Month: September 2010

One month

Today marks the one-month anniversary of my arrival in Seville. I thought now would be a good time to tell you all of the stories that I have wanted to talk about, but haven’t had the time or forgotten or lo que sea…enjoy!

Story number 1: I went on a boat tour of the city one day last week. There’s a river that runs through the middle of the city, and we went on an hour-ish long boat ride that showed me the aquatic view of the landmarks that have become so familiar to me these past 4 weeks. I went with several other students…it was great fun. I love boats so much :D. On that note, one of the girls here, Virginia, lives about 30 minutes away from Berry College, and she lives on a lake and has a boat and jet skies and everything. You know where I’ll be spending my weekends this spring… 🙂

Story 2: Last Thursday I went to Itálica, the oldest Roman colonized city in the world. It was here (so they say) that the great Roman empire began. I got to see the great Colosseum, that used to hold 25,000 people at a time during the gladiator fights; the underground tunnels where the Gladiators lived; the subterranean cages where they kept the animals; the gardens surrounding the city; and the ruins of old Roman houses of the nobility. It was way cool :).

Story 3: Also last week (I told you last week was busy!) I went to see a “corrida de toros” (a bullfight). I’m glad I went – it was definitely an experience. But I will never go again. I don’t think I realized that they killed every bull that competes, nor did I realize the extent of the cruelty that they inflict on it before they kill it :(. Everyone assured me that it was ok, because the bulls lead great lives before they are killed, but I still think it’s wrong. And I don’t even like animals! I can’t imagine what the vegetarians thought, lol. Seville (and I suppose Spain, in general) is a very interesting city. On the one hand, it’s super liberal and progressive – homosexual marriage is legal and normal, most women work outside if the home, and topless or nudist beaches are the norm, not the exception. But it also is full of ancient traditions and antiquated customs, such as the bullfight. It creates a dynamic that’s very interesting to observe…

Story 4: I have also started a job tutoring 3 kids in English. They are 11, 9, and 7, and I go twice a week and help them with their homework for an hour. The problem is that the don’t need 2 hours of help a week, they have a lot of energy, and they’re learning anatomy. I barely know what those things mean in English….forget about Spanish!! So I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for that. I found a game to play with them that they really liked, but I can already tell they’re going to get bored with that really quickly. Another problem is that they’re all at different levels and studying different things, I haven’t figured out yet how to clone myself. Teaching them all at once is proving to be quite challenging :(. But I figure hey, if I can do this, I can do anything! Plus, it’ll look really good on my application for the Fulbright teaching assistantship. If any of you guys have any suggestions for me, however, I am more than open to ideas :).

Oh, here’s another exciting story. Mom probably won’t like it, but I’m still alive, so it’s all good, right? Anyway, I went out with Justo again last night, just to walk around and have a drink; as we were leaving the bar, I got hit by a car! Don’t worry, it barely nicked me – I hardly felt it. But it sounds exciting to say that I got hit by a car, lol ;). I’ve almost gotten hit several times – the streets here are sooo narrow, and the people drive with reckless abandon. But I’ve learned the safer paths to take, and don’t walk with headphone on so I can be more aware of my surroundings. But this time we were in a super narrow alley and a car was coming. I flattened myself against the wall, but his rear-view mirror hit me. It didn’t hurt, just moved his mirror a little bit. Justo laughed at me :(. He does that a lot – I ordered hot tea at the bar (actually I just ordered tea, expecting cold tea, but since I didn’t specify, they gave me hot), and he said that I was weird – in both of our mutual languages. He also speaks French and Italian, and occasionally shows off, much to my chagrin :D. I told my professor today that I went out with my intercambio last night, and the FIRST thing he asked me was if he was cute – which now makes…5 people who have asked me that. I never know how to answer that! If I say no, then it’s an insult, but if I say yes, then it’s assumed that I like him! I can’t win… 🙁

Anyway, I gotta go for now – gotta figure out what the heck I’m going to do with my kids next time I see them! I’ve posted pictures of all of my stories from this update here.

Beginnings and endings

Whew, what a week! I’m super glad it’s over. This has without a doubt been the most hectic few days I’ve had since I’ve been here – hence my long silence on blog updates :). But I think things are finally calming down again, so I should be able to give you more frequent updates and pictures (on that note, it has come to my attention that the link to the pictures in Españoles por fin was broken. I have now fixed that).

Anyway, I suppose first I should update you on my classes, since that is, after all, why I’m here. Last week I had finals (hence part of the reason for the insanity). There are 2 rounds of classes here: one lasts only 3 weeks, and the other lasts until the end of the semester. So last week I finished up my first term. I feel like it went well. My lowest grade up until that point was a 95, and I was the first one done with the test :). I’m sad it only lasted 3 weeks, though…I really liked the teacher. I also got my schedule for my future classes…and it’s INSANE! I hate it :(. But I’m going to talk to the director and try to change some classes around on Monday, so I’ll let you know my final schedule in my next update. I do believe, however, that I will have ALOT more free time, so hopefully you’ll be hearing from me more often (be that in blogs, chat, or skype :]).

So, in other homework news: I opened my next letter from Jon last week. So here are my new assignments: 1) Take a dance class as part of the tour at the Museum of Flamenco Dance, 2) Take your new dance moves and dance in one of the fountains at Alameda de Hercules, 3) Find the ruins beneath the Plaza de Pescanderia, 4) Take a picture of something that makes you extremely happy, and post it on Facebook (check out my picture here. And, before people start teasing me about having a Spanish boyfriend, it´s not him specifically that makes me so happy, but just all of my Spanish friends in general :P. That´s just the only picture I have so far), 5) Sing your siblings a song over Skype webcam, and 6) If your wardrobe allows it, wear Spain’s colors one day. Interesting thing there, although Spain’s colors are red and yellow, yellow is considered bad luck. People rarely wear it, and performers never, EVER wear it. I find it ironic that the national color is considered bad luck… My wardrobe at the moment does not allow it, but I’ll see if I can fix that before I leave :). With less classes and not having to worry about my applications (I finally got them submitted, woohoo!!!!), I should have a lot more time to get my bucket list done. I’m super excited about it, especially since I’ve started meeting people that I would want to share my experiences with.

On that note, I went out Saturday night with Sarah and some intercambios, Miguel and Eligio. I had sooo much fun. Also, I’m such a nerd :D. We did go out late, which is normal in Spain…but what we did was not normal. We went to an arcade room that’s in the big mall in Seville (Nervion Plaza), and played arcade games all night. May I just say that I dominated at air hockey :D. Afterwards, we went to a bar that was owned by a friend of theirs, and bought drinks and just sat around and talked. I got a tea that’s very similar to a peach tea from Costa Rica, so I was happy. We talked about anything and everything, and laughed at each other’s language mistakes, and in general just had a grand time. I didn’t get back to the house until after 2:00, however, which made the next day rather hard to stay awake. There’s a reason I don’t stay out that late on school nights…the next day I’m totally shot :).
But anyway, let me tell you about the next day!! Sarah had told me about an evangelical church she went to last week when I went on the hiking trip, and so this morning I went with her to church. It was amazingggggg. (although I don’t ever want to hear you guys complaining that your hour and a half long services ran long…this church meets from 11:30 – 2:30 :P) The worship was awesome, and the sermon excellent (especially since I understood all of it! Yes, it’s all in Spanish), and I got to meet some awesome people, too. I’m pretty psyched about going back. They’re starting a Bible study on Thursday nights that I want to get involved in…right now I have a class at the same time, but hopefully I’ll be able to change it.

So after church I came home and ate lunch with my family, and then promptly passed out. I felt better after a nap, which is good, cuz I went out again with the same group from last night. We walked around the city for a while – didn’t really do anything, but it was fun, nevertheless. I’m so excited about Jon’s bucket list, though – I plan on showing these natives Sevillanos their city. Many of the things he’s having me do, they have never done before. So we’ll get to experience them together. I suppose it’s the same way in the USA – if you grow up around something, you’re less likely to appreciate its uniqueness. The people least likely to have been to the Grand Canyon always seem to be the ones that live within a hour of it :).

Oh also, I forgot to mention that on Saturday I went to Aracena to see “Las Grutas Maravillosas” (the amazing caves). They truly were amazing. They didn’t let us take any pictures, which was quite tragic, but at least I have the memory of them. I love caves :D. Aracena is famous for it’s “jamón ibérica”, so I also went to a pig museum while there (yes, it really does exist), and tried some of the famous ham. It was good, but very very salty – the way they make it is smother it in salt and leave it to air-cure. Check out pictures here. After the museum, I went up to the top of the mountain to see the castle and church that was nestled in the top (which, of course, involved more climbing. If I don’t come back completely cured of my fear of heights, it certainly won’t be for lack of trying :]).
So this weekend was quite excellent, overall. Probably the best I’ve had since I’ve been here. An ironically fitting ending to what was definitely the worst week so far. But everything has it’s season, and I’m quite glad that the season of stress was short.

Blessings and curses

I forget sometimes how much influence we have on the people around us. Even little things, like a chocolate bar or a hug or a coke, can have a major impact on the people in our lives. Yesterday (Monday) I had a truly horrible day. It was without a doubt the worst day I’ve had since I’ve been here. Since I plan on going back and reading these blogs, and I do not want to remember the bad parts, I will not go into detail about why it was so bad…but suffice it to say that nearly everything that could have gone wrong, did. Well, I will say that my back has been absolutely killingggggg me lately…prayers for that would be appreciated. But anyway, during classes in the morning, several people saw me near tears and spontaneously came up and gave me a hug. One girl received a care package from her family that day, and gave me a cookie from the box.

(on that note, if any of you want to send me anything…**hint, hint**…my address in Spain is: Lauren Fenner; CC-CS; Calle Harinas, 16-18; 41001 – Sevilla, Spain. Letters will get here no problem, as long as you specify “airmail” on the envelope. Packages, too, shouldn’t have any problems if you send them through the USPS and describe the items being shipped as “used” with a total value of $0. :])

Anyway, back to my story….in the afternoon, my friend Sarah (Sarah S.) gave me a milk chocolate candy bar. She had noticed that that was the kind I had bought in Portugal, so she knew that I liked it, and she went and bought it and gave it to me to make me feel better. It absolutely made my day. I am sure she had no idea what a big difference such a little gesture made for me.

Another example: I went out tonight (Tuesday) with Justo, one of the intercambios that I met on Sunday. He’s technically not my intercambio, but I met mine today and it was really awkward :(. I like talking to him more :). So anyway, I had mentioned to him that I had had a bad day yesterday, and so he asked me if I wanted to go out for a little bit tonight. He lives really close to me, about 10 minutes away. We were only out for about an hour, but that hour made all the difference. He took me to an outdoor bar in the park that I walk by every day. I had been wanting to go there for a while – they have couches and lounging areas and everything set up outside, and you can sit under the stars while you drink your pineapple soft drink or coke or rum or whatever it is you want. We talked about nothing of importance, but that wasn’t the point. He was just trying to take my mind off of my problems. And he did. We talked in Spanglish, and laughed at each other’s mistakes, and had an overall great time. I did, at least :D. The simple act of giving me an hour of his time meant the world to me.

Then later, I was talking to another Sarah (Sarah L.), and she mentioned that one of my blogs had basically helped her decide on a major and career after graduation. Apparently, she took the words of Ecclesiastes and my thoughts on it (basically, that God’s will is that we do what we love – see “What’s your heart’s desire?”), to heart. So I thought that was really cool…but at the same time, it’s kind of overwhelming, isn’t it? Just think of how many people you’ve influenced when, like Sarah S., you probably didn’t even know it! How many peoples’ futures do you think your offhanded comments have helped decide, like Sarah L.? It is so true that out of the mouth comes either blessings or curses; there’s really no in-between. So here’s some food for thought…have you been blessing or cursing people today?

Españoles por fin!

These past few days have been rather exciting. On Thursday, I went back to La Catedral. But this time, I looked all around it, and even went up to the very top!! The view from the top (it’s 500 meters tall) is incredibleeeeee…check out pictures here(I had to start a new album :])! Thursday night I was supposed to (finally!) meet my intercambio. But she totally flaked on me and didn’t show up. She didn’t call, or send me a message, or anything. If I had had her number, I would have called her, but she never gave it to me :(. So that was disappointing. But as I was leaving, I stopped into Yogurtlandia. It’s a frozen yogurt place right next to the Center that’s reallyyyy good…I think I’ve just discovered my Achille’s heel ;).

Friday night I went to a Flamenco exhibition with my friend, Alice, in a little place called Casa de la Memoria. She’s been taking flamenco classes in the states for 7 years, and heard about this place from her teacher here in Seville. It…was…incredible!! There was a guitarist, a singer, and a female and male dancer – all in the flamenco style. I had to remind myself a few times to breathe. I wish I had a video of their performance, but they told us quite emphatically – and in 4 languages, so we would have no excuses – that video was strictly prohibited. So I’ll have to be content with my memory, and a few pictures that I took.

After the dance, Alice and I met up with another friend, Allyx, to go eat tapas (appetizers, basically). Our waiter was the best waiter I’ve ever had. He was funny, engaging, and attentive – but not suffocating. I have decided that I’m going to eat there again just so I can have him as a waiter :D. On the way back, we saw El Festival de las Naciones (Fesitval of the Nations) going on in a park near where I live, so we headed in to check it out. It was pretty cool. It has stores, food, and performances from countries all over the world. I bought a dress and a cool wrap-around skirt. I’m sure you’ll see a picture of me in it sooner or later… 🙂

Saturday I spent all day in Córdoba. We visited holy places from 3 major religions – Alcázar de los reyes cristianos (Christian), Una sinagoga (Jewish), and La Mezquita (Muslim). La mezquita was actually really cool. It had been a muslim temple, and then was partially converted into a Christian church. So there are some places where you can see both architectural styles right next to each other. I’ve got pictures of all three places in my photo album that I gave you the link to earlier in this blog.

Sunday was AMAZING. I went on a “senderismo” (a hike) with a bunch of the students AND intercambios. My intercambio didn’t come (of course), but there were several intercambios who came who’s students did not, so I hung out with them all day. At last, I have met some Spaniards!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 We walked around as a group for a while, and then split off into sub-groups. I went with my three new Spanish friends, Justo, Pablo, and Rafael, as well as a few other American students. We climbed up a mountain to see the ruins of an old castle that was on top of the mountain. Some people took the path up…I actually climbed up. As in, rock climbing. I was so scared (I’m not a fan of heights), but it was sooo fun. I’ve got a picture in my album of what I climbed.

After the castle, we climbed all the way down the mountain to the lake that was nestled in the valley. There was an island a good ways out from the shore that several people decided to swim to. I didn’t have my swim suit, but I decided to do it anyway. On the island there was a rock about 15 feet above the water that we all jumped from (my fear of heights got a good licking today, lol :]). By the time I swam back, I was soooo tired – hours of walking, an hour of climbing, and lots of swimming, while also battling my fear of heights all day, had done me in. But oh my, it was so worth it! What a day!!! Not only did I have a blast, and POR FIN (finally!!) meet some Spaniards, but I also got to talk to my family when I got back. The internet connection was a lot better than it was the last time we talked, so this time we actually got to talk. And I exchanged numbers with Justo, Pablo, and Rafael, and we’re going to go out this week. I’m super duper excited.

I sat next to Justo on the way back. We talked almost the entire hour and a half drive – mostly in Spanish. He corrected my Spanish several times. At first he was apologetic, but I told him I prefer it that way – I won’t improve unless I am corrected. I was never able to get my friends in Costa Rica to correct me. He said that, if my Spanish was really bad, he would not bother to correct me, but it’s already good, and he wants me to be able to speak perfectly. My Señora said a similar thing. I was rather pleased with that :).

Oh, and as if that wasn’t cool enough, I have icing for the cake! My friend Sarah found an evangelical church that she went to this morning instead of going hiking. She told me afterwards that it was really cool, and there are lots of awesome people there. It’s really close to where I live, and I’m going to go with her next weekend. I can’t wait :D. Also, they’re starting a Bible study on Thursdays that I’m planning on getting involved with. On that note, many, many thanks to everyone who commented on my last blog post. Mom, dad, Jon, Philip, and Grandma and Grandpa Pool, thank you all for your uplifting words! They helped me more than you know. I’m doing much, much better now. I debated posting that last blog, cuz it’s kinda personal…but I’m really glad I did. But anyway, it’s off to bed for me now…tomorrow school begins anew. Oh, and this week is finals week for the intensive period. Yuck :(.

A different kind of culture shock

Well, I haven´t really had to deal with culture shock. I get the feeling that I really won’t deal with it – I seem to have adjusted to the Spanish life fairly seamlessly. I am, however, experiencing a different kind of culture shock – one that relates not to the Spaniards, but to the Americans that I work with every day. The vast majority of the students here are super liberal, and I have already had several conversations with a few of them over our differences in belief. I’m finding it very challenging. This has definitely been a very stretching experience for me.

For one, I don’t want to compromise my beliefs, but neither do I want to be considered a stick in the mud or a rigid, unyielding person. How do I relate to them and be their friend when I don’t drink, and they want to go out and get drunk and paint the town until ungodly hours of the night? I had a conversation with one of the students in which he basically told me that, after the first night that I wouldn’t drink and left the bar we were at earlier than the rest of them, he realized that he wouldn’t get to hang out with me as much, because he’s not going to feel comfortable drinking if I’m around. That killed me. How do I stay friendly and open, while still keeping my convictions? He said that I seemed to be less open to trying new things…which I suppose I am; that’s what I would call my convictions. I don’t see anything wrong with convictions. But how do I make my beliefs known without turning people off from me? But I don’t want to water down my beliefs, either…where is that line?? I’m finding it difficult to find, indeed. My brother said that, if they can´t accept me for who I am, I should just not hang out with them. I suppose that´s true…but I guess I´m too nice, lol :).

I’ve had several conversations of similar depth. One was tonight, actually. I went to meet my intercambio at the school. She never showed up (which bothered me a lot, but that’s beside the point), so I hung out for a few hours with 2 students from my class, instead. We started talking about Evolution and Creationism. He was raised religious, and says that he still is, but he believes that God originated the Big Bang – kind of a combination of Evolutionism and Creationism. When I told them I didn’t believe in macroevolution I got such looks of incredulity. It was so frustrating because they kept asking me why I didn’t, when there is (in their opinion) such strong evidence for it. There was a time when I knew my reasonings for such things perfectly well, because I had studied it – both sides of the argument. But that was a long time ago, and honestly, I’ve forgotten a lot of it. And I could quote the Bible inside and out, but most people want “unbiased” proof. How can I explain my faith in a way that makes sense to people who don’t believe the same way as I when I can’t quote the cornerstone of my faith?

Another time, I was asked by a catholic-turned-atheist how I know that my religion is right. He acquiesced that I may feel I have a personal connection with God; but then, he argued, so do Mormons, and Muslims, and Jews. How do I know that my “connection” is the real one? That’s something I’ve struggled with for a while, and I told him as much. I did not know how to answer that.

I don’t really know what I’m saying; I’m probably just rambling again. But this has been a very frustrating time for me. The whole “be in the world, but not of it” deal is proving harder to do than it sounds. If you have any suggestions for me, please tell me them. Also, prayers are always appreciated; prayers for whatever you feel inclined to pray for, but also specifically that I will not neglect my time with the Lord while I’m here. It’s easy to get distracted :).

23 hours!!!!

I have been slack in my homework for Jon. I now have 2 weeks’ worth of exploring to do. The second week’s assignments were: 1) Go feed the pigeons in la Plaza de America; 2) Go to Encarnación food market and buy something colorful to cook for dinner; and 3) Catch a movie at the historic Cine Cervantes with a newly aquired friend. I scouted out the Plaza, and found the hours of the food market, and looked up the shows playing at Cine Cervantes (as well as found a newly acquired friend to go with me), but I haven’t been able to actually do any of them yet.

I had to open week number 3 today (Wednesday). I do believe that Jon thinks I’m superwoman or something – he gave me 3 sets of challenges to do, and they’re all longer than the lists last week!!! One list, however, is for Madrid, and one is for Dublin, neither of which I think I’m going to make it to, so I think I can manage 1 extra long list :). So, this week’s assignments are: 1) Go to the market in Plaza del Museo and look at all the beautiful artwork; 2) Take a bus to Italica, right outside of Seville. Make sure to visit the Museum of Archaeology or the Palacio de Lebrija; 3) get some ice cream at Rayas; 4) Work a line about the Spanish Inquisition into a conversation with a random person; 5) Convince a couple of friends to do the Macarena with you in a public area; and 6) Draw a picture on a napkin for your waiter at a restaurant you happen to visit.

I’m rather proud of myself about this week. I’m planning on going to Italica next week, and I’ve already been to the Palace of Lebrija (it’s actually in Seville, not Italica). I had to discuss the Spanish Inquisition in class this week, and I convinced some of my friends from flamenco class to practice in the streets on the way home. I say that a couple of gawky Americans trying to dance flamenco is a fair substitute for the Macarena :). So all I’m missing is ice cream and the Plaza del Museo…

Speaking of cool things to do, what about this palace that I mentioned!! El Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija is a 16th century palace-house that sits in the center of Seville. The woman who owned it was a passionate lover of Roman art, and also fabulously wealthy. She financed dozens of archeological digs to look for ancient artifacts – Roman, Greek, Arab, Persian, you name it – and put the results of those digs into her house. Even the floors are made of original tiles and mosaics from those time periods! So yesterday (Tuesday), I got to go on a tour of here house with a few of the other students. It was wicked cool. Check out the pictures here (they´re at the end of the album).

The reason why I haven’t been able to go exploring like Jon would want me to is that I’m in the middle of the “intensive period” at school. We all have at least 2 classes; I have 3, because I’m also taking the flamenco class. One class meets every day for 4 hours a day, with daily homework, weekly tests, and more than weekly writing assignments. The other 2 classes add an additional 3 hours of classes a week, and 1 class (Cultural Realities of Spain) also has a weekly journal, writing assignments, and news articles that we have to find a comment on in class for homework. Geez, I just realized that I have 23 hours of class a week!! I guess I hadn’t really thought about it before now….no wonder I’m so tired! On top of all of that, I have applications to 3 different graduate programs due by the end of the month that I’ve been trying to finish. So, needless to say, I’ve been staying pretty busy. But anyway, I said all that just to mention that I got several grades back today – my first test, my first writing assignment, my participation grade for the first have of the grammar class, and my first week’s diary from my Culture class. I was quite excited that I had gotten an A in all of them! I got a 92 on the diary, a 93 on the writing assignment, and a 95 on the test and participation grade! My teacher wrote as a sidenote when she gave me my participation grade, “I’m delighted with your work in class. You are a serious and responsible student, and that is reflected in your work. Excellent participation.” It’s nice to see my hard work pay off :). My grammar teacher also gave me a point back because she had marked off a word that she shouldn’t have. Apparently it’s a real word, she just didn’t know it…as my dad would say, I read too much. My vocabulary’s going to get me in trouble one of these days :D. But anyway, I only have 1 more week of the intensive period, and then I’ll settle into my schedule for the rest of the semester. I’ll have more classes then, but they will be much shorter than the one I’m taking now, so hopefully I’ll have more time. Plus, I won’t have classes most Fridays. I’m excited about that.

Apparently I am doing a good job fitting in here – it must be the fancy Spanish sandals I bought last week :). I have been asked 3 times in the past week for directions – all in Spanish. The first time I couldn’t help, because I had no idea where I was…the second time he just wanted to know where the Park of Maris Luisa was (thanks, Jon!)…and the third time I was actually able to give pretty detailed directions! I was doubly excited about that – it showed that both my Spanish and my knowledge of the city is improving.

Well, I get the feeling that this blog is quite random and stream-of-conscious (although I am too tired to actually read it over and confirm this suspicion). It’s been a super long day – I was at school for 12 hours straight – and I need some sleep now. Sooooo…..goodnight! Or good morning, or good afternoon, depending on when I post this and/or when you get around to reading it…. 🙂

Personas, playas, y Portugal

Whew!! What a week!! It actually hasn’t even been a week since I’ve written, but it feels like it’s been ages. A ton has happened, but I will try to fill you in on as much as I can remember.

Thursday night we had a party with our “intercambios” – native Spaniards whom we are paired with when we get here who are learning English. We’re supposed to hang out and help each other with our respective languages. So most of the Americans went, and many of the Spaniards, as well. Mine did not go, but I went anyway, because I really want to meet some Spaniards. I met 2, called Javi and Manuel, that were really cool. I’m really hoping to make some good Spaniard friends while I’m here. I haven’t really clicked with most of the students (although I have with a few of them), and anyway, no offense to the Americans here, but if I’m spending a third of a year of my life in Spain, I want to hang out with Spaniards, darn it!! 🙂

Friday I got lost (semi-intentionally). I just started walking, looking for a good place for lunch. I finally found one, and had a “tapa” (a Spanish appetizer) of meatballs in some sort of sauce while I watched people rush by. I honestly had no idea where I was, but I had my handy-dandy map of Seville, so I wasn’t worried. That map has pretty much all of the streets in the city on it, and I’m good at reading maps, so I haven’t gotten lost yet, much to the surprise of my host parents. They were very worried about me getting lost when I first got here. They actually sat me down and drew the exact route to the school that I should take my first day here. Now they seem to understand that I’m probably going to be fine :). Speaking of my host parents, though….have I mentioned that they’re AWESOME??!!?? I had an assignment on Friday for class on Monday in which I had to rewrite a fairy tale in a modern-day context, set in Seville – all in Spanish, of course. I mentioned that assignment to them at lunch on Friday, and they spent the rest of the meal brainstorming what sorts of stories I could do, and how I could change the story to fit the assignment. I finally settled on Cinderella – her evil stepmother is now a business partner of her father’s, her fairy godmother is a random woman she meets in church, she wants to go to the parties of “Semana Santa” (Holy Week), and her handsome prince is now a store clerk. Oh, and then today, after I got home from dance class, my mom asked me how it went, and I told her that we had learned an entire section of the dance…and she started flamenco dancing right there in the kitchen!!! I love them, they’re super awesome 🙂 🙂 🙂

I went shopping on Friday with Sarah and Silvia. I got some “Spanish” sandals. My plastic Old Navy flip flops were killing me, and I also stood out like a sore thumb, lol. So now I look like a legit Spaniard… 😀 That night a student who lives across the street from me, Zack, asked me if I wanted to go out for a walk, cuz he was bored. It was already like 10:30, but I told him I’m go for a little bit. We ended up running into some other students, Agustine and Matt, and went out for a drink. I tried some alcohol, but didn’t like it (which didn’t surprise me – I’ve never liked the taste of any alcohol I’ve ever tried), and then I just sat and talked with them for a while. Finally I had to leave, cuz I was super super tired. On the way back, though, I was able to get a picture of the city from the top of a building…it was beautiful. I’ve now officially completed my first week’s assignment from Jon :).

Saturday I went…..to Portugal!!!! It’s so bizarre to me to think that I can just hop on a bus and be in another country within a few hours’ time – without even having to pass customs. So anyway, we went the first day to a big beach in Algarve. It was actually an island that we went to – we had to take a boat to get to the beach. That was pretty sweet. That was just a normal day at the beach. I went swimming some (the current was crazy strong! It was a red flag day, which basically means you can swim, only if you accept that the lifeguards are not responsible for your death), walked around a lot, played some volleyball and soccer on the beach (have you ever tried running and kicking a soccer ball in sand?? It’s way hard), and read and talked with friends. The majority of the students here drink and party a lot. As that is definitely not my scene, I have not really found very many people with whom I want to spend a lot of time with. But this weekend I found several other students who would prefer to do some similar things as I, as opposed to drinking. So that was encouraging.

After the beach, we went to the hotel and cleaned up. Then we hopped back in the bus and went to the end of the world!! Did you know such a place existed? It does!! It’s a series of enormous cliffs that Europeans believed was the end of the world before Columbus discovered the Americas. And it truly looks like the end of the world. The cliffs drop hundreds of feet into the water below, and there is nothing beyond them except ocean for as far as the eye can see. It was sooo cool.

After we got back from the cliffs, everyone went out. Most people went bar hopping, but myself and five others – Sarah, Alice, Allyx, Virginia, and Greg – went to an Italian restaurant, instead. It started out as just Sarah and I, and then our group grew as word spread on the bus that we were forming an alternative group that wasn’t planning on getting plastered. So we walked around, saw some really cool outdoor bands playing, and then ate yummy Italian food (I was craving pizza :]). I struck up a conversation with our waiter – he spoke 7 languages!!! I was thoroughly impressed. We got back by 1:30 (which, I found out later, was a good 4 hours before the rest of the group returned), I showed Sarah a few of my favorite dance videos (cuz I’m a nerd :D), and then we went to sleep. It was a lovely evening.

The next day me pasó la bomba! (which basically means it was a blast.) After breakfast, we checked out and headed to another beach that was literally in the hotel’s backyard. I got there a little later than the rest of the group, though – I found a ping-pong table in the hotel, and challenged Agustine to a match. I beat him all 4 games, but I still think he was going easy on me…regardless, it was fun. I hadn’t played in ages; I missed it :). The beach was surrounded by gigantic caves and rock formations. You can check out pictures of them here. When Agustine and I got to the beach, Virgina told us about this awesome cave we could explore. You had to climb over a rather precarious wall of rock to get to it, but we managed just fine. So Agu and I went in there to explore, too. It…was…incredible. I feel like I’m running out of positive adjectives that fully express the amount of emotion I’m trying to convey :). (oh, by the way, apparently I’m “obsessed with the smileys in a drug-addict sort of way”. Someone told me that today…it made me giggle :]). There is normally boats that can take you on tours through the caves, but the waves were too strong this time. But it’s ok, cuz I still got to explore them on my own.

So after our tiempo de exploración, we went back and played volleyball and swam and just chilled until it was time to go. I was very grateful that night for being a good student. Everyone else was moaning about how tired they were, and how much homework they still had to do for the next day, but I had already done all of mine on Friday. I was the only one with any energy in class on Monday, lol…

So anyway, Portugal was awesome. I almost didn’t go, cuz it was expensive, but I’m really glad I did. Oh, and speaking of foreign countries, today I bought a ticket to Paris in November. It’s official, I’m going to France!!!! I also convinced 2 other friends, Allyx and Silvia, to go with me. It’s gonna be a blast. I also signed up for a 4-day trip to Moroccos in December, right before we leave. That’s gonna be insane…. So I have 1 more 4 day weekend to fill up…where should I go???? 🙂

Pensamientos de Sevilla

The title of this blog is “Thoughts on Seville”, for all of my non-Spanish friends who don’t care to learn la lengua más bella del mundo (the prettiest language in the world). This is just a random list of things that I have noticed during the 6 days that I’ve been here.

First of all, time passes sooo slowly!! Just now, when I wrote that I’ve been here for 6 days, I could hardly believe it!! It feels like I’ve been here for weeks. I keep chiding myself that I need to update my blog, because it’s been way too long since I’ve written….but I guess in reality it’s only been a few days at most. I know I probably shouldn’t do this, but I keep comparing this experience to Costa Rica. I remember that there, too, time passed slowly, but it was because I was counting the minutes until I could go to bed. Seriously, the first few weeks in Costa Rica were miserable (don’t feel bad for me…I grew to love it in the end :] ). But here in Seville, I go to bed and wonder how in the world the day can be over, when it seems like it has just started!! So I guess that means time also passes super quickly….hmmm, this is a quandrary that I’m going to have to ponder for a while 🙂

Second, Spanish really is quite a lovely language. I love its rhythm, its cadence, its energy, its accentuation…I had forgotten how much I truly love being immersed in a Spanish-speaking country. I would like it better if I understood everything, but I’m working on that, little by little, poco a poco. I learned a super awesome word today: tiquismiquis. Look it up, it’s a real word. Now say it 5 times in a row….is that not soooo much fun to say 🙂 ??? It means “picky”. The different verb tenses, however, are really messing me up. In Spanish, there are 2 forms of “you”: tu, and usted. In Costa Rica they use usted everywhere, with everyone, all the time. So I got used to using usted. Well here, they almost never use usted; they say tu, or some other strange conjugation of the verb. So it´s been a bit of a challenge to change my way of speaking. My Señora chided me the other day. She said, “Lorena, here in Spain we only use usted with strangers or old people. You and I aren´t strangers, and I´m not old, so you need to use tu with me.” She understood why I don´t use tu after I told her I had lived in Costa Rica, but I am trying super hard to change my habits. Apparently, however, the desire to not be called old is worldwide, regardless of culture :).

Third, the streets are really weird. For one, there are no street signs. If you’re lucky, the name will be somewhere high on a building, and hopefully you’ll be able to figure out which particular street the words on the building are supposed to be pointing to. It seems that the entire city simply relies on an internal map they have of the city, rather than rely on the street signs. The streets are also beautiful, though. They are narrow and windy and made of old cobblestone, which would be a nightmare if I had to drive; but since I don’t, it makes the entire city rather enchanting and romantic.

Fourth, the walking signs chirp. You know the little signs that cities have on the other side of the street to tell pedestrians if they can cross the street or not? Yeah, they chirp in Seville. The first few times I went walking, I thought it was just a bunch of weird car alarms. Oh well, I thought, all of the car brands here look weird (except Volkswagon, lol), so why shouldn’t their car alarms sound weird? I finally figured out that the signs make loud beeping noises when you can cross the street. I still haven’t figured out exactly WHY they do that…still working on that. Oh, and also, the signs have little lighted people instead of ‘stop’ and ‘go’ lights, and when you only have a few seconds left to cross the little man starts running. I don’t know why, but for some reason I really like that :).

Fifth, speaking of walking, I’m going to have freaking legs of steel when I get back!! My house is about a mile from the school…I walk to school and back every day, sometimes twice. Today I walked for about 3 hours, and then biked around the city for an hour. Biking isn’t as hard on your legs as walking, but when you have to navigate twisty streets and cobblestone roads, it’s still quite a challenge.

Sixth, I’m miss my mother’s cooking. I was super excited about the food in Spain before coming here. And granted, I’ve had some wonderful meals. But my Señora really likes tomatoes and soup, neither of which I’m a huge fan of. I believe I’ve had tomatoes in some form or fashion every meal I’ve eaten here. I’ve had gazpacho (cold tomato soup) 4 times already. I hate gazpacho. I’ve also had several other types of soup. Granted, it’s super healthy – I’m going to lose lots of weight – but it’s not exactly the type of food I would eat if I had a choice. Oh well, I’m sure I will get accustomed to it soon… 🙂

Last, but most certainly not least, is this: I am so incredibly blessed. Even now, just writing about it, I’m tearing up a little bit. Who am I that I should be living for an entire 4 months in Seville?? Who am I to be blessed with such a wonderfully loving host family? Who am I to have already found friends here who enjoy similar things as I, and whose company I enjoy immensely? Who am I to have such wonderful friends and family back in the States, who dedicate their time and attention to this random, oftentimes wandering blog to keep up with what I’m doing? I suppose I already knew that I was blessed….but it’s amazing, is it not, how the important things in our lives can crystallize and the irrelevant dissolve when we are living in a foreign environment? A friend from back home, Sarah, gave me the following quote before I left: “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” I think that’s true of introspection, as well; it is for me, at least. Sometimes – oftentimes, in fact – it takes a dramatic change (such as moving to Seville) for me to realize again just how blessed I am. I tend to forget and ignore it in my normal, day to day life. But, speaking of introspection, that’s enough of that for now. It’s off to bed for me :).

The first few days

Well, Sunday I went to Mass and explored, as planned. My Señora told me that there were services in “La Catedral”, the huge old cathedral that I pass on my way to school every day, so I went there. It turns out that La Catedral does NOT have services; it’s more of a tourist attraction. So I took lots of pictures – it’s absolutely incredible – and went exploring. I’ll try to catch a service again next week. It makes it a little more difficult to do when the people I live with haven’t been to a church service in years – they can’t tell me what time the services start.

Anyway, after I left the church I stopped at a cafecita (a little café) to buy a drink and use the internet a little bit. I heard some girls next to me speaking English, so after I finished what I was doing I walked over and introduced myself to them. We talked for quite a while – they were really sweet. They’re also American students studying abroad, but they’re studying at the University of Seville, instead of CC-CS, like I am. Only one of them, Grace, had a phone, but I got her number, and I’m sure we’re going to hang out again soon.

After I left there, I went walking for a while. I found the park that Jon sent me to – apparently it’s one of the biggest in the city. But as soon as I got there, my camera died, so I couldn’t get photographic evidence. I was rather sad about that :(. But it’s pretty close to my house, so I’ll just go back again later :). It’s quite a lovely park – it has old buildings, and running trails, and little cafes, and fountains, and everything. Of course, almost everything in Sevilla is “quite lovely”, lol….

Monday, the first day of classes, was a whirlwind of activity. I wasn’t really organized yet, and the whole day seemed to pass in a blur. I currently only have 3 classes – advanced Spanish grammar, Spanish culture, and Flamenco dancing. My schedule will change after September. Dance is 2 days a week, and culture is only 1 day; but grammar is 5 days a week for 4 hours. My head is drowning in grammar :(. Anyway, Monday I had grammar and dance. I have decided that I did not, in the past, give flamenco dancers enough credit. I always thought that what they did seemed pretty easy. Trust me, it is not. But the teacher is super sweet, and I think I’m going to really enjoy the class. West Coast Swing would be better but hey, I’ll take what I can get :).

We went on a bus tour of the city Monday night. I sat next to a really sweet girl named Sarah on the bus. She lives near me, and we’re going to be roommates on the group trip to Portugal this weekend. I really like her :). After the tour ended, myself and two other students, Nick and Sylvia, went to a big plaza and bought ice cream. I had dulce de leche, yummmm :D.

Although it’s bustling and alive with activity, Seville is really quite a small city. The bus tour gave me ganas (the closest translation to that would be it gave me an incentive, I guess) to explore the city on my own. The next day I did just that. I only have grammar on Tuesday, so I met up with 3 other students after class (Nick, Tom, and Silvia) to go explore. The four of us went to a bookstore to get some textbooks we needed, and then went window-shopping, and bought drinks in a little hole-in-the-wall store, and overall just enjoyed each other’s company. And then I figured out the bikes and went home. They have quite an integrated bicycle system here. There are bike stations scattered all over the city; you pay a small hourly sum, and can take any bike of your choosing and ride it anywhere you want; you just have to make sure that you get it back to a station. I’ve wanted to try it since I got here, so today…I did! It was quite easy; I’m definitely going to use it more often. It was a ton of fun, but now I can’t move – we walked for a good 3 hours, and then I biked for another hour. Tomorrow’s going to be rough, lol. And I just remembered that I have dance tomorrow!! Ohhhh noooo……

Make the most of every opportunity :)

It’s been rather anticlimactic being here so far. Here I am in probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to in my entire life, doing something I’ve wanted to do for my entire life…but there’s something missing. Maybe it’s because I’ve been hanging out with American students all the time so far. Today (Saturday) we went to an old monastery dedicated to Christopher Columbus, and then a museum of sorts, with replicas of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, as well as a small replica of what a typical village that he conquered might have looked like. Check back here tomorrow and I’ll have a link for pictures. Afterwards we went to the beach for a few hours. That was fun, although I’m not a huge fan of beaches. But I was very careful and put sunscreen on not once, but twice! Mom and Lindsey and Rachel and all of the other people who work so hard to make me take care of myself would have been proud :). I also had a very interesting conversation with one of the students, Augustine. He’s an ex-catholic who is now an avowed atheist. We had quite a stimulating conversation about God, religion, evolution, science, and quite a few other things.

So anyway, like I said, today was fun, but something was missing. I think I’m missing the challenge of talking in Spanish. As much as I dreaded it, I also rather looked forward to it. That is, after all, one of the major reasons why I’m here in the first place. Classes start on Monday. We’ll get the results of our placement test back, finally get our finalized schedule, and also sign a Spanish-only contract. This contract says that students will only speak Spanish when on any CC-CS event, including classes and optional leisure activities, with both professors and students alike. I’m looking forward to that. So far, Spain has just felt like a vacation with a bunch of people I don’t know. A very lovely vacation with lots of wonderful sights and foods, but simply a vacation nonetheless.

Yep, it’s definitely the Spanish that I’m missing. My host mom, Sarah, just got back. She and her husband, Pedro, had gone to Ikea because they were bored. Anyway, we had a nice conversation in Spanish about our respective trips. It was lovely. It’s taking me a lot less time to get used to living with a Spanish family than it did in Costa Rica. Of course that could be because my parents are freaking AWESOME. They’re really, really nice, muy simpaticos (I’ll probably start throwing in Spanish words every now and then, so y’all will have to be on your toes :]).

Anyway, that’s enough for now. Since you can’t read these as I type them one at a time, I don’t want to overload you with too much Seville all at once. Besides, it’s almost dinnertime (it’s 9:30…they eat so late here!!!), and then I’m off to bed. A bunch of the students are going out at 11, but I’m an old fart and would rather sleep, lol. Tomorrow I’m going to do some exploring. I need to find an internet café, and I want to visit Jon’s park, plus I think I may also find a lead on a good place to get a panoramic view of the city :). I’m also going to try to go to mass (everyone’s Catholic here), and start planning my Eurpor-jetting adventures! We have several 4-day weekends, and I want to make sure I don’t let them slip by me! I think I’m going to Morocco on one of them, but I really also want to make it to Paris and Venice. Some of the students and I were talking today about renting a car and driving around Spain and Southern France or Northern Italy on some of our 3-day weekends. With 4 or 5 of us splitting the bill, it’d be really cheap; plus, I’m one of the only students who can drive stick-shift, so that pretty much automatically guarantees me a spot :). Regardless of all of the tears, thank you, Dad, for teaching me how to drive a manual! I appreciate it bastante!! 😀 OK, me voy, hasta pronto! Sending my love to all,

~Lauren