Weekends at Home

The past three weekends I have spent in Seville, just hanging out and trying to save a little bit of money for a few bigger trips I have coming up. While I probably did spend more than an appropriate amount of time lying in bed, I did manage to get out and explore a little bit.

Three weekends ago, October 12-13, I went again (and again, and again) to the Feria de las Naciones. It’s basically a festival with arts, crafts, food from all different countries, here in Seville from September until early November. Some of my more adventurous friends tried things like Alligator and Zebra from South Africa, while I enjoyed a nacho or two from Mexico and some cake with coconut. How I missed coconut!  I hung out with a few Americans and the host sister of one of my friends here,  which was very fun. I always love a good conversation about cultural differences – this time it was smoking, which is definitely more prevalent in Europe. One of the weirdest things I have noticed is that because cigarette prices have risen a ridiculous amount, many people carry around little bags of tobacco and roll their own cigarettes, which is more economically friendly. To me, it sounds like WAY too much work, especially for “pack” a day smokers.

The next day, I wandered around with another classmate, Molly, and two Italian ERASMUS students. In 1992, Sevilla hosted the world expo, and many of the buildings from the expo are still standing. However, now many of the buildings are either slightly run down offices or eerily deserted, making for a good place to explore. Notably, we walked through the official world expo park, apparently in its prime twenty years ago, but now in a state of disarray. My experience with other international students also renewed my excitement to be learning Spanish. I obviously still have my good and bad days, but being with the Italians was awesome- Molly and I don’t speak a word of Italian, I doubt their English is fantastic, and yet we had absolutely no problems communicating through Spanish. I need days like these to reflect upon when it seems like nobody understands me and I’m on the wrong side of a glass culture bubble unable to break in.

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Walking along the river

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Walking along the river part II

 

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On Monday, October 14 I went to see a Peruvian film hosted by Peru’s consulate in Seville. Although they speak the same language, the cultures are so different and I could definitely see that watching the movie and having more experience immersed in Spanish culture. Especially slang-wise, Peruvian Spanish is actually incredibly different than castellano, which I now have an even greater appreciation for.

The next weekend was spent with friends studying abroad in Madrid but visiting Seville. It was fun taking them around and showing them the city. On the other hand, I felt a little hypocritical – I’m hardly a native.

This weekend, I had a lazy day on Saturday, while today (Sunday) was spent on a hike around Santa Ana la Real, a really small village (I’m talking 450 people) near Huelva. The route was fairly easy hike-wise, although a little strange because at times I felt like I was hiking through people’s backyards. The wildlife is beautiful, and part of the time we were walking through farm areas. I tried my first chestnut raw and as fresh as they can be – straight off the ground! Many villagers go into the farm/forest area to collect chestnuts or wild mushrooms. The weather was beautiful and it was refreshing to get out of the city for a while.

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I have a fairly busy week up until Thursday, when I leave for a trip to the North of Spain. I’ll make sure to write all about it.

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Bullfighting in Spain

Bullfighting in Spain

Check out my post for Georgetown University’s Berkley Center! I am writing on behalf of the Junior Year Abroad Network, an organization connecting Georgetown students studying abroad in different cultures. We will be commenting on religion, culture, politics and societies in our respective host countries. For my first post I chose to write about bullfighting, a controversial but essential part of Spanish culture.

A Weekend in Madrid

This past weekend, I decided to take my first overnight travel experience to Spain’s capital, Madrid. A classmate from Georgetown is studying there, and her host parents were nice enough to let me stay with them! On Friday morning, I took a very early high speed train and arrived within a few hours. After Emily and I went to her house to drop my stuff off, we went on a quick walk around the parts of Madrid close to her neighborhood. We walked by the National Library, some cool parks, and ended up at the Ayuntamiento, which is basically a municipality building. Emily hadn’t been in there, and although neither of us had hopes for the inside being accessible or interesting, we decided to walk in. We were pleasantly surprised that the Ayuntamiento actually contained floors of interesting art exhibits and awesome views of the city! After spending a little more time than expected there, we continued on our walk to view some more landmarks such as the Puerta de Alcalá.

After lunch, we went to the Palacio Real, where the royal family of Spain used to live. Up until this weekend, I had never been in a real palace of that style. It was crazy! I truly believed that decadence like that only existed in the castles depicted in movies. Just when I thought a room couldn’t get any more luxurious, we walked into another that somehow managed to top the previous one. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but here are a few from the internet. P.S.- that’s a Stradivarius. There was a whole quartet.

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After the Palacio Real, we quickly wandered through a Cathedral next door (which was nowhere near as large as Sevilla’s) and through some of Madrid’s major plazas such as the Plaza Mayor, the Plaza del Sol, and some other areas of downtown Madrid.

The next morning, we woke up and got a typical Spanish breakfast of churros con chocolate. Although the churros here aren’t covered in sugar like in the US, they come with a small cup of what is basically very thick hot chocolate, which you dip the churros in and then drink whatever is left. Who’s jealous and wants to come visit me? After that, I went with Emily’s study abroad group on a guided tour of the famous Spanish works at the Museo del Prado. The tour lasted two hours, but know I only saw a fraction of the artwork there. Especially because the tour was 90% focused on Spanish artists (such as Velazquez, Goya, and El Greco), I know there is so much of the Prado I have yet to experience. Hopefully I will be able to go back. Pictures weren’t allowed inside the Prado, either, but here are some of my favorite works that I saw there:Image:

After a break for lunch, we decided to explore the Parque de El Buen Retiro, which was huuuuge. And gorgeous. The park was filled with innumerable fountains, a large lake, winding paths, beautiful trees and flowers, and a rose garden. It would have taken hours to explore the entire thing. The atmosphere was also very lively, with just as many Spaniards enjoying the gorgeous weather as tourists. We wanted to rent a rowboat, but the line was incredibly long, so we went home to rest and change for the nighttime.

Saturday night, Emily’s study abroad group and I went to a concert by the Madrid Symphonic Orchestra at the National Music Hall. It was pretty good, and hearing live music is always awesome. After, we went to a discoteca. Not my thing. Drinks are ridiculously expensive and everyone is creepy. That’s the one regret I have of my weekend. Emily wanted to go out both nights, and I would rather have done more…”culturally rewarding” things. But it wasn’t my city, not my decision, and I was getting a free room at her house. The coolest thing that happened that night was being kidnapped by two Spaniards. Don’t freak out, anybody, although I admit it was a little risky. I was sitting by myself waiting for everyone to decide they had had enough expensive liquor and creepiness when two Spaniards grabbed me and told me they were “kidnapping” me (obviously jokingly). A little sketchy, but they were short, so I figured I could take them. The part of the discoteca open to the public was technically 3 floors, but apparently two floors above that is a roof with an EXCELLENT view of Madrid. Who knew? I definitely wouldn’t have if I had stuck with my friend and her group of loudly English-speaking Americans. Anyway, that was the most exciting part of the night, other than saving like 40 Euros by not drinking.

The next morning we went to El Rastro, a weekly flea-market type thing famous in Madrid. Finally, some CHEAP prices in an expensive city. I bought a necklace and shoes, each for just 3 Euros. We also found and went inside  an American food store, which both made me miss American food and realize there was no way I could afford to. The boxes of cereal were 9 Euros. A box of Jello was around 3. A jar of icing was around 5. Keep in mind those are prices in Euros, which means in dollars they were even more expensive. However, it was fun seeing what food was considered quintessentially American. What I can remember includes hot sauce, boxed cake mix, icing, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, granola, bagels, jello, and barbecue sauce.

All too soon arrived the part of the weekend I was dreading. Emily asked me if I wanted to go to a corrida de toros, and I told her I didn’t, but she had already purchased the ticket. I figured since I am writing a blog post about toros for Georgetown’s Junior Year Abroad Network (I will link to the post when it goes up!) I really should get all sides of the story. In my post I will talk a little more about the traditions and process of the corrida, but basically, there are six toros that get killed by three different matadors (which literally translates to killers). I managed to make it through two. The actual blood  wasn’t too much for me – I think I can safely say that TV has made it very easy for my generation to desensitize ourselves to violence. But as I sat there and realized that I was watching an intelligent being die for absolutely no reason (other than tradition), I just couldn’t let myself continue to participate. I will definitely expound more upon the subject later, but let’s just say it was not my favorite part of the weekend. The rest of the night was spent chatting with Emily’s host parents, (arguably one of my favorite parts of the weekend) and I took an overnight bus back to Sevilla instead of the train to save money.

Overall, my trip to Madrid was pretty fun. I spent way too much money, but I got a taste of big city living. I realize I didn’t experience everything Madrid has to offer, but that just means I will have to go back!