Friday, March 26, 2010

Just follow your feet!

The title of this blog is a quote from one of my favorite movies, 'A Knight's Tale.' This classic from my middle school days is chalk-full of witty, memorable lines and of course, Heath Ledger (Moment of silence please...). Whenever I watched the movie, however, this quote would really frustrate me. It's the advice that Heath's father gives to him when he sends him away to be a stable-hand for a knight: 'just follow your feet' home. And I always thought it was a dumb line that didn't make any sense, or at least, until recently.

Because I have been letting my feet guide me around Sevilla and all it has to offer more and more as time goes on. In a city so foreign, every day is an opportunity for me to turn down a new corner, discover a new favorite spot, explore a new street. In the beginning, I was reluctant to stray too far from the few paths I knew, but now that I'm more comfortable with both Sevilla and my Spanish skills, I wander around like its my job.

Last Saturday, for example, Haley and I let our feet guide us around the town of Aracena, situated west of Sevilla and famous for its extraordinary labyrinth of caves. The caves are cool for sure, but its no wonder why they make Aracena famous...the city's got nothing else to be known for. (Besides several peculiar statues...see below.) At least, thats what we thought until we followed our feet into el Museo de Jamón - The Ham Museum. Although originally we did this because we had to go to the bathroom, we were soon rewarded for our choice with lovely giant photos of pigs. If we hadn't followed our feet and seen these photos, our lives would have been significantly less satisfying.

[Woman with very large child-bearing hips.]

[Haley, slightly afraid of the gigantic pig.]

Every Monday and Tuesday, Chencha makes me a ham and butter sandwich (the ham comes straight from the cured pig's leg on our kitchen counter) because I don't have enough time to come back for lunch. Usually on these days, I go back to the center to check my email and bop around on the internet before returning to class. Last Monday, however, I followed my feet to a spot on the grass outside of the university to eat my sandwich and enjoy the sunshine (FINALLY - sun!). About two bites away from finishing, a old spanish couple approached me, asking me if they were in Parque Maria Luisa. I said no, and gave them appropriate directions. This is notable for a couple of reasons:

1. They assumed I could speak Spanish. Score!
2. Parque Maria Luisa is a GIANT park. I was sitting on a patch of grass.
3. I actually know the city and the language well enough to give directions!
4. They asked me if I was from France. Bonus!
5. After I responded, "no, I'm from the US," he said in a funny british accent, "Very well, very well."

Had I not followed my feet, this lovely encounter wouldn't have happened.

And finally, today, I followed my feet into a hair salon to get rid of my pesky 'puntos abiertos' (split ends). In the very first weeks of our stay here, Chantel got a haircut at a salon near our house. To put it bluntly, it was a disaster. Fearing the same result, I decided to try a new place that looked more professional, named New Siglo XXI. I walked in, and was immediately pleased with my decision. It was a fashionably decorated salon with L'oréal signs everywhere, which screamed 'this salon is legit!' My hairdresser, named Jesús (did you expect anything else?) promptly came to my assistance, took my coat and scarf to hang up, and led me to my chair. After a brief conversation accompanied by a lot of hand motions, (haircut vocabulary is hard) Jesús took me to the shampoo station. I sat down on the leather chair and relaxed. After a couple of seconds, I hear Jesús push a button, and out comes a foot rest. One more second and the chair starts massaging me! Ohhh yeah, thank you New Siglo XXI!

Jesús and I chatted while he cut my hair, mostly about why I was here and places he had traveled. He told me that I would love both Paris and London (I'll be going to both before I leave here) and taught me some helpful vocabulary as well:

raya: hair part
onda: wave
risa: curl

All in all, I give the hair cut experience a big thumbs up!

So in the past week I have visited a ham museum, given directions to tourists, and gotten a hair cut. And as I walked out of the hair salon with my new trim and bouncy ondas, I thanked the writers of a Knight's Tale for putting in that corny line. Because here, in Sevilla, it makes sense.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This blog contains too much material to have an overarching title

As part of the curriculum of Cheldelin Middle School, all of the 6th graders venture into the great outdoors at the beginning of the school year in an expedition named Outdoor School. The purpose of this 4 day trip, in the minds of the administrators, is to better the student’s knowledge about nature and its sciences. From the student’s perspective, this is an opportunity to meet your new classmates, sing songs unrelated to academia, and call each other by your ‘nature name.’ (Mine was Hazel, after Newt was taken by an undeserving peer.) Accordingly, most of what I remember from outdoor school has nothing to do with ecosystems, science, or nature at all. What I remember best, and what is most applicable at this time in my life, is a song entitled “The Weather in Oregon.” It goes like this:


Rain, rain, rain
Oh rain, rain, rain
Sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny
Rain, rain, rain (x2)

The weeeeaaather in Oregon

Sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny
Rain, rain, rain!

(If you want the full experience, I can teach you the hand motions. They are as hard as the lyrics themselves.)

It is not supposed to rain in Sevilla. Coincidentally, in the year that I decide to study abroad, Sevilla has experienced snow for the first time in 100 years, and more rain than in the last 40. (These years are more estimates; no one that I talk to really knows because they both are just so rare.)

So when the one and only Caroline Zambricki came to visit Chantel and me during Michigan’s spring break, we were hoping for some nice weather. We began our trip in Madrid with our other friends Jenny and Nicole, where we toured art museums, ate Peruvian food (again, thanks Chantel!), and introduced Caroline to the wonderful taste of Sangria. (She loved it.) The next day, we were on a 6.5 hour bus ride down to Sevilla.

Of course, as soon as we entered the province of Sevilla, it began to rain. And it rained pretty much all week, except for two days that we definitely took advantage of, as you can see from the picture below.

Despite the fact that the weather was a bit of a downer (especially in comparison to spring breaks spent in Costa Rica or Cancún), we had a wonderful time with her. Although we didn’t take her to many museums or churches or things of that nature, we gave her an authentic experience of La Vida Sevillana. She ate tapas, she saw flamenco, she had tea and dessert with Chencha, she bought leather boots, and she had churros con chocolate for breakfast. It was a wonderful week. And as I waved goodbye as her bus got ready to leave, I realized how great all of my friends are. You don’t appreciate how important they are in your life until you move to a country where you don’t have any. So thanks guys, I love you all! (So cheesy, but so true.)

Short headlines from the past two weeks of my life:

1. I visited Gibraltar (a British colony on the Southern coast of Spain) with Haley and her boyfriend Court. It was the free trip that I had won during Carnaval, and I am so glad that it was, because I would have wanted a refund. Gibraltar is always windy because the Strait of Gibraltar constricts wind flow from the Atlantic Ocean, but it usually doesn’t rain. When it does, it’s just miserable. Most of my pictures are of the fogged-up windows and rain drops. Needless to say, we were all soaked to the bone and a bit cranky on the three-hour ride home. On a positive note, one of the free-roaming monkeys of Gibraltar jumped on my head and gave me a good profile picture.

2. Classes at the university keep rolling along. I have made a couple more friends, most of who are in my Conservation class. Juan José is my best friend so far; he helped me make my Tuenti (the Spanish equivalent of Facebook). Last Wednesday, we met up for an hour before class at a café to talk. As we were chatting about the differences of Spanish and American cuisine, I suddenly felt a wet drop on my pants. Our conversation stopped as I looked down to see a white speck on my jeans. Of course, a bird would poop on me during my first official Intercambio. Obviously, Juan José couldn’t resist laughing his head of at me. I explained to him that in the US, some people say that having a bird poop on you is good luck. He was incredulous. And later in our conversation, when a dried bird poop flew onto our table, he said to me sarcastically. ‘Wow, we must be REALLY lucky today.” Har har har, Juan José.

3. Yesterday, Pepe’s (Chencha’s son that doesn't live at home) family’s neighborhood threw a mini-Carnaval for all of the kids. Normally, this takes place closer to the actual weekend of Carnaval, but due to the rain (obviously) they pushed it back to yesterday. Chantel and I were excited to go to our first Spanish party, even though the majority of the guests would be under 7 years old and in costume.

When I was younger, our neighborhood threw a party once or twice for all of the families to meet-and-greet. Parents chatted, eating hors d'oeuvres while kids played games in the street. This is NOT what happens at Spanish block parties.

First of all, some parents dressed up too. Most notably, four of the moms (including Chari, Pepe’s wife) dressed up as slutty pirates, complete with fishnet stockings and hooker boots. And all the parents drink. A lot. It started to get a little sloppy when about halfway through the celebration, a band called “Funkytown: The Street Band” (literally, it wasn’t translated into Spanish) showed up and started a dance party. Everyone joined in, kids and parents included, and Chantel and I learned a few new Spanish moves. The pirates were probably the most into it, and booed loudly every time the band stopped playing. At this point, one rather inebriated man decided to get on top of the bar and dance. His friends then pulled his pants down, exposing his navy blue whitey-tighties. See the evidence below:

Obviously, these people put the party in block party.

4. Last night, I made my most embarrassing Spanish error thus far. Gayle and I were out on the town, chatting it up with some new Spanish friends we had just made. I forget what exactly we were discussing, but I wanted to express to Julio that I believed him. In Spanish, I believe you is ‘Te creo.’ This is similar to ‘Te quiero,’ which means I want you, or I love you. Basically, I told this new Spanish stranger that I loved him, instead of saying I believed him. Thankfully, Julio has a girlfriend, as I have a boyfriend, and so he didn’t take it too seriously. Nonetheless, this immediately turned into the joke of the night, like when I accidentally hit him while putting on my jacket and he friend yelled, “Domestic violence!” Har de har har, again, you Spaniards are just so funny.

Well, sorry for the ridiculously long blog, but I had to make up for the last two weeks. To sign off, I will tell you all my favorite Spanish joke that Chencha taught me. (Aka the only one that I know.)

One day a boy asked his mom what happens when we die. His mom answered, “Well honey, we all turn into dust.” The boy thought for a minute, and replied, “Then there’s a lot of dead people in my room.”