Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Blanket and Me

This isn't really a post about anything terribly important, just something I thought about today. The temperature here is significantly more pleasant than it is back home, and even though most of the days are in the mid 60's and sunny, it's winter. People are bundled up in winter coats, I've seen babies in snowsuits a la "A Christmas Story" and I walk around in a sundress and flats. Needless to say, I get stared at and I'm immediately pegged as an American. And despite the fact that it apparently the dead of winter, the heat in my apartment is never on, and it does get pretty chilly at night. Our third day in Sevilla, we went on two missions. Mission 1: Get Phones. Mission 2: Get an extra blanket. Luckily for us, there was a fabric store two fronts down from the phone store, and we all got 3 Euro fleece blankets.
I love this blanket. I wasn't really one for security blankets as a child, and I had stuffed animals that I slept with (bear and doggy, I'm really original), but I didn't sleep with them until an embarrassing old age like people I know. This blanket has become apart of my everyday life. I don't know what I would do without it. For such a cheap blanket, it keeps me incredibly warm, and I also know where it came from, so I'm not afraid to have it near my face, like the blanket that came with my apartment. I am afraid of one thing, washing it. We have a washer in our apartment, but no drier, and we still haven't figured out the word for fabric softener, so all of our clothing is air dried, and get's stiff once washed. So not only will I be without my little blue wonder-cloth for at least 3 days (because things NEVER dry), it would also be like sleeping with a burlap sack. I don't think I'll ever wash this blanket. Which also means, it will just have to stay here in Spain, because it will get burned once I come back to the cleanliness that is my home on Long Island.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"I skipped a nap to make this map, so we better do something with it!" First week of classes

I love that the biggest problem that I have is that I had to go on a tour of a castle hungover.
My life is so hard right now.
As I was taking the long way home with two of my friends, I mentioned that my first week of classes in Sevilla reminded me of my first day of highschool. If you're reading this blog, hopefully you know me, if you don't I'm very short. Little 14 year old Emily was so excited to finally get to highschool, but once I walked into the school, I realized there should be a height requirement. There I was, standing at a little under 5 feet tall, with gigantic senior boys, I was lost, a little confused but exhilarated at the same time to be in a new place. Now here I am, 6 and a half years later and feeling similar emotions (granted, it's much better now, because I'm in Spain, and not the purgatory masked as an educational system that was highschool.) I've only been in Spain for 2 weeks, I speak conversational Spanish fairly well, but I am completely disoriented living in this city, but I don't want to be anywhere else.

I'm taking four classes here along with 2 additional classes for my program, adding up to 15 credits. My classes at the University are:
Political and Democratic Transition of Spain: This is basically a 400 level history class about Spain post Franco. It's really interesting, and my professor makes a large effort to speak at a pace us extranjeros can understand. The only issue is: I'm a psych major, and I've never taken a history class in college before, and my only knowledge of Franco is what I saw of the Spanish Civil war in Pan's Labyrinth. So I have to do some research, but I think it will be worth it. The first day of class, my professor was talking about Spain and America are culturally different, for example, Americans have pictures of their pets in their wallets along with their children. Wait...that's weird?
Cervantes, a study of Quijote: I was eager to take this class because if I'm going to learn about the man of La Mancha anywhere, it should be here. This class discusses the life of Miguel Cervantes, and compares it with his most famous book, then discusses the impact both had on literature. Thus far, we've watched a movie on Cervantes and I had no clue what was going on, but we shall see how that goes.
Literature and Sevilla: This is turning out to be my most favorite class. We are going through each time period of Spanish literature, and talking about the books and poems that were written in/inspired by Sevilla. We're going to read, then go to the places in Seville that were discussed. My professor is knowledgeable, and very easy to understand, and this is something I can only take here.
History of Cooking in Ancient Mediterranean: I totally thought I was going to cook in this class. NOT! It's about the history of food, which is cool, because I love food, but I just get hungry, and my teachers make no effort to even try to have us understand them.

The other two classes I'm taking are just once a week, one is with Luís, our orientation tour guide (and professor at the school), who is helping us with our speaking and pronunciation, which will be very beneficial. We also love him, so it helps us get through the class.
The second one is with an art history professor, who takes us to famous places around Seville on Friday Mornings, so we basically get credit for touring our own city and getting a professional tour by someone who knows more than most normal tourguides. Today we saw the palace of Alcazar, which was the Sevillian home of Don Pedro 1. It's a beautiful Muslim inspired castle, with intricate ceilings and painted tiles. But as I said before, I was super hungover, so it made the tour much less enjoyable.

I was also assigned an "intercambio" who is a Spanish student, who wants to improve their English, so they help us with our Spanish. Mine is named Virgi (really Virginia, and pronounced Veerhee). I spent yesterday afternoon with her and her roommate, Laura. I spoke to them in broken Spanish, and they responded in broken English. Here is what I learned:
1) Apparently Spanish MTV still plays "pimp my ride" and "parental control", bot of which are popular.
2) Laura wants to marry a tall blonde American and be a cowgirl.
3) Neither Virgi nor I agree with this plan
4) "preservativios" is not preservatives, but are condoms in Spanish. They were very confused when I said that I didn't like that my bread didn't have any preservativos, because it molded quickly.
5)Apparently "American food" is cheese fries with bacon. And people wonder why obesity is an epidemic.

I'm very happy I met them both, and we're going to meet again, and bring our friends together soon, so we can all improve our language.

A bunch of us went out for the first time in Seville. We went out last weekend, but to a 30 + club, and it was not a real bar experience. We went bar hopping, and found a wonderful place with a bartender named Toba, who is a very strange mix of Russell Brand (of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, they are twins), Willy Wonka (Tim Burton version) and Borat. He told us a couple clubs where he DJs so we can get in for free, and gave some of the girls free drinks. He was a character, but he was totally worth meeting. We wandered around El Centro, and ended our night in Flaerty's, a bar with mostly American students, I met some people from Texas, and stumbled into a cab to go to sleep for the night.

Right now, I'm caffeinated, well fed, and about to watch the Office before I go to the river and drink wine with my friends. Not only is drinking outside legal, it's encouraged.

I think I can get used to this.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chicle, ancient gas stations and José Jonas: First two day in Sevilla!

The first two days in Sevilla were basically nonstop.
We arrived in Sevilla around noon, and only had enough time to put our bags down and pee quickly. We live in an apartment building where we're the only students, it's mostly families and couples, so people either find us endearing or really annoying. We went straight to Corte Ingles to get keys made and to go food shopping, my apartment-mates and I were so tired and stressed that we just went home, we just needed a nap, baby mode was in full swing. We just hung out the rest of the day, and unpacked. The group of us got celebratory tapas, which were wonderful. Our waitress sat down next to me and told me which ones to order we got goat cheese with caramelized apples, "vegetable pastry" (vegetables here are fish, because Spanish people don't get that fish isn't meat), and asparagus with salmon, all of which were delicious when washed down with tinto.
As a group, we decided that the theme of orientation was "just follow someone somewhere, and do something" because basically nothing is ever explained to us until we're actually doing it, we could be going into a ditch and we'd all just blindly follow. The next day we were told we would go to the University for a little bit, then see some Roman ruins, we thought "okay, we're leaving at 10, we'll be home at 1 the latest"...8 hours later, we were home and starving. The day was nonstop but fun and beneficial. Luis, our tourguide and professor took us on a walk from our apartment to the University, which is a very pleasant 15 minute walk. We then were supposed to go to an orientation for American students, but apparently we missed it, and got there just in time for snacks. The school is beautiful, it used to be an tobacco factory, so the architecture is unlike anything I've ever seen in the states. Luis (who has become our unofficial mascot) showed us around the school and where our classes would be. Because none of us had phones yet, time doesn't really mean much to us, and by the time we had lunch, we realized it was 2:30, and we had yet to see the ruins. We met Miguel, and his motorcycle outside the school, and we were going to take a bus with Luis while he rode his hog, little did we know that the bus station was a solid half hour walk from the university. At this time, we were all exhausted and were ready for a quick excursion and then some naps. That never happened. We got on the bus (public, not coach, like we all assumed, but it was cool to see how public transportation worked) and realized Luis was gone! Then we see our little Spanish man running towards the bus, with 5 packs of gum, which is the reason why he left us. He then gets on the bus and offers it to us, which we all politely refuse, not realizing he bought it for us! He legit is the cutest man ever, he knows so much about everything and starts to speak faster when he gets really passionate about things, which is all the time so we never really understand him. Both he and Miguel have taken a liking to us, and we all genuinely enjoy spending time with the both of them, I'm very happy we have a class with Luis once a week, so we can survive our other classes.
Italica, the Roman ruins were incredible, there was a whole city, and a theater where the Gladiators fought. Luis knew a lot about their lifestyle so it ended up being very interesting, it was also beautiful, because it was around twilight. We also made a cat friend, who we named Roma. He followed us around for the 3 hours we were touring, but was very sneaky about it because he didn't want to seem desperate.
We got home at around 7:30, and my apartment and I made dinner and had a very cute first official day in Sevilla meal. I'm feeling a lot less anxious then I originally was. I'm in my cold little room, with a phone food and good friends. I don't think I need much else.
Becca turns 21 today, which is pretty anti-climactic because if you can walk, you can drink legally here, but we all vowed to celebrate in style for all of our birthdays. Tonight we're going to a club the woman at the phone store told us about, because she apparently put us on a list so we can get free drinks, let the loud, ugly, American festivities begin!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sunsets, Saunas and a Swiss soccer team: Second Half of Orientation

Granada ended with a bang. After a walking tour of Granada, we had a few hours of free time which consisted of chocolate y churros (courtesy of Miguel, who also bought us flowers) and the search for wine and shoes. I found both, and bought 1 pair of shoes and 2 bottles of wine for under 20 Euro, not so bad. After bargaining with the hotel bartender for 5 minutes with the corkscrew, all 14 of us drank 10 bottled of wine and just hung out and chatted like girls, then set off to find a tapas bar. We found one, on some little street about 10 minutes away from our hotel, here is how getting us in to the bar went down.
Bartender: (in spanish) "We're closing, but we can stay open for one drink, how many of you"
Amanda:(in drunken spanish): FORTY!
Bartender: FOURTY?!
Amanda: oh sorry, fourteen!
We then sat in the back of the bar, drank Sangria and chatted like old friends, before stumbling back to the hotel to travel the next day.

I can't believe how incredible my life is right now. The second half of our orientation has taken us to Marbella, which is a beach resort city in Malaga. It's the off season, so it's not quite as hot as I would like it, but beggars can't be choosers, can we? Even mundane activities, such as a 3 hour bus ride from Granada to Malaga seems exciting and new when in a new country, especially when most of us are experiencing this country for the first time. I was in Spain once, with my family when I was 14, but there's something about knowing that you're here on your own, to live, it makes everything shiny and new again.
We arrived at the hotel in awe, how can we come to this hotel on SUNY prices? Our Resident Director, Miguel(really Michael) must have pulled strings or some sort of freaky favor to get us in. We had a quick meeting about where we're living and what classes are going to be like, then we had yesterday and today to ourselves to take advantage of all the hotel has to offer. After laying on the beach, I had my first sauna experience, which made me slightly overheated, but I did feel nice and clean afterward. Strangely enough, the most exciting experience that has happened to us thus far has been meeting members of a Swiss soccer team, most of them are beautiful, like a professional athlete should be, but the few that we've spoken to have been very forward, and expect too much of pretty American students "No Mikal, I don't want any cerveca, I have a headache" Mikal also only speaks French, and about 5o words in Spanish. The only words he knows in English are "single" and "party" which I guess works for him. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I've also encountered many German geriatrics on holiday, I've seen one of those groups in a speedo, and it's not the one I wanted.
Today was more relaxing and getting to know each other, with a quick excursion into town to window shop and eat some helado. Tomorrow we go to Seville (finally) and we get to move into our apartments and get settled. We figure out who we're living with tonight, but I honestly don't care (I say that now...) because we're the only students in our building and we'll only be a few floors away.
Hasta Luego.