Sunday, June 21, 2009
I like to have a purpose, a destination. I don’t often take walks for the sake of talking a walk, without a place in mind to go. But today, a beautiful Sunday in Seville, I couldn’t simply sit inside and study all day. I pulled on my brown boots and black jacket and traversed out the front door of the apartment building. My daily routine takes me left here, down to Asuncion Avenue and then to the bridge. However, today would be different. Right. I was going to turn right at the door, and find out just what was beyond the river bend… I mean, corner.
So I did. My senora had recommended a restaurant that was a block or two away, and I thought I’d find out where it was. It was easy to discover, with its tables commanding the sidewalk and the scent of food in the air. But I just had lunch, so there was no need to stop. I passed the restaurant and the families still finishing their Sunday meal, and continued down the road.
The street curved right, and I followed. It was then that I saw the park, calling to me from across the street. On this nearly-spring, sunny day, who could pass up a walk in the park? I crossed, and found the entrance. As I entered, a small boy chased a ball on to the sidewalk, and threw it back in the field, ready for more play. I followed the path in the park, passing two old men sitting side by side on a green bench. The bench was desperately in need of a new coat of paint, but the men paid no mind and simply enjoyed the sun from their perch.
To my right was a playground. I could hear laughter and screams and chatter, the noise of children. The bright colors of the slides and swings reminded me of all the playgrounds back home. Kids will be kids, and their toys will always be colorful. As I passed the playground, I noticed a presence behind me. A dog. I would say he was average-sized, but my standards may be different than your own. The dog, white and black, followed me for a few steps, then paused while I continued on. A few steps later, I realized he had plodded a few more feet as well. His owner, dosing near the path, awoke and called him back. “¡Hola, hola!” he yelled and whistled. Apparently the dog paid no heed, as the man whistled louder and louder. I was far from the pair by now, the dog no longer interested in me but instead in the field around him. With a quick glance behind me, I saw that the dog had indeed returned to his owner, content in the grass. I smiled to myself and continued on.
The strange thing about walks in this country is that no one looks up. I often raise my head as someone walks by me, ready to smile or nod, but then I remember that I’m not in the States. Here there is no smile or nod, or acknowledgement of any kind. There is rarely eye contact with any passerby. It’s not that the people here are unfriendly or rude, but that kind of greeting is just not custom. In my neighborhood and university at home, eye contact is expected and a greeting is recommended. But here… that’s simply not how they stroll.
I’ve come to the end of the path, lost in my thoughts. I exit the park, thinking I will return to the apartment. But as I pass another entrance to the same park, I change my mind. I need to learn how to take a relaxing Sunday walk, right? I enter the park again, and follow a different path. This one leads me to a covered path, the sunlight shining in through the wood. I rest on a bench for a few minutes. I want to people-watch, but I dare not raise my head to observe. In the US, people-watching is common. Here, not quite. So I listen. The noises of Sunday afternoon are simple: children laughing, adults talking, glasses clinking, dogs barking. I remain on my bench for a few minutes before deciding to walk again. I leave the park with no destination in mind.
I take a right at the exit, headed back in the direction of the apartment building. I pass the same restaurant, the families I saw earlier buttoning up their jackets and pulling on their gloves. Two boys with soccer balls play just past the restaurant, while two girls climb a stone wall behind them. I smile, missing the kids I taught last semester. I approach the apartment building on my left, but decide the weather is still too nice to go back inside.
I pass the closed Chocolateria, and promise myself that one day soon I will go to the Chocolateria for some churros and chocolate. I turn left on Asuncion and listen as people call to each other from their cars and laugh at a distant joke. Two blocks down, I turn left again, on a street I haven’t been down before. There’s a gelato shop, and a store with Cola Cao in the window – that’s where I can buy some before I leave. I turn left again and head back to the road I recognize, knowing I’m nearing the end of my walk.
Once again I come up the apartment building. I check my watch. An hour. I strolled for an hour. Impressed with my ever-increasing strolling skills, I head inside for a glass of water. A Sunday afternoon stroll was exactly what I needed to clear my head and prepare for a full week of classes. I smile to the sun one last time and unlock the gate to the apartment building. Until next week.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I wrote a little bit while I was in Spain, just some observations on life in Seville. :)
Every morning I have class from 9:45 to 12:00. It’s a long time, but fortunately our teacher allows us a thirty minute descanso (break) at 11:00. Usually during this time, my friend Abby and I go to a café and buy café con leche (coffee with milk). It’s exactly what we need to keep us going for last part of class. Most Sevillanos take a descanso in the mid-morning, since they eat breakfast at about 7:00 and don’t eat lunch until about 2:00.
What I noticed immediately after I bought my first cup of coffee was the type of mug they serve it in. Well, it’s not really a mug at all. It’s a thin glass, about 5 inches tall, seated on a saucer. The barista fills half the glass with steaming coffee, then tops it off with cold milk. I prefer to add a large packet of sugar, but that’s just my beginner coffee-drinking way.
At home, I watch my dad and brother drink coffee all the time. They grab a mug out of the cabinet, thick plastic with a large handle. The mugs are usually decorated in some fashion: there’s the Eastern University mug, the chiropractor mug, the NASCAR mug. The males in my house choose their mug according to their mood, and fill it with their caffeinated beverage. But even in coffee shops in the United States, the coffee is served in a mug: at the diners, at the breakfast spots.
And of course there is the other kind of coffee shop. In my area of Pennsylvania, we head to Wawa when we want a cup of coffee, or a sandwich, or a snack, or almost any other kind of food. There are other variations of Wawa across the county: 7-11, Sheetz, Turkey Hill. None of them are as good as Wawa, but that’s another topic for another time…
It’s at these places that you can get coffee to-go. Or perhaps you get your coffee to-go from Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. All class American conveniences. There, the coffee is not served in a thin glass, it’s served in a cardboard cup with a plastic lid – or worse, in a Styrofoam cup. Then we can take our hot drink wherever we go, if we’re in a rush to school or the office or to meet up with friends. Always in a rush, we are.
But here… Styrofoam cups are non-existent. You can’t go to a coffee shop and ask for your café con leche to-go. There’s no lid resting on the side of your saucer, and no handle to take your beverage wherever you go. The coffee comes in its glass, and you sit at the bar and drink it. Often it’s too hot to drink right away, so you must wait. You must make conversation, you must read the newspaper, you must take your time. I’m sorry? Take my time? But I come from a culture of RushRushRush. I don’t… I don’t know how to do that.
Well, you must learn. Here, the coffee comes on the counter, and it stays on the counter. You don’t pay until you’ve finished drinking it, and even then you must wait until the waiter finally sees your waving hand. There is no grab-and-go, no way you can be in a hurry.
Perhaps that’s why I began to drink coffee here. It’s such a part of the culture. Getting a cup of café con leche means entering a coffee shop, sitting down, and waiting. Waiting for your cup, waiting for your sugar, waiting for your coffee to cool, waiting for your change. The waiters are in no rush to serve you (how ironic is their title), and so you take your time.
On Monday morning, a few friends and I are meeting up for café con leche during descanso. We’ll probably go to our favorite place, about a minute’s walk from school, the shop with the picture of a pig on the outside. We’ll order our coffee, we’ll pour our sugar, we’ll wait for the liquid to cool. And while we do all of this, we’ll talk. We’ll learn about each other. We won’t rush around, scrambling to find the time to do everything we need to do. We’ll put our to-do lists on hold, and we’ll just take our time enjoying our mid-morning break.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I have no idea if anyone's still checking this, but... I thought I'd update it again just to see. :)
I'm back home in Pennsylvania now, working at EAPE at Eastern (it's a sweet job), taking an online class, spending lots of quality time with some awesome people, running, learning how to cook some new foods, etc. etc. etc. ;)
It's been nice to be home... I sure did miss all these people! Of course, I do miss Spain, especially speaking Spanish all the time. It's been crazy since I got home... about 3 weeks ago? I've gone camping (I LOVE camping), spent a weekend at the Jersey shore, and of course played many games of Canasta. And the other day I went geo-caching with some friends. If you've never heard of geo-caching, you should check it out, because it's actually a ton of fun.
I know I left the blog hanging without pictures in the end, so I'm going to post some links to online photo albums so you all can see more pictures. So let's see...
Here is the album from Semana Santa (beginning of April)
These are pictures from our weekend in Portugal
Aaaaaaaand this captures the last week I spent in Sevilla
Well, I'm off to do some reading (wahoo for having time to read!). I'll probably keep updating this... I wrote a bit while I was in Spain, so maybe I'll post some of my thoughts/ramblings (hopefully they won't bore any of you)...
Happy June! Until next time!
Peace & love.
Friday, May 8, 2009
I´ve been trying to update the blog for a couple days, but the server was having some problems. So, unfortunately, I can´t post any pictures right now. I´ll try to post some soon! But I can tell you about the past week here in Sevilla!
Last week was Feria, a week-long fiesta here in Seville (what can I say, the Sevillanos like to throw giant parties!). Everyone gets dressed up to go - a lot of women wear flamenco dresses, and men wear suits. The Feria grounds are right across the street from my apartment - there are over 1000 casetas (sturdy tents), as well as a huge carnival and lots of food stands. Most of the tents are private, which means you need an invite to get in. Fortunately, we had some friends who let us in their tents with them - where we learned Sevillanos! Sevillanos is the traditional type of dance, and it was so much fun learning how to dance from the Sevillanos themselves. :)
After a few days of Feria, we escaped to Portugal for the weekend. We visited Lisboa, Sintra, and Lagos. Lisboa is a nice city - we took an elevator up to the ¨Barrio Alto¨and saw the entire city from way up in the air. Lagos has the most gorgeous beaches I´ve ever been to. The weather was great, and the little town of Lagos was awesome (we found a market where we could buy fruit really cheap, and so we ate our lunches on the beautiful beach).
This past week was my last week of classes... yesterday was the last day. Today I have my first final (for Teaching English as a Foreign Language), and I have two more next week. But this is my last weekend here in Sevilla, so I´m excited just to spend time in my favorite city! (And study for finals... mmm, maybe...)
Well, this time next week I´ll be back in the States... but right now I´m just going to enjoy the last few days of la vida espanola!
Monday, April 27, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
What a crazy week it's been! School is picking up and I've had lots of exams and presentations in the last two weeks. Right now I'm picking topics for my two final papers, and I need to get started writing them.
BUT! Before I do that... I'm going to Morocco! I'm so excited! I leave on Friday morning and I'll be there for 6 days. Then when I get back to Seville, Semana Santa will have started. Semana Santa is a week-long holiday leading up to Easter. There's lots of parades and festivities, and Ruth is visiting for a couple days! I just have to get through 2 more days of school...
This past weekend we went to the mercado - kind of like a giant flea market, but Spanish! It was a lot of fun and we'll definitely go back there again (we have to get our futbol jerseys!).
Anyway, I'm about to get some cafe con leche, so I'll keep this short and be sure to update you all when I get back from Morocco!
Peace and love. :)