Tag Archives: Spain

My Favorite Things (State-side Edition)

14 Dec
I have absolutely loved my time here in Spain. Although I am not fluent in Spanish as I had hoped nor am I as “Spanish” as I thought I would be, wearing five-inch stilettos on my moped or dangling a shiny pink flag in front of a bull that wants to dance, after four and a half months of living in Sevilla it has still been an incredible journey. That said, finals have commenced, the Mediterranean diet is seemingly decreasing in variety, I’ve started to catch a cold and Christmas lights are up all over the city. I am officially homesick. These are a just a few things that I’ve realized I have taken advantage of in the past and never truly appreciated.
These are my favorite things, state-side edition.
  • Good coffee
  • Spicy food
  • Clean public bathrooms (equipped with toilet paper, functioning sinks and soap)
  • Snacks
  • Eating at regular hours of the day
  • People who pick up their garbage
  • Cold weather (yes, I know it’s weird.)
  • My pets
  • The ability to watch a television show and understand it
  • Receiving the newspaper
  • Thai food (specifically Thai Tom’s)
  • Hanging out INSIDE a house, not in the streets
  • GOOD wifi
  • Driving
  • A comfortable bed, preferably one that does not leave spring indentations on my back.
  • Food that has been refrigerated, not mysteriously left out overnight
  • Carpet
  • Central heating
  • A good hamburger (I know it sounds super-cliché American but I just don’t care.)
  • A cockroach free house
  • A cell phone that does not require “topping up”
  • Curling up with a movie and hot cocoa

Things I will miss:

  • Spaniards trying to sing English Christmas Songs
  • The Sevilla Rollerblading Club that makes unexpected appearances throughout town
  • Siestas

I will also miss this:

Jardines de Alcazar por la noche

Jardines Alcazar

Favorite statue in Sevilla - A tribute to Ferdinand and Isabella

Tribute to Ferdinand and Isabella

Plaza España

Plaza España

Calle Santa Maria Blanca - Also known as Adorbs street, because it's adorable

Adorbs Street

El Rio Guadalquivivir por la noche

Guadalquivivir

Advertisements

Siesta

7 Nov

I am sad to inform you, the vast amounts of my dear and faithful readers, that I have been having troubles with my computer recently. My little 4-year-old macbook is officially full, which means I have to move all of my crap into my external hard drive. Luckily, being the tech illiterate that I am, this has taken me a long time with not much prosperity. So, until I can fix this little hiccup, I cannot upload any of my recent pictures and therefore am postponing my more recent blog posts because, well, they are just not the same without pictures.

In the meantime, I’ve made a list to describe my interpretation of the tradition of the Spanish siesta.

Things I could do during siesta:
– Homework
– Blog
– Study for upcoming finals
– Practice Spanish
– Budget my current student loans
– Find the stray cats (that are ubiquitous about Sevilla) a home
– Work on my résumé
– Look for future jobs
– Look for an apartment
– Attempt to fix my computer
– Figure out life

Things I do during siesta:
– Catch up on my favorite American t.v. shows
– Sleep

And there you have the menacing trap of the Spanish siesta. I encourage you to try it today!

A Fight to the Death

13 Oct

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience. You have to go,” I told myself over and over again as I walked in the heat of the day to buy tickets to my first (and most likely, last) bullfight. Despite my indecisiveness about the sport, my friends and I had looked into going prior to this day but tickets were going for seventy euro, which is a tad out of my price range. I had given up hope until I heard a “Lindsie! Guess what!” at the entrance of the coffee shop where I was earnestly studying (obviously) on a Sunday afternoon. By some miracle, most likely because it was an amateur match; my friends had found tickets for 13 euro. I was sold instantly and within minutes was on my way to un corrido.

Upon arrival, it is transparent that this sport truly holds significance in the heart of the Spaniards. Stone pews encircle the ring in overlapping strands to hold hundreds of bullfighting fans who look down upon what can only be the reddest sand I’ve ever seen while three flags, with Spain’s at the center, fly above the focal point of the ring. The architecture is magnificent and one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen since I’ve been here in Sevilla.

Excitement bubbled up inside of me when music from the brass band began to play. After a traditional opening ceremony introducing the players and assistants on board, the matadors took their place. The audience was silenced along with the muted band and a single trumpet began to play a dubious solo, turning the attention to the banging and kicking heard against the walls of one of the entrances to the ring. The music stopped and heavy footsteps were heard as the bull rushed into the ring.

The games had started.

Bull

The first bull was smaller but rambunctious to say the least. Numerous matadors welcomed him to the ring and fired him up, enticing him this way and that by the motion of their neon pink flags. A solo trumpet was heard once again and the doors to a larger entrance swung open. Two blindfolded and thoroughly armored horses crossed into the threshold, their riders ready with swords? What was about to occur became, by far, my least favorite part of the bullfight. Luring the bull toward the horses, the well protected riders? Stabbed the bull from above, once, twice, three times. Lifting both the horse and its guest, the furious bull, lashed back by attempting to gore the horse in the underbelly. I was thankful to see (and hear) that the horse was wearing metal plates around its belly and was not frightened because he could not see. The morality in this may be sketchy, but I was at least happy not to see another innocent animal die.

After the horses were called back in, the artistic performance began. The matador, dressed in a gold, glittery outfit topped off with pink socks, raised his cap to the audience and faced his opponent. With the flick of his wrist, the bright red flag swayed and the bull came galloping forward. Simultaneously moving the flag and contorting his body into the shape of a C, the matador lead the bull under the flag and around his body. “¡Olé!” Came a shout from the crowd and I finally began to understand the allure of a bullfight.

Three matadors performed, fighting two bulls each. The first bull conquered is an indication of the bullfighter’s masculinity, the second a confirmation. In terms of masculinity; however, I believe matadors would give ballerinas a run for their money. The performance is as much an art form, as it is a sport. In fact, many Spaniards argue that it is simply an art. The matador is constantly seducing the bull; tiptoeing toward and away from the fellow performer. The duet is constant, a dance that ushers the artists to flow together in fluid motions. Spontaneity, in form of the bull, ensures the talent of the matador and how softly he can control the beast, caressing him, blood and all to prove his gift.

The tango ends in one final thrust of the sword down the mighty bull’s heart. An attempt to fight back is always given by the wounded, but not for long. The jumps are discontinued, the swift movement of the matador less necessary and the twirls a little slower until finally, the bull’s life comes to an end.

It is, almost, like a tragic love story. Almost.

Watching the entirety of the performance is hard yet intriguing. Like a train wreck, you don’t want to see yet you cannot look away. The glass in the lens of my camera served to be a shield from reality, the more I took pictures, the easier it was to handle. This method worked until one matador was thrown into the air and suddenly morality set in, “do I take pictures? Do I stop taking pictures? This is really happening… I am staring at a man about to be trampled by a large, ferocious bull.” Consequently, choices were not at hand as shock set in first and the camera came back down around my neck. Hopefully this didn’t keep me from an award-winning photo. (By the way, the matador was fine… just a little too bold in my opinion.)

As I walked away, increasingly insensitive to the six bulls that I watched die, I found myself more in question of the morality than mourning over the animals. Thank goodness for my Spanish civilization class. The bulls bodies are still in good shape after their death, therefore, the meat goes to use as well as most of the carcass. Bull’s tail is a common tapa around Andalusia, though I have yet to try it. There is also one situation in which both the matador and the bull live. If and when the bull and matador are such courageous and bold fighters that neither give up, the audience can request that the bull live. With this comes no shame on part of the matador because he has come across an equally strong performer and the two danced beautifully. The matador’s masculinity comes with the fact that he has not been gored to death. This occasion is rare, but the bull goes back to its peaceful, open range farm where it procreates for the rest of its life… a type of reward, if you will, and to produce more bulls like it while the matador becomes a large celebrity.

Maybe there is an ideal goodness in bullfighting? Then again, maybe not….

Keys and Locks

18 Sep

Last night I celebrated the small feat in opening up the gated door to my apartment complex in one easy motion. I realized, in fact, that I had been doing so for the past couple of days and smiled as I walked up the stairs to my new home. This seems like nothing, I know, but talk to any student studying abroad here in Sevilla and they will tell you that the simple task of getting into your apartment complex can be one of the hardest endeavors on the walk home. The lock sticks, the key fits but does not move and when it does shift position, it does so with no prosperity. It is as though the lock takes amusement in watching the silly performance of an awkward clown attempting to get inside and when it gets bored, it simply clicks, opens and allows you to pass. There is no way to say how you have succeeded in entering, you just have and relief wafts over you with the ever-welcoming air conditioning in the foyer.

And so, I consider the fluid motion of entering my building a success.

I also went for my first run in Sevilla the other night. It has been a full month (at the cost of my sanity) since my last run due to the country’s heat and my lack of running shoes. I figured I could simply buy a cheap pair of running shoes here, but alas, to no avail. The women in Spain do not work out, and why would they when the department stores are filled with five-inch stilettos that they wear day in and day out, undoubtedly receiving a difficult calf workout in itself? They wouldn’t and they don’t. I borrowed a pair of running shoes from a friend, and ignored the potentially hazardous fact that they are a full size too small.

I began my run in the emerging twilight of 10 p.m., the same time that the streets begin to cool and all the (male) runners appear. It felt amazing, my lungs crunched in and out as my breaths grew quicker, my heartbeat hastened to the beat of metronome, my veins served a greater purpose and my skin began to glisten (girls don’t sweat) in the 90 degree temperatures of the night. I ran through the city and enjoyed the fast-paced sightseeing of Spaniards eating their nightly tapas alongside a glass of wine and small plate of green olives. Under the dark summer sky, my bones, heart and mind found peace once again.

The streets I run down.

It was when I started to grow tired that I noticed the oncoming glances from afar, the frowns and bewilderment on people’s faces. My side ached as a bus honked at me, to go or to stop I was unsure until finally he waved me on in the quick annoyance of hand gesture. I crossed the street and continued in my alien ways. Through the pain, I realized that I knew, after a good four weeks, a run would not be easy, especially a run in such high temperatures, but I went anyways. I went for the pain, for the gasping of air, for the need of water all with a desire to feel again because it is when we grow stale that we become insipid, flat, flavorless. Without pain one does not appreciate comfort, without sickness one does not appreciate health, without thirst one does not appreciate water.

Even in a new country one can become stagnant.

Just as my first run, my time in Sevilla has not been all butterflies and rainbows. Of course I knew it would be hard at times, not knowing what to do or say, missing my family and loved ones, and bumbling down the street as an American. My precursor to this trip took that all into account, but it is not until you actually endure it that it really matters.

Traveling or simply being seen with 50 American college students puts you in a state of constant glares and shakes of the head. It is difficult to deal with, here we are (at least some of us) attempting to fully emerge ourselves into Spanish culture and the people that take great pride in it all the while being dismissed as loud, stupid Americans. And there are the actions of some that, without a doubt, would be grouped into that stereotype by even my American eyes. Consequently, it is exhausting to try to break away from this image.

Simultaneously, it is not easy to break out of this bubble when you only know a limited amount of Spanish and cannot befriend a local without speaking spanglish (which you hope with all your might that they will accept and/or understand) and keeping the conversation limited to how he or she is, what you are studying in school, why and numerous activities or foods that you like or don’t like. “Me gusta correr y comer. Me gusta queso. No me gusta queso azul.” Granted, I am learning and attempting everyday to grow in my conversational skills but, pray for me, it is hard.

Today I went to open the orange, rusty, gated door to my apartment complex and wiggled my key back and forth. An adorable Spanish family walked up with a stroller carrying a six-month old girl dressed in all pink. They waited as I struggled, fighting with the lock. “Why now?” I thought. “Is there not a better time? When I’m alone, fine, have your way with me! But now??” My non-verbal begging did no good, as I laughed embarrassingly and mumbled, “Lo siento” to the family patiently anticipating the cool foyer ahead. The husband, laughed with me and asked, “¿Necesita ayuda?” (Do you need help?) and I handed over the craft to him, which he took with special care and swiftly opened the door for me and his family. It must be a Spanish thing.

I’ve got a ways to go. Soy Americana.

¡Estoy una hija!

30 Aug

Patience is a virtue, right? I am waiting now, at 3 in the afternoon, for lunch after two small pieces of toast, orange juice and a gritty cup of nescafé coffee for breakfast. In the meantime, I have gone to class, taken a test, caught up on emails, cleaned my room and planned out my weekend… I am hungry or, as I would say in Spanish, ¡Tengo hambre!

My American body has not quite adjusted to the Spanish schedule yet. Although I am loving Spain, their meals and general life schedule are throwing me for a loop. On top of lingering jet lag, I hope this will soon pass. For breakfast, which is served every morning between the hours of 8 and 10 am, I am given the choice of toast or cereal with coffee. At 2 or 3 pm we eat lunch, which is, far and away the largest and best meal of the day. After three hours of intensive Spanish class, I look forward to this meal more than anything else (including my daily siesta.) Due to a late lunch, Spaniards do not eat dinner until 9 or 10 pm when their appetites return after the sun retreats along with its appetite stealing rays.

I feel extremely blessed in that my señora can cook like nobodies business. She always asks me, “¿Te gustas?” And I reply, as politely as I can with a mouthful of food, “¡Sí, me encanta!” With this said, I am embarrassed to admit that I am given an extra plate of food during every meal. It generally consists of leftovers from the day previous, such as warmed up vegetables, soup or half a pizza. I know my señora means no harm and is only ensuring I don’t go hungry, but it is difficult not to get offended when a single hot dog is staring blankly at you on a white ceramic plate while the rest of the family serves themselves another portion of salad.

I live with one señora named Maria, her daughter, named Maria, and their dog, named Lola. Although I completely refrain from using “Maria” to avoid any confusion I simply cannot explain in Spanish, one of my favorite things to say is, “¡Hola, Lola! ¡Hola, Lola!” …I’m good at that. Lola is the scruffiest dog I have ever seen, a mutt to say the least, but she has the sweetest heart despite her potential fleas and persistent begging. Either way, I love her most of all because she serves as a scapegoat during those awkward moments when I have run out of things to say in Spanish or am trying to divert attention from the awkward American girl who can only mutter when she likes food.

Lola - The scruffiest dog in the world.

My suspicion of Lola’s fleas increased after three days in my homestay when, while doing homework in my room, a tiny, brown bug came crawling up my wall. Per instinct, I smashed it with a piece of paper and realized that the germinating bites on my legs could be multiplying due to this little monster. Every morning I would awake to find more bites in more places, it started near my ankles; rose to my kneecaps, then my thighs and when they reached my stomach I could have no more. As a source of procrastination from homework, I began to research fleas and bed bugs. Despite my skepticism, fleas can live on humans. As I researched how people get them and how to get rid of them the webpage read, “Nothing is more embarrassing than when you’re out with friends and a flea crawls down your arm.” Awesome. It is such a good thing that I am not at an impressionable stage with my new family, friends and classmates. They’ll be understanding, I’m sure.

Trying to tell myself that I am far too clean for fleas, I began to research bedbugs. With each click of the mouse, it became more apparent that I did, indeed, have bed bugs. The bites looked like mine, they only appear in the morning and itch to no end. Homework had to wait. I stripped my bed in search of evidence, bugs or their shells (yes, they shed as the grow, disgusting, I know) and found what I believed to be small, tiny, grey shells. I stopped researching, held back tears and got in the shower at 2 a.m. We’ve been told to only take ten minutes showers as Sevillians are very conservative with energy and water, I swiftly heaved this rule out the window as I prayed that my señora would not awake to my thirty-minute attempt to scrub off my skin.

Once I felt sufficiently clean and a bit less itchy, I grabbed my computer and snuck out to the living room to complete my homework by a backlit word document. I decided to sleep on the couch for a few hours where I knew no bed bugs would attack. The best two hours of sleep I received all night. To avoid insulting my señora by sleeping on the couch,I awoke to my alarm at 6 a.m. and trodded back to my bedroom in order to sleep the rest of the night in my bed. As I stood in my hot, humid room staring at the white mattress pad, I prepped myself.

“It’s ok, you’ve slept here for the past three nights. The worse they can do is bite you a few times more, plus the bites only itch.  You’ll wake up in a few hours, everything will be okay.”

Until you have been forced to do so, there are no words to describe the anxiety that comes with lying down on a bed that has bed bugs. I put one knee on the bed with the other soon to follow and sat in the prayer position while I lifted my pillow once, twice, thrice, four times to ensure no bugs were crawling around my head. I lowered my torso and curled up in the fetal position thinking logistically that if I take up less space in the bed, it will be harder for them to find me (and yes, I ignored the fact that they attracted to a mammal’s heat and blood by their strong sense of smell). I placed my head on my pillow and conclusively shot back out of bed. I was sweating. I could not, for the life of me; sleep in a bed that I was 99.9% sure was full of little brown parasites! Parasites! I went back to the couch and slept lightly until I heard my señora wake up. Sneaking back to my room in hopes that she did not see me slumbering on her nicest couch, I dreaded the conversation in which I told her that I had bed bugs.

Google Translator: Bed bugs = Chinchas de Cama. Deep breath, here we go! “Me preocupa que tengo chinchas de cama.” (I am worried that I have bed bugs.) And with that, an explosive “¡Aye! No, no, no! No es posible! Son mosquitoes, mosquitoes,  sí, sí! No chichas! No, no!” She then went on to tell me that mosquitoes prefer white, pale skin, so they are drawn to me and since we sleep with windows open to keep cool, I get bit at night. Double win! After an embarrassing and potentially offensive conversation to my señora and her home, I left for school feeling exhausted and humiliated.

The good news is, I was wrong! And despite my stubborn ways, I am happy to admit this incorrect assumption. My señora gave me a plug-in with mosquito repellant to place underneath my window at night and since then, I have not been bit. This also provides me with more motivation to obtain a deep and lasting tan as I do not want to deal with those mosquitoe bites for the rest of the semester.

Chinchas false alarm aside, I have the best homestay family one could ask for. They have a good sense of humor (at least, I presume they do as they laugh often after seemingly quick, witty banter that my Spanish skills are rusty to understand), are extremely nice, can cook, have a dog and don’t mind that I smile and nod to most of their questions or comments.

After dinner the other night, I thanked my señora and was walking to bed when I heard her say, “Hasta mañana, hija.” (See you in the morning, daughter.) Before getting too excited, I reminded myself that I have misunderstood many things before and that my below Spanish par ears probably heard wrong. To my surprise, the very next night, she wished me the same adieu, I was glowing, thrilled with the thought that she would consider me one of her own. Maybe this is typical of homestays, I don’t know, but I am delighted.

Maybe she doesn’t think I’m crazy after all.

In the meantime, here are some more pictures of Sevilla to get your mind off of chinchas.

I have a thing for pigeons.

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede

A post on the Cathedral will be soon to follow! 🙂