so tuesday was carnival. cities around the world celebrate it, and spain has their celebrations spread out a bit. different cities, different days, you get the idea. this last weekend, avilés held their carnival festival. avilés is a town about half an hour from oviedo, and buses ran all night, making it a perfect place to visit for our first carnival experience.
here’s how most of spain celebrates carnival: everybody dresses up in costumes and parties. easy enough. here’s how avilés celebrates carnival: everybody dresses up in costumes, there is a lot of foam sprayed, and a lot of water is thrown. that’s basically all i knew about it going in. sean and blake and i needed a costume, so saturday afternoon we shopped around a bit. we ended up finding some cheap asian hats, the ones they used to wear in the rice fields, and decided just to go as chinos. my initial reaction to this idea was negative, thinking it might be borderline offensive, but then i realized the owner of the store (one of many stores which the spanish citizens call “chinos”) was himself asian, and if he had a problem with it, he shouldn’t have been selling the hats in the first place. for dress, we decided on these full-body paper suits that one would use for painting or something like that. to accentuate the asian(-ness?) of the costumes, we drew the japanese symbols for “ping pong” on the backs of them (copied from the phenomenal japanese movie of the same name), and a bright red star on our left shoulder. they actually turned out awesome.
so with our costumes ready, we hopped the bus with some friends and headed for avilés. we got there, got totally ready (which means put our costumes on and drew squinty eyes on our faces with eye liner, horrible i know.) and headed downtown. there was a big parade going on, and what looked like the aftermath of a huge foam explosion. we had missed the foam stuff, but the whole street was just covered in the stuff. it was seriously like what happens in cartoons when a character puts too much soap in the washing machine and it overflows. it was really cool. there were tons of people in costumes and tons in normal clothes as well, and kids were everywhere, wrestling and slipping and sliding in the foam.
since none of us really wanted to get wet with foamy moisture, we decided to look for some food and ended up at a supermarket. we ate a little, hung around, then decided to find a bar to hang out in and sit down for awhile. during our search we met up with two guys from our classes, phil, an american, and tatsuro, the one japanese guy in our international student program. this is where i ran into a dilemma. do i talk to the one person in this whole city that could potentially be offended by our costumes or just let it be the elephant in the room? i went for it. we started talking, he thought our costumes were hilarious, albeit ridiculous. on top of that, he was able to read the japanese on our backs and knew the movie we were referencing, which was incredible. this cranked my night to an 11 for sure. here’s why:
tatsuro’s the guy on the left. if you weren’t sure.
so our big group continued to look for a place, ending up at a bar with not enough room for everyone, so some of us ended up just hanging out on the street. this was super fun though, we got to see all the crazy costumes* people had on, talk to random strangers, made two new friends from south america, and just have a good time in general. it was a lot of fun. one of the best parts was making friends with this ten year old and his buddy, they were dressed as an american indian and zorro, and they were way fun. the indian liked to shoot at us with his bow and arrow, and zorro took to hitting us in the chest with the flat end of his sword. that kid wouldn’t have lasted thirty seconds in a real sword fight. they were fun though, at one point we saw this person dressed up in a some gross creature costume and the indian said “gollum!” awesome. so we learned how to say “lord of the rings” in spanish and then their moms came out of the bar and talked with us for awhile. they were really nice too. the other friends we made were two girls from south america, one from brazil and one from argentina, really nice girls. tatsuro roped them in first, talking to them by himself and introducing them to the group, but i really think they got a kick out of the three american boys dressed as chinos, trying to speak spanish. they were cool though, they ended up joining our group for the rest of the evening.
after awhile we all decided to go see what else there was to see, and ended up in this huge courtyard area with two huge stages. some bad spanish pop cover band was playing one of the stages so we joined the big crowd and started to dance along with everybody else. that was a lot of fun. one of my favorite pictures from this part of the night:
look closely. you can see three chino hats headed into the crowd, just left off the center. that’s us. and that’s also the concert. we ended up right next to the stage on the right hand side of the picture. there were multiple pairs of leather pants being worn on stage by the various singers, flamboyant spaniards singing and dancing choreographed dances. obviously this made it very fun. another highlight, this girl dressed exactly like a member of KISS was super drunk and playing a gigantic fake wooden guitar that she had along with band. unfortunately, she was right next to us. at one point though she got the great idea to head up onto the stage (there was surprisingly easy access to the stage from a staircase off to the left). as soon as she got onto the stage, one of the singers actually started pushing this girl back towards the stairs while she is resisting slash playing wooden guitar and giving the classic KISS-tongue face. as soon as the singer had gotten her pushed to the stairs security (for a free concert?) guards pulled her down the rest of the way and ended up breaking her wooden guitar in half! oh man it was such a riot. sean took a hilarious video of The Push, and then my face laughing at her and blake dancing. great stuff.
after the concert ended we sort of just wandered around and then decided to call it a night. and that was carnival in avilés. lots and lots of fun, and we get to try our chino costumes again this saturday here in our own stomping grounds. i’m excited.
* Top Five Costumes Seen In Avilés (excluding our chino costumes)
- Bert. straight up, huge yellow head, stripe-for-stripe sweater, everything. it was perfect.
- Stewie from family guy. just a guy with a cardboard cut-out of stewie’s face taped to his head.
- A smurf. this international student went shirtless and painted his top half of his body blue. poor guy couldn’t get it all off either, the next day we saw him at the superbowl “party” and his arms were still blue.
- Black Face. this actually was not a good costume, it was just a spaniard in a bar (he looked like a respectable adult too) who had painted his face with black face. just his face, not even his hands or anything else. after i saw him i felt less bad about our chino costumes.
- there were lots of cute kids dressed as cows. this only made the list because i couldn’t think of any other good number fives.