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.

Sevilla Life Updates

This is going to be so exciting you guys.

So as I rarely post anything travel-related or Margarita-related on facebook, I thought I’d take a minute to give an update on how normal life is going here.

University classes started about a month ago now. Since we’re super special and thus in the “Advanced Liberal Arts” program (HAHA no we just like torturing ourselves with more works in exchange for perks), we have to get to take direct enrollment courses at the Universidad de Sevilla/EUSA (the private school here).

So because I’m crazy, I’m taking one class through CIEE, two at US, and one at EUSA.

This=lots of walking=losing weight=haha not really because Margarita is an excellent cook.

But I digress.

My classes were chosen mostly to try to knock this Spanish major out of the way once and for all and I will not bore you with the sorrowfully tragic and frustrating tale of what it took to get permission to transfer these credits back to IUPUI.

I like 3 of my 4 classes so I feel like it could definitely be worse. Plus, it’s a gorgeous building, which helps (more pictures coming eventually. Probably during Semana Santa when it clears out and I can be a shameful tourist without judgment).

1. Comparative Syntax. This is quickly fighting for position as my favourite class. This is my CIEE class so I’m with all other Americans. Our professor is hilarious and has a pronounced British accent when he uses English. I’m learning so much about the mechanics of the English language in addition to Spanish and learning so many fun Spanish words and phrases and the rules for how to put sentences together (I’m a rules person. Thus it has been 10+ years of frustration constantly being told by professors, “I don’t know why they do it like that, they just do.” Well. Now I’m finally getting answers and it’s glorious).

2. History of Modern Europe (US). This class can go die in a hole. I chose it (even after going to one test class and hating it) because the professor has given 99% “9s” (Spanish equivalent of As) to CIEE students who have taken the class in past semesters and I will take just about anything for an almost-guaranteed A. Mistake. Huge mistake. So now I’m suffering and shall soon begin tutoring so that I don’t completely fail and screw up the CIEE average grade list. For reference, once we had a lecture on infant mortality rates in medieval Europe for the entire hour class period. No joke.

3. History of Propaganda (EUSA). While I do not appreciate the sprint to get from modern europe to this campus on time twice a week, I do love this class. This is my completely “for fun” class (E.g. I’m pretty sure that I will get no credit for taking this for either of my majors or minor). Our professor is amazing, the subject is fascinating, and we watch a lot of youtube videos. What’s not to love?

4. History of Modern Spain (US). Favorite. Class. Ever. Most of you know of Dr. Robbins at IUPUI through my long and harrowing tales from history class with him the last three semesters (four if you count summer session). You also know that Dr. Robbins is my all-time favourite professor who has given me priceless life advice, historical information, new music options, travel recommendations, letters of recommendation etc etc etc. The professor for this class in Spain is basically a Spanish version of Robbins and I could not be more thrilled. Huge history nerd so this class also fascinates me as all these things I’ve only ever learned about from an American or South American perspective (e.g. Columbus or the Inquisition), are being brought to life and given new contexts and interpretations and opinions by someone who has that history as their cultural heritage. Love it.

Because this post is getting text-heavy, here's a picture of Robbins syllabus (bottom row). Keep in mind this is without the 5-page list of classroom rules.

Because this post is getting text-heavy, here’s a picture of Robbins syllabus (bottom row). Keep in mind this is without the 5-page list of classroom rules.

One of the coolest things about the university system here is that most classes are solely exam-based. That is, at the US, I could skip class every single day and as long as I passed my final exam, I’d pass the class (obviously a difficult feat, but a possible one). Even at EUSA, where we have a group project and mandatory attendance, our two exams count for 60% of our grade.

This also means that this is one of the most terrifying things about the university system. I rely on my automatic 10% participation/attendance/teacher’s pet points at IUPUI quite heavily for some classes so without my security blanket, I’m a little lost here. However, I’m starting to adapt and getting ever better at taking notes during lectures. (Professors here don’t use PowerPoints. almost ever. You never know what you have till it’s gone).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’ve found my favourite pasteleria (so far. It may change) and discovered that their butter-based croissants and mini apple napoleons are the reason to live. I also had churros con chocolate for the first time this last week and discovered that those, too, are the reason to live.

I still haven’t done much tourist-ing in Sevilla itself. I finally made it to Las Setas (see the blog post from a while back) and we popped into the Cathedral for a few minutes, but I haven’t gone on a deliberate visit yet. I haven’t even wandered through the historic Triana neighborhood (the one right next to mine, Los Remedios) yet.

I will soon, however, as I’m excited to announce that on Monday I will start volunteering with ALEF (located in Triana). ALEF is an after-school program for at-risk kids in Sevilla (think: South American immigrant children, children of single parents, children of parents who are out of work, etc.). I’ll be there two hours a week to help serve an evening snack/meal (often the last meal of the day these kids get according to CIEE’s ALA asst. director Cristina) and help the kids with their English homework. I love kids and have missed babysitting and such so I’m excited for the chance to give back to the Sevilla community and get my “kid fix” (as my mom creepily called it).

I’m hoping to finalise my Semana Santa and Feria travel plans soon so stay tuned for updates :)

La Mezquita

I texted my mom as soon as I got back in the Land of WiFi to tell her that we were definitely going back when she comes to visit this summer.

La Mezquita is truly indescribable.

But because I’m a journalist and stubborn, I never say never so I’m going to try.

La Mezquita is the product of a few thousand years of construction and re-construction by architects of multiple religions and the representative of religious coexistence.

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For those of you who aren’t quite up-to-date on Islamic traditions, mosques are usually (read: 99.999% of the time) built to face Mecca. However, every single Andalucian mosque is built facing due south (read: not towards Mecca). Our guide said that no one has any firm idea why, but some historians think it’s in honour of the African origins of the Moors who conquered so much of Spain and introduced Islam in the country.

The Mezquita is actually several layers of religious sites:

First, a Roman temple (note: I know our guide said this and I have it written several times in the notes on my phone, but nowhere on the internet can I confirm this so do with this little tidbit what you will).

Second, a Christian Basilica (la Basilica de San Vicente) was built. Soon after, a mosque was built on the same site and the two religious buildings shared the space until a Muslim ruler tore it down to create the finished mosque that exists today.

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Glass panels were put into small portions of the floor so that visitors can see parts of the original basilica that still exist.

 

The mosque was built using Roman materials. So the columns you see in these pictures are made from Roman marble (The marble you see is original and has never had to be replaced). The red and white of the arches is brick and stone respectively. Just like in Alcazar, the Mezquita represents an Arabic fascination with nature. The 800 columns are rightly called a “forest.”

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Not as pretty a picture (hello people) but this might give you some perspective on just how high these ceilings and columns are.

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Carlos V gave permission to the Bishop in Córdoba to build a Cathedral on the same site as the mosque, however, both agreed that it was important to preserve what was already built. That quickly went out the window as construction started and some smart architect said, “Hm, yes, I think the perfect place for this cathedral is right in the middle of the mosque. No other place will do.” He started building, and by the time Carlos V found out, it was too late to stop construction. (This is another story our guide told us that I cannot verify. But I like it so here it shall stay).10417642_880128185377785_7597488093399991412_n 11034170_880132182044052_1185492396280226742_n 10923273_880131022044168_8357813395083997743_n

So that kind of sucks for the builders of the Mosque, but it’s great for us history nerds because it created a rich history of the site and a gorgeous sight. Here are some pictures where the Christian and the Muslim worlds meld together in the Mezquita.

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The design of this arch is called “arco de lóbulos” in Spanish. Literally, “Arch of Earlobes.”

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mezquita and catedral

If you ever find yourself in Spain, make. time. to. go. to. Córdoba. The End.