Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Plus Tard...

Toto, we really are not in Paris anymore.

Follow our new adventures at What Am I Doing in Brooklyn.

I know, it's not the same. But the bagels are better. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Brave New World

Paris feels like a dream.  I find myself thinking, "Was that really my life? Did we really live there? Did we really do those things, go to those places, speak French every day?"  I can't spend too much time contemplating this transition because it makes me tear up a bit - and I simply haven't had the time to reflect. 

Since landing in the US, we have found and moved into an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  We bought a car.  We have bought a lot of Ikea furniture.  We have unpacked many boxes.  We acquired US cell phones.  I have reveled in the ability to strike up conversations with strangers, and to eavesdrop on the subway.  Today I had my first playdate with a new friend (I mean, of course, that Nava had a playdate, with another baby we met in the playground) and the mom asked, "So what was Paris like?" 

It was a difficult question to answer.  What was it like?  The things that were hard have already melted away into a layer of nostalgia. In my memory, it was gorgeous and sunny and smelled like rotisserie chicken and fresh baguettes.  I miss the bread. And Parc Monceau. And my friends, and Max's friends, and our routine.  I miss that my husband actually came home from work (hey, guess what, turns out the private sector lifestyle kinda stinks). 

New York is an incredible city.  We are going to have a lot of adventures exploring this place.  It's just a different beast - I interviewed a part-time nanny candidate this week, and she asked whether I had particular flashcards or alphabet games that I preferred she use with my kids.  I replied, "What are you talking about?! My oldest child is 2!"  And her response was, "Wow, you really are different."

It is strange to no longer be unusual.  I'm not the American-living-in-a-foreign-country, smiling broadly to make up for my ability to effectively communicate.  It is no longer the case that any other mom speaking English in the playground is a potential friend.  Okay, technically I suppose that is the case, but we are no longer guaranteed the commonality of expat status. 

We have American television again, but it turns out there's really nothing good on.  Something called "Honey Boo-Boo" happened in our absence, and I really don't want to know about it.  I have to force myself to remember that I'm in the same time zone as friends and family, and that I can actually call people in the morning.

For the last two years, my identity was completely wrapped up in being an expat in Paris.  I am not quite sure who I am now - I'm the same person, but I'm different.  Our Paris has ended - it was a moment in time that will never exist in the same way again.  The lasting impact it will have on our life is still unclear.  Max already won't let us read or speak to him in French.  We have sampled three baguettes here - two from "French" bakeries - and all were inedible. 

I feel mournful for our Paris life in a way I hadn't anticipated.  The magnitude of this transition caught us off guard.  These two weeks in New York have felt so long.  I feel grateful for the small things - that my kids are happy and healthy, that my in-laws came to help us move in, that friends are welcoming us to our new city, that it turns out that most people in New York are actually quite friendly, that Graeter's ice cream is available at the Fairway in Red Hook.  Paris feels like a dream, and our new life is as yet unsettled. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

No Regrets

I wouldn't change a single thing about the last two years.

There were days when all I wanted was to go "home" but even more days when I reveled in all that was magical about this city.  There were days when I was so tired I dreamed about a brief hospitalization for a non-threatening illness but even more days when I felt so grateful to be parenting in this sophisticated place.

I could make a series of lists.  Lists of the countries we visited, the regions of France we explored, the wines we drank, the pastries we sampled, the museums we toured. But lists don't capture a life. Tonight my closest friend here made the point that back in the US, I will likely feel the way we used to feel coming home from summer camp.  That sense of being back home, but missing your alternate universe.  That feeling of everything around you being the same, but maybe you yourself are different. 

Paris has been a magnificent teacher. She has taught me about love, friendship, children, courage, trust, confidence, ballet flats, bread, rain, humor, and patience.   I am leaving this place feeling the most myself I have ever felt.  That is a gift to cherish.

Tomorrow I will get on a plane back to the US - just me, two kids, two car seats, two strollers, two travel cots, four suitcases, and four carry-on bags.  A week later I will meet Mr. Oil in New York, sans children, to start our apartment hunt in Brooklyn.  I can't quite wrap my head around the idea that we aren't coming back to Paris.

I have no regrets about how we've lived the past two years.  We are so, so lucky.  

Max, July 2011
Villandry, Loire Valley, September 2011
Parc aux Buttes Chaumont, Paris 19eme, September 2011
Portugal, December 2011
Versailles, April 2012
Italy, May 2012
London, October 2012
Paris swimming pool, December 2012
8 months pregnant in Burgundy, December 2012
Nava Sylvie, born January 23 in Paris
Nava, March 2013
Giverny, May 2013
San Sebastian, Spain, May 2013
Scotland, June 2013
Nava in Parc Monceau, last day in Paris, July 6 2013
Max in Parc Monceau, last day in Paris, July 6 2013
Last day in Paris, July 6 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

All the Lasts

It's time for the lasts. The last Sunday afternoon in the park.  The last day picking Baby Oil up from halte garderie. The last time having friends over for an afternoon gouter.  The last visit to our favorite patisserie (okay, maybe we'll squeeze in one more). The last time making foie gras burgers.

Yet even as the lasts pile up, there are firsts.  First time Baby Oil eats pate (he liked it!).  First time Mademoiselle rolled over.  First time Baby Oil sang a French song.
Yes, that is pate on a hamburger bun.

And then there are the everyday occurrences, la vie quotidienne. Looking from our balcony onto a gorgeous sunset.  Listening to Baby Oil say, "Baguette, s'il vous plait" at the boulangerie.  Explaining to Baby Oil the concept of "chaqu'un son tour" - everyone takes a turn - at the playground.  Running to Monoprix to pick up diapers, and of course pausing to check out the adorable baby clothes. Recognizing the elegance and beauty of our street:

Loving that our neighborhood sandbox can double as a set for a fashion shoot:

Realizing that no matter what I wear to the park on a weekend afternoon to walk with my family, it won't be this:

Nor will it be this:
I think these would be called "muscle leggings".
Yes, muscles. In case you weren't clear above.

Enjoying sweet sibling moments:

On the one hand, it is hard to believe that this life we currently lead is just days from being over.  On the other hand, it is hard to believe that this has ever been our real life to begin with.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I can't get enough of the UK.  I am in nation-love.  There are the accents, from the rarefied posh London accents to the heavy Cockney accent to the cheerful Scottish brogue.  There are the weekly magazines, of which Hello! is my personal favorite.  It's like US Weekly, but with dukes and earls and tiaras thrown in.  There is the fact that there seems to be some regulation requiring every establishment to have a changing table.  There are the child-friendly museums and palaces featuring costumes and/or toys for little ones to play with.  There is the Duchess-formerly-known-as-Kate Middleton.  There are the high street shops like Reiss, Whistles, Hobbs, and LK Bennett.  There are scones and clotted cream.  There are fish and chips.  There is excellent beer.  There is amazing Indian food and even Thai food.  There are the hundreds of years of history.  

So perhaps I've developed a bit of an obsession.  Our recent trip to Scotland - our last trip of our European sojourn - only solidified my love for the UK when I met Sticky Toffee Pudding.

The name alone sounds delicious.  The actuality is simply rich, caramely, sticky, and incredible.  It is quite basic in a way - a cake, usually made with dates, covered with toffee sauce, and typically served with vanilla ice cream.  Toffee sauce is the stuff of dreams, and all I can really say is that when our server walked by our table approximately 2 minutes after placing the sticky toffee pudding in front of us, the plate was empty.  She even exclaimed, "Didn't I just put that down?"  Slightly embarrassed, we stuttered over several statements of "It was so good...we were was so good...".

Naturally, I also found Sticky Toffee Pudding ice cream at the well-regarded B. Janettas in St. Andrews.  Scotland has fantastic ice cream, and while sticky toffee pudding is better in its regular form, the ice cream was not too shabby.

Scotland is the second country we have visited in the past few years that made us both feel, almost immediately, like we want to come back.  The first was Portugal, and we still talk about wanting to go back to Lisbon and head north towards Porto.  But without hesitation we both agreed that five days in Scotland was simply not enough to do justice to this incredible place.

The country is absolutely gorgeous.  When have you ever seen a cliff like this in a public park in a major city?  Holyrood Park in Edinburgh is the only one I know of.

On a picture perfect day like we had, I better understood why golfers trek from around the world to places like St Andrews, Scotland to golf on the oldest golf course in the world.

The fishing villages of East Neuk were quaint and charming, everything a fishing village should be, with the added bonus of Scottish accents, the occasional kilt, and a wide selection of Scotch at the local pub.

Every Scot we encountered was genuinely friendly, from the girl at the Scotch Whisky Experience who gave us a list of places she loved to visit in Edinburgh as a child to the jovial, large-bellied man making flirtatious jokes with me when we asked for directions to a gas station near the airport. Of course, this was after we mildly traumatized Baby Oil by taking him on the barrel ride at the Scotch Whisky Experience - like an amusement park ride, you sit in a "barrel" and are escorted through a virtual distillery. The problem was that your "host" for the trip was a ghost.  And it turns out that 2-year-olds are not big fans of ghosts, no matter how friendly and Scottish they may be.  Furthermore, try as I might, I have to admit that I just don't like Scotch.  The only exception is when that whisky comes in the form of fudge. 
The ghost
The traumatized toddler
The first day we tried to tour the Palace at Holyroodhouse, no visitors were allowed because the Duke of Rothesay was in residence.  Who's that, you say?  Oh, nobody much, just Prince Charles - the Duke of Rothesay is his title in Scotland (because why stop at one title when you can have four or five?).  The next day, when we were able to visit, I basically felt like I was hanging out with Charles and Camilla as I strolled through the dining room where they had eaten the day before.  Much appreciated were the sample menus laid out for visitors to see of actual formal meals previously served at the palace.  It is a bit crazy in this day and age that there are still people with palaces, and that they can just call up and say, "Hey, we're dropping by for a few days - could you please have the chef whip up some of that lemongrass and ginger marinated duck breast?" 

I wouldn't want you think our trip was all royalty and whisky.  We also toured Scotland's Secret Bunker (or as Baby Oil would say, "Scotland's Secret Plunker").  For 40 years, this was a top-secret location that housed all of the equipment and supplies necessary to serve as a headquarters for Scotland's government in the case of nuclear war.  When you approach it, it looks like a typical Scottish farmhouse.  Except for this:
I'm going to go out on a limb and say this wasn't here when it was a secret

Conveniently, we happened to stay in a town boasting a restaurant that has been named the UK's best fish and chips.  We may have eaten there two nights in a row.  It was really that good. 

Scotland, I love you, and I'm not just using you for your sticky toffee pudding.  After all, look how happy you make my kids:

My 2.5 year old has visited 8 countries in the past 2 years (France, US, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, UK (England and Scotland), Belgium, and Spain). My 5 month old has hit four countries already (France, Belgium, Spain, and UK).  I hope they're okay with being stuck in the US for a while...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One Month Left

We leave Paris on July 7; the movers come on July 3.  Every day we grow increasingly nostalgic about our Parisian experience, and every day I get a tad more anxious about all of the unknowns ahead of us.

We are moving "home."  Home in that it is our home country, the place in which we have both spent our entire lives living, with the exception of study-abroad during university and these past two years.  Home in that we will be in the same time zone as our family.  Home in that English will be the language of business, and I won't feel like a tongue-tied moron in the vast majority of my daily interactions.

On another level, though, it's not home at all.  New York is a new city for both of us, but even more, I've realized that I don't know how to live my current life in the US.  When we moved to Paris, Baby Oil was just six months old.  In the past two years, I have learned how to parent (or at least, how to parent in the infant and toddler phases).  I am learning now how to parent two children at once.  I know when the park is crowded, what to wear to the playground, how to take kids on the bus and the metro, and how to conduct my daily stay-at-home-mom life here in Paris.

I have absolutely no idea how to do that in New York.  All of the cultural norms around parenting that I've absorbed are informed by expats in France and the French themselves.    I know when behavior is too rowdy (in the park, essentially never), I know how far away it is acceptable to sit from your child in the playground (really, really far - the moms sitting closer are always expats), I know which boulangeries give a free piece of baguette to your child when you buy something (the one on Rue de Rocher).  But in the US, there will be other cultural norms.  And as much as it is my home country, I am a foreigner in the world of American parenting.

The classes are what put me over the top.  There are so many classes for kids in America!  Just in Brooklyn, it seems you could skip preschool altogether and just escort your 2- or 3-year-old from yoga to art to music to dance to science class.  If your child doesn't take Sustainable Art (this class is actually offered at the Park Slope YMCA - the brochure explains that your child will "learn to make art that cares about the environment"), will he be shunned as an outsider? 

Baby Oil will have to wait until he is 3 to be old enough for the Action Heros - Boys Only dance class offered at one Park Slope dance studio but he can start combined yoga-and-swim classes immediately at the Y.  Due to conflicts with his preschool schedule, we won't be able to enroll in the Brooklyn Design Lab's Paint Studio in which "we delve into alternative painting techniques and experiment with tools and materials of our own creation."  I wasn't aware alternative painting techniques for 2-year-olds even existed.  Classes for toddlers simply don't exist in France.  The expectation is that your child is at creche, or home with the nanny. Or, in the case of many expat kids, spending long afternoons at the park with a frazzled, lonely mommy eavesdropping on anyone who doesn't look like a nanny in hopes of making a new friend. 

It is quite possible that Brooklyn, or maybe all of New York City, is going to be a parenting experience unto itself. I'm beyond excited at the thought of actually having places to take my kids when the weather is crummy, but I am also intimidated at all that I don't know about being a NYC parent.  One month left - Mr. Oil has taken to buying caramel au beurre sale in a jar and drizzling it over ice cream, in between trying to sample all of the multitude of French yogurt options available in our local grocery store.  I'm doing my part to buy at least one fresh baguette every day.  I recently tried to tell Baby Oil that there are no baguettes in New York.  His response?  "No baguettes in New York.  Baguettes in the boulangerie!"  Poor kid is in for some serious culture shock.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Day For Me

I knew many things had changed in my life since our son arrived back in January 2011.  But it was a bit of a surprise when I realized a few months ago that I had not spent a single night completely alone in almost two-and-a-half years.  I've had nights with just my husband (3, to be exact), and nights with just Baby Oil.  But never a night alone.

Feeling the urge to reclaim some alone time, I mentioned to Mr. Oil that I would love to go to London for a day by myself, do some shopping, and sleep in a hotel.  He did not understand why going alone was appealing, but with some positive reinforcement from my stepmom, he gave me the best Mother's Day gift around - 30 hours alone in London.  And yes, we noted the irony that the best Mother's Day gift involves no mothering duties.

Saturday morning I set out for London.  It's an easy train ride from Paris, and I was in London, with my bag dropped at the hotel, by 11:30.  My agenda for the day was straightforward - no plans.  Walk around. Do some shopping. Get my hair cut (it is difficult to do this when you have a baby attached to you all day long!).  Do whatever I wanted to do.

I thought about my kids, and my husband, throughout the day.  I still noted every construction vehicle, and if I passed a nice bakery I thought, "Mr. Oil would like that place!"  But I enjoyed every moment of the utter privilege of thinking only about what I wanted to do.  Did I want to try on LK Bennett shoes at Selfridge's?  Yes, please.  Did I then want to try on more shoes at French Sole? Yes , please. Did I want to walk into three different locations of the same store (Reiss) and try on clothes at each one? Yes, please.  Did I want to sit and have a latte at a time when some people would insist we eat "real" lunch?  Yes, please. Did I want to spend 20 minutes exploring the wonder that is Boots (a pharmacy chain - think CVS on crack)?  Yes, please.

I hit the big London shopping spots - Selfridge's, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Harrod's, and Kensington High Street.  I managed to pick up some tea at Fortnum and Mason, and of course grabbed a new train for Baby Oil at Hamley's.  I got my hair cut at the posh Daniel Hersheson salon. At the end of the day,  I swung by Ottolenghi and bought a fantastic flourless orange-almond cake with chocolate frosting to bring home for Mr. Oil.

Eight hours later, I virtually collapsed in my hotel room at the lovely Lancaster London Hotel, with views from my room overlooking Hyde Park.  Tea + sweets + clothes + shoes + toys = a heavy load by the end of the day!  I went to eat in one of the hotel restaurants as I had learned the hard way that even a trusty pair of flats can wreak havoc on your feet after five miles of walking around London.  After the hostess went to find an appropriate table for my party of 1, a couple standing behind me said, "Excuse me, but won't you be bored by yourself? Would you like to join us?"

Now, according to Mr. Oil, nobody actually wants to be taken up on these sorts of invitations.  But in a moment of awkwardness, I said, "Oh...sure."  And that is how I ended up spending an hour and a half eating dinner with a nice couple from Australia who had just finished a week long garden tour of England and Wales.  They are from Warwick, about 2 hours southwest of Brisbane, where they garden on 3 acres.  My favorite part of the evening was when, after the husband had gone on for about 15 minutes straight with many details about the gardens they had visited, the wife, said, "Wow, I'm impressed. I thought you just slept through the tour."

The best moment of the day came when I crawled into the king-size bed in my room, all by my lonesome.  Nobody to feed in the night, nobody needing a drink of water, nobody at all.  Just me, asleep. In the morning I forced myself to stay in bed until 8am, took a relaxing bath, and headed back to the train station.

There were certainly moments when I wished that my family was with me.  And there were moments when I was a bit bored being by myself.  Overall, however, having this day to be completely myself, all by myself, was wonderful.  It is not easy to find the balance of having an individual identity while being a stay-at-home mom.  And I know my husband will never quite understand the value of what he gave me this weekend.  Not only did I come home refreshed and relaxed, I came home to a clean home and two happy kids.  Major points for Mr. Oil. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Everything Else

I would be remiss if I did not chronicle a bit more of our trip to Basque country.  The food alone is certainly blog-worthy.  The Basque have their own version of tapas, called pinxos (pinchos).  At lunch and dinner time every day, the countertops of all the bars in every town are covered with platters of pinxos.  You wander in, pick up one, two, or three, and enjoy the tasty morsels with a glass of sidre (hard cider), beer, or wine.  Somehow the bartender knows exactly how many you've eaten, even if there are 20 other people standing alongside the bar with you. 
Pinxos in San Sebastian

Pinxos tend to revolve around either fish or pork, which in general are the two most common food categories in the region.  I cannot possibly tell you what is actually on any of them as they are all combinations of tapenades, vegetables, fish, etc.  The first day we ate pinxos for lunch, I said to the bartender, in my best high school Spanish, that we had never eaten pinxos before and we were unsure how to eat them.  What I meant was that I didn't know whether we ordered specific items, or if it was an all-you-can-eat situation, etc. The bartender took it to mean that I was a total idiot, and looked at me with a strange expression on his face as he replied, "Put them in your mouth." 
More pinxos in San Sebastian

The best part about pinxos is just the camraderie and ambiance in the bars.  Don't let the word "bars" make you think this is just for adults - strollers were everywhere. I have never seen so many grandfathers taking care of their grandchildren, and on top of that making sure to enjoy a drink and a pinxo with another grandfather-nanny.  On Sunday afternoon in Bilbao, we stumbled across the Plaza Nueva, a square lined with bars and restaurants serving pinxos and drinks to hundreds of families, 20-somethings, grandparents, and everyone in between.  Many of the bars had hand-printed signs stating, "Hay calamares", explaining that they were also serving hot fried calamari.  This was clearly the most popular dish with the Sunday afternoon crowd judging by the number of people we saw popping calamari bits into their mouths around the plaza.

With its location on the rough Atlantic coast, fish of course plays a huge role in the local cuisine.  On Saturday night, we headed to the seaside town of Getaria for dinner.  After a drink in one of the bars (with two other strollers present, and one pregnant woman drinking beer), we headed to dinner at Elkano.   We didn't realize at the time that some of the most renowned chefs in the world have eaten here and declared it the best fish restaurant in the world. We also didn't realize that it was a pretty fancy place.  Nonetheless, we showed up with our baby and toddler in tow.  Unfazed, the hostess supplied us with a booster seat for Baby Oil - apparently it is commonplace in Spain to bring very young children to very expensive meals! 
Getaria harbor

And then we found out about kokotxas.  Kokotxas, a Basque specialty, is part of the chin or throat of a deep-sea cod called hake.  At Elkano, they offer kokotxas served in multiple ways - lightly battered, grilled, and with "green sauce" (seemed to be garlic and butter).  Rocked. Our. World. And our mouths.  Both of us took one bite, looked at the other and said, "I have never tasted anything like this before."  It was, simply, awesome. 
Kokotxas three ways

The grilled hake was also some of the best fish I have ever, ever eaten.  So fresh, so tasty, so perfectly prepared on the outside grill located on the sidewalk outside the restaurant.  Baby Oil and Mademoiselle were also perfect - though Baby Oil declined to eat anything but bread, and we decided we would forgo caring about his nutritional needs for one night - so we successfully pulled off eating one of the nicest meals we've had in Europe with two small children. 
They are cute small children!!

On the French side of Basque territory, the food is more...French.  We chose to focus on desserts, which are vastly superior in France compared with Spain.  Paries and Adam are probably the two most well-known patisseries in the Pays Basque.  Paries features mouchous, which are a type of macaron with no filling, and kanougas, which are caramels (unclear if anything is actually different or unusual about them).  Adam features one simple macaron - one layer, no flavors save traditional almond.  The Adam macaron is chewier than Parisian macarons but it is seriously delicious.  Both shops offer touron, which is made of honey, sugar, and almond paste.  Frankly we found the tourons too sweet for our tastes, though we tried a few flavors.  Since it was raining for 2 days straight while we were in St Jean de Luz, we decided to spend most of our time eating. 

We also sampled quite a bit of gateau basque, or traditional Basque cake.  Again this features an almond filling - they really have a thing for almonds down there in Basque country - but in a delicious crust, and the traditional kind has cherries in it.  A great gateau basque is excellent.  Our favorite one was from a small bakery in the town of Espelette.  This little town in the foothills of the Pyrenees is most well-known for piment d'Espelette, a specific type of chili pepper used in many Basque dishes.  In Espelette, you can find everything with piment d'Espelette, from cheese to chocolate and anything else you might want.
Sheep's milk cheese with piment d'Espelette, in Espelette

In addition to the food, I should also briefly mention the bright and beautiful world of Basque textiles.

Ubiquitous throughout the region, ranging from cheap touristy items to upscale fabrics, you can find towels, tablecloths, robes, napkins, bags, portfolios, and much more in these lovely patterns.  Our favorite shops included Artiga, Tissage de Luz, and Euskal Linge

While the beret is a worldwide symbol of France that you never actually see in Paris, it turns out that the beret is a Basque symbol of victory in the world of Basque rural sports.  We almost bought a Basque beret for Baby Oil but instead just took this photo.

Despite some feelings of loyalty toward France, I have to say that the Spanish side of the Basque region felt significantly more Basque. The French side felt more like France with a Basque veneer, and better desserts.  I am truly glad we decided to explore this part of Europe, even if we ended the week declaring that we would never go on vacation again with small children.  Which is why we are headed to Scotland in two weeks. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Boulder Pulling

As you drive through Spanish Basque country, the landscape feels rugged and wild.  You feel isolated, seeing few people but many sheep.  This quiet wilderness is turned upside-down once you experience the life in Basque country, where the people are warm, welcoming, and live life to the fullest in their remote corner of Europe.

No experience better captured the vitality of Basque life than watching the gizon proba in Deba last weekend.  Gizon proba is one of the traditional Basque rural sports.  It literally translates as "man test", and consists of 8 men attached to a metal harness dragging an almost-2000-pound "boulder".  For a set amount of time (about 30 minutes), the men pull the weight back and forth across a proscribed distance.  The number of lengths is recorded on a scoreboard as hundreds of locals cheer on the men.  When the first group is done, their competitors warm up and attempt to best the first team's score. 

The idea of 800 or more people standing around in the rain on a Saturday afternoon, shouting and cheering as a bunch of guys lugging a giant weight for half an hour sounds crazy and even a bit boring.  The reality is certainly unusual but completely engaging.   The home team, from Deba, went first.  Almost the entire crowd was from Deba, so the cheering at each turn, and the encouragement as the task became increasingly difficult, was deafening at times.  Local kids watched with the same intensity as American kids watch the NBA finals. 20-somethings stood in the back, alternately cheering and drinking.  A quartet of EMTs were on hand in case of injury.
And they're off!

The coach keeps them going strong.

This is serious stuff.

The first 20 lengths or so come across as child's play.  Soon enough, however, it becomes clear that this thing they're pulling is really, really heavy. 
Yeah, this is hard.

And finally, time is called.  The team literally collapses in relief.

Then the next team warms up. They were from the neighboring town of Mendaro, and could not hold a candle to our Deba team (we stayed in Deba, so of course felt a natural affinity for the home team).  The man we rented the apartment from later suggested that the event was rigged, but I think it's hard to give anything but your most in this environment.  Plus, I was there and both teams were working hard.  Deba won, 40-35. 

I have never experienced anything like gizon proba before.  Not just because it was so foreign to us, but because we felt we really experienced an authentic community event, the kind that regularly marks the lives of the Basque people.  Afterwards, we walked back to the center of town with what felt like every person who lives in Deba, and we ate at the restaurant in the town square with dozens of other families and townspeople, all basking in the excitement and energy of the feat of strength we had all witnessed.