The Light No Darkness Can Overcome

If you asked me when I first announced what study abroad program I was applying to why I chose Sevilla and why the spring semester I would have told you

1. Sevilla seemed like the perfect size city with obviously great weather

2. Semana Santa

So needless to say (but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway), I’ve been anxiously waiting for Holy Week since January 12 when I arrived.

It did not disappoint.

Semana Santa in Sevilla consists of an incredibly unbelievable influx of tourists.

But really while that’s true, it is a spectacle unlike anything I’ve seen before.

{Quick shout-out to Alejandro for being my personal Semana Santa guide/source of information and explaining all of the following to me}.

Sevilla has hermandades/confradías (religious brotherhoods) that each send out a paso during the week. The literal translation of “paso” is “float,” however, while each paso does have an elaborate float, it encompasses an entire procession. These processions go from their church of origin (where the paso is kept when not being used during Semana Santa) to the cathedral and then back to the church of origin. Depending on the starting location, each paso can take anywhere from 6-14 hours round-trip.

Pasos consist of nazarenos and casteleros along with the float. Sometimes, but not always, there are also kids accompanying the paso and passing out candy (about as close to the American Easter tradition as Spain gets) and sometimes a band.

“Los Nazarenos” (Nazarenes) wear the full-coverage pointy hats (that yes, look like the KKK and yes, I am a million times over tired of having to explain to ignorant people that no, they are not affiliated with the KKK and have been around quite a few centuries longer). Los nazarenos carry candles and are completely silent, as they are not allowed to interact with any crowd members. Depending on the hermandad, they sometimes can be seen carrying crosses as well. (sometimes these crosses would be carried

The casteleros are the ones who hold up the paso itself. They walk under the paso and hold it up by beams. They wear adapted turban-like headdresses to protect their heads. The pasos stop every so often for turns, which are tricky to navigate as the casteleros cannot see anything under the paso, and also to give them a rest as 14 hours of walking and carrying a paso takes its toll. They are allowed to be seen and thus I saw many men over those few days walking around or drinking a beer in a group while wearing their adapted turbans still.

Being a a part of a paso during Semana Santa is considered performing a penance, along the lines of confession. Thus, it is highly uncouth to clap at any point during a procession. We witnessed groups of tourists doing so when a paso would stop then begin again (for example) and as Alejandro told me, it’s one of the surest ways for people to know that you have not bothered to do your research on Semana Santa customs.

The Pasos themselves are either of a virgin and elaborately decorated or of a Holy Week “scene.” For example, La Hemandad de Santa Marta depicts Jesus being taken down from the cross. (no pictures as sadly that paso was before I arrived back in Sevilla).

As you’ll see in these pictures, these floats are gorgeous. We were blessed with amazing weather (mid-80s absolute no rain) all week. Margarita told me that when it has rained in past years, she’s seen people crying because the pasos do not go out if it’s raining (after a year of planning both practically and spiritually, it’s easy to see why it would be so upsetting if your paso did not depart because of weather).

My Holy Week experience started on Maundy Thursday (called Holy Thursday in Spanish). This is actually the biggest day of the week for Sevillanos because of the large number of pasos that go out and la Madrugada, which is the most famous paso of Semana Santa and occurs just after midnight on Holy Thursday/Good Friday. I saw part of that paso in addition to a few others that afternoon/night. While out and about with friends on Good Friday, we ran into a few more.

I do not remember which of these pasos is which to be completely honest.

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Los nazarenos

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Pasos can be made of more than just nazarenos etc. Kids often take part as well.

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This Good Friday paso was easily the prettiest of the many I saw (or at least was able to get good pictures of)

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As you can see, the nazarenos look differently for each hermandad

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It was a completely surreal experience to see the pasos and be a part of the Semana Santa atmosphere. It’s so completely different from the often ambivalent attitude towards Easter at home. Even the non-religious or barely-religious in Sevilla get dressed to the nines and see the pasos most years.

I also was completely blessed to be able to attend Easter Vigil at the Catedral on Saturday night. I LOVE Easter Vigil services and rarely get to go to them at home. So I had decided while in Austria that I wanted to find one in Sevilla for my Easter worship rather than a Sunday morning service. The Catedral happened to have one and I’m beyond glad I went.

Before and after midnight. He is risen.

Before and after midnight. He is risen.

Sorry for the huge text post. But I find this fascinating and obviously this week was a major part of my decision to study in Sevilla, so I felt it deserved the time :)

It Leaves You Speechless

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5 days. 2 cities. 1 girl.

My Semana Santa trip to Austria was amazing, in a word. Incredible, for another. Inspiring, for a third.

I could’ve seen three times as many things as I did and gone many more places but I’m glad I didn’t because

1. This was my vacation. I needed time to not only sightsee but relax and recharge. So you better believe I took a longer-than-usual siesta Spanish-style every day but one.

2. I can look back and say that my visit consisted of quality not quantity.

What I did I enjoyed to the fullest and will hold those memories dear forever.

Memories like attending a stunning Vivaldi concert at Karlskirche.

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Memories like visiting the Austrian National Library, because libraries will always be some of my favourite places on this planet.

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Memories like going to the Staatsoper (The Vienna State Opera) not once but twice to see a ballet (First, a modern. Second, Swan Lake for the first time).

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Memories like taking a trip to Salzburg and getting to see heaven along the way

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But also being a tourist of epic proportions and going on a Sound of Music Tour

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The Do-Re-Mi fountain

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The Gazebo

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Where Julie Andrews sang the titular song at the start of the film

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And then I explored Salzburg, which is a beautiful city even apart from the movie :)

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I also ate a lot of pastry. Ok fine. Mostly pastry.

I also visited a real life palace {Schonbrunn} where the Hapsburgs (lookin’ at you Carlos I of Spain/Emperor Charles V!) and Napoleon lived.

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I also wandered. A lot. Which is one of my favourite things to do in a city.

 

I have so, so many pictures. And I’m sure they’ll pop up here and there throughout the blog (#tbt and #fbf don’t exist in a vacuum!). But for now, I’ll leave you with these. It truly was one of the best vacations of my life and one of the best decisions of my life to go, even alone. (Blog post on THAT aspect coming later).

Good night <3

 

Cádiz

Sevilla Squad spent the day in this sunny, gorgeous beach town. Unlike the castles, I literally remember nothing our guide said all day. Because why remember history when you spend half a day at the beach. So here’s just some pictures.

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hey Atlantic Ocean! Long time no see

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More pastry with “angel hair” filling

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This is the building that “la Casa Rosada” (the president’s house in Argentina) is based on aka cue “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”

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The main cathedral in Cádiz

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Castle Tour (AKA I’m So Behind on Blogging)

Ok so sorry for the extended absence. Much has happened and been going on and as I’m getting ready to leave for five days to Austria for vacation with Semana Santa right on its heels (Vienna and Salzburg! AKA Many more pictures and blog posts to come!), I need to get caught up.

So. A few weeks ago now, Karishma and I (the terrible duo per usual) went on a tour of two towns near Sevilla to see the castles and experience small town life for a day. Alcala and Utrera were both super pretty and full of cool old stuff and I will apologise right now but as this was several weeks ago and I took next to no notes, I have very little information about the following pictures in my brain. Just enjoy!

This is called el Puente del Dragón also known as the guardian of Alcála. It was the first decorated bridge in Europe (i.e. one that wasn't just built for utilitarian purposes, but to also look nice)

This is called el Puente del Dragón also known as the guardian of Alcála. It was the first decorated bridge in Europe (i.e. one that wasn’t just built for utilitarian purposes, but to also look nice)

The Alcala castle from the bridge

The Alcala castle from the bridge

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You can still see the slits for the archers!

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Utrera is a city known for its sweets. We spent forever trying to decide on a treat.

This tasted like sugar and apples and angels. Funny because its filling is called "angel hair"

This tasted like sugar and apples and angels. Funny because its filling is called “angel hair”

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Right beyond those trees is Sevilla <3

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These last two views are gorgeous but I have 0 memory of which belongs to which town.

Friday the Thirteenth

In suitable Friday the Thirteenth fashion, I spent most of the day lounging about: reading, listening to music, watching Jimmy Fallon videos (because what can go wrong on a day known for bad luck when you’re watching Jimmy Fallon videos?)

But even though this is a day known for its auspiciousness, today, I can’t help but feel an inordinate amount of happiness and peace right now.

Yesterday marked two months since I first arrived in Spain.

So much has happened since I’ve arrived, both planned and unplanned, but all filling life with excitement and joy and an ever-increasing sense of adventure.

Instead of being homesick fairly constantly like I was when I arrived, now it comes in fits and starts. When my younger brother celebrates his birthday, when my friends launch a wildly successful fundraiser, when there’s a major event on campus etc. Things like finding peanut butter and 3-hour skype dates with my best friend do help though. (Hey Cali, you’re mentioned on a blog, you’re famous!)

Then it goes away because I’m trying desperately to not let the small things I miss about home impact the ever-disappearing moments I have here.

Every day I try not to take my experiences here for granted. Time has absolutely flown by (I just bought my tickets for spring break round #1 what). I’m trying to breathe and capture every moment. Two months. TWO. 1/3 of the time I’ll be here has already passed. I think back to how awkward and slightly terrified and overwhelmed we all were during orientation week and how confident we are now in this city we call home. 

We have our favourite montaditos picked out at 100 Montaditos (Spanish version of fast food a la McDonalds but predictably a million times better. Whoever opens one in Indy will be my new best friend forever and I will keep them in business forever). I now know which direction to take the metro automatically, depending on where I want to go, instead of having to stare at the chart first. My Spanish is improving to the point where someone was telling a long complicated story and I understood everything but the Spaniard next to me had to have me explain it to him. I survived my first test (40% of my final grade hello stress). I spent an hour with a six-year-old while volunteering this week, arguing with him about why his elephant was pink (it was a girl. duh) and helping him spell animal words in English.

Basically, it’s becoming more and more like home. It’s comfortable to be here now. When I leave my apartment to walk back and forth from class every day or to get coffee or to meet friends to go out at night etc., I feel less like a tourist and stranger.

But enough sappy-ness (I don’t know how to spell that soooo that’s how it’s going to be ok? ok).

And now here’s a Jimmy Fallon video that I cannot stop watching and always laugh until I cry while I watch it.