Friday, May 29, 2009

Sevilla, far too much to say

The city:
1. Is gorgeous. It's modern and ancient, crowded and spread out, lost in time and plunging into the future all at the same time. It's glorious.

2. Is filled with Americans. I don't remember hearing English very much when I lived in Madrid; here, you're surrounded by it (as well as German, I've found). It can be a bit unsettling, when you are deep in Spanish thought only to be interrupted by a lovely southern drawl saying, "I wunder what they cawal thayat?" :-)

3. Is relaxed. In Madrid, I always felt like I had to be somewhere; here, though I have far less time to work, the culture is much more laid back. It likes resting. It also appreciates the notion of eating helado (ice cream) for lunch and dinner (sometimes with nothing else!). I appreciate that!

4. Is communal. Don't believe me? Go check out Plaza Alfalfa around 8p.m. any night of the week. Or Plaza del Salvador around lunch time, especially on a Sunday. These people *get* the idea of community. Maybe that's why they have so many plazas - yes, they're pretty, but they - as well as all the sidewalk tables are partly designed for people to be with each other. Isolation is seen as a strange thing here. You go to a restaurant alone? Go to the bar; at least then you'll be next to others who are alone. You really want to see the community, watch a funeral procession. I did. It cuts straight to your emotional core. It involves the entire community - it can't not.

5. Has bells ringing constantly. This is partly because there is a mass going on pretty much every hour, because there is a Catholic church on almost every other street. And before every misa, you'll hear their bells ring a good 20-40 times. The church I tried to go to rang its bell 41 times to announce the beginning of mass. Then, of course, it had to ring the bells for the hour.

6. Has captured part of my heart, yo creo. I've been here for only 11 days, and already I know it very well. Twice I have been mistaken either for a local or for someone who has been here often. I think my heart will be here for a little while...

The worst part of hostel life:

1. Obnoxious roommates - the ones who come in at 3 a.m., turn the lights on, TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS!!!, slam the doors, eat, and talk without regard to the fact that you have been sleeping for three hours at that point. And then leave the room a certified disaster area later in the day.
2. Flooding showers - due to the fact that some roommates cannot figure out how to use handheld shower heads, my room has been flooded at least 5 times since I got here. I'm a little tired of mopping up after them.
3. Bad hostel songs. I've been keeping a list. So far, the worst offenders have been:
*Hungry Eyes (at least twice)
*It Must Have Been Love (but it's over now)
*All Girls Just Want to Have Fun
*I'll Be There for You (the song used as the theme from Friends - and I didn't even watch that show!)
*The Show Must Go On - very bombastic version
*Rod Stewart, Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
*Madonna - Like a Virgin
*Ska version of Don't You Want Me, Baby?
*Reggae version of I Got You, Babe
*Reggae version of Come on, Baby, Light My Fire

The best part of hostel life: Meeting interesting people, such as:
*Guy from US who runs a hostel in Portugal and was here doing research on management
*German woman who came to Spain to work a horse farm in Cadiz for 3 months before starting PT training back home - we saw flamenco together.
*Austrian woman working as an Au Pair for a very rich Spanish family at their hacienda
*A Brazilian historian and a British historian, both working on the 16th century, using the Archivo de Indias
*Junior from Penn St. here to do a study abroad before returning home to finish her studies in Speech/Language Pathology - we went to the Catedral together.
*German woman doing language studies in Valencia here on vacation
*Two Argentineans with whom I watched the Barcelona-Manchester United futbol match
*Three women travelling together - one from Greece, one from Romania, and one from France, though I've no idea how they all met
*Two college kids from TN (though they go to college on the West coast) who just borrowed my Mac plug since they didn't bring a proper adapter for theirs)

My favorite archive tidbits:
*Constantly having to write the name "Mr. Cow-face" (translated) in documents and not laugh.
*Reading the heated exchanges in the press when a reporter dared insult a member of the Exposition Committee; their exchanges went on for a good month!
*Reading these awfully written letters from manufacturing companies in the US to the Expo Committee in 1911; their grammar, in English, was worse than most of the Spaniards. And these were Americans writing to offer their services! My favorite was Avery & Co. offering the use of their "Dump Spreading Car" that would assuredly "give satisfaction." Ay!

My favorite moments in the past 11 days
1. Biking across the Puente de Isabel II into Triana, and viewing Sevilla from the other side of the river
2. The view of the city from the top of La Giralda
3. Sitting in Plaza del Salvador on Sunday afternoon, just enjoying the crowd and watching little kids teaching their little brother Fabio how to throw a ball
4. Looking out from the second story of Plaza de España and taking in the view
5. Sitting in Parque Maria Luisa and listening to the birds, the fountains, and nothing else
6. Standing in awe of Francisco de Zurburán in the Renaissance hall at the Museo de Bellas Artes
7. Wandering through Barrio Santa Cruz without a map, and not caring where I was
8. Accidentally ending up in the Jardines de Murillo during that wandering adventure!
9. Listening to flamenco, for free, at an awesome club at 11p.m. at night with my German roommate
10. Wandering into a fairly well hidden plaza by the Catedral where, during the week, they sell goods made by the convent
11. Eating helado in Plaza Cristos Burgos and watching the little kids play on the playground
12. Finding the coolest book ever for my friend Adam at the bookstore, Beta - a book in Spanish on Rome, Carthage, Iberians, and Celt-iberians: War in the Peninsula (he studies the Roman empire and warfare, and wants to look into Iberian warfare)

Tomorrow I'm going to try to make it out to Italica, out in Santiponce - this was the old Roman city where Hadrian & Trajan were born. Supposedly, you can tramp around the ruins of the ampitheatre that held like 25,000 people. I'm going to try to take tons of photos for Adam. Woot!

So, after almost two weeks, that is how I feel about Sevilla. Four more proper days in Sevilla, then I travel to Madrid on Wednesday, and then it's the long trip home on Thursday.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Plan?

I might have a plan for the rest of the year. I'm not sure that I'm entirely happy with it, but it looks to be one of the only logical answers. So here goes:

May 17th - head to Sevilla, Spain, for 19 days to do research at the Archivo Municipal, and try to get as much as I can done

June 4th - head back to the US

June 8th - teach my summer course

July 11th - turn in final grades for summer course

July 31st - move out of my apartment (hopefully with help), put most belongings in storage here in town, and drive East to my parents' house

August - live at my folks' house, hopefully doing at least part-time work somewhere, and doing dissertation research (either secondary sources or analyzing whatever I get from this upcoming trip), and prep for heading back

September - head back to Spain, hopefully to Barcelona, for as much of the 90 days my visa will allow, as long as my money holds up. Do research at the Arxiu Administratiu and other sites around the city

December - back to the East coast, perhaps offering an online class during winter session, if I can design one and my department thinks it's a good idea

January - ideally: head back West to Home, find a new apartment, and hopefully have a teaching position in the department for the spring semester. Work on analyzing sources from research trip, working with my committee and figuring out what I still need. And, of course, begging for more money from people.

Sometime in the late spring - head back to Spain to do more research.

Academic year 2010-2011 - hopefully find some sort of funding, and write the dissertation here in town

Spring 2011 - hopefully graduate, and find a job.

That's the plan. I am not thrilled with the idea of being away from home for 5 months, esp since I don't have any support system back East. Most of my college friends are not still in that area, and my parents' house hasn't been "home" for 10 years. The pros to this plan are: 1) not having to pay rent in August and December, though I'll be paying for storage here; 2) my folks are working away from their house, so it is possible me and my cat would have the run of the house for a while, so I'd actually have some privacy; 3) I wouldn't have to send my cat on a plane back East, and I could plan my flights to/from Spain from the East coast, cutting out most of a day's worth of travel like when I have to fly from current Home; 4) My parents' house is available, and I'd have my own car.

The cons are the isolation, especially from my church here, my bible study, and the couple of friends I spend time with. But it seems like the only logical solution. I don't have a paycheck after July 12th, and so I can't afford to pay rent for a month or two without income. I can't get another job for a month, knowing I'd be leaving. And this way, hopefully someone can come out and help me pack up the apartment so I can move out. My hope is that I could then come back after Christmas and find a decent apartment for January, before the undergrads come back.

I'm not sure if I like the plan, but it seems logical.