Monday, February 21, 2011
race and grace
This Sunday was the best yet here in Spain! I’m sure it was partly due to the weather actually feeling like spring is supposed to feel like here, but partly just because of the people I got to spend time with.
I woke up long before everyone else in my house and ate the breakfast that had been set out the night before. Met Libby at the bus stop and rode a couple (not-so-direct) busses up to Parque Miraflores. We met our friend Brynn (another Christian “norteamericana” who is studying with another program in Sevilla for a semester) there. As we stood around waiting, talking to a few random people we realized there were a few differences between races here and races in the States. This race was free, all the runners were even more decked-out in running gear, no one seemed to be focused on the race before the race, they didn’t have water for the runners after the race but there was a beer stand that got inundated by runners, and barely anyone stretched afterwards. One thing that was the same as in the States is that they ran out of size small shirts first, and then mediums, and then larges... we ended up getting kids sizes and XL shirts.
After the race we went to Iglesia Prosperidad in Triana (the church on Calle Prosperidad where we meet for Encuentro every Wednesday). By the time we got there we had missed the church service but we were just in time for the fiesta!
The fiesta was a celebration of cultures, but in celebrating cultures it was a celebration of God’s love to His people all over the world and a way to share some of the different ways different peoples praise Him. We stood around in the packed sanctuary and got to see three distinct dances from different places in South America represented by members of the church. We heard what was one of the most heartfelt and soulful songs I’ve ever heard, sung by an older lady of the church accompanied by the pastor on guitar. Flamenco singing is full of emotion to begin with, but to hear her sing out to our great God with such feeling in her voice was inspiring. They also had a time for the Americans to share. All 15 or so of us stood up front and went around sharing our names, where we were from, and how our churches in America are different from Iglesia Prosperidad. We joined together from so many different states, colleges, and churches to sing Amazing Grace as if we were a choir that had practiced together many times before, when in reality most of us barely even knew each other.
From what I have gathered, there is a pretty constant stream of students that attend Prosperidad during their stay here and it doesn’t surprise me. It is so wonderful to be able to sing songs (and clap on the off-beat), share scriptures and pray, and hear God’s word preached in such a welcoming Spanish community. It is also a place to connect with other Christian students here as we all learn together that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever as well as the same here, there, and everywhere. Meeting students in other programs here in Sevilla makes me all the more thankful to be in Christ-cented program. At Acento, not only do we have the opportunity to be in prayer groups and worship together during Encuentro every week, but we can encourage each other in Christ every day. Most of us are here very purposefully and want to use this time to grow and learn.
As part of the celebration the church had made a bunch of bocadillos (sandwich picnic lunches) for everyone to take to the park and enjoy together. We all sat on the bleachers and talked. I was able to sit by some pretty great people from South America and we shared our different opinions on the climate here in Sevilla (“hace mucho mas frio aquí que mi país” “no, hace más calor aquí, aquí nunca hay nieve...”). The husband is a care provider for two elderly people and one person with disabilities here. He came here 10 years ago and worked for 8 years before his wife and family could join him. They have big hearts for the Spaniards. I can’t say how huge the need for God is in the lives of the people here.
Later in the afternoon I got to spend time with my wonderful señora and roommate sitting outside at my señora’s cafe sipping café con leche, chatting with friends of hers, and trying a bit of delicious ice cream. Nicole and I are so blessed to get to live with Blanca and to get to go out to meet people with her! After café, Nicole and I walked all around Triana and across the river. There were so many people out enjoying the sun. Also, we got to stop talk to a random elderly man on the street. Things like that are some of the best times here, when you find that you can actually have a conversation in Spanish, no matter how superficial it is or how many times I do mess up, communication is possible!
’Twas a day full of enjoyable things: running, praising, talking, talking in Spanish, eating, walking, sitting, new friends and “old” friends, and sunshine. The only thing about it is that I never had my camera with me the whole day, with so many great photo opportunities. It gave me a great excuse to have “no time for cameras, we’ll use our eyes instead” stuck in my head though, which reminded me that I'm here for the experience, not just the pictures!
Dia de los amorados (o Dia de San Valentin)
Monday, February 14, 2011
Valentine's Day in Spain is a lot like Valentine's Day in the U.S. My señora said that they didn't even really celebrate it 40 years ago. It and Halloween are basically just imported from America, along with a bunch of our movies and music and our new anti-smoking trends, etc. I saw quite a few people walking around with bouquets, some of the shops had hearts hanging up or special signs, but it's not like the U.S.'s three extra rows of Valentine's Day themed things at Wal-Mart, starting shortly after New Year’s. I saw no teddy bears with hearts being sold, but I can't say I was in many stores.
Personally, I had a great Valentine's Day! Not sure how the test in the morning went, but after school we had a meeting for our Acción Solidaria class and all of us who volunteer at La Caridad veterans' home and all the people who volunteer with Solidarias in Seville got together and talked about how the first week went, and our expectations and goals for the rest of the semester.
After that, I rushed back and met Nicole and Blanca on our way to La Terezana restaurant for lunch! Blanca wanted to treat us for Valentine's Day and partly, I think, as a ‘thank you’ for the souvenirs from Colorado and Montana. It was my third time going there, but the first time with all three of us. I definitely feel very spoiled going there (especially twice in three days!), but I definitely enjoy it! They have the best croquetas (really creamy chicken ones!), and the salchicas con juevos, and the beef with cream stuff, and the tinto de verano, and the bread are all great, too!
Afterwards we went to Don Diego for café. I left them at the café to head out to school for the evening. I grabbed my bocadillo from the fridge, stuffed my heels into my backpack, and went to clase de flamenco! It's going well, I think; we have fun at least! I should try to practice at least once during the week so I don't forget everything between Mondays. It's a good dance for me, since all the steps are choreographed, but it makes learning it complicated.
After flamenco, I hung out at school, did a bit of homework, chatting, and picture winnowing until 8:30(ish) when we had snacks and watched the movie “Valentine's Day” on the projector! It was fun to sit around and watch a movie for once. A lot of people were studying for their tests the next day and it was all chill with comfy chairs, and snacks (popcorn!), and blankets, and pillows on the floor. Since it's not custom here and we're "just" guests in our homes, we can't really get together in the evenings to sit around and watch a movie or hang out in someone's apartment and just play cards or have a jam session, so it was nice to be able to do that.
Basically, it was a good Valentine's Day (even though I didn't get candy from my dad) because we got to go out to eat and I got to spend time talking with people and getting to know them better. I guess that is a big part of what love is all about: relationships, others, and living in community.
Córdoba y la Mezquita
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Last sunny Friday we all got to go to Córdoba, Spain! It's just another great opportunity we have through Acento. Since the art classes learn about all kinds of architecture and they go on field trips to see the art they learn about, everyone else in the program has the chance to go along on the field trips for free! Two-hour bus rides through beautiful terrain, entrance to museums covered, plus a day off of school?! I'll take that!
After donning our audio devices to hear our professor/tour guides when we got inside the Mezquita (mosque), we stood around looking like a bunch of tourists who just got off the tour bus, because, well, we had just gotten off the bus only to see this:
...and this is just a fraction of the inside of the Mezquita. There are so many different marble columns (some marble columns were borrowed/stolen from Roman ruins to save them money for the construction) with different tops and so many stylish white and red striped double arches. The mosque was built on top of a church way back when and expanded many times as Córdoba grew to make room for all the men to gather on Fridays and pray towards Mecca on the rug-covered dirt floors.
This is also in the Mezquita, and you may be thinking, “That looks like a cathedral, why would the Muslims have a place of worship in their house of prayer?” But, it isn't the Muslims’ because the Catholics came and took over and chose to build their cathedral inside the mosque instead of somewhere else in the city. The cathedral part is huge and beautiful. A choir loft is coated with intricate wood carvings and complete with two huge organs. Vaulted ceiling and domes tower above the grand alter pieces. It’s not like a normal cathedral with the chapels directly around the main cathedral area; the chapels are around the perimeter of the mosque built under the arches. It’s a crazy mix of architecture, but it makes for a pretty cool cathedral.
After touring the Mezquita, we got to go to the museum in El Torro de (tower of) Calahorra and get a good view of the Mezquita and the rest of the city. Google tells me that the tower was a prison in the 18th century and a girls’ school in the 19th century. The museum was more about Christianity/Islam/Judaism in Córdoba and also all about wearing funky headsets that only work when you are in certain areas.
After the tours we all went off to explore the city a bit more and eat our bocadillos (picnic lunches our señoras all sent with each of us). Then everyone else got back on the bus and headed back to Seville while Sarah, Rebekah, and I dilly-dallied at a playground we found.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I love the food here! I really enjoy trying new foods and getting to eat a variety of foods, and today was an especially good day to experience a lot of Andalucía's food!
Today, we had a normal breakfast before school. I guess it's not so normal, though, because my señora, Blanca, buys cereal and many other students don't get cereal. She also has peanut butter for us even though she doesn't like it. One of her students (‘chicas’ or ‘hijas’ as she likes to call us) introduced her to it and she started buying it for her. Of course there's toast and cookies with jelly and nutella (yum!), and she always has a bowl of fruit, mostly mandarinas, sitting out for us. We get a juice box to drink and cola cao (basically chocolate milk) powder that you either have with warm milk, or I think she said to put it in your milk in the bowl and then pour your cereal. I tried it one day, but you can't even taste the chocolate, so you may as well just put it in the leftover milk. I like the milk here better; it's not so...flavorful? Not so bleh? I actually drink the milk in my cereal bowl, cola cao or not!
After school, Blanca took all of us (me, Nicole, and the two high-school aged girls from Norway who are here for a week, Ingrid and Ana Margarita) to the restaurant she always takes her visitors to once. She said it has more typical Seville food instead of just the stuff people eat every day in their homes (I guess it would just be more traditional rather than typical). The food was amazing. It started out with a bowl of olives on the table (not so amazing, but I actually thought about trying them because they were "good" olives with the pit and all, but then I smelled them and didn't). Then a salad (pile of chopped lettuce, topped with tuna, surrounded with tomato slices served with vinegar/oil/salt). Then croquetes (a fried ball of a batter made from various types of meat, flour, and milk- Blanca makes them often but these were creamier than the store-bought-then-fried ones). Then, a huge dish of chanquetes, which is little fried fish topped with roasted red peppers and eggs (they showed it to us all pretty, took it away to chop it up, then served it).
When we thought they were done bringing food out they brought out another equally large dish with some sort of meat (I think it may have been veal) with a creamy sauce and good fried golden potatoes. I tend to be the guinea pig of the group with new foods as well as the cleaner-upper of dishes so it ended up being a lot of food but it was so good I couldn't watch it go to waste. I should mention that every meal is served with bread- usually in a little basket with little loaves or half loaves or slices and sometimes crackers. I tend to use the bread instead of a knife to help the food onto my fork or to mop up the yummy saucy stuff from whatever the food is.
After a filling lunch, Blanca took us to Don Diego for truffles with birthday candles for Ingrid's birthday and coffee/tea. Here again Blanca goes around to the people she knows for a bit before settling in at the bar. If you sit at the bar, you don't have to pay an extra gratuity because it's easier for them to serve you. The guys working at Don Diego (it seems like it's practically always the same ones working all the time) keep busy filling up water glasses, making the cafe con leche, putting the clean dishes back, emptying the little trash buckets on the bar, clearing plates, talking with people, etc. Maybe it's the crisp white shirts or that they aren't understaffed, but it always seems so clean and organized as they work. Surrounding the bar area (at least during coffee time, around 5:30-7:00 p.m.), there always seems to be a bustle of people crowding in to order or clumped up to talk, and ladies sitting with their little coffee cups with their purse sitting on the ledge along the edge of the counter, swiveling in their stools to turn and give besitas to a friend who just came in. Often they don't sit too long because they'll want to go outside to smoke (January 4 was the start of a new law against smoking inside of open public buildings- I hear a lot about it).
Blanca calls Cafe Don Diego her “second home” because after her husband died, it is the place she has gone to and over the years has gotten to be friends with the other regulars because they all seem to be there most days. Blanca ordered 6 truffles for the five of us and I should not have been surprised when the man sitting nearby along the bar asked to eat the last one. Blanca told me that he was Lucy's husband and that he was like family. The cool thing about it is that I knew who she was talking about when she said Lucy because I met her the other day there. I've met quite a few of the ladies there (I don't remember all of their names), but it is always nice to know that if I'm ever having a bad day I could just go there and embrace the straight-forward Spanish culture and listen to them comment on los Estados Unidos and say, “Que linda, que bonita, que rubia, que alta, que buena chica.” (Blanca told them all how I was willing to take the dog out if ever Blanca was not home and Vita needed to "hacer pipi" and other exaggeratedly nice things, hence the buena chica).
If that was not enough, Acento de Trinity (well, my tuition), paid for us all to go out for tapas one night with our tour guides from the first weekend here. Kike (short for Enrique) and our group met to go out for tapas. He picked out a bunch of great stuff for us to all try. Gazpacho, bread with gazpacho on it, bread with some sort of awesome soft cheese, squid (whole squid, not fried- yum!), chicken bocaditos (little sandwiches), some sort of meat, some pork cooked with some sort of alcohol, fries and croquetes, fried bocadillo, and there were baskets of bread, too. And, like at lunch, they just kept bringing plates and more plates out. It was great to get to try so many new things! Also, breaking news of a life-changing event: they also had "good" olives on the table for starters, and this time, instead of smelling them, I tried one. Yes, I successfully ate an olive! I think it helps that Sarah said something along the lines of "it's not going to kill you" and that I had considered it earlier in the day to work up my mental energy. It was pretty vinegary, but when you first eat one, it's not bad. Then, it tastes more olivey and it's not as good, but still not bad because I actually had a second one!
After that, since we still had a budget to meet, we went to a teteria- tea place. We sat on cushions on the floor next to little tables and tried hot tea with milk (cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, Iranian, etc.), and other teas and juices. It had a nice atmosphere, a funny waiter, and delicious tea (canela té con leche), and comfy seats. If I had an allowance that I could only use for coffee/tea, I would probably spend a lot of it there with school friends and some at Don Diego to have some more Spain-life in my life.
Here's a picture of my new favorite snack. It helps tie me over between lunch at 2:00 p.m. and supper at 9:00 as well as close up the distance between a few worlds of foods. I present to you my very own creation, the original, the amazing, the (insert-fitting-and-delicious-sounding-name-here)!
Sunday, January 30, 2011
The first week of classes went pretty well. I am in the intermediate section, so I will still be able to get a Spanish minor, but I'm not taking art/history/culture/grammar/lit classes at the advanced level. Right now I'm in curso 251, and after a few more weeks and a test we'll start curso 252, which won't be any different since we will be using the same book.
For the second half of the semester we will have two classes (301 and 303 – I think that they're more grammar, plus some literature). There are six people in my class, and we meet every morning at 10:00 a.m., go for an hour and a half or so, take a half hour break, and go for another hour and a half. That means that I've already been in this class for 15 hours - that's like five weeks of a normal class. Thankfully, it isn't boring! I like our teacher. She only ever speaks in Spanish and has mentioned visiting the United States, but I think there was only one time I heard her say a word in English to clarify something. We spent this week reviewing all the indicative preterite tenses, but we get to go on a lot of tangents depending on what comes up, so it is kind of like a conversation class combined with a grammar class. We spent a good part of one day just talking about food (mostly fruit!), we've talked about weather, how to express time, the difference between un bolso and una bolsa, games, good restaurants to go to in Seville. It's good because I really need the review, and it'll get more fun as we get more talkative as a class. I think that I understand almost everything she says (not verbatim, but in general), but it's the talking that's hard. I'm getting good at "comprendo" and "sí" and the rest is coming poco a poco. I'm trying to make the most of class since I'm pretty sure I won't ever have the opportunity to be in a small classroom in Spain with an experienced teacher at the correct level again. I'm also trying to take advantage of the fact that we are not allowed to speak in English inside the school building at all to practice with other people who are also just trying to get better at Spanish, but it's not always easy.
Mi primer find de semana aquí
Thursday, January 27, 2011
For our first weekend, we had a photo scavenger hunt all day Saturday. We met at 11:00 a.m. to get our assignments, get in groups, spend some time mapping out the places we needed to go, and hit the roads!
We ran into some sort of march or demonstration (una manifestación) against something. We asked what their signs were for, but none of us really had the vocab to know what they told us. This was just the start of us wanting to get some cool random pictures for extra points (and therefore, a few less of the pictures we were actually supposed to get- especially those far away).
Hannah and I climbed a tree! We're the only nursing majors of all the 48 students this semester- a lot of people are Spanish or International Studies majors (surprise, surprise).
One of the places we had to go was the Plaza de España. Apparently part of one of the six Star Wars movies was filmed there. We found another banyan tree (there are quite a few around and I love them!) and climbed it- this is the whole group before going home for lunch.
We all met back at the school and looked at all the teams' pictures. Despite having the most exciting pictures, we lost the competition. It was a good day despite.
This is a pretty street. There are lots of them in Seville! All the buildings are so vibrant, and there are all kinds of little park or plaza areas. I can't wait until it's nice out and I can walk all around this city and get to know it better. On Sunday, I went with three others to mass at the Seville Cathedral – it is so beautiful and was a great experience to worship in a place with not only unfamiliar customs, but an unfamiliar language while still having the familiar time of sitting with brothers and sisters in Christ, praying, and hearing God's word (I could recognize familiar phrases and verses).
We went to a Cafe de Indias coffee shop and talked until lunch, and then after lunch I went with my roommate to another Cafe de Indias where a bunch of girls from Acento met up. I got tortitas con nata (basically pancakes with whipped cream), and they were so good!
After that, some of us went to what we thought was going to be a church party and ended up being more of a conference-type thing. We got to hear a bit of a message, hear some gitano/gypsy-style singing, and pray for the church in Seville and Spain. We also got to experience Seville’s busses. (Note- if you want to go back two stops on a circle route it might be more time efficient, but less entertaining, to look around for the bus stop on the other side of the street instead of just hopping on the first bus you see and going all the way around the city.)
Sunday, January 23, 2011
I sometimes have to remind myself that I'm actually here. Today, I was looking at one of my señora's many travel books, the one about Seville, and I had to remind myself that I was just today at many of the places that all the beautiful pictures are of. I have been looking forward to being here for quite some time (not without a hesitation or two), but I am so excited to be here and know that I will have the next 3½ months to experience this city.
I've been here five days already! I got here a bit early because sometimes I fail at remembering important dates, like "arrive in Seville on the 19th," but was warmly welcomed on Tuesday by my señora, or ‘Blanca’ as she likes to be called. She is so great! I had time to move into my roommate and my cozy cute bedroom, go for a run and a walk, visit the coffee shop/restaurant/bar/ice cream shop that Señora Blanca frequents, and talk with her in Spanish (which sometimes is just a lot of listening and catching key words and saying "sí" and nodding; I don't think I'm quite as bad as I expected though).
On Wednesday afternoon, my roommate Nicole got here and we went on a walk and got to enjoy our señora's company together.
Thursday, everyone in the program (all 48 or so of us) met at a hotel in the neighborhood most of us live in for orientation in the morning and most of us went on tours of the city in the afternoon with Spanish guides. Friday was more orientation but this time at the school and a (Dominos) pizza party back at the hotel in the evening. In a way it feels like the first day of camp or of college where everyone is feeling a bit uncomfortable, pretty excited, kind of nervous, reasonably happy, moderately sad, slightly awkward, and rather overwhelmed while trying to make a good first impression. My first impression is that most people here are pretty great. I’d just need to talk to them beyond "where are you from, what school do you go to, what major are you...?” and I'd hear some pretty ridiculous stories and some pretty sweet life goals from most of them. We seem to be a great group, and I feel like we’ll get along pretty well together. It has been really fun getting to walk around with different groups of people, exploring the city and getting to know each other.
It was pretty warm here the first couple days but it has cooled down significantly. I shouldn’t complain too much about our 40/50 degree Fahrenheit weather, though, while it’s freezing all day in the Midwest. It’s still hard to ever really warm up because there’s not much for indoor heating and the houses are designed to stay cool for the summers with tile floors, etc. So, if you’re cold outside don’t expect to warm up by going inside unless it’s to go put another layer on.
Well, I’ve got a siesta to take and a few Spanish tenses to brush up on before classes start tomorrow, but I already have much more to describe and share here!