Sunday, October 4, 2015

I've officially been here for a month!

Sunday Breakfast
I decided to take a different approach to breakfast this morning. After wandering into all of my favorite cafes I decided that I didn’t want something sweet for a change. I ended up at the supermarket near my building (one of the only ones open on Sundays) and I got a “chapata” of bread and a melecoton (peach). It was only 66 cents for both, which is great considering how much a café breakfast can be. I took them to Parque de Principes which is where I’m currently sitting. It’s pretty amazing because in the shade it actually feels like fall! I’m not sure what it is but something about buying supermarket food makes me feel very much like a traveler and makes me excited for the adventures I have coming up!

This week felt pretty long in comparison to last week but I’m assuming that’s because last week was more like 2 mini weeks. My classes have been going well but I like my “regular” class about 200x more than my cursos concertados. The topics are interesting in those classes but the professors are all really monotone and they’re 2 hours instead of one. The atmosphere of my regular course is just so exciting and energetic and it makes me want to do well. The professor is great and sits down with me after every class and answers my questions. I’ve also really enjoyed reading the book that goes with the class. It was the first (and so far only) textbook I’ve bought, and it was only 38 euros! My professor was appalled when I told him that if would have been at least 100 dollars in the states. It’s surprisingly easy to read and understand. I think that in general it’s nice to take a break and study something new!

My life outside of school has been pretty crazy this week and I really enjoyed staying in and watching a movie last night. If you’re looking for a good comedy/adventure/wanderlust inspiring/and a lil bit of romance movie, I recommend you watch “Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. It was really good, though some popcorn and watching it on an actual TV would have made it great. I did manage to find some peanut M&Ms at a chino though. It was an “I’m exhausted and craving chocolate and a good movie” kind of night.

Very Hot Churros
Monday night was my friend Madeline’s birthday so we went out to the river to botellon and then to get her a drink at an Irish pub (per family tradition). It was really nice because I don’t normally go to botellons or hang out with very many of the people who were there. It was also cool to go to the Irish pub, I’ve never been to one before. I wonder how different it is from actual Irish pubs. Also they play American football games so that’s good to know as football season kicks into high gear at home.
Tuesday morning I went and got coffee with Giulia, the JYS program director, and Alejandra who was a teaching assistant at Sweet Briar my first year. It was so nice to sit down and chat with some Sweet Briar people! Tuesday night was my flamenco class. It’s exciting that the class get bigger every week. I’d be lying if I said that I thought I was improving, but it’s only been three weeks so that’s okay. It’s so hard to switch from a style of dance that is all about being “up” to one that is all about being “down”. Flamenco is very much like tap in that the focus is on movements heavily concentrated in your feet. You are stamping (“gople, arriba, tacon”) and creating the rhythm yourself whereas in styles like ballet and modern there is a more equal emphasis on the whole body. You use the whole body in flamenco and tap but weight is heavily concentrated in the feet, from what I’ve discovered so far.

On Wednesday after class I met up with Sara, a girl from Serbia that I met online at The have a section of the website where people can post their trips and you can message them to host them or just to talk. I found out that she was coming to Sevilla for half a year with “Erasmus” and decided to message her. We spent that afternoon going to look at student flats, which was really cool because it’s obviously something that I didn’t experience when I came here. It was a great opportunity to practice Spanish as well! It’s so interesting to find people who also have Spanish as their second (or third) language because without it, you wouldn’t be able to communicate at all! At the first flat we met this girl Linda from the Netherlands who was also looking at it. The landlord was nice as well and while the other two were looking around we talked about the trip he just took to Boston and New York (in English). After looking around at a few more flats I said goodbye to Sara and went to help Linda move into the place that she had decided on. It’s pretty big as far as student flats go, it is several stories and there are 16 people living there. It has a nice patio in the middle and a beautiful terrace on top. I will say that looking at all the flats made me a bit jealous. I love my host family and I love having food cooked for me, but I miss personal space…a lot. We met a few of the people that live there and they all seemed really nice. Afterward we went out to a café in Alemada that had 40 cent cañas and 1 euro sangrias. She’s super sweet and we had a really great conversation. She’s also from a small town so Sevilla is still a city to her, a lot of people complain about how small it is, so it was nice to talk to someone who feels the same way as I do. English is her second language and Spanish is her third and they’re both pretty much self-taught which I think is amazing. After finishing our drinks I made the trek back to Los Remedios. One of the things I love about going through El Centro at night is all the people on the streets playing music. One of these times I’m going to join in and dance, especially with the violinists. It will happen.

Thursday night was my first meeting with my intercambio. An “intercambio” is a person that you meet with casually (like over drinks) to practice speaking in different languages. The idea is that half the time you “help” them and the other half they “help” you. It’s also a great way to get to know new people. I was a bit nervous at first because even though we had emailed a bit, I didn’t really know who he was. But my worrying was all for nothing because he’s super cool. He’s done a lot of traveling, a lot of other intercambios, and he speaks/is learning five languages! All self-taught, except for Spanish of course. We went to go see a show put on by the cultural center at the university. It was a mix of flamenco and jazz music and it was amazing. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but it really spoke to my soul. I think that if that was the background music to life the world would be a much happier place. It was such an interesting mix of genres but now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. As I said before, flamenco and tap dance are similar in how they use the feet and they were influenced by flamenco and jazz music respectively. Hmmm, that’s interesting. They had a dancer for a few of the numbers and she was breath taking. Her lines were beautiful and it looked like she also had some training in modern. Absolutely stunning. Y’all should check them out- Ian Scitoni Trio! On Thursday in Sevilla is was “day of the Pianos” which is when they put a bunch of baby grand pianos all over the city for people to play as they wanted. I walked by one in El Centro on my way home from the show and the guy playing it was spectacular! Only in Sevilla!

Friday was interesting because it was my first Friday not having class (last week I was in Portugal). I got up and went to the gym and then out to breakfast, the pan tostada con mantequilla y mermelada was on point, not as good as peanut butter would have been, but still good. I did some journaling and some homework before lunch and then actually got to take advantage of my siesta! After siesta Madeline and I went and got churros and chocolate to celebrate being in Spain for a whole month! They were good, though not quite as good as the ones I had in Madrid when I came to Spain in high school. The cameraro (server) at the chocolateria was a bit weird though and I did not appreciate him. Sometimes, regardless of how un-American you try to be, you just can’t hide it. Unwanted attention is sort of a way of life here, even at 6 in the afternoon. We went around to a couple of stores and tried on some clothes. I was also looking for a carry on suitcase but couldn’t find one that I liked for a price that I liked, so that search will be ongoing.

Patio outside the artisan shop
Friday night I met up with a guy from Germany that I also met on Couchsurfing. After a sangria (way overpriced) at his hostel we went to a house party at my new friend Linda’s house (the one I was at on Wednesday). When we got there everyone was on the terrace and after ringing the bell a million times, they finally came down to let us in. Just as we were going in and angry neighbor came over saying that he was going to call the police if they didn’t quiet down. While I sort of understand, he was being ridiculous. It was 11:30 on a Friday night on one of the busiest nights is Sevilla (Noche en Blanco-all the monuments are open and free until 2am). Also, at 11:30 on a Friday night, half of Sevilla hasn’t even eaten dinner yet! The party was huge, there had to be at least 90 people there at its biggest point. Most of them were from Erasmus, though there were few Spaniards. I think I was the only American, which was kind of cool, though everyone thought I was from France or Belgium (two countries I really want to go to!). I met Jessica, a girl from Ireland and Ester, a girl from Spain who studies here in Sevilla. I mostly hung out with them which was cool because I got to practice my Spanish. We got hungry and went to get pizza in Alemada which was PACKED at 1am. It was also so weird to see the hop on hop off buses running so late. After we ate we went back to the party for a bit and then went to meet some of Ester’s friends at Las Setas. Jessica and one of her other friends headed home (to Nervion, which is very far) and I walked home with Ester and her friends (they live in Triana which is next to Los Remedios). It was nice to walk home, or at least most of the way, with someone. They were very sweet because they put up with my very tired Spanish! I always think that it’s funny when I introduce myself here because no one understands “Holly”. They always say “Oh, like Halle Berry!” and at first I’m like “Yes! Like holly berry” but then I realize they mean the actress and then I have to explain the plant which is not a thing here and then they look it up on their phone and the they understand. It’s a process that’s literally the same every time but it’s a great ice breaker! I think the problem is the “H”. It’s not pronounced in Spanish so when it is it’s hard to remember/understand. Regardless, it was a good night with some new friends!

I didn’t get to bed until after 3am, so waking up for our trip to Cordoba on Saturday was a bit rough. While we were there we had a tour of the mezquita/cathedral which honestly was amazing. In a nutshell, it was a mosque that was turned into a cathedral after the expulsion of the Muslims during the Reconquista. They kept most of the Arab architecture, which is stunning. I felt like I was in a whole different world. We also saw a synagogue and the Jewish quarter. After that we had free time, Madeline and I ate our bocadillas and then did some shopping. I will say that one of the hardest things I’ve ever done is not give food to a gypsy and her little girl. It was so hard but there are so many organizations to help people who need it here. Giving to people on the street just tells them that they can keep doing what they are doing and be fine. I’m not sure if not giving the little girl my fruit was right or not, but I’d have rather pointed them to an organization (that whole “teach a man to fish” thing) and they were not your typical beggars either. We went into the local artisan shop and I’m not sure what it was, but it was almost like an other-worldly experience. Something about knowing that everything was hand crafted by artisans right there in Cordoba and the beautiful music and the beautiful patio and just the general amazingness of all the crafts. I had to restrain myself from buying one of the clocks. I did get one gift though, but that’ll be remaining a surprise! We grabbed some gelato (not very good but I’m now biased) and hung out on the bridge that connects the “old” and “new” parts of town for a bit. I loved looking down at the river and the wildlife and my inner child really wanted me to go down and play in the sand and water. But alas, I restrained myself. I was glad to get home. We had the yummy Spanish version of mac and cheese (very much needed) and then I got into bed, put on the movie, and tried to tune out the rest of the world.

Organ inside the Cathedral
This week was a long one, with lots of things to do so I’m coming to appreciate my time to relax a lot more. I’m also working on making sure that I give myself some space, going to the gym, blogging in the park, etc. Hanging out with people is a blast but I’m still getting used to not having a place in the house where I can be alone. I feel like I should be used to this after camp but it’s hard. I have been very happy with my Spanish this week, I still don’t speak it as much as a should but I definitely think that I’m getting more comfortable with it.

What’s coming up? My internships should be starting soon and next weekend is a long weekend. My plan is to stay here but my host mother went hiking at this really pretty place in Cadiz yesterday and I think I might want to take a day trip out there!

I think that’s all folks! Time to leave the beautiful fall(ish) weather and go do some homework…I guess I actually am here to study J


  1. I am glad you are having a wonderful time. It is fall here in full blast. Colder nights and slightly warmer days. It is nice to see that you are learning new things and appreciating other cultures. I enjoy reading about your week.
    Love Mom

  2. Nice narrative of your experiences! Could turn these into a book someday.
    Stay well.