Thursday, March 24, 2011

Living “Spanish” for the Sower:

I have had SO MUCH STUFF going on lately...

Some of the awesome stuff:

-My family visited me!

-They brought me peanut butter!

-I got to see Barcelona Futbol Club play Sevilla!

-I bought three dresses!

-Consuelo made Gazpacho!

-I'm going to Portugal this weekend

Some of the not awesome stuff:

-I got a pretty bad cold last week, including a nice little fever (I blame Consuelo's germs for this one).

-I have had midterms last week, this week, and next week.

For that reason, mainly, I have not been able to blog lately.

BUT- here is a guest column that I have written for The Sower, Concordia's Student Newspaper. Some of it you all will have heard about, some perhaps not. Anyway...Enjoy:

Living "Spanish"

This semester I have vacated my Ruth C suite to study thousands of miles away from Concordia, in Seville, Spain. I had been planning to study abroad ever since I submitted the paper to my advisor, that sold my soul to the Education Department, with the word “Spanish” scribbled in as one of my concentrations.

When I arrived in Spain, that was still just a word on a piece of paper, tucked neatly in a filing cabinet. However, because I am living here, I have had to adopt that tiny word into a whole lifestyle.

All of the sudden my life did not revolve around going to TLEC, to Chapel, to Janzow, Repeat; it revolved around...Spanish. And let me tell you something: there’s nothing like throwing yourself into a homogenized, foreign culture to show you that you really don’t know that much Spanish.

I remember when I got picked up by my host-mom, my Señora, Consuelo. After a week of orientation, I had seen presentations and been on tours of the city, all led by the CIEE (Counsel on International Education Exchange) Study Abroad Program staff. Although all of that had been in Spanish, I hadn’t had many one-on-one encounters with Spaniards. Now I would be meeting the woman with whom I would be living for the next five months of my life. Let the communication confusion begin.

Most Spaniards know a little English, especially the younger generations. Consuelo basically knows one word in English: “table.” However, she half the time she forgets the word’s meaning and will just repeat it until she remembers, or until I finally point to the table to end the strange, furniture-inspired chanting. Needless to say, we communicate in Spanish.

When I met her, we had exchanged a greeting of besitos, or those European, cheek-kisses (yes, people really do those). Then we started with some small-talk in the taxi. That’s where the humbling experience that has been this semester began.

Although I’ve studied Spanish since eighth grade, it has been a little challenging actually living “Spanish.” Within five minutes in that taxi ride, I managed to confuse the entire conversation by mixing up the number fifty with fifteen. I remember Consuelo had a confused expression on her face, but I didn’t realize my mistake until a week or so later. We laugh about the silly mistake now, at least I think that’s what we’re laughing about when we reminisces about that day... I could be confused still.

Language is like liquid inside our minds, sloshing back and forth to change forms at any instant. It’s difficult to control this stream of consciousness and make it bend to fit a specific paradigm, in my case Spanish. However, difficulty is almost always worth the momentary trouble. Vale la pena, as they say here.

Seville makes me think of beautiful words like río (river) and sueño (dream). I still think about the expanse of the Nebraskan sky at dawn, but this semester has been an amazing adventure of words and experiences. I have fallen in love with a city of orange trees and its beautiful language. Of course, I continue to make grammatical mistakes and I’m clearly a foreigner here, but I almost feel like its all becoming my own. I hope that others at Concordia, who have similar dreams, will go through all the tedious planning and have their own language adventure. It is worth it. Vale la pena.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Photo Update: Mira, mi escuela-

Thanks to Kelly's audacious photographing, I now have this picture of my University classroom to show you all!
Please notice the rocks protruding through the drywall, including Oklahoma and Idaho in the upper right. (Makes me think of you, Erin!)

I know, it's a pretty snazzy place.
Well, the rest of the building is more impressive, with courtyards and fountains. This is just the room they stick the foreign kids in to learn the difference between la cura and el cura.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's all about the food:

I eat pretty well here.
Correction: I eat really well here.
Better than Janzow, for sure.

New exciting places means new exciting food!

One of my favorite things about traveling this semester has been sampling the typical cuisine of the region. The Spanish, especially here in Andalucia, eat a basic Mediterranean Diet.
And so do I.

Here's the breakdown:


This pyramid that I stole off google images pretty much describes my diet here, with the except of chocolate and sweets (which Consuelo never gives me. I guess that is healthier. But I have been able to eat some with the help of friends' packages and M.A.S.).

Coma, conmigo hoy:
Eat with me for the day:

El Desayuno: Breakfast
tostada (pan); zumo de melocotón y uvas; cafe: toast (fresh, white bread from a bakery down the street), peach-grape juice (love it), and coffee.

(It was hard for me to get used to eating so much white bread. I'm a whole wheat kind of girl. But it is sooooo good.)

El Almuerzo: Lunch
Dos-tres platos y picos o pan y fruta. Two-three dishes, with picos (served at lunch and dinner) or bread, and fruit for dessert.

Everyday I eat some kind of hot food made with olive oil. Always made with olive oil. Aceite de oliva. It could be any of combination of the following: bean/pea/carrot soup or a potatoes/onion dish or paella con mariscos or chicken or bacalao (cod) or tortilla española(hecho con patatas o carne o atún - made with potatoes or ham or tuna. Nothing like Mexican tortillas, more like an omelet).
I love Spanish tortilla...

Also, for lunch to go:
Un bocadillo (a sub made with white baguettes or bread and ham with lettuce and tomato, or tortilla in between two pieces of bread--carb central! but I love it) with two pieces of fruit. The lucky kids get nutella bocadillos (I'm not lucky).

Cafe por la tarde.
Coffee in the afternoon.
A lot of Spanish people drink some coffee as a pick-me-up after their siestas. I do quite often, regardless of whether or not I take a siesta (usually don't). Consuelo usually goes to meet her friends at a cafeteria (coffee shop) that serves free churros con chocolate with coffee.
Or, you can go out for a snack like this:
Cafe con leche (espresso with milk), (tea), gofres con chocolate y nata (waffle with chocolate and whipped cream), cafe solo (espresso) y una napolitana de chocolate (chocolate filled flaky pastry wonderfulness).

Tengo Hambre: The Hunger Game Begins:
Everyday I start to feel really hunger around the "normal" hours of an American Dinner. Usually I sneak a merienda, or snack, from my secret stash in my room of things like dark chocolate, cereal, granola bars, and peanut butter (very expensive to buy peanut butter here!). Don't tell Consuelo about the stash. I don't think she's found it yet.

Two days a week, I have my Culture and Cuisine: The Gastronomy of Spain class (yes, I get three credits to learn all about food!) during this time (5-6:30pm).
We sit around talking about food for an hour and a half while my stomach growls. I really love this class because I am learning so much about Spanish culture and great vocabulary.

Also... There are days when we get to have una cata, or a food tasting! These catas make this class basically into a snack sesh. So far, we've had two catas:

Cata #1:
Aceite de Oliva: Olive Oil
My favorite kind was made with Hojiblancas, a type of aceituna (olive).
Olive oil is a staple here. Consuelo uses it in EVERY SINGLE DISH SHE MAKES. Probably even fruit salads. She doesn't even tell me that it is in a dish, if I ask for a recipe, because it's just assumed. But I like it.
Cata #2:
Los dulces españoles: Spanish Desserts,
Traditionally made during Christmas time and Holy Week:

White stuff: Sultanas de Coco (just egg whites, sugar, coconut!) Very simple, very good! Like really soft macaroons. (****)
Middle thing: Torrijas. Very sweet. Traditionally made around Holy Week. Tasted like I was eating French Toast soaked in a pool of liquidy honey. (**)
Tin-foiled pastry: Pestiños. Complicated to make, traditionally done twice a year in large quantities when all the women of the family get together and make them. Kind of tasted like a nutty, fried, sugary pie-crust twisted into a fun shape. (***)
Plastic-wrapped, powdered sugar covered thing: Roscos de Vino. Made around Christmas, in the oven, not fried. They are hard, dough-nut shaped cinnamon rings, covered in powdered sugar. Very good for dunking in coffee. I really want to make them sometime--My favorite from the cata! (*****)

La Cena: Dinner
Sopa de calabacin y patátas, y quizás, una tortilla o pollo o pescado. Postre de fruta.
Usually just one or two dishes. Consuelo makes a weekly-supply of soup, made of pureed zuccinni and potatoes (and olive oil of course), which we eat with some picos or bread. I actually really, really love it. Even though it looked like this!
Typically, we also have either a tortilla or some fried bacalao or chicken. This meal is smaller, right before bed. Followed by a piece of fruit.

If you go out to a restuarant, you can find a bunch of options, especially of fried seafood, examples in the photo below, which was taken when my friend Beth and her mom visited me last week!
We ate at Bar Bistec in Triana, near my apartment:
Pollo frito (fried chicken bites), montadito de bistec (tiny sandwich the Spanish can't do steak. Trust me), Rioja Crianza (Andalusian red wine), Bacalao frito (fried cod), and picos andpatatas fritas (french fries).

Overall, I really enjoy the Mediterranean diet. If you don't like seafood or olive oil or bread, then you probably couldn't survive here. In the next couple of months, I'm excited to try some more different kinds of foods, especially the pastries! I'm also going to bring home some recipes to continue eating some of these dishes back in the States. Consuelo has taught me how to make the tortillas and some of the soups.

So. . . Anyone want to come over to my house for some Spanish food next year?
I'll buy some olive oil, put on some tunes and my Flamenco-styled apron, and we'll be good to go!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mira, mi escuela-

File:Universidad de Sevilla (rectorado) 001.jpg

I go to school in this old Tobacco Factory.

I have three of my four classes at the Universidad de Sevilla. These are classes with other extranjeros or international students, but the Spaniards come to this Old Tobacco Factory as well for their studies.

Building's Brief History acc. to Wikipedia:
"Built in the 18th century, Seville's tobacco factory was the largest industrial building in the world at that time and it remained a tobacco factory until the 1950s. This beautiful building is also the setting for the very well-known opera by Bizet, Carmen. Carmen was a fictional worker in the tobacco factory, the original story being a novella by Prosper Mérimée Prosper Mérimée. This building houses two of the university's faculties: the School of Literature & Philology and the School of Geography & History."

This building is superguay.
Every time I go to class, I feel like I'm entering a museum or a castle of some sort. It's so odd to see students smoking in the courtyards, folders and notebooks in hand, or stopping at the espresso vending machines before class, because they just got back from a night of botellóning three hours ago.

I haven't ever stopped to take pictures yet.
I'm not sure I want to be that girl.
(Even though I stand out enough with my North Face backpack, light hair, and Target clothes...Oh, and mediocre language skills).

I only have a couple Spanish friends, and most of them don't have classes in the same facultades (Philology and History) as I. Last time we got together, they told me about the new changes in their University system. It's a lot different to be in college here. You take tests during high school and then enter into a facultad, kind of like a major. You then only have classes within that facultad and there is really no freedom to, for example, take a random drama class if you are in the History and Geography facultad. Then they complete their studies in about 5 years.

My friend Manú envied the fact that I can take whatever courses I choose and change my major if I want (if only). Manú also explained to me that the European Union is kind of making an international change to their countries' University systems, more or less nationalizing them, for lack of a better word. I'm skeptical. Their Universities are a lot cheaper than ours though. But so far, I have noticed a difference in...quality.
Side note: Manú also told me that in Spanish high schools, clubs, school-sponsored sports, and all other extracurriculars don't really exist. (Weird huh? What do kids do if they aren't skipping off to lacross practice then cello lessons then SAT training?)
Another side note: Manú is in the Philology facultad, studying English. He has to read Moby Dick this semester! (Pray for him...)

I think that they just kind of stick the foreign kids with the left-over classrooms and professors.
Maybe that sounds rude.
But there's a rock the shape of Oklahoma growing out the wall in my Advanced Grammar classroom.
To get to that aula, or classroom, I have to walk to the corner of this huge stone building, ascend a large marble staircase, walk down three corridors into the dimly lit bowels of the Factory, find the door marked "Aulas XIII & AIV", go through the door and up the rickety staircase on the right. I'm always surprised when I don't end up in some old Abuelita's attic, but instead in aula XIII for Grammar.

Like I said, the yellow-painted dry wall of the room is kind of built around the original stone, Factory walls. There is a blackboard smacked onto this wall as well, which my professors uses to over explain minute details of grammar (this class is somewhat like Studies of the English Language, at Concordia, except less organized and in Spanish). There are five or six foot-long spots on this yellow wall in which the stones have protruded out into the room.

During class, I try to memorize words like sintagma while really imagining that one of the rocks looks like a three-legged elefante.

Or dreaming about my future trips to Germany and Rome.