Today is Saturday, March 24th. Normally Sunday is considered a day of rest, but today I’ll be surprised if I even leave the house. It’s been a crazy week (especially the last couple of days), so all I want to do now is sit around in my PJs, drink coffee, and listen to Pandora radio. And blog, of course!
The weekend before last (the days directly following my last post), I didn’t do much of anything. I just prepared for midterms and caught up on my tareas (in this case, baby essays, essentially) for my Intercultural Communication class. We were supposed to write them over the course of the semester, but, well, you know how that goes. I took my midterms, saqué buenas notas (got good marks on them), and then, last weekend, I went to the gorgeous beach town Cádiz with Jodi, Chuck, our German friend Lukas, and our British friend Eleanor to celebrate Jodi’s birthday.
We arrived Friday afternoon. After settling into our hostel, we made our way to the beach. It was freezing in the wind, but lying down and tanning was actually warm, thank goodness. When the sun went away, we—somewhat by accident—came across a little mercado named “SuperCerka,” where we spur-of-the-momently decided to save some euros and revert back to our college diets of pasta and hot dogs for dinner. Chuck and Lukas pretty much prepared the whole thing for us while Jodi and I sat on the couch and chatted. ¡Qué caballeros! What gentlemen!
Saturday was beach day numero dos. We tried a different beach that time, La Caleta. It was so beautiful, and famous as well! Apparently it was on that beach that James Bond was filmed, the popular scene where Halle Berry runs slow-mo out of the water. Since the filmmakers weren’t permitted to shoot in Cuba, they figured Cádiz was the closest-looking. I’d have to agree! Later that evening, our hostel guide took us on a tour of the city. He showed us the popular sites and gave us some history. We ended our tour back at La Caleta, where we got to see one of Cádiz’s breathtaking sunsets. I took a million pictures, but here are my favorites:
Saturday night, despite my efforts to be an aguafiestas (the Spanish equivalent to “party pooper” lol) and stay in, my companions talked me into partaking in the hostel-hosted pub crawl. [Side note: I really just hate the phrase “pub crawl;” it gives me the image of drunken herds of people crawling on their hands and knees in slow motion from one bar to another]. After experiencing it firsthand, though, I can say that it was a good time. We hit up a handful of bars and then two clubs. I’m still trying to figure out what was more fun: the atmosphere, or the company.
Allow me to introduce you to Kevin. A Spaniard (yeah, with the name Kevin—I don’t get it) in the military, stationed one beach over from Cádiz, for some reason staying at our hostel. We met just seconds before taking off for the pub crawl. Being that he was a somewhat-shy and friendly Spaniard with whom I could practice my Spanish, I of course struck up a conversation. We small-talked for a little bit, and then I realized soon enough that he was pretty cocky. I didn’t mind, though; it was not only amusing but also a nice treat for my Spanish linguistic input, as he did most of the talking. At Bar #2, Kevin admitted to me that his friends make fun of him for the way he dances. At Bar #3 (after his subsequent tequila shot), I understood why.
Picture those really cool hip-hop dancers who can pop their bodies and move to the beat of any song. Then take away all grace and precision, add wannabe-Michael Jackson crotch-grabbing, chest-caressing, and unorganized flailing, and you have Kevin. His favorite move was bending all the way back onto the ground and doing an air-hump of sorts in my general direction. As I was already making an effort to not crack up laughing in his face, he then asked me something along the lines of, “Do they do THIS in the US?!” I answered an honest “yes” (while mumbling under my breath that they do it a Hell of a lot better than he could), but that just gave him a challenge to out-Kevin himself. So he proceeded, with even more determination, to continue his crotch-grabbing and leg stomping and self-chest-caressing, then he asked me again if they do “THAT” in the US. I didn’t lie when I told him I’d never seen anything quite like it in my life.
Sunday, we hit up a few last-minute sites before migrating once again to la playa. We slept what I dubbed a “mystery half hour,” and decided to eat at the lovely beach-side restaurant right by where we were stationed. Well, we don’t like to talk about it, but let’s just say the service was horrendous and the food was priced double what it should have been. A game of “What-I-Could-Have-Done-Instead-of-Go-to-that-Restaurant” ensued.
Which brings me to my next thought/lesson that Spain is teaching me: outlook. My father always says a quote, if I remember correctly: “Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you deal with it.” Now, I admit that usually when he tells me that I’m in no mood to hear it, but just the aforementioned experience really drives that point home. Life’s too short to see things negatively. So we waited for our food for almost an hour. So the waiters made eye contact with us from our corner table and blatantly ignored us. So Chuck’s sea bass the size smaller than my fist cost him 13 euro. But the laughter that resulted from our experience was something special (if you’d like, I can show you my new 6-pack abs that came from all the laughing). I feel so blessed to have made the friends that I have here. Every time we’re together, there’s just always laughter. =)
Since my last post, I have taken two Sevillanas classes. A dance—you guessed it—native to Seville, it is a special derivative of Flamenco that is danced incessantly during the Feria de Abril. The dance, involving supposedly-not-so-complicated footwork and direct eye contact, looks absolutely beautiful when danced by the natives. When my friends and I do it, we look ridiculous. The problem is with the hand movements. Your hands are up in the air and then wrist-twirling while your feet are doing something completely different while you’re counting one two tres four cinco seis because your brain is in overdrive and doesn’t even know which language to think in. We’re getting there, though! Jodi and I have been partners, so we count together and signal when we’re supposed to be turning or one two three-ing instead of one two three four five six-ing. I recently just found the song that we’ve been practicing with on Youtube, so I hope my host family and roommate like the sound of incessant stomping ;).
Here’s a video to show you what the dance SHOULD look like:
Two nights ago, Thursday night, I was once again talked into saliendo (going out). I experienced my first botellón (drinking in the streets, which is “illegal” here in Spain). Even though I didn’t partake, it was still a strange sensation. A whole bunch of young adults casually drinking right alongside the landmark Torre de Oro. It’s so common that even the police turn a blind eye to it. I think for me it just struck me as strange since it’s something that would be unheard of in the US. The real fun STARTED at 12:30, when we made our way to la discoteca known as “Buddha.” The place was dead when we got there, and I ignorantly assumed that it wouldn’t be too crazy considering it was a Thursday night and most students had class the following day.
Two am rolls around, and the place is a zoo. There were three floors, the first playing more Latin music, the second European techno, and the third, the craziest floor where my friends and I (my Spaniard girlfriends included!) were, played a lot of American music remixed and put to techno. It was so. much. fun. We left at 4:30 am, caught a taxi back to Trelsey’s apartment, and checked in around 5. We had to wake up in two hours for our field trip to Cádiz the next day (yeah, I know I’d just been the weekend previous, but it was a free trip with a guide and a more historical feel, so I decided to go again). Oh, Spanish lifestyle, what you do to my circadian rhythm…
For those of you who don’t know me very well, I like to be in control. I usually have a Plan B (if not a Plan C on dock as well). So when Trelsey and I were deliberating what time to wake up, I asked what time I should set my alarm. They told me that they were setting two, and that they would wake me up when it was time for breakfast. Since I’d woken up to an alarm for the past two weeks, I figured waking up to a sweet “good morning!” and the smell of scrambled eggs would be much more pleasant, and thus didn’t set an alarm.
I woke up to my guest bedroom door flying open and a frantic Kelsey saying “ALLY WE SLEPT THROUGH OUR ALARMS I’M SO SORRY WE’RE NOT GONNA MAKE IT TO CADIZ.”
…Not quite the inflection nor message I was expecting. I asked equally-frantically what time it was, and she said 8:45. The buses were leaving at 9. I don’t remember my exact words, but apparently I said something along the lines of, “NO. WE ARE GOING TO CADIZ!” So we got dressed and were out the door in five minutes. We power walked toward the station, ran through 4 lanes of oncoming traffic to get in a cab, and made it to the buses with ten minutes to spare. God bless Spanish time. And, our positive outlook (see above). It’s funny, I often let myself freak out about little minor problems, but when I see other people around me worrying about an often bigger and problematic situation, it makes me more calm. I just had faith the whole time that we would make it, and we did. And, as we’ve become accustomed at this point, we laughed about it afterwards. Truth be told, I had done too much mental preparation to go to a club, take a 2 (well, 3.75 due to the alarm fail)-hour nap in a bed that wasn’t my own, and undergo severe sleep deprivation to not go to Cádiz.
The trip itself was really nice. Our tour guide, Carmen, was this cute little Spanish lady who said espécific instead of specific. I was actually hoping she’d conduct the tour in Spanish, but from the looks of it, our entire group was already glossy-eyed and distracted, so she probably wouldn’t have had our attention at all. We did pass by a lot of the places I’d been last week, but we also went to new plazas, buildings, and streets. It was actually a horrible day for the beach, due to the fact that there were Levante winds coming from inland out to the sea. We enjoyed sitting and eating our lunch and then later Ben & Jerry’s ice cream oh my lawd so delicious, but as a result we didn’t have much time for the beach anyway. Here’s a couple photo representations of the wind!
In other news [muchísimas gracias to those still on board on this post; hopefully none of you are playing the “Things-I-Could-Have-Done-Instead-of-Read-This” Game], my host mother is (in my opinion, randomly) renovating her kitchen, and the little girls I babysit for are (again, in my own unofficial psychological diagnosis) bi-polar. Aka spoiled brats, pretty much.
Just a couple of weeks ago, my host mom casually mentioned that she was going to some place to check out kitchens. Two days later, she’d signed and solidified the deal, selecting a kitchen with the color scheme lime green and a bold purple. O.o Well, as the saying goes, a cada cual, lo suyo (to each his own). But lime green and purple? ¿En serio? As a result, the entire contents of the kitchen are now in the living room. Tea cups are next to the TV, silverware is stacked high above other random boxes, and plates and dishes are on the dining room table. Under normal circumstances it’s hard enough to scrounge up food, so I am a little wary of how the next few weeks are going to go. My host mom plans to go to her friends’ houses to cook and then freeze it all (so we can heat it up in the microwave which will soon also occupy the living room). Please no one tell me the effects of the excessive microwaving of food until after this semester is over…
As for the niñas, my biggest complaint isn’t even that they alternate being bellig; it’s that their parents, on three separate occasions now, have required me to walk to their house to babysit. This wouldn’t be an issue, except for the fact that they live 40 minutes away by foot and the only way to walk there is on a busy street lacking a sidewalk. What it doesn’t lack, however, are ant piles, ditches, plenty of oncoming traffic, and sometimes I even get lucky and get to walk over a dead bird. I’ve attempted on a couple of occasions now to express my distaste for the not-so-pleasant walk, but I’m pretty sure the mother uses the language barrier to her advantage and just kind of plays dumb. In any case, luckily while one girl is brooding in the corner angrily coloring and calling me stupid under her breath, the other one is willing to play. In fact, the last time I babysat, we danced Sevillanas together! This girl is five years old, and she said she’d help me. How’s that for role reversal?
Well, now it’s almost time for lunch. Pretty sure it’s going to be our last lunch in a while where the kitchen is in use, so I’m seeing it as the Last Supper of sorts. Speaking of which, Holy Week is just around the corner. I’m making plans to go to the northern cities of Spain with a few of my friends!
All of these experiences have really been teaching me to find humor in every situation. I feel more cheerful, and even more so, content. I’m continuing to meet more Spaniards, to speak Spanish whenever possible, to be more in touch with my thoughts and feelings, and to find enjoyment in the places and people that surround me. As my mom always says, “You just have to keep laughing at life,” and that is exactly what I plan to do.
Hugs and punny jokes from Spain,