gaudi’s architecture is like none other and gives the city a lot of character and color, there’s tons of painfully attractive scruffy hippie boys with large, dark eyes and dreadlocks down to their waists, the Christmas lights and music fill tiny alleys crammed with Christmas markets, and it’s just lovely. OH speaking of Christmas markets, there are two things that I’ve seen a lot of. One: a log with a face painted on and a Santa hat, and two: an elf figurine squatting with his pants round his ankles…pooping. I’m not making this up. In fact, there’s a shopping mall, and right in the center, there’s a huge (I’d estimate about 30 ft tall) statue of said elf and a big pile of post-food under his enormous, naked butt. Call me prudish, but WHAT?! I recently learned the explanation.
First, the log. Every house gets a log like this, and the children ‘feed’ it, much like how American kids leave out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. Spanish kids do the same. The next morning, the food is gone. Where does the food go? On Dec 6th, the log (I’m borrowing this phrase directly from my host) poops presents.
I’m gonna give you a few moments to deal with that sentence.
Yep. So the process goes like this: Kids leave sweets out for the log. In the morning, the sweets are gone. The more sweets you feed it, the more presents you will get. Then you cover the log with a piece of cloth, take a stick, and hit the log while singing a song that encourages the log to poop lots of presents. I guess you do this a couple times. I’m not making this up. I’m creative, but I’m not that creative. Or crass. So here you’ve got a present-pooping log with a creepy grin painted on.
Secondly: the elf. The first few I saw I thought were a crude joke. But no, apparently this is quite a thing. Traditionally, you have the nativity scene with Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus away in a manger and all this. And then behind the nativity scene, on the other side of the mountain (or even just behind the stable), you’ve got the pooping elf. I have NO idea why. I guess ‘cuz people have to poop, even when God’s son was being born.
Again, I’m not making it up. It’s real. It sounds kinda blasphemous, even to me as an atheist, but it’s EVERYWHERE.
Merry Christmas, indeed!
Anyway, in my spare time/to warm up, I’ve been putting on my ipod and dancing in mostly empty parks. It’s loads of fun, keeps me warm and happy, and tends to make the passersby laugh as I bop around, pretending I’m in a musical. I highly recommend it. Be careful when dancing on high places though. Sometimes you get dizzy from spinning and falling is just such a buzzkill. Any recommendations for my boppy dance music playlist?