Tuesday, May 25, 2010


(Okay, so I wrote this blog last week but didn't have time to upload it until today, so imagine yourself reading this a week ago....)

My travels continued last Tuesday when I packed my bags to fly to London.

It was, as all of my travels have been, eventful.

You see, the volcano (that cancelled the Paris trip and made the Greece trip possible) started to spew ash again last Monday. And somehow all the ash decided to descend upon southern Spain. Yes, it decided the Atlantic Ocean simply wouldn’t do, and keeping that ash inside of the volcano certainly wasn’t an option, so when the volcano decide to vomit some more, it chose to use Andalucia as its bucket.


This meant a 6-hour bus ride to the Madrid bus station, a 1:00am arrival at the airport, two cups of coffee followed by 4 hours of homework (I didn’t want to sleep alone in the airport), a 3-hour flight to London Stansted (the perk of cheap European travel: obscure airports), then a 6-hour bus ride to Brighton, England.

My friend Allison is studying at the University of Sussex in Brighton this semester, so my first stop was on the southern edge of the UK. We spent a day in Brighton sipping tea and doing "English-y things", meaning I spoke in a British accent. I enjoyed the freedom of grocery shopping for myself (cheesecake!) and I must admit it was rather shocking to be in a place where everything is written in English.

On Thursday we took the train to London and did a little site seeing before heading off to dinner and a show.

I had a lovely go at musical theatre when I was four, in the North Branch production of Oliver. The director initially said I was far too young to be in the show, considering he was only accepting children ages seven and up to play the all boy cast of the orphans. But my father played Fagan and I had a bowl cut and could actually sing on pitch...needless to say, I had my debut as the littlest orphan.

So I could hardly control my excitement as we headed to see Billy Elliot. My friend Jackie, who’s also studying in England, met us at the show and we all experienced three phenomenal hours of musical theatre.

The show was beyond anything I expected. Everything from the cast to the set to the costumes was perfect, and the 12-year old that played Billy put my orphan musical theatre days to shame. Since arriving back in Spain, I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack and have come very close to physically injuring myself while attempting pirouettes around the house.

Friday was a day full of site-seeing. Allison and I did a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and somehow managed to “see” everything “important” in London. I say “see” because we really did just see everything. Since we only had a day, I knew I’d really only get a taste of the city (which makes for a perfect excuse to return). We did make it to an evening church service at Westminster Abbey and later that night bought tickets to see Chicago. Chicago was good, but there were no 12-year old ballerinas or on stage ensembles that included miners, police officers and the grim reaper.

Saturday, Allison and I took the bus to Oxford, England where Jackie is studying. The city is full of history, which Jackie delved into during our 5-hour walking tour. We did get to see the lamppost that inspired C.S. Lewis to write The Chronicles of Narnia though.

And, if you want another interesting fact about Oxford, here’s one: During the reign of some English king, the royal family decided that no one could have deer. Oxford University, which has it’s own field for deer procreation and the hunting season (nothing like making the playing field fair, right?), was enraged. So it did what any normal community would. They fed the deer only cabbage. Eventually the deer were so much cabbage that they were, statistically by weight, more cabbage than they were deer. Thus, they were classified as cabbage, and cabbage was not black listed.

Sunday was another day of travel as I headed back to Spain. And as I landed in Spain I had a very sad realization: I have less than 2 ½ weeks left in Seville. On June 1 I leave for three weeks of Euro tripping, and after that I head back stateside.

This time should be a rather eclectic mix of emotions and memories. Before I leave from Seville on June 1st, I must write three essays, complete 2 exams and write a journal for my creative writing class. I also turn 21 on Saturday and have a birthday party with my family here along with a few visits from friends.

It’s a very, very strange place to be right now. I’m finally at a point where seeing English signs is foreign to me, my dream sequences are in Spanish and my relationship with Chencha (my host mother) is great. And while I do miss my family and friends like crazy, I don’t want to leave.

So, for these two weeks I intend on doing all I can to soak up the last of this Sevillan sun. My friend Haley and I will be starting (and completing) the “99 Thing you MUST do in Sevilla” list we found online and I know there will be moments when I kick myself for not having done it sooner.

I hate bucket lists, but the time has come, and I have my Sevillan list written.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Allowing the rain to pass...

So the rain finally left Sevilla.

Thank the good Lord.

But it was replaced with stifling heat and the blinding sun.

Thank you Helios.

I don’t mind the sun or the heat, but it does make it difficult to focus in class when you’re sitting in a pool of sweat distracted by the lingering scent of body odor. In the United States you wouldn’t have to worry about the body-odor problem thanks to deodorant (well, post sixth grade when both genders actually started using it) but here they don’t believe in deodorant.

Everyone told me that Seville would get hot. I just didn’t realize it would get this hot.

Honestly, in the past two months I’ve experienced polar opposites on the climate graph. It’s like the Amazon Rainforest and the Sahara Desert got together, fell in love, had a child and named it Seville.

I’m a Minnesota/Michigan girl. I like the heat when it’s accompanied by a lake, pool or cookout. Not when I’m walking to my 9am creative writing class.

In my contemporary design class (please don’t ask me about the subject matter of this class, because I’m still not entirely sure) my professor walks in, shuts the windows and closes the blinds so that we can better view his slideshows. No one else seems to mind, everyone in Seville is accustomed to the drastic heat, the suffocating feeling of your throat closing.

But I’m still getting used to it. It’s been a gradual change, my adjustment in becoming more like the Sevillanos.

Unfortunately, one thing I can’t help is that with the blinding sun comes the lightening of the hair. Already, my blonde hair stuck out like a neon sign that screamed “NOT FROM SEVILLE!” but now that neon sign is turning into a billboard above my head.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if said billboard provided a bit of shade every now and then…

But, I would take the Sevillan heat over anything in Michigan right now.

Yes, all my Wolverine classmates have finished exams and moved home, started relaxing or working while I still have 4 more weeks of class. But I can’t imagine not being in Sevilla right now.

There have been points during the semester when I’ve thought about what this semester would have looked like had I stayed in Ann Arbor. I would have taken classes, written at the paper, been involved with other organizations on campus and enjoyed life in Ann Arbor.

It would have been a fun semester, I’m sure of it.

But, instead I’ve been able to see a part of the world in a way that few people ever see any part of the world other than America — I’ve lived here. I’ve been a part of a culture rather than a visitor. And I’ve experienced the lifestyle of a Sevillana rather than just letting it all pass by freely.

This, I am thankful for.

I’m thankful for the daily struggles of trying to learn a new language, trying to understand a different culture and learning more about the people around. All of which have helped me learn about myself.

I always thought, “I need to get out of the Midwest. I’m so sheltered.”

Now I think: I don’t need to get out of the Midwest, I just need to get out of that frame of mind. Maybe I’ll live in China, maybe I’ll raise my kids in Ireland. But maybe I’ll grow old in Minnesota, which I would be perfectly happy with, as long as I do so with the knowledge that there is more to life that what we see out of our front door and there's more to experience that what we watch on the morning news.

When my sisters and I were born, my father gave us each life philosophies. Mine was, and is, “May she discover the wisdom that comes with happiness, and the happiness that comes with wisdom.”

Wisdom isn’t just smarts; it’s experience, sound judgment and clear vision, which this experience has given me.

Yes, the photos are beautiful and the stories are nice, but no matter how much I write or explain, I will never be able to translate this experience into something forthright. Because these kinds of experiences in life aren’t straightforward or simple, they’re difficult. They bring wisdom and happiness, disappointment and sometimes tears, elation and confusion.

And for that, I will take the rain, heat and anything else Sevilla wants to throw at me.