Friday, January 30, 2009


Here are some of the photos I was trying to upload the other day!

Another picture of my room. Unfortunately there's a preschool/day care downstairs and the outside plaza they use is right below my window. So I've been doing my studying in the living room. It works out really well though considering I'm the only one home during the day.

This is the living/dining room.

Here's the kitchen

And yes...a spanish home is not complete without a pig's leg. These things are all over the place. Restaurants have tens of them hanging from the ceiling and all of my friends say their señoras have them in their kitchens as well. It's been here since I got here, which makes me wonder what its shelf life is. I'm pretty sure the pork we ate one night was cut directly from this.

This is the ceiling in one of the rooms at the museum. Isn't it gorgeous? I must say, the architecture interested me a little more than the art. This pictures doesn't even begin to do it justice.

This is the Plaza de España. Some serious google research told me that it was built in 1929 for the Spanish-American Exhibition. It's in the shape of a semi-circle and absolutely magnificent.

This is in the Plaza de España. Every city in Spain has one of these. Unfortunately, the Sevilla one appeared to be under construction. I studied in Cádiz 4 years ago, so I thought it was the next best thing.

Well, there's not too much else to report. It was a fun weekend in Sevilla. We experienced the nightlife like the locals do, ie I didn't get home until 4:30am the past two nights. We went to an awesome discoteca last night called Buddha. It's three floors and the decor is beautiful. The night before last we went to a small Flamenco show, which was also a lot of fun. Today, I slept until 2:30 and then met my friends for the movie, Doubt. There's one theater in town which shows films in their original language with spanish subtitles. We all commented that we would have been lost had it been in dubbed in spanish.

I don't have too much going on this week. It's my second and last week of my intensive class, so we have our final on Friday. Saturday I'm headed to Granada on a trip through the program. It was snowing there today, so I hope the weather gets better this week! It's been raining here like crazy! It's rained the past 4 days and they're predicting rain every day this week! No me gusta. (I don't like it). I've got my fingers crossed that they're wrong. I've also been checking daily and it never has the right weather. It's no Tom Skilling.

Hasta luego,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sevilla is a dangerous city

My professor started class with that sentence our first day. She said, "Sevilla is a dangerous city." She then explained that it's dangerous because Americans/travelers in general don't want to go home. I already feel this way. I know I have an entire semester ahead of me, but Bloomington really doesn't seem all that appealing.

Tomorrow I have a midterm! It's for my two week class, but it's very important that I do well. My grades transfers directly into my IU GPA and thus appear on my transcript. My professor told me not to worry about it, but I still can't help it. Hopefully it will be as easy as she says. I hope this won't be like her promise about the museum being open. I have all day tomorrow to study, so hopefully it will sink in.

I think that my family is starting to warm up to me. My señora came into my room today to show off her new boots. They're great looking! I asked her where the store is, because I want to get a pair. Absolutely everyone wears boots here. I feel like I need a pair to blend in. The easiest way to spot Americans is to look at their shoes and coats. Gym shoes, Uggs and North Faces are all big No-Nos.

This morning I had an assignment to go to the Universidad de Sevilla to ask students questions. As I previously mentioned, the point was to compare Spanish and American student's perspectives on higher education and life in general. I'm not sure if it worked like we had planned. Nonetheless, it was a good opportunity to get out there and practice my spanish.

Today for lunch we had peas and a fried egg all mixed together. It was interesting to say the least. I'm not a huge fan of peas, but I said I liked it. She said that her boys won't eat it, so she has to make it when they're at their dad's. Tonight I had a frozen pizza. It was halfway decent. Antonia and Antonio went to the movies, so I'm camped out on the couch. I can't say I really did any studying like I had planned.

The food here has certainly been something I've needed to adjust to. When I first got here I told Antonia that I didn't eat pork. She said that they didn't eat a lot of pork, just ham. Needless to say, I've been eating a fair amount of pork. I also had fish for the first time ever the other day. It wouldn't be something I would order at a restaurant, but I still managed to eat it. I told Antonia that my mom said thank you for making me eat it. If I understood her correctly, she said that she'd make it for my family when they come to visit. There's still a fair amount that's lost in translation. I just try to smile, laugh and nod my head. Even in the week I've been here I've noticed improvements.

The TV shows aren't really getting any easier to understand. Every single day we watch the same game show at lunch. After that it's Antonia's favorite show, el amar en tiempos revueltas, rough translations: love in rough times. It's a soap opera that is supposed to take place in the 1950s in Spain. I love the theme song, but that's about all I can understand. On today's episode the police showed up at one of the character's houses. It was a mess.

I've really enjoyed not having to cook, or do anything for that matter. I have been trying to keep my room clean...and so the saga continues. My señora did all of my laundry and cleaned my room and bathroom the other day. So I really have no complaints. The only thing I do around here is help set the table for meals. I've really lucked out.

I thought of another different custom, but I'm afraid it's escaping me at the moment. One difference is the importance of turning off the lights. Mom and Dad, hopefully this is something that will transfer back to the US. I've always known the importance of turning the lights off, but I know I could have done better. (Mom and Dad please take those smirks off your faces.) Point being, since it's so expensive here it's really important that as soon as you leave the room you turn the light off. This was something they told me right away. I thought I was being good with it until my señora asked me to turn off my bedroom light for the minute I was in the bathroom. When the boys are home she's always yelling at them to turn the lights off.

Here is the entryway to my apartment

My room! It's quite small, but it works. It's really strange, the door has a large glass panel/window. It's tinted, but you can still see through. When I first got here, I was like wow, this is going to be interesting. My señora quickly put up a curtain, but I'm not sure how much good it does. It's sheer white, so when the light is on you can still see in. I basically change in my closet. I'm having trouble loading the other photos, so I'll try again soon.

Ok, well I should probably take my dishes into the kitchen before Antonia and Antonio get back. I don't want them to know that I literally haven't moved since they left 3 hours ago.

Hasta luego,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Still going strong

Hola todos!
I don't even know where to start. Things continue to go seamlessly (knock on wood). I think the fact that I never really thought about being here for an entire semester helped. I pushed it out of my mind as a mechanism to fight my nerves--and it worked! I already know I'm going to have a hard time leaving. Yesterday I received an email from IU about teaching in Spain. I think I have to wait a year to apply, however, it's a great sign that I'm thinking of how I can get back here.

The only thing I've had trouble with is getting the lay of the land. I pride myself on being very good with directions, but I'm afraid that doesn't apply here. It's been slightly startling since it never takes me more than a few days to get orientated and I'm so used to always knowing exactly where I'm going. Streets aren't straight for more than a block, seriously. It's an adventure every time I leave the house. My map is glued to my side!

Yesterday we had an assignment to go to the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Art.) Our professor promised us that it would be open no later than 10. I had made plans with a few classmates to go at 10. When we arrived, we were greeted by several other kids from the class and a closed museum. I've come accustomed to this being the spanish way. Many of my classmates were freaking out that the museum was closed. I'm happy to say that I was easily able to shrug it off. I just figured I would go the next day. I like what Spain is bringing out of me. I'm able to be much more relaxed. Since the museum was closed yesterday, we went back this morning to do our assignment. The building itself is gorgeous! The art was pretty as well. Most of the stuff was religious, so I didn't enjoy that too much. The last few rooms, however had several beautiful pieces. One was of women working in the tobacco factory, another of all of these bullfighters and the last one that I really liked was of these three women during La Fería, an important Sevillano festival.

After the museum we went to get a snack, claro (of course!) After snacking I came home to take a nap. What can I say? It was a tough day. That was my first nap of the day...I took another brief one after lunch. I mentioned how tired I was to one of my friends and she thought it might be related to trying to speak and listen to spanish all of the time. As funny as it sounds, it's very tiring. So I'll blame it on that and all of the walking.

We just finished dinner and now we're watching Matchstick men. Things are a lot quieter around here this week. My brothers are at their dad's house. I don't really mind it, because now I can follow the conversation a little bit better. Antonio, my señora's boyfriend, has been here this week as well. I have a feeling this is supposed to be a little secret between the three of us. I have a sneaking suspicion the boys don't know that he practically lives here during the week they spend at their dad's. Antonio is really funny, so I enjoy having him around. Did I mention that my señora's name is Antonia? Isn't that funny? Antonio and Antonia. I sure got a kick out of it.

Tomorrow I have an assignment to go to the university to interview students. The goal of the assignment is to see the different expectations between American and Spanish students. We'll see how it goes. My teacher is a riot. She always picks on the two boys in my class. On our first day of class one of my classmates said he was from Portage, Indiana, but he pronounced it with a spanish accent. Our professor started cracking up and later told us that "Potaje" meant stew. Maybe it would something that you needed to be there for, but she was crying she was laughing so hard. It's a fun class.

Here is the plaza outside of my house. The patio looks out onto this area.

I'm having trouble loading the other photos, so stay tuned.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Week one down!

Well, it's official. I have been here for a week. Parts of me feel it's been much longer and other parts of me feel like it's been forever. It's been a great week, though. I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute! I'm trying to think what has happened since my last post. We just registered for classes. I guess when you took the online placement test depends on when they look at your registration. I hope I'm towards the beginning. I'm really banking on being able to take these classes. I don't have a lot of room since I have specific requirements for IU. We started S a 3 credit hour, 2 week class yesterday. There were two different classes, Culture of Spain and Grammar. The culture class is the higher level one. There are about 15 groups for the grammar class, and I placed into group 3, so towards the top. While it would have been nice to be in the culture class, I think I could really use the grammar class. I have my first class from 6-9pm tonight! It's going to be weird having a class at night, but luckily it's only for 2 weeks.

Two weeks from yesterday I will start regular classes. Assuming I get into everything I chose, I will be taking 3 classes at CIEE (the program I'm going through) and then 1 class at the Universidad de Sevilla with other American students. If it all works out I will be taking, "The Novel and Cinema: Two ways of Telling a Story", "Women Writers in Twentieth Century Spain", "Advanced Composition and Stylistics" and then "Advertising and Propaganda in Mass Society." The last one is the class at U de Sevilla. I'm really looking forward to that one and also the class on novels and film. I've heard that the classes are fairly challenging. I am here to learn, but I also want to have a good time.

The weekend before classes start we have a trip to Granada. I went there last time I was in Spain, but I'm not sure if I was really old enough to appreciate it. I can't wait to go to the Alhambra again! Some friends and I are hoping to go on a day trip this weekend. We're not really sure what's around, but I'm sure we'll figure something out. CIEE also offers 9 different interest groups. Sign up began at 9am yesterday morning. Unfortunately, the group I wanted (España y sus vecinos or Spain and its neighbors) was full by the time I got there. I was not about to wake up at 8am. Luckily, I got into my second choice. It's something about communications in Spain. We get to go to a TV station and also on a trip to Portugal. I'm looking forward for all of the activities for the interest group to begin.

This is a photo of the CIEE study center! The first time I saw it actually has a really funny story. The day we got here I was walking around with some other girls who go to IU. They just peered their heads in as we walked by and said, "Wow, what if we lived here!" I walked right up to the gate to look inside. It was the next day that we found out that that would be our second home for the semester. I got a kick out of that.

On Sunday some friends and I went around town and stopped at the Catédral. I had visited there briefly when I was here last time and it was as gorgeous as I had remembered. The Muslims had originally built a palace that was torn down by the Catholics. The Catholics torn everything but the tower, which they call La Giralda, was the only thing they left standing. If you climb it you can see for miles in all directions. It's a spectacular view.

This is the Giralda! There used to be steps all the way up, but some emperor (I'm not sure of this exact title) was handicap, so he made them take out the steps and install ramps so he could get to the top on his horse.

An outside view of the Catédral

This is the main entrance. It's free with my student ID, which is certainly an added benefit. I was supposed to go on another tour right now, but I didn't tell my señora that I would be missing lunch, so I figure I'll just go on another one.

I'm not quite sure what this is, but I thought it was beautiful!

Hopefully this gives you an idea of how grandiose it is. The ceilings must be at least 5 stories high.

I believe this is the main altar.

To give you a frame of reference. The doors are kind of tall here. That's the case everywhere. The doors to the CIEE building are enormous as well.

This is the view from the top

After the Giralda, we went for a snack. That seems to happen quite regularly and I am able to justify it with two different explanations. One, spaniards don't socialize in their homes. That being said, there aren't too many places for us to go, so a nice, warm cafe is quite appealing. Second, we walk so much! I would say on average, I've been walking for about 3 hours a day. It's a lot of walking.

There are several different customs/differences I've observed thus far. Most Spanish homes in the south aren't build for the cold weather so they don't have central heat. My family does, however they don't use it since it's so expensive. Instead of central heat they use space heaters called calentadores. The put it under the dining room table (which is typically in the living room). Then you pull the table cloth up and use it as a blanket. It traps the heat and keeps you warm. My host family's cat, Olíve, always sleep there. Luckily, my room isn't too cold, although I do need to don several layers to be comfortable. It's supposed to get warm soon! I can't wait. Another difference that is you can't put toilet paper in the toilet. The pipes weren't built to withstand it. That even seems to be the case with newer constructions, like my building. One of the hardest things to get adjusted to is the meal times. I've been waking up at about 9am most morning so I eat a bowl of cereal then. Lunch isn't until 3:30pm. It's also the largest meal. Then we have dinner at about 10pm. It obviously differs from family to family. It seems like mine eats lunch and dinner on the later side. My señora get home from work at about 3pm, so I figure that's why we eat at 3:30pm. The food itself is also very different. For breakfast I eat chocolate cereal. It wouldn't be my first choice, but it certainly works. I think my brothers prefer that kind. For lunch we always have one salad in the middle of the table that everyone shares and we eat straight from the plate. Then we have a nice big bowl of stew and typically some type of meat on top of that. The food just keeps on coming. It's ridiculous. Ah, the best part--we have fresh bread at every meal! There's a pandería (bread shop) right downstairs. It's amazing. What we have for dinner varies, but it's on the lighter side. Maybe a small sandwich, or an omelette. Lo dependiente. (It depends).

Well, in an attempt to fully embrace the Spanish culture I think I am going to take a siesta before class. I will try and post more later tonight.

Hasta luego,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

(Sorry, I still haven't figured out how to format this)
Hola from Sevilla! I arrived here sometime Monday afternoon. Traveling was relatively easy. I sat next to this lovely Israeli woman on the plane from Chicago to Madrid, so that helped me from getting bored on the flight. There were a ton of kids on the program on both of my flights, so that was really comforting. 

The hotel we stayed at for the first few days was much nicer than I had anticipated. I also lucked out with a great roommate. We really didn't do too much on Monday since everyone was so tired. Let's just say it was an early night! On Tuesday we went to the Universidad de Sevilla for some information sessions on the program. The university (and Sevilla in general) is absolutely gorgeous. I wasn't quite sure to expect, but it still has a very old world feeling. There's not a lot of new construction. In the centro all of the streets are tiny! It's very hard to navigate this city. Forget a street grid system, they're all twisty and curvy. Sometimes it's even hard to tell if it's a sidewalk or a street--however, the cars honking will give you an automatic heads up. Tuesday night we went to a flamenco show and then to tapas. The flamenco show wasn't quite what I was expecting. It was mostly singing with only a little dancing. I'd definitely still like to go to another show, though.

Yesterday we moved into our homestays. I have a señora and two brothers, José and Alvaro. They're 22 and 16, respectively. They all seem really nice and I am looking forward to getting to know them better. I am hoping they will show me around town. José was telling me that he has his final exams next week, so maybe we can go out after that. Last night the group went to a discoteca. It seemed like a fun place, but I just wasn't in the mood to go out. I also had my shopping bag from earlier in the day with me...dancing with a hairdryer isn't exactly easy...let's just leave it at that. 

I just discovered that we have internet in the house--I am so excited. This morning we went to a town that's about 20 minutes away called Itálica. It's ancient roman ruins. It was pretty interesting, however the cold weather and rain was slightly distracting. I didn't bring an umbrella because I had no way of checking the weather prior to leaving, but I obviously didn't melt. When we returned from Itálica a bunch of us walked around and did a little shopping. I purchased a Universidad de Sevilla sweatshirt with the hope of blending in a little more. After that we went to a coffee shop across the street from the Catédral. It was very enjoyable. I look forward to doing that on a regular basis.

(Photos: The top photo is from the ruins. The Universidad is the building on the left in the picture below. To the right of that is the giralda. The one below that has orange trees! They're all over. The last photo was the view from the hotel balcony.)

Hasta Luego,