Tuesday, March 3, 2009

March Already?!

Today when I wrote the date on the top of my notes I had a minor freak out moment. March 3rd?!! Seriously?! This week marks the 7th week that I have been here in Sevilla. 7 weeks! wow. I have passed the 1 month marker. For some reason this really struck me. Now it gets serious. No more relying on the "oh, I haven't been here that long" excuse when I can't understand someone or can't find my way somewhere. No more putting off planning trips for my breaks because "they are so far away." And no more "oh, my midterms are not for a while." These thoughts kind of had me stressing a little! I just want to make sure that I am truly taking advantage of every new opportunity that I have here because one of my worst fears is coming home and regretting NOT doing something.

Anyhoo...I know that I have been majorly slacking in the blog department but I do have some interesting things to report.

  • For Lent, some of my friends and I have given up speaking in English to each other. One of the most important things about this trip that I want to return home with improved Spanish, and this is definitely a step in the right direction to accomplishing this. Speaking with my friends helps me boost my confidence since I do not feel self conscience every second that I am pronouncing something wrong or sounding stupid. Now I just need to carry this confidence into my conversations with Spanish people!
  • A couple weeks ago I did a volunteer activity that my program offered that consisted in getting up early on a Sunday morning (ugh) and painting the gymnasium of a public school. It was great to give back to a community that has already given so much to me in my time here. I had a lot of fun and got to see a new part of the city! But I also got blue paint on my sneakers since I wasn't really prepared with clothes for activities like this...
  • Two weeks ago I went to Carnaval in the nearby city of Cádiz (which is actually the 3rd largest carnaval celebration in the world) and let's just say it was certainly an experience...I have never seen that many people in one place before!! They take the dressing up veryyyy seriously too! Also, while there I got to see the waters of the Mediterranean for the first time!
  • Classes are going pretty well..I know I have never really gone into detail about them but that is because they take a back seat to all the other things that I am doing and experiencing while I am here-they are really just not that exciting in comparison. I am learning about Don Quixote, Spanish phonetics, Spanish Contemporary Literature, and Spanish Art history. I take my classes with all Americans, 2 at my CIEE "study center" and 2 at the University of Seville. Fun fact: the building that is now the University of Seville where I take classes is the old tobacco factory where Carmen (you know- the opera!) was rumored to have worked. Cool, huh?!
  • Lastly, On Saturday I took a day trip to Córdoba with my program. We toured the Catherdral/Mosque that is amaaaazing and stood on a bridge that was built in the 1 century by the Romans!! Then we toured the 3rd oldest winery in Spain and did a wine tasting. One of the wines we tried was made from raisins and was thick like syrup and sickeningly sweet (Grammy have you ever tried raisin wine? I was not exactly a fan of it...)
Sorry that this post was so random...I will try to be more consistent and systematic in my posting from now on!
Oh-one more thought-the weather here is absolutely beautiful! Crisp mornings and evenings and perfectly sunny afternoons...I have a feeling that during Spring that city is going to completely explode with life and people loving life! I am definitely looking forward to taking part in this :)
Hasta luego!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Granada in a few words and many pictures

Last weekend, I visited Granada with a group from my prgram. Like the title says, this post is going to be mostly just pictures. The reason? Because, in this situation, words simply don't cut it. Sure, I could tell you all about everything we did in the fascinating city in excruciating detail but I still would not even be able to get any where near the actual experience. The highlight, obviously, was the breath-taking Alhambra. Sorry, but really it is just something you have to see for yourself. But for now you have my pictures!
But first, a few words to give you an idea of my time in Granada that were not captured in picture form:
-we went in the Capilla Real and saw the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabel. You know, THE Ferdinand and Isabella. Their bodies. Or, you know..what used to be their bodies... or whatever. Crazy stuff.
-we got offered weed brownies on the street. (it is a veryyyyy hippie-ish town)
-we drank warm and fragrant exotic tea in a dark corner of a tetería
we toured the Alhambra at 8:30 am, after 1 hour of sleep!

and now...pictures!
the street that reminded me of the market in Aladdin (sorry, it is a bad picture but I was walking haha)

Lauren and I in the Alhambra
view from inside the "summer palace" of the Alhambra
English majors in front of Washington Irving's room in the Alhambra
amaaaazing ceiling in the Alhambra
The Alhambra!
view of the city
tower that was built in 900 AD
The Alhambra from afar. Fun Fact: the whole thing was built in 5 years around 1100 ( i think?)
Part of the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada mountains behind

My time in Granada was super fun, but visiting another city just made me love Sevilla even more. But it was definitely wonderful to see more of Spain and Granada's intense Moorish influences were fascinating and new.

I will be back sometime in the near future to tell you all about my new classes!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

y un, dos, tres, cuatro...

y un, dos, tres, cuartro...that, my friends, is what has been going through my head non stop for the past couple of days. The reason for this would be that on Monday, Sarah (my host "mom") and I had our first Sevillanas dancing lesson. Sevillanas is a type of flamenco dancing that is very popular here and is danced at the world famous Feria in Sevilla in April. And yes, you read that right, I am taking dance lessons. Feel free to laugh. It is definitely quite comical. Luckily, though, our teacher comes to the apartment to teach us (less public embarrassment). Unluckily, though, there is not much space in the apartment, so I am constantly hitting into things. On Monday we learned the steps to the first dance (there are 4 dances total) and next time we are going to add the arms, which are no doubt the hardest part. You have to be constantly moving your wrists while the arms stay still and perfectly curved. ummm yea. So far, I can do the steps, but I am far from looking good while doing them. But it is a beautiful dance and I am excited to be learning such an important part of Sevilla's unique culture. Here is a video I found that will give you an idea of what I'm doing:

the quality isn't great, but I am pretty sure they are actually doing the first dance that I learned (but a more complicated version of it)

While I am learning and becoming more connected with some distinctly Spanish traditions I am still holding tight to some important American ones. On Sunday night, at 10:30 pm, I headed to Flaherty's (an Irish pub) with some friends to watch the Super Bowl. Since we got there at 10:30 (2 hours before kick-off) we got great seats, an all you can eat buffet of wonderfully disgusting yet comforting American food and 2 free drinks for 12 euros...not badddd. When the game finally started at 12:30 the bar was absolutely packed with people. It was certainly an interesting experience owing to the fact that since about half of my program is from Penn State there were some very devoted Steelers fans there, but also some veryyyyy devoted eagles fans (i.e. anti-steelers fans). This caused some minor tiffs but I kept quiet and watched the game. And what an intense one it was! I was planning on leaving at halftime (since it was 2:30 am ) but it was so close I absolutely couldn't! I finally got home around 5 am, exhausted but happy for my steelers :) The downside of the evening was that we watched the game on BBC sports, so we did not get to see any of American commericials. I was super bummed because I love the special super bowl ads! If anyone has any favorites, let me know and I will youtube them!

Yesterday I went to el Museo de Bellas Artes for my class and I liked it a lot. It was pretty small but the building is beautiful and one room is an old convent chapel and the ceiling was amazingggggg. I think I stood in that room just staring up at the ceiling for at least 10 minutes. I couldn't even look at the art that was on the walls because the ceiling was so impressive. I am so so so sorry though because I forgot my camera :( Other than the amazing room, the little museum had some very nice works of art. Of course, there were about 1,000 paintings of the virgin and Jesus and angels. One of the paintings I saw was called "José y la mujer de Potifar". I got really excited because it was a painting of Joseph and Potiphar's wife. This Joseph didn't look like Donny Osmond though haha. Overall, I really enjoyed my visit as it was a good way for me to gear up for my art history class that I will be taking during the semester: Masterpieces of Famous Spanish Painters which starts next week. eep. My "intensive session" class has definitely lived up to its name but at least I am learning a lot.

This coming weekend I am going with a group from my program to the nearby city of Grenada (I think it is about a 3 hour drive from here). I am very excited to visit a new city and especially to see La Alhambra! It is supposedly breathtaking. I am crossing my fingers for good weather since it has been raining a lot the past week ew. I promise I will take lots of pictures. Speaking of pictures, unfortunately I do not think I have any news ones to share :( Sorry I am lame. ok, well now that I have talked your ears off ( or would it be typed your eyes off??) I will say hasta luego!


Monday, January 26, 2009

New things

Hola a todos!

Things are still going well in general and my trip continues to be about new things...I'm discovering new routes to my destinations, making new friends, and learning new Spanish vocab. Speaking of new things: my new room! It is a little messy, but hey...

I can already tell that my Spanish is improving. Another this I have noticed that amazes me is how fast my attitude about it can change, though. One second I will be feeling proud and confident that I successfully conjugated an irregular verb, and then next upset and embarrassed because I couldn't understand what people are saying. I guess you could say it is a love/hate relationship, but all good relationships need time to grow, right?

Anyway, a little bit about what I have been up to since I last posted...
On Friday I went with my orientation group to a place outside of the city called Itálica. I didn't really know what it was before I went but it is actually the first Roman settlement on the Iberian peninsula! It was the settlement for only the very richest of the Romans, though. Since I enjoy history this was a very interesting place to me. The original stone roads still exist and we walked on them! Also, they have uncovered mosaics that were on the floors of the houses and they are spectacular. I took a lot of pictures but I will only bore you with a few:

A mosaic of Roman gods representing the days of the week and part of the ruins:

the amphitheater where they would have gladiator fights! the hole in the middle is where they kept the animals (it had a cover on it when they fought)

Me standing in the arena in front of one of the doors that led in the inner hallways where the gladiators would wait to fight. My hair looks horrid because it was really humid that day haha

more ruins
In other news, we have actually started classes! For the next 2 weeks we have an intensive session of a grammar class for 3 hours every day. Our first class was today and it was not as scary as I thought it would be! I like my professora a lot and the people are very nice. It is a small class so there is a lot of participation though ugh. It is also crazy because we have our midterm this Friday and our final next Friday! You can imagine how much work is crammed in between there...we have 2 oral presentations and 3 papers!!!!!! Ay, Dios! Also, my class is from 6-9 at night. I do not like the class time AT ALL. I just do not know what to do with myself for the whole day. Thankfully, now we have homework to occupy my time. And I have this.....
Yes, ladies and gentlemen..that would be Twilight in Spanish (Mommy you can stop rolling your eyes now). Today I bought it at a librería. It is perfect because I love it and I have already read it so it is not so hard to understand the Spanish. I am already leaning so many new words from it (and rediscovering my love for Edward)!!

One last interesting thing (Dad, this is for you): Sunday evening, when my friends and I were walking around the city we came upon a huuuge procession of some religious sort. There was a crowd of people, some carrying crosses, and lots of banging of drums. It was a very strange sight to see. It was just another way in which the intense Catholic-ness of the city was very obvious. As my host father said: Sevilla is a city with a lot of churches and a lot of bars. This is definitely true to what I have seen.

Well, that is what's new in my neck of the world...
¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Settled In (or getting there...)

Hola a todos!
I cannot believe that I have only been here for 4 days! whew! The past 4 days have been packed with activities with my grupo within ciee (we split into groups of 15 because there are 200 of us total!), nervousness (before moving in with mi familia), excitement (going to a traditional flamenco show), triumphs (getting somewhere in the city by myself) and frustrations (not knowing a very simple vocab word). I have met very nice students in the program but not many Spanish students yet...but that will come later.

I moved in with my family on Wednesday and I am so happy that I got placed where I did! I am living with a young-ish couple, Sarah y Jesús, who have a 1 year old daughter Talía. She is the cutest thing ever and they couldn't be nicer or more patient with my Spanish (or lack thereof). They live in an apartment in El Centro (Sevilla is split into zonas). This means I am only a 10 minute walk from where I will be taking classes! We start classes on Monday and I am definitely ready because I feel like my Spanish will improve greatly when we start our "intensive session" of a grammar class for 3 hours every day.

Let's see, what else is there to tell? Oh- I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone who knows me-but I love the siesta!!!!! I think I was made for this culture. I have been taking naps almost every day around 3 ish. Ahhh so refreshing. So far I have liked most every meal I have had. The food schedule is different here but I am quickly getting used to it. We eat a small breakfast (coffe and toast usually) and then a huuuuge lunch around 2:30 and then a smaller dinner at 9 or 9:30. I have been drinking tons of coffee and cerveza (just kidding...but really hahah) and eating a lot of fish (especially tuna) and ham and olives. I had never had a green olive but I'm eating them now!

Ok well, my fingers are getting tired of typing but I hope that everyone is doing well and I miss you all sooooo much! I will leave you with some pictures (sorry I have not been doing a very good job taking pictures because I am trying to be all cool and not act like a tourist). These will give you a tinyyyy taste of the beauty of Sevilla.

el torre del oro and palm trees! . It sits on the bank of the Guadalquivir River . At night it is lit up (hence the name tower of gold)La Giralda-part of el catedral (cathedral)
a plaza (the city has tons)..I think this is either plaza de los reyes or plaza del triunfo

Hasta luego!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quick Update!

Hola from Sevilla, Spain!
I don't have time to write much because in a little bit I am meeting and moving in with my familia! I will be living with a couple who have a 1 year old girl. I am nervous and excited to start this new part of my semester.
The city is absolutely breathtaking (pictures to come later). There is wonderful shopping and food and everything. I still cannot believe I am actually here!
Well, unfortunately this is all I have time for right now but I just wanted to check in and let everyone know I arrived safe and sound!
Hasta luego!