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Last Couple of Weeks and Sevilla
Saw my second bullfight (two weeks ago now). I knew what was going on a lot more after reading Hemingway’s guide to bullfights, Death in the Afternoon…went with my friends Craig and Mike L. We saw the 16 year old matadors we'd seen fighting two months prior sitting in the row in front of us. I'm maintaining my prior stance on bull fights in general. It's culture! This was a top end novillada (amateur bullfight), with the winner gaining rights to be a full on matador next season in Valencia. Lots of extremely dangerous contact with the bulls. A banderillero had his leg broken after being tossed a solid 7 or 8 feet in the air.
The night before that had been spent with those two friends and 3 other girls (two of whom were full on Spanish). Great night of practicing Spanish and staying up late. Now on to a recap of Sevilla.
Trip to Sevilla was a total success really. Jennifer and the good people at CIEE really put together a great trip for us all. This was a 2 day trip that is included in the study abroad experience. Nice 8 hour bus ride each way and $40 of spending money for four meals. Not great for the students who don’t like bus rides…luckily I am considering joining the endurance driving circuit, so it suited me just fine to be passing the time in my seat as we were making moves back and forth across southern Spain. Upon arrival we very quickly made our way to a private Flamenco performance, the type of dance that Sevilla is very famous for. Very technical and emotional.
We were then free to go out and take in the Sevilla nightlife. One of my favorite nights out since I’ve been in Spain; most everyone in the bar area is hanging out on the street and it takes the form of a giant block party. Pretty awesome scene, and I had several successful and relatively long spanish speaking interactions as the night progressed. Good times.
Large-scale breakfast buffet upon wake-up! Hell yeah. Had a group visit to the Catedral de Sevilla in the morning, the third largest cathedral in the world. Some real cool history lessons to be had about the Muslim-Christian influences in Sevilla and specifically the Cathedral which was formerly a giant mosque and was actually totally modified/changed (but not fully razed and replaced like most mosques were after the Christians retook Spain). The Cathedral was a real center for the conquistadors and mariners of Spain to come and pray before their voyages, and Christopher Columbus’ remains are actually currently in the Cathedral after a journey back and forth across the Atlantic (back to Sevilla due to the Spanish-American war in 1898). I discovered these facts from our tour guide who spoke Spanish for us at the slowest pace imaginable. Nice to know I can comprehend that a bit at least. Also visited the Gardens of Alcazar, the Plaza de España, and an oldtime Jewish barrio?(something about Don Juan having lots of women there? I was becoming less attentive at this point…)
It was a funny scene throughout the weekend with many of us not having gotten our full night’s sleep either night and most struggling with their abilities to embrace the historical/architectural/ cultural aspects of the weekend. There were several groups of us…mostly attentive, partially attentive, and disruptively unattentive!
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2010
Happy Belated Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving day in Alicante was a great time. Group football game on the beach during the day (with a gamecap dip in the Med for me) coupled with a giant banquet dinner that night made it a really great day.
Miguelito (or should I say 'Miguelete') put on a performance of two OCMS songs in front of the entire group (close to 150 people?) along with our friend Adam. Mike sang and played guitar+harmonica and Adam provided additional vocals. He closed it out with "Wagon Wheel" which was a huge hit as would be expected!
The last two days have been another group trip, this time to the nearby city of Valencia (3rd largest city in Spain). Today we visited the newly famous "City of Arts and Sciences," which included giant aquariums with whales, sharks, heaps of other fish, and a dolphin show. Dolphin show was really cool. Dolphins jumping 15+ feet out of the water, throwing humans around, and being very impressive and well-trained.
Pics to come.
Here´s a final quick lookback on my time here in Spain
I’m going to really try not to try to explain my feelings and conclusions about my semester abroad by replacing what I actually feel and think with vague clichés to define what I was supposed to feel and think after living abroad for four months. Hope that wasn´t too convoluted for ya´ll. OK, we’ll see how it goes. Probably better to stick to some facts to support any waxing philisoph I’m throwing in there, so I’ll try a list format. I’ll call it “Nick’s Feelings and Conclusions about Living Abroad in Alicante, Spain for 4 months.”
1. I’m proud of the amount of Spanish I’ve picked up. That being said, I could’ve improved more with a different scenario. Different scenario would mostly entail a hell of a lot less interaction with my American friends and a hell of a lot more with Spanish people, their movies, and their literature and periodicals.
2. I’ve made a few good friends here and get along real well with everyone in the group. We got really lucky I think with our social setup
3. One of the issues I have when thinking about wanting things like ‘study-abroad,’ backpacking (the gap year style Europe/SE Asia/S. America variety), and ‘traveling’ in general is that I feel like I’m really only thinking about living out the ‘bourgeoise dream. ’ The ‘adventurous’ goals of the small percentage of the world that can afford such goals that is.
4. There was a lot of downtime this semester due to school not being too difficult and me not being a part of any organized sports team. People use their downtime in different ways. I successfully instigated a reading binge for myself and read more books and articles these past four months than I have in any period of time since before I had my license (when social things became very easy to organize reading pace slowed down significantly). I think reading books of all genres and eras and also trying to read about different perspectives on current events (globaleconomictrendanalysis.blogspot.com is a decent spot to start if you don’t know where to look) are important things. I’ve always thought these were important things and Alicante has given me a bit of a break from a life of ‘constant socializing’ mostly because I’ve been living in a house with a 65 year old Spanish lady.
5. Expectations before going abroad are always going to be way different than what the experience actually is. This can be evidenced by what people bring. For example, I was convinced that it would be totally unstylish to wear sneakers in Spain. I believed I would be going out until 6am every night with a large group of Spanish troublemakers who also played pickup soccer. Thus, I didn’t bring sneakers. A little philosophy for you right here: if you are something at home, like a kid who likes going to the gym and running, you should not abandon that thing. I got myself a pair of sneaks after a couple of weeks and life improved.
6. I think my ability to ‘go out’ and actually have a good time has been steadily improving in Alicante. Going out when it’s not just me and close friends and acquaintances is something that has never given me good vibes, but I’m getting more into it. A good skill to take back to CU.
7. Going into study abroad I would’ve been far more gung-ho about doing things like traveling somewhere where I can’t even converse with the locals.
8. Communication among people about their lives is something that I’ve increased my belief in since being abroad. I think I’ve actually improved my English from trying to speak about ‘real-ish’ things (more real than what I had for breakfast or how drunk I got last night at least) when I’m passing it with my American friends.
9. I’ve changed in four months. But I change every four months.
10. I’m fascinated by how easy it is to let your life go in a given direction without giving much thought to that direction. Last night I had one of my few dinners out of the house and I let myself be led halfway across Alicante to a MALL where we took the escalators to the third floor, entered a restaurant where you order mini-sandwiches full of processed meat and condiments, and sat on a stool. The sandwiches were not sufficient in terms of quantity or quality. So it goes.
OK, hope that wasn’t too much generic study abroad blah, blah. I had a real great time. Bring sunscreen if you decide to come, I forgot that (and sandals). Alicante is like a tropical beach resort (something I didn’t get through my head when packing back in August).
Also, I recommend against traveling to Norway in the wintertime. If you want to see more pics or words about how my study abroad life went, check out my actual blog at weareinalicante.blogspot.com.