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25 posts from June 2010

06/27/2010

The South

    In a lot of ways, I keep finding similarities between Andalusia, the southern part of Spain, and the southern part of the United States. The region definitely has a more rural feel than what I've seen of the north, and a lot of the other things that people say about the south of Spain can also be said for the 'South' as we Americans know it. For example, the accent here is notoriously difficult to understand, a fact that I can attest to firsthand: not only do I have a ton of trouble understanding my VERY Andalusian host-family, but they also have a lot of trouble understanding me! In this particular accent, the standard and very common 'st' sound (pronounced exactly how it is in English), becomes a 'ch' sound, and that's about the only concrete change I can pick out. However, it is so much more than that: it seems that most people here also pronounce all consonants less distinctly, half-mumbling all the time. The famous example is the phrase 'mas o menos,' which means 'more or less.' It gets used a lot here in Spain, but here in Sevilla you'll hear it more like 'ma meno.' The famous motto of Sevilla shows the same lack of enunciation: it is written all over the city as 'no8do,' which if read as intended, cleverly replacing the 8 with the word for skein, says 'no madeja do.' However, the motto itself is technically 'no me ha dejado.' As you can see, a syllable was dropped from the phrase to fit the motto, but it makes sense: 'no ma dejado' is exactly how a Sevillan would say the phrase, which, incidentally, means "She (Sevilla) has not left me.

    The list of comparisons between the South of Spain and the South of US could go on and on. I've heard it said that people are friendlier in Andalusia, that people are less worried and uptight, and, more negatively, that there's too much space and nothing to do here. All of these comments could have come straight out of the mouth of a United States citizen, referring to the South. And, as a Southern girl, I will say I feel right at home!

06/26/2010

Morocco

This past weekend we traveled to Morocco to see what life was like in yet another country. We stayed off the beaten path of tourist spots, and went to three cities in Morocco: TetuánTánger, and Chef Chaouen

We started off the adventure with a bus ride to Algerciras where we caught a really nice ferry to Ceuta, a Spanish territory in Africa. After we arrived in Ceuta, we crossed the boarder into Morocco and headed straight for Tetuán. Here, we went to an art school, where we saw how mosaics, wood carvings, and iron designs were created, and how much time was put into each item. Afterwards, we experienced a typical Moroccan lunch, which consisted of a vegetable soup (typical appetizer for all meals), kabobs, couscous, and of course, mint green tea. 

After lunch, we got to walk around the medina of Tetuán. It was interesting to see how the people here lived. They prefer to buy everything fresh, so we walked past vendors selling just about everything, from spices to full, raw, cows.  We also got to see a tannery that was over a thousand years old, and was known for producing some of the best leather in the world. Luckily, we were able to avoid getting lost thanks to the help of our lovely security team, that stayed with us the whole time we were in the medina

Friday, we woke up early and headed to Tánger, anther city close to our hotel. Here we went to a textiles factory, and saw skirts, dresses, pants, and jackets being made for stores like Zara and Mango in Spain, and Gap in the United States. Afterwards, we headed to las Cuevas de Hercules (Hercules' Caves) to check out some rock formations and the place where it was said Hercules rested after he completed his tasks. The best part of the day was probably when we got to ride Camels alongside one of the beaches. 

Lunch on Friday was at a cute little restaurant that overlooked the spot in the water where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic ocean. They say that Moroccos is the combination of many things: the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Islam and Catholicism, and European and African cultures. After lunch, we headed to a medina in Tánger to do some shopping before returning to the hotel to watch Spain beat Chile in their game!!

Saturday was a more relaxing day. We traveled about two hours to Chef Chaouen to see the city. Here, almost all of the buildings were painted white and light blue, and the city was much smaller. Chef Chaouen is exactly what I had always pictured in my head when I thought about Morocco: hilly streets, vendors everywhere, and tapestries everywhere. We walked around for a tour and then had some free time to shop before starting the almost 6 hour journey back to Sevilla. We got back just in time to watch the United States lose to Ghana :(

All in all, a very successful weekend in Africa!

06/24/2010

Food for thought v. 1.0

    Well, things are back to normal here in Sevilla -- Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz (and human traffic jams) have left the city, the weather has returned to being very hot (consistently hovering around 95-100 past 7pm), and Spain has won a World Cup soccer game.

    (World Cup Tangent: Of course, that Spanish victory will be for naught if they lose tomorrow to Chile. As mentioned in my last post, it's really cool being here in Spain during the World Cup. We watched the last Spain game in an international bar and the atmosphere was great. Tomorrow we're going to a more local, Spanish destination to watch the game, and hopefully they'll win again. But enough about Spain, the US victory on Wednesday was amazing! We watched the game alongside Brits (who were watching the England game), and it was again really spirited. Anyways, everyone here, Spaniards and Americans alike, have become completely swept up in the World Cup, and it's been really fun to be a part of it.)

    I thought I'd share some food stories/observations/anecdotes from my time here so far.

  • There is a restaurant near where I live where they serve Chorizo al Infierno. They bring out chorizo and a small dish with oil, which they light on fire for you. You cook your chorizo on a spit, and then slide it off between two pieces of bread for a sandwich. Delicious! 
Chorizo 
  • Unlike in America where ketchup is pretty much synonymous with Heinz, there are many types of ketchup here in Spain… and they taste nothing like what ketchup tastes like back home. Interestingly, I was told that in some places, most people actually prefer to have mayonnaise with their french fries, and at some fast food places, they'll give you ketchup packets for free, but charge a small amount for mayo.
  • Speaking of potato dishes, two that I highly recommend would be patatas ali-oli and patatas bravas. The former are fried potatoes with a mayonnaise and garlic sauce. They're really good, and I've also had they served with shredded chicken on top. The ladder are fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce. I've had they both in Madrid and Sevilla, and while they were prepared differently, they were both very tasty.
  • My most adventurous food experience so far has definitely been eating tongue (the animal that the tongue belonged to remains unclear). The dish was called Lengua de limón (tongue with lemon), and was very similar to a carpaccio.  
Tongue
  • Non-alcoholic drinks (juice, water, soda) are all served in bottles. This means that unlike in the US, there are no free-refills for drinks (and rarely do they serve free tap water, it's always bottled). This is especially frustrating because these drinks are often served in small bottles, meaning we usually end up ordering at least one round of refills. Also, it's considered rude to drink out of the bottle. When you get your water, juice, or soda, you're also brought a glass that you're expected to pour your drink into.

That's all for now. Let's go USA and Spain!

06/23/2010

USA USA USA!

As much fun as it is to cheer on Torres and Villa and the rest of la Roja, it was a nice change of pace today to watch the USA beat Algeria in the final minutes of the game. The US deserved to win that game, and I am proud to be able to cheer them on from abroad as they continue!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we are leaving for Morocco. We will travel around three cities in the north of Morocco before returning late Saturday night. If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to be going to TWO continents this summer, I never would have believed you. Hopefully everyone can stay healthy enough to enjoy the whole trip.

06/22/2010

Villa!

Last night, we headed to O´Niels´Irish Pub to watch the Spain game. Yes, we were Americans watching the Spain game in a Irish bar (some people were even eating mexican food).

All of the Spain games are played on TV for free, but theres nothing like experiencing the game surrounded by Spanish fans signing songs about their favorite players and team. This game, we were able to actually sit and watch the game since we arrived more than an hour before kick off and were able to reserve a couple tables. We watched as David Villa scored not one, but two goals against Honduras (and tried for his third!) to allow Spain to win the game.

After Spain´s poor performance in the last game, it was an experience to see how excited people got after the first goal was scored. You would have thought Villa scored a goal in the last minute of the championship game. Same thing goes for after Spain won the game. On the walk home, we continued to hear people singing and saw fans produly displaying their flags from cars, mopeds, and bikes.

I can´t imgine what it would be like to be watching the World Cup games in the United States. We don´t have the same passion for fútbol that they have here. Actually, I don´t think we have this much passion for any sport in the United States. If I had the choice of where to watch every future World Cup tournament, I think I would have to choose Spain, (with Portugal or Brazil coming in at a close second). I think I will book my plane tickets and hotels now. A month vacation ever couple years? Sounds good to me!

Barcelona

This past weekend, Joanna, Jen, Kathryn and I were lucky enough to go to Barcelona for the weekend. We left right after work on thursday for what was going to be the craziest two and half days of our lives.

Our hostel was called RamCat, and was located right off Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a giant walkway with shops of all kinds, street performers, and from what I have heard, pickpockets. (luckily we made it through the weekend with no one getting pick pocketed!) After we got settled in at the hostel, we headed off to the supermercado to get some food and drinks to last us the weekend. Its always good to have some familiar food like peanut butter & jelly to make you feel comfortable in a new place. Afterwards, we walked around Barcelona and experienced some of the nightlife.

P6180023 Friday, we woke up bright and early to explore the city. We started by walking down Las Ramblas to the port, and walked along the port for a little bit looking at all the little stands that were set up. We also stoped by La Boquería, a open air market that had fresh fruit, spices, fish, and basically any kind of food you could think of. We stopped back at the hostel for fresh fruit and pb&j sandwiches before heading to the rest of the tourist stops. We walked to La Sagrada Familia, a huge catedral that was designed by Gaudí and has been under construction for more than 100 years! We even got to go up one of the spires and see the city from a bird´s eye view. So cool. Afterwards, we walked over to Casa Batlló, another piece of Gaudí´s work that looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book. That night, we went to Opium, one of the biggest discotecas in Barcelona, to dance the night away.


Saturday we woke up early (again) to go to more places. We saw the Xocolate Museum that had chocolate statues of famous spanish things like bullfights and Don Quijote. Next we went and saw the progression of Picasso´s art from when he first started painting to when he created his renditions of Las Meninas. Inbetween we walked over to the Arc de Triomf and took some pictures. The coolest part of the day was that night when we went to Font Montjuic, which was a huge fountain coordinated to music. We got churros con chocolate and enjoyed the show.

Saturday night we decided to stay up and go to some bars before we had to leave at 4am for the airport. We decided to go to Fades de la Bosque (Farries of the Forest), which looked like it should be in Disney world from how it was decorated. There were life-like trees and waterfalls. La Oveja Negra, on the otherhand, looked like a basement, but had much cheaper drinks and younger people.

The trip was definitely worth the lack of sleep we got this weekend!

06/20/2010

Half Way

As of today, we have been in Sevilla (and some surrounding cities) for one month. That means just one more month to go. 

I can't seem to get my mind wrapped around how much we have done already. We went to Cordoba, we have walked all around Sevilla, Lagos, Barcelona, Cadiz, beach trips, discotecas, worked at our jobs, had a midterm. But then theres still so much that I want to do in this last month. We have our trip to Morocco next weekend, the rest of the world cup games (go US and La Roja), Alicante, and a whole list of tourist activities in Sevilla. Hopefully, I will get to do everything I want to do, but what I can't get done, I can save for next time.

The hardest thing is thinking that I have to go home in a month. I have friends who just got done studying in Italy for six weeks. They said they were ready to head home at that time, but I don't think that will be the same for us. I have gotten too used to living here. Too used to the crazy schedules and lack of sleep. Too used to having to explain everything in Spanish or give tourists directions when walking around La Giralda. 

This next will be crazy, thats for sure. Lets see how many things (and how little sleep) I can fit into one month!

06/17/2010

Bullfighting

A few weekends ago, a group of Americans (myself included) went to see a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros. Fortunately, we asked for the low-down from our Spanish teacher beforehand, and were therefore somewhat prepared for what went on. In class, Juli told us that the bulls are raised in the country for the sole purpose of fighting: they apparently have a really good life before they're sent to the arena to be  teased and eventually killed. (I wound up telling myself this over and over in an attempt to justify watching the poor bull's confused antics.) He also told us about the origin of the sport, how it is derived from the Romans' famous gladiator fights, and reassured us that unlike the gladiators, no one has died bullfighting for almost 25 years. Except the bulls, of course.

But to backtrack a little bit for those of you who are completely unfamiliar with the sport, here's exactly what went on in the Plaza de Toros (with pictures!).

First, a bunch of people come out on horses and look pretty, announcing the beginning of the fight: IMG_0332 This was possibly my favorite part.

Next, the first bull comes into the ring: there are a total of six bulls, but we'll just go through the process once.

IMG_0334 Isn't he cute? You can see the matador in the background waving a pink cape. I don't know if this is standard, but the first segment of each bullfight began with a bunch of 'lesser' matadors waving capes at the bulls and then diving behind protective boards (you can see one at the bottom of the picture).

Second, out came the picaderos, or men on horseback. These guys have the job of stabbing the bull with spears from relative safety atop a horse. I was not impressed by their contribution, and felt really bad for the heavily armored horsies.

Sevilla 088
Third, out come the banderilleros (this translates to 'men who carry banderillas--helpful, I know). Their especially scary job is to stick barbed flags into the bull's back--I thought this was by far the most impressive stunt, as the banderilleros didn't even carry capes!

Banderilleros
This picture is obviously not one of mine. But I didn't get such great action shots of these guys--look at that snarl on the bull!

Finally, the main event: the chief torero makes his appearance. By this time, the bull has about 6 barbs and a big spear-hole in its back, which makes his job a lot less dangerous. I was unimpressed with all of our toreros except the last one (I think they usually put them in order from least to greatest), during which I finally got a sense for what makes bullfighting so popular. The guy strutted around like a rooster, making a huge theatrical spectacle out of himself and generally lightening the mood.

Df20c0d2a1cc510f9bfcb1bfcd5bb91d

Again, this is way too great of a shot to be mine. 

Finally, the poor bull will succumb to exhaustion and sit down, at which point it is assumed to have given up, and has its throat slit.

I don't think many people realize that each bull is killed at the end of every fight--I know that many people in our class were much more excited to go before they were told this gruesome fact. In the US, bullfighting is portrayed as a fun and lighthearted, quintessentially Spanish pastime. In reality, a lot of Spaniards don't even support it--it's beginning to be banned in Barcelona and we even saw protesters on our way to the arena:

IMG_0325
These guys seem to have a pretty strict stance on animal cruelty, as their sign not only denounces bullfighting but also eating beef. BUT it just goes to show you that something Americans usually think of as the Spanish pastime (that was started by Franco, by the way) is not really all that popular in Spain. All of the people associated with CIEE grimaced when we mentioned we were going to a bullfight, and to be honest, after seeing one, I'd grimace too!


El mundial

    Yesterday, like most all of Spain, I watched the Spanish national team fall to Switzerland's, 1-0, in their opening match of the World Cup. It was a huge upset to say the least. Spain was one of the favorites (out of 32 countries) entering the World Cup, and although they can still win the whole thing, they now face an uphill battle.

    I watched the game at my house with my Señora and one of her friends. During the scoreless first half, the two of them lamented the many missed scoring opportunities that the Spanish had. In the second half, after falling behind, those laments became expletive-filled exclamations directed at the television. When it was all said and done, the three of us just say there silently on the couch, defeated and deflated. 

    Although I'm rooting for the Untied States to win the whole thing, my more realistic hope has always been for Spain to emerge victorious. Not only am I more familiar with the Spanish players, it would be amazing to be here in Spain for the ensuing festivities. This place truly eats, breathes, and sleeps fútbol.

    It's hard to think of an American equivalent. Unlike in Spain where soccer is the primary sport with basketball a distant second, the United States has four prominent sports leagues (baseball, football, basketball and hockey). And, a strong case could be made either of baseball, football, or basketball is our primary sport. Baseball is the national pastime; football is pretty much exclusive to the US; and, basketball is the international sport that we most excel at.

    Yet, as I see it, none of these are as important to us Americans as soccer and the World Cup are to Spaniards. Baseball recently began the Baseball World Classic, opening the sport up to international competition, but the US doesn't send its best players and has never even placed in the top-3. Football doesn't compete internationally, and even when the best American players suit up, in the Pro-Bowl, practically no one watches. 

    Americans and our basketball is probably the closest to comparison to Spaniards and their soccer. But even those comparisons aren't fair. We get excited about basketball during the Summer Olympics, but we arguably get even more excited for Michael Phelps' latest medal run or our men and women's gymnastics teams. Basketball isn't even the focus for many Americans. 

    The same can't be said for the case of Spain. The World Cup is a soccer only event; nothing else matters. For the past month, large portions of the Spanish news sports segment have dedicated to updates on the team's practices. They've been covering practice for around a month, and the games only began last Friday. It's a country possessed. Yesterday, my given homework assignment was the watch the game. You couldn't get into bars they were so full of people. My Señora admits that she doesn't watch soccer normally, but she "has to watch the Spanish team play" (said in Spanish, of course). That just doesn't happen with America and international sports play.

    Another key difference between American basketball and Spanish soccer on the international stage is success. America expects their basketball team to win, and they almost always do. Spain, however, even though they produce some of the best soccer players in the world, has never won the World Cup. Every time they talk themselves into thinking this year is the year only to fall short. This means so much them, and yesterday's loss hurt.

    But, they're not eliminated. Their current group of players has only lost twice in international play (yesterday to Switzerland and in 2009 to the United States) and should advance on to the next round. And for the sake of all the Spaniards, whose lives are so tied up in the success of the team, hopefully they go much, much further.

    Oh yeah, and go USA!

06/16/2010

People Never Change

This morning, on my way to work, I was chatting with the older lady who lives across the hall from us. She was mopping the hallway, which I thought was really nice of her. She then started to mop the plants in the hallway. She must have seen the "thats silly" look that I gave her, because then she started rambling about how the plants are fake, and when they get dusty, the only way to clean them up is to mop them. 

Its good to know that even half way around the world, people still do things and need to justify that they aren't crazy!