Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Me echo de menos el Sur...en cualquier pais


I just got back today from Sevilla, Spain, which is in the province Andalucía in the south. It is completely different than the part of Spain where I live. It’s more Mediterranean/tropical with a different kind of people and way of life. I’ve already said the accent is very different, which is true. They cut off a lot of letters of the ends of there words and from the middle, and it’s hard to understand what words someone has said when half of the consonants are gone. Anyway, Paco (the Spanish boy that lives with me) and my señora told me that they couldn’t understand andalucians either, so then I didn’t feel so bad.

The people are definitely of a different sort – very outgoing and talkative, which is a little unusual for Spain and Europe in general. In places like Salamanca and especially Madrid the people are really nice, but they don’t generally talk to you unless you approach them first or they know you, but in Sevilla we were randomly approached many times about different things. One time we were sitting on a bench and all of sudden the old man beside us told Austin that I was really pretty and started talking to him about me while I was sitting there. The old man eventually took a moment to inform me that he thought I was pretty, but then just continued talking to Austin as if that is just what I was, a topic of conversation between men. It was a perfect example of the stereotypical Spanish machismo – first of all he assumed that I was Austin’s “woman” and then he just talked about me like I was an object of interest. Of course that is not to say that all Spanish men think like that, it’s just a stereotype, but all stereotypes stem from some sort of truth I suppose.

It actually happened the following day when Austin and I were in the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca sitting on a bench…again. Another old man came up to us and stood in front of us, really close because all of the people in Spain stand close to each other. He just started telling us how Salamanca was the greatest city in the world and that they were the best in arts, language, and culture…and he just went on and on and on. Then he would stop talking and there would be this awkward silence and we expected him to leave like any normal person would have done, but he never did, he just kept repeating his whole spiel about Salamanca. He informed us that he was the pontifical something of the university, which was a complete lie because I asked Veronica later (the Spanish girl I meet with every week) and whatever position he told us he had didn’t exist in the university. Eventually I took initiative and told him that we had to leave to go study. It was so strange because he was 83 years old and I don’t have any clue why he would approach us and make up all this stuff…anyway, back to Sevilla.

We visited the Plaza España and it was the most impressive plaza I have seen thus far. It was bordered by scenes of all the major cities in Spain made of ceramic tiles, so I took pictures of all of the ones that I’ve visited/will visit. There is a huge fountain in the middle and bridges made with ceramic leading to the center of the plaza. It’s boring to explain, but I will put pictures up eventually so you can see it.

We also got to see a Flamenco show, which is a type of dancing that is very characteristic of Spain, especially the gypsies of Spain who historically danced flamenco to make their living. Now it’s part of the industry of tourism and it’s not just for the gypsies I don’t think, but there are still some that dance in the streets for money. The actual dance is so distinctively Spanish, I’ve never seen anything like it. The dresses that the women wear are colorful and tight and very big and frilly at the bottom. The dance starts out almost sad where the dancers have solemn expressions and move very slowly and then all of a sudden they go crazy with tap dancing and twisting and turning. I enjoyed the male dancers the most (in both Sevilla and Granada) because their movements were the sharpest and the strongest, which surprised me because I didn’t know that men danced flamenco. It is definitely distinctive from anything that I’ve ever experienced before.

I not only fulfilled Spanish stereotypes this weekend, but universal ones as well. I had roasted chestnuts from a street vendor! (Like the Christmas song) I didn’t know this, but there will be plenty more opportunity to eat castañas asadas because it is now the season for them in Salamanca as well. It’s so romantically European to have hot roasted chestnuts while walking around the city. Oh, what’s more is that there were gazillions of horses with carriages for the tourists, which was even that much more romantic. Sometimes I still feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.


One of the things I’ve missed but didn’t realize until I went to Sevilla and Granada was green – trees, plants, flowers, grass. Granada was not that much different from Sevilla, warm and tropical, but it did have a taste of African culture that Sevilla didn’t have.
I missed the trip to Morrocco, but we went shopping in the African quarter of the town and I almost felt like I was there (minus the sand dunes).

This was the first organized ISA trip that we had a significant amount of free time to wander around on our own. Rachel’s (a friend from my program) best friend is studying in Granada, so it was nice to have all that free time for her to show us the city from a peer’s point of view. The great thing about Granada is that almost all of the bars serve free tapas if you go and buy a drink, so the first night we went out for tapas a.k.a. bar hopping that included dinner and not spending a lot of money.

The organized activities included visiting the Alhambra which is an Arabic/Islamic structure in Granada. It’s so huge that the tour lasted three hours, but it was really interesting, especially because we had a good guide. One thing I’ve learned about monumental tours is that it all depends on the guide. Anyway, the Alhambra is very decorative with poems in Arabic inscribed on the walls, and it has courtyards with lavish gardens and reflecting pools…it was all very different from the occidental (western/Christian) structures that we have seen so far. Also, it is on top of a hill, so it looks over Granada which is “the white city” or something like that because ALL of the houses are painted white. There is a reason for that but I don’t remember, but it makes for a pretty picture.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

¡Cuánto tiempo!

I know it´s been a LONG time since I have written a blog, but hang in there, more are coming. I have actually already written about my trips to Sevilla and Granada, and now I´m working on Paris. The thing is that it is raining in Salamanca right now and I can´t take my computer out in the rain in order to post the blogs that I have saved.

I want to wish everybody a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Be thankful for the turkey because it is so hard to come by in Spain, and there is a good chance that my thanksgiving dinner with my program will be turkey-less. I hope that everyone has a great time and eats till they pop!
¡Buen Aprovecha! Bon Appetit! And more or less Arkansas style...Good eatin´!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Viajes Buenos


Pues, I have a few things to catch up on…last weekend I visited Ciudad Rodrigo and Sierra de Francia with my program and this weekend I went to Sevilla. Really, besides my weekend trips there is not much to tell because everyday is more or less the same. I’m doing pretty well with Spanish, I can keep up my side of a conversation. I did get frustrated this weekend because the accent in southern Spain is a LOT different than the one here in central Spain, but then the Spanish guy who is living with us informed me that he couldn’t understand it either so then I didn’t feel so bad.

So I suppose I will start with what I can remember of Ciudad Rodrigo and Sierra de Francia. Both of these places are in the region of Salamanca which is also the region where my city is (logically since both are called Salamanca, I just didn’t want you to mix the city and the region up). The trip overall wasn’t one of the most amazing ones, but it was definitely worth going on. My favorite part was probably the Peña de Francia which is a church on top of a very tall mountain. The scenery was unbelievable, which I know I say about every place we go, but it’s always true. So of course the church is a Catholic one, but what is a little different about it is that the Virgin Mary within it is black. It’s not that weird because there are other black virgins, for example, the Virgin of Guadalupe. I can’t really remember the significance, which is horrible, but that’s one thing that distinguishes this church from others, in addition to it looking over the mountains and valleys of Spain. So anyway, we kissed the robe of the virgin because it’s supposed to be good luck and that was about all there was of that.

I also enjoyed the cathedral that we saw, as always. It was a little different than the other cathedrals I’ve seen, though, in that it was more gothic style than baroque. Also, half of the courtyard was built in one century and the other half was built two centuries later and both had very distinct styles. It exemplified some of what I learned in Art History in high school, and it’s always nice when something you learned in class turns out useful because it doesn’t happen very often.

We also saw some little pueblos, or neighborhoods I guess, that seemed almost untouched by the rest of the world. They are teeny little communities that have conserved their particular way of life and haven’t been overrun (for lack of a better word) with tourists and international peoples. Which isn’t to say that either is bad or good, it’s just another look at the culture of different parts of Spain.

So overall it was a good trip, though not as impressive as the others (with the exception of the Pena de Francia, I've never seen anything like that). I am looking forward to visiting Granada this weekend, which is in the same region as Sevilla but this time I'm going with my program.
Hasta luego...