¡Orientation, Tapas y Flamenco!

23 Aug

Orientation – no one likes it; no one ever has and no one ever will. It is perpetually filled with boring information sessions, too many people that you don’t really want to talk to, bad coffee and those obnoxiously bright matching t-shirts that a few “leaders” wear to make sure you don’t get lost as they herd you around like cattle. As I get older, I think, “Well this is probably the last orientation I will ever have to endure because I am almost out of college, mature and can find my way around for myself,” but no. Orientations seem to sneak up on you out of nowhere, for school, for work, for volunteering, for attending a cooking workshop that might have one kind of spatula in one drawer and a spatula of a completely different variety in the other with countless knives, mixing bowls and cutting boards in an array of cupboards, shelves and drawers!

So, while I firmly believe all of this to be true, my first few days in Sevilla were spent at an orientation and although it did generally consist of these symptoms, there were some highlights that I must share with you.

A walk around the city, even during orientation, is wonderful in Sevilla and that is how we spent the first half of our very first, full day in Spain. Our leader (who was wearing a bright, cobalt blue t-shirt with the name of our program, CIEE, in large letters on the front) was the best guide anyone could have asked for. A walk in 100 plus degree temperature made for a sleepy, impatient crew of students but our blue t-shirt lead the way with confidence and extremely helpful tips for getting around Sevilla. I am forever grateful, Santi.

We ended the walk with lunch at a quaint bar and restaurant. Sitting outdoors at a few round tables lazily dragged together to attempt camaraderie, trying not to touch each other or any part of our own bodies at the expense of unnecessary body heat and the consequential sweating that would follow, we were served cold beer and tapas. Aye, tapas! A Spanish specialty, tapas are small dishes of food served to two or more people to eat, share and enjoy. Like family style, but with smaller portions and rich flavors – so European family style! The origin of tapas, according to the Joy of Cooking, began when sherry drinkers in Andalusia would cover their sweet drinks with slices of bread or meat to fend off fruit flies between sips. Bartenders capitalized on this genius idea and started to serve tasty little treats with sherry. Tapas have obviously evolved since then, but I cannot help but be thankful for those dreadful little insects that just happened to annoy those men many, many years ago. It may have cost them their lives, but I think it was worth it.

I unfortunately, cannot recall the names of the dishes we enjoyed on that first day due to the insufferable jet lag I was enduring but they were amazing. Olives, a main ingredient in Sevilla, was served solo and in many of the tapas we tried. One dish, made of olive oil, olives and mushrooms, a seemingly simple dish, was the perfect combination of savory, distinct flavors and fresh vegetables for a surprisingly filling meal. Tuna is also an ingredient found in many tapas and I find it to be much more agreeable to my taste buds than the 98 cent cans I usually buy at home, this is probably due to its freshness considering the fact that Sevilla is wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Tapas de España

After a few of the tedious information sessions held in our hotel, our group went out to dinner for tapas again! If you couldn’t tell, the Spaniards are very proud of their traditional dishes (tapas being one of the most loved) and it is apparent, after only a few days here, that food is extremely important to their culture. I believe I have already jumped on that bandwagon. A few delicious dishes later, we had the opportunity to attend a traditional Flamenco show. As we waited outside in the undying heat at 10 p.m., we watched as the first audience walked out with beads of sweat dripping off their foreheads as though each natural wrinkle was a singular rain gutter but somehow, through the transparent lack of air conditioning, smiles glowed on each of their faces. “It will be worth it,” I thought, and it was.

An intimate setting consisted of sixty or seventy fold-up chairs surrounding a spotlighted, twenty by twenty raised wooden platform in the middle of a high-ceilinged courtyard. The audience settled in slowly, moving and scooching their black Ikea chairs around the marble pillars to ensure a satisfactory viewing point. Two performers took stage and the crowd grew quiet. The man began to play his acoustic guitar, a peaceful and slow melody, which the woman soon accompanied. A forte and splendidly vibrato voice filled the air and tingles ran down my spine. I did not know any one could sing so emphatically, piercing my eardrums while simultaneously sounding like a Latina angel. After a song or two, the performers took their position off the wooden platform and a tall, skinny man dressed in a brown suede suit steals the spotlight. The music begins and the dancer stomps his hard bottom shoes on the wooden platform, the sound echoes throughout the room, and the dance commences. His feet moved quicker than humanly possible, assisting with the beat and resonance of the song. A combination of ballet and salsa kept the man in a straight line, strength and endurance allowed for the provocative swinging of the hips, arms and legs; he was joined by a female dancer and the sultry dance continued. Never once did the two touch but their evident passion, pride and lust provided for a sneaking romantic suspicion, to say the least.

Entranced by both performers, the show was over as quickly as the stomp of a flamenco dancer’s foot and I was left sitting in awe. From the expression on each of their proud faces to the strict, sultry maneuvers, dedication, zeal and desire for flamenco was unmistakable in both.

Searching for words to describe my astonishment with friends after the show, I could only describe it as Riverdancing but Latin style! (I am Irish, remember?) Latinos can move their hips, stomachs, arms, legs, hands, chest… well you get the picture, while the Irish may be a bit slower in that department. Not to trivialize river dancers talents, hard work and dedication; I am amazed at their frolic dance but flamenco is something else, something almost indescribable. It is mesmerizing, it is sexy, it is rich, flamenco is the best tasting orange chocolate ice cream cone you have ever tasted in your life.

Needless to say, I did not notice the sweat gushing off my personal rain gutters as I walked out of the theatre.

One Response to “¡Orientation, Tapas y Flamenco!”

  1. Matt Mathison August 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    Phew! Flamenco sounds pretty intense! i should try to learn that some day. I am reading a book called Digital Fortress that has a guy that travels down to Sevilla to follow up the suspicious death “heart attack” of another man. What are the odds? And you know how proud i am of the food i eat! I would love to come eat in Sevilla! The tapas sound incredible! Mmmm… Glad to hear the Spain environment is pleasant.

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