Sunday, March 27, 2011
Some differences between North America and Europe I have noticed:
-using useful and reasonable public transportation
-walking as a form of transportation
-listening to random people on the street (because if they're talking in Spanish you want to see if you could understand them and if they're talking in English it's nice to understand them and usually pretty comical and if they're talking in a different language it just sounds cool)
-talking with family more often on iChat
-being more outgoing in a different way, as in just going out and doing stuff with people who want to do stuff and then getting to know them instead of only really doing stuff with people you already know (I really noticed this the other day while sitting in the park doing homework and chatting after lunch on Sunday and half the people there were just like friends of friends or people we had just met at church that morning and we were from all over the US, Germany, and Spain but chilling out in a corner of Parque de los Principes together)
-bidets in most of the bathrooms in houses
-smaller public bathroom stalls with bigger doors that go to the ground
-emergency vehicles have different sounds
-everything is smaller in Europe: cars, coffee, houses, yards (if they have them), roads, people...
-women don't really run (if I run on the path in Sevilla along the river there's a few but the majority are Spanish men, American women, or boys soccer teams conditioning)
-old buildings are normal and abundant and pretty much every city and many towns still have part of the city wall and old fortresses
-getting to visit with your brother, sister-in-law, and nephew that you normally wouldn't see in the middle of a semester, which brings me to note some...
...differences between Spain and Italy:
-parking spots (There are painted out, clearly marked, relatively large parking spots in Italy. In Spain there are a bunch of cars lined bumper to bumper wherever they can get away with it, which is pretty much wherever they want.)
-assigned seating on the coach busses. I was a bit confused when Italians got on the bus and started asking me to get out of their seat and had to move a couple different times because I had no clue where on my ticket it said my seat number, "poltrona" would mean "chair."
-not as many people chilling out in the streets. They still have a break where stores are closed after lunch and they eat later but they don't have the whole tapas thing where they go out and have some tapas and a drink after work and they didn't have tables and chairs set up outside of every restaurant and bar.
-hearing Italian instead of Spanish (they're more similar than you'd think but they sound very different; it wasn't hard for me to understand the general meaning of signs or menus in Italian but it's hard to understand them speaking)
-good pasta and non-cardboard-crust pizza in Italy, the gelato's pretty much the same because the gelato in Spain is Italian and apparently it's easier for touristy shops to copy the gelato than it is to copy the pizza and pasta
Some similarities between the United States, Spain, and Italy
-not waiting for the walk signal to cross
-not liking to have to search for a parking space
-people talking about silly things, people arguing, and people being loud on the phone
-driving on the right side of the road
-people being curious about what they don't know (it seems that Americans idolize Europe and Europeans idolize America)
-springing ahead and falling back (though the time change happens in a different week in Europe than the States)
-living far away from some people and closer to others
-Jesus being Lord of all
Monday, March 14, 2011
What a weekend. There were probably less than 20 of the 50 or so of us that actually stayed in Sevilla instead of going to Paris, Barcelona, or Palma de Mallorca but we made it fun!
On Friday at school there were only 2 of the 6 people in our class so our professor brought us banana bread (homemade, made with sunflower oil instead of butter since we’re in Spain and they rarely use butter) which was so so, so great to taste again! Then we had our last lunch with two great girls from England/Wales that had been with us the whole week. They both spoke pretty good Spanish, especially one of them, so we could have some good convos all together. This week there are two different girls from “Inglaterra” as well but I don’t think they are as good at Spanish. It’s great that we can translate or help when needed while they’re here but I think that sometimes my señora thinks that they don’t understand something and will ask us to translate when it isn’t needed or talk about them in front of them as if they don’t understand.
Friday afternoon I went for a run during the afternoon while it actually wasn’t raining and got to the monument in pueblo San Juan for the second time. Blanca and I had a quiet supper together. After supper I went out and met up with the group of pretty much everyone who stayed plus a Spaniard friend. Some of us went to La Carboneria to see some flamenco. After sitting around and talking we went to a teteria to sit around and talk some more. We got some “baklawa” (as it’s spelled here) and tea. It was a really enjoyable night and afterwards David, our Spanish, friend drove the girls back. Before this week I had gone 2 months and 2 days without riding in a car.
Saturday I got up to my alarm to go to the gypsy market again. This time with Libby and her friend who is studying in Ireland and came to visit. I got a pair of bright green flats for only 1 €! Hooray! Then we headed to the centro to visit the cathedral before lunch and on our way met a group of catholic high school aged students and some of their teachers handing out “Yo Vivo Semana Santa” stickers and singing a few songs. We got to talking with a catholic missionary from D.C. and a couple girls from the school who wanted to practice their English. They told us about the global youth convention held every 3 years that is going to be in Madrid this summer and the traveling cross that is in Sevilla yesterday and today that goes around the country the year before the conference. We also got to hear why they have some of their traditions and what their take was on the Cathedral and other things. It was exciting to talk with other people who are seeking after God and who love Jesus and want to do something about it. In other words, people who want to live Semana Santa, not just share in the cross of Jesus during Holy Week, but live carrying our crosses in the way Jesus did throughout all the years of our lives. I live Holy Week. Vivo la Semana Santa.
When I got to the cathedral turns out they needed my student i.d. AND another photo i.d. to get the student discount so I chose to come back another time and just go back for lunch. Since I had an hour and it was not raining like forecasted, it was actually nice and sunny and gorgeous finally, I decided to wander a bit and headed toward Parque Maria Luisa, but on my way over in my shortcut through the University of Sevilla I got distracted. When I entered the old tobacco factory I saw that there was a room to my left with its doors open, people inside, and the smell of incense wafting in my direction. I wandered over curiously intending to peek in and leave. A girl came up and asked me “estas aquí por la (whatever it was called)” and since I wanted to see what it was I just said tentatively “eeee sí?” to which she replied “Do you speak English?” and you already know what I answered. What I had happened upon was an open house for the hermandade (brotherhood) for the university students and faculty combined with a little prayer meeting of the Catholic campus ministry group combined with a video talking about the traveling cross and upcoming convention. I met some of the other students, wrote out some prayer requests for the paper cross, exchanged e-mail and phone numbers with Julie, and headed back for lunch. Once again, it was lovely to see people living out their faith, viviendo la Semana Santa. I don’t know what Catholics say about providence, but I know there’s a reason I didn’t stick my license in my pocket before heading out that morning and had the curiosity to walk into a strange-smelling room full of unfamiliar people.
For lunch Blanca and I went to la Aterazana restaurant where we met Juan and his friend. We ate the normal aterazana food plus ensalada rusia, talked, and had a great drawn out lunch. Then afterwards went to Don Diego for a drawn out coffee. Juan’s friend recently got back from studying Italian a few months in Italy, so we could relate. In the middle of a conversation I realized that I was talking about how hard it is to say what you want sometimes but at the time it wasn’t that hard to say what I wanted. I’m slowly getting better!
In the evening I took my bocadillo and ate half of it along calle Betis overlooking the river and Sevilla then went to the University of Sevilla choir concert to hear my friend Cherise perform! The concert was in a church inside the cathedral, it’s like a chapel but bigger and it’s beautiful inside. Cherise (and the other amazing soloists) played a lovely part in performing some of Bach’s cantatas. Afterward I walked home with Hannah and when I forgot to leave something there that and had to re-ring her super-nice señora Rosa invited me in so I ate the other half of my bocadillo in their living room a little before midnight.
Sunday I went the short walk to church in the rain only to get there and remember that last week they told us they were meeting somewhere else this week. I wasn’t the only one that forgot though so 6 of us went to Don Diego to talk and study the Bible together! After supper I went to the same church in the cathedral with Jeff for a taizé prayer vigil for the youth of Sevilla. They brought in the traveling cross and after the beautiful service, we made a paso following it from the church to a nearby convent. Then we met up with Julie, Ola, and the rest of the “SARUS” (student ministries) group and went to tapas with them! Selected reasons why it was a great night are stated as follows: 1. the fact that I went to a couple normal events in the cathedral 2. seeing so many youths gathered 3. worshipping our God 4. being in the plaza de naranjas at night and seeing bats fly around the giralda and the flying buttresses 5. candles 6. new friends 7. speaking spanish 8. tapas and peach juice
Monday, March 7, 2011
So a while ago I wrote about Córdoba and the Mezquita and ended the post saying that Sarah, Rebekah and I were playing in a playground while the bus back left and that the story would be continued. I am here to keep my promise.
Our weekend adventures continued when we took a bus from Córdoba to beautiful Granada. After enjoying the typically beautiful autobus ride across yet another part of Spain we arrived and walked and walked to our hostel. One thing to know is that bus stations are usually far away from everything and sometimes your map just isn’t big enough to fit the bus station on, but you will get to your destination eventually if you just follow the majority of people and aren’t afraid to go up and ask directions. Granada is quite a hilly town so the walk to the hostel was wonderfully uphill, and despite the overstuffed backpack and general tiredness, I enjoyed the jaunt.
We were able to check in since thankfully we had enough cash and one of us brought our passport and we had phones to light up the tiny faded numbers on the room doors to tell which one was ours. Hostal Dona Posada is inexpensive so it served its purpose and not much more. It was all three of our first hostel experiences, but it was nice to have a private room.
We ate our high class supper of white bread and salami and some fruit, trying to ration everything for the next day’s meals too. After playing some cards we went to bed early because the next day...
...we got up early to see the Alhambra! The Alhambra is famous, though you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s basically the old Moorish fortress with a few palaces, tons of gardens, walls and towers and other random buildings and it’s basically pretty cool and gorgeous. We spent a good 3 hours exploring it. We got there early enough that, even though it was cold, we could enjoy the quiet of the gardens before hoards of other tourists came. I think my favorite part of the Alhambra was just seeing all the different designs and patterns used in Islamic architecture.
After that we went back across the street from the entrance to our hostel again to nap a bit and get ready to go out and enjoy the rest of the day! We got lunch at a kebab place. It was so delicious to be eating foreign food! My señora serves us quite a variety of foods and they’re not typical American foods, but one thing I enjoy about food in America is that you eat food from all over the place all the time.
After lunch we went to La Cartuja, a monastery. It was absolutely beautiful. The reflectory full of paintings and a chapel with two side chapels, each with a beautiful dome and super ornate decorations. And, of course a pretty cloister. We spent the rest of the day walking around and went up to the Moorish area of town. Everything was all hilly with narrow streets between white-washed houses. We found a spot to watch the sun set where we could look out at the Alhambra on the hill opposite of us with the Sierra Nevadas and other hills in the background. After the sun set we stopped by a grocery store and then went back to our hostel to eat, shower, and watch A Bug’s Life while munching on candy hearts.
La Cartuja monastery and tortuguita
Us on one of the towers of the Alhambra with the Moorish section of town behind us
Us in the Moorish section of town with the Alhambra behind us
The next morning we packed up our backpacks and headed down to the center to go to mass at the cathedral. When we got there the sign said a different time than we were told so to pass the time we went to a nearby free art museum and looked at all the cool photographs and paintings while listening to the sound of a street performer’s violin drift into the building. When we thought it was actually time for mass we got there again only to find out that maybe it was at the time we first thought. We ended up sitting in on the last part of a mass in a smaller section of the cathedral and then just observing from the back mass in the huge gorgeous part of the cathedral.
I explored the streets around the bus station and found my way to the plaza de toros (bullfighting ring). The plaza de toros was cool looking from the outside, definitely different than Sevilla’s. I walked around more and found some great parks and a boulevard with a park in the middle that offered an awesome view of the snow covered mountains! I spent most of the rest of my time before heading back to the bus station just sitting and drawing the scenery and watching people walk around. I was rather entertained by the statue not far from where I was sitting that so many people stopped and took pictures of. It was nice to have some time to explore and sit at my own pace, something I took for granted in London, but even better was that I got to know Rebekah and Sarah better and share time with them. I hope I get lots more chances to go places with such great people! The ride back to Sevilla was enjoyable as I got to see a great sunset and hear a lady talk about her wedding plans on the phone in Spanish. Granada was definitely one of my favorites!