As of today, I’ve been in Europe for exactly 30 days. And in seven, I won’t be a W&L student anymore. In one week I’ll be able to say that I have received my Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics and Spanish with a concentration in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Washington and Lee University.
On our long drives and train rides to Toledo and Granada, I’ve been able to not only reflect on my four weeks in Seville, but on my entire four years in Lexington. And on one hand, I’m so sad to be leaving Seville and my host mom. I know that I’ve learned a lot about myself on this trip. Our art history professor, Conso, has said time and time again: perfection is boring. For as much fun as we have had on this trip, we have also worked very hard along the way. Spring Term, like any semester at W&L, often follows the work hard, play hard mentality; this class was no exception. But in Spain, there’s no pressure to be perfect. Everything rolls along and everything gets done without the stress that’s common in the United States. People stop to eat cheese and drink wine with friends, and stuff still gets done.
But on the other hand, I’m so excited to get back to Lexington. I’ve missed spending time with friends that won’t be living next door to me anymore, and I’ve missed the classic Lexington Spring Term experience. Right now, I’m excited to graduate (in a week, I’ll probably be balling my eyes out on the Colonnade, telling my parents I don’t want to leave). I’m excited to get back to the States to start prepping for my job as a National Consultant for Chi Omega. And I’m excited to see my family members who I haven’t seen in months.
During my first two weeks in Seville, I had a roommate named Alexis. She had been studying in Seville and living with Merchi, my mom, since February. When we were around the house together I would often hear her singing the lyrics of a Sevillan song, though I never knew which — that is, until a week ago. The song is the Himno del Centenario, and it is the song of the Sevillan fútbol club. The two verses below are the verses my old roommate used to always sing around the house, and now I finally understand why.
Y es por eso que hoy vengo a verte,
sevillista seré hasta la muerte,
La Giralda presume orgullosa
de ver al Sevilla en el Sánchez Pizjuán.
Y Sevilla, Sevilla, Sevilla,
aquí estamos contigo, Sevilla,
compartiendo la gloria en tu escudo,
orgullo del fútbol de nuestra ciudad.
Sevillista seré hasta la muerte, sevillista I will be until death. Though the words are more directly linked to the Sevilla Fútbol Club S.A.D., I like to interpret them differently. Sevillan I will be until death. Though the past four weeks have flown by, I will never forget the people I’ve met here, like Conso and Merchi, and the experiences I’ve had. Sevilla will always have a special place in my heart.
Reflections on our Trip
Through almost daily visits and three larger excursions, the Spanish 312 class was able to experience as much of Andalusia as possible during our short four-week stay. Our visits during the week typically consisted of tours in Seville. We visited the Cathedral, the Royal Palace, the Fine Arts Museum and more. On the weekends, we took three larger trips to Cordoba, Toledo and Granada, to visit various historical and cultural monuments. We were able to see the El Escorial monastery, the mosque of Cordoba, paintings done by “El Greco” in Toledo, and La Alhambra in Granada. The majority of the class took advantage of our one cancelled class by spending the day on the beaches of Cadiz. Throughout it all, we ate cheese, tried bull’s tail, went to bull fights and took lots of selfies. This video is a compilation of all of our adventures throughout Seville and beyond. Enjoy!
The Time We Tried to be Cultured
Professor Bailey came to class one day raving about a flamenco show he had seen the previous night. He offered to take us if we were interested in going — his treat (one of the many perks of the W&L community and Spring Term abroad). We agreed to meet at the Center at 8:15 that evening to walk to the theater together. I will preface the remainder of the story with this: Erin and I were out shopping, so we didn’t receive Professor Bailey’s email about the meeting time changing to 8:00 p.m. (so we could walk over to the theater at 8:15 p.m. sharp). The show started at 9:00 p.m. We were the last to arrive at the Center, maybe two minutes behind the original schedule. And together we began one of the longest walks I’ve probably done during my two weeks in Seville. Initially, it began as a normal Spanish walk — chatting and walking at an upbeat pace. 8:35 p.m. We decided to walk along the river since the weather was so nice. 8:45 p.m. Those of us at the back of the pack slowly drifted farther and farther away from our professor and the rest of the group, who walked at the pace of a Spaniard, times ten. By the time we arrived at the bridge to cross the river (8:55 p.m.), I completely lost sight of Professor Bailey and a few other students as they took off running toward the theater. The rest of us jogged across the bridge with no sense of where we were going to catch up to the others. It was probably about 9:05 p.m. when we finally arrived at the theater, most of us dripping sweat in the dresses, skirts and polos we had worn for the occasion (except for Matt and his Chubbies, because Chubbies are a lifestyle, I guess). We even arrived with enough time for a restroom break before the show began, and ultimately, I think the show put on by the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía was well worth the exercise.
Córdoba and Toledo
After our morning classes during the week, we often take short visits around Seville with our Art History professor, Conso. We’ve seen the Real Alcazar, the Catedral, barrio Santa Cruz and have explored various parts of Seville through these visits. Weekends are typically reserved for free time and longer overnight trips to places like Córdoba and Toledo. I think many of us enjoy these longer trips because they give us an opportunity to explore more of what Andalucía has to offer. We just got back Saturday from a two-night stay in Toledo, a city that I absolutely fell in love with. Additionally, Professor Bailey *reluctantly* cancelled class today so we could spend the rest of our weekend in Cádiz (another perk of Spring Term abroad)! If you need us, we’ll be laying on a beach somewhere…
Our Favorite Songs
Though Seville is a fairly large city, it is also an extremely walkable one. Everybody walks here (at least right now while the weather is still tolerable). Many of us live approximately a 30-minute walk away from the Center. Initially, it was hard to adjust to all the walking from my apartment in Triana on one side of the Guadalquivir River, to the Center on the other side. Many of us are pro-walkers now (sign us up for Olympic Race Walking—Brazil 2016, here we come!) and we rock out on our way to class each morning. Want to be like us? Here are some of our favorite jams:
“El Taxi” by Osmani Garcia (feat. Pitbull, Sensato)
“Stinker Muffin” by Vertigo Jazz Project|
“Take Five” by David Brubeck
“Overload” by Life of Dillon
“Que Viva la Vida” by Wisin (feat. Michel Teló)
Buenas from Seville, Spain! Now that we’re all settled into our homestays, here are a few snapshots of our first few days in Sevilla.
The Lone Ranger (a.k.a. The Lone Senior)
It’s not common for seniors at W&L to take classes their last spring term, let alone ones that travel abroad. @wlulex makes their “Senior Bucket List” for this one moment: senior year spring term. But I know a few students who have taken that last opportunity at W&L to experience a completely different culture, a completely different life. I am one of those students.
Initially, I didn’t plan on being in Seville the spring term of my senior year. I knew I would need to take a class to finish my double majors and minor, but I always imagined the class would be on U.S. soil. By the end of fall, I realized I had no choice but to sign up for the Seville trip. Though it came about rather unexpectedly, I’m so grateful to return to a country I fell in love with five years ago. As many of my professors said when I came to them for advice, there really is no better way to finish up my Spanish major at W&L than with a trip to Spain.
Friends and family of mine who have visited Spain always say that Seville is their favorite city. Tourists who visit Seville fall in love with the city, and often, they won’t stop talking about it. Sevilla this, tapas that. Maybe the obsession comes from the pueblo feel of Seville, even though the city is one of Spain’s largest.
But for me, and probably many of my peers, what really makes Seville unique is one thing: the accent. Right now I would say the entire Spanish 312 class understands about 80 percent of what our family members say to us. The other 20 percent is some sort of Spanish mush. The look on our faces probably says it all: “I have no idea what you are saying to me, so I’m just going to look at you blankly, nod, and smile. You can never go wrong with that, right?” But we’re an optimistic group, and I’m hopeful things will improve over the course of the next three weeks. Be sure to check back on May 11th for a progress report!
In our first class at the Spanish Studies Abroad (SSA) Center for Cross-Cultural Study (CC-CS, a.k.a. the center), we were asked to sign the “Spanish-Only Language Policy.” We know a lot about pledges already, and this one is no different than the one that upholds the Honor System at W&L. The policy is one that can only be upheld through a collective effort by every group member. It complements and contributes to the progress of every student who makes an individual commitment to use only Spanish.
At times, the pact is ironic, because it’s in English. The contract is in English, the WiFi password is “spanishonly” (in English), and various miniscule details around the center are in English. But check my Facebook, check my What’sApp. Though the conversations may be in broken Spanish, there is 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time. When we walk from one place to another, we speak Spanish. When we’re in class, we speak Spanish. We’re always asking one another cómo se dice and stopping mid-sentence to think out-loud about a verb conjugation.
And apparently, we’re not too shabby, at least when we’re around the center. SSA held a small welcome party for our class (with tapas!) and other students at the center were allowed to mingle. One of the members of the Spanish 312 class overheard a conversation between two non-W&L students asking one another if we knew English, because we were only speaking Spanish at the party.
I don’t think I speak for myself when I say that experiencing Seville (at first) is hard. Our host families are wonderful, but the adjustment hasn’t been without its challenges. But the fun has only just begun. Stay tuned as the Spanish 312 class attempts flamenco dancing, ventures outside of our Starbucks coffee comfort zone, and travels to Córdoba, Madrid, and Toledo.
It’s sad to say my time in Argentina is coming to an end. This next week (5 days) is going to go by too quickly for me to process. As we’ve gone through the course I’ve thought we have focused more on the “film” than on the culture. But in this last week of classes, excursions and interacting with my host family, I have realized that there is no end to the culture I have experienced while in this country.
This Wednesday we had our last day trip. This time we went out to a ranch in the countryside to experience a cultural workshop full of horseback riding, cooking lessons, folk dancing and games. Even though we got off to a rough start on the ranch (several of my classmates either fell off, were rolled over by a horse, or hit in the face with branches), the experience was amazing. Not that I was feeling very homesick, but being able to just pet a horse reminded me so much of home. Seeing the Argentine country without buildings towering over me was refreshing. There was little sign of human presence out there except for one thing, the trash covering the river bed. This summer Argentina experienced major rain storms, and flooding trash has been carried downstream to the country. Seeing this otherwise untouched piece of land covered in trash was heartbreaking. This doesn’t just happen in Argentina, it happens all over the world, and it’s one thing that we have keep in mind when we think about throwing a gum wrapper on the ground. After we got back from the horse ride, all in one piece, we learned how to make Argentine Criollo empanadas. It was my dad’s birthday this week, so I am excited to get back to the States and make them for him. They seem easier than I originally thought, and I even got to help my host family make them that same night. We then learned a traditional folk dance, and let’s just say I am definitely better at the tango, which I still am not good at. We played bochas, which the Argentines say is a folk game, but I’m pretty sure the Italians brought it over as bocce with their initial immigration. After that full day of culture we were all pretty ready to go to bed or at least siesta, but we had a tango class. It was refreshing for me to actually understand the dance and be semi-decent at it.
Later in the week my family had their last asado with us, and I was both excited and sad at the same time. I knew the grill was going to be full of meat, but I was thoroughly surprised when there was no room left on the parilla to put more meat. Few vegetables in sight, I was ready to sit with the entire extended family and eat what Luly made us. You really haven’t eaten meat until you’ve had an asado and eaten meat right off the bone and off the grill. There was shouting and people everywhere. Even though there were many jokes and a lot of laughter, it was hard to imagine that this time next week I will probably be eating a steak with my real family back in New Jersey. After saying chau to some of the family members that I probably would not see next week, I realized how great it was to be in Argentina for the last month. I do wish I had more time, but I am so thankful for the opportunity Washington and Lee has provided me.
To end the week, two of my classmates and I traveled to our families’ cabin in a small town near Carlos Paz. We went to the river to pescar and nadar. I wish I had brought my bathing suit, because after the initial cold shock accompanied by the spring-fed river, the water felt amazing. The views from the river were breathtaking, and we got to have a nice sit-down conversation with our host family about their history. Luly walked with us along the river and sat with us at a breathtaking swimming hole. This river held so much history for the family. None of the stones were new to him, the river and waterfalls held stories and were in the process of making new ones. We saw the place where he and his wife, Dora, shared their first kiss and where their children would play every summer. Not only were they sharing this beautiful place with us, but they were sharing personal stories.
I will miss Argentina. I will miss the people. I will miss the food. I will miss my classmates. I will miss the view of the sunrise I get from my bedroom, but most of all I will miss the culture. Argentines are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. I will miss my host family, nuclear and extended. Their stories and their accommodation are what made this trip truly fulfilling. Saying goodbye will be hard, but what will be harder to comprehend is that my time in Argentina is over. For now. Chau and besos Argentina, and thank you for all you’ve given me.
This week was full of class, travel, and more culture than I ever thought could be packed into a week of classes. Even though I came into this class knowing a decent amount about the history of Argentina, the activities were extremely enlightening, highlighting the cultural aspects behind the historical facts that I already knew. This week our class traveled to the clandestine torture prison, La Perla, just outside of Córdoba, and then traveled to Buenos Aires for a long weekend. Both of these trips were amazing and I know will be unforgettable.
It is well known that during La Guerra Sucia and the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983, the Argentine government detained thousands of people deemed as “subversios” to the state. During their time of arrest the subversios were imprisoned in many clandestine torture centers around the country. The subversivos included college students and anyone who was thought to be against the military dictatorships, including pregnant women. In addition to detaining these people, the government made anywhere from 9,000 to 30,000 of them seemingly disappear. Up until this day, bodies of los desaparecidos are being found in places like La Perla.
This somber visit was a profound experience which I don’t think any member of our class will forget. A visit to La Perla starts with a drive through a barren, brown landscape into a campus of brick buildings with a watch tower atop the largest one. In an opening lecture we were taken through the timeline of the torture center before and after the military dictatorship. One of the most heart-wrenching moments came after the lecture in an unexpected part of our visit. As we explored the campus we met a woman whose brother was detained in La Perla and became a desaparecido. Now a resident of Australia, she came with other family members to remember her brother. Her stories and tears were amazing to hear, and it showed our class the deeper effects of what happened during La Guerra Sucia. So many people around the world are faced with the fact that their relatives will never be seen alive again, and their bodies will probably never be found. Let’s just say that the stories told at La Perla will always hold a special place in my heart.
Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina and the center of government and protest in the nation. Our first stop on the tour of the city was The Plaza de Mayo, made famous by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who march around the Plaza every Thursday to protest the 30,000 desaparecidos and the loss of their grandchildren, who were given to other families to raise as their own. The plaza is traced with graffiti tags — not affiliated with individuals like we usually see in the U.S., but rather with political movements and figures. It is rare to see graffiti in Argentina that is simply a tag; for the most part there is a political statement behind it. As Mother’s Day was just yesterday, it was hard to think about the mothers and grandmothers that march there every Thursday, missing the thanks and praise from some or all of their children.
In addition to visiting the famous sites of the Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada, we spent time in museums and learning about the historical figures of Buenos Aires, like Eva Peron. Although a fairly controversial figure in Argentine politics and history, “Evita” won the hearts of many Argentines throughout her husband’s time in office until her death in 1952. As we walked through her former home, we learned about the forces the drove her political ideals, her experiences before she became famous, and the mourning the country went through in the days after her death. The anniversary of her birthday was just the day before we arrived in Buenos Aires. The museum was decorated in flowers from the people who still revere her. In addition, we visited her gravesite in what was one of the most gorgeous cemeteries I have ever seen. Her site and many others were adorned with flowers, and the mausoleums had altars dedicated to the dead in the family. The labyrinth-like cemetery didn’t have the eerie characteristics I would usually associate with a cemetery, but rather beauty and grandeur that surrounded the mausoleums of hundreds of families.
Although the likes of Eva Peron and the Dirty War are controversial throughout Argentine history, it is impossible to say that both haven’t become a distinct part of what makes Argentina, Argentina. Before leaving for Córdoba my mom made me watch the movie “Evita” with her. One of the first movies we watched for class here was “La Historia Oficial,” about the cries of The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. In addition to what I am learning in a more formal sense, I am also learning that it is impossible to ignore history. History cannot be erased, and rather than erase it, it is important to learn from it. I know this week seemed a little depre, but these are important things that have shaped my time on this trip. Hopefully next Sunday I’ll have something a little more feliz to share!
After a full day of airports and planes, I was finally in Córdoba, Argentina. As soon as I got out of customs, I was met by not just the welcoming faces of my host mom and dad, but also their daughter and their parents. Within five seconds of getting into the family van with two other students in my class who are living with the parents, we were told that this first week was going to be one of the longest, but also most fun of our lives. My host mom, Coty, had told me that we were going to have a ton of family parties this week, and boy did I underestimate her. Not only did I have to start thinking and doing daily tasks while speaking another language, but we also had to interact with native Spanish speakers and sound somewhat coherent while doing so. If this week could be summed up in a couple of words it would be: “¿Cómo se dice..?” or “How do you say…?”
One of my classmates jokes that he wants to have steak for every meal while we’re here. Although a doctor wouldn’t recommend doing that, he wouldn’t have a hard time at all, considering the country’s leading exports include agricultural products like cows. After a late lunch and a siesta, my family and I walked two and a half blocks to my host dad’s parents’ house for my first asado, or barbeque. I am not kidding when I say that there was no extra space on the panilla (outdoor grill) for vegetables because there was a mixture of steaks, ribs, and sausages covering it. Being in this family would be difficult as a vegetarian, but it would also be difficult as an introvert. When you’re surrounded by multiple families, with multiple children, it could be easy to fall under the shadows of their big personalities; the only way to make yourself part of the family is to be willing to try new things and meet new people.
Professor Pinto-Bailey was not kidding when she told us to bring comfortable sneakers on this trip. Everyone walks everywhere. We walk everywhere, including our two-and-a-half hour walking tour of the city. The architecture in Córdoba is a mixture of Modern, Jesuit, Gothic and Colonial styles. Everything is gorgeous, but in my opinion, the cathedral, formally named La Parroquia Sagrado Corazón de Jesús or more well known as Los Capuchinos, is the most beautiful. The cathedral was built in 1934, and its Neogothic architecture is surrounded by the modern buildings in the rest of Paseo del Buen Pastor. But the best part of this church is what seems to be a missing tower on the left side of the building. We learned from our tour guide that it was actually an architectural wonder, and the first artificial wonder in Córdoba.
Argentines run on a completely different schedule than Americans. Although classes still start at nine in the morning, many Argentines in Córdoba need to start their day two hours earlier just to traverse the colectivo, or bus system. Two classmates and I have a forty minute bus ride and fifteen minutes of walking before making it to class. But first we have to get on the right bus. On the second day of classes, my classmates and I didn’t realize we had gotten on the wrong bus, but in reality it was one of the best experiences and tests of our Spanish-speaking skills so far. We ended up at the end of the bus line and an hour late to class after we spoke with several drivers at the terminal about how we should get back to the city center. After our multiple hours of public buses, we were starving, but our next meal wasn’t until the 1 o’clock lunch. After this we have a merienda, or snack, around 5 o’clock, and then dinner somewhere between 9 and 11 o’clock. Let’s just say it has been an adjustment for our circadian rhythms. Over the next three weeks this schedule will certainly lead to long days, late nights and a ton of memories.