Saturday, April 25, 2009


This past week was extremely busy. With 2 tests and a presentation, I was still able to fit in some cultural experiences, which to be honest are more important to me :) A friend of mine got us tickets to see a bull fight and this was truly a unique experience.

If you want cheap tickets, you're going to have to sit in the sun, so after layering the sunscreen on we headed out for our adventure. We had pretty good seats although they were in the sun because they weren't too high and not to close either. There weren't many people sitting around us which was nice because it gave us more room, but the shady parts of the arena were completely full.

During the fight 6 bulls are killed by 3 torreros and they have 30 minutes to kill each one, meaning that the longest a show could be would be 3 hours, but I think it only took 2 hours and 15 minutes when I went. I come to find out after the show that they don't play music at every fight - only when the torreros are performing well. Luckily, we went on a good day because there was music. Also, at the end of the show if the fans are unhappy they will throw their seat cushions at the torreros, but everyone must have been happy.

The whole process was not nearly as gruesome as I had thought it would be. Obviously there is some pain and suffering, but I guess I was too caught up in the cultural aspects of it to really be affected by the killing. Yes, I have a few issues with the whole thing, but it is something that is so vital to the Hispanic culture. It would be like taking football away from Americans if the bull fights were ot stop. The culture is some ways is built around this aspect.

During the fight all of the fans were extremely quiet. When I got home, my host father told me that here in Sevilla the fans take it very seriously and are very attentive. At one point, my friend and I were laughing and the people sitting around us weren't too thrilled about that. He said that in other cities it's a big party with music and drinking, but here the scene is different. There are die-hard fans for the bull fights, just like for anything else. Some people pay $6,000 to see a fight.

This is something that I would definitely do again. I loved being able to see such an important activity in the Spanish culture and understand more about the pros and cons of a bullfight. I didn't post any pictures of the killings or anything, but if you want to see them I have plenty to show!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Birthday fun

Today is Tatiana's, the little girl with whom I live, birthday. We woke up this morning and had churros - a special treat as the kids normally have a glass of Nesquick for breakfast and I have toast. For dessert after our spaghetti we also had a special treat - no not birthday cake, but homemade flan! Flan for her is the equivalent of some very decadent dessert that I would have on my birthday - she was even aloud to have 2 pieces!! My mom sent me a package with cake mix inside so that I could make her an American treat, but of course the package is lost in the mail. It's the first package that has been lost and it's one that I needed for a specific day! On Tuesday she is having her party with her friends - I hope I can attend around my class schedule because I'm interested to see what it will be like. (No, it's not at McDonald's!) We are waiting on Tato, her dad, to get home and then open presents! I think we even get a special treat for dinner too - maybe a hamburger?? I feel like a little kid again and to be honest I kind of like it! Hopefully after Tuesday I'll have some pictures to post!

This past week was a normal week - nothing too exciting happened. This coming week is a busy one with school and I'm going to a bull fight on Wednesday! Then next week is Feria so we're staying busy here. My roommate is in Colombia, South America right now for a dance competition so I'm eager to see how this week goes without any English at the house! Hope everything is going well for everyone and I'll keep you posted on my life here! Yay for spring! :)

The party was yet another learning experience. I went early to help to set up and attempt to entertain the kids and give Macarena a break. They normally have her party here at the house upstairs, but my roommate and I are occupying that space, so instead it was held at the Club Nautico here in Sevilla. Just like any typical country club in the states, with maybe a few added bonuses. I know the club in Greenville doesn't have a rowing house or team nor a huge park for the children to run around in. The facilities were extremely nice, and it was the perfect day for an outside party. Here are the 2 highlights of the party: 1) 25 little kids found a bird's nest with a baby inside and decided to show and tell it. Well my host mom is a Vet, so needless to say it was a very exciting moment as all of the children tried to pet the baby. However, I am glad to say it was safely put back where it was found. 2) there of course was a garden hose wound up very nicely beside a spigot. Well, a few interested boys decided it would be fun to turn the water on. However, in the process they broke the knob of the spigot off. To make a long story short, maintenance was called and everyone dried off :)

There are 2 main differences that I noticed between American birthday parties that I have attended and this one. 1) As a kid, I would always wait and open my presents at the end, and at most parties this is what normally occurs. I was fascinated when the first guest arrive and Tatiana immediately opened the present. As each guest arrived, she opened the present right then and there. There was no tracking of who gave her what, which is also different, because I know I was always required to write thank-you notes. Most of the presents she received were summer cloths, although a few books and games were mixed in there too. 2) None of the kids ate birthday cake. When I saw the size of the cake I thought it was a little small for 25+ kids, but now I know the reason. They don't like cake - they prefer little packaged donuts and items of that nature. I, however, did enjoy a piece of cake, and look forward to the next birthday celebration!! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Morocco and the Sahara

I spent 6 days travelling in Morocco during Semana Santa and it was truly an eye-opening experience. I have nothing else to compare it with - it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. We travelled through Rabat, Fez, Assilah, and spent one night in the Sahara desert. We had to ride camels out to our camping spot and let me tell you riding a camel for 2 solid hours is not a pleasant or comfortable ride. Camels are very smelly and like to grind their teeth. We were very well fed while we were there - lots of vegetables and tangines (slow-cooked mixes of meat and vegetables). We went to the medina in Fez - it has 9,000 streets and we walked all of them! Haha, just kidding :) We walked a good bit of it and went to a tannery, a pharmacy, a scarf factory, and a rug factory, so it was cool to see how products I use all the time are made.
At one point on our trip we saw snow and monkeys - at the same time. I'm absolutely amazed at how quickly the scenery changed - within a matter of minutes we would go from desert type landscapes to lush forests. This is something that I definitely was not expecting. I think the hardest adjustment while I was there was the language. The main language is Arabic, but there are obviously lots of dialects. I don't like it when I can't understand what someone is saying because I like to have a general grasp of a language, but I felt completely lost the whole time. They also speak Spanish and French too as secondary languages. It was definitely a great experience and I'm thankful I was able to be able to see Morocco!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Simon dice...

Last night at the dinner table I played Simon says (dice) with the kids in the house. It was a lot of fun and reminded me of my childhood days. I just find it so cool that they play the same games that I used to play.
Semana Santa is next week and it is a very big deal here. I have been lucky enough to be able to watch some of the practices of the pasos for next week. The pasos are walks around the city carrying different representations of Virgens and they are carried by costaleros - men who stand underneath the costal. The costal is a huge platform that has the Virgen on top and weighs a significant amount. For instance, the one that I was watching weighed almost 3000 pounds and was being carried by about 50 men (I'm not exactly sure how many people carry it, but will find out). Everything seems to be really secret. We had to secretly knock on the church door to be let in to watch, and their practice was going forwards and backwards in a space of about 100 feet or so, just to make sure that everything on top was stable. I don't have any pictures at this time, but definitely will by this time next week!

On another note, I spent the weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. It was completely different from what I was expecting because of the similarities to San Francisco. There is a giant red bridge, many many hills, and a trolley system that is easy to use once you know the system. :) We had a very interesting Friday, with a few mishaps. First things first: it helps if everyone you are travelling with gets off the metro at the correct stop. However, during rush hour it becomes a little more difficult. We were trying to get off when a mob of people blocked the way and by the time we were at the doors, they were closing and would not open back up. Two people got off and the rest of us were on our way to the next station. Luckily, with a quick turn around we were all together again. It also helps when you ask someone for directions, they know where they are going. We were finally on the correct trolley and asked another American girl what stop we had just passed. Well it turns out she didn't really know, so we got off the trolley when we didn't need to and then proceeded to walk around the city for about an hour in search of our hostel. Keep in mind we didn't have a map.....speaking of maps, it's always a good idea if more than 1 person has a map, because when you leave the only map you have at the lunch table, navigating the city becomes a little bit more difficult. All things aside, it was a really good learning experience about travelling.

Sunday we visited a city called Sintra, which is on the outskirts of Lisbon. It has by far been one of the prettiest places I have ever been in my entire life. The highlights of the trip were the Regaleira Palace and Gardens and the Pena National Palace, along with the coastal views of the Atlantic on the drive back to Lisbon. It was by far the windyest day ever - I thought I was going to get blown off the top of the Palace, but it made pictures interesting! :) Hope you enjoy these pictures...

Next stop: Morocco for 6 days!