all these things that i've done (have yet to do/am doing)
I went to the public library this week to obtain a library card (re: key to the magical world of literature). While I was there, Maria (one of three library ladies--they're kind of a clique) suggestively mentioned that she's looking for a girlfriend for her son. She then commenced to wildly gesticulate about his height and how he also ~might~ be a basketball player (meaningfully recurring theme, perhaps?). I say might because I'm not sure if the dunking motions they were making (Amparo--library lady 2--actually jumped up and down) meant he's tall in that classic Will-Neighbour-way or rather, that he's actually an athlete. The Spanish are a very emphatic group of people (much like my Italian family; those who know me, know I like to point). So anyway, after they tried to bait me into offering up my dowry (jk but pretty sure this might have been the next step), I was free to peruse the shelves of the beautifully well-lit and open space that is Biblioteca Pública Infanta Elena. This is the kind of space I dream of--warm light, clean, white surfaces, soft, comfortable chairs, free wifi, books on books on books. Long story short(ened), I am currently attempting to read two books. Del amor y otros demonios by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Out of The Silent Planet by my boy CS Lewis (thank you Clark for the physical copy of this book, thank you Charlie for deferring your own readerly enjoyment for my own, and thank you Emily for savoring each and every word such that I felt the need to do so myself). Del amor is in Spanish so I'm going to try to challenge myself to read a bit of it everyday (work on mi español); The Silent Planet, however, will be an (easy, English) indulgence.
On small worlds. We had the welcome ceremony for international students at the Universidad de Sevilla today, and afterwards, they had a meet-and-greet with coffee, cookies (buttery dreams of childhood Christmases) and sandwiches (meh). There, I saw a boy who had a Twin Lakes (town 15 min from my own) shirt on. I was like, "WOAH HEY WISCO." So, of course, I went over and introduced myself. Turns out he has a house in Twin Lakes and is a member of the Aquanuts (yah i know) team which I saw when I was 10ish (for pics pls see: http://www.aquanutwatershows.com/Home_Page.php). He goes to the University of Denver but is from Lake Forest (a few towns north of NU--v cool). AND THEN I basically (I am exaggerating) turned around and met a kid from north of Milwaukee who goes to Whitewater. So, it's good to know that WI is well represented here in Sevilla.
On lessons learned. I've been getting very tenderly and lovingly educated about pop culture (and other things--feminism, gender constructs, friendship, how to dance well/appear local, etc) by a few fabulous kids (Suz, Sam, Eden, Camille and Kyle--looking at you). I am very grateful for them as friends and compatriots. Truly, all of the people I've met in this program have been great--very open, very considerate, very FUNNY (Suzy knows how to write in the best and most perfectly hilarious manner: http://ellaperdiosusilla.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/1/).
Serious learning has also been taking place (about the world and in myself). We've been talking a lot this week about Franco and his dictatorship. It was frankly (bad time for a bad joke) horrible--so many people dead or missing, women forced into submission, everyone suppressed and living in fear. Yet, surprisingly, Andres and Carmen (generous, warm individuals that they are) were Nationalists themselves (at least, Camille and I suspect that they were because when we asked them about how their lives were affected by the dictatorship, they said that it didn't really affect them at all). Andres was a veterinarian for the government so his job was pretty secure. He even mentioned that he thinks Franco did some good things, such as preventing WWII and Communism from consuming Spain. However, while they say everything was rosy, you can also see how that time has affected them. They don't waste food, and they dole out huge portions to their children and guests; it's obvious with what gratitude and trepidation they view their situation. It's Sacha's (a host grandson) birthday next week, and Carmen and her daughter made a cake out of butter, melted chocolate and graham cracker-like cookies for him. This "tart" is so simply and sparingly done (especially in a place with such decadent pastries) that it must be a remnant of a time when they didn't have much (think Depression era in the US). It's very interesting to see this constant dialogue between opposites in Spain; it's a country that exists quite clearly in the grey (between doublings and couplings, parallels and perpendiculars, overlaps of dark and light). One of my professors was telling us about how her uncle was tortured during Franco's dictatorship while on the other side, her father-in-law was a coronel for the Nationalists himself. Another friend, Dajana, told me that her Argentinian host grandmother came to Spain during this time believing firmly in women's independence; yet, her own daughter (due to the indoctrination in their school systems) believes that her role in life is to shiver into action at the very beck and call of her husband.
As far as learning about myself, I tend to be somewhat critical of myself as well as others, and God has been constantly showing me recently how to deal with that. In conversations with my family (thank you, Mom and Dad, for your constant support and outpouring of love and advice) and conversations with myself (weird? I think not), He keeps me very conscious and conscientious. It's been quite cool, actually, realizing that when I'm interacting with other people and get critical/annoyed, it's because I'm realizing something in myself, too (I'm a firm believer in that which you criticize in others, you most strongly see in yourself). So Spain has been (and keeps being) a good space to interact with others, a better space to understand myself and a great space to know God.
Gratitude. The other day, I was feeling kind of lackluster and down, and then God presented me with several wonderful moments of companionship which rolled into a line like a delicious trio of m&ms. At dinner last night, we ate with six of Carmen and Andres' grandchildren (one of their daughters has eight children), listened as they told us the words they knew in English, spoke easily with them in Spanish and thoroughly enjoyed a few episodes of Bob Esponja together. It felt wonderful be a part of a family for an hour or so (especially because I dearly miss my own). After dinner, Carmen and Andres went to have tapas with Andres Jr. We both left around the same time (they a little sooner than I) so we managed to walk with each other for a few blocks. It was nice to meet Andres Jr's girlfriend and to share in a little moment of their joy at being together (really, their joy at being alive. Spanish people know how to live. It was around 10:30pm when Carmen and Andres hit the town, and they're in their 70s). After I left them, I met Dajana to go to an intercambio (a bilingual meet-and-greet). While there, I had a wonderful exchange with a few, older native Sevillanos who were practicing their English in order to find jobs. Because of the economy being the way that it is, they've been unemployed for a while and NEED to know English in order to get good jobs. I think that it's quite brave of them to really work at learning English, especially as people who in the US would already be quite established in their careers. It was good (and a little discomfiting) to realize that these people were learning my language in order to survive in the world (and hopefully make their way to an English speaking country) while I'm studying their language simply because it interests me and my parents have been generous enough to send me to Spain (thank you again and again, Mom and Dad). Another thing to be grateful for and to keep in mind.
On projects and other exciting things. I am writing. Something is growing in my imagination if but slowly (and who knows if anyone should get to enjoy it but me. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, part of your becoming is not sharing that which you've made she quotes in her public blog). But anyway, it's exciting and a blessing to be inspired, and I'm grateful for it. There are definitely many little knotted balls of stories lying around this city (behind 500 year old walls, encased in the skin of Sevilian oranges, nestled away in every Sevillano's heart) just waiting for me to unravel them and tie them to the Giraldillo to air out.
Last but (yes) least. Almost got assassinated by my hair dryer. Well, not my hair dryer, and I suppose that was the problem (fire was not meant to be contained). I had this weird premonition before it exploded in my hands that it was going to blow up so I kept my face away, and luckily, the hot, molten coils that burst forth from it (much like something from the underworld) only ended up sweltering on the floor for a few seconds. So...back to (h)air drying for now. CJB