January312012

Why yes, I do still exist!  My three month break can be blamed on midterms, traveling, finals, papers, going home and then returning to Sevilla.  In December I spent 11 hours in the Madrid airport (thanks to an 8 hour delay), 7 hours on a plane, 2 hours in JFK, 7 hours overnight in a hotel (missed my original flight home), 2 hours in La Guardia, 1.5 hours on a plane and then finally made it home! (That comes to a grand total of 30.5 hours!)

I had a wonderful holiday season at home with my family, my friends and my boyfriend and came back to Sevilla about 10 days ago.  I traveled from the Arctic (aka JFK) to Paradise in just about 24 hours.

Things I missed about Sevilla: Cafe con leche, tostadas, Cien Montaditos, 60 degree weather, sunshine, being able to go out for a drink, cafe con leche (that’s an important one!), spotting tourists.

Things I miss about the USA: Target.

November42011
Sevilla y la lluvia (Sevilla and the rain)
While I have pretty much figured out that I live in Paradise, there is one drawback: rain and a general lack of real seasons.  I live and go to school in Ohio, so I’m pretty used to rain and the crazy transitions between seasons.  During any given week during pretty much any month we can experience a rollercoaster of temperatures and weather.  Example: around New Years last year I was able to go outside in a tank top.  But within a week or two, real winter had set in.  While at Kenyon, I’ve had weeks where it rained, snowed and then was warm enough to go out without a coat.  Ridiculous, but normal for Ohio. 
Here in Sevilla, weather is a whole different game.  The first few weeks I was here, the temperature rarely dropped below the high 90s during the day.  The heat would linger way past the afternoon, usually lasting until 7 or 8pm.  Even at night, there wasn’t even a hint of chill in the air.  It did eventually cool down (slightly), but 80°F days through October left me wondering when fall would come.  I love the warm weather, but I was starting to miss the fall foliage and chilly fall air of Ohio.   When I asked a Spanish friend if they had fall in Sevilla, he responded that they did have fall, but that it is very short.  Well, it is November now and I’m still waiting.
The leaves aren’t changing, but I’m starting to get the feeling that the weather that we have experienced the past few weeks is the Spanish equivalent of fall.  When it first rained two or three weeks back, the sevillanos seemed to go into a panic.  Everyone runs for cover or buys a cheap umbrella from the nearest newspaper stand and hopes that it will stop soon.  Sevilla really wasn’t built to handle rain.  The streets flood instantly and people walk on the far side of the sidewalk to prevent the shower of water that comes with every passing car.  The gusts of wind also add extra level of excitement.  Somehow I always end up going the direction that causes my umbrella to get caught in the wind and flip inside out.  My options are to look ridiculous fighting with an umbrella or get drenched in the rain.  Decisions, decisions.  (I am curious to know how everyone else on the street manages to control their umbrellas just fine)
After that first rain everyone started to dress in warm clothes and boots even though the weather was still in the 70s or above.  No more sandals and no more summer clothes even if it is warm enough for it.  The problem then becomes: what should I wear?  If you looked at the sevillanos, you would think it were 40°F outside.  I’ve seen people wearing winter coats when I would normally be thinking about putting on a sweatshirt.  It makes it interesting when I come out in a coat and scarf (like I see sevillanos wearing) and end up taking both off when it becomes too hot.  I guess when you grow up in a city where it doesn’t drop below freezing often, 70° is chilly.  And if 70° is chilly, that must make a Midwestern winter seem like the Arctic Circle.

Sevilla y la lluvia (Sevilla and the rain)

While I have pretty much figured out that I live in Paradise, there is one drawback: rain and a general lack of real seasons.  I live and go to school in Ohio, so I’m pretty used to rain and the crazy transitions between seasons.  During any given week during pretty much any month we can experience a rollercoaster of temperatures and weather.  Example: around New Years last year I was able to go outside in a tank top.  But within a week or two, real winter had set in.  While at Kenyon, I’ve had weeks where it rained, snowed and then was warm enough to go out without a coat.  Ridiculous, but normal for Ohio. 

Here in Sevilla, weather is a whole different game.  The first few weeks I was here, the temperature rarely dropped below the high 90s during the day.  The heat would linger way past the afternoon, usually lasting until 7 or 8pm.  Even at night, there wasn’t even a hint of chill in the air.  It did eventually cool down (slightly), but 80°F days through October left me wondering when fall would come.  I love the warm weather, but I was starting to miss the fall foliage and chilly fall air of Ohio.   When I asked a Spanish friend if they had fall in Sevilla, he responded that they did have fall, but that it is very short.  Well, it is November now and I’m still waiting.

The leaves aren’t changing, but I’m starting to get the feeling that the weather that we have experienced the past few weeks is the Spanish equivalent of fall.  When it first rained two or three weeks back, the sevillanos seemed to go into a panic.  Everyone runs for cover or buys a cheap umbrella from the nearest newspaper stand and hopes that it will stop soon.  Sevilla really wasn’t built to handle rain.  The streets flood instantly and people walk on the far side of the sidewalk to prevent the shower of water that comes with every passing car.  The gusts of wind also add extra level of excitement.  Somehow I always end up going the direction that causes my umbrella to get caught in the wind and flip inside out.  My options are to look ridiculous fighting with an umbrella or get drenched in the rain.  Decisions, decisions.  (I am curious to know how everyone else on the street manages to control their umbrellas just fine)

After that first rain everyone started to dress in warm clothes and boots even though the weather was still in the 70s or above.  No more sandals and no more summer clothes even if it is warm enough for it.  The problem then becomes: what should I wear?  If you looked at the sevillanos, you would think it were 40°F outside.  I’ve seen people wearing winter coats when I would normally be thinking about putting on a sweatshirt.  It makes it interesting when I come out in a coat and scarf (like I see sevillanos wearing) and end up taking both off when it becomes too hot.  I guess when you grow up in a city where it doesn’t drop below freezing often, 70° is chilly.  And if 70° is chilly, that must make a Midwestern winter seem like the Arctic Circle.

October162011

NO8DO.  The simple symbol is everywhere in Sevilla once you start looking for it.  Bus stops, manhole covers, parking meters, signs for city events, kiosks, and even the public bike system are emblazoned with it.  For a while I thought that NO8DO was the logo some sort of sustainability effort in the city, but after asking a friend, I found out that it is so much bigger than that.  NO8DO is a representation of the motto of Sevilla; it’s even on the city’s flag.  In the actual symbol, the 8 is represented by a piece of yarn which in Spanish is called a ‘madeja’ – so the complete motto is NO madeja DO or ‘No me ha dejado’.  In English this translates to ‘It (Sevilla) has not abandoned me’. 

The story goes that in 1282 the son of King Alfonso X tried to steal the throne from his father.  Sevilla was one of the only cities that stayed loyal to the king.  Because of this loyalty King Alfonso gave the city the motto of ‘No me ha dejado’ or ‘NO8DO’.  There are other legends that explain the presence of the motto, but the story of King Alfonso is my favorite.  For me, seeing NO8DO everyday reminds of the unity of the city and of sevillanos.  They love their city and aren’t afraid to show it.  I hope that by the time I leave Sevilla I’ll be able to call myself a sevillana and know that Sevilla no me ha dejado.

October112011
Obviously I am kind of terrible at updating this tumblr.  Some people would call it laziness but I prefer to think of it as “thinking a really, really long time about what I am going to write”.  I have for you today the Hot List of Sevilla.  Prepare yourself for what is Hot in Spain.
Hot
Rollerblading:  Someone needs to tell Spaniards that it is no longer the 90s, because they didn’t seem to get the memo.  Rollerblading is something that I vaguely remember from when I was in elementary school; something that was cool when Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, and She’s All That came out.  Maybe I forgot about it faster than everyone else (probably because I lack the coordination to be very good at it) but once I entered middle school it seemed to stop being very popular.  This is not the case in Spain.  Little kids, teenagers and young adults (up to people around my age) are constantly on rollerblades, getting everywhere faster than I am.  This weekend I saw six or seven 13 year old girls on rollerblades in a Plaza by my apartment.  They were lined up behind their friend on a bike and were preparing to be pulled, all in a line, by the bike.  I walked past, assuming that I would eventually hear some giggling and screaming as they failed and fell down (like I knew I would if I were in their situation).  I underestimated them.  They not only managed to stay completely upright, but also made it a great distance before the chain broke up.   Maybe it is my lack of coordination talking, but I very surprised that they were so successful.  Kids these days.  So crazy.  I don’t think I will ever understand this trend, but props to the Spaniards who use it to get around.
Fanny Packs:  Spaniards must be time travelers, because they brought this trend straight from the 80s.  Even Wikipedia knows that that they are now “a fashion faux pas”.  Interestingly enough, the Spanish language Wikipedia page for Fanny Packs (called a riñonera) mentions the return of the ugly accessory, calling it a “form of ironic retro fashion”.  The offenders are usually young men and, of course, the many tourists in Sevilla (someone should alert the UN that the concept of tourists wearing fanny packs seems to cross cultures like wildfire).  Rollerblading can be excused because it can be considered exercise.  But really…fanny packs?  No thanks.
Smoking :  The first time I went to Spain in 2003 smoking was everywhere; many restaurants didn’t even have smoking sections.  When I returned in 2007 things seemed to be improving and there were more laws in place that prevented smoking inside.  So when I returned to this fall, I expected Spain to be more like the United States where people still smoke but you don’t see it everywhere.  I was absolutely wrong.  Smoking is now banned in all public buildings but that has not stopped Spaniards from smoking everywhere outside.   I live close to a large commercial street that has many businesses and offices.  Whenever I walk by there are always large groups of people in front of building entrances smoking like their lives depend on it.  I can’t believe that so many people still smoke even though it’s absolutely terrible for your health.  Even people my age smoke.  Not cool, Spain….not cool.
That sums up the Hot List for Spain.  Other contenders that didn’t quite make it were bicycling, café con leche, live peacocks and the mid-morning second breakfast.  I probably should have included at least one of those three because they are all things that I love and would like to transport back to the USA but maybe I’ll leave them for another day.  Maybe I’ll call it Hot List – The Things I Actually Like.  Also, The Not Hot in Spain coming soon.

Obviously I am kind of terrible at updating this tumblr.  Some people would call it laziness but I prefer to think of it as “thinking a really, really long time about what I am going to write”.  I have for you today the Hot List of Sevilla.  Prepare yourself for what is Hot in Spain.

Hot

Rollerblading:  Someone needs to tell Spaniards that it is no longer the 90s, because they didn’t seem to get the memo.  Rollerblading is something that I vaguely remember from when I was in elementary school; something that was cool when Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, and She’s All That came out.  Maybe I forgot about it faster than everyone else (probably because I lack the coordination to be very good at it) but once I entered middle school it seemed to stop being very popular.  This is not the case in Spain.  Little kids, teenagers and young adults (up to people around my age) are constantly on rollerblades, getting everywhere faster than I am.  This weekend I saw six or seven 13 year old girls on rollerblades in a Plaza by my apartment.  They were lined up behind their friend on a bike and were preparing to be pulled, all in a line, by the bike.  I walked past, assuming that I would eventually hear some giggling and screaming as they failed and fell down (like I knew I would if I were in their situation).  I underestimated them.  They not only managed to stay completely upright, but also made it a great distance before the chain broke up.   Maybe it is my lack of coordination talking, but I very surprised that they were so successful.  Kids these days.  So crazy.  I don’t think I will ever understand this trend, but props to the Spaniards who use it to get around.

Fanny Packs:  Spaniards must be time travelers, because they brought this trend straight from the 80s.  Even Wikipedia knows that that they are now “a fashion faux pas”.  Interestingly enough, the Spanish language Wikipedia page for Fanny Packs (called a riñonera) mentions the return of the ugly accessory, calling it a “form of ironic retro fashion”.  The offenders are usually young men and, of course, the many tourists in Sevilla (someone should alert the UN that the concept of tourists wearing fanny packs seems to cross cultures like wildfire).  Rollerblading can be excused because it can be considered exercise.  But really…fanny packs?  No thanks.

Smoking :  The first time I went to Spain in 2003 smoking was everywhere; many restaurants didn’t even have smoking sections.  When I returned in 2007 things seemed to be improving and there were more laws in place that prevented smoking inside.  So when I returned to this fall, I expected Spain to be more like the United States where people still smoke but you don’t see it everywhere.  I was absolutely wrong.  Smoking is now banned in all public buildings but that has not stopped Spaniards from smoking everywhere outside.   I live close to a large commercial street that has many businesses and offices.  Whenever I walk by there are always large groups of people in front of building entrances smoking like their lives depend on it.  I can’t believe that so many people still smoke even though it’s absolutely terrible for your health.  Even people my age smoke.  Not cool, Spain….not cool.

That sums up the Hot List for Spain.  Other contenders that didn’t quite make it were bicycling, café con leche, live peacocks and the mid-morning second breakfast.  I probably should have included at least one of those three because they are all things that I love and would like to transport back to the USA but maybe I’ll leave them for another day.  Maybe I’ll call it Hot List – The Things I Actually Like.  Also, The Not Hot in Spain coming soon.

September202011

Today marks the beginning of my third week in Spain.  I feel like I’m adjusting…or at least my feet are.  It is about three miles round trip from my house to the CIEE Study Center (nicknamed el Palacio) and back.  Combine this with side trips to museums, the University of Seville, and heladerías (Ice cream shops) and I rack up a lot of miles every day.  I don’t understand how women in Seville walk everywhere in heels or wedges, when I can barely make it through in flats or sandals.  I asked my host mom about it and she just chuckled.  Apparently sevillanas don’t share in my pain.  I even had to buy a new pair of shoes (okay… so the line between had to and wanted to becomes a little blurred here), in the hope that they would be more comfortable than the ones than I brought with me to Spain.  It didn’t hurt that they are just like the sandals that all the Spaniards wear.

At el Palacio I spent three hours a day in my Intensive Spanish Grammar class.  The class goes from 3pm until 6pm, which is probably the worst time to have it.  In Sevilla, especially in the neighborhood that I live in, everything closes at 2pm and stays closed until 5 or 6pm for la siesta.  This is the hottest time of the day, when everyone goes home for lunch and maybe a nap.  A nap in the middle of the day?  Obviously I became accustomed to that tradition very quickly.  But then Intensive classes started and plopped down right in the middle of my siesta.  So my classmates and I spend the entire class covering up yawns and waiting for our break.  Don’t get me wrong, the class is very interesting; it is cementing parts of Spanish grammar that I’ve been learning for years and it has given me a new perspective on things that I’ve learned over and over again in the same way.  The class has also introduced me to new things that I had never learned before (who knew there were vosotros commands with ‘d’ on the end??).

 I’ve also had the opportunity to see things with this class that I may not have discovered on my own, like the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts).  We had to visit it for an activity and found it tucked away in a little plaza.  The museum used to be a convent and a church, but was converted into an art museum that features mostly artists from Sevilla during its Golden Age (the 17th century).  The art is absolutely beautiful, but the building itself is half the experience.  The museum has several beautiful little patios and many rooms of paintings, but the room that stands out the most is Sala V: the former church of the convent.  You walk in (expecting it to look like a normal art gallery) and find that the ceiling soars thirty feet above your head and that everything is gilded and marble.  Quite a sight to see.  The museum is probably one of my favorite that I have been to; it is big enough to spend a day or two wandering around but small enough that you can get through in a few hours.

The exciting part of my weekend (besides churros con chocolate at 2 am) was going to the beach.  My friend’s professor suggested that we go to Matalascañas to spend a day at the beach while the weather was still good.  Beach?  In late September? I couldn’t say yes fast enough.  We paid about 14 for a roundtrip bus ticket and spent an hour on the bus to get to the coast.  The city of Matalascañas isn’t great, but that’s not why we were there.  It was only a short walk to the beach and a beautiful view.  We spent the afternoon relaxing at the beach and playing in the water.  Talk about paradise.  

September132011

I’ve been in Seville for a week now, but it seems like much longer.  This city is so beautiful; it is exactly what you imagine Spain would look like.  Old buildings, beautiful colors and cobblestone streets.  On the east side of the Guadalquivir, the river that splits the city, the streets wind back and forth every way possible.  Many don’t have street signs and the ones that do often have them in unexpected places.  This can make getting around a challenge but also an adventure.  The east side has the Plaza de España, the Torre de Oro, the Cathedral, the Alcázar, and the main buildings for the University of Seville (basically all of the big tourist places). 

I live on the other side of the river in the neighborhood Los Remedios.  This is where the city expanded with tall apartment buildings.  This part of the city is still beautiful, but in a different way.  It’s an everyday beautiful of people going about their lives.  In Los Remedios you see few tourists and fewer American chains (like Starbucks and McDonalds).  It’s exciting, but intimidating. Most people don’t speak much English, so you just hope you can get by with the Spanish you know.  I can’t believe that I’m going to spend the next 7 months here; crossing the Guadalquivir everyday on the Puente de San Telmo or the Puente de Los Remedios.

The first couple days CIEE kept us moving at all times and it was exhausting.  We constantly moved from activity to activity with barely any time to chill out.  Last Wednesday we moved into our homestays.  I sat in the hotel lobby waiting and waiting for my host mother to come.  Eventually it was just one other girl and me.  When the program coordinators asked us who was supposed to pick us up and where we were supposed to live, they discovered that my host mother had picked up the wrong girl.  The Spanish pronunciation of Kaitlyn, Kathleen and Katherine are almost identical so when the coordinators called my name the other girl went up.  They ended up taking me in a taxi to my homestay and exchanging me for the other girl.  This was obviously a good start to my time in Seville.  The rest of the week was full of tours and some much needed down time.  Yesterday I started an intensive language and grammar class that will last the next two weeks.  After that I will start regular classes through CIEE and the University of Seville.

The pictures above are of Calle Asunción, which is one of the main residential and commercial streets in Los Remedios.  Asunción is closed to cars and mopeds, which makes it ideal for families and shoppers.  On a Monday afternoon kids are playing everywhere as parents chat over a cup of coffee and shoppers move from store to store.  I was sitting on a bench when a dad and daughter sit down next to me.  She complains and complains about how much her scraped knee hurts…until she notices the ice cream store nearby.  Suddenly the knee is forgotten as she drags her dad over to the ice cream store.  Some things are the same no matter where you are.

September92011

Goodbye rain. Hello sunshine.

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