Monday, February 22, 2010

Some Granada Pics

This is the Alhambra in Granada. My camera didnt work so I took this off the internet

Alhambra. I took this one

Concha: A Case Study

I would guess most of you have seen an old person before. They look just like you or me, but sometimes tend to have funny quirks about them. Maybe they smelled like mildew, said things that were politically incorrect, etc. Well Concha is said old person, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a little bit about her. I should also mention again that she’s an incredibly nice person so hope this doesn’t sound too negative.

As mentioned before, it’s just Concha and me living together. That means we have tons of together time and a very intimate dining experience. I figured I’d start with that. For lunch, we normally eat around 1:30 or 2 and dinner is around 9. Concha is a fairly old lady, and has a very regimented schedule we follow. Lunchtime = Spanish Wheel of Fortune. Dinnertime = Passapalabras (gameshow), followed by the news, followed by Arayan (soap opera). Variation from this (channel 5) is a no no. The funny part of the night tends to be the commercials. Since we’re watching the same channel every day, we tend to see a lot of the same commercials. Now having said that, Concha always likes to explain to me why the commercials are funny, how you need to pay attention to catch what product is being sold, etc. Even though we’ve seen it 100 times already.

Here’s an example of one. This commercial is of a fat man in the bathroom dressed up as a ballerina. It’s an ad for some sort of throat medicine, and basically the ad is the fat guy dancing around in the bathroom.

And action…

Concha (laughing) “Look, look! Did you see that?”

Me (what I’m thinking): “I’ve been sitting next to you for the past hour. What else would I be looking at?”

Concha (explaining): “Now you see, it’s funny because the man is overweight AND he’s dressed up as a ballerina. It’s funny. Now if you didn’t see it, they are advertising a medicine for the throat”

Me (laughing inside/thinking) “Ooooooo. That humor is just way over my head. Thanks for the explanation haha”

End Scene

What makes it better is that we’ve seen this commercial probably 10 times, but it still gets an explanation. Pretty funny.

In an unrelated note, Concha used to have a cat, but it died last summer. Apparently it tried jumping out of our 5th story window to catch a bird and missed. At least that’s the story Concha told me. Rumor around the apartment has it that the cat got fed up with the tv routine and decided this was the better route.

There's some more funny stories from her I'll write about sometime, so check back soon

Also I hoped to spark some debate in the comment section underneath. Feel free to weigh in. The topic is “Old people eat funny.” Discuss

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's Carnival - Spain Edition

Plaza de Espana in Sevilla
Mine and Jack's costumes for Carnival. Im a Sudoku and he's a crossword puzzle
More of the mines
View overlooking Aracena. Couldnt take pics of the cave but it was underneath us

Yesterday was easily one of the coolest days of my life. Why you ask? Let me explain. It started off with a trip to Las Minas del Rio Tinto. Basically it was this place in the state of Huelva where they used to do a lot of strip mining. They don’t anymore, but there were a ton of really cool views, especially one that looked out onto this huge cliff with a lake at the bottom. The different minerals from the rocks have mixed with the water and turned it red. You can’t drink it, but looks pretty cool. Probably not what you would think of when you say “coolest day of my life,” but it gets better.

After that we got back on the bus and headed to Aracena. This is a small town about 2 hours from Sevilla known for it’s ham and sweets. More specifically, the ham is called jimón serrano and it is basically the leg of a wild pig (or boar?) that they don’t cook, but do something to it and then let it age for like 2 years. It’s a little pricey but pretty good. They even have a museum for it. We eat it fairly often in Sevilla, but I guess it’s supposed to be better in Aracena. Just between us I didn’t notice much of a difference.

After the meat museum, the 2nd biggest draw to Aracena (and reason for our visit there) was its cave. This place was incredible. They don’t let you take pictures inside, so put on your imagination cap and picture and enormous cave with lakes all over the place, awesome stalactites and stalagmites and a ton of incredible views. It looked like something out of the “Caves” edition of Planet Earth. Pretty unreal.

Once we were done there, we high-tailed it back to Sevilla because everyone was going to Cádiz for Carnival. Cadiz is on the southern coast of Spain and has one of the biggest Carnivals/Mardi Gras in the world. We got back at 6:15, sprinted home and ate, and then booked it to the train station to head south. A lot of companies organize trips done there, which most of the people ended up doing, but my buddy Jack and I were feeling dangerous so we decided to follow the locals and take the train. Time of departures for our train = 8:05. Time of our arrival at the station = 8:15. Oops, missed it. No biggie though ‘cause it’s ¡Carnival! Just get on the next one. We also had a backpack jammed with beer we were planning on drinking, but the police there thought otherwise and made us throw it all away. We were there pretty early, but there was already a mountain of beer the police had taken from people and I guarantee they are drinking it all today. Hope you can feel my bitterness.

We got on the train though, and two hours later arrived to what was hands down the most incredible party I have ever been to. Everyone there is dressed up and you couldn’t even walk through the streets. I didn’t take my camera, so hopefully you didn’t take your imagination cap off, but every plaza in this town was packed with people shoulder to shoulder drinking any sort of alchohol they could find. I’m not really that good at estimating crowd numbers, but lets say there were around 6 million people there. There were people from every part of Spain (and lots of Europe) that had come down for this and man was it worth it. Bands were playing all over the place, there was a stage set up with people performing on it, and most importantly, lots and lots of beer. I was dressed up as a Sudoku (fun to say and fun to do) and Jack was a crossword puzzle. Conversations started pretty easy for us most the night. I met a lot of really cool people and had an incredible time. I made it back to Sevilla at about 7:30 in the morning, slept till 2, and then spent most of the day trying not to look too hung over in front of Concha. Long day, but definitely worth it.

*If you want to see some pics of the cave or the number of people at Carnival, google "Aracena caves" or "Cadiz Carnival". Also i should probably mention that we accidentaly ended up at a gay bar one night. Pretty funny. Didnt say too long

More Pics

That's a staircase in the Univ. There's art like that all over the place

This could be a really nice guy, but I strongly dislike him. Every morning he brings around these gas tanks to deliver, and to let everyone know he's here, he bangs the tanks together forever. Not just once. I think he just drives around the block and then sits under my window and does it again. It's super loud and super annoying
Still havent ventured inside here. Maybe it's a bank? Who knows

more news from spain and some Universidad de Sevilla Pics

There's cool courtyards like this all over the University
Like this one...
One of the main doors
This is the CIEE Palacio. Pretty cool too

Well you, the anxious reader, has probably been waiting about a week for this, the next post. Hope it doesn’t disappoint. I haven’t really talked much yet about what I’ve been doing, so I figured I’d start there. As you probably saw in previous pictures, I’ve already been to Italica and Cordoba. Italica is a small town about 15 minutes from Sevilla. It was founded by the Romans and was home to Emperor Trajano and some other Emporer (guess the tour didn’t sink in as much as I thought. oops). It was pretty neat. They had some really cool Roman mosaics and a huge stadium where they used to have gladiator fights (it’s the third biggest one around).

The Cordoba trip was 2 weekends ago. It’s about an hour and a half from here and is a pretty neat place, too. It used to be a huge center for science/academia and was the 2nd biggest city around, right up there with Baghdad and Constantinople. **I should probably note here that this tour was about 2 weeks ago, and like Italica, the details are a little fuzzy. I guess you really wont know though if I’m making all of it up, so just go with it**. It was founded by the Visigoths, then the Arabs took it over, then the Christians booted them out and have kept it since. Because of this, though, there’s a ton of Arabic influence there (like in Sevilla) and a lot of really neat architecture/art/etc. The biggest thing in Cordoba was the Mosque (Mezquita in Spanish). The Arabs built this huge thing when they were there, then the Christians came in and instead of tearin it down, decided to throw up a Cathedral right in the middle of it and call it a church. They have mass there every week, but everyone still calls it a mosque. I’ll pause here in case you need to sit down and think about that one…

This week we started our real classes for the semester. 3 of my classes are at the University of Sevilla and 1 is at the CIEE palacio. I’ll post some pictures, but both buildings are pretty awesome. The classes I’m taking at the university are Hispanic Poetry, Contemporary Spanish Film, and Transition to Democracy in Spain from 1975-Present. At CIEE I’m taking Politics and Society in the Contemporary Arab World. All of my professors are pretty great and all the classes seem really interesting, especially the film class. We just show up, watch a movie, then talk about it. Tues and Thurs classes don’t start till 1 and no classes on Friday. Niiiicccceeee.

I’ve gotta talk about the University too. This building is awesome. It used to be a big tobacco factory where people would roll cigarettes/cigars all day. The opera Carmen was based here, and they think Carmen was sort of a stereotype of the women who worked there (but she still might have been a real person). They converted it to a university about 500 years ago and have been getting their study on there ever since. There are a ton of neat courtyards and fountains inside, and as you go to class you’re walking by marble statues, huge stained glass ceilings/open air courtyards, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, Mizzou is a beautiful school, but it’s just hard for me to put the Arts and Science Building where most of my classes are in the same category. In an interesting side note, you may be surprised to know (or not so surprised if you’ve seen them) that the bathrooms in both places look about the same. I’m not sure if that says more to the good maintainence skills over 500 years at the Univ of Sevilla’s or the sorry state of things at Mizzou. Both have seen better days.

Outside of school, things are still goin well. I’m sure you guys don’t want to hear this as you’re trudging through snow, but the weather has been pretty perfect here. The sun’s been shinning and sometimes you don’t even need a coat. It was 18*C today, whatever that means, but it felt like spring.

During the nights, we’ve usually been starting off drinking down by the river and then headin to the bars afterwards. A ton of Spanish people our age hang out and drink down there, and they even have their own word for it – botellón. It’s been a pretty good way to meet people and save some money (a liter of beer costs 1 euro, and you can find bottles of wine for about the same).

Finally, I also received my membership to SEVici this week, and boy is it great. SEVici is this bike system that is basically made up of bike stations every 300 meters. The general idea is that you pay 10 euros for a year long membership, and then once you’re a member, you can go to any bike station, swipe you’re card, and then rent a bike for a half hour. You can then ride your bike wherever you need to go and return it at any other station you want. Sevilla is pretty flat and they have bike paths running throughout the city so it’s super convenient.

That’s about it for now. It’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday so I’m assuming I’ll meet that special someone Saturday. Or I’ll eat myself into a sugar induced coma and then cry my lonely self to sleep.

Cheers to a happy Nov. 14th

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Couple Cultural Differences

Basement/Pool of the Alcazar.
This is the Alcazar, a sort of Royal Fortress, Garden, little Eden in central Sevilla.
Pretty awesome

That's the Quadalquivier River (Arabic for Rio Grande) and Calle Betis, the beginning of my neighborhood.

Mine and Concha's Little Bungalow

So after only two weeks in Spain, I’ve already been able to see quite a few differences. Some expected, some not so much. I figured I’d take this opportunity to talk about some of those.

I’ll start with a question. Have you ever seen 7 dogs hangin in a bar on a Wednesday night? How about a 3 year old passed out in his mom’s lap at 12:15am at a bar? Cause I have.

In terms of dogs, they are everywhere here. They’re hangin in front of malls, sittin with their owners in restaurants, and just exploring on their own. I like dogs, so no prob with me. Just kinda funny to see the different rules. One problem, though, is they poop all over the sidewalk and no one ever picks it up. There’s a street cleaning team that comes around at night and hoses all the sidewalks off so I guess no one ever really feels a need to do so. There tends to be some trouble on Monday, however, because the street cleaners get Sundays off. Basically, you’re looking at a minefield on Monday mornings.

*On a side note, my friend Jack here will be posting a Dog Blog in the near future with a sort of Best Of … for the dogs he’s seen here. I’ll throw up the link when it’s ready. It’ll blow your mind.

In terms of kids, there are a lot more relaxed rules here and a lot less discipline. They are kind of like dogs in that they are sort of free to do what they want and no one else seems to mind. I’ll be heading out for the night at say 10:30 or 11 and will be walking by dads talking a stroll with their friends and little kids. Kinda funny/neat to see.

Cervicieras/Tapas Bars: Like the US, Spain is in the middle of an economics crisis now, but from what I’ve been able to gather it’s worse over here. The official unemployment rate is sky high, and the real unemployment rate sounds like it’s out of this world. Now having said that, you would think most people are skimping where they can and saving up money. Nope. At least it doesn’t seem like it. No matter when or where you are walking, the bars and restaurants here are packed. Literally, every time of day. I was walking around last Saturday morning and saw three 70-80ish year old women having a beer at 10:45. That’s nowhere near 5. The big difference is that whereas people in the US (college students, I’m talking to you) usually tend to drink with the goal of getting drunk, its not really the same story here. It’s a lot more frowned upon. Also, Spanish people aren’t really as open as far as having people over to their houses/apartments goes, so bars sort of fill that void of places to meet. Makes sense, but I’m still not really sure how they afford it on top of the super expensive wardrobes everyone seems to have.

Bathrooms: Showers here are a pretty in and out business. You’re not really supposed to take long ones and the hot waters pretty limited. Pretty lucky in the US. As far as the actual toilets go, it’s a pretty funny situation. I know I’m 21 and should probably be more mature than writing about them, but I’m not. I’ve lived in Mexico before, so it’s nothing really new to me to have to toss your TP in a trashcan instead of the toilet. The great thing about Mexico was you did it everywhere and didn’t really have to question it. The rule everywhere was just throw it away. Here, it always seemed like a big debate right at first on whether to throw it in the toilet or a trashcan. Some places you can flush it, some you can’t. Always seems like a bit of a mystery to me and was the cause of some unnecessary anxiety. We were joking that if they don’t start adopting a set of rules around here, people are gonna start finding used tp in bathroom cabinets, under the sink, etc.

Siestas: In short, they’re pretty great. Everything shuts down at about 1:30 or 2 and everyone goes home to eat, out to grab a beer, take a nap, etc. Places start to open up again a couple hours after. People also seem to be a lot less worried about time here. If you want to go take a break from work and go run some errands or get some food, the attitude seems to be go for it. Maybe that’s not how it always works, but that’s how it seems to me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Some Pics

This should look familiar to the KC people. It's called La Giralda and is the tower the one at the Plaza is modeled after.
This is a view from the top of it. In front is part of the Cathedral the tower is attached to, and in the back you can see Sevilla's big bullfighting ring.

Another Plaza shout out
And again...

This is from Cordoba. They were having a Renaissance fair. Good to know other countries think those are cool to.

Monday, February 1, 2010

First Days in Sevillla

Well I´m not sure how often I´m going to be able to e-mail everyone, so instead of having to hear everything second hand through my mom, you can now just check my blog if you interested in what´s going on in Sevilla. Or maybe noone else is really interested and it´ll just be my mom reading it haha. Either way, I´ve decided to write one.

So first I thought I´d update you anxiously awaiting masses out there about what´s been going on so far. I was supposed to leave KC on Sunday, Jan 17 and get to Sevilla on Monday. There was a pretty thick fog in the morning though so Continental decided to cancel all their flights for the day. I´ll be damned though if it wasn´t perfectly clear skies as we were driving home from MCI, but what can ya do. The next day I tried again and finally got on a plane. And after 26 hours of waiting, I finally arrived in Sevilla.

I´m here with a program called CIEE. It´s been really well organized so far and overall I´ve been pretty impressed by it. I caught a cab from the airport and met a CIEE rep at our hotel. That night, we got to see a private flamenco show and then went out for some tapas (sort of small appetizer-ish plates you share with the other people at your table). Sevilla is in the south of Spain and in the state of Andalusia, kind of the heart of Spanish culture. Because of that, things like flamenco, tapas, bull fights, etc are all really big here.

The next morning our host families came to pick us up. I´m living with a lady named Concepción (Concha) in an area of Sevilla called Triana. She has 3 kids, but they´re all grown up and moved out, so it´s just the two of us living in her apartment. She´s a really nice lady, a great cook, and does all my laundry. No complaints here. The only down side is she´s kinda old and tends to ramble alot and not really answer my questions when I ask her something. Or maybe she is answering them but I am just tuning her out because the answer is lost in the middle of a 10 minute story about a commercial we just watched.

As far as class goes, for the first two weeks I´ve only got one grammer class from 3-6 Monday-Friday. My real classes will start in about a week, but until then life´s pretty sweet. I´ve got a lot of time to sleep in late, check out the city, and go out at night. We´ve been going out quite a bit and it´s crazy how late people stay out here. Whereas the bars in Columbia close at 1:00, here that´s really when people start going out. One of the clubs called Buddah doesn´t close until 8 or 9 in the morning. Needless to say, I´ve been taking a pillow and sleepingbag out with me most nights.

That´s about it for now. I´m going to be posting some pics soon and have a lot to write about still so check back soon.