Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ultima redaccion de mi semestre en el extranjero

(last post of my semester abroad)

On many of our travels Stephen would carry around a book to write stuff down about what we did and funny stuff that happened, and everytime he pulled it out we'd always imitate cheesey ways we thought he could write, so in honor of that I'll actually write this post that way.

Thursday 18 December, 2008
Dear Journal,

Well this is my last time writing in you, my trip is just about done. I cant believe its the last day already. I looked through a bunch of my pictures and some of them really do feel like yesterday, even though they were from september. Can you believe all the stuff I've told you about since that day arriving here in sun soaked Sevilla? I went to Cadiz and sat around on the beach, I went to Lagos, Portugal and climbed the cliffs, I went to Cadiz again and toured the history of it, I went to Madrid and saw the capitol city of this fantastic country, I went to Paris and ate cheese and french bread by the Eiffel Tower, I went to Morocco, Africa and got exposed to the muslim world (and food sickness), I went to London and saw the Remembrance Sunday Ceremony, I went to Rome and walked around the Colisseum, I went to the Vatican and saw the Pope, I went to Gibraltar and played with the wild monkeys on the Rock, I went to Cordoba with Amanda and toured the Mezquita-Cathedral, I went to Granada and admired the Alhombra, I went to the Sierra Nevada and snowboarded in a whiteout, I went to Barcelona and swam in the Meditarranean. I saw some of the best soccer in the world: Arsenal vs. Manchester United, Roma vs. Lazio, Sevilla vs. who cares it was a sevilla game, and Barcelona vs. Valencia. I had an internship in a company where nobody speaks english. I saw flamenco. I picked up the andalucian accent. I took classes all in spanish. I spoke with countless spaniards en la calle (in the streets) at restaurants and bars and stores. I lived with a family that got two new grandchildren. I sat with that family all packed in a small living room in a heatless apartment watching the clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid. I did so many things that I cant even think of right now. But I'll always remember them. I'll always remember how amazing this experience was for me. It didnt change who I am in an odd way like it sometimes does others. It just exposed me to a world outside of where I've always called home, and where I've only ever cared about and known about in the past. This adventure was also very difficult. I dont know if I'll ever again be faced with challenges harder than what I've faced. However I do know that I made a truly rightful decision to actually go through with it all. Its been long, its been hot, its been new, its been tough, its been lonely, its been fun, its been frustrating, its been interesting, its been cold, its been tiring, its been entertaining, its been expensive, its been short, its been real, its been spontaneous, its been thrilling, its been annoying, its been exciting, its been tasty, its been scary, its been enlightening, its been risky, its been rewarding. Its been ____????

Its been good.

Thanks, journal, for listen to everything I've said through all this.
Signing off now,
-Mark

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Feliz Cumpleaños Amanda

(Happy Birthday Amanda)
Hope everyone back home will wish my girlfriend a happy birthday today since I wont be home to be able to.

Cumpleaños Feliz
Cumpleaños Feliz
Te deseamos todos
Cumpleaños Feliz

(sung the same way as in english)

Cola de toro

(bull's tail)


What in the heck could a post entitled bull's tail be about? Well basically it summarizes the end of semester wandering i've been up to as of late. First off, I just finished my second exam. Yesterday I had a finance exam that I studied way too hard for. And this morning I just took the easiest spanish final of my life. Now the only one I have left is for cultural diversity, the most loathed class I've ever been in. Its not just me that has hated it, everyone in the class has regretted taking it. Unfortunately the exam is gonna be a huge pain, definitely not something I want to think about in my last 2 days in Spain. In regards to that though, I'll return to describing my wandering I've been doing. With projects out of the way, finally- ugh i hate cultural diversity...the class not the actual concept, and without needing to spend anymore hours at Moreno Retamino, and without having internet for the longest time (we finally got it back in the house on monday though! because i was right and they just needed to reset the router and put a password on it, too bad they didnt listen to me say that back around Halloween) i've had lots of time finally to do things i never did. one thing that has helped is i've been walking the past couple of weeks instead of using the sevici, which allows me to take it easy and observe everything around me. i've taken some legit siestas at the same time as the fam, i've walked around barrios (neighborhoods) i've never been before, i walked through parque maria luisa at night, i went to 2 museums of archaeology and arts/customs,-(stephen is sitting next to me right now in the ciee palacio and he wants me to tell everyone)-, i walked through the plaza de americas, i got ice cream for the last few times at my favorite place called Mama Goye where the worker actually recognizes me as a regular by now, i wandered through the centro to see the portal de belen (nativity) shops and all the streets lit up by christmas lights, i walked along the riverside, i've enjoyed life.
There were two other things i've done that stuck out a little more. The first was a stroll around the plaza de espana one last time, but at night, the best way to see it. Everything was lit up in the gigantic vast plaza but barely anyone there because it was past dark and winter so obviously cold. Thus i shared the experience with just one other tourist. i went up to a bench and sat down for about half an hour just thinking about the semester that was. i was disappointed because the big ole fountain in the center was not flowing, and thats one of the main attractions of the site. but then as i was leaving, i saw some guys fixing something on the fountain. they turned the lights on and seconds later the water surreally shot up. a cheeky little goodbye as I was walking out. The second experience that stuck out as a "I gotta do this before I leave" type was at the end of my stroll yesterday. I walked back home a different way than normal in order to stop by and check out a cool local tapas bar just down the way from my apartment building. im talking about a legit tapas bar, the kind where nobody speaks english, so you gotta know whats up. I went in and it was empty because of the hour, 6pm, but it was a good time for me to get a tapa because it was directly between lunch and supper time. I asked the guy at the bar if they had cola de toro in the cocina (kitchen) at that time and he said they did so I ordered a tapa of it with a cruzcampo. Bull's tail is a bit of a specialty in spain, sometimes served in a stew but thats not how i ordered it, so I've been wanting to try it for the longest time. I had no idea what to expect. It came out as a big chunk of meat which surprised me, but after taking a few bites of the beef I found the bone which definitely was like no other bone i've had in a steak before. the meat was quite good, not steak good, but some decent beef, especially with the rich juices they served with it. it was one of my final truly spanish experiences.
today marks my last full day (waking and going to bed) in sevilla. can almost countdown in hours now til my arrival back home.


Plaza de España at night
bull's tail before

bull's tail after

Sunday, December 14, 2008

el clásico

(the classic)
Last night there was a big game in La Liga, so big that they have a name for it every year, the classic. Its the game when Barcelona and Real Madrid play each other. Its a big deal because they are always the two best teams in the league year after year. At 10pm I left from my room and entered the living room where the family was eating dinner and watching the beginning of the game. I ate earlier because tere didnt want to mess up my eating pattern, and because there wouldnt be enough room to eat with them anyways. This is because the whole family was there except for Tere's son Antonio and his wife and new born Martita. There were 8 in all eating dinner in the tiny livingroom: Tere, Olga, Paco (Olgas boyfriend), Macarena, Cidro (Maca's husband), Cidrito and Javi (Maca's kids, the grandkids), and Tere's daughter Tere (from Madrid) who I met for the first time. Then I kinda just sat awkwardly in the corner. It was pretty weird while they were eating, but soon enough they were done, and the women all cleaned up while the three men, me paco and cidro, sat and watched the game. Eventually everybody came back into the living room and I got to experience 2 hours of a spanish family environment. Grandma tired out in her own chair, the three girls on the couch, paco too, while the kids jumped around on them, and cidro, the man of the house at the time, sitting in his own chair too glued to the game. Thats the best I think I can do to describe the environment, but it was quite the cultural spanish experience. Half of my attention was on the game and the other half was on observing everything within the family. The game was pretty awesome. It was 0-0 for the entire game and then in the last ten minutes Barcelona, who had been controlling most of the game, finally managed to knock one in after a corner, and later Messi, arguably the second best player in the world after c. ronaldo, chipped a perfect shot over the head of the Madrid keeper to close the game 2-0 Barca.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

estilo de pelo

for this one and any other later ones i'll start with the title in english
(hairstyle)
so i just thought i'd put a pic on here that explains the minimullet hairstyle i was talking about, where its just grown out at the back to go down the neck a bit.
this is cristiano ronaldo (portuguese though not spanish), the best soccer player in the world, i saw him play in london


Títulos de redacciones

Hows your spanish coming along? You been learning anything from all the titles of my posts? Well in case you've been totally confused about the names of my entries being in spanish, heres the translations, going all the way back to September:

prímer día = first day
los edificios = the buildings
flamenco = flamenco (a cultural style)
fotos de flamenco = flamenco pictures
mi familia = my family
fotos de mi casa = pictures of my house
sesión intensiva = intensive session
horario = schedule
dirección = address
mi primera corrida en sevilla = my first run in sevilla
mi móvil = my cell phone
entrevistas = interviews
me duele el estomago = my stomach hurts
feliz cumpleanos = happy birthday
comentarios = comments
el derbi = derby (local team vs. another local team)
sevici = sevici (sevilla bike system)
lagos y toros = lagos, portugal and the bulls (bullfight)
la catedral = cathedral
lagos parte I = lagos part I
no toros = no bulls (no bullfight, because they refer to the entire spectacle as the bulls)
lagos parte II = lagos part II
la sesión regular = the regular session (normal semester classes)
viaje = travel
tapear y alcazar = eating tapas and the castle
clima = climate
cruzcampo = cruzcampo (local brew)
segunda vez en cádiz (KAH-deeth) = second time in cádiz (how you pronounce it in)
fotos de la oficina = office pictures
plan de viaje para noviembre = travel plan for in november
para madre = for mother
bailaora en el parque = dancer in the park
fotos y observaciones = pictures and observations
¡qué fin de semana! = what a weekend!
la lengua = the language
lo que yo pienso = that which i think
la comida = the food
londres, mi último viaje internacional planeado = london, my last planned international trip
más sobre la lengua = more about the language
plaza de españa (de sevilla) = plaza of spain (the one in sevilla)
fruta y pasatiempo = fruit and passtimes
fotos y observaciones = pictures and observations
marruecos = morocco
enfermo = sick
en el medio = halfway through
la moneda = the currency
viernes casual = casual friday
apellidos españoles = spanish last names
examenes, elecciones, y londres = midterms, elections, and london
sevilla, Sevilla, SEVILLA = (chant of sevillistas, supporters of Sevilla FC)
londres = london
últimos planes de viaje = last travel plans
con mi novia en sevilla = with my girlfriend in sevilla
equipaje ha llegado = luggage has arrived
fui a roma, no broma = i went to rome, no joke
el resto de la semana = the rest of the week
¡ay, qué frío! = yikes, its so cold!
mi práctica está terminado = my internship is over
Barcelona es de puta madre = Barcelona is like the top whore (Barcelona is the shit)
tiempo libre, olvidé el sentimiento = free time, i forgot the feeling
más observaciones = more observations
títulos de redacciones = titles of writings

Más observaciones

Like my last post said, I’ve got lots of free time right now, especially since the internet’s not working once again in my apartment (how fitting for my last week here) and since I don’t feel like studying for finals yet. As such, I thought I’d write a post about lots of random thoughts and observations I can share with yall about Spain.
The two grandsons have been here all week because their mom, tere’s daughter macarena, is about to give birth to her third son, or “about to give the light” as its directly translated. So little Javi (Javier) and Cidrito (don’t know if his name is Cidro or Isidro), probably about 3 and 4 years old, have been all about the apartment yelling and screaming louder than you could ever imagine. I used to think they were just screaming YA!!! To get attention all the time, but then I finally picked up on the fact that yaya, or llalla not sure how its spelled, is their name for their “nana” Tere. I think yaya is greek but I guess the spanish use it too. Even though they’re so loud they’re still pretty fun to observe. Some interesting things I’ve seen with regards to them: Paco, Olga’s boyfriend, is like an uncle to them and will discipline them as if they were his own children. Maca sure doesn’t have anything against slapping her kids, she really gives em a loud smack when they do something wrong, on the face too not on the toosh. I don’t know if most parents are like this, but she stuffs food in their mouths. Im surprised they don’t choke more often. She feeds them directly, which I thought kids their age could do on their own but anyways, so she just shoves a huge mouthful in there so that they shut up. But then they don’t really chew or swallow it forever, at least the little guy javi usually doesn’t, and it just sits in his mouth for minutes, including when he starts to bawl. Its scary because you see the back of his mouth open super wide to holler so loud, and there’s food in his mouth too though just waiting to become a choking hazard. They love disney movies, I got to watch bits of Aladdin and Rey Leon (lion king). Actually they love dibujos (toons) in general so we havent watched normal TV in ages, except when theire dad turns on the news…and they have a piece on that news about a controversy over December’s issue of playboy spain. And they show the entire spread of photos of the naked woman in question. This is the early evening news mind you, when the kids are sitting eating their dinner. Haha, that’s spain for ya. Actually that’s europe for ya. I don’t really interact with the kids too much because maca and tere think im ALWAYS studying anytime my laptop is open, so she gives them hell when they bother me in any subtle way. They don’t even know my name, they call me tobi because that was the name of the last american boy to live here, they think im still him. Tere thinks that’s so cute. Oh and to conclude talking about the fam, I gotta tell this one story, to emphasize how awkward things get sometimes living with a host family in a different country. I came home one day and my key wasn’t working in the door to the apartment because somebody left a key in the keyhole on the otherside of the door. Javi heard me trying to unlock the door for about 2 minutes but he was the only one I heard inside so I asked him through the door “is there anyone there beside you” and he’s like yeah “theres somebody there”, meaning duh- youre at the door. So I was like oh brother… I tried talking to him through the door for another 2 minutes until I heard the rest of the family come back into the main room of the apartment. So then I just knocked and said “Tere its me”. But no response came besides Javi yelling theres someone here theres someone here. Of course his mother and grandmother wouldn’t take any of his boy who cried wolf stuff so they were yelling at him like crazy, loud enough of a rucus to not here me trying to knock and talk through the door still. Finally after standing outside the apartment for about 7 minutes in total, I rang the doorbell and tere came to the door and was like “oh Mas!, you couldn’t get in, I left the key in the door”… (I know tere, I know…)
Lets get some more random observations thrown out there though.
Culture shock. I never really felt culture shock when I got here. I was prepared for everything, like with the siesta and eating schedule and type of food. I knew about it all so I never was surprised. Having tere as my senora really helped a lot too though because she always says “como/cuando tu quieras” meaning do what ever you want or do that whenever you want. There was one culture shock though that I still ethnocentrically despise, ie I still believe that it is something in their culture that is just wrong and dumb, and that’s the amount of smoking here. EveryBODY smokes here and there is smoking everyWHERE. Its too bad too, because the spanish are such beautiful people, and they ruin their looks when they’re still in their twenties. Yuck. Juan Antonio at work told me that it was only 2 years ago even that they outlawed smoking in work places and stores and schools and stuff. That part about schools though is a joke because students in the business school still do it, they’ll come out of a class and light up a cigarette right outside the class room. They must think that since they’re in an atrium that its like they’re outside or something. Its ridiculous, its like im living in the 50’s. The worst is that theres no place to eat where smoking is prohibited. For instance, today I needed the internet, and I would have prefered to go to a café, you know enjoy the streets of sevilla in my last days of studying, but I opted for the business school library instead because in there smoking is prohibited. And I wouldn’t be afraid to tell someone to stop if they did start smoking in there. In the US the smokers’ side of the smoking ban argument try to say that businesses would lose business, but its just not true in our country. Spain is the only place where its true because everyone here smokes. I can honestly see restaurants and bars getting killed financialy here by not allowing smokers, but in the US the culture is so much more different, so much more modern and understanding of the dangers of smoking, that it wouldn’t affect business at all. Im not sure why so many people here smoke, or why the culture has changed so much in the US over the years. Perhaps the anti-smoking campaigns in schools are so much more prevalent in the US than Spain. Whats even more mind boggling is that these spaniards buy their deathsticks with HUGE blatant warnings on them that say in bold letters, Smoking kills you. There are a handful of such messages used on the packs. I mean, the loud warnings make the US’s surgeon general warning look like an unnoticable newspaper classified ad. But what can ya do. I just eat outside if I go out, and when I go to bars and clubs at night I just forget about it and throw all my clothes in the wash right away when I get home.
The other really tiny, kinda funny, culture shock was the pencil behind the ear thing. For years I’ve relied on being able to put my pencil behind my ear to store for future use, or to hold it there while I needed two hands for something. But as I found out from Jose Maria on my first day of work, the look is frowned upon because it portrays the style of an obrero, street worker. So as to try to fit into the culture as much as possible I decided not to put my pencil behind my ear anymore, and its been pretty tough. Haha. I mean I definitely could have done it, I already shout out foreigner anyways, but you know. Cant wait to get back home and start to do it again.
Have I written about the little kids going to school? Every weekday I have early class so I see the moms walking their kids, all dressed up in catholic uniforms, to primary school. Every kid has a backpack on wheels with a handle, like an airport carry on. And most of the time the parent elects to drag it, for a reason unknown to me. Also, its always the moms who are walking with their kids, rarely the father. And they just walk with a straight, bored, zombie face on while the kid is jawing away, all happy-go-lucky. Im not sure of the hours of school, but I believe it might be like 9 til 1 and 4 til 6 or something like that, with the siesta incorporated into it.
Fashion. The young folk wear lots of bright colors and weird stuff, and are much more pierced than in the us. So many have their face pierced in some way. Adult men are usually dressed quite well. They wear pink ties a lot, and arent afraid to match different colored suit pants and jackets. Also, their belt is usually multicolored, with colors, not just brown or black. I actually got a conservative one kinda like it that has the red and yellow of spain laced through it. Nice shoes, never tennis shoes. When its warm out, guys can wear long shorts/ capris, like is only normal for women in the US, and not get funny looks. And now when its cold many more men wear scarves than in the US, and all the women do here. I don’t know jack about women fashion so I don’t know what to say about them. Big necklaces, hoop earings, heels, usually the heels are boots that go over the pant legs, and when its warmer out the shirts are a lot more revealing than in the US.
Mullets. A hair style very common with men in spain and europe is the hair grown out in the back, not really making a mullet, but a mini one, because the bottom hairs on the back of the head are grown out about one or two inches longer than we would think normal. It’s so prevalent that I started a mullet count, but got tired of it at around 80 something.
Christmas. Papa Noel doesnt exist too much in spain, it’s just the magi in january, (on the 6th or something). In fact all the christmas shopping is done in January during the “descuentos de enero” discounts of January. And this year its big news that those market wide discounts are going to be moving ahead like a week to help boost the economy. It was big news. But back about Papa Noel. I guess these days some kids do get gifts from santa clause because they are off from school from christmas until the day after the magi in january, so parents find it easier if their kids have the toys to play with over the break. The centro is well lit up for christmas, and there is a big market behind the ayuntamiento, city hall, of vendors of figurines for nativities. Apparently those shops being put up have the significance as our town christmas tree being put up to kickoff the holiday spirit, although they have a tree too in front of the ayuntamiento, next to the nativity scene. Some freedom of religion…
Dogs. There arent a ton of stray dogs in Sevilla, but in other cities I’ve been to in Spain and in Europe there are. The dogs can be stray like that, without a leash I mean, because they are so well trained. We actually came to a quite true conclusion when we were in Barcelona, that the dogs in Spain are better trained than the kids. Its interesting on both sides. One way its weird that the dogs are so obedient. Most dogs don’t need a leash and will follow their owners so well, and will even sit outside a store patiently for its owner, without being tied up. On the other hand its also weird that the children behave so badly. Normally the parents just let their kids go and don’t yell at them. Like with tere’s grandkids, they’re never told to be quiet or never really told to stop running around or anything, they just get slapped if they hurt each other. And of course, kids in spain will be running around like crazy after eating dinner out in the streets at 11pm or midnight too. No pasa nada (aint no thing)
Studies. There is absolutely no place anywhere for group work or group studying. Meeting so many times for group projects was so annoying becaues we’d have to go to a café or restaurant and pay for something. The business school just has a silent library, and in the atrium of the school there are just benches, not tables. As far as grades, for spaniards the scale is 0-10, ten being impossible perfection. Most students pray for a 5. To them grades don’t mean squat all that matters is passing. And that’s because the professors make it so difficult to get a higher grade like an 8 or 9. I gave a presentation about the actuarial profession in one class, and emphasized how hard actuary exams are because theres only about a 40% passing rate, and my professor laughed and said that’s normal. I got pretty ticked at his remark because he basically put down the prestige and accomplishment of any american professional certification.
Botellon. Theres a word in spanish for drinking illegally (technically) in the streets and its called botellon. The young crowds do it all the time though and never get caught or yelled at. Our program of americans has done it on several occasions as well because drinks are dirt cheap from the supermarket as opposed to the bars and discotechs. We even have our own little spot by a park that we always go to to all meet up to start “la marcha”, the march of the night. We’re gonna miss our spot on Buhaira.
Restaurants. I guess I was surprised at first, then got used to it until amanda pointed it out to me again, that there are restaurant/bars everywhere. Every street has several bars on it. And if you want to eat, the service is actually quite quick. Well it can take a while for someone to ask for your order or bring you menus, but after you order, the food comes out so quickly. This is because with so many restaurants to choose from there’s hardly anybody else eating so the kitchen focuses on your order right away. But the customer service is quite poor and you have to ask for the bill when you’re done. For all this though, there’s no need to tip, ever. One of the great perks of Spain!