My Spain

The Spain I have come to know over the last 30 some-odd days is not the Spain I learned about in history classes. In history we were told that Isabel and Ferdinand told Columbus to sail the ocean blue. In history classes we were told that the Spaniards gave our ancestors Catholicism and smallpox, and if we are tall or have light skin, we must be Spanish. And there is history behind this. However, that is not the Spain I met over the last month.

The Spain I have come to know tastes like tinto de verano and helado. The Spain I know tastes like everything doused in either mayonnaise or olive oil, and served with a side of pan.

The Spain I met here is the frustration of having something to say – but not having the right words to say it in Spanish. On the flip side of the coin, the Spain I know is also the sweet victory in every successful act of communication, no matter how small.

The Spain I met smells like smoke and sometimes food – and each city has its own smell as well. The pomegranate flowers in Granada, the barrels of sherry in Jerez, the salt water on the coast.

The Spain I met sounds like the accordion man playing some tunes on the sidewalk, and the squeak squeak squeak of the street performers. It sounds like the soft whir of bicycle tires creeping up behind you, the metro whizzing by, and waking up to the sounds construction as the construction workers belt their favorite American tunes.

Aquí en Sevilla, people care about strangers, and look out for one another. Like the time a man arrived to the Sevici station at the same time I did, with only one spot left, yet he still helped me put my bike in the spot, and then went in search of a different station nearby.

Aquí en Sevilla, we are usually in a drought, yet there is always water to spare for the beautiful fountains.

Aquí en Sevilla, people from Triana are obsessed with Triana, and the city even recognizes this with ¨Sevilla y Triana¨ metro stops.  They really do think they are their own city.

Aquí en Sevilla you stumble across a gorgeous procession with tons of people and animals and a Macarena and beauty and think, ¨Oh cool, look, it´s a procession.¨

Aquí en Sevilla ¨ISA¨ is pronounced eeeee-saaahhh.

My Spain is the feeling you get kayaking under the Triana bridge at sunset while conversing in Spanish.

My Spain is riding a bike along the streets and feeling a breeze on my shoulders.

My Spain is walking past Plaza de España every day on the walk to school.

My Spain is good hair days every day thanks to the of the lack of humidity.

My Spain is walking everywhere, and wearing jeans in 100 degree Fahrenheit weather.

My Spain is learning and practicing so much Spanish, using grammar I had once been afraid of and having conversations in the language longer than I ever had before…. and then when someone complemented my Spanish, all I had said was tinto de verano. (go figure)

My Spain has the best ice cream I´ve ever tasted.

My Spain is nights spent hanging out with Mama Carmen, host mother extraordinaire.

Not too long from now, it will be time to say goodbye. It´s impossible to describe this country, or this city, in words or pictures, but I have tried my best. I already know I will miss Mama Carmen, tinto de verano, living a stone´s throw away from plenty of picturesque, beautiful sights, and the ISA staff. I am very grateful to have had this opprotunity, and still think I may be dreaming. What I do know is this: a piece of my heart will always be aquí en Sevilla.

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Heladreria Artesean Torres

This Heladeria is in Nervion, and I know about it mainly because it is the only place in town I know of with Nutella ice cream. My ice cream is chocolate-y, creamy and refreshing.  I went at 7 pm on a Monday.

There is only one seat inside. The rest are outside and shaded by a large canopy. The patrons are all older than me. One group is of two young men, in their late 20s or early 30s. The other two parties are of three women each, all in their 40s/50s and up. Both groups are done with their ice cream and are just chatting. One older woman is in a wheelchair, which makes me wonder if Nervion is more accessible than other parts of the city, as it is newer.  The counter takes up the majority of the indoor space, and a small cup is 3 euros.

People look through the window as they pass, a family with a stroller orders some ice cream, and many people use the water fountain without purchasing anything. There are no tourists around.

A man who is deaf hands out pieces of cardboard to each of the patrons explaining his situation and asking for food. He goes back to collect them and is polite when people shake their heads. He leaves.

A woman waiting for someone sits at a table by me, and looks at me inquisitively. (I know she was waiting for someone because after I picked up my Seveci I had to pass the heladreia again, and he was there with her)

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Anecdotal Evidence

While I don´t have many long stories right now, I do have several small anecdotes to share:

One day as I was walking back from school, and few kids from the preschool/daycare center place by the park started calling for me. They got my attention and asked me to pass them back their ball which they had thrown over the gate. I tossed it back, and they said thank you, and I said I was welcome. It was my most seamless and least confusing Spanish conversation with locals up to that point.  Some things don´t change between cultures.

There was a moment in Cádiz when three of us were sitting on a bolder in the middle of the bright blue ocean, the sky was clear, the hot sun wrapped around our shoulders, and the cool water was crashing into our rock. It was gorgeous sea and sky as far as we could see. It was the most beautiful thing, and we mentioned something about getting one of the others back on the shore to take a picture of us, because it would have been perfect. We weren´t able to get any of them to take a picture, so I decided to take one with my eyes because it was a memory I wanted to keep. Just then, a giant wave broke into the bolder, surrounding us from all sides and dousing us with the cold salt water – and for a brief moment there, we were part of the rock, and part of the wave, and it was perfect.

The Catholic church is proud of the traditions of the church, and that you can go anywhere in the world and it will be the same mass. There are a few differences between the masses here and the ones back home. Some are ceremonial – such as the priest popping out from behind the alter instead of processing in. Others are cultural – in some of the churches I go to back home, women bring sweaters and jackets with them to mass, even during the summer, because the church gets so cold. Here, many women bring their fans because it is so hot during mass. I found this difference hilarious.

I finally rented a Sevici bike, and it´s been awesome. I should have done it sooner. It´s great to be able to get to class quickly and explore different parts of the city. It´s also wonderful because Sevilla is so flat that riding a bike is a piece of cake. They have the bike racks all over town, you can just pick one up and go.

During the kayaking excursion on the river, I was rowing next to one of the instuctors and we had a nice chat in Spanish. He asked if I knew his friend who lives in Texas (I don´t) and told me that he lives in the Beverly Hills of Sevilla (Nueva Sevilla. I have no idea if this was sarcasm or if he was serious). What interested me was that he pointed out the same building under construction that Mama Carmen had pointed out the evening we went on the roof. He said that many people in Sevilla don´t like it because it is taller than La Giralda, and they don´t think anything should be taller. His opinion is that it is a growing city, but they have to grow up instead of  out, so taller buildings make sense. I asked Manolo about it this morning (he knew exactly what I was talking about – obviously construction is not common in Sevilla) and he said it was a point of contention because of the height, as well as the modern style of the building. Manolo thinks that they could have built 4 smaller buildings instead of one giant one.

Well, now that I´ve adjusted to Spain, it´s time to uproot and change continents, languages and cultures… What? Off to Morocco for a four day excursion! Hasta luego Sevilla.

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La Florentina Field Notes

6/17, 97 degrees Fahrenheit

I went out searching for a cool heladeria my Spanish professor had mentioned in class. I wandered around the street and asked shop keepers for direction and no one knew what I was talking about. I finally stopped into the only heladeria I could find on this street. They said they did not know about the place my professor had mentioned, but it wasn´t this. I showed them my map and said that I was on the circled street, but they did not know of the shop. They were very kind to me and helpful, even though I was asking lots of questions and was looking for their competition.

I tasted their Creama de Sevilla flavor. It was caramel, vanilla, and something I don´t know the translation for. It was creamy but too much of a vanilla flavor for me to buy a whole cup of it. I ended up with half trufa and half tarta de queso (cheesecake). I´ve noticed that everywhere I´ve gone so far expects me to order two flavors. I usually forget that, and when they ask if I only want the one flavor, I go ahead and add another.

The three sets of doors are all open as to let a cool breeze through the shop. The patrons sit in chairs outside where the air is cooler. A man and his kids enjoy their ice cream cones. Two women enjoy their ice cream cones. Light fixtures hang from the ceiling, but they are not on. The shop is mostly lit by natural light, and some lights on the walls, The walls themselves are covered in framed newspaper articles, and nick-knacks on the shelves above. Not everyone sits down to eat, with many people taking their ice cream to go. They have an horchata machine! Awesome! The street outside is pretty busy. There are no more patrons outside or in here. I leave at 7pm.

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Rayas Field Notes


This weekend I tried to do two sets of field notes, one at Rayas, the heladeria that is most recommended on Google, and then I tried to do some in Triana because Kristen´s host mom apparently says the ice cream in Triana is better than the other regions. I was intrigued, so I went. It was so hot and stuffy that I only got one paragraph of notes down before I had to leave. Then I found out the shop I went to was a chain all over the city! So I´ll have to try Triana again next week.  As for Rayas, Google did not disappoint. The picture above is of the ice cream I ate. Let me know if you can´t see it, and if so I´ll just stop putting pictures in the blogs and save them for the presentation.

7:30, 6/13

Rayas is packed. My pequeño cup is 3.20 euros, but you can get a small cone for 2. The ice cream itself is super creamy and delicious. There are two small tables in here, but too many people to seat them all. I sit at a small bar in a corner by two girls. They are done with their milkshakes but are still talking and are facing each other. They are about my age, give or take about 5 years either way. Two ladies sit at the table by the trashcan. A group of 4 people, maybe high school age, 3 girls and 1 boy, sit closer to the door, drinking smoothies. A small boy in a blue and green stripped polo wanders around, I don´t know who he belongs to. The rush at the counter has died down. A man orders a slushie and takes it to the other side of the girls. A couple sits outside. The 5 servers are all female, they wear blue aprons that match the color of the walls. They wear white polos underneath, and their hair in buns. There is a wide variety of flavors, maybe about 25 or so. Several people ask for small cups of water they fill up at the water fountain. The shop is a square shape with the counter taking up a large portion of the corner, and there is an employees door on the clear-but-not-see-through wall behind the counter. A new wave of people enter the store, many ordering cones.  A baby carriage, grown men, a man and his daughter carrying motorcycle helmets. A man jokes with the server in a booming voice. There is not enough room to fit everyone in here, and many people eat outside.  A woman wearing all white takes the seat next to me, with her cup with two flavors. She leaves when a table opens up. Some people stand while eating their ice cream in a corner. An older woman sitting by the girls eats her cone with a spoon. The blue-green shirt boy runs back i with a smaller boy wearing a matching shirt. They run outside and I hear squeals. The room is well lit. The girls leave. One fans herself with a red fan. They leave their trash on the counter and a server comes to clean it. The rush has once again died down, there are now 8 costumers in here, and many outside.  There is a blue door behind me, and I don´t know where it goes. A man and a woman in formal wear share a large cup. There is no a male behind the counter in a blue shirt. Is he also a server? A 5th friend joins the high school group, and she pulls up a chair. I leave at 7:55.


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Happy Accidents

Alternate titles for this blog post include: ¨All Who Wander Are In Fact Lost (Duh, it´s Sevilla),¨ ¨Always Choose Misadventure,¨ and ¨Things I Did Yesterday When I Should Have Been Working on My Ethnography (oops).¨

Yesterday started out great. Our Spainish class had a new energy that wasn´t there before, and we had a lot of fun. I think it´s usually easier to translate into our first languages to each other under our breaths when we don´t understand (all the Chinese students sit together, and all the American students sit together). But yesterday, we were all mixed together, speaking Spanish, teasing each other and having a good time.

After lunch, I decided to use part of siesta time to figure out where the convent that sells dulces is located, so I could know where it was for later. The nun at the convent that sells rosaries had told me from behind the wall (it´s really cool, you put your money on a little door thing, ring a bell, tell them what you want, the door spins, and your thing comes to you) that they did not sell dulces, but the Dominican nuns on Calle San Jose had some really delicious ones. So I set off to find Calle San Jose.

This picture is of the convent by La Giralda, they sell rosaries and such. Look at the little revolving door!

Upon arriving in Sevilla, MJ had said, ¨There is a 100 percent chance you will get lost. You will get lost.¨ I believed her… for a while. Then Marissa and I discovered that we could just look in the sky and see La Giralda and follow it home. I had not gotten lost yet. Until yesterday. Despite what we learned in class about gender communication, I was too proud to ask for directions (as a side note, I have had 4 people now ask me for directions in Sevilla, none robbed me, and 3 were men. One actually had a wife who didn´t want him to ask directions. SO THERE, I say to gender communication theories.) Eventually, I found a bridge I recognized, and was able to go home from there. I never did find Calle San Jose.

There´s a reason people don´t go out during siesta. Too hot. When I bought horchata on my way home, the man working said, ¨hasta mañana¨ as I left. I hadn´t realized how many horchatas I had been buying until the man working there expected to see me every day. Oops.

Later that evening, I needed to go to the supermarket, so I took a shortcut I remembered taking with Mama Carmen. Before long, I ran into a procession. In my head I was thinking, oh look, another procession, and squeezed past. Then I realized what I had just thought, turned around, and enjoyed the procession. This city never ceases to enchant me.

I realized that I have never been out of the Texas Hill Country for this long. I can´t remember being anywhere outside of San Antonio, Austin, or New Braunfels for more than 3 weeks. I had no idea my world was so small until I put it into that percpective. I think of all the other countries or places I´ve been to, and how they hold my heart, and I can´t begin to imagine how much of a hold on my heart Sevilla will have, knowing that I hadn´t even been to any of the other places for that long. Crazy.

Misadventures have been some of the best times. Buying 3 kilos of plums instead of three plums (hey – I ended up with 3 kilos of plums, no complaints!) or thinking that Carmencita´s refridgerator food cover was the same as the microwave food cover (it´s not. They just look identical. It was the most embarassing thing. But she knew it was an accident and fawned over the ¨art¨ I had made, and how beautiful it was, and how now her food can breathe. Yes, my host mom is perfect) or finding a new area of town because you got lost (I found some new places to research for my ethnography too!), that´s all part of the excitement.

This city is wonderful. And there are so many more wonders to explore. More than likely though, they will find me when I least expect them.

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Culture and Communication

Two weeks before I came to Spain, a random man stopped me on campus and asked me where my hair was from (it´s weird – after getting comments like that for so long, you´d think I´d have a clever answer for that, like ¨my head¨ or something. But no, I still get taken by surprise). He asked if I was Spanish. Now, in general, that was a really weird conversation, but as I was going to Spain in two weeks, I was sort of flattered. Then I got to Madrid. And started to laugh at that silly man. I did not look like I was from Spain. I stood out a lot.

Now we have been here for three weeks (WHAT? ALREADY!?) and I have thankfully figured out a lot since the time in Madrid. I´d say I stand out about 785345834 times less. I have been mistaken for a local a few times, once by a group of American tourists, and once by a man who asked me for directions (and he was actually asking. Did not pickpocket me). He said something about the park and over here and over there and that way, so I said ¨sí¨because that sounded right, then he chuckled and said something about oh you´re not from here, are you, and got directions from someone else. Oh well. I fooled him for half a second. Just a general knowledge of what I´m doing, a better grasp of the language, and a greater awareness of how to dress and behave has given me the ability to blend in much more.

Even though I don´t look like a tourist anymore, there are a few things I can´t change about myself that give me away as a foreigner. First, I have not see one person in Spain fall down, trip, or stumble. Yesterday I saw a lady lose balance, but it was just a misstep and she carried on. If we´re lumping, I´d day that Spaniards are graceful people who know how to walk.  I have tripped about 10-15 times, and had two major spills where I have eaten the ground (it´s fine, I was able to get right back up afterwards both times).

During our orientation to the city, MJ said that in Spain people don´t go around smiling at strangers. This is true. However, this is not to say that the people are unfriendly, communication is just preformed in different ways. For example: the other day I was stopped in the median between two cross walks, waiting with a sizable group of other pedestrians waiting to cross. As cars, motorcycles, and horse carriages passed by, one caballero in particular was driving his horse and carriage in the lane closest to us. Okay. Then, as he passes us, he leans over on his seat (while still driving) to the man standing next to me, greets him, confirms plans for the evening, and leans over out of his seat to attempt to high five (or maybe handshake, it was unclear) the man. All of this was preformed while he was still driving, and the horse was none the wiser. Absolutely fascinating. Also, another thing I´ve noticed about communication here, at least in our apartment, is that people greet the other people in the apartment building as they passed.   Because of the no-smile thing, I refrained from doing this, and then as time went on and people kept greeting me, I realized I was probably being impolite. Now I get to greet all of the strangers I live with. Yay! Reminds me of home.

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Field Notes at Amorino – 6/11

I went back to Amorino, this time in the late afternoon, to take more field notes. It was a Wednesday at 6:09 and 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

Same shop, now  sitting in the raised middle table the people were at yesterday. Hopefully this will provide a better view. Same male server, along with a different male server who was not here yesterday. The prices are much higher for this gelato shop than for the regular ice cream stores nearby. I won´t be able to take field notes here often, because I will run out of money. The macaroons are stellar though.

A man with a tattoo on his arm sits across from a lady about his age, her brown hair in a high bun. Behind me, a woman sits with a young girl in a green dress. The couple in front of me have 5 empty dishes on their table, and pop into the restroom before leaving. On their way out, they chat with the server. The mother´daughter pair also chat with the servers before they take off. A server cleans both tables very quickly. Now I am the only customer in the shop while one server is on the phone, one is washing dishes, and the rest of the city is taking a siesta. The small serving is called ¨piccolo¨ instead of the Spanish word for small. A small cup or cone is 3.50 euros, much more than regular ice cream shops around town. A man wearing glasses, carrying two black shopping bags, and with greying hair stops by and talks to the servers, and then leaves. I did not notice this yesterday, but there is a cherub statue, a cherub statue-painting hybrid and a cherub painting on the wall. The shop is still empty. The song ¨Black or White¨plays again today.

I leave at 6:34.

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Córdoba & Granada Excursion

This past weekend´s excursion was to Córdoba and Granada. In Córdoba, we toured a cathedral that is actually 80% mosque and  20% cathedral. In most cities, when the Christians conquered Spain, they destroyed the mosques. However, in Córdoba, they built the cathedral inside of the preexisting mosque.  What I found especially interesting, was the way the tour guide would say things like, ¨And then, in year 711..¨ The way recorded history goes back so far is very different from the United States.

In Granda, we saw a flamenco show. The dancing was very precise, and I tried to pick out words I knew in the lyrics. That night, we stumbled upon a procession. I would add a picture but for some reason it only shows up sideways. Granada is known for tapas gratis – FREE TAPAS! For every drink you order, you get a tapa. You don´t get to pick which tapa you get, it´s a surprise.

The fruit doesn´t come until the fall, but in June, you can smell the pomegranate flowers all across Granada (Granada means pomegranate and the fruit is the symbol of the city.

In the morning, we visited the palaces and gardens. The Arabic word for paradise and garden are one word, because they are seen as one in the same.

You can´t really tell, but this is a picture of a ceiling.

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Field Notes 6/10 – Amorino Gelato

Note: All conversations in Spanish unless otherwise noted

The signs outside read, ¨Amorino – Gelato Natural¨ and ¨Caffé Cioccolato.¨ This place serves ice cream, gelato and macaroons. It is just off of Plaza Nueva.  It is 2:06 and 79 degrees outside on a Tuesday. Two workers, one male and one female wear black server caps and aprons. Two teenage girls sit on the high stools and bench in the back, discussing something calmly but intensely. Their friend Mari comes in, and the energy in the group changes drastically. They bounce up to hug and kiss her and she pulls up a stool to join them. The three talk much more animatedly than before. They leave, thanking the servers on their way out. An older couple comes in and they start discussing the flavors with the servers. They get small cups. While they are ordering, three new people enter the shop, and leave their things at a table as they go to the counter to order. The two younger people in the group, one male and one female, order light yellow slushie-type things with thick straw. The oldest in the group gets a small cone, with ice cream towering over the cone in large arches. She´s surprised  to get so much ice cream in for a small cone. The young male is wearing tennis shoes, white socks, jeans and a white polo. He has his hands and feet on the extra stool on the table, moving it back and forth. The girl is around his age, maybe older, wearing a yellow dress and a tan purse. She has her legs crossed under the table. The woman is wearing a paisley orange and blue dress with sandals. She seems older than her companions, and her ankles are crossed. A wide range of music comes through the speakers, right now it is jazz. The woman grabs some napkins, located on one of the shorter tables. There are four short tables against the black booth on the wall where I am sitting, with small back cushion-like backless chairs in front of them. A new set of people come in. I cannot see them, but I hear a female voice speaking English in a British accent to the female server. The male server is making something in a fancy coffee machine. A woman with shorts walks to the bathroom. The shop also has the table in the middle the party of three is sitting at, three smaller raised tables with one stool each on one side, and a wooden booth on the other. There is a bar with stools parallel to the selection of ice creams and macaroons. The woman from the group in the middle goes to th bathroom. Her tan purse and thick sprial notebook remain at the table with the younger people. The voices in the music playing now are singing in English. I need to sit somewhere else next time because the counter is blocking my view of the shop. Two circular light fixtures hang from the ceiling. Three walls are dark tan and one is rock. I leave at 2:37, and see a group of people who had been hidden from my vision before. The male server says ¨hasta luego¨as I leave.

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