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Oare Wurden

2017-07-06 15:05 —

Pasaia San Juan

On the left of the square a podium has been installed, some weeks ago. It’s been put there for a music gig, but will stay there all summer: if there’s a podium, the activities and entertainment will come naturally, too, is the thought here. ‘Basques don’t need a reason to party.’ I’ve heard it so many times here, it has to be true. It’s as simple as it is brilliant: install a stage and there’ll always be someone sitting down on it, playing old Basque folk-songs, children who will dance or do gymnastics on it.

Six toddlers are dancing and jumping on the wooden floor of the stage. Every now and then a football whizzes by their heads, from another group of kids playing football on the square. Two green garbage bins the goalposts. At least five dogs are running around on the hot concrete, playing with each other or diving into the water. One dog always ‘participates’ in the football match. He runs after the ball as if he were a full-fledged member of a team, all game lone.

At the same time another part of the square fills with a group of some fifty-odd, sharply dressed people. The men all in suits, the women in breezy yet sophisticated dresses. They’re enjoying the view over the water, the view of the apartments of which my temporary residence is one, and drink cider. It’s an elated mood.

A short while after a black car arrives. The driver manages to avoid the playing children and the dogs and stops in front of the old town hall, the centre building of the row of houses. A bridal couple gets out. There’s clapping, singing, kisses, drinking. The football smashes into the car a couple of times; no one raises an eyebrow. The couple disappears into the city hall.

The many tourists and pilgrims on the terraces, the kids and the dogs, the boats passing by, the swimmers, the empty bottles of cider and wine that are thrown into the bins, villagers who greet each other in passing (‘Agur! Agur!’), noise from out of city hall, the shoe salesman who tries to sell his sneakers here every weekend, the local choir that walks through the village, singing… It is an orgy of sound, a sweeping, colorful spectacle to behold, like a Fellini film. I try and photograph and film it, try and capture the madness and the milling around. It fails every single time. It’s too much.

Together with my neighbours I am hanging over the balustrade, looking down. The bride and groom are exiting city hall. Hedge-like rows are formed, friends of the pair are holding up rowing oars (rowing is a big sport here, the couple likely met each other at the rowing club). A group of ten family members are performing a ritual dance. Then, confetti blasts in the sky, and the newlyweds walk out, into the sun, into the madness of the square.

It’s a typical Sunday afternoon in Pasaia San Juan, that for eight weeks was my home. And that it has become, my home. I’m going back to het Bildt, full of ideas, inspiration, unforgettable people and moments. I’ll miss it dearly, but know I will forever have an inconceivably beautiful place that welcomes me. Agur!