Category Archives: Seville

Sevilla, me enamoro de ti

I haven’t written in about 3 and a half weeks when I remembered I had a draft detailing all of my weekend travels.  I’m currently in Madrid (again) with my parents right now and I have spent the last 5 weeks in Paris, Granada, Rome, Madrid, and Chiclana.  Living out of my backpack, never sleeping in, and attempting to travel on a study abroad student budget has not been easy, but I am so thankful.  While every trip has meant more beautiful architecture, overwhelmingly rich food, new languages, roman ruins, and more medieval religious art that I can stomach, I’m always hungry for more.  But recently, I’ve been longing to spend more time in what I consider one of the richest, most beautiful, historical, charming and romantic cities in the world, Sevilla.

Now that I have switched homestays (due to what I considered inappropriate conduct by my senora) I find myself much happier.  Or maybe its the fact that it is finally November and I’ve realized that I only have 6 weeks left of my study abroad experience.  I could cry just thinking about it.  When I think of Sevilla I think of rich, breathtaking culture.  The way the Spanish guitar has almost brought me to tears, the way the kindness of the Sevillanos never ceases to surprise me, the way Spanish ham always melts in my mouth, the fact that it’s November and I can still wear a sundress and tights…the way that abroad has made me stop and enjoy life to its fullest without stress.  My Spanish has improved a lot like I thought it would, but not nearly to the point I had expected.  But I’ve come to terms with the fact that a language doesn’t grow overnight (even four months overnight) and it will be a challenge I will pursue for the majority of my life.

My parents and I went to a flamenco show last night, and I have to admit that the combination of cante and toque brought tears to my eyes.  Spain is so passionate.  Spainards are passionate about their music, their food, their families, their love, their celebrations, almost everything with the exception of overworking.  While I can’t imagine myself moving to Sevilla or living here for more than one or two years, I know I will need to return soon.  The Spanish language itself is so beautiful and challenging that I just can’t resist.  Oh Sevilla, me enamoro de ti.

It’s a wonderful-to-be-alive-in kind of place.

I’m happy.  The kind of happy that makes you want to smile from ear to ear the all day long.  I can’t even describe how elated I am.  Although study abroad in general is an emotional roller coaster, more often than not I’m at the top of the hill ready for the screaming, heart-racing, plunge.

Sevilla truly is a wonderful-t0-be-alive-in kind of place.  But that’s not the only reason I can’t stop grinning.  Have I mentioned the plaza?  Almost every week my friends and I go to a certain plaza in the city center that is filled with Spanish people, and literally no Americans.  Every week it has been a new adventure, because we make new friends all the time.  The best part is that it never gets old because we’re always meeting new people and we get at least 4-5 hours of non-stop practice with Spanish conversation.  Some times we meet people with whom we enjoy talking, and then we go our separate ways.  One night when we just wanted a casual break from the boredom that is sitting in our rooms on our laptops, we went to the plaza and met really interesting people.

We’ve hung out with them three times since we first met, and we all have each others numbers and we’re friends on Facebook (so it’s clearly legitimate).  Last night we met them in the plaza and they introduced us to more of their friends.  We talked and laughed and joked for about 5 hours, walking to other bars and a club.  At one point we were all laughing and joking with our new Spanish friends when a friend turned to me and said, “We are so lucky to have this opportunity.  This is amazing.”  She didn’t have to say anymore because I knew exactly what she meant.  It literally brought tears to my eyes.  Not only had we meant an amazing group of guys who love to hang out with us, we are able to express ourselves with ease in Spanish!  Here I am in a bar in Sevilla, surrounded by new friends, American and Spanish, having sincere conversations, some deep, and some lighthearted, all in Spanish.  Here I am texting my new friends in Spanish and receiving messages in Spanish and joking in Spanish and it all feels very natural and at the same time so exciting and foreign and wonderful.  You see?  I can’t even properly express my emotions because I’m just bursting with joy at this immense accomplishment.

I am lucky to have this opportunity, lucky that Jess led us to the Plaza that feels like my second home, and lucky to have met muy buena gente (genuinely good people).  This weekend I’m going to Madrid with 6 friends on my first away from Sevilla, not with the program, travel adventure and I’m exstatic.  In all honesty, however, I’m still really excited to meet up with them next week.

It’s a wonderful-to-be-alive-in kind of place.

 

Joking and laughing with Jaime and Pablo

 

God Bless America?

I haven’t had any pressing blog ideas lately because I’ve been feeling rather normal.  I settled into a routine with Orientation classes, which are over now that Thursday has come and gone, and the air is getting a bit cooler at night.  Sevilla doesn’t feel so foreign anymore.  I’ve discovered my favorite places to get ice cream (one has the best stracciatela, the other mint chocolate chip), I know which cafes have the best cafe con leche and which charge you too much, I’ve become an expert on skyscanner.com, ryanair.com and hostelworld.com, my friends and I found a plaza for meeting Spaniards that we’re in love with, and I’ve even mastered some Spanish slang and shorthand Spanish texting.  At the Festival of the Nations I bought a pair of pants that, while loud, give me a ticket to camouflage with Spanish women when I so choose.  {Sidenote: The American booth at this festival consisted of “Chicken Bacon Ranch” “Chicken Tenders” “Corn Dogs” and “Hamburgers”…no one was eating there and I was so ashamed}  Last night I was hurrying to meet some friends at the movie theater (about 30 minutes away from my apartment) to see Come Reza Ama (Eat Pray Love) when a young Spanish woman stopped me on the street and asked me for directions.  There I was happily eating my stracciatella ice cream when a Spanish person actually thought I, brown haired, green eyed, clearly American me, might know where the nearest metro station was.  I was so surprised my Spanish level plummeted in seconds as I roughly explained to her to walk two blocks down Calle Republica de Argentina where she would see a station soon.  She laughed, obviously realizing I was not a Spaniard, and went on her way.

Here, I noticed, I make a conscious effort to blend in.  I’m hyperaware of the fact that I am an American girl and I want to be anything but.  Yesterday I sat a cafe with some friends, booking a hostel for our trip to Paris, when an obviously American man came in and started shouting at the waitress.  “CAN WE GET ANY SERVICE OUT HERE?” “WE’VE BEEN SITTING OUTSIDE WAITING FOR 45 MINTUTES!!”  It was so obnoxious.  The waitress obviously had no idea what he was saying or at least pretended not to know so that he would calm down.  She calmly responded that the other waiter is in charge of outdoor orders.  I don’t really know what happened next but thank god he stopped screaming and went outside.  We left shortly after and I noticed there were drinks on his table.  Clearly the waiter had taken their order.  Their drink order.  Doesn’t he know anything?  This is Spain, hombre.  You can sit at a cafe table and not order anything, in fact the waiter usually won’t come over unless you get his attention.  Even then, when they ask for your order they ask for your whole order.  I mean this is a small cafe we’re talking about.  They don’t have time to take your drink order, make conversation, and return for your “main order”.  This American clearly did not do his research.  But nevertheless it was no reason to blow a gasket in a city where most don’t speak very much English.  I actually wanted to tell this stranger that he was embarrassing me. I’m constantly feeling this way.  Last night on the way home, Kara Shelby and I were haggled by bar promoters handing us drink cards and shouting about shot specials.  We respond in Spanish of course, even though they are speaking in English.   One girl shouted “Where are you girls from?”  I responded “De los Estados Unidos” and she responded, “Yeah I know, I am too!” in the most annoyed tone, as if she was insulted that I wasn’t rushing to start a conversation.  Why do you think I care?  If I wanted to socialize with American girls in bars I would’ve stayed in the USA.  A few days ago I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some nuts to ease my hunger pains, when I ran into a group of rowdy, obnoxious, and rude American girls.  “Omg, why don’t they have my favorite tampon brand?” “Which wine do you think will get us drunker?” “I don’t care whatever is cheaper ya know!” “Omg, this pastry would be the BEST EVER for drunk munchies…maybe for a hangover too!”  After they are finished publicly announcing their debauchery to the entire store they speak in one word sentences to try to pay for their night in a bag.  No wonder the world is so constantly annoyed by us.  I’m annoyed by us! I’m embarrassed for myself and for them.

When I arrived in Spain I knew wanted to make a constant effort to A) Speak Spanish B) Immerse myself in another way of life C) Never draw attention to myself.  I feel as if I’m doing all three.  I wish others would make an effort to do the same.  In Spain, everything is slower, people seem to spend more time with family and friends, more time nurturing relationships, less time working, more time celebrating, less time worrying, more time sleeping.  Coming from the girl who is always 100% go go go, I think America could use a heavy dose of this relaxation, less is more lifestyle.  8 AM on a Monday morning…and there isn’t even a cafe open for me to get coffee.  Two hour naps when I’m tired.   Eating portions just big enough to satisfy.  Nursing one coke at a cafe for hours.  I’m starting to realize that when I go back to the US I need to try to slow down, relax, and enjoy the little things in life.

Why are we always running full speed ahead towards the future?

I don’t want to miss my now.

Life, and Death in the Afternoon

This past weekend was truly a celebration of life and death.

On Saturday night, I invited everyone from the program to join me at a Tapas restaurant in the neighborhood of Triana. Besides the fact that the host was flabbergasted when I told him I would like reservations for twenty…everything was set up perfectly when we arrived.  The table was long, filled with bread, and wine glasses abundant.  When most had arrived, I ordered white wine and (the most delicious) sangria for the table and perused the menu.  I had already spent about 30 minutes before leaving consulting the online menu and looking in my food dictionary so I wouldn’t be clueless when I arrived.  No one seemed to have a strong preference for what they wanted to eat so I picked about 5 tapas dishes in the hopes that we would try a few and go from there.  When I ordered the waiter said something about the number of dishes per group of five and the next thing I knew, I had ordered for the table!  Out came five cheese and tomato dishes, five spinach and pine nut croquette platters, five shrimp dishes, five lemon fish dishes, and five chicken dishes.  As you can imagine it was an overwhelming amount of food, but varied and delicious!  I only had one misunderstanding.  I ordered “daditos” anticipating a dish including dates (which I’d hoped were wrapped in bacon).  Instead these small strange fried fish pieces came out.  I called the waiter over and politely told him that I did not order that fish.  He pointed to his notepad and reassured me that yes I had asked for “daditos”.  Sure enough it was written down.  Note to self: The Spanish word for dates is “datiles.”  One day at a time..

Shortly after our party arrived in came a bachelor party and a dinner party.  They made the atmosphere out of this world.  They were singing and shouting and waving their napkins in the air.  I soon as they heard someone wish me a “feliz cumpleanos” they burst into rowdy song!  Turns out I had chosen a very authentic restaurant…no tourists to be found only Spanish people celebrating life’s milestones: birthdays, marriages, anniversaries!  Besides the lively singing and shouting, I loved when they brought out my dessert.  The restaurant turned off ALL of the lights and brought out a piece of some banana/flan/cake thing with a single candle, and everyone sang feliz cumple again, as if the first two times weren’t enough.  All and all it was a pretty perfect dinner.  Afterwards we sat by the river and shared a bottle of wine, making friends with Spainards and celebrating the night away until 4 AM.  This was life.

We slept late on Sunday until I met some friends at a cafe.  Shortly after, I met everyone at the Plaza del Toros for our first bullfight. I purposely did not read any information prior to going because I didn’t want to have any preconceived notions or feelings.  When we found our cheap seats in the sun, I admired the beauty of the plaza itself with its rich yellow coloring and classic archways.  I sat there naively with not a single reservation about my decision to experience this Spanish tradition on my birthday.

What followed was a confusing mix of music, tradition, and disbelief.  The basic layout of the fight occurs in three acts.  First the bull is released as several novice matadores taunt and tire him with their pink and yellow capes.  Each time he rushes you can observe the way his breathing becomes labored and his tongue begins to hang from his mouth.  In the second act, a padded horse enters the ring.  On top of the horse sits a ornately decorated usually fatter man with a long picador, or a long stick with a pointed end.  The novice matadores lure the bull closer and closer to the horse so that he gets the urge to charge it.  I did not understand this at first until I realized that they wanted the bull to charge so that they could poke him with the long picador.  To remove him from the horse the man on the horse will repeatedly poke him in the strong and sensitive neck muscles, which weakens his charge, lowers his head, and his overall force as an animal.  During this time, the novice matadores run at the bull in order to pierce him with theses ornately decorated barbed sticks.  The object is to run at the bull, plunge the two sticks into his neck muscles, and escape unharmed.  As a result the sticks dangle from the bull’s wound, weakening him even further and causing him to bleed.  This is very difficult to watch.  This large wounded angry animal is now taunted over and over while heavy hook shaped sticks dangle from its bloody wound.  At this point the animal has blood running down its sides, matting its thick coat.  In the final act the professional matador, who has a more beautiful and expensive uniform, performs with the bull, testing his limits of bravery.  He is essentially trying to see how many times he can get the bull to run past him, and how close he can get to the bull without harm.  It’s scary to watch.  I never knew what to expect from the bull or the matador.  The final act ends with killing of the bull, by spearing him with a long sword in his neck muscles.  There is more I could write about the “final kill” but I honestly don’t want to revisit it.

The worst part of this “art form” was watching two novice men get gored by two different bulls.  During the third bull of the night, the novice didn’t see what was coming to him as the bull charged…trampling him and eventually spearing him with his horn in what looked like his neck/side.  For what seemed like an eternity this bull carried this poor novice around by his horn until his fellow novices diverted the bulls attention.  When the bull hey finally dropped the man, his peers seemingly glided across the yellow sand, lifted him into their arms, and rushed his limp body out of the ring.   When it first happened my heart started racing and tears filled my eyes.  I was not prepared for such an action packed too close for comfort afternoon.  I swear my heart wouldn’t stop pounding.

As if that was bad enough the fourth bull was larger and angrier.  That’s why none of us were really surprised when it charged another matador as follows: taunting the bull with your cape, bull rushes at the target, novice attempts to step out of the way, misjudges, bull lowers its head and dives its horn right into the leg of the novice who is then thrusted into the air and falls to the ground.  He then proceeds to get up and run for a few seconds until his peers once again come gliding in to whisk him off to safety.  Warning: this was very gory.  The bull had created a very large hole in his thigh area, piercing his femoral artery so that blood was literally squirting out of his leg.  Did I say squirting?  It was more like pouring.  His eyes were literally rolling back into his head.  I can only imagine the pain.  Plaza De Toros in Sevilla has one of the best hospitals in all of Spain, which luckily saved his life because he lost many many liters of blood.

After that I was sure my nerves couldn’t take anymore.  I didn’t stay for the last bull.  When I returned home my senora said that what I had seen was an unusually bloody and violent sunday.  Tell me about it.  I couldn’t sleep that night because I couldn’t seem to calm my heart down.  The next morning I eagerly watched the news and checked the paper for the inside scoop.  All reports called the second injury “surprising” and “very grave” so I knew I wasn’t just imagining it.  Hemingway had it spot on.  I find myself contemplating the morality of this art form, sport and entertainment.  There is no better way to describe it, I bore witness to Death in the Afternoon.

Long Island, Jews, and Buddha

This post is going to be mixed with what feels like a million events, as you might be able to tell from the title.  Just a warning, you know, in case you are only curious about one of the aforementioned topics.

Intercambios at “Long Island”:

On Tuesday night a bunch a girls had mentioned to me that there was some kind of exchange happening between Spainards who want to practice English and Americans who want to practice Spanish at this bar on Calle Betis called “Long Island”.  When I arrived with Jessica, Hannah, and Marrion, it certainly wasn’t the fun exchange I pictured.  University and state flags from the US lined the walls, smoke filled every cubic inch of air, and the men stood transfixed, staring at a big screen TV playing the Spain vs Argentina soccer game.  We were discussing how strange and sketchy it seemed when a blonde women came up to us and asked if we were American.  We replied that yes we were and she insisted on introducing us to her “Spanish friends.”  We were greeted by two of the youngest guys in the bar by far, who were actually pretty cute.  It turns out that they had no idea it was “Intercambio” night, in reality they lived down the street and just wanted to watch the soccer game on the big screen.  That’s what made our conversation so interesting.  These Spanish twenty-somethings weren’t there to creep on American girls looking for cheap tinto de verano and a possible phone number, they were buddies who wanted to hang out and have a few beers.  I spent most of my time talking to the cuter one, in Spanish of course, about his career plans as a neurologist and psychologist.  He told me he was currently working on his masters, graduated from Uni of Seville, lives with his parents, will be doing an exchange in the US in March, and hopes to do brain research and work in the US for the majority of his life.  He was an interesting person to talk to because he seemed down to earth and spoke slowly.  Whether or not I can understand what is being said to me in conversations largely determines my mood.  So in this case, I was very happy!  He jokingly told me that no woman had ever listened to him talk about his studies and career plan like this before.  I laughed nervously.

I didn’t go out that night for the cheap beer or tinto, I went out for some interesting Spanish conversation and practice.  I’m so excited that I found it.  While the bar was American, those men were not and they taught us Spanish slang, wrote down a few restaurant suggestions for my birthday dinner, and made diagrams of where they were located using their table full of mini Cruzcampo beer bottles.  It was adorable.  I hope to make Long Island Tuesdays a tradition, in hopes that maybe some new unknowing Sevillano men will wander in looking for a game on the big screen.

The Jewish New Year in a place with no Jews:

I hadn’t anticipated a very exciting Rosh Hashanah in Sevilla and I was correct.  On Wednesday morning I called the number of the listed Jewish connection in the JYS Handbook and reached Jose Rofe.  I asked him what time the services were and where they were and he brusquely told me the time and place.  He seemed to be in a hurry, but it turns out he acted similarly when on the phone with another girl so I didn’t feel so bad.  At 7:45 PM I met with a few other girls to begin the walk from our homes to new unknown territory in the center of Sevilla.  I traced a direct route on my map and somehow we made it there by 8:30!  After moving out of familiar territory we wound through the small residential streets that used to be the Jewish quarter.  I love how the buildings here are a variety of bright rich colors.  I love how all of the windows have ornate balconies and the streets are labeled using antique tiles on the side of the walls.  After a 20 minute walk following the map and only asking for directions once, we arrived at the given address.  We stood outside timidly for a few moments, because nothing was marked or labeled…you couldn’t even tell it was Jewish.  Some women walked up to us and asked if we were Jewish and then motioned for us to go inside.  We entered a small one-room make-shift synagogue and were promptly greeted by a man at the door. We said hello and then he asked us if we were in search of the synagogue.  We replied yes of course and he then told us we had reached the mosque and that the synagogue was down the street.  We stood there uncomfortably because of course when you are speaking a different language it is extremely hard to understand sarcasm.  He laughed at us and told us it was a joke and we laughed too.  Of course it was a synagogue.  We were staring straight at the arc.

It was obviously orthodox because the men and women were separated and I didn’t know what to expect.  Soon the room filled with about 10 more American girls and 5-6 Spanish women.  The front of the room was reserved for the men, about 10 of whom were Spanish.  All and all there could not have been more than 35 people and the majority were American.  I don’t know why I was surprised to see Spanish, Hebrew, and a transliteration in my siddur.  It was fascinating to see the translations of prayers I have read all my life in Spanish.  Shema Yisrael…Escucha, Yisrael.  I thought that one was funny.  The service was short, they did not sing one familiar tune, and the women did not sing or stand.  I wasn’t sure if I was allowed.  I attempted to sing along to some of the prayers I know by heart, but the tunes and rhythms were so off that I just gave up.

Afterwards about 6 of us went to a small cafe for a Rosh Hashanah “meal”.  I ordered paella which was mediocre and laughed at the fact that my Rosh Hashanah dinner consisted of a thick Spanish rice, shrimp, chicken, and lamb.  To be honest I did miss home.  I missed the food I know and the atmosphere of the synagogue, in Maryland and at Northwestern.  I missed the feeling that you get when you are surrounded by people who are celebrating together.  I don’t think anyone in Sevilla, or Spain for that matter, knew it was the Jewish New Year.  It was a bit sad.  I didn’t go to services the next day because it wouldn’t have been meaningful.  I don’t feel spiritual when I can’t sing, when I’m not included.  In my heart I knew it was the New Year and I’m sure you understand.  I’ll say I’m sorry on Yom Kippur.

Buddha:

Last night a bunch of us ended up going to one of the clubs in town named “Buddha.”  It is a 3 floor paradise furnished like a modern Tibetan temple, with Buddhas, lamps, plush red seating, white bars, and a stunning outdoor patio and bar (on the third floor roof) with large group areas, hookahs, and eastern lamps.  The entire venue, despite being in a mini-mall, was gorgeous.  The best part was the rooftop terrace.  There is no way I could have captured it in a picture.  It reminded me of Epcot when you feel like you are transported to a different country.  It was almost too perfect.  When I looked up from my seat, I stared into a black and starry sky.

It was refreshing because when we arrived (12:30/1 AM…early)  they were playing American music.  All of the girls got into a circle and happily sang along to “New York” “Dont Cha” and “Scrubs”  What a throw back.  As the night wore on, around 2:30,  the club began to fill with more Spaniards and the music switched to a mix of English and Spanish techno.  Eventually it was just Spanish.  It all felt like a dream.  Here I was dancing along side American girls and Spanish men to American techno songs to which everyone knew the words.  The strobe lights were blinding and the music was pumping through our bodies as if it were our blood.  It was one of those moments where everything felt strangely familiar and at the same time I was very aware that I was in Spain.  We left around 3:15, which if you can believe it, is still early for a night out because some Spaniards were just arriving as were made our way out the door.  Baby steps my friends.  I think we will definitely go back there when we are looking for a night of endless dancing and familiar rhythms.  Who knew I would find Snoop Dogg in Buddha?

The First Weekend

Saturday morning came way too early because we had to get up for a bus tour of Sevilla and a trip to Italica.  Everyone was exhausted from being out late the night before and it didn’t help that all tours and explanations were in Spanish.  It’s very frustrating because I really am interested in the history of the city and the meaning behind the Roman ruins, but it takes every ounce of my concentration and effort to focus on the Spanish especially when a lot of the vocabulary is foreign to me.  I took some pictures of the impressive mosaic designs on the remaining floors of the houses, but unfortunately I could not tell you the meaning behind them.  It was hot and difficult to concentrate.  Everyone was dragging.

In the afternoon I took a nap and then decided to meet Jessica on la calle de Asuncion.  My roommate came to and we met at 5:30, casually forgetting that for some stores, siesta lasts from 1-6 or 2-7:30.  It must be nice to have all that time off, and for it to be socially acceptable.  It’s so weird to me because Saturday is the probably the biggest shopping day back home, but here the world basically stops on Saturday and Sunday. So we walked around a bit and shared our frustrations over our new Spanish phones, laughing about how all the food here is filled with olive oil and salt making us thirsty 24/7.  The funny thing about that is…you can’t walk into a cafe and ask for a free glass of water without buying anything so you have to buy a water bottle.  A bottle which is usually much smaller than the US standard and more expensive.  Ay the Euro.

We met up with a bunch of other girls from our program at a cafe and everyone though we are not supposed to talk for a long time in English, we spent about an hour swapping stories of our senoras, cell phone worries, the food, new rules, and just all the changes we are going through.  Then a few of us walked around el centro de Sevilla and searched for a good ice creamery.  Dessert hardly exists in our new homes.  For most senoras, dessert means having a piece of fruit or a small yogurt, while to us that is a part of the meal or a snack.  I can’t believe how much I am going through withdrawal, from cookies, potato chips, candies, and drinks other than water. Our pantry is basically stocked with fresh bread, rice, pasta, and cereal and our refrigerator contains little more than  water, fruit, yogurt, and some cheese.  The two weirdest things I have noticed are: the milk and this low-alcoholic drink called Tinto de Verano.  The milk my family uses is powdered and they must have about 10 boxes of the powder in the pantry.  To make coffee, Angel takes some milk powder and mixes it with warm water and then mixes in instant coffee and sugar.  When they drink milk, they simply mix the powder and water.  I haven’t tried it and I don’t intend to.  It often looks lumpy and warm, and to be honest I’m sort of afraid of it.  Tinto de Verano is apparently wine mixed with seltzer water.  It’s basically watered down fizzy wine, but I sometimes drink it with a meal just so I can have a break from water.  At home I drink juice, iced tea, milk, soda, or coffee, but here I have learned that water is basically the drink of choice.  When I go to cafes I try to get a bottle of something different just to mix it up a bit.

Saturday night was magical.  At first I didn’t want to go out because I was really tired, but our student orientation guide, Megan, was going to show us some more authentic spots for nightlife and I didn’t miss out.  At first she took us to a packed flamenco bar.  I watched intently as one man played gently on the Spanish guitar, while another sung and a women danced alone with great emotion and intensity.  Though I barely see, it was quite exciting to get a small taste of the real Spanish flavor.  Afterwards we wound though the impossible streets in the center of Seville until we reached the Alfalfa Plaza.  There we found several bars lining a small cobblestone streets and endless clusters of Spaniards drinking laughing and smoking.  Several of us purchased what were, in my opinion, very delicious mojitos, and we spent the majority of the night taking in the atmosphere of that small street and enjoying ourselves.  Some people sang “Feliz Cumpleanos” and we also encountered a man wearing a devil’s costume and a woman’s blonde wig.  We later found out it was his bachelor party and  it seemed like he had no idea what was going on.  Some of us went home rather early because we had to be up on Sunday morning to go to the beach.  On the way home I noticed that every street was like a hidden treasure lit up by the small lamps of the bars and glowing with personality.  The cathedral was very beautiful and glowing in its spotlights.

Old Sevilla is so precious.  Everywhere you step there seems to be another fountain, or building, or archway with immense detail. And I live here?  The few pictures I have taken don’t seem to do it justice.  I am excited to become acquainted with the small bakeries, bookstores, and ice creameries that line these streets.  I am even more excited for the change in season when I don’t sweat every moment of the day.  Those of you who know me, can attest to the fact that I am a winter girl and this heat is killing me!  I can’t wait until I can retire my tank tops and sandals and break out my scarves, jeans, and flats.

On Sunday we went to the beach!  It was about an hour drive to Matarascanas and when we got there it was packed!  At first glance it reminded me of Ocean City, Maryland. Hundreds of multicolored umbrellas, and children running back and forth with their boogie boards.  Now that I think of it I have no idea why anyone would bring a boogie board because the water was as warm and calm as a bath.  It was so pleasant I barely laid on the beach.  It was also ridiculously hot, so for me lying on the beach was an uncomfortable and sweaty experience.  After what seemed like too many hours in the water a bunch of girls went to find a cafe to sit in.  But since it was almost 5:00 PM many had just closed to begin their siestas!  I was so confused because I thought siesta would be over, when I remembered that many remain open for siesta because people like to purchase their lunch at the beach.  We finally found an open cafe, but I couldn’t seem to get the attention of the bartender in order to get a drink.  It’s frustrating because I couldn’t tell if she saw me or not and I didn’t know the polite way to get her attention.  After a while I gave up and drank my warm bottle of water that I had brought from home.  Warm was better than nothing.

Aside from the smoke, and heat, and overcrowding the beach was beautiful.  The water was almost a crystal green and the sand wasn’t too rocky.  It was really relaxing, but after about six hours at the beach everyone was ready to go home.  Eliza and I crashed early and slept for more than 12 hours on Sunday night which I guess we needed.  All and all I couldn’t imagine a more perfect introduction to life in Spain.  I could definitely get used to this 🙂

New Beginnings

I can’t believe I’m finally here in Sevilla.  I don’t even know where to begin…

When our group finally reclaimed our baggage at the small airport in Seville, my stomach was filled with a myriad of emotions.  I had just met my new roommate for the next four months and in a few moments I was to meet the “family” that would eventually become my keepers.  Eliza and I were greeted by an older couple who reminded me of my grandparents.  Maria Antonia, or Marita, wore a tea length,  almost retro, floral dress and her marido wore shorts and a polo top with high socks.  We were welcomed with the traditional dos besos per cheek and proceeded to answer a myriad of questions about our wellbeing and the flight in our rusty Spanish.

We took a taxi to their apartment because our heaping pile of luggage was the only passenger that could fit in their modest white ranchero.  As we wound through the outskirts of Sevilla it reminded me of so many places I had been before.  The dry and bare patches of land gave me memories of Israel while at the same time the tall apartment complexes and myriad of overstuffed shops reminded me of Greece.  When we reached the centro of Sevilla it was just as I imagined it and at the same time completely different.  Architecture with Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque influences.  I don’t even have time to describe the beautiful colors, immense detail, and ornate archways and gates of the buildings.  We arrived at our new apartment which is situated over the River Gaudi  in a neighborhood called Los Remedios.  The apartment is small, like most in Sevilla, but it’s very nice because Eliza and I have our own bathroom which makes it feel more personal and private.

The first day seemed overwhelming because we had been up for so many hours, but nonetheless we ate a modest lunch of macaroni and cheese (not the kind you would imagine) and napped for two hours.  Afterwards we decided to search for toiletries because neither of us had brought soap or shampoo. The JYS handbook reassured me that Seville would have everything and after a period of doubt before arriving I began to convince myself that it was a modern city and I would be fine.  Not exactly the case…

After going to three or four perfumerias, or stores that sell make-up and toiletries, I could not find anyone who sold Neutrogena products. Finally I asked a clerk in the store if he knew where I could purchase it.  After repeating myself several times I become frustrated and tried to explain that it was a very popular global brand.  Finally he looked at me and said, “Ay Ay tu quieres Neutrogena”  like New-Trow-Hey-Nah.  I had forgotten to pronounce it in Spanish…my very first Spanish language faux pax.  Nevertheless I went to the pharmacy that he suggested and they still didn’t have it but the assistant recommended something similar.

Friday was exhausting because we had orientation all day long which included a lot of lectures on how to get a cell phone, safety, the purposes of orientation, and expectations–how they will and will not be realized.  After a brief almuerzo we continued orientation information and other preliminary things.  Friday night many of us met in front of the JYS office to explore Sevillan night life.  We ended up going to several bars on “La Calle Betis” which boasts “Euromania” deals and is very American.  It was super lively and exciting especially because its not a covert operation to get drinks.  It didn’t feel very authentic but it was interesting to mingle with the group in a more relaxed setting and have the opportunity to chat with some sevillanos.  While they were practicing their english, we were attempting to practice our espanol.

Everything seemed like a dream: the way the Rio Guadalquivir was lit by the street lamps, the way the Torre del Oro glowed majestically over the city.  Everywhere I walk I feel like I am part of some romantic comedy and the city is my new lover.  I can’t wait to show all of you how beautiful it really is.