Author Archives: hrh5038

Semester’s Rollin’!

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Both of the above are from a chic little antique/interior decoration shot near CIEE.


spanish breakfast

I may have mentioned it before, but breakfast is not a very big deal here – toast and coffee are enough, but I will certainly appreciate adding a nice omelette, or some cereal to this mix once I’m back in the States. Also notice: my se�ora has the most oldschool, but also fastest and coolest toaster I think I’ve ever seen. Hands down. Also, the coffee maker is juuust big enough for one cup 🙂


Me, Pat and Randa heading home after an afternoon in the sunshine by the river.

Brace yourself.

Okay, this is just about the most gigantic blog entry imaginable, as it’s been quite a while since I wrote anything, but it’s pretty much split into two sections: classes, and miscellaneous topics, in that order, so feel free to ignore the irrelevant and read what ever interests you!


Regular Semester Classes.

To the left is a screen shot from my iPhone of my “horario finalisisimo,” so named by Jorge, one of the people who works in CIEE, and changed my schedule about five times x) Good thing though, because it’s finally perfect 🙂

I start the week pretty relaxed, I don’t have my first class until 7pm on Monday afternoons. I usually spend the earlier part of the day getting work done and/or going for a run by the Guadalquivir (that’s the name of our river, I can never remember it, and have a feeling a lot of other people can’t either – explaining why it’s normally just referred to as “el r�o”), and now that it’s starting to get nicer out, the latter of the two will likely become more common. 

Below is a screen shot of the GoogleMap of the area (Paseo Rey Juan Carlos) that I usually run in. I don’t normally go the entire way down and back (10km, about 6 miles) – I usually cut off a kilometer or a few – but when I do it feels great, and I get to see the entire north side of the river 🙂

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Anyways, after my laid-back Monday afternoons, my first class is “Psicholog�a de la Aprendizaje de una Segunda Lengua” (Psychology of Apprehension of a Second Language), which is totally right up my ally. The second week of class, I volunteered to do the presentation for the week with Randa and my friend Patrick, from Spanish 410 at Penn State last semester (holler!). It was on popular ideas about learning a second language and we totally killed it, if you ask me 😉  I like this class a lot, but so far we’ve just covered basics that I know most of from taking so many similar classes at PSU. It’s nice to be well versed in the subject, and be able to ask the professor things I want to explore deeper, but being that he knows this is my area of focus in university, I’m assuming he’ll be harder on me when it comes to grading. Also, though it’s one of my favorite subjects, there have been some readings and points in this class I’m not as fond of. One of the first articles we read ran pretty contrary to a lot of my personal beliefs about language systems and acquisition, which are many, varied and heatedly debated in the world of linguistics, because we’re always searching for the best ways to teach language. At any rate, there are also many new and different ideas from what I’ve heard and seen in the past, and I’m enjoying the fresh wave of information that brings.


On Tuesdays, I start class at 11, “El Islam en La Espa�a Musulmana (Al-Andalus): Arte y Cultura” (Islam in Muslim Spain: Art and Culture). It isn’t so bad that it’s in the morning, because I like the subject a lot, but the timing makes for an awfully long day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I absolutely love this class, yet another where I’m “THAT GIRL” who’s always answering questions and asking the professor for details, but hopefully that’s a good thing and shows that I’m interested, not just a pain in the neck or showoff to the other students! x) Anyways, the professor is wonderful, and the readings (written by her, in Spanish,  also how my psychology and three cultures classes are) are really interesting. So far, we’ve reviewed Islam as a whole, and are now getting into the “Medieval Arabic World and Historical Notions”, and then architecture. I have to write at least 3 pages, (1,5 spaced/11pt font  – not 2,0/12 pt like in the States!!) in Spanish about each for next week, and that’s a normal amount for a few-week unit in this class. I have that, directly followed by another at 1 o’clock, and as you’ll see, they overlap a LOT. I’m glad to say though, that is definitely facilitating my absorption of the subject matter – so far it’s a lot of review, but I’m definitely also learning a lot!

Three Cultures.

That next class is “Tres Culturas en Espa�a: Crisitianos, Muselmanes y Jud�os” (Three Cultures in Spain: Christians, Muslims and Jews) which I also enjoy a lot. Again, most of what we’ve covered so far is basics and review (for me, at least – this is a topic I’ve always been really interested in), but learning the details and cultural aspects that are unique to Spain is really fascinating. The professor talks really fast, but very clearly, so we cover a lot of subject matter in each class in a way that manageable as long as you do the readings, which again, are great.


After that, I usually go find a spot in the sun to read and do homework at a square or a caf� while I eat my lunch. Tuesdays and Thursdays I don’t go home for lunch, so my se�ora packs me a “bocadillo” (pronounced BOHKA-DEEYO – a sandwich) to eat. This is the norm for all the  exchange students, and usually consists of a loaf of fresh bread the size of a small slipper, with a slice of meat and some cheese or lettuce and tomato. Sometimes she throws in a drink, orange, and other “postre” (dessert), but when there’s no drink, I like to go enjoy my meal with a “cerveza” (beer, which I don’t usually drink, but is generally MUCH better here than anything I’ve tried in the States).

By the way, this is an example of what I sit in front of while I eat my lunch 🙂

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^ This is the  Cathedral of Sevilla, it’s kind of a big deal. And just plain big.

la giralda

And La Giralda, at its side ^


After my two-and-a-half hour siesta, I have another class at 5PM, “Lexicolog�a y Sem�ntica Espa�ola,” (Spanish Lexicology and Semantics). What on earth does that mean? It means another class I’m obsessed with!! Though it’s moving a little slow because it’s still pretty close to the start, we’ve covered some interesting topics. After we got through some of the basics of linguistics (none of the other students in the class have ever taken a ling class – understandable, as it’s not a very common subject, but I was a little surprised I’m the only linguist in my whole program!), we got on to talking about pr�stamos (borrowed words), origins of Spanish words, and sefard�, or judeoespa�ol (Jewish Spanish!)


Then there’s my extra class, which is only 2 credits, but will be good for my resum�, and will earn me the CAIE (Certificate of Achievement in International Education): Seminario sobre vivir y aprender en Sevilla (Seminar on Living and Learning in Seville).  For that, I have to have a “compa�ero cultural,” a cultural partner, which is someone Spanish who I spend time with setting goals and doing specific assignments to get to know Sevilla and Spain better. My partner is H�ctor, someone from Chefchaouen, the teter�a that Randa and I go to all the time and have friends at. Our most recent assignment was to ask our cultural partners the meaning of their names and then discuss how it’s different from ours. Though I know people here take their mother and father’s last names, it was still interesting to see Olga’s (our professor, and head of the program I’m in) list of influences that can have a role in naming someone.  There were religious, family, cultural, historical, all sorts of reasons people name their kids. Turns out H�ctor was just named that by his parents because they thought it was nice and his dad didn’t want to give him his name because he didn’t like it. I learned though, that H�ctor is a Greek name which I never knew before and wouldn’t have guessed! Ironically, around the same time that I got that assignment, a Jordanian teter�a owner I met told me that my arabic name (al-hana) means “relaxation,” or “happiness.” 🙂

IMG_1048.JPGFinally done for the week a little before 7pm on Thursdays (we “extranjeros” – foreign students – don’t have class on Fridays), I trudge home with all my books, have dinner, and muster up the energy to go out and spend some time with Randa and kids from our program or, more often, go find some of our local friends to hang out with. Overall, it’s a manageable week, but if I want to be sufficiently prepared for my classes and be able to participate at all (which we’ve discovered, I very much do), it’s a pretty heavy time and energy investment to get all the reading done. And let’s be real – I’m not usually big on reading. I’m glad though, that I like all my classes and professors so much. I was originally going to take an art history class through direct enrollment at the university, but after sitting in on one lesson, I found it to be WAY too much 

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information to take in, especially being that I’m not accustomed to organizing facts about artist, styles, and dates in the way or rate the professor went about presenting them. In place of that though, I’ve found myself quite happy in the Islam Art and Culture class. Thankfully, no matter how tough classes get, at the end of the week the last thing I see walking home are views of Triana like these form my bridge.

Desarrollo de una Identidad Espa�ola: (Development of a Spanish [and Global] Identity)

Aside from the discussions we have about linguistic identity in our psych class, it’s pretty neat keeping track of my development of a Spanish (linguistic) identity. There are certainly things that I only think of in Spanish now – especially things having to do with classes, because there’s no English there – and at times it’s actually hard to translate or think about them in English. I even think and talk to myself in Spanish a lot now, it’s kind of weird! It’s also still strange having certain people who I code switch with A LOT (like H�ctor, Vincent, and other friends at the teter�a), and others who hardly speak any English with me, like a lot of me and Randa’s Spanish friends who are older or have stayed in Spain all their lives. Especially when I’ve been speaking a lot of Spanish, and someone like H�ctor wants to know a word in English – if it’s not a common, everyday word that I use a lot, it can take me hours to suddenly realize what it is. The other day he had sores on his hands from rock climbing, and I could not for the life of me come up with the word callus, which happens to be a cognate of the Spanish, “calico.” What are the chances? Pretty good actually, things like that are often cognates…A little unrelated, but even crazier is the amount of code-switching that goes on when Randa and I meet other Moroccans. The owner of “Al-Salam” (The Peace) Teter�a, a new favorite spot of ours for great tea and hookah in Triana, is from Jordan, and his wife from Marrakech, so Randa enjoys practicing some Arabic with them. That sometimes includes some Spanish, English and when Muhammad talks to me about Israel, he shows off his bit of knowledge of Hebrew! It’s pretty wild, and really neat at the same time.


On the note of identity, “De donde eres?” (Where are you from?) has become a question that sparks some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had since I’ve been here. Most “estudiantes extranjeros” (foreign students) are found out to be American about two words into their first encounters with Spaniards (if they haven’t already figured it out from looks), but no one can ever seem to figure out where I’m from. It’s actually become somewhat of a funny game to make people guess what ethnicit(ies) I might be. Until more than a few sentences in, a lot of people think I’m Sevillana, and don’t believe I’ve only been here a little over a month, which is pretty awesome. Not only because it’s “trendy” to be European, but because people take me more seriously – or so I’d like to think. It would be cool if I could sustain that belief through a whole conversation by the end of the semester! Among the different nationalities that people guess, so far I’ve gotten M�xicana (mostly when I’m with Randa and she speaks first, as she has a more Spanish-American accent, being from the West Coast) a couple times, but I really don’t think either of us looks the least bit Mexican. She strikes me as really obviously Moroccan, and it surprises me that people here don’t guess that first, as I’d imagine they’re more accustomed to meeting Moroccans than Mexicans, they only live a few hours away! It’s interesting to see that much of the time people judge more based on accent than on looks. 

Anyways, when I went to C�diz I met a lot of people and one guessed about 7 countries in Europe I might be from, but not Russia, Israel, OR America! The closest anyone got was Bulgarian, which I’m not even sure how right or wrong that might have been, being that I only have a few friends from Bulgaria to compare with. I also had someone I met the other day convinced I was Argentinian (tried to tell him I was most definitely not, haven’t ever even been to South America), until he went home and added me on FaceBook! Apparently the fact that I have light eyes really throws people off (refer to above photo, haha – taken just after I arrived in Spain – which now feels ages ago!). Ironically, Mohammad, just after telling me the arabic meaning of my name, also said I have a middle-eastern face, which is believable enough. I think what it comes down to is that people are biased based on what they know and have seen, because apparently I could be from pretty much anywhere except the majority of Africa. In the end, I always tell people that I’m Russian/Israeli but have lived most of my life in America, speaking English and practicing Spanish, (among the mish-mosh of other languages I’ve dabbled in). People are always asking me to talk to them in Hebrew or Russian, and because I haven’t practiced either in a classroom in over a year, so it’s REALLY hard.


The neatest thing about revealing my identity though, is that most people are really interested and surprised by the “Hebrea” part. When I went to Granada, I had some really interesting conversations with two staff members from CIEE who have studied Judaism and the Jews’ role in Spain, which they both agreed had a huge impact on economic development before they were kicked out along with the Muslims in 1492. They also both listen to and love Israeli music, so I showed them some of mine, and told them about Israel. One of them even told me that I was the first Jewish person he’d ever met! Well, I imagine I’m just the first that he knew was Jewish – there are a TON of Jewish kids here just this semester, and I’m sure without a doubt he’s met a lot of others in past semesters, without realizing it. The picture above is of a building that’s currently something else, but I think used to be a synagogue. It’s neat to see that here, but a little sad knowing there are only about 30 Jewish families left in the city since their expulsion in 1492.

famosos under the bridge

Estrellas y Famosos (Stars and Celebrities!)

I sat down one night to watch TV with my se�ora and her mom after dinner, we were watching a Spanish awards show, and I just had to write something about it, because they all look FABULOUS. The clothes are so classy and beautiful! I actually think they’re nicer than what celebs wear in the States, and further interesting are the roles they play on stage. One woman, reminiscent of a straight, European Ellen Degeneres, came out and started dancing around and singing (just like Ellen, not like a professional), and was then accompanied by a group of other people singing and dancing – slightly off-beat, and slightly out of pitch. ‘Hmm..’ I thought to myself ‘I wonder if they’re just actors performing for the opening?’ So I asked Loly. Indeed, they were all hosts and nominees of the awards show, none of whom regularly sing or dance, but unafraid of looking foolish or sounding out of tune, they opened with a show-tuney number! I thought that was pretty cool. Maybe people do that in other places too – I mean, I wouldn’t know, I don’t really watch TV unless someone turns it on in front of me – but I thought that was an interesting reflection of peoples’ willingness to perform the way they do in this country. And that doesn’t just go for celebrities. Everywhere we go, there are different people telling us about their flamenco endeavours, and singing – even if they’ve never had a single lesson – it’s just part of the culture, which I find really cool.

Also, sometimes you’ll just randomly see a group of people filming a scene for a Spanish TV show or film (like above).  Outside StarBucks a few weeks ago, there were some women sitting at a table with a microphone hanging over their heads, and a cameraman working hard to catch all the right angles. Then Randa and I saw some people filming under our bridge the other day when we were walking home. Had no idea who they were, but everyone was looking over the edge, trying to figure out what was going on.

tea and hookahTeter�a.

I think I must have mentioned the word teter�a at least 20 times since I started blogging, so here’s a picture of some tea and hookah Randa and I had the other day at the new place, Al-Salam 🙂


 artsy tea and candle

This particular place, by the way, has DELICIOUS tea, and really nice sheesha. We tried limonana (arabic for lemon-mint), which is my all time fave.

Location: Triana. Sevilla, Spain.

Class, Culture, and Cuca

This is a view of the roof of the “centro comercial” (shoping mall) de Nervi�n, a barrio in Sevilla about an hour walk from where I live. We went there to see a movie for our class, and I took a long walk there yesterday.


These are love locks, couples write their names on them, and put them on the bridge. It’s illegal, because I guess it’s considered a form of vandalism, but I think it’s super cute!


And another view from this bridge (Puente de Isabella II), one of my favorite places to stop and just take in the city every time I walk past.



I mentioned in an earlier post that we’re supposed to have groups that we practice Spanish and English with through CIEE, but because of the inconvenient timing of my group’s meetings on Thursday evenings, I’m either going to switch to another, or do it independently. I’ve met a number of Spaniards that would really appreciate some extra practice. The other day, I met a girl named Cuca (pronounced, KOO-KAH), who said she’d really like to have native English speakers to talk to, so hopefully we’ll start that soon.

Still a lot to Learn

Some days I feel like I have a pretty firm grasp on the Spanish language, and that I can express myself and communicate “bastante bi�n,” (well enough), but other times it’s the complete opposite. Apart from the issue of establishing a linguistic identity, and temporarily accepting it as a somewhat less sophisticated, less expressive version of the self, there are a number of things that hold the second-language speaker back. First off, having to ask native speakers to slow down and annunciate better (especially with the lazy, syllable-chopping dialect that is Sevillano!) gives us away, and the limited vocabulary, which sometimes makes me feel like I’m not quite understanding or explaining well enough. Aside from those things, there’s also the  issue of trying to stop the bad habit of improperly using false cognates – words in English that look like direct Spanish translations [or vise versa], but aren’t.  A few that I noticed Cuca, Randa and myself tripping over the other day were the words for “speak” and “talk,” and “hear” and “listen.” The word “hablar” (to speak) is meant to have the more general implication of using language, while “decir” (to talk, or say [something]) is used to mean something was, is, or can be said. Similarly, the difference between “escuchar” (to listen), which has an implication of intention attached to it, and “oir” (to hear) is pretty important when used in context. Telling someone, “No te escuch�” makes it sound like you weren’t listening, while asking someone to repeat himself by saying, “No te o�” generally makes more sense. However, with the wonderfully distracting touch of ADD that I live with, I often find myself using both with equal intention! :-p

Intensive Spanish Grammar: Done!

Our first class in Spain is over! It’s weird to think that I just earned credits for an entire semester in two weeks, but it’s nice that that’s what the intensive course is.  We went over all of the tenses and aspects of Spanish verbs in the short 10 days of class, with take-home, and in-class essay exams at the end of each week. We also had an assignment to go see a movie called, Silencio en la Nieve, which is a new historical fiction about Spanish soldiers fighting against the “Ejercito Rojo” in the forties. It was interesting, but very hard to follow, as my “oyente” isn’t very fine-tuned, and it was also just one of those days where I wasn’t feeling as able in Spanish. Watching shows and movies on tv certainly continue to help though, and hopefully I’ll go back to the “cine” (movie theater) sometime soon.

As for the rest of the semester, I got my “ahorrario de clases” (class schedule)! It’s not 1000% final, but I’m pretty sure I’ll end up taking everything I have planned right now

Definitely a lot less than “A Million Minutes in a Day”

Now that we’ve adjusted, and life in Seville is pretty regular, time is passing much more quickly. The days go by a lot faster, especially when we have set schedules to follow. That might change once I start normal classes – but it might only mean my days are fuller and go by even faster! Fortunately though, I’ll only have classes Monday through Thursday, which makes our weekends longer for traveling and getting work done. Speaking of which, I need to start making plans to take trips to other cities! Instead of going on a day trip to C�rdoba next weekend, Hannah and I decided to sign up for an overnighter in Granada, which should be pretty cool. We heard from another friend that it was a great time, and beautiful place to see. We also want to take a weekend in Barcelona, where Hannah’s stayed before for a different program, so we need to book our flights ASAP!

Fashion…Men’s, Women’s…both?

The fashion here is pretty typically European, based on what I know and have seen of the “EuroStyle,” as I like to call it. Women almost always wear heeled or wedged shoes or boots, nice pants or tights with a blouse or dress and this time of year, a nice heavy coat! It’s been suuper cold here, I don’t know why it’s not getting warmer, as I expected it to over the course of the semester. Anyways, rebajas are still going on in most places, and it’s fun to shop around for things I wouldn’t find in the States.

As for men’s wear: The other day, I saw a man wearing the EXACT same scarf that I have…did I get robbed somehow?! And not know about it?? And then I realized: couldn’t be, I left that scarf at home in the States! Men’s fashion ALMOST looks like women’s sometimes, something I noticed especially when I went into H&M on Friday. The men’s section was a floor between the two women’s, and there were a few items – a nice white sweater, some shoes, a (man) purse that struck me as particularly…feminine. But that’s just the metro style, and really, I love it! Despite the fact that many Americans seem to think the metro style looks or seems gay sometimes, it’s pretty easy to see the line between metro and homosexual here. It’s an interesting dynamic though, because I don’t think the stigma here about being gay is quite the same as that in the States. Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure the extent of that stigma in Europe, or Andalucia and the rest of Spain specifically. In our CIEE student handbook though, there was some info about it saying that people are accepting, but as with many other minorities, there’s not much censor against derogatory jokes – even if nothing is meant by them.

Cultural Norms: Flamenco, flamencos and flamencas!

More lately than before, we’ve been watching a lot of flamenco singing competitions on tv in our apartment, and I’m noticing how pertinent it is the culture here. It’s taken some adjusting, but I can appreciate the art pretty well now that I have some comparisons to make. A lot of “famosos” (famous people) appear on game and talk shows, and sing a cappella during the episode. It’s kind of funny to see grown men and women singing and dancing around in the middle of a show like a musical or something – it’s different, but very cool.

Aside from witnessing them on the tube, I had a pretty interesting cultural experience with my friend Carlos. He took me to a flamenco spot near where we live, and he kept pointing people out, telling me, “That guy’s on tv,” and “Those girls are models,” etc. “�Tantos famosos, que raro!” (So many celebs, it’s weird!). The place itself was pretty high-end. When you walk in, there’s a giant ornate golden flamenco dress with an enormous train on display in the main lobby. Then in the main room there’s reserved seating around the perimeter, standing tables, a bar, and of course, a stage, on which people were singing and dancing – more playfully than seriously, as I’m accustomed to seeing flamenco. There were also people dancing all over the place, around the tables and through the crowd, each seemingly moving to their own music, until the last note of a song would play, and everyone would simultaneously throw a hand in the air!

Location: Triana. Sevilla, Spain.

Quiero conocerte, Sevilla

The title of this entry, “quiero conocerte,” means, “I want to get to know you.” A nice way of  saying I like you, I think I’ll hang around! It’s nice when new friends say this, and I love that this is exactly how I feel about Spain 🙂

Walking home, along the river:


My huge apartment building:


Starting Intensive Grammar

Every day from 3-6pm, I have class at the CIEE study center. That means leaving from the square near where we live at least a half hour before class to get there on time. It sort of eats our day, having a 3 hour class in the middle of it, but we’ve still been having some interesting experiences nonetheless. Randa was a little sick for a few days, but I have class with Hannah, so we’ve been sticking together most days. Taking another Spanish grammar class is especially boring for me, and grading is pretty tough! There’s no leeway for forgetting to add a certain part of an assignment, or special treatment, even if your Spanish is great. From what I’ve heard though, this is what to expect of any academic setting in Spain. There’s no eating, challenging the professor, or second chances in class here. I’m getting a good bit out of it though, looking up a lot of words in the pocket diccionario that I brought, and enjoying the moments between activities and lessons that we spend listening to, which is like a Spanish Hopefully having that at my disposal will help my comprehension.

Adjusting to My New Linguistic Identity

I mentioned this briefly in a former post, and am finding it more and more prevalent, the more I interact with native Spanish speakers. Wanting to express a certain part of my personality, but not being able to, is one of the most intimidating, and difficult things about making new such friends. I’ve been going out and spending time with a couple of people who only speak Spanish, and though it’s cool that they consider me bilingual for being able to communicate with them, and speak English, it’s beyond frustrating at some times. When I can’t made a funny remark, explain something in detail, or understand a story being told, I feel like I need to just start over learning Spanish all over again, and that’s discouraging. Luckily, people are patient for the most part. Willing to rephrase, or say things again slower, or emphasized differently. The accent, much as I can mimmic pretty well, still throws me off some times. Today, I made my friend Carlos repeat himself more than 3 times, when what I heard coming out of his mouth was “pixa,” and didn’t seem to make any sense, before I realized he was talking “pizza.” When I finally got it, I just rolled my eyes and made fun of his accent. I felt a little stupid for having needed to ask for so many repetitions, but sometimes there’s nothing more to do, and I’d rather understand than not know!


Spain in Action

On Tuesday we were leaving the study center to head for a caf� in town that we like, walking on the main road, when we ran into an enormous crowd of people. As we got closer, we could hear shouts and then chanting, and noticed that a bunch of people had signs and matching t-shirts on. Both bore the photo of a girl who didn’t look older than 14, and had her name – Marta del Castillo. According to an article that Hannah found and read to me, it was an anniversary of her disappearance. The true controversy of the matter is that though her boyfriend came forward saying that he murdered and threw her in the river (the one I cross over every day to walk into town :/ kinda scary when Hannah and I realized that), there has not been justice. Because they could not confirm that the boyfriend was culpable, or find a body, it seems the police and justice system at large left the mystery unsolved. Tens of thousands of people across the country have joined the city of Sevilla, and Marta’s parents in a desperate cry for justice. Apart from the unbelievable story that is headliner, I found it amazing that the people of Spain united in this way to speak out against silence. Hannah did too, and said she didn’t understand why it was such a big deal, “This happens all the time in America, but people in the States don’t do that,” she remarked. I agreed that it was really incredible to see people making such a big to-do, because they really believe that together they can change things. I hope they do.

IMG_0779.JPGThe Way People Are

Spending time in caf�s after class is a good way not only to get homework done, but also an opportunity to see how else Spanish natives function when they are together. Hannah and I sat at a table across from each other, while other students did the same throughout the tiny establishment. At one point, 5 middle-aged Spanish friends walked in together, and upon failing to drag to tables together because of the huge weight on the bottom of them, and the lack of space, they simply resigned to all sitting around one tiny table. In Europe, it seems, it’s not unusual for people who know each other well to be in close quarters if need be. The group was sitting almost shoulder to shoulder and they didn’t seem to be complaining about it!

In our apartment, we watch a lot of TV. Everything from “telenovelas” (soaps), game-shows (which are the hardest for me to follow, because of all of the cultural references and often, quick paced interaction), “noticias” (news), and movies are concerned with the state of “El Pa�s” (“The Country,” a common reference to Spain, and also the name of a main news source here). Most everything we watch, even the likes of the Spanish version of “How It’s Made,” talks about the bad economy. Tonight however, the message really started to hit home. Apparently SpanAir just went bankrupt, so newscasters were talking to people waiting in the airport to get different flights or go home. There was also a segment about the people who worked for them, who were all saying they didn’t know what they were going to do next, or how they would find work again. One woman said she’d  been a flight assistant since she left high school. These kinds of stories really bring to light the meaning of common terms used here, such as “crisis,” which is on the lips of Spaniards everywhere, and plastered on walls in the form of posters and graffiti (I know it’s looks like English, but the Spanish word, [KREE-SEES] carries a lot more meaning lately).

On top of the economic hardship, and the lack of jobs, it’s clear there are other problems in Europe that might slip under the international radar, but do not go unnoticed by natives, or the news. The other day when we were watching the news, there was a(nother) story about a woman who was murdered by her husband, due to extreme domestic violence. The people here seem so calm and with it, I wouldn’t have thought of Spain as a place where that’s something to worry about, and Loli seemed to think it was out of the ordinary how many tragic occurances there have been like this in the past few years.


Art in Town 🙂

There’s a lot of random graffiti, street art, and other forms of expression going on in Seville. Everywhere you walk, there are either big murals on walls, pictures of saints on tile, or flamenco dresses in windows. The buildings themselves are mostly old, stone or brick structures that have maintained their form, and either wear an antiquated layer of dark dust and grime, or have been cleaned to show the bright grey color of their walls. There are also memorials, statues, and free-standing structures in plazas and parks all over the place. When I went for a run with Hannah and Randa yesterday morning, there were murals and graffiti the whooole way down the place where we ran, which was a good 3 kilometer stretch along the river (and absolutely awesome, not to mention). We even saw some kids with sketch pads and brushes, painting away over some older work.

Some of my own art, this is the main bridge that goes across the river to the “Mainland” of Sevilla:


and a view of some palm trees in Triana, from the other side of the rio:


Mmmh I love the Food!

I’ve pretty quickly come to learn why they say that the mediterranean diet is among the healthiest. Some days, Loli serves me whole plates of steamed greens, like spinach – which is usually mixed with chick peas – or cooked beans; sometimes potatoes and cauliflower with a fried egg; and almost always bread with the meal to sop up oils and juices, and oranges or yogurt at the end of the meal. I love it! The food is always fresh, and lately it’s been really interesting too. We had seafood for a few days, which included whitefish and shrimp with melt-in-your-mouth soft, chopped potatoes in a light broth for dinner one night, and a seafood macaroni and cheese the next day for lunch when Loli’s daughter, her husband, and their baby came to town. Today we had fried potatoes with egg, it was good but I feel like I need to go for another run after all the carbs!! Dinner though, was all protein – garlic-lemon chicken from last night, and mushrooms in olive oil – yum!

Stay tuned! I’ve got a trop to C�rdoba with my program in two weekends, and the week after that, Carnaval in C�diz, with We Love Spain.

Location: Triana. Sevilla, Spain.

Adjusting Nicely


And now comes the fun stuff..or at least the start of it 😉

Now that we’ve started to get used to the city, walking around and navigating everywhere, we know how to be safe, have fun, and (sometimes) be well enough rested to make it through the next day doing the same. For the first couple of days, we could walk in circles around the same streets and have no idea that we were around the corner from the same place we’d visited just a day, or half hour prior.  Now however, that we’ve gotten a feel for the areas we visit most, we can leave our part of town less than an hour before we have to be at a place that’s just a 20 minute walk away! When we make it to certain landmarks, and realize that we’re right next to a certain street, or other landmark, and without being totally turned around, it’s one of the most triumphant and reassuring feelings in the world!

Shopping – Rebajas!!

Knowing our way around doesn’t only help us to navigate to the places we have to be to meet up with our program group, but also makes taking advantage of the Spanish culture and conditions much more doable. During the first months of the year in Spain (and apparently some other places in Europe), there’s a huge, nationwide sale. Here, the word for sales is “rebajas.” And boy have we gotten used to seeing, hearing and saying it! Each day walking into the same and new stores to look at shoes, purses, pants, and all the other classy and chic European clothes you could imagine – it’s so much fun. I haven’t bought anything yet, but certainly plan to make a couple of additions to my wardrobe before this opportunity ends.

There’s a Crosswalk in the Kitchen!? But only a yellow light.


Right on the corner outside our apartment building, there are a number of crosswalks, which all chirp like finches when it’s ok to cross. For some reason, I was hearing this chirping randomly in the middle of the day, and figured it was just a crosswalk that I could hear through the window, which faces a pretty busy road. On Thursday morning, as I bent over to throw a napkin in the kitchen trash, I discovered that it wasn’t just coming from the nearby window, it was IN the room! ‘My host has a “p�jarro”??!’ I thought. She came in and removed the quilt cover on top of his cage she puts it there to keep him warm in the winter, and introduced me. I can’t remember his name now (faces and names aren’t a specialty of mine, even if the face is unique as that of a bird :^p haha), but he’s awfully cute! He’s a little yellow guy with white and black accents and flecks. He sings a LOT, which occasionally warrants a “�callate!” (shut up!) from Loli, especially while watching the tele, or when she’s on the phone. She told me that last year when the “tio” in the family died (I’m not sure if this was reference to her son, who she told me passed away, or someone else in the family), that he stopped singing altogether and hardly let out but a chirp for months. I found that pretty incredible, animals are so sensitive to their surroundings. I love the singing, it’s really beautiful, and just makes the musty little apartment feel a bit lighter and more lively 🙂

High School Spanish…

…has been a lot more useful than I first expected it to be! There are so many things here that I learned or heard about, particularly when I was in AP Spanish with Mrs. Levenson, at Allderdice. One of the first was the fact that most people have a heater under the table, and a large table cover that functions as a blanket to keep all the heat on your legs and feet. This used to be (and maybe in some cases, still is) a bucket of hot coals that kept the feet and legs of the people sitting there nice and toasty in the winter months when the tile floors are like having your feet and legs on ice, even if you wear your “zapatillas” (slippers). I also noticed that it’s a common practice for people to put their pointer finger to their face, as we do in America to signal crying, when they talk about looking at something, or paying attention. I thought of the old Spanish flamenco film, “Bodas de Sangre,” (Wedding of Blood) that we watched so many times, when we saw flamenco with our group on the second night of orientation. I knew from that movie how melodramatic and expressive the dance numbers were meant to be, and that they almost always tell a specific story. Stories which, if you don’t know from the words of the accompanying song, one can simply feel because of its incredible characteristic of emotional intensity.

Interest groups…what to do?!

We have the opportunity to choose an interest group to learn and travel with throughout the semester, but I haven’t chosen which one to do yet! Hannah, Randa and I went to an info session at the CIEE office about them, where people in charge of each had little tables set up and we could walk around to talk to them and get a flyer. Apparently the most popular are the IGs that learn about and go to Morocco, C�diz, or Mallorca at the end. There’s also a group that does sports and hiking, and goes to the Real Madrid f�tbol stadium, which was my original first choice, but now I’m not sure! We have to go early tomorrow morning to sign up for which ones we want. I think if I have the choice I’m going to pick the hiking and sports involvement group. I can’t think of any other way I’ll get to do that kind of outdoor activity, but there are plenty of opportunities to go to all of the other places they offered, and “probar las comidas” (try the different food) of Espa�a.

Class scheduling.

After the interest group info session on Thursday, we had to go up stairs to find out about our time for “matriculaci�n,” scheduling classes. Hannah and I were both scheduled for the same time and place – the next day, in the afternoon – while Randa would do hers Saturday in the morning. When we went to do it, we found out that we were placed in the Advanced Grammar group for our 2-week intensive Spanish class. Though not as good as the top 20%, which I’d hoped to score in, I was glad I’d be taking a general Spanish class instead of the Spanish History that they were, that sounded hard. I need to learn some “historia Espa�ola” though, politics and history are very pertinent and important to Spaniards and their culture. Anyways, Randa was in the next level down, which doesn’t make sense, because she and I communicate at relatively the same proficiency (if anything, she’s got better comprehension than me, actually). During my matriculaci�n, I scheduled a bunch of classes, at least one or two of which I will have to drop though, because I took on a pretty heavy load. Two art history courses (one with native Spanish speakers); a seminar in “Living and Learning in Sevilla,” which should be interesting, but also good for my r�sum� because I will get a certificate of “international competence,” or something to that effect, for free when it’s usually the result of a $300 class. I also signed up for a class called “Psychology of Learning a Second Language” (yaay!! :^D Right up my ally), and one on “Lexicology and Semantics of Spanish,” which I’m also really looking forward to. The last is a class Hannah, Randa and I are taking together. It’s on the “Three Cultures of Spain: Christians, Jews, and Muslims,” which is cool, because each of us comes from one of them 🙂

Our First Night Out.

When we came out of scheduling, there was a group of people from Discover Sevilla, a party and travel company that has events for Spanish and international students, standing around passing out cardss. We met and made some connections with the famed Toba, who posts all over FaceBook for all of their events, and has made himself well-known by thousands of students studying abroad here in Seville. He gave me a business card as well, so we can get in touch, and told us to come to their welcome party that night. We didn’t have any other plans, so we decided to check out the club, Abril (Spanish for April, like the month), which was on the other side of town. When we got there at midnight the place was literally empty with the exception of a bartender and two DJs. Uh oh, were we in the right place? We’d shown the guy at the door our promo cards and gotten stamped to come in and have free sangria until 2am, but where were all the other people with little green four-leaf clovers on their wrists?! Apparently no where to be found…until 2am. We watched as groups of other abroad students (none from CIEE though) started to pour in after 12:30. The music was mostly pop from the States, mixed by the DJs for a unique, more danceable sound, but picked up later in the night. By 2am, the place was filled with hundreds of Spaniards, students, and party promoters. We found Toba, who got us cards for free “chupitas” (shots, or mixed drinks, which are served unmixed much of the time, with a bottle of mixer and a half-full glass of hard liquor on the rocks), and got to dancing! It was a great time, just the three of us dancing our hearts out, and of course, watching other people do the same. Most European men stay in a group, and keep to themselves unless a female seems particularly interested in talking or dancing. I appreciated this a lot, as men in the States usually act much less refined in the clubs. I needn’t explain how so – just take a look at a club scene in any popular recent music video – they’re less than considerate of personal space, and to me it’s just a little disturbing. We stayed out until about 3:30am, at which point we figured we should  get home if we wanted to get any kind of rest before our trip to Alcazar (palace) at 9:55 the next morning. Well you should just know that we each hit snooze and decided it might be best if left for another time because at that point, sleep was more important…Randa had to schedule her classes that morning though, so we met to go do that and then get both her and Hannah cell phones.

Sevilla Street dancers.jpg

People are desperate.

Yesterday when we were walking on the street after scheduling Randa’s classes, we ran into Brogan, someone I’d met on our last night in the hotel. He was headed home with plans to go for a run with some guys from the residencia, which he’s living in, after matriculaci�n. He hadn’t heard from them, so he decided to come with us for  lunch in the plaza by the CIEE study center. While we were seated, talking about life and our personal interests, we saw a number of people walk by panhandling, and playing music for money from instruments I’d never even seen before. These were mostly gypsies. One woman walked around dressed as a clown with balloon animals half-twisted into long strips with poofs and petals, ready to be transformed into dogs and flowers. As the sun hid behind a beautiful old building at my back, we each wondered aloud what it must be like to sit on a corner in a blanket, play an accordian, or dress up as a clown, while life went on around you. I gratefully swallowed delicious chunks of avocado, greek cheese and olives, and tomato; washed down by “tinto de verano” (wine of summer, red with lemonade). After our meal, Brogan separated from us to go for his run, and we went shopping. On our way home, we saw more street ‘actors and artists,’ if you will. They were doing all sorts of crazy stuff. One had his face made-up like a baby and stuck through a hole in a stroller that had a baby doll body made to look like his own. He blew loud smacking kisses and made ridiculous noises as if someone were pulling a string in his back and letting it go, or pressing a sound effects button. Another, on our side of the street, had his head stuck through a table, as if on a plate, with two fake heads to each side, and yelled, “BOO!” when we walked by, which made the three of us practically jump out of our shoes. Then there was the man “knee-deep” in a tiny flower pot, dressed up as a plant, and others playing music and selling chachkees the whole way down the main road in town. We hadn’t expected that, but were much less surprised by the end of the day than the first we’d seen, who danced around the square with a stuffed man and woman strapped to him like a backpack, “dancing” to old Spanish music. It was a quite a sight. And an eye-opening one, at that.

Me Hannah and Randa.jpgOut on the Town.

Last night, we watched our first f�tbol game here in Sevilla! The two big teams of Seville, FC Sevilla, and Real Betis played each other. It was exciting because, as told by Hannah, Betis has been an underdog for a while, and just recently made it high up enough in the ranks to play in the same league as Sevilla. They went into overtime and tied 1-1, which Loli said tonight was a good thing, because it’s a pretty big deal here and “better if everyone’s pleased”. There were hundreds of people packed in the bar that we went to, and cheers and shouts came when either team got ahead or lost the ball, so it was pretty exciting. There weren’t many seats in the bar, even after it cleared out, so we left for a hookah bar that we’d gotten a card for earlier in the night. When we got there, we had a group of almost ten people, but just Hannah, Randa and I ended up staying to chat with the owners and smoke for free as long as we had drinks, which was the promotion of the night. We ended up staying for a while, striking up conversations with regulars who were there with a group of friends; and the owner, who came from Belgium seven years ago, and has lived in Sevilla since. When we realized we couldn’t pay with plastic, we had our new friends take us down the street to show us where to “cajero” (cash machine) was. As we walked down the street, I saw the silhouette of someone pulling something long, skinny, and curved out of the trunk of a car. I was HORRIFIED at the thought that someone might be pulling a rifle out in a semi-public place, and tripped over the sidewalk as I crossed onto the other side of the street. I finally realized that it was a guitar, and laughed at my instinctual fear of the worst. Here in Andalucia, guitars over guns is usually the right selection of “G” words, even at 3:00am in a dark side-street. After we finally got back to the hookah joint and paid, we decided to let two of the guys we’d been talking to take us to a club. One of them, Edu, had come on his bike and offered to take one of us there on it. We decided it was probably better if we didn’t split up…but that doesn’t mean one of us may or may not have taken him up on that offer and gone on a really cool 5 minute ride along the river (wearing a helmet!) and met them there safe and sound :^D …ANYways, Hannah was tired, and my feet were a little sore from the heels I’d been wearing all night, so we only stayed a little while, but it sure was the definition of a fun and spontaneous night in Spain. Home at 4:00am was earlier than a lot of locals were calling it a night, but it felt so good to get into my warm bed, and stay there until noon today!

Cute caf.jpg

��No Soy Espa�ola!!

After waking from my cozy slumber, Randa and I went to go meet Hannah at a caf� on the other side of the river and have some coffee. There was a man there who struck up a conversation with the three of us when he heard us trying to decide what to drink. Apparently, he spent a lot of time in the States at a couple of different points in time, and so, spoke pretty fluent English. He said I speak Castillano with a really accurate accent, and that would be why people (including my host mom, probably) assume I’m Spanish or forget that I’m not, and then speak to me so quickly! He knew I was American but would break into thick and almost incomprehensible speech every now and then when he was addressing me. He also told us some classic differences between US and Spanish gestures, like the one I mentioned earlier. Running a pointer finger, or the edge of one’s hand across the neck is indicative of a threat, and never has the less aggressive meaning of “finished,” or “no need,” like we can use it at home. This whole hour-long conversation took place in both English and Spanish, and incorporated a fair amount of code-switching, which was fun and interesting, because that’s a large part of what I studied this year at Penn State.

Living, Learning, One Day at a Time.

Sometimes it’s been a little tough, but one of the things that I’m starting to notice is the availability of words I didn’t realize I still had in my Spanish vocabulary. It’s a little mentally taxing; and therefore, somewhat emotionally exhausting at times, because of the self doubt that comes with trying to express myself at the level of intellect that I can in English. However, the more I carry long conversations with people – like at dinner with my host mom, and Spaniards I meet – and stick it out, it gets easier. I noticed that last night (not ironically, only after a pretty large gin with strawberry and lemon juice), I found myself speaking more or less fluidly, stopping to search for words less often than I did earlier in the week. At this point, the matter of confidence has dissipated for the most part, and overcoming . The urge to circumlocute (lit., “talk around a word,” as when you describe something instead of talking about it directly) when I can’t find a word is less prevalent than I expected it to be. Maybe because that’s even less efficient than waiting a few moments until the right vocabulary rises to the surface. It’s also been helpful to make myself mental scripts of situations, or long explanations that I need to communicate. 

No, they don’t censor boobs in Europe.

I’ve also come to notice very much the open and direct approach to life and interaction that people have here. To them it’s as though people in the States have a constant filter between their brain and their face, and prevents any “Freudian slips,” as we, not they, would refer to them. The word “mierda,” almost doesn’t even seem to have a direct translation to the English four-letter S word, as is taught in los EEUU (Estados Unidos – pluralized as such so as not to be confused with the EU). It has a different connotation altogether, and can take on either the property of profanity or simple exclamation, depending on how it’s said and used. It’s really easy to catch on when everyone around is this way, and taboos of all kinds are regarded as less serious. It’s normal to express oneself in an honest, but still appropriate, manner. And as the heading of this section suggests, boobs and butts are free game on Spanish television, ads, and publications!

Tomorrow I have to get up early to sign up for my interest group…let’s hope I can be there before everyone else and actually get a spot in something interesting!!

Location: Triana. Sevilla, Spain.

A Million Minutes in a Day

Arrival and Start of Orientation!

So once everyone arrived on Monday, we all realized that our rooms were organized by first name, so I was in a room with two girls named Hannah! At first we thought it was a coincidence but then the room of Emilys and the room of Ashleys, and the room of Amandas assured us otherwise.

Dinner was great, there were lots of fresh veggies and fruit, and some meat, which looked good – for those who would eat it.

After eating, everyone took some time to primp and then split up and go out for drinks and to walk around. I ended up with girls from the room of Ashleys and a bunch of kids from Penn State, so it was fun to sit around and talk Happy Valley with some new and some familiar faces. A few of us that had Spanish 3 together freshman year are planning to go to Ronda, where our professor for that class was from, at some point in the semester. Ronda is unique for its beautiful landscape of cliffs and mountains, many peoples’ homes are carved right into caves and the sides of cliffs! Worth the trip, and in your case, checking out some photos 😉

 I’ve spoken to some of the other kids from PSU who have both been here for a a few days and still arriving. I hope I have the opportunity to spend some time with them, this will be such a great experience for all of us to have together and go back to State with memories! Funny enough, the bar we went to tonight was Irish. So much for acquainting with the Spanish culture!! I’m sure though, that we’ll get plenty of that over the course of the semester 🙂

Pretty much everyone got back the the hotel by about 1am, which is very early for a normal night out here. We had to get up pretty early the next morning and most people were very jet-lagged from just having arrived, so that was a good thing.

Another Long and Busy Day

Breakfast yesterday, which I’d missed the day before, was great! There were cheeses and prunes, olives, tomatoes with mozzarella and pesto, and a variety of hot dishes that I decided against when I saw all the fresh fruit! Our “guia,” or guide, Carmen, told us that this was not very traditional breakfast food, and more typical of a hotel than a morning spread at home.

After breakfast, we left for 4-5 hour tours of town. We walked around the area where O’Neil’s was to see part of the university, and try to get bus (which is really just a giant rail car that shares the  street with regular street cars) tickets, but as Carmen said, sometimes they’re just not available at the nearest kiosk. So we walked a little further, and then took it all the  way through the part of town where I’d had dinner on the first night, and into el Centro, where the Cathedral, tons of shops, the main bank, and university buildings are located. We saw so many things on the tour that day, it would be hard to  recount. I’m sure we’ll see them all again and I’ll write about and have photos of them in due time.

During orientation they reiterated a lot of things that we’d read or heard about prior, but some things were new. Things like warnings about the fact that everyone wears slippers in the house because most homes (apartments, in our cases) have tile floors that get very cold in the winter.  We finally found out about our homestays, most of which were with families. Mine was with a woman and her elderly mother in an area called Triana, where I would live within blocks of all of the girls from my orientation group, and walking distance across the bridge from the university. We also had some information sessions about our classes and homestays, between which (and through the start of the latter of the two) I slept because I was soo exhausted from the constant activity.  The same was true today between breakfast and our check out at noon, probably because we had such a late night last night.  We left the hotel after a short “descanso” (break), and headed for a flamenco show in town. The area we went to is called Barrio (neighborhood) de Santa Cruz, and used to be inhabited by the Jewish population of Sevilla. Now, there are some remnants of their presence, but mostly in the form of galleries and small pieces of Judaica in little glass cases. I saw one such case in La Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus (clearly more recently Moroccan-influenced), which was neat because everything else here is of very intensely Catholic, and/or Moorish roots – like the Catedral, which is a breathtaking mix of the two.

The flamenco itself was incredible. About 90 of us sat squeezed into a high-ceilinged room with a wide banner of ornate tile all the way around. There were old  deep red brick-tile floors  where the concrete underneath was partially exposed in one small spot from the continuous stomping of heels to a traditionally Spanish beat. After a routine, but comical advisory not to use cameras until the end, and that smoking and videos were prohibited, the show began. First, two men entered the room and sat in two chairs on the small stage. One played guitar while the other clapped, tapped his feet,  and sang. Next they moved off to sit behind the stage, and were joined by a dancer, who wowed the crowd with his sharp but flowing spins, stomps and turns. A woman eventually joined them to clap, and occasionally called out various phrases and words in time with the music. Later she danced while the male dancer did the same for her. It was when she was dancing that I remembered the profundity of the emotion behind this art. I was overcome with awe by the reality that flamenco begged of the dancer what I would expect to be a very deep emotional commitment, as well as a physical one. The man and woman then danced together, and made an abrupt exit before coming back in for a short encore and bows. That was when I started to truly feel like we were in Spain, when we saw this example of the dedication to the culture that has been so valued and well-preserved by its people.

After that, our half of the program (groups 1-9, 85 people + 9 guias), made our way down the street for tapas.  We ate so much, I didn’t know how I would walk home afterwards. Piles of potatoes with ketchup and mayonnaise, various roasted veggie, meat, and seafood dishes, and some interesting things I’d never seen before. For example, fried salsa balls, which were bite-sized spheres of pink salsa that tasted like gespacho, bread battered and deep fried. We didn’t get home until almost 1am, at which point some people were ready to (and some did) go out, while others hung around the bar until the lights went out and we figured it would be best to get some sleep.

Moving into the Homestay.

This morning, we had to be up by 9 am for breakfast, and downstairs at 10:30 for orientation activities and Spanish “entrevistas” (interviews), to confirm our language placement. Between the two I took a much needed nap, and afterwards brought down my bags to prepare to leave the hotel and move into my homestay at 11:30. Upon meeting my se�ora, or host mother, we exchanged a kiss on each cheek (always starting with the left), made fun of how much stuff I had (along with the other 20 se�oras standing around us), and caught a taxi to Triana. When we first got there, my host mom introduced me to her daughter and talked with some friends, and then helped me schlep those two deadweight bags up the 3 flights of steps to the 3rd floor. This is another thing about Spain that continually confuses me, despite the fact that I was educated about it in high school: the numbering of the stories in a building. The ground floor is considered Planta 0 (referred to as the “Planta baja”); the one above that, the primera (“1a”) Planta; and what we would call the third floor is la segunda (“2a”) Planta, and so on. In North American counting, we live on the 4th floor, which I prefer, mostly because 4 is my lucky number 🙂

When we finally got all of my stuff in, my host mom asked if I wanted to go for a walk with her daughter and grandson. I wanted to see some of town, so this was a perfect opportunity to do so. We walked around with her new born baby, Ivan, in a stroller, talked about Spain, where she lives now (outside the city in a place called Alcal�), and soaked up the warm afternoon sun. Another thing we learned from Carmen – which I witnessed again on this walk – was that it is perfectly normal for people to take a break in the middle of the day for tapas and a beer. The streets are always full of people sitting or walking around, enjoying the company of one another and the day. I love this aspect of the culture, and think it’s a healthy way to interact, get exercise, and some fresh air.

We had our first meal at about 2:30. It was a plate of potatoes, garbanzos, spinach, and pinto beans that had been cooked with pork (my fears of misunderstanding “red meat” became as real as i’d anticipated they might).  I had a little and simply explained that I include “cerdo” in the list of animals I don’t eat.

I had a quick Skype chat with my dad to update him on how things were going – it was nice to see him and hear his voice 🙂 My host mom then took me to meet up with my group at 4:15 in a plaza nearby. We walked from there to the university for more orientation meetings and info sessions. On the way, i realized that the main road between our neighborhood and the other side if the river, where we were headed, was Calle Betis! It’s one of the most popular strips of shops and tapas bars in town, which I’d heard about before I got here, and mentioned in a pre-trip post. Anyways, this time we walked into a large building where hundreds of students were studying for final exams, which are taking place in the next few weeks. After a grueling two hours of trying to keep our eyes open, and then waiting for who knows what, we found the guides that had been holding us up and made our way into town near the Catedral for tapas.

I went with two girls that I’ve been spending a lot of time with, Ronda and Hannah (Childs – who was my roommate at the hotel), to have some desert while everyone else had drinks at an outdoor bar with our guides afterwards. Ronda and I split a “postre” (dessert) de chocolate y galletas (chocolate and cookies – really more like “rich, soft, cream and choco-layer slice”) and each had coffee. This was delicious.

Finally, we made our way back towards our end of town with 3 other girls. Hannah and I were looking for my apartment after dropping Ronda off at hers, which actually happens to be part of the same building that I live in, and got a little lost. We walked into the wrong number apartment section simply because it was opened, and locked ourselves in by closing it behind us. Hannah was afraid we’d be there all night, but I assured her we’d find a way out in the next 5 minutes.  Without hesitation, I knocked on a door in the third floor, where I could hear loud voices, and a friendly looking man answered. I asked him in Spanish how we could get out, and if he would come down and unlock the door. He responded in English, and of course, it was much simpler than we’d realized. We just had to buzz ourselves out with a button that looks like the light switches on the way up the steps.

At last, Hannah and I made it into my apartment, when I realized that I had my address on my homestay assignment paper. She came in and I introduced her to everyone and then said goodnight. I just took my first shower in the apartment, which was great, considering the small quarters, relative to what I’m used to. I’ve already grown accustomed to asking to use anything that belongs to my host family, and using Spanish to communicate everything. I love Spain, and can’t wait to become better acquainted with my family and the area we live in 🙂

When do we eat? A cultural lesson.

Adjusting to the eating schedule has  been a bit of the challenge, but I like that we have a lot of time between meals, it means we’re hungry when we eat and we really appreciate the food! Breakfast is what ever time you get up, lunch is some time between 1pm and 3pm (or even later some times), and dinner usually consists of tapas any time from 8:30pm to 10ish. Eating late has never really worked well for me, but it helps that we walk around so much and have the opportunity to digest that way.

PS: Because the photo situation here totally sucks, and I’m going to be posting most things on my FaceBook anyways, I’d suggest checking that out. I have an album called Instagram Photos, which has edited versions of all my favorite photography, and will soon upload an album of all of my Spain photos 🙂

Location: Triana. Sevilla, Spain.

“Demasiado cappuccino”

Aaah!! Today we started orientation. I checked out of the room I had last night at 11:30, which was funny because Kaytee and I had agreed to get up and go to breakfast around 9. Minus the few hours I was up in the early morning, we both slept almost 12 hours! I can’t imagine how screwed up my sleep schedule is going to be for these first few days. Enrique, one of the contacts from We Love Spain that I spoke to earlier in the week and met yesterday, said that on a normal night Spaniards go to bed at 2am. Or at least he does. I mean, I knew they stay out late, til 5 or 6 in the morning on weekends, but I don’t think I’m going to be ready for that for a while :-/

My first encounter with the CIEE staff was totally terrifying!! Everyone was speaking Spanish to me and I could hardly understand a thing they were saying. I have issues understanding people in English as it is, so it’s clear I need to work on listening closely. An even bigger challenge will be trusting myself to start producing Spanish regularly. Having taught English for the past few years, I know that breaking that confidence barrier is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most important parts of becoming proficient in a second language. Now in the position of the language learner, I’m going to see just what a challenge that is. Though intimidating, this experience will hopefully not only improve my confidence in learning, but also help me to empathize and cater to  the same insecurities my future students might have.

I missed breakfast, so when I finally had lunch around 2 I also wanted some caffeine because I was a little groggy. I knew there’s a lot of caffeine in European coffee compared to that in the States, but I thought I could handle it because I usually drink coffee every day. I thought wrong. Two tiny cups of cappuccino and I was “temblando por todos partes” (shaking all over). I tried to go take a nap but could hardly lie still for more than 5 minutes, so I went downstairs to talk to some of the CIEE staff. I figured it would be a good opportunity to acquaint myself with some of them, and speak a little Spanish so I wouldn’t be so intimidated late. It helped a lot. I told them I felt weird from all the caffeine, and needed to sit and drink some water, maybe walk around for a bit. One guy, Luis, showed me a map of Sevilla and where all the classes are. We talked about Pennsylvania, and where I’m from a little bit, and they told me about themselves.  I don’t think I have to worry about making friends, the staff are all very open and friendly, and it seems most Spaniards are this way.

I’ve been inside all day, and it’s a shame because it’s finally soo beautiful out. I was supposed to go out to see some shopping with Kaytee and some other girls, but I missed her FaceBook post and just ended up hanging out instead. In about an hour we have our first orientation meeting. We’re going to find out our homestay situations and then get a good night’s rest because tomorrow we’re getting split into groups and going for walking tours. Tomorrow night we’re also going to go out for the first time with our staff and they’re going to show us some places to have tapas and drinks 🙂 It’s cool that they’re all our age, because they’re more like peers that we can interact with than authority figures.

Think that’s about it for now, will post again when I find out about my housing and get all the info at our first meeting!

Location: Hotel Sol Melia. Seville, Spain.


So WE MADE IT! Really still soaking in that we’re on the other side of the Atlantic. Words probably don’t do justice to describe how displaced and time-thrown I feel. It feels like it’s at least 9 o’clock at night here while it’s only about 16:00 (as the locals – and the rest of the world – would write it). 

In the airport I met Katie, a girl from Madison who’s also on my program, so we stuck together for the trip over and met Briana when she came in too. Turns out Briana and I are in different hotels, so we split a taxi to our different locations and plan to meet up later.

The flights over weren’t bad at all. Matter of fact, the one to Madrid was pretty cool. I got chills when the pilot announced preparation for takeoff to the flight attendants. It was especially neat because there was a camera on the tail that showed us on the runway and then cruising over Chicago away from the sunset and (literally) into the night. 

We were fed typical airplane food on the flight there – rice and chicken or beef and a side of crab salad for dinner, which was actually pretty good, and ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. I opted out of the latter meal, as I don’t eat red meat – especially not pork (and no, ham is NOT white meat!! It’s still very much a mammal). I emphasize this point because I’m pretty sure a lot of people here won’t understand this. There are lots of unsuspecting foods here made with lard and other animal products – like “polvorones,” little cake-like tapas – which I’m not so keen on, so that’s something I’ll have to look out for. Anyways, the real reason for telling this story is because there was an Arab woman sitting across the aisle from me, and she didn’t want her sandwich either because it’s not halal (the Muslim equivalent of Kosher for Jews). So we bonded over that and I shared a granola bar with her instead 🙂

When we landed, all you could see was a black silhouette of the plane and tons of lights down below, it was beautiful. It was also neat because we landed just in time to see the sun rise, and the changing light in the huge airport, which had a high, arching and curving wood-beam ceilings and steel beams each painted the next hue of a color of the rainbow. Another really cool thing about the airport was the signs and directions to gates. We had to go from our arrival gate, through customs, and to K93 in about a half hour. Along the way, signs pointing the way to K  also had times for how long it would take from your current location to get to that, and other terminals. We started out with a sign that indicated we were 30 minutes away, so we made our way through without any putzing.

When we landed in Seville it was cold and overcast, and as soon as we got into the cab it started to rain, which continued through most of the afternoon. Not so nice, but made for a perfect jet-lag nap 🙂 The ride here was uneventful, but intriguing. The tall, old apartment buildings here remind me of those we saw in Chisenau, Moldova, where I went for a volunteer Spring break last year. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but it’s such an obviously European city, by it’s looks and lay-out. Oh and I was warned about this, but had to see it for myself to believe – Sevilla drivers are a little bit on the wild side. You’d think a cab driver would try not to totally freak a couple of twenty-something year old American girls upon their arrival to the country, but apparently that’s second to getting us to our destination way too fast.

Some other things I’ve noticed already were the use of commas to denote a change in units, as in the price of my room: €80,00. On a relevant note, I was lucky enough to get a discount on my room because Katie mentioned that she’d seen a promotion on line for mid-January reservations, so I asked about it and got €50 off!

The hotel is beautiful. The lobby is all shiny black and white marble, and everything down there is divided by big glass doors. All the doors in the rooms are big sliding sections of the walls, lights are motion and key-sensored (as is usually the case in nice European hotels, I’ve noticed), there are two showers (one for the tub), and a king size bed! I took a hot bath as soon as I got in because my muscles were so sore from schlepping my  bags around, and then passed out for about an hour and a half. Hopefully I’ll be able to go find something to eat soon, I want to go out and walk around all the little shops and cafés around here (:

Stay tuned, lots more to come!

Location: Hotel Sol Melia. Seville, Spain.

A Little Red Door

I can’t believe I’m only twenty four hours from being on a plane out of Chicago to Madrid! When I arrive in Seville, I’ll be meeting another girl from Penn State, dropping our stuff off at the hotel (which looks BEAUTIFUL, not to mention), and out to explore our home for the next four months.  I’ve already been in touch with some locals who interact with abroad students, and if we’re lucky we’ll have some friends to show us around on our first day. The forecast says it’s going to rain, but if weather permits I’d like to walk around Santa Cruz by the Cathedral and go to Parque Maria Luisa and Parque de Espa�a. Of course, I’ll eventually see all of these places, but I’m already itching to get out and see the sights! At night we’ll go to Calle Betis, and Calle P�rez Gald�s, in Plaza Alfalfa, where all the bars and clubs are.

Among all the advice I’ve gotten from people about my trip to Spain, some of the most valuable has also been the least expected. I just met with a coworker of my mother, who has been to Spain a number of times and studied in Sevilla back in college in the early 2000s, and he gave me some great info about local culture. He said that if I explore the seemingly dull corners, nooks and crannies, and go a little outside the usual places that tourists and exchange students usually spend their time, I’ll find some of the most rich and vibrant aspects of Spanish culture.  One of his favorite places was a flamenco dance spot hidden away behind a building with a little red door. Once I find these secret hideaways and underground flamenco joints, I’ll be sure to share details and photos 🙂

If I can’t find enough to do in Sevilla (which I doubt will be the case), or you’re curious, there’s this website with 85 Things To Do in Sevilla.
My dad’s friend Armando, who’s from Spain, also sent us this article about the cyclists and new green developments in Sevilla, which should be an interesting aspect of the otherwise mostly antiquated architecture and . It reminded me of the cyclists in Copenhagen that I wrote about in my last entry 🙂
The only thing I have left to do is finish a little (un)packing. I say unpack because on Monday when I stuffed my bags full of clothes enough to outfit a small army, I didn’t realize how heavy and excessive it would be. Lugging all that luggage is going to be a pain!! I also figure I might want to add to my wardrobe while I’m there, and I need somewhere to put the new additions! 😡
During the course of my trip, I hope to have many interesting and life-changing experiences, and look forward to discovering what’s  behind all the “little red doors” along the way. There’s not much more I can do to prepare, so stay tuned for my first entry after arrival to hear about how it really goes! And of course, feel free to ask questions and make comments, I’d love to  hear everyone’s feedback 🙂

Location: Té Cafe, Pittsburgh PA

Thoughts, Hopes and Expectations for Seville 2012

Hi all! I’m a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish and applied linguistics. I hail from The Steel City – Pittsburgh PA – which is a wonderful place to grow up and live, but I have always loved to travel and learn about other cultures, so I’m really looking forward to this long awaited semester abroad!

I love all things natural, artistic, creative, and genuine, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing the artwork, museums and architecture in Andalusia. However, there’s still a lot I have to think about and organize before I take off:

With 3 weeks of term papers, classes, and finals left in the semester, and an entire month of traveling to see family over winter break before I leave, it hardly feels like my trip to Spain is the next thing on my list of plans, but it’s sure getting close! I haven’t booked my flights yet, but I plan to get there a day or so before our orientation in Seville, so that I can get acquainted with the city and make sure I’m in all the right places at the right times!


I’ve been getting lots of advice and safety tips from past and present Spanish professors, teachers and friends, so hopefully I’ll at least be somewhat prepared. I was adopted from Russia when I was 3 years old, and have always had an knack for languages and people of other cultures, so though I’ve lived in America most of my life, I like to think I have a pretty diverse worldview. I’ve taken courses in Spanish, Russian, and Hebrew, and learned bits of French, Arabic, and Portuguese from friends who live in the countries where they’re spoken. I’ve traveled quite a bit (mostly to Caribbean Islands and Central American countries on family vacations, Israel a few times, and to Europe on vacation and a volunteer trip), and have a lot of friends from other countries who I met in college and high school, working at sleep away camp, and elsewhere. I’ve also taught English as a Second Language (my minor), and connected to a lot of international students through that. My experiences with all these people and places have made me as much a “global citizen” as I probably could be at this point, and I hope to expand on and change my definition of this concept throughout my time in Europe.

I don’t know what exactly is in store, but I’m getting excited for the change of pace and culture that Spain will be. What I expect to see when I get to Spain is traditional Moorish and Spanish architecture, people of all different European and North African descent, a lot of cute, classy little bars, caf�s, and restaurants, and clubs 🙂 I’m really looking forward to experiencing all of the different aspects of culture – from food and going out, to casual discourse, class schedules and academic expectations. I think people will be friendly, but am aware I have to watch my back, because as in many places, security can be a concern -especially in times of economic unrest like there have been in the past couple of years. I know to take advantage of resources and opportunities (including people!), but not to be overly trusting. I love meeting new people, traveling with, and learning from them, so if all goes well I’ll have a lot of locals and friends to rely on and show me around. These are all things I got a lot of practice with last summer when I spent two months traveling in Israel, but expect to be different everywhere I go.

I’m hoping that in Europe people are accommodating to the frugal an conservationist lifestyle that I’d like to live. I recently saw a special about all of the cyclists in Copenhagen, it seemed like such a great example to be setting for the world!! I hope I have the opportunity to rent or buy a cheap bike to use if my commutes to and from classes and elsewhere necessitate it. I also hope I’ll be able to maintain a pretty healthy lifestyle – aside from not eating red meat, I tend to avoid fried foods and keep a pretty low-fat diet, and apparently the temptation of tapas (little Spanish snacks that are often fried – according to my sister, who has also traveled a lot and been to Spain) will challenge that effort.


That’s all I can think of for now, there’s lots to come – even before I set off for Europe – but I’ll save it for when I have more information about my trip! I’ll post links, photos and videos of everything about my travels as I go, there will be a lot to keep up with, but I’ll do my best to keep it up to date!

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy following my studies and adventures abroad 🙂

Location: State College, PA