The Center provides a trip to Morocco for students every semester. I was lucky enough to be able to attend this one. It was so beautiful. We learned so much about the culture and the history of the country. What was undoubtedly the best part was seeing Chefchaouen; the Blue City. I had, of course, seen pictures, but I could never image how brilliant the blue actually was. And everything was covered in it. We learned that the part of the town that was pointed blue was originally where the Jewish people lived, because they were supposed to be separated from the Muslims, who lived in the white homes. We went to a beautiful rug store, where they explained the history of making the rugs, how it is usually done by women, and how long it takes. We then had time to look at all the different rugs and buy some. When walking around the crowded market I managed to take a picture of the bright powdered paint you can buy there. From what I understood, you mix it with water and make paint! I have never before wished so much for artistic talent. I’d love to try them out.
Halloween in the United States is a huge production. However, it’s not commonly celebrated in other parts of the world. There’s a small movement toward celebrating it in Spain, but it’s mainly just some people dressing up and a fun day at school for children. The more important day is November 1st, a religious holiday meant for the remembrance of the dead. It is NOT a party like those in Mexico. It is a far more somber day. I will admit, I miss Halloween a lot. My friends and I have always gone to (and thrown) excellent parties, and I take great pride in having amazing costumes. I was heartbroken knowing that I’d miss it. However, the Center was kind enough to put together a small Halloween celebration to ensure students feel a bit more at home, as well as respecting the culture of the students. I enjoyed myself greatly. We dressed up in costumes, played games where we learned about each other’s cultures with our intercambios, and ate way too much candy and pizza. The photo above is a sample of a game we played. There were photos of easily recognized Spanish figures on one, and easily recognized American figures on another. We had to explain to the intercambios what each American image meant, and they explained each Spanish image. It was very fun. I love all of the events the Center puts on, and they are ALWAYS worth going to. We learn so much about Spanish culture by celebrating local holidays, visiting important locations in the city, and learning about local customs. Knowing these things helps us integrate ourselves better into the culture here, and feel more comfortable by ensuring we’re aware of cultural and local customs and popular locations. And even if you don’t want to learn more about Spanish culture, hey, free candy.
This past Saturday the Center went to Córdoba. There we visited La Mezquita, an old synagogue, and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. Isabel and Ferdinand (los reyes cristianos) lived there for eight years when they were working with Columbus. It was fascinating to learn about all the history of these two locations, as they are very old, but this is not a post about the history of the buildings! This is a post about going to school in Sevilla! It was a short bus ride to Córdoba- two hours with a 20 minute stop halfway there- and most people napped on the bus, as we would be doing a lot of walking. My Art History class at the Center had already covered La Mezquita in great detail, and I’ve visited twice before, so I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I didn’t pay much attention. If you have not studied this building, pay attention, because its history is fascinating. The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos was also fascinating. We rushed through it so we’d have time for lunch, but the gardens were gorgeous. If we weren’t so nervous about getting in trouble, we probably would have eaten in the garden. Instead we walked to a nearby cafe, bought drinks, and ate the lunches our host mothers had packed. Most of us bought Fanta, as the Fanta here tastes like it has actual orange juice in it. Spain’s orange soda is vastly different from America’s orange soda.
We sat on some benches in a little park near the Alcázar to eat. Afterwards, I decided to look for a little ceramics shop I’d visited the last time I was in Córdoba. My mother had bought a bowl there, but ended up having to give it away as a gift when she forgot to get one for her friend who was letting us stay with her. I decided to get her a new one. I did not know the name or the address, but I knew it was near the synagogue. So I found my way back there and wandered around looking for a ceramics store. Just as I was about to give up I stumbled upon the shop, aptly named ‘Cerámica’. It was a tiny shop crammed full of different types of ceramics: bowls, plates, figurines, and even magnets. I picked out a bowl, paid, and watched the store person wrap the bowl so well I suspect it would be able to go through a plane crash and still be as good as new. Alas, I had forgotten to take a photo of the bowl before it was wrapped. The design of the bowl will have to remain a surprise.
Once the Intensive Period courses are over the Continuation Period begins. During this time people take multiple classes like they would at their home university. I will admit to having started off rather under-enthused. I’ve never been a person who eagerly awaits for classes to start, but I do love learning. So while I wasn’t overly excited for the change in classes, I wasn’t upset over it either. However, after a week of classes, I am absolutely thrilled that I’m here. Most of my classes were requirements for my University, and I had not anticipated enjoying them as much as I do. After my Art History course I had to talk myself out of changing my major to Art History.
While the change from having the same two classes five times a week to having multiple classes at different times is sudden, it’s exciting to take classes with new topics and meet new people. I can’t wait to see what I learn next!
Our first day of courses was surprisingly anticlimactic. We- my roommate and I- had to get up at what felt like the crack of dawn (rather extreme phrasing for 8:00 AM), eat breakfast, and walk fifteen minutes the Spanish Center. Still recovering from jet lag, I firmly maintain that the only thing that got me through the day was the excellence of Spanish coffee.
During the intensive period for the Spanish Studies program, we have only two classes. However, they are not short. Classes ended at 1:30, and we got back to the apartment around 2:00 PM, so while it didn’t feel as long of a school day at home, we got plenty of homework. It was not a Syllabus Day.
As everyone is probably aware, lunch (and dinner) is eaten much later in Spain. We usually have lunch around three. Since two to four is when it’s hottest, no one really is out, and many places close for a few hours. As dinner isn’t until around 9:30, this is the perfect time to have lunch. However, be warned: your house mother will likely cook you an obscene amount of food and think you not eating much means you don’t like your food. If you can’t eat it all, you must be direct and say you can’t finish it. I am the size of a munchkin. I cannot eat half of what I am given, even when I’m very hungry. And if you dislike something, be straightforward and honest, because if you say you like it, she will keep making it for you.
So, in summary: eat breakfast because lunch is late, Spanish coffee is nectar of the gods, and be honest about what you do and do not like to eat.
In fifty-eight days I will be leaving the Unites States to live in another country for almost four months. When I think about the number fifty-eight, or hear it said aloud, it sounds so short. I feel like I’m back in middle school, where we’d count down the days until school ended (omitting weekends and vacation days of course) because we couldn’t wait for summer break to begin. That habit died out in high school, where less school days meant less time to improve your grades, and summer only meant working full time. What had seemed like forever in middle school now caused an outright panic for how little time we had left. Time, it seems, changes as we get older. What felt like fifty-eight years now feels like fifty-eight seconds.
Despite this, I find myself utterly unphased by the time I have left to prepare. I have yet to consider what I should pack, what the weather will be like, what school supplies I’ll need, or even buy a suitcase. I am completely unprepared, and yet am not troubled by that at all. No doubt this carelessness will soon be replaced by last-minute panic.
However, even if the time I have left does not concern me, other things do. I suspect this would be the case no matter how much time I had. I worry over things like traveling alone for the first time, being in an unfamiliar environment, and not knowing anyone around me, even the people I am staying with. I fear the unfamiliar. But, as I remind myself time and time again, we get nowhere in life without stepping outside our comfort zones. The time has come to leave mine.
Instead of worrying, I have been trying to focus on the positives of this trip. I am blessed enough to be able to live in another place and experience another culture, something I’m sure many people would love to do. I will be able to improve my Spanish, which is probably my biggest goal. I’ll meet people not only from Spain but from across the world. I will be able to try new foods and do a thousand other things that I would not be able to do at home.
Essentially, instead of thinking about the unfamiliar, questioning the unknown, and creating a negative aura around the trip, I choose to focus on the positive points of my future. Whether or not I enjoy my stay in Sevilla depends entirely on me and the attitude I choose to have. I choose to enjoy myself.