Thursday, April 14, 2011
Last weekend I had a fantastic time in Portugal for two days, and this week was filled with one great thing after another: fiesta de flamenco, getting ready to do the Camino de Santiago a bit, hanging out with friends from Italy/Poland/the U.S., spending time at La Caridad for the last games of dominoes, salsa class, celebrating a friend’s birthday paddleboating on the Guadilaquiver and eating some of the best ice cream I´ve ever had, enjoying our last Encuentro practice and Encuentro, eating out with the Encuentro musicians.
Right now I´m sitting in the school with my big pack all packed up, my passport, boarding pass, and airport bus fare in my pocket feeling ready? Wanting to feel ready and wanting to feel energized to go walk for 4 or 5 days. Me, Cherise, Joey, Jeff, and Derek are going to go do the ruta ingles of the Camino de Santiago and I´m so excited! I´ve wanted to do this since I first heard it existed 3 years ago and now my plane leaves in 3 hours! I´m very excited to see what I´ll learn on this pilgrimage. I don´t know if I´m physically ready or if I packed exactly right or what but I just read Psalm 84 and I´m pretty sure I´m ready to see what God has in store for us!
Pray for us as we journey and as we enjoy our last 3 weeks here, that we would not grow weary of doing good!
Friday, April 1, 2011
The truth is, time is just as fast on this side of the ocean (and even the Mediterranean Sea) as any. We now only have one month and a one day left here! I feel like things are going really well lately, I'm really starting to truly enjoy being here! I've had a great attitude and I'm feeling adventurous and really enjoying the people around me.
The weather has been warm so recently I have gone to Parque Maria Luisa, walked to pueblo San Juan with a friend just to get out of the city for a bit, studied with friends for a test in the gorgeous tranquil gardens of the Alcazar, have been stopping in random stores more often just to see what they're like (and I can never tire of grocery stores), and taken time to sit by the river more often. To top off all the little things I've been doing this weekend, I went on two wonderful day trips!
Friday morning (we didn't have class), I showed up at the bus station and met Sarah and Derek and we pointed on the map where we felt like going, somewhere in the Parque Natural Sierra Norte. We ended up going to Constantina on a bus through El Pedroso from Plaza de Armas. Constantina was cute and little but the best part was doing some hiking/walking through the surrounding countryside. It was lovely: gravel roads lined with fields of olivos surrounded by grass and flowers, fincas with white-washed walls, forest-y areas, lizards, birds, pigs, and flocks of sheep. We climbed some trees, wandered around, and ate lunch on a stone wall near some big brown toros grazing in the shade. Another great thing about it was the quiet--every place that I've found "naturaleza" near Sevilla it's still noisy with highway sounds but there it was wonderfully quiet, except for the sound of the bells on the sheep every once-in-a-while. We had some great conversations which made it all the more enjoyable!
The only plan I previously had for Saturday was to go see the Cathedral in the morning with some art professor and a group from the university and go from there to the beach. 9 am rolled around and instead of my usual alarm for school, my phone rang, it was someone calling and seeing if I wanted to go to Gibraltar! So, as I often say here (and will probably continue to say a lot), I said "por que no," changed, ate a quick breakfast, stuck some stuff in a backpack (like my passport so I could leave the country and come back in), left a note for my señora and met Brynn, Joey, Lindsay, and a friend of Brynn's Will with the rental car!
We got to go to Tarifa where you can stand in Spain and see Africa across where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. There I touched the Mediterranean for the second weekend in a row. Then we drove on over and crossed the border into a bit of the United Kingdom: Gibraltar. The town itself isn't super exciting except that there's more English things and if you were to order food you could speak in English. What we found exciting is turning down all the 25 euro "discounted" tours of the Rock of Gibraltar to just walk right on up to the top! It was a lovely hike through some botanical gardens and then on roads and then a huge flight of stairs. It was such a gorgeous day with some nice views across the water to Africa and across the bay towards Algeciras. It was such a fun group of people and we all returned very satisfied with our spontaneous day!
Did I mention that I was sore waking up before going to Gibraltar and hiking up the rock? Well, I was. Sunday morning was no better but the day was great day despite the rain and soreness. I went to church and got to talk with people, then I met up with the SARUS group after their mass to go to a picnic. Since it was out of the question to picnic by the river, we went to the house of Álvaro, the leader of SARUS, talked, laughed, ate some great food, and enjoyed learning about each others' cultures. We were a bunch of Spaniards, a girl from Portugal, some girls from Italy, me and Julie from "los estados unidos" and my friend Ola from Poland! After lunch we all tried these polish apple pastries Ola made that were like pancakes filled with apple pie filling. After cafe, Ola and I went to an evangelical church called Encounter afterwards where I saw more friends from school and some Spaniards that I had hung out with before. It was cool to go somewhere new here but already know lots of the people and even introduce some people to each other.
Sunday night it was nice to return home and have a normal supper with Blanca and Nicole. Even though I hadn't gone on one big trip over the weekend I really hadn't been home much. It made me realize how I really do feel at home here and live here. Now that we only have one month left I have gotten to finally see more parts of the city and really connect with people. What a great month this will be!
So it seems my Gibraltar pictures didn't load--I'll work on those and add some of them later but here's an extra toro picture for you while you wait to see the amazing blue waters etc. by the Strait of Gibraltar.
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!
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!