Category: Spanish friends

A little bit of everything

I have gotten to the point where everything is a last – last Wednesday, last day of classes, last church service, last time to go dancing, last party…I’m excited to go home, but it’s bittersweet at the same time. I’m making the most of it, though…the last thing I want to remember of Seville is regrets for not enjoying it as much as I could have. Wednesday was excellent. I got to Skype with my family (it was Josh’s 12th birthday – I sang happy birthday to him in both Spanish and English), and then I hung out with Justo for the afternoon. It was rather bittersweet, because it was the last time that we are going to see each other, but we made the most of it. That night, he and I went and had dinner with some people from church. That was a blast…although after Justo left (he had to leave early), they teased me MERCILESSLY about having a Spanish boyfriend. They had the wedding planned and everything, right down to the date and location! :/ But they’re good-natured people, and I still had a lot of fun. I can say happily that my last Wednesday in Sevilla was a good one.

My last Thursday, as well, was well spent. I had my last day of classes in the morning and then went home to study some. In the afternoon, though, I went to see Los Seises in the Cathedral of Sevilla. Los Seises is just about as Sevillana as it gets. It is a traditional dance dating back from the 16th century, and can only be found in Sevilla. Originally it was 6 boys (from which comes the name of the dance) who would dance at the high altar in the Cathedral every day for 8 days after the Día de la Concepción Inmaculada; now the number stands at 10, and has been that number for quite a while. Interesting tidbit of history: in 1685 the dance was forbidden by the Catholic Church; this caused such an uproar that 17 years later the people of Seville finally were able to have it re-approved, on one condition: the dance could continue as long as the boys´ clothes did not wear out. So of course, their clothes have never worn out – they have been mended and repaired numerous times over the centuries, but never all at once. Interesting way to get around the system, don´t you think? 🙂 After the ceremony I walked around Sevilla for a while. They had put up all the Christmas decorations while I was in Morocco, and it was lovely to see all of the lights and trees and wreaths and everything. I’m so psyched about Christmas!!!

Friday morning I had my first final and finished all of my Christmas shopping (woohoo!!!). I went early to Nadine’s house in the evening to help her get ready for a Christmas party she was hosting. I helped her clean the house, and cut veggies, and bake pies, and make cheese and meat trays, and all sorts of other Christmasy things. It was so much fun…I can not WAIT for Christmas!! Then, when the actual party started, it got even better. We decorated Christmas cookies, and made ornaments, and played games, and had great conversations, and overall just a grand time. I love how much fun I can have without a drop of alcohol. I loved talking with all of the Spanish guys – they´re so interesting and fun to be around. The party consisted pretty much 50/50 of all American girls and all Spanish guys…sorry mom, it seemed like there was some heavenly match-making going on there ;). Haha don´t worry, I´ve made it 3 months without getting a Spanish boyfriend, I don´t think that´ll change in the last week…

Saturday I was going to go to Villalba, a small village with the same name as my grandmother Petra´s family. Unfortunately, I was dead tired from the party the night before. So I decided to just have a relaxed day, studying and catching up on emails and other such normalities. I went to a concert with some people from church in it in the evening – that was really cool. They had all sorts of music – from violins, to pop, to funky mixtures of rap, flamenco, hip-hop, and jazz. It was definitely worth the almost hour-long wait for the opening band to show up – ahh, such is Spain, I suppose :). I was going to go to my last bachata class with Rodrigo after the concert, but when we showed up, we found out that the space was being used that night for a Christmas dinner. So he convinced me to go out with some students who were celebrating one of the girl’s birthdays. I didn’t stay long – all they were doing was standing around drinking – but I did get to see Eligio, one of the intercambios whom I had spent a lot of time with at the beginning of the semester, but hadn’t seen in months. So that was good to be able to say goodbye to him.

Sunday was another last, last day of church. It was a wonderful service. They prayed over Sarah and I to send us off – that was really cool. I also had my first encounter with live translating. Sarah’s parents are here visiting her, but neither of them speak a word of Spanish. So she translated for her mom, and I did the same for her dad. It was sooo hard, but I was rather pleased with how well I did :).

Well, I suppose it is only fitting that I wrap up my accounts of my time in Seville with a summary of the homework Jon gave me that I have not already mentioned, since that was one of the first things that I experienced of Seville. I was able to complete all of them – all 42 of them. The rest of this blog consists of the stories behind them, if a story exists. Some of them – such as drawing a picture on a napkin for a waiter, are rather self-explanatory :). Others, such as singing a song to your siblings over webcam, or going down the Guadalquivir river in boat, or playing soccer on the beach, I’ve already talked about, but simply did not mention that they were part of my homework.

This Wednesday, before Skyping with my family, I was actually able to get 5 done in one shot! I was studying at Starbucks, and ran into Andrew, one of the students who had gone on Morocco Exchange with me. We decided to go exploring. He already knew where the geographic center of Seville was, on Calle Jose Gestoso (#1), and so he took me to see it. On our way, we passed the old tram system that now lies dormant and unused in the bus station in the Plaza de Armas (#2), the Iglesia Salvador, and the Plaza Encarnación. The 14th century funerary chapel in the church (#3) that I was supposed to find was less than extraordinary, and the outside market in the Plaza Encarnación that I was sent to buy food from (#4) has been moved to make room for the huge modern art-ish awnings that they are in the process of building. But the point is that I went, right? 🙂 Andrew’s knowledge of the city ended after we made it to Calle Jose Gestoso, and so afterwards we decided to just wander around and trust our sense of direction and knowledge of the city. That was my fifth assignment that Jon had sent me to – he actually told me to get lost and not use my map!! I thought it a very cruel assignment at the time, but it wasn’t nearly as bad when I did it with a friend 🙂

Another one of my assignments was to go to the Plaza del Museo and look at the artwork that they have there. I did make it to the plaza…but museum was closed, and all of the artwork had been packed up. However, I also made it on my own to the Fine Arts Museum, Museum of Popular Customs and Traditions, Archeological Museum, Museum of Flamenco, and the Louvre in Paris, so I think I can say that I’ve seen my fill of beautiful artwork :). Other assignments that may possibly be considered a stretch, but I consider to have completed: wear Spain’s colors one day (the only yellow in my entire wardrobe is a red and yellow and orange shirt…that counts, right?? :]), find a car without a scratch on it (I went to a Mercedes dealership), buy a CD of Spanish music (Justo gave me a mix CD of some of his favorite artists), and jump on a bus and take it to a random place – have no set destination (I’ve done this many times on foot and also in the metro, but not on the bus…I think that’s ok, lol). And others, such as doing the Macarena with a friend in a public place and staging a bit of drama with a friend can be counted as one, in my humble opinion :).

There are some, however, that I have completed without a doubt. Such as: finding a restaurant that is famous in the USA and having a taste of home (did you know that the McDonalds’ here sell beer??), dress up in some ridiculous clothing (I would definitely say that the takchitas our Moroccan host sister dressed us up in count as slightly ridiculous for me, as a non-muslim American), and doodle on a sidewalk with chalk (my señora’s 3 year-old grandson is a trip!).

There are others I did that were a bit more meaningful than scribbling on concrete. One week I was supposed to secretly drop some change on the ground for a child to find. Instead of dropping it on the ground, I actually gave it directly to a small child in Morocco. Seeing the look on her face when I put those few dirhams in her hand was priceless. I’ll never forget it. I’m pretty sure I made her day…she definitely made mine. Two assignments that Jon gave me my last week in Spain were to pray with friends and to have a night of seeking God in the Word with at least one other person. My Bible study and church have been such a wonderful source of refuge for me. My church is so welcoming and loving and inviting – hours fly by like minutes there, and I’m always surprised when the service ends and I realize that I’ve already been there for almost 3 hours. And the Bible study…being able to meet and get to know and have fun with and pray with people my age who are also in a foreign country has been priceless…it’s been so nice to have a support system, to know that I have people to call and lean on when life has got me down. Another assignment for my last week was to give and receive as many hugs as I could. I’ve certainly doled out more than my fair share of hugs – and tears – this week. When I said goodbye to Hasnae. When I said goodbye to the other American students that had gone on Morocco exchange with me. When I said goodbye to Justo. When I said goodbye to my dance friends, like Perdo and Martín and Rodrigo. When I said goodbye to my host parents, Sarah and Pedro. When I said goodbye to all my friends from church – José, and Fernando, and Gerard, and Flora, and Nadine, and Pauline, and Henry, and Moni, and more…

Looking back, I am so fortunate to have been able to meet so many wonderful people and see and do so many wonderful things. My time in Spain was truly God-orchestrated. This has been a wonderful experience, and I am so blessed to have been able to have it. There are still a few more adventures for Sinbad during the Christmas season, and I also plan on writing one last blog about Spain once I get home, but this will be one of the last blogs that I write for a long time – until God sends me on another adventure, which, knowing Him, will probably be sooner than I expect. Thank you so much for going on this journey with me!

Horray for not traveling!

We had a 4-day weekend this week. While most of the students were off exploring exotic places such as Italy, France, or Morocco, I elected to stay here. Honestly, the only reason I stayed was because I didn’t have time to make plans to go somewhere. But I’ve very glad I did. It turned out to be quite a productive, eventful weekend, albeit rather quiet when I was home – my host family was at the beach all weekend. Check out the note they left me – I thought it was really sweet :).

Thursday night there was a Halloween party hosted by the school. I went, and even half-heartedly dressed up! (I wore a masquerade mask I bought in Barcelona) I’ve never really seen the point of Halloween, and don’t ever celebrate it in the USA. I find it ironic that one of the only time I actually celebrate Halloween is in a country which does not celebrate it as a whole :). Anyway, the party was pretty lame, but I got some interesting pictures. Myself and a friend, Allyx, started dancing Flamenco in the middle of the party. That was interesting, lol. After the party everyone went out for tapas. That was more interesting, in my opinion. I got to talk to the Academic Director for a while – she apparently is a Harvard graduate!! I was very impressed. Anyway, I finally made it back to my house around 1:30 in the morning. Although I didn’t have school the next day, I was waiting there when they opened at 8:00. Friday was my push day. I wanted to get a ton of homework done so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the weekend. I took a break for lunch to eat with Jess and Paola, 2 girls from the Bible study. They also brought a Spanish friend of theirs, Julia, who is really sweet. It was very encouraging to be able to spend some time with godly, wholesome, fun girls. Other than lunch, though, I was at school until it closed – at 8:00 at night. Almost 12 hours total :/. I’m so glad I did that, though – I finished one of two research papers, did all my homework for Tuesday and half of the stuff for Wednesday, and also studied for 1 of my 2 tests that I have time coming week. I felt very accomplished and on top of things :). I often get teased for being such a studious student, but I really think that I’m the one with the last laugh – I’m never stressed about getting things done, and I go out just as often as anyone else. It’s an excellent combination :).

Friday night I went to another Halloween party – this one hosted by a friend of mine from church, Nadine. That one was far from lame. I had such a blast!!! There were people there from church, from Bible study, from other schools, and some random Spaniards who were friends of other guests, as well. All in all, I’d say there were about 25 or 30 people there. There was a tone of food, and great music, and a costume party (I got to be a judge, since I was costume-less. I think I’d prefer that, lol), and just great fun to be had all-around. There was a pumpkin-carving contest, as well – not only did I carve my first pumpkin ever in my life, but I also won a prize for it! As long as you promise not laugh, you can check out my pumpkin here. It was loads of fun to do, but I hardly think it’s worthy of a prize, lol…

Around midnight, we cranked the music up and started dancing. There were lots of great dancers there – ironically enough, none of them were Spaniards. They were from Columbia, or Cuba, or Peru, etc…so we danced some Merengue, some Salsa, Bachata, a little bit of Swing…the whole shebang. Then we tried to learn the Thriller dance. We didn’t learn it – but watching people try to watch it was quite amusing :D. The party finally ended around 1:30 because half of the group had to leave to catch the last metro home at 2:00. I was very sad to go :(. I haven’t had that much good, clean fun in a long time. Check out the pictures from both parties here – they should be at the very end of the album.

Saturday morning I had planned on going to Isla Magica, a theme park in Seville. But Saturday morning dawned cold and rainy and windy, so I scratched that idea. Instead, I went back to Nadine’s house and hung out with her and Sarah for the day. We went shopping, and made pizza and brownies, and watched chick fliks and old episodes of the Gilmore Girls. It was excellent. My host family is out of town, so I spent a quiet evening cleaning up my room, and organizing my stuff, and other necessary things. It’s nice to have quite evenings to yourself sometimes :).

Sunday morning was a lazy day. We had daylight savings, so I got an extra hour of sleep, which was nice. I slept in and still had time to get some homework done before church :). After church I went shopping for presents – there’s been a festival going on since I’ve been here, and this is the last weekend it will be around. I wanted to swing by before it closed. It’s so strange to think of it not being there tomorrow…it seems to kind of be a part of Seville by now. I also ran into a friend of mine, Rodrigo, and we hung out for a few hours. I got a rather backwards compliment from him that I’m quite proud of. I was talking about how different I am now than I was when I was younger, and he asked me, “What happened? Did Jesus change you?” It was quite apparent that that was not a serious question – Rodrigo makes no claims to be a Christian, and the sarcasm was so thick I could have cut it with a knife. But I chose to ignore it and simply answer the question. “Yes,” I said, “He did.” Then Rodrigo was like, “That’s what I like about you. Most of the time when I’m around hard-core Christians I try to say things to piss them off, and it usually works. But you never react when I try to insult you.” I’m almost positive that he did not intend that as a compliment, but the fact that A) he considers me to be obviously Christian and B) I don’t react to insults in a way that turns people off of Jesus made my heart swell.

Monday was quite an excellent day. I went to Carmona, a small town about 40 kilometers from Seville, with Justo, per Jon’s suggestion. Actually, Jon’s homework said I had to take a bus, but everyone knows the cool people take cars ;). So Justo picked me up mid-morning, and we drove to Carmona. Can I just say that Justo is the best intercambio ever!! He had already been to Carmona, so he took me to his favorite haunts; he also brought along a map and tourist info, so we knew exactly what spots we should hit. Also, he printed out a history of the city from online, and made me read it aloud to him as we drove. He corrected my pronunciation when needed, and explained to me any words I did not know. He also tries to correct me during the course of normal conversation, something that I give him huge props for. I’ve been on the other side of the coin – I’ve been the fluent speaker talking to someone who’s learning the language, and I know that it’s really hard to correct them if they’re trying. As long as I understand what they’re trying to say, I tend to ignore the errors. But that’s not how to improve, and I’m so grateful that he actually tries so hard to help me get better. I need to hang out with him more often – I know my Spanish noticeably improves every time I do :). He also offered to correct my papers that I have to write for school. Besides that, we get along really well – he’s very easy-going and fun to be around, and also speaks very good English, so I can switch whenever my brain starts really hurting, lol.

Alright, now that I have sufficiently extolled Justo’s commendable qualities, let’s continue with the story, shall we? 🙂 We walked around for a while, just drinking in the sights. There was a famous convent that we went and visited – this picture is from the top of the tower. I like it because you can see the city behind us through the slats in the window :). The sunset was absolutely gorgeous – although I did snap a photo of it, it truly doesn’t do it justice. But oh well, I did my best :).

My family got back a few minutes after I did, so we caught each other up on our respective weekends. Although I rather enjoyed the solitude these past few days, it’s nice to not be in an empty house anymore. Well anyway, thus ends my lovely weekend of not traveling – see all the pictures from Carmona here. I love and miss all of you guys buckets and bunches!! 🙂

Me lo pasó la bomba :)

Wow, what a weekend. Although it was a short one, I would say that this was definitely my favorite weekend so far. There is a phrase in Spanish that basically means to have a stupendous, wonderful time…I have put it as the title of this blog :). Ahhh, where do I start?? Ok, well, I suppose I will start with Friday, since that is the beginning of the weekend.

Normally we don’t have class on Friday, but this week we did because we didn’t have class on Monday, so we had the same schedule as a normal Monday. I remembered that in the morning, and made it to all my classes. But I have a long break in the afternoon, when I go home and eat lunch. Normally I tutor right after lunch, and then go straight to dance class. But today I didn’t have tutoring, so I Skyped with my family instead. Well, that messed my whole internal clock up, apparently. After talking with them, I went back home and started setting up to study in the living room. My señora asked me if I was going to class. I told her no, I was gonna stay here and study. I quickly realized my error and rushed off, getting to class just in time. Thank goodness that she knows my schedule better than I do :).

My whole week seemed to be like that – always rushing, rushing, rushing. I was very glad when my last class ended on Friday. I was going to go to a museum with a Spanish friend, but he canceled on me. I’m rather glad he did. I spent the night doing necessary things, like fixing clothes and making my bed, and then watched a Spanish movie and went to bed. It was a much-needed chill time from the craziness of the past week.

So Saturday morning, I went on an adventure with Justo, a Spanish friend of mine (why is it that I never seem to be able to make female friends?? Gahhhh…). Justo is way into running and biking and basically all things sporty (but not dancing, much to my disappointment, lol). So he invited me to go mountain biking with him yesterday. We left early in the morning and took a train to a little city in the mountains to the north of Seville, in between Cazalla and Constantina. The ride was like an hour and a half…it was very cool (my first time ever taking a train! Well, for any distance, at least). One we got there, we rented a bike for me, and hit the trails! Halfway through the afternoon, we stopped for a picnic lunch…he brought a TON of food, lol. After we ate lunch, I introduced him to cloud-gazing. You know, when you were little, you would lie on your back and find shapes in the clouds? Well, he never did that as a kid. So I found things like a mother and child, a bike, Spain, a lizard…he found nothing, and just laughed at this crazy American girl. He has apparently decided that I have a very overactive imagination. But it was a lot of fun…he is very easygoing, and we get along very well. You can check out a picture of us here.

Going back was much harder than coming – I was already tired, and so the hills seemed to be much larger than before, lol. I asked Justo later how much we had biked, and he told me close to 30 miles – he told me in kilometers, of course, and I had to make the translation. (Curse the American obsession to be different! Why can’t we at least have the same measuring system as the rest of the world?? I am constantly making conversions in between inches and centimeters, meters and feet, kilometers and miles, Euros and dollars. I can’t do the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit to save my life – I honestly have no idea what the temperature has been like since I’ve gotten here. The only I know is that it’s cooler now than it was when I arrived :]). But anyway, for someone who doesn’t bike often, especially on mountainous terrain, I think I did pretty well :). On the train ride back, there was group of drunk people who were dancing flamenco. Justo knows I’m learning it, and so he tried to get me to dance with him. I’m not quite that adventurous, but I did finally agree to practice with him sometime before I left – apparently he DOES dance flamenco, just not other styles. Soooo…thus ended my Saturday, in the blink of an eye. As we were walking back to my house from the train station, it felt to me that we had just left it 30 minutes ago. Apparently Justo agreed, because he made a comment exactly to that effect.

Sunday morning I went to church, as usual (I love being able to say that I have found a church that I enjoy going to regularly here in Spain :]). Today they did something really cool. They had all of the young people come up to the front, and they prayed over us. I love the close-knit, caring community that exists in my church (I wrote “my” without thinking about it…and then decided to leave it. Although I’ve only been going there like a month, it truly does feel like “my” church.). They’re always praying for someone, or giving personal testimonies, or praises of things that God has done in their lives. They present every first-timer by name to the congregation, so that people can (and do) seek out the new people to make them feel welcome. They sing happy birthday every week to everyone who has a birthday in the upcoming week. It’s just a very welcoming and loving community.

After church this week a bunch of the young people stayed after for a picnic lunch. You can see a picture of all of us here. That was fun…we spent half the time telling cross-language jokes, and half the time laughing at each other’s language mistakes :). (I’m finding it very hard to stay in an English mindset for this blog. I keep switching to Spanish and then having to erase half the sentence and start over. It’s very annoying, lol…). Here’s a joke that I liked; but only for my friends who speak Spanish. This one doesn’t really translate :(. Un hombre preguntó a una mujer, “Do you speak English?” “Como?” dijo ella. “Do you speak English?” la preguntó otro vez. “No te entiendo”, dice ella. “Hablas ingles?”, dice el. “Oh si, si, perfectamente!!”

I found it rather funny, but as the majority of my loyal fans will not understand it, here’s one in English (it was actually told to me in Spanish, but I’ll do the translation for you :]). A little boy said to his father, “Daddy, I want to marry grandma.” “You want to marry my mother??” the father asked in surprise. “Yes, I do. Why, what’s wrong with that? YOU married MY mom and I didn’t say anything about it!” Anyway, it´s quite likely that my jokes were lost in translation, but I found them amusing… 😀

After lunch a group of us went to the park (check out the picture here). One girl had Phase10 with her, so we played that for a while. There was not a common language between the 7 of us, but I knew the most of both languages together, so I served as interpreter. Do you have any idea how hard it is to explain the rules of a card game in a language that is not your own?? How do you say “shuffle” or “discard” or “a run or set of cards”?? I muddled through it, but when we got home I looked up all of those words and memorized them, so that I would know them next time. Actually, I was rather pleased with how well I did. I have also started to formulate much more complicated sentences than before and tell my host family much more details of the things I’ve done, which makes me quite happy.

While we were in the park, I discovered that one guy in the group, Maykol, the worship leader from Cuba, loves to dance!! There was an outside concert in the park (there’s ALWAYS music here!!) and we danced salsa together. He’s reallyyyyy good. It was excellent. I’m going to make him take me salsa dancing before I leave :). So, thus ended my Sunday, in half of a blink of an eye. I cannot believe how fast this weekend went. I’m rather sad that tomorrow is Monday. Not so much because I have to go to classes, but more because I really don’t want this weekend to end. Oh well, all good things much end sometime…but I console myself that this good thing has not yet ended, as I still have 2 months left in Seville. I’m sure there will be many more such days as those of this weekend. They seem to be happening with more and more frequency as I get more acquainted with the city and the language. God is good, that’s all I have left to say :).

My first long weekend :)

So, like I mentioned in my last blog, this was my first long weekend of the semester. I spent Friday and Saturday on a trip with most of the other students to three little cities, Mérida, Cáceres, and Trujillo. In Mérida, we went to ancient Roman ruins and a museum of Roman antigüedades – I am absolutely in love with all of the mythological influences and mosaic depictions around here. It’s probably one of my favourite parts of all of the visits. In Cáceres we took a tour around the Medieval Barrio of Cáceres – it’s been preserved in its original Medieval condition, castles and all. There was also a statue that is said to bring marriage to anyone who touches his toes…sorry mom, I couldn’t help but touch them :). Check out the statue here. We stayed in a hotel in Cáceres Friday night, and went on to Trujillo the next day, where we visited a huge fortified castle. It was all very cool, and I took lots of pictures for you, my loyal readers, that you can check out here. But I’m kind of getting tired of sightseeing. I feel like that makes me very uncultured and uncivilized, but that’s how I feel, nevertheless. It seems to me that, after you’ve seen dozens of palaces and castles and ancient ruins and gorgeous churches, they all start to look the same after a while. Plus, I’m really really tired of hearing about everyone’s drinking escapades and loose behaviour and foul mouths. There’s a reason that I don’t hang out with the majority of the students here. Two full days with them was pushing my limit – I was glad when we finally pulled back into Seville. My host family was not home on Saturday – they had gone to the beach – so I spent a quite evening catching up on homework and my blog and just revelling in silence and solitude. Every night after dinner, my host parents put on their little aprons and do the dishes while I clean up the table – it’s really quite adorable, seeing these 2 little old people side by side in their aprons, doing the dishes together :). Since they weren’t here tonight, I did the dishes for them, so they wouldn’t come home to a dirty kitchen – but I did it without the apron :D. After dinner I watched Leap Year by myself on my computer. Not exactly the way most students would choose to spend a Saturday evening, but it was much needed for me.

Sunday morning I went to church. It was awesome. The service was wonderful, and I also got to meet people from all over the world. There was Flor, a French student who’s here studying history in the university for the semester. Moni is English, and she’s here doing an internship of sorts at an insurance company. Polina is from Holland, and she just started studying Spanish 2 months ago! Right now she hardly understands anything…but she’s here until February, I’m sure she’ll learn un montón by then! Let’s see, I also met Michael, who is originally from Cuba, but now lives here in Seville and sings in the worship group at church. He’s very good – he was a famous performer in Cuba before he left. He’s also rather attractive…but don’t tell him I said so! 😉

I went out with 2 Spaniards, Miguel and Raquel, and Sarah in the evening. We were going to go to the Plaza del Museo and look at the artwork there (one of my assignments from Jon), but it was closed :(. So we walked for a while and ended up in a different plaza, drinking juice and watching an outside Flamenco performance by the lovely fountains that were there. It was only as we were leaving that I realized that those were the fountains of Alameda de Hercules, another one of my assignments. So I still ended up checking off something on my bucket list, although it wasn’t the one I was planning on doing :). On our way back, I saw an incredible sight, one I had despaired of ever seeing in Spain – rain. It has not rained a drop since I’ve been here. It would decide to rain today, when I was over an hour’s walk from my house. Luckily for me, Miguel lives pretty far away, and so he always drives me into the city. So he gave me a ride back, which was far preferable to walking back in the rain :).

I just realized that I never told you what my homework was for this week! (I’m talking of Jon’s homework, of course; I have 3 classes with the same professor, and he doesn’t believe in giving us homework. So I have lots more free time that most of the students here :]) Anyway, here were my assignments for this week: 1) Visit the Seville City Cemetery. Look out for a subtle, yet interesting story etched forever in stone; 2) Have a King’s breakfast! Go to the churros stand on Calle Arfe. Rumor says that when the King stays in the Alcazar (fortified palace), he sends someone to this stand to pick up his morning churros; 3) Go watch improvised flamenco dancing al Lo Nuestro on Calle Betis; 4) Do cartwheels in your hall in the middle of the night; 5) Set up some pots and pans and let the rocker in you out with a wicked awesome beat.

I was dancing all over the house last night, when my family was gone at the beach. I’m glad they were gone, because I highly doubt I would have done that had they been there :). Also, I think #5 might be difficult to do – I don’t exactly have random pots lying in my room, and I would feel weird banging on my Señora’s kitchenware :). And I refuse to go to Calle Betis – it’s known throughout the city as the place where all the Americans go to get drunk…and they do it everyyyyy nighttttt. I went there once at the beginning of the program, and got my fill of it for the entire semester. But I think that, since I saw a Flamenco dance at the fountains of Hercules today instead, that totally suffices for #3 :). Anyway, enough of my babbling for now. I’m sure you have other things to do than read my blogs all night, and I have to go finish what little homework I have to do.

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 :(.

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???? 🙂

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……