Submersion complete

October 10, 2007

Well, to be honest, I do believe I have entered the 3rd stage of culture shock, which would be “acceptance”.  I am now fully A-OK with living in Spain.  Unbelievable.  It took about a month and a half.

I think the defining moment was having my dad come visit me last weekend.  We had a blast (even though I could never find a good restaurant…sorry Dad!!) and it was great to see someone from home.  Not just anyone, but my good ol’ poppy.  I took him all around Seville and even took a daytrip to Granada, which wasn’t completely a success, but at least he and I got to see the beautiful white Cathedral and the inside of Lorca’s house.  Lorca’s house was AMAZING.  It was “impresionante” to stand in his bedroom and look at his desk.  I have been studying his literature for a good year or so, and to finally see from whence it came was actually more exciting than I originally thought.  If only I could have taken pictures of his house.  But oh well, it will be forever lodged in my memory.  Until I am about 80.  But anyway, my dad is an official world traveller, and I am very proud!  Now I have two more “visitantes” arriving soon.  First, my beloved William.  Second, my lovely mother.  Then I’ll have about a month and a half until I return to the states.

 It’s going to be a fun month of October!!!!

I don’t have too many exciting stories to tell, except that people keep mistaking me for a true Spaniard.  I am relishing it.  In the past week I’ve had about 3 Spaniards ask me for directions and 2 others simply strike up a conversation with me, assuming I was from Sevilla.  Guys, this is fabulous.  I don’t know what it is that officially has marked me as a Spaniard.  I’ve been trying to blend in as much as possible, but sometimes I feel like my blonde hair and mannerisms would quickly label me as American.  I mean, nowadays I can spot an American from about 20 feet away (they’re usually louder, have a wider gait, and almost always are wearing tennis shoes). 

 Also, a few guys went to Octoberfest last weekend in Germany and missed their flight because they took the wrong train and ended up in the middle of absolute nowhere in Munich.

We leave for Lisbon tomorrow, so I’ll post about that in about a week.


Thus begins my month of popularity

October 4, 2007

Hey Mom,

Dad made it.  We are now chillin in Sevilla.



¡Vale, vale, venga!

October 1, 2007

“¡Vale, vale, venga!” is what all the locals say.  Take any combination of those words and throw them in the middle of a sentence and you are a true Sevillana.  Before I got here, I was duly warned about the thick accent of the Sevillan people.  My old Spanish professor will insist that it is NOT a lisp, but actually just a manner of pronunciation.  When I first got here, I felt like I was back in intro spanish.  I couldn’t understand anybody and was getting frustrated.  The longer I am here, however, the more I like it.  The “lisp” allows me to talk faster because I don’t have to slow down to pronounce the “s”.  And to me, some words sound so pretty with a little “th,th” tossed in.  Andaluthia, Thevilla, vamoth, como ethta, et thetera.  🙂

 I feel like in the past two weeks my spanish has improved dramatically.  I am understanding so much more of what I read and hear and I feel like a little vocabulary has grown on me.   My biggest teacher is the newspaper.  Thank goodness for free handouts.  Every morning on my way to school newsboys hand me two newspapers: ADN, and 20 minutos.  Usually before class I’ll grab a cup of coffee and sit down and read at least one of them and circle about 10 words I don’t know and try to work on memorizing them and applying them throughout the day.  Some days are better than others, but it’s a good way to practice reading the language and in the meantime I learn more about the culture and current events.

 My tutor-her name is Marta-took me out to La Feria de las Naciones last Friday.  It was in a park close to la Plaza de España and it was really neat.  People had set up tents with the theme of different nations.  And yes, to my glorious surprise, Mexico had set up one.  And they had Mexican food.  And I nearly died with elation.  However, Marta and I visited the Cuba tent and got some mojito and sat down to chitchat.  We landed on the theme of our generation of students and I was telling her my frustrations with all the apathy of our generation, and to my surprise, she told me it was the same with Spanish students.  Apparently people in their twenties are not concerned with politics, religion, or taking a stand against things that infringe on their rights.  It shocked me to hear this because I see protests here in Spain nearly every day.  But now I am realizing that it is actually the older generations that are protesting.  Right now there is a group of labor workers that are protesting by the Cathedral because the government just put hundreds of them out of jobs.  I wish I could expand more on that topic, but that is all I really understood from what Marta told me.  Anyway, Marta is probably the first girl from Spain that I have really gotten to know, and she is helping me to understand what is going on currently with the news and with her life.  Exciting, really.

 I guess that’s all for now.  My dad is coming to visit me this week, so I need to go work on his “itenerario”.  Quite interesting, sí, yo sé.

Mandame regalos, por favor!

September 26, 2007

October is fast approaching.  October is going to be an insane month.

 But let’s focus on the here and now, shall we?

Last weekend the group and I travelled to Granada, which may be my first favorite place.  I think Córdoba is perhaps my second favorite place.  Anyway, so on Friday it was pouring down rain.  I am talking torrential downpours complete with flooding of major highways and drenched clothing.  But then the rain ceased and we made our way to El Alhambra, the most amazing ancient palace I have ever seen (I guess I have seen a lot of them, too). This place is huge.  And beautiful.  And there are gardens everywhere and a bath area and huge rooms with intricate designs on the walls and cieling.  Stunning, really.  I tried taking as many pictures as I can, but I just became so frustrated because my pictures weren’t capturing the beauty that I saw with my own eyes.  So I simply stopped taking pictures.  I’m sorry, but they just won’t do it justice.

I need to sit down one day and write a really good blog about my job and my time here and how my spanish is improving.  This will be the second time for me to say that.  It’s coming soon, I promise.

Morning jogs are fun

September 19, 2007

This morning I ran down la Avenida and circled the Cathedral.

How many people do you know that exercise around buildings from the 12th century?

Why I love Spain

September 18, 2007

Yesterday morning I went to school earlier than usual because I didn’t have to work but I did need to study.  There is a cafe at the entrance of my neighborhood, and as I was walking through  to the corner, I saw the most beautiful thing there.  It was around 9 in the morning, and every table was full of families.  Everybody was all dressed up and ready for work, but the best part about it was the fact that at every table there was a family member from every generation.  Child, parent, grandparent.  And everybody was talking and everybody was happy and everybody was relaxed and eating their breakfast and scrambling to get their kids to eat and keep their clothes from staining.  It was the perfect scene in my mind, complete with a small gust of wind to rustle the newspapers in the father’s laps and a few dogs thrown in to distract the children at the table.  I wish I could see that every morning.  Usually by that time I am wiping snotty noses and teaching little girls how to sit quietly in a circle and play duck duck goose or something.  But I would not have traded that moment for anything.  It was the perfect representation of the families of Spain.  They are so cohesive.  The family is forever. 

For lunch yesterday Manoli fed me “puchera” (spelling?).  My host brother, Lucas (or “Lucath, if you’re Andaluthian), told me that puchera is to Spain what enchilada is to Mexico.  It is the main dish of Sevilla.  He said that paella, what all the tourists get so wound up about, is really the famous dish of Valencia.  But here in Sevilla, it is puchera.  Basically it is white rice, garbanzo beans, and steamed carrots set in some sort of broth…my guess is chicken broth.  But I’ll find out later.  But Manoli said that what defines puchera as puchera is the mint leaves as a garnish.  Incredible.  It is so delicious and my favorite meal thus far (and believe me, everything that Manoli cooks is fabulous). Every meal is served with a main dish, like puchera, a little bread on the side to sop up the excess, and then something fried and something sweet.  Today we had vegetable and chicken soup with bread, some sort of fried vegetable (it looked like squash but manoli said it was somethng else) and a banana.  There is fruit for desert everyday.  I love it!

 Speaking of host families, it seems like a lot of the kids here are having difficulties with their host families.  I think it might just be a lot of misunderstandings and things lost in translation, but there are very few who seem happy to live with their families.  I guess I’m kind of rubbing salt in the wound, but I absolutely love my host family.  Manoli is the sweetest old lady ever and I have gotten so close with my host siblings.  Rafa, one of my brothers, is about to be married on October 12, and so the whole house is chaotic every day with talk about the wedding.  But I love it because every family member shares enthusiasm for it.

I feel like when I return to the United States I will be taking a lot of Spanish traditions with me.  A lot of it just makes sense.  For my last semester, I’m going to schedule my classes as such so that I will have that afternoon siesta.  After siestas here, I feel much more refreshed and ready to start the second half of the day.  And because I take a little nap, I feel like the day is longer because there are two parts to it.  So really, you have more time to do what you need to because you end up staying up later.  I wish I could take the custom of walking everywhere, but once I’m back in Lubbock that will be nearly impossible.  When I have gone other places, I have learned to conserve my clothes and my cleansing habits and all that.  But here I am really learning how to use less water and to be more economical with my clothes and resources, which may sound hippie or whatever, but really I don’t see any disadvantages in trying to be more conservative.  I’m not trying to save the world.  I’m just trying to cut back on my bills. 🙂

Speaking of bills, Spain is expensive!!!!!  Grrrr.

Andalucia es mi lugar

September 16, 2007

Hola a todos,

This is my third day in Cartejima, a small town outside of a city called Ronda, which is about 2 hours by bus from Sevilla.  Josh, Marie, Brenden, Emily, Emily, Heather, Monica and I came over here on Friday to go hiking.  It has been the best time.  We landed an 8 bed dormitory in a  hostal in Cartejima.  It is a cute little place and the owner is great.  Yesterday he drove us out to a great mountain that’s between 5000 and 7000 meters, and led us to the top.  I climbed a mountain yesterday.  It was an incredible experience.   Nothing felt greater than reaching the summit and being eye level with clouds (okay, we weren’t that high, but it was a hazy day!). Today we will make our way back to Ronda and catch a bus out of there.  Then I can finish up homework and whatnot because class on Monday is cancelled for a study day.

I’ll post about the food and culture in the next week or so.

Most importantly of all, felicidades to my sister, who is going to have a baby in April!!  She’s going to be a mommy!!!! I am going to be an auntie!!  And I’m going to be the best one around, I’ll have you know.

Para ver mis fotos

September 13, 2007

Hola a todos,

School is going great.  I am really enjoying my Children’s Literature class as well as my History of Spain course.  We are diving into the revolutionistas of the Generation of 27 in my literature class and watching a documentary over Lorca and exploring all his fantastic poetry.  We’re also in the midst of reading Manolito Gafotas, which is the funniest piece of children’s literature I have ever read.  Mara has also been teaching the book from an adults’ perspective, so we’re learning pieces of ideology that are prevalent in Spanish literature.  I am really digging Spanish literature these days.  I’m thinking about grad school and the possibility of pursuing either linguistics or Spanish literature, and the more I learn and read the more I lean toward literature.  Mara told me the other day that I write so well, and if I wanted to come back to Spain and teach with the Tech program, she would write me recommendations.  After that, my day improved tenfold.

My history class is insightful, but there is just so much to it that sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the information and the dates.  Nonetheless, it is going well.  I am always reading.  I am hoping to retain as much as possible.

 If you want to see my recent pictures, I suggest starting an account with and making me your friend.  You can also see the pictures that my colleagues and friends have posted as well.  It’s free so you don’t have any excuses.

I’ve only been here three weeks, but….

September 11, 2007

My host mom told me today that I was getting fat.  And then my host brother said that I am going to be ugly if I get any fatter.

Thanks guys, thanks.

The “American ghetto” and the romance of Spain

September 10, 2007

Hola a todos,

Since it has been a week since my last post, I have a lot to cover.  I also realize for the most part that not everyone likes to read long blogs (I’m not sure many people like to read blogs at all, actually), but for my sake, this will be a fairly long blog so that when I come home, at least I can print off my entries and hoard them away like the packrat that I am.  So, you can skim over my heavily belabored paragraphs if you like.  I’m just here typing away.

 Last week before our weekend trips was nothing more than a series of volunteering, studying, going out on the town, and heavy dehydration.  The more I work at La Escuela Infantil, the more I love the children and the staff.  The rules and regulations and such are somewhat different from the states, but in my opinion the children receive better attention here and are less likely to focus on toys.  The older children take care of the younger ones and the staff is gentle but firm.  There is just no yelling here.  I have never heard the teachers fight for the attention of the younger ones.  It is perhaps less sanitary than what I am used to, but I am trying to keep my hands clean and keep the kids clean while I’m there.  We are expected to change their diapers, but we use our laps for a changing table.  This is pretty cumbersome and the kids are squirmy.  I haven’t really mastered that art yet.  They’re not too insistent on hand washing in the mornings.  However, I’m only there a part of the time.  I am absent while the children go into their classes.  Obviously they must learn about good hygiene at some point during the day, because if not, there would be thousands of people around Sevilla not taking care of themselves very well, and that just does not happen.

 I frequently fall in and out of love with Spain.  Right now it is a sweet romance.

I will go ahead and move on to one of the most exhausting weekends of my life.  No kidding.  I will begin with Friday, a 2 hour bus ride to Córdoba to see la Madinat Al-Zahra and La Mezquita.  Madinat was a small community of about 20,000 Omeyans that only lasted about 62 years, from 960 to 1016.  It was home to about 8,000 military personnel and the city was designed as such to defend itself against invaders.  To get to the main city gate from the outside, you have to go down a path that makes a sharp 90· turn.  This was designed to deter invaders on horseback or large troops because they couldn’t make a running start or try to bust the main gate open with anything.  If they got past that, they would enter into a double-entry doorway.  Basically this was a small room where two sets of doors opened up into each other, making it impossible to open the second set of doors without having to close the first set.  Signs of the old door hinges still survive.  On the floor there are small holes called pistil holes (spelling?) where the door hinges used to be.

Rooms here had no designated function.  All the rooms connected one onto the other.  No hallways existed during this time.  Instead, all the rooms would attach to an open air patio.  This room had a drain which allowed rain water to collect in the cistern below the floor.  This is where most of the socializing ocurred, where it was cooler.

There are two water systems in Madinat-the bad water system and the sweet water system.  We had a pretty good view of their underground systems.

Moving on from the bedrooms, we reached a larger room, sort of like a plaza, with famous Arab arches and columns.  This is where soldiers and scribes would hang out during the day.  There would be pillows and rugs all over the floor, and scribes would sit and write, translating.  In the same room they would also eat and eventually sleep.  The roofs were made of wood, but since that is usually the first material to be destroyed, we really have no idea as to what the roofs looked like.  Also, the rooms could only be as wide as a wooden beam would stretch, and that’s why the rooms appear so narrow.

The procession paths were marked by waist-high ledges on either side, where soldiers were made to stand to intimidate diplomats who were coming into the city.

We reached a small mosque below the city.  These are not viewed as churches.  There is no priest, only people who come and study the Koran.  Basic features of a mosque are usually a patio in the entryway, where worshippers come and clean themselves before worship.  For the most part, there are no walls except for the outside four.  Any division ocurring on the inside would be caused by simply columns.  The most important wall is the keeblo (spelling?) wall, which is the one that faces Mecca.  This wall is heavily marked with intricate designs.  (And just a side note that the Cathedral in Sevilla is oriented towards Mecca since it is built on Arab ruins)

The Arabs are very aware of cleanliness.  Their bathing process has three steps:

1) Complete immersion in very hot water to open up the pores

2) A warm water wash

3) A deep massage using olive oil

Sounds pretty fantastic, doesn’t it?  The Roman bathing process is much the same, except instead of a full immersion in hot water, they usually sat around in steam baths or soaked just a little bit of themselves.  In Spain you can still get an ancient Arab or Roman bath if you want, complete with massage, for about 30 €.  I might have to jump on that bandwagon.

Next we entered into the room of the Caliph, Abd Al-Rahman III, whose view extended over some wonderful gardens.  The intricacy of the designs on the wall are made with yesso, which is first put up wet, carved out, and then left to dry.  When it is nearly dry, artisans would follow with paint to color the inside of the cutouts.  Muslims believe that any pictoric representations of man or beast can lead to idolatry, and this is why all of their designs are primarily plants or geometric shapes.  The oldest son of the caliph does not marry until his father dies, but when he does, the son takes on about 5 to 8 wives and has to sleep with all of them the first night.  Out of all the women, the one to bear the first male child that survives is made Queen.  I can imagine what sort of drama this must have created.

Catedral de Córdoba (Antigua Mezquita)

I loved the Madinat for the history and the ruins, but this was my favorite part of Córdoba.  Most people know this, but one of the most interesting things about ancient ruins is that we see evidence of one society literally building on top of another one.  The great Mosque of Córdoba is built on the cemetary of a Visigothic church, which is built on top of Roman homes.  This mosque is absolutely breathtaking, and it seems to go on forever, except for in the middle, where unfortunately Charles V had allowed the construction of a Cathedral.  While the Christians were here, they also covered up some of the open areas with large wooden walls.  Way to go, guys.  I felt like I could not take enough pictures of this place.

Saturday consisted of a morning trip to Itálica and later a tour of the Cathedral in Sevilla.

Itálica was founded in 206 BC and was mainly a retirement center for the military.  Sevilla existed during this time and was populated by the Iberos (I say that because Itálica is about a 10 minute drive from Sevilla.  Super close).  There were two great things about seeing this Roman town: the ampitheater and the grand theater.  The ampitheater, though it was not floodable like some, was designated for sacrificing Christians and housing gladiator fights.  It used to be 3-tiered, holding 20,000 people, but the Visigoths came and destroyed the top tier.  Thanks so much, guys. 

The Romans basically copied the Greeks on this one.  However, the Roman arches were still completely intact in the ampitheater, which I thought was amazing.  In the center there is what looks like a pit, but really the pit would be covered up with sand and such and therefore the pit used to be an underground room.  Really this room was used as a dressing room for the gladiators.  They would hang out there and listen to the crowds and get all nervous and contemplate life and probably say a few prayers to their Roman gods.  I’m really excited about visiting the Archaeological Museum here in Sevilla at some point, because they hold all of the statues and artifacts found at the ampitheater here.  There are some greatly preserved Roman god statues which I’m sure are very pretty.

La Giralda

We returned from Itálica and made our way to the largest gothic cathedral in the world.  This is one of my favorite icons of Sevilla.  It is still used today for Mass, and on Sundays there is a mass every hour.  I have yet to go, but it’s still on my list!  Here are a few great facts about La Giralda:

1) Colombus dies in 1506 and asks to be buried in the New World.  First he was buried in Santa Domingo, but an early 18th century earthquake destroys his resting place.  So they dig him up and move him to Havannah, Cuba.  In the 1870s, they take him back to Sevilla.  In those days, the burial process went as such: they wrapped you in a shroud and placed you in a coffin and let you sit there and disintegrate for about 30 years.  After 30 years, they would unwrap the shroud, push all the bones together and put you in a smaller box.  The box that holds Christopher Colombus’ remains now resides in this Cathedral.    His son is also buried here, in the floor.

2) The Cathedral is literally sinking into the ground.  Archaeologists say that in the next 100 years, it is possible that the sinking foundation will destroy the cieling (and believe me, you dont’ want to lose this cieling).  To make things lighter, right now they are hollowing out all the pillars, which has really lightened the load.

3) The Giralda is Roman on bottom, Arab in the middle, and Christian on top.

Al Kazaar

Next of course, we go to the King’s Palace in Sevilla.  When Royal family comes to visit, this is where they stay.  There are three important parts to this Palace,

1) A room which holds an altar from the 14th/15th century.  This altar was in the church attended by Colombus.  It has a painting of the Virgin of the Mariners, which would explain why he would come to this church and pray for intervention before his voyages.  The cieling in here is incredible.  It’s designed by the Arabs and it’s all intricate woodwork with gold painted onto it.  One thing that really surprises me is that there is no painting of Christopher Colombus when he was alive.  Incredible.  So really we have no idea what he looked like!  Well, maybe that one famous painting comes close, but you never know.

2)  The rooms of Peter the Cruel.  Peter would rule during the 14th century, and he was cruel. He killed all of his family so that they couldn’t contest the throne (except he missed one.  His cousin, who later comes back and takes the throne.  Go figure).  The rooms are decorated by Arabs, who write the Koran in the walls.  If you ever come here, the most important room to see is the Receiving Room.  It’s the one with the incredible cieling and wall to wall preserved Arab decoration.  You can’t miss it.

3) The gardens.  There is a lot to see.

I cannot wait until my Mom gets here.  There is so much more that I learned and I feel like if I have someone else to show it to and explain it to, it will really stick in my mind.  Also, as a sort of fine print note here, all the information I learned and put down here was given to me by the lectures of Dr. Ingliss, who has been the best tour guide alive.  He is definitely a walking encyclopedia, but the other day he said that sugar was a protein, so if something in my blog throws you off, I am more than open to correction from all you history buffs out there.

I am still stuck in my American ghetto, hanging out in groups and speaking more english than I should.  I think everyone, including myself, is a little reluctant to leave the familiar just yet and branch out completely alone.  I am also only one of about 8 people who know how to speak fairly well.  This week my challenge to myself is to go out with Rachel or my tutor and try to make friends with just the two of us, instead of going out with about 5 to 8 people.

I am truly awestruck by communication and the learning of languages.  This is my passion, and I am up to my eyebrows in it right now and I cannot even find the right words to explain how elated I am (ironically enough).  I so take it for granted in my native language.  Common gestures and cue words and laughter, these are things that, once you’re in a foreign land, are all subject to change.  But then you start to accept the transitions, and this is the most beautiful part.  Maybe you haven’t learned them all just yet, but you start recognizing the meanings.  At the ends of questions you can make answers.  You stop smiling awkwardly and you start laughing in all the right places.