Mittwoch, 25. Mai 2011

España: The Land of Picasso, Bull-fighting, Tapas, Flamenco and perfect weather: Part 3

The next day I was once again alone looking for adventure. I decided to get in some distance with the most reliable form of transportation I know: my legs. I walked down small alleys and saw more and more old churches. More than I have ever seen in Europe. I found the river that runs through the city, Gaudal Quivir. It was huge and even though the weather wasn't ideal I walked along it for a bit. I found the Torro del Oro or Tower of Gold and the Plaza del Torros where bull-fights still take place this day. Apparently the way a bull-fight works is that the bull-fighter (a man dressed in fancy black and gold) comes out with a red cloak on and then proceeds to taunt the bull with the cloak. I guess the red infuriates the bull and gets it really worked up. Then the bull-fighter takes spears and impales the bull with them. This takes a while because he continues to throw spears until the bull stops moving. The bull will sometimes run for quite a while with numerous spears in its body. Once the bull is dead two horses come out and the men tie the bull to some rope attached to the horses. As an expression of the great success of the fight the bull is dragged in circles around the ring and the crowd cheers. At the end the only remnants of the bull are circles of blood in the sand. I was told that the meat was traditionally eaten, but I don't know if that is the case today. I refused to see that. I realize it is a very old tradition, but I wasn't going to be cheering about the brutal killing of a bull. After I saw that I walked back toward the heart of the city and found about 3 incredible palaces to explore. While walking in one of the gardens a man on a bicycle road up to me with a rose in his hand. He handed me the rose and asked "Como te llamas?" (What's your name?). I said "Gracias" and walked away without answering. I realized it wasn't a good idea to take the rose a bit later when I looked behind me and the man was looking at me through the trees. I made sure he saw me take the rose and throw it on the ground. I felt bad, but he didn't bother me again. I learned that by taking the rose I was leading the man on. I think it is fascinating how traditions like that are still so frequent. In the Plaza de España I talked with my mom for a quite a while only to discover after the conversation that I was charged ridiculous roaming fees and had only 80 cents left. I was so distraught that I simply cried on the castle stairs watching the lovely tourists in silly row-boats. Even though they were silly I couldn't help but think it would be fun if I had had someone else to enjoy them with. Crying made me feel much better and since I couldn't do anything about my problem at the moment I continued walking. I walked home and had an incredible and well-deserved siesta. After my nap I showered and put on my cute new dress and went to El Rinconcillo for some tapas. While standing by the bar eating Garbanzo beans and sipping a glass of red wine an old man came up to me. At first I was unsure what was going on. He laid a paper napkin with some writing on it next to me on the bar. I asked him "Para mi?" and he nodded and left. I was so curious so I picked up the napkin and read it. Naturally it was in Spanish, but I could understand it pretty well. It was a love note. I have never been so affected by such a small gesture in my life. The man must have been 80 or so. He was shortened by his years, had a sort of hump in his back and every hair on his head was white as fresh snow. Regardless, I was taken. I thought if only he had been my age. Why don't men write love letters anymore? I think people think it is creepy. Yes, maybe it was a little bit, but still... If it is meant in ernest, why not? I gushed. I have never been complimented in such a way. Maybe I needed that reassurance even if it came from someone not so perfect. You tell me. Is it possible to move away from the creepy side of it and take it as a huge compliment?

Dienstag, 24. Mai 2011

About That Time

Well, it is that time. I am finally homesick. Since I arrived in Regensburg I have missed my family and friends. It was never anything I dwelled on though. It was sort of just part of being away, like a vacation. It never made me cry and I didn't have any great desire to go home. Now, however, the vacation period is long passed and I am in it for real. The homesickness I have is not paralyzing. It is only present in moments of quiet, when I am alone. It is a slight gnawing in my stomach and chest. I have only teared up twice. It isn't so very bad, but it is present. The fact that we only have 10 weeks left here makes it sound so temporary. It is hard for me to settle into a NEW semester when this entire trip is over half over. I love it here. Really I do. I have a part in a play. I have a job. My german is improving quickly. I have really good friends, etc. Regardless, I would love to be at home sitting at the dinner table with my parents drinking a glass of wine and chatting about things that aren't so important. Knowing that so much love exists is what makes one homesick. Knowing that all of the people who know me and love me are far away is scary. No one has to tell me that not much time is left and that I should enjoy it, I know that. I am just realizing that it has been a long time and missing home is all part of my experience. At least I am happy. This is the longest I have ever been away from home and I am pretty proud of myself for only being slightly homesick. Being homesick also makes me glad because I have something to miss. I have something to go home to. I am not alone. Never truly alone.

Donnerstag, 5. Mai 2011

España: The Land of Picasso, Bull-fighting, Tapas, Flamenco and perfect weather: Part 2

Sevilla is nothing like Germany. Let's start with that. It is dirtier, but more vibrant than Germany. Everything feels so alive. The smells, the sounds, the sites. I stayed with a friend in her tiny apartment directly in the city. The streets of Sevilla are littered with garbage, bread crusts and bird poop. The smell of sewage lingers under your nose in most places. Spaniards are much louder than Germans. Something I was actually grateful for. For once, I was not a "loud American". I was asked about a billion times for directions or something else, but all I could say was "No hablo Español". No one cared, they just left me alone. I was just one of about a cagillion Tourists in the city. My first day there I showered the travel from my skin and went for a walk. I had to get copies of the apartment keys made so I went to the key copier. That was interesting. The man spoke no English and I no Spanish. Another customer (I believe a 13 or 14 year old girl) helped quite a bit. It felt good to accomplish the key endeavor with a lot of struggling, but finally understanding. I bought a map. That was totally necessary since Sevilla is an absolute maze. Then I went on a search for some tapas. I went to one bar where the man (unimpressed by my lack of Spanish and knowledge of Spanish tradition) told me that the kitchen wasn't open again until later that night. I ordered some water instead. I ate a tapa at this little cafe. It was so yummy. Cheesy baked eggplant and beef. I bought some strawberries from a nice street vendor who told me that I was "muy guapa" (very pretty). I didn't find it creepy at all, only endearing. Then I walked toward where the infamous Cathedral was. I took a very roundabout way and the night slowly began to creep up on me. I kept thinking I saw it because there were so many big beautiful churches on the route I had chosen, but when I found it, I was certain. The night had by this time fully enveloped the city and there standing in front of me, stretching for two blocks, was the Cathedral. It was enormous. A relic so big and solid that I felt like I had stepped backward in time. In the dark with the spotlights shining all over it the church took on a life of its own. The shadows made it seem bigger and more ominous than during the day. I imagined Dracula's lair. The spotlights lit up the sky above the Cathedral as well and I could hear and see tiny bats fluttering around the pointed towers of the ancient building, it was too perfect. It would have been scary had there not been about a million other people looking at the same building.  I sat on some steps for a while listening to a man playing Spanish guitar and watched the evening romance blossom around the Cathedral, perhaps spurred by the power and beauty of the history surrounding us. The number of horse-drawn carriages astonished me. I had thought that was a sort of cheesy romantic thing that people only did for proposals. They were everywhere in Sevilla and it turns out, in Málaga as well. I found it to be a totally overindulgent in such a large quantity. I understand a few and I would like to try it sometime in New York City at Christmastime, but they were everywhere in Sevilla and the horses looked so worn out. With many new interesting things in my head and lots to dream about I walked home and promptly had a fitful dreamless sleep.