The Week of Lasts
In the Brown family, whenever something nears its end, we begin to talk about "The Week of Lasts." At the end of a school year, at the end of a season, at the end of a job, no matter what, we begin to take account of those days in their especial finality and enjoy them more in their fading light. I am currently coming into The Week of Lasts in Sevilla, and each day is a reminder of what a blessing this time has been. With my heart and mind trained on the following Monday when I will most assuredly Korean dramedy sob as I run to my family (#Japan2009), these final papers (2) and exams (3) don't seem as daunting as they might have otherwise, and I'm really enjoying my last moments here. The city itself has taken on a new bright and busy quality with life welling up in the streets in the form of hordes of people, wrapped in scarves and parkas in this 60 degree weather, dangling their storybook children by one hand while waving around a caña, cigarette or Zara shopping bag in the other. The light and air have gotten sharper and fresher, zinging with the Advent spirit, approaching a new sort of liveliness that rivals the summer soaked, heat dazzled streets of September (and October, come to think of it). This city has become (dare I say it for fear of reprimand by the likes of CS Lewis who hated overwrought language) magical--full of strings and elaborate arrays of lights (even one reading #navidadsevilla2014). Pop-up churro, cotton candy and buñuelos stands dot every corner, breathing their sultry, sweet warmth on passersby, luring them in with hopes of chocolate covered, sugar encrusted felicity. A new Christmas fair occupies that little forested park where the Feria de Naciones once galloped for a good many weeks; now, it holds tiny cottages filled with artesanal goodies of all sorts (cheeses, sausages, scarves, herbs, etc) and just past the trees, both glowing, the Kinder skating rink, dotted with the slow skating Sevillans, wobbly on legs which have never before tested themselves on ice (ha) and the Ferris wheel spinning at perhaps too great a speed, carrying people over the park to look at the glittering city and the eternal river and the obsidian sky.
Because of the impending end, I've been motivated to experience a good amount of Sevilla in these past few days. For Camille's belated birthday celebration, we went to Ovejas Negras. The place itself was young and hip: full of wooden tables with slighted rusted antique chairs and old Campbell's soup cans as center pieces (this description does not do justice to its cool factor). Our unconventional tapas included Bruschetta, Chips and Guac, Goat Cheese with Honey, Sliced Pork with Apples, Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry, Gyoza and Mushroom Rissotto (I capitalized all of these because I feel as though, with the magnitude I enjoyed the meal, it was necessary). I also got to make our sangria which really just means they gave us a bottle of sangria mix, and I poured it into our jarra which was filled with fruit slices and cinnamon. Lastly, for dessert, we had the cutest mason jar full of whipped cream, nuts, dollops of caramel and brownie pieces. Needless to say, one of the best meals I have enjoyed thus far in Seville. Last night, we went to a bar in Santa Cruz for flamenco and were not disappointed at the lack of a show as the bar itself was decidedly interesting enough on its own: vaulted ceilings yet an intimate space, more tall than wide, ornamented with a carved wooden fireplace complete with a piano snuggled underneath, another small, ashy fire puffing away in the front fireplace and long wooden communal tables where we exchanged a few words (and a drawing where they asked us how much the sangria cost) with a group of Spanish lads. It felt like the sort of place one gets carried into after having had a successful bull fight, where slovenly drunks raise pints and sing out-of-tune renditions of folk songs their mothers once sung while hanging the wash. Afterwards, we ran into los tunos, a band of men clad in antiquated black bloomers and knee socks, who wander the streets serenading people with their guitars around el Día de la Inmaculada. They were slightly creepy but endearing: singing Besame to us, offering kisses which were kindly discouraged, asking to wear my glasses, telling us jokes ("Soy musulmán, él es Superman y él es Spider-Man") and pleading with us to have drinks with them. We ended by singing Oasis's Wonderwall with them, most of the lyrics which they didn't know (so I ended up being the loudest belter of the group), and then we took a picture together in which they attempted to sneak in kisses, causing us to run away hand-in-hand like little (slightly perturbed) school girls. And this morning, I woke up and went early with my friend Alana to el Alcázar (the palace) to a fair of sweets from the various convents around Seville. The array of goodies was incredible (marzipan, jams, turron, cookies on cookies), and the women were especially sweet and welcoming, attempting to engage us in conversations both in English and Spanish. Getting up early was well worth it: the streets were empty and peaceful and the bells that were chiming from la Giralda guided my journey all the way from Los Remedios and across the Guadilquivir which was shining in the sharp morning light and crisp, newly-biting air.
A not-so-quick recap of the last two weeks: Alistair visited two weekends ago which was a treat and a wonderful chance to look at Seville with refreshed eyes as I felt compelled to open up Seville to him as it had opened up to me, like sweetly and softly night blooming Jasmine. We saw Las Setas and walked through the old Jewish quarter and ate a ton of tapas and talked a ton about life and the future and school and study abroad and followed a nun to her convent and saw the beauty of Plaza de Espana after and during the rain, before all of the lights turn on, dark and mysterious, and then illuminating, beautiful and enchanting, as we rode a boat around the moat below. It was just a great weekend, overall. Thanksgiving and the following days were a mixed bag of sorts. The day before Thanksgiving, I felt slightly hopeful; when I passed the Cathedral, it was open and the choired voices of "Hallelujah" pulled me inside, allowing me a quiet moment to really say thank you and feel the holiday (and Holy) spirit rushing through me. On Thanksgiving morning, I spoke with most of my family who were in Arthur Bay, enjoying each other and my Grandma's cooking and the views from the old, brick former Bed and Breakfast on Lake Michigan (do I sound jealous?). It was tough to be away from them, and I ended up moping to the mutterings of Duran Duran (which reveals just how much I missed them). I got some lovely emails though (from my Mimi and my Grandma Angie and Megan Behnke) that cheered me up substantially. And that evening I got to go to an ancient-Arab-bath-turned-restaurant with the rest of my program where it was good to have just a few moments of actual Thankgiving (with Turkey and apple pie included)! Also Friday was exciting because I realized that they celebrate/perpetuate Black Friday in Spain, too, so Zara had 20% off (which I made good use of)! That Saturday, my host dad's Santo, the celebration of one's Catholic name, was a good way to recoup Thanksgiving because the whole family got together, and I got to set the table and sit at the adult's table and munch on appetizers and gently refuse wine and ward off grandchildren from playing hide-and-seek in my room and listen interestedly as they discussed politics and family gossip. Decidedly delightful. Also, I attended a Sevilla FC game against Granada last weekend which was another cool and uber Spanish experience (a typical question when trying to determine one's friends/their character in Seville is "Are you a Sevilla or Betis fan?"). Sevilla won 5-1 which was for the best as, from what I saw on TV when I came home that evening, there have been several deaths in the past when the Spanish fans got too riotous (including one last weekend in Madrid).
Tutoring and Teaching: It seems I've done a good job hiding my Spanish skills as Fernando, to whom I have been privately tutoring English for the past two months, told another student that "you have to speak to [Caroline] in English. She doesn't understand Spanish." I also received great satisfaction in teaching my class of 3-5 year olds Barney's theme song and was very lucky to attend a class in la aula de integración (the special ed classroom). It's kind of sad because during the regular classes, of which these specially educated students spend half their time, they only play with play dough or color or are told to sit quietly. However, when in the special ed class, they get very directed, specialized attention, and you can see the strong relationship between teacher and student. It makes me wonder about the strength and quality of their education; if they're wasting half of it with teachers who don't care about them, how is school beneficial to them? During my last class on Friday, I taught a class Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and we talked about how the other reindeer don't like Rudolph because he's different. And I said, "But that's not right is it? We love people for their differences." And one child cried out, "Like Juan!" which is touching because Juan has Down's syndrome and doesn't really seem to engage with everyone else, but they obviously love and care about him. Anyway, it was my last day at Maristas on Friday, and I hadn't expected to feel the way I did: I was quite sad. I hadn't realized what a big part of my experience Maristas had been, but it's been pretty definitive in terms of my time here. The kids in my 3B class all made me cards which said things like "We love you, Caroline" and "I've learned to speak a lot of English thanks to you." Juan Pablo gave me a ring he had made and then pointed out several times that the cards said the word "love" so I very well might have engaged myself to a seven year old. We spent our last day together singing a Christmas carol and practicing the dance moves they have to do for their performance. Even writing this, I feel a little triste. I'm really going to miss them.
So I'm currently deciding how I ought to spend my remaining time. Wandering old haunts, searching out new places, spending as much time as possible with my host family, enjoying time with my non-NU friends? I definitely will save my last reflection (that cumulative, all-encompassing one in which I express some grand idea about what I've learned) for next Sunday as I currently have little to no time to wax as I would like on all that I would have to say. You'll hear from me in between packing. CJB