Sunday, May 22, 2011


While there are many things I am going to miss about Spain there are some things I cannot wait for back in the U.S.  First of all, I cannot wait for public bathrooms that I know will have toilet paper, soap, and a means to dry your hands.  Secondly, I know I was extremely lucky with my host mom’s cooking (it was delicious!) but I am definitely looking forward to vegetables not bathed in olive oil and a source of carbohydrates other than white bread.  The people from Sevilla will not be missed either.  Unfortunately based on my experiences with the citizens of capital of Andalucía were not favorable, they were usually rude, pushy, never got out of the way, and never apologized for anything.  This was the complete opposite of everyone I met in Sevilla but were from a small town and had moved into the city.  All of these “country folk” (including my host mom, intercambio, etc.) were so kind and friendly, a complete 180 from the natives of Sevilla.

At first I was disappointed not to be making as many Spanish friends as I had hoped, but I would never give up the friendships I made with the people in my program.  I have met so many wonderful individuals that I will never forget and I know we all plan on continuing these relationships we’ve made.  It is crazy to think how sixty people can be thrown together in a foreign country and immediately become best friends and all of our experiences have made us that much closer. 

One of our last nights in Sevilla our program hosted a goodbye dinner where many tears were shed and memories shared.  I had bought a flag with the Sevilla “logo” on it and had everyone sign it.  The ‘NO8DO’ printed on the flag can be found all over Sevilla and the 8 is supposed to be a spool of wool (madeja in Spanish) and when said quickly it sounds like no me ha dejado, in English: you have not left me.  This was a saying given to Sevilla by a king whose son attempted to overthrow his father, but Sevilla remained faithful to their king.  Now for us it has another meaning, that what we have experienced with each other in Sevilla will last a lifetime and never leave us no matter where we go.

Although we are all parting and going our separate ways, some of us are staying to travel around Europe while others are returning home for jobs and internships, I know that this is not a goodbye forever…just a simple hasta luego.



My last month in Spain was pretty much a joke academically.  After Semana Santa we only had one week of class before our weeklong break for Feria and the University thought that after a weeklong flamenco party it would be a good week for finals.  Fortunately for me two of my finals were open note and another two were commenting on a text that wouldn’t be handed out until the day of the test so I really only had one exam to study for…which was flamenco.  I had a nice exam schedule too, with no more than two exams in one day but usually just one a day.  The exam formats were the same as the midterms and included short answer and essay questions.

Day Trippin

On the second Saturday of Feria two other girls and I decided to rent a car and go for an adventure to hit up all the places that were still on our list of places to see in southern Spain…Gibraltar, Ronda, and Arcos de la Frontera.  Due to a missed exit however we also got to se Vejer de la Frontera and Tarifa.  Vejer de la Frontera was our first ‘white city’ of the day and our first experience driving on roads not meant for cars.  Some of the corners were a tight squeeze and I’m still not sure how some of the roads were two-ways.  Tarifa is the southern most point of Spain (besides the Canary Islands) and from the beach we could see across to Africa!  We didn’t actually go into the city of Tarifa, but the beach we stopped at was absolutely gorgeous.

Vejer de la Frontera.

Can we make it through the arch way??

Typical "billboard" in Spain.

Beach of Tarifa....the mountains on the other side is Africa!

Our car :)

The drive from Tarifa to Gibraltar was one of the most breathtaking experiences I’ve ever had with green mountains rolling down to pristine, bright blue-turquoise water.  The traffic to cross the boarder to Gibraltar was very backed up, which we realized later was due to airport activity.  In order for Gibraltar to have an airport, the runway crosses the main (only) road from Spain to rock and therefore cars are not allowed to enter or exit Gibraltar during take offs and landings.  After driving around for almost two hours trying to find the nature reserve where the infamous monkey reside (yes, we were lost in a place where all the signs and people spoke English), we finally got there only to find out that it would cost each of us close to 15 pounds (over $20) to get in.  While the price included a dozen different exhibits, museums, etc. we just didn’t have enough time to visit everything in order to make it to our other destinations and couldn’t justify spending that much so see some monkeys.

Beautiful countryside.

The rock of Gibraltar

Runway of the Gibraltar airport


For the drive from Gibraltar to Ronda I got to get behind the wheel and enjoy the crazy mountain roads.  The majority of the time it wasn’t too bad, just the usual winding road along a cliff, but there were a couple insane motorcycle gangs that would come speeding past and scare the heck out of me.  I had heard so much about Ronda from my roommates and other friends who had already been and couldn’t wait to see it in person.  The white city is separated by a huge gorge and had some amazing views.  While we were there the center of the town was blocked off to cars due to a bike race going on and there were also mini Semana Santa processions with little kids carrying the pasos near the main church.  In order to get down to the river at the bottom of the gorge we climbed down an old mine shaft/cave and ended up in one of the most beautiful places ever (a common theme for the day I think)!

Bike race through the center of Ronda.


Famous bridge of Ronda

Down in the gorge!

From Ronda we took the Paseo de los Pueblos Blancos (Route of the White Towns) a road that wound its way through the Andalucían country side and passed nearly a dozen small, white villages on our way to the most famous one, Arcos de la Frontera.  In Arcos I had the pleasure of experiencing for myself the craziness of driving on ancient Spanish streets almost narrower than our car combined with a hilly terrain that made it probably the most entertaining drive of my life.

Not sure I was going to make that corner...

Arcos de la Frontera!


While many people in the API program chose to travel during Feria, I was happy to stay in Sevilla and take a few day trips to enjoy my dwindling time in southern Spain.  My first trip was to the beach town of Cádiz.  Three of us caught the bus down to Cádiz and after getting a coffee and walking around the old part of the city we headed to the beach!  The area we set up camp was absolutely gorgeous with a view of the old city and huge rocks.  It was a great relaxing day with perfect weather and the water was exceptionally refreshing!

Old city of Cádiz.

Church in the center of the town

The market in Cádiz

Gateway into the old city of Cádiz

Gorgeous view of the city from the beach!



Every spring (usually two weeks after Semana Santa/Easter) there is a weeklong party in Sevilla called Feria de Abril (Fair of April).  This year, however, since Easter fell so late there was only one week in between these two week long holidays and the Feria ended up being the first week in May.  But no matter when Feria occurs it is a full out stereotypical Spanish party.  The dress code for women is a traditional flamenco outfit complete with dress, mantilla (shall), big earrings, and a flower in the hair.  For the men it is a little more flexible, but they are still expected to dress up and suits are encouraged. 

Typical street in Feria.

People are free to ride horses around the fair grounds until 8 PM.

Typical sight at Feria.

Feria arch and lights.

Feria started out as a livestock fair where people could sell and buy animals but has since evolved into a celebration of pure Sevillan culture and even a fairground typical of a 4th of July celebration in the U.S. with over priced rides and fried food.  The only music and dancing you will see during la Feria is a style of flamenco called sevillanos.  The dance has four parts and once you learn it you can dance it to any sevillano song…however it has a lot of tricky footwork and each part is similar but with a slightly different order of steps.  I honestly don’t know how the women can dance all day in their heavy dresses considering the extreme heat that is characteristic of Feria.

Girls in their flamenco dresses on fair rides.

One of my friends in her flamenco dress!!

In the casetas this heat is even greater.  The casetas are private tents that can be rented, usually by a group of families, friends, coworkers, etc. and you need an invitation to get in (there is normally a guard at the entrance of each private caseta).  However there are also a few public ones that suffice to get a general feel for Feria, but the private ones are much nicer.  Each caseta has a bar and full time cooks where you can order typical Spanish food (like tortilla española) and drinks and each group can decide how to run their caseta, whether you buy tickets for food or pay with cash at the bar.  The drink of la Feria is rebujito, which uses a sweet sherry called Manzanilla (which tastes disgusting by itself) and mixes it with 7Up so it becomes a refreshing (and dangerous) drink.

Inside a public caseta.

Inside a private caseta.

Fieldtrip to La Rábida

The Friday before Feria my History of Three Cultures class took a field trip to La Rábida, a monastery in the province of Huelva where Christopher Columbus set sail from for the New World.  However, between people traveling over the Feria holiday and the royal wedding only five of us made the trip.  On our way to La Rábida we stopped for a coffee and picked up some traditional sweets for later (both paid for by our professor).  At La Rábida our professor gave us a tour of the monastery and I was constantly amazed at all the facts and information he shared.  The courtyards in the monastery were beautiful and we got to see the room where Columbus discussed his plans with the head monk.  There was also a room that had a box of dirt from each country in North and South America.

Monastery of La Rábida.

After our visit to the monastery we headed to the coast for a seafood lunch…once again on our professor.  Even though it was raining the restaurant had an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean.  We dined on gambas a la plancha (grilled shrimp), a mixed plate of fried seafood including squid, anchovies, etc., olives, salad, and our professor even ordered a bottle of wine for the table!  I couldn’t believe it.  

View from lunch stop!

The three hours following lunch we thought that every stop was going to be our last but then we would stop again.  While it was all very interesting, we had all been under the impression we would be home right after lunch, not right before dinner.  Besides a stop at a museum with exact replicas of the three ships Columbus took on his first voyage, the rest of the stops were to have a coffee and eat out sweets…we were all so full by the end of the day!

Replicas of the ships used by Columbus.

Church where the permission for Columbus to set sail was read.


I am sorry for not having posted anything the past few weeks, however I was so busy during my last weeks in Sevilla trying to do everything I had put off and soaking up as much of Spanish life as possible.  Also, looking back I feel that subconsciously I was avoiding the reality that my time in Sevilla was winding down and that by not writing about it I could avoid this depressing topic.  I have now been away from Sevilla for almost a week and I am on a train from Switzerland to Hamburg, Germany and have all the time in the world to write about the past month.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011



This week was the beginning of the bullfighting season here in Sevilla and as a cultural experience API bought tickets for all of us to attend one.  It was also recommended that we wear something a little nicer than everyday attire...which turned into all of us dressing up in a southern belle fashion as we were going to a horserace or something.  As we went into the bullring and took our seats I was excited and nervous.  I had seen parts of a bullfight on TV and was interested in experiencing this extremely Spanish tradition, however I was not sure what to expect or how I would feel once I was watching it live.

A bullfight consists of three teams each lead by a single matador and a total of six bulls are used.  Each round starts off with the bull entering the ring and being “taunted” by the matador and his team with their pink capes.  Next, after the trumpet fanfare that signifies the start of each round, a man on horse back come into the arena to picar the bull (poke it with a sharp stick in order to make it more angry for the matador) a couple of times before exiting.  In the next round the assistant matadors run at the bull with two pointed sticks (no cape) and stick them into the bulls back while trying to avoid getting skewered by the bull itself.  Finally in the last round, the matador “fights” with the bull before killing it by putting a sword in the spinal cord of the bull.  If the matador put on a good fight/show they could receive one ear from the bull, if it was really great they could get both ears, and an amazing performance will get both ears and the tail of the bull.

When the first bull was killed I was a little shocked and disturbed, however how they removed the bull from the ring was even worse.  The dead bull is harnessed behind a team of horses and is dragged all around the ring.  Although many API students left after a few bulls I decided to stay until the end and get the full experience of a bullfight once and never again.

Me and my roommates before entering the bullring.

The teams of matadors entering the bullring.

One of the matadors warming up.

The first bull entering the ring.


Dragging the bull out of the arena.

In the stands.

Semana Santa Celebration in Sevilla

23/4/11 (written on time...posted very late)

First of all, Happy Easter and I hope the Easter bunny treated everyone well…it doesn’t really exist here and I’m going through some Cadbury Eggs and Peeps withdrawal.  Today (Easter Sunday) actually isn’t that big of a deal here in Sevilla, however the past week (Semana Santa) is one of the biggest Holy Week celebrations in the entire world.  The main attractions of Semana Santa here in Sevilla are the processions that pass through the city throughout the entire week.  Each procession is organized by a hermandad (a brotherhood - which is not the same a religious brotherhood of monks) and makes its way from their church to the cathedral in the center of town and then back again.  A procession consists on two pasos, which are huge float like structures (one with a sculpture that depicts a scene from the passion of Christ and another with a sculpture of their specific virgin) and 30 to 40 men (called costaleros) are needed to carry each paso.  In addition to the pasos there are also Navarenos, and penitentes walking in each procession.  The Nazarenos are members of the hermandad that walk in two rows and are the people dressed as if they were KKK members with robs and tall pointy hats that also cover their face.  The penitentes are people who have asked God for something and normally walked barefoot, carry a cross, and some even whip themselves as they walk through the city.  The colors worn by the Nazarenos and penitentes depend on what hermandad they belong to and are used as a form of identification, similar to the colors of a sports team.  Some of the processions are silent, however the majority of them have at least one marching band (but usually two or three).

Unfortunately most of Semana Santa this year was characterized by torrential rain, which meant that the majority of the processions were canceled since the pasos would be ruined in the rain and very expensive to repair or replace.  The most popular and important processions occur very early on Friday morning (leaving their church around 1 or 2 AM) and even though we arrived back in Sevilla Thursday evening, these were among the processions that were canceled.  However, Saturday morning the rain let up enough for some of the processions to occur and we were able to see the hermandad de la Virgen del Sol.  Even though I was glad to see at least one procession, it was very strange because I had only seen pictures of Semana Santa in the narrow streets of the center of town and we saw the procession on a modern street with trams, billboards, etc. which clashed with the old, traditional pasos and outfits of the Nazarenos and penitentes. 

First paso with Jesus.

Paso with the Virgin.

One of the three marching bands

The nazarenos.