Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!

[The view from the computer lab at my program center.]

This blog is only to give you all my address so you can send me things from the states! (Twix bars, anyone? Just kidding, there's no pressure!) It turns out that it's probably easier to send stuff to my program center instead of my house, so here's the address:

Lyndsay De Carolis
Centro Michigan-Cornell-Pennsylvania
Paseo de las Delicias 3, 2˚ Drcha
41001, Seville, Spain

The title of this blog is one of my favorite songs by Stevie Wonder. It seemed appropriate, with the mail theme. Check it out here:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's called a lance...hello

[Chantel, Melissa, Me, and Haley at the Palacio Real.]

Wow, a lot as happened since I last wrote. I'll try and be as succinct as possible...No promises though.

The beginning of last week was devoid of anything out of the ordinary, hence my absence from the blogging world. Wednesday, I started to spice things up a bit by tripping on a power cord and causing a power outtage in the entire apartment. It would have been less dramatic if Chantel wasn't showering at that exact moment, but of course Irony must have its way. On the positive side, I think having to wake up Chencha to tell her (this is a literal translation) 'I broke the electricity in the whole house' was a good stepping stone in our relationship.

Things continued to get interesting when our program went to the Baños Arabes (Arabic Baths) on Thursday morning. To get a good visual of this place, use this website: Historically, bathing was a very social event, but today, it's more for relaxation purposes. It had three pools (with frigid, medium, and hot water), a jacuzzi, and a sauna that we were able to enjoy as we pleased for an hour and a half. It was nice to relax and feel like special Sevillanos, in a position to enjoy luxurious things such as bathing with 34 other people.

On Friday morning, we were off to Madrid. Everyone was supposed to meet at the train station, instantly posing a problem for those who are directionally challenged (me). Instead of paying for a taxi, Chantel and I decided to trust Chencha and take the bus instead. Immediately after stepping out of the apartment, however, we realized we really didn't have any idea where this bus stop was. We momentarily panicked until we saw a boy and a girl with a suitcase, and proceeded to stalk them for an awkward 5 minutes. Then we got on their bus and stood by them for another awkward 15 minutes, finally parting ways with them in the train station. We were feeling pretty good about making it to our destination smoothly, and earlier than the rest of our group, until we realized we were actually in the wrong train station. Yes, apparently there are two stations in Sevilla. Pepe, an employee of our program, had failed to mention this. Thanks for the heads up Pepe....

So we took a taxi and made it to the OTHER train station on time. As we waited to know what platform our train would be departing from (I was hoping for 9 3/4), a basketball team walked in with the tallest human I have ever seen. This observation would turn out to be important when I realized that my seat was in the middle of the coach, directly across from him. Read: absolutely no leg room and an awkward 2.5 hours of trying not to make eye contact. I looked into the sky and asked the gods of transportation, "What did I do to deserve this?" before sitting down and clumsily positioning my legs as close to my seat as possible. Not comfortable.

In reality, the train ride turned out great. After a few awkward minutes, Sarah (a girl from my program sitting next to me) and I started to make conversation with the basketballers...all in Spanish! The reason I enjoyed it so much because it made me confident that I would actually be able to have Spanish friends here. Which is nice, because having friends is always a plus.

How can I describe Madrid, the capital of España? The first words that come to mind are "concrete jungle" (where dreams are made of...oh what up D. Gray). Literally, the only grass I saw the whole time was in a park designated for that purpose. Come to think of it, I saw a a few blades growing between some stones too, my bad. But anyways, a LOT of buildings and a LOT of cement. Definitely a nice place to visit, but not somewhere I, personally, would want to live. What it lacks for in grass, however, it makes up in bars and museums. Our group visited the Museo del Prado, Reína Sofía, and Palacio Real. Museo del Prado was my favorite of the touristy things we did: its a museum of art that houses an incredible number of paintings, and some sculptures too. We had a special tour guide that is affiliated with our program that showed us works by Velazquez and Goya, which we had learned about earlier in the week. We also saw "La Guernica" by Picasso in the Reína Sofía, which was incredibly powerful. If you don't know about this famous painting, use this link: It's amazing.

My favorite thing I saw in Madrid, however, was JENNY MCCOY! Yes, one of my best friends Jenny is studying in Madrid for the semester, and we were able to see her this weekend. We went to dinner both nights, the second time to a Peruvian restaurant (THANKS CHANNY) that had the most delicious mouth is literally watering thinking about it. To make the experience that much better, we had a serenader sing to us during our meal. He was literally 4 foot 5, missing half of his teeth, and 80 years old. He was so cute!

On the return train ride home, I was glad to see that I was seated next to Chantel, and not in the middle of the coach. We did have a toddler who would stare back at us with his mouth open for minutes at a time, drooling all over the seat. That provided enough entertainment to last to Sevilla. Then we took an hour bus ride back home, which was 15 minutes longer than it had to be because our driver stopped the bus to have a smoke. Wonderful.

For now, I'm back in Sevilla, and trying to get into a routine. This morning we visited the Cathedral, and had class in the afternoon. Chencha and I bonded as we transported the drying clothes inside, afraid it might rain tonight. After all, it's probably better than causing another power outtage...

[Side note: The title of this blog is dedicated to Funckmaster Flexx. I saw lances and medieval weapons in the Palacio Real, and thought of you. Yes, I know I'm a good friend. :) ]

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who let the dogs out?

I think one of the main differences between home and here is the schedule on which people operate. A typical Friday is as follows:

10: Wake up and eat breakfast
11-2: Do whatever you need to get done (errands, homework, etc.)
2: Eat a huge lunch. Try and tell your host mom that you can't eat anymore. Eat a little more.
3-5: Siesta! (This basically just means to take a rest. Naps are not required, but Chantel and I have found them to be very enjoyable.)
5-9: Do whatever else you need to do.
9: Dinner!
11 or 12: This is when people START going out here.
6: The time when the bars close. So, the song that says "The party don't stop 'til 6 in the mooorning", really rings true here.

Chantel and I got our first authentic taste of this lifestyle last Friday. To start off the night, we made sure that Chencha (our host mom) knew where we were going. She was more than okay with us going out, even alluding to the fact that if we didn't come home that night, "no pasa nada" (basically, no big deal). We assured her that this was not going to be the case. I'm still not sure if she's joking when she says these things or not...

So, we meet up with our American friends (so far, the Spanish friend count is a solid 0, unless you include our 45 year-old brother Juan) at a bar in town at around 11:30 pm. The bar was pretty empty, except for a few Spanish couples here and there (including one lesbian couple), and so we filled it up fast with 30 Americans. The good thing was, most of us spoke Spanish the entire time. A few even ventured out and spoke to some locals as it got more crowded. I spoke only to our waiter, who was wearing a shirt with the superman S on it. However, instead of saying 'superman', it read 'Super Skunk.' Yeah, who knows? I asked him where there was a good discoteca, and also if there were a lot of viejos verdes there. (Viejos verdes means creepers) He laughed a lot at that.

At around 2:30 am (normally the time I would be coming home from a party in the states), we trekked across town to a discoteca called Buddha. This club has three floors, each of which plays different music. We had heard that there were less creepers on the 3rd floor, so naturally headed that direction as soon as we entered. As I was climbing up the stairs, I wasn't completely sure that I wanted to be there...that is, until I heard the words: "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? WHO? WHO WHO WHO?" Needless to say, I ran up the last bit of stairs to join the Baja Men party.

Another different thing here is the dancing. Instead of boy/girl partnerships, everybody dances by themselves. Furthermore, boys are not afraid to dance by themselves, or even close to their other guy friends. (Very different in the states.) I think the weirdest thing, however, was that people don't really dance. We looked like crazy chickens with our heads cut off compared to the sevillanos; they basically only shift back and forth, maybe with a few arm movements in between. I tried to be more subtle to blend in with the locals, but when I heard 'Single Ladies'...I'll admit I got a little crazy. They play a lot of American music here, but not from the 80s like I expected.

After dancing our 'culos' off, we left with two of our American guys to return back to our neighborhood. We finally got home at 5:30 am, and slept until 2:30 pm in the afternoon. Chencha seemed to very much enjoy the fact that we were not accustomed to the night life here; she kept laughing at how tired we were the whole day.

Needless to say, last night we stayed in with Chencha last night, and watched "La copla" on TV. It's basically like American Idol, but for Spain. Chencha loves it.

Other minor things that have happened recently:
-For lunch, Chencha served 'bacarón', a little fish. You eat it with mayonnaise. After breaking the fish in half length-wise and pulling out the spine.

-While shopping last night, Chantel and I witnessed both a Haiti demonstration and a breakdancing contest in the center Plaza. The breakdancing was more like teenages boys dancing like girls, however. Not really sure what was going on there...

-Chantel and I bought cell phones! Seeing as this is complicated in English, we had a bit of difficulty trying to find the best plan in Spanish. True, it's a cheap phone with only 10 contacts, but I'm very proud of my 'móvil.'

I'm still trying to adjust to everything here. Last night, I got an overwhelming craving to crawl into our big orange chair at home and eat some normal breakfast food. I wouldn't say I'm homesick, but I do miss the familiarity of home at times. So, someone out there reading this, eat some waffles for breakfast next time for me. With a lot of butter. And syrup. Yummm

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A day in the life...

[The photo is of me, Nate, and Chantel eating ice cream in between classes today. So tasty!]

In a word, today was maravilloso. It was the first time that I didn’t feel like I had “AMERICAN” written in bold on my forehead; the first time I felt even remotely like a Sevillano.The reason? I finally have a home and a family! Instead of walking to class with 35 other Americans (some of whom are still speaking English…ugh), I strolled along the river with Chantel after an authentic home meal of chicken, rice, and salad. And speaking Spanish the whole time.

Our Mom, Chencha, is incredible. She lives on the first floor of an apartment building in un barrio (neighborhood) that is called Los remedios. Chantel and I are sharing a room, which is what we asked for. Our room has enough closet space for the two of us, although Chantel brought 70% of the clothes we have here. Also, we have our own bathroom. Which has a badai. A question for the Europeans: why do you love badais so much? Why? Whatever, it is beyond me…

So, what can I say about Chencha? To start, she is incredibly welcoming. As is the custom here, she gave us two kisses, one on each cheek, and then proceeded to bear hug us. All Sevillanos are touchier than Americans, but Chencha was especially warm.

In addition, I have a feeling that Chencha was a little bit of a wild child in her youth. She has already taught Chantel and I many bad words in Spanish, most of them over the dinner table. (Hayley and Lauren, I’m going to be able to insult you so much when I get back!) As a present, I gave her an Oregon calendar, soap made with Oregon rain, a bag of Beaver Brittle, and a box of truffles. Our gift-exchange conversation went as follows (translated into English):

Me: Here is a calendar of Oregon, a bar of soap, and carmels. And these are truffles, or sweets.
Chencha: These are chocolate?
Me: Yes, they do have chocolate.
Chencha: Oh, wonderful! For me, chocolate is the substitute for sex. I LOVE CHOCOLATE!

That’s Chencha for you. She also has a son, who still lives at home. He’s 45 years old. Yes, 45. Apparently this is not strange in Spain. Mom and Dad, how would you feel if I was still living with you at that age?...That’s what I thought. ☺

Tomorrow, we have a meeting in our center about safety, followed by a bus tour of the city. I can feel “AMERICAN” coming back already…


¡Hola a todos! (Hello, everyone!)

Yesterday was another rainy day in Sevilla. Thankfully, I think it was supposed to be the last one for a while; already the sun is shining here, making it around 60 degrees. I'm excited to experience 'el tiempo excelente' (the excellent weather) that the Sevillanos keep raving about.

Yesterday was kind of a ho-hum day. Besides lunch, that is. Four other girls from Michigan and I went to a tapas bar, and decided to be adventurous with our lunch choices. Among other things, we ended up ordering two plates that contained 'huevas'. Now, we knew that 'huevos' meant eggs, and we thought that 'hueva' meant a certain type of fish. Basically, we guessed that we would have one plate of eggs and one plate of a fish.

We were wrong.

The food arrived and it was definitely NOT eggs. But upon tasting it, it wasn't like fish either. The texture was incredibly crumbly and dry, and broke into a lot of tiny pieces my your mouth. Even after pulling out Rafi (the name Channy and I have given to her dictionary), we didn't have a clue what this food was. So, we consulted our waiter.

(In spanish) "They're fish ovaries."

Oh dear God.

Ergo, yesterday I ate a million little fish eggs and now they're all swimming around in my stomach and about to grow into giant fish and kill me. Actually, I'm proud of myself, because even after I figured out what 'huevas' was, I ate one more bite. I guess I just don't want to miss out on any experiences, even if they're very strange and maybe gross. Ah, la vida sevillana. (The picture I uploaded is one of me eating a really churro, at breakfast!)

In other news, Channy and I have discovered our housing arrangement! We will be living with Chencha Herrador. She doesn't smoke, doesn't have animals, and has internet! Nate, the only boy from Michigan on this program, has a sister who stayed with Chencha two years ago, and he said she was the greatest. I'm incredibly excited to meet her, in 15 minutes!

Watch out Checha, here comes Channy and Lyndsay!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A.N.O. (Americans' Night Out)

I took two showers today, one actually in the bathroom, and one when I went outside into the city...Yes, its pouring here in Sevilla, a very rare occurrence here. At least thats what all the Sevillanos keep telling us. I´m glad most of them don't know I'm from Oregon, otherwise they'd probably blame the weather on me. (Considering some people think it rains EVERY single day in Oregon. You know who you are...)

Last night, all of the people from our program decided to bond through a night on the town. Seeing that it was a Monday, the night life was pretty...scarce. As in, nobody else was out. Literally, we were the only ones in the bar, except our bartender, her friend (obviously there to keep her company on boring Monday nights), and whoever was on the video screen at the time. Don't think that this means Sevillanos don't like to rock the party...Channy and I saw a man during lunch today have a bottle of wine. By himself. At 1:30 in the afternoon. Oh yeah, they like their alcohol.

It turned out to be a good thing that we were the only ones out, because we weren´t afraid to act like who we really are: annoying Americanos. We took an irritating amount of pictures of ourselves, we sang along to Guns and Roses, and we kept screaming "ESTAMOS EN SEVILLA" randomly. Yes, I would say that we stuck out just a little bit. In the end, it helped us get to know one another better and be more comfortable around each other. After all, these people are going to be the closest thing I have to the States (how exotic does that make me sound?) for the next five and a half months...

Besides attempting to avoid the rain while sharing my one, small umbrella with Channy (she was able to fit 24 ball point pens and a basketball in her suitcase, but failed to bring an umbrella), I began my Seminario Cultural today. This is a month long seminar run by our program center that intensively teaches us about the culture of Sevilla and España in general. Each week (Monday through Thursday) we study a different topic; this week, its the history of democracy (or lack thereof) in Spain. In addition, we have a grammar class each day. Normally, grammar is not something that I look forward to at all, but the professor seems funny, so it should be interesting.

The program center itself is beautiful. It's located on the 2nd floor (it's actually the third, but in Spain, the first floor's number is zero, unlike in the states) this old building, constructed in the 1920s. It has an old elevator that you have to close the doors to for it to operate. I'm not brave enough to try it yet, plus it takes energy that I don't need to waste (love mother earth). Anyways, the view from the center looks out onto the river that runs through Sevilla, Río Guadalquivir. If I ever need inspiration I'll simply look out the window and see how beautiful and romantic this city is..

So far, I think the hardest thing has been that I have absolutely no idea where I am at any time. It seems to me that the architects that designed this city had an extreme aversion to straight lines and order, because almost every street is narrow and curvy and just plain confusing. I've only just begun to be able to recognize important landmarks. Thankfully, Channy has an excellent sense of direction and has been able to lead us around. I provide the umbrella, and she makes sure we don't get lost. A perfect partnership!

Time to get to mi tarea for tomorrow. ¡Hasta luego!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm here!

Finally, I'm here in Sevilla, España! Currently, I'm typing in my hotel bed with Chantel Jennings, more commonly known as Channy, quietly appreciating the profound lyrics of Usher's "You Remind Me." It is a relaxed evening, unlike the beginning few days of our study abroad experience...

Detroit to Frankfurt went well enough. Channy and I had seats in the last row of the international flight, closest to the bathroom and farthest away from the food. Adding to the situation, I was seated next to a rather large European man whom Channy and I aptly dubbed "Pablo." Pablo's arm was approximately the size of my thigh, automatically granting him the privilege of the arm rest. Thankfully, he was asleep for the majority of the trip, allowing Channy and I to engage in silent dance parties and other such important business. I hardly slept at all, but somehow managed to miss breakfast in the morning. Go figure.

At Frankfurt, we just barely made our connection, after being delayed in Detroit because of de-icing procedures. We were literally the last people on the bus to take us to the airplane, but we made it just in time. I slept the entire flight, again managing to skip the meal they offered. Thankfully, a PB&J sandwich made by Channy's parents came to the rescue. Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Jennings!

The debacle that happened in Madrid needs to be summarized into a list, because otherwise this blog will be much longer than necessary. Here's how it goes:
1. Our bags do not arrive with us in Madrid. We momentarily panic.
2. The customer service people tell us they have no information about the whereabouts of our bags. We decide to wait until Gayle's flight arrives, assuming our bags will be on her flight, since she's coming from the same airport.
3. Gayle's flight is delayed.
4. We realize our bags are not actually on that flight. We momentarily panic. Again.
5. Our bags are found! On a flight that will arrive at 11:30 that night...
6. We check in at our hostel.
7. A spanish guido (picture Jersey Shores mixed with MTV tres) drives Channy and I back to the airport at 11 to get our bags. After discovering the flight was delayed (is this becoming a pattern?), we exercise on the carousel and race luggage carts. Finally, our bags arrive!
8. We attempt to persuade a taxi driver to shove all the baggage into one taxi, seeing as we do not have enough euros for two taxis. This is much more stressful than it sounds.
9. A kind driver decides to come to our rescue. I sit in the front, with the seat pushed all the way forward and my pack in my lap. Channy gets comfortable with the rest of the baggage in the back.
10. We talk about the weather and disco with the driver on the ride home.

After less than 4 hours of sleep at the hostel, a 2.5 hour train ride to Sevilla, and an argument with the Sevillian taxi drivers, we arrived at the hotel and were greeted by Louisa, an employee of the program center. For lunch, we eat at a Tapas restaurant, which serves basically a multitude of appetizers. It was my first real Spanish meal and consisted of a variety of Spanish cuisine, including whole shrimp. Yes, my food stared back at me. Until I ripped its head off, that is.

To end the day, we met all the program participants and had dinner at the hotel. Our day begins at 10 am tomorrow, with a trip to the program center, followed by a tour around Sevilla.

Part of me still can't believe that I'm actually here, in Spain, about to only speak Spanish for the next five and a half months. And if the beginning of this trip has any indication as to how the rest will follow, I can only say that it is going to be an adventure. Stay tuned.