Halloween

Everyone got ready for school this morning and we had lots of laughs before we even left the house. Marco, Julia, and I waited for the bus for several minutes. When it finally pulled to a stop in front of the curb, I took my usual seat at the back for the last time and rode to school.

Julia, Marco, and me. I don't know what's wrong with my mouth.

Julia, Marco, and me. I don’t know what’s wrong with my mouth.

My first class was in the library. I found David sitting a few rows ahead of me, but Nick wasn’t there. He told us a few days earlier that he would have to leave this afternoon to go to Madrid for his flight home. I assumed he stayed home to pack. I will leave in less than two days and I haven’t started packing myself.

We moved to our grammar class where the teacher had us each write a goodbye letter to her. She requested that we decorate it and “make it very pretty,” because she wanted to put it on her wall. A section of the wall at the front of the classroom was adorned with many small works by past and current students. I commissioned my friend Fran to help me write the letter, and he offered to make a paper rose. After translating my thoughts to Spanish and adding various designs with my pen, I taped Fran’s rose to the paper and waited until the end of class. I walked to the front of the room with David and we gave the teacher our creations. She thanked us, told us that she would miss us, wished us well for the future, and sent us away with hugs.

I walked to French with María and took a seat. The French teacher had assigned everyone new seats since the last class, which caused a little confusion at first. Once we all settled, the teacher split the class into groups to work on an assignment. I don’t know what we were supposed to be doing, but I know we didn’t do it. I spent most of the time talking to the people in my group and listening to them say that they didn’t want me to leave. My goodbye to the French teacher was only a mutual wave, much less dramatic than that I shared with the previous teacher, because even after about nine weeks of school, I still don’t know her name. And I doubt she knows mine.

I ran into Laura, Sofía, and a few others and hung out with them during the break. It passed quickly. I made my way to the computer lab with David. We were scheduled for another hour with Quaestio, which we both found to be completely and totally boring. We ignored our instructions and just talked to pass the time. We were walking to our next class when I saw Nick a distance away. He was especially easy to spot today, because he wore a white T-shirt and palm tree-patterned shorts. He said that Inma had brought him to say farewell to his friends. He would only be there for a few hours before they left for Madrid. We all went to Chemistry.

I didn’t have a single free minute after lunch. Members of my grade and students who I didn’t think I had even talked to before swarmed around me to say goodbye. I broke the school’s no cellphone rule and took several final pictures with friends.

Me, Andréa, Nadine, and Marta.

Me, Andréa, Nadine, and Marta.

Nick, Bea, Marta, and me.

Nick, Bea, Marta, and me.

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Sara and me.

Sara and me.

Me and Luna.

Me and Luna.

Me, Luna, and Paula.

Me, Luna, and Paula.

Once we made it home, Julia, Marco, and I had a merienda. I went to Marco’s room to begin packing, but made very little headway. As jetlag was still weighing on Marco, he went to Julia’s room and slept. I blogged some and messed around for several hours. At 10:00 pm, Marco woke up, and we got ready to go to Marc’s house. He was throwing a Halloween party, and lots of people from school where going. Giovanna dropped us off at the colorful house a little after 11:00 o’clock. We all hung out for a long time until most of the guests left. We remaining few finally went to bed during the early morning hours.

Me, Sofía, and Laura.

Me, Sofía, and Laura.

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I don't know where I am in this picture.

I don’t know where I am in this picture.

Me, Quique, somebody, and María.

Me, Quique, Valdés, and María

 

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Playing Hooky

I woke up this morning at 8:00 am, and went back to sleep, because I thought it was too early. On any other Thursday, this time would have been too late, and I would have nearly broken my neck trying to leave the house in time to catch the bus. Luckily today was different. The Spanish exchange students, the other Americans, and I had been planning to stay home from school, as today was the only time we would all be able to see each other before we Americans started to go back to the States, and because the Spanish students needed to get together to do homework that they didn’t complete while in America. (I had to explain the phrase “playing hooky” to the Spanish students later tonight after I said it and confused everyone.) David and I are scheduled to leave on Sunday, but Nick will be traveling to Madrid early tomorrow afternoon to make his Saturday morning flight. We were required to have Carlos’s consent to skip, and he thought it was a good idea when we told him about it. (However, we had discussed overruling his decision, had he disapproved.) I awoke again at 10:30 am, a much more appropriate time to start the day.

I made myself a little more attractive by ditching the bed head and pajama’s and went to the kitchen for breakfast. Marco joined me under the gazebo a moment later to eat. We finished our food and cleaned up before going back to his room. Before I knew it, he was asleep again. He definitely entertained a visit from jetlag while traveling back to Spain. I carried my laptop downstairs and wrote for a long time. Giovanna called to say that her singing class in the city had ended and she was going to stop for tapas before coming home. It was nearly 2:30 pm, so I woke up Marco. Everyone was planning to come over in about half an hour.

Andrés and Nick arrived first. We went to Marco’s room to hang out and talked a little about what Andrés and Marco had experienced together at Nick’s and my school in Alabama. Their stories made us laugh. Giovanna said hello to us all when she got back, and Nonna made a pasta lunch for Marco and me. We ate under the gazebo again while listening to Nick and Andrés talk. María and David appeared around 6:00 pm. After we had all met each other again for a few minutes, Nick, David, and I went outside to let the others work on homework. When it became darker and colder, we went upstairs. We had all planned to take the bus into Seville after Marco, María, and Andrés finished working, but they soon realized that they had more to do than expected, so we stayed at the house.

Later, Nonna prepared dinner for everyone. She, Giovanna, Julia, Marco, María, Andrés, Nick, David, and I crowded around the blue table in the kitchen. We ate spaghetti with an Italian cheese sauce and an orange cake for dessert. I lingered at the table with David and Nick after our friends continued their studies in the den. We explained some perplexing aspects of our school to Giovanna and Julia that had been brought up in conversation.

Giovanna left to see a concert with some friends, and the Spanish students had finally (almost) completed all of their work. We all hung out in the den talking and laughing for a few hours. I wish we had a little more time to get to know them, because I’m sure that we would have been really good friends, but I’m grateful for the two days that we have. María, David, Andrés, and Nick left at 11:30 pm, and I went to bed soon after.

María and me.

María and me.

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María, me, Nick, Marco, Julia, Giovanna, and David.

María, me, Nick, Marco, Julia, Giovanna, and David.

 

 

 

He’s Baaaack!

Several minutes passed at the bus stop. Julia and I looked for the bus. It was rather late and nowhere to be seen. All of a sudden, a black car pulled to the curb, and Julia told me to get in. The driver was the father of another student at our school who was in the front seat. Julia had explained to me when we saw him a few weeks ago that he picks her and Marco up for school as he passes by if the bus is ever late. I climbed in and buckled my seat belt.

I went to the adjunct elementary building to meet with Pedro one last time. Today’s Spanish conversation was about our overall experiences in Spain, which have all been positive. The time I’ve spent with him over the past several weeks has been very beneficial, and I told him so. He is probably one of the kindest, most caring people I’ve ever met. I’ll definitely miss him. The hour ended with hugs and best wishes for the future. I went to chemistry, then to Spanish grammar class. Both were uneventful.

I found my friends during the break. Laura enforced a temporary rule that prohibited me from speaking any English to them all day long. It was easy to do at first, but it became more and more difficult as the day went on. In hindsight, I should have had more days like this while I was at school, because it is really awesome Spanish practice. We usually use a mixture of Spanish and English, sometimes using both in a single sentence. I realized some of my weaknesses in the language and I now know what areas to focus on for improvement. We spoke about our plans for the weekend and about my last few days left in Spain.

Julia and I were both very excited during the ride home, because Marco had returned today. We walked into the house, and Julia immediately called for her brother. He was about to take a shower and came out of the bathroom in a towel to see his eager sibling. They hugged for a very long time, he greeted me, then we left him alone. When Marco was dressed again, he, Julia, and I hung out together, being absolutely crazy. We blared music and danced all over the house. Marco is hilarious, and I don’t foresee a single dull moment in the house for the rest of my stay. Giovanna commented on how quiet the house had been without him here, which was true. It surely isn’t quiet anymore.

Delia—who Marco ordered me to call Nonna from now on—cooked a very good Italian meal. She made a tasty lasagna and a delicious omelet filled with vegetables. When the food was gone, I talked to Marco for a long time about his experience living in America. He told me what he found strange about the country and his favorite and least favorite aspects of my school. I was very interested in everything he said. Later, I went upstairs and called it a night.

Grandma

I was very careful not to miss the bus today and went to the bus stop a few minutes earlier than usual, just to be safe. We had our next-to-last class with Pedro this morning. We spent the hour asking him random questions about his life and what he likes. After math was Quaestio, and we went to Carlos’s office like we normally do for that class. Ten minutes in to the period, Carlos received a phone call saying that the program works. I didn’t see a point in starting now, when we only have three more days of school here, but we went anyway. Nick, David and I walked to the computer lab doubting that we would actually be able to do anything. However, we were surprised to see that it was now functioning properly. I took a seat and logged on. I was required to answer Spanish grammar questions, but most were above everything I’ve been taught so far. I don’t think things went much better for David or Nick.

The first break passed too speedily as breaks always do, and I had to say goodbye to my friends until we could take again at lunch. After hours of chemistry and Spanish, we were there. Lunch must not have been that good, because I don’t remember what we had even though it has only been hours since the meal. I ended the day with my last P.E. class at this school. Several people stayed in the gym to play volleyball, but we mainly goofed off the entire time, not caring about playing an actual game.

When Julia and I were dropped off at the end of the street by the bus, she told me that her grandmother was coming today from Italy to visit. I had a snack, then went upstairs to take a shower. I heard Giovanna come back from the airport, and I went down a few minutes later after I had dressed and made myself presentable. I texted Julia to ask how to greet Italian people—like with two kisses, three kisses, or no kisses—but she thought I was being ridiculous and told me just to say hi. Her grandmother, Delia, is a short, sweet Italian woman with short, sleek blonde hair. She speaks only a little English and Spanish, but told me to use Spanish when talking to her.

We had a very yummy, funny dinner later. Delia prepared a large meal of bread, salad, potato purée, and grilled vegetables. I had half of a chirimoya for dessert. We all laughed a lot about a bunch of different things. When we were finished, I went to my room, watched some TV on my laptop, wrote for my blog, then went to bed.

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Friends

Well, it finally happened, and on my last week of school. Julia and I missed the bus. (But let’s be clear, it wasn’t my fault.) We were approaching the first crosswalk when we saw the bus slowing pulling away from us as if in slow motion. Julia called Ramón, and he picked us from the spot where our bus had been just a few minutes before. He helped Julia study for a history exam as he drove us. School was simply humdrum and passed slowly.

I rode the bus to the apartment alone after school. (I didn’t miss it this time.) I rapidly changed clothes and headed out. While walking around Seville this past weekend, I saw a sign on the door of the entrance to Plaza de Toros, the place in the city where the bullfights take place, that said there were free tours every Monday until 7:00 pm, so I was planning to go today. I arrived at the Plaza at almost 6:30 pm after nearly jogging to get there only to find that all of the free tours for the day where full. It was disappointing. I made a complete circle around the outside of the Plaza and saw parts of the interior through cracks in the big, wooden doors. From what I saw, it was really cool.

The exterior of Plaza de Toros.

The exterior of Plaza de Toros.

In the opposite direction, a beautiful fall sunset over the river.

In the opposite direction, a beautiful fall sunset over the river.

I decided to do more shopping while I was out. I really wish I hadn’t started looking for gifts and souvenirs until the last week and a half. I walked and walked and walked, visiting virtually every store. I’m sure that knowing exactly how far I had walked by the end of the night would have only made my feet ache more. It wasn’t for nothing, though, because I was able to cross many things off of my “To Buy” list, while picking up a few things for myself, of course. I saw a couple enter a church at one point and decided to enter myself. There were only a few people looking around, as there is no mass on Mondays (that I know of). I took a few pictures and left.

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I returned to the apartment at 9:00 pm, because Marco and I had planned to video chat at ten o’clock. We had been talking for weeks actually about sitting down for a conversation, but we had only shared mistimed messages until now. I cooked a frozen pizza and waited to for the Skype call. I heard the familiar tune on my laptop and said hello to Marco. We talked for several minutes. It was funny talking from each other’s bedrooms. After a while, Marco took his computer to the coffee house on campus, where a lot of my friends were hanging out, and I was able to talk to them for the first time since leaving America. I really enjoyed seeing them all, even if through a computer screen. As it turns out, I have a lot more to catch up on that I had originally thought. When Ramón came home, I was still on the call, and he met Marco’s new American friends. We talked for more than an hour before I said goodbye to go to bed.

Ancient Ruins

When I woke up at 9:30 am this morning, I felt that I had slept a long time, but the clock didn’t show it. I went to sleep rather late the night before. Julia woke up a little later. During a delicious breakfast of assorted pastries, she told me that the time had changed, giving us an extra hour. Why I hadn’t been tired when I woke now made sense. Julia and I got ready and went out.

We walked for about twenty minutes to Plaza de España. I had been wanting to go back for pictures since the first time I saw it, and today we did just that. I was again mesmerized by the size and grandeur of the Plaza and paused a moment to admire it all. Julia and I then started exploring. Although I had charged it for a long time before we left, my camera’s battery exhausted soon after we got there. Luckily my phone’s camera is good, allowing us to continue. There is a feature of the Plaza where each city in Spain has its own mosaic mural. Unfortunately, Seville’s was in a section that was blocked off for maintenance. Valeria was to meet us there, but we went to wait at a nearby cafe after she told us that she would be a little late.

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Plaza de España.

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I’m just really happy to be here.

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Julia and I ordered montaditos and San Jacobo, a fried dish of a slice of cheese between two pieces of cooked ham. We ate slowly to pass the time. We were entertained by a small boy running around wildly and not listening to a thing his mother told him. Julia and I agreed that he will be difficult to deal with when he is older. Valeria finally showed up—an hour and a half late. By this point, we needed to go back to the apartment, so we all piled into Valeria’s mom’s large Audi SUV, and she took us there.

 

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Me and Valeria.

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Just a few minutes after we had been inside, Julia and I were going out again, this time with Valeria and Ramón. The four of us walked to a tiny bar around the corner from the apartment for lunch. We sat at a shades table and looked at the tapas menu. Tapas are small servings of a dish. It is very popular in Spain to order lots of tapas for everyone to share, allowing you to try many more items from the menus. We got several different things, my favorite of which being slices of fried eggplant with honey. When I tired it, I knew for some reason that my mom would have loved it too.

After lunch, Ramón and I said goodbye to the girls and went to see some new things. We got into the car and drove through the research park and becoming university area in the western part of the city. We headed north and stopped less than ten minutes later in a pretty barren area. I could see Seville in the distance when I stepped out of the car. There was a small gas station and a restaurant on opposite sides of the road. Ramón and I walked to an entrance gate of what a sign said was Las Ruinas Itálicas, or the Ruins of Itálica.

The woman at the gate told us to tour quickly, because the Ruins were only open for ten more minutes. We walked straight ahead and saw the beginnings of the ruins of an ancient arena. We passed under a stone archway and into the main area of the arena. At two thousand years old, I’d say it has aged quite well. Besides a few walls and stone stairs that have crumbled, everything was intact and in good condition. It looked like something from a set of “Game of Thrones,” and I loved it. There was a large whole in the base of the arena that had once been covered by thick, wooden flooring. The columns that had held the wood still remained. The area below was where people, animals, and other things were kept for shows. Ramón told me that the extravagance of the shows determined the power and popularity of the king of Itálica at the time. Show themes included man-versus-man battles, man-versus-beast battles, and even naval battles. A security guard told us they were closing, so we found our way out.

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Las Ruinas Itálicas

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Next, we went to a town about forty-five minutes away. I dozed off as Ramón drove. When I woke up, we were entering the small, Andalusian town of Utrera. It was very cute and very Spanish. All buildings and homes were a shade of white, cream, mustard, or a tan-orange color. After parking, we saw a church in the distance, walked to it, and found that it would open in half an hour. Ramón and I sat at a table of a cafe and each ordered café con leche. Our coffees came and were extremely hot. We had both been eyeing a pastry shop across the street since we sat down. The line was long, so we knew the food was good. I ventured over for treats while our drinks cooled. I bought a couple of sweets to the table, and we ate them with our coffee.

Later, we walked around an old Jewish ghetto. Ramón taught me to recognize a Jewish ghetto by the pavement style: rectangular bricks laid in a chevron pattern. We walked back to the Basque-style church, which was now open, and toured a little. Ramón and I were the only people inside. I took several pictures of the holy place, then went back to the car to leave. Back home, I had a small dinner and went to bed after midnight. I realized that today marks my last week in Spain. Not much more to go.

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The church.

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Rivalry

After a very late breakfast, I went into the city to do some souvenir shopping. With about a week left in Spain, time has really snuck up on me. Ramón had told me earlier that he would take me to do something very Spanish today, so I spent less than two hours in the streets. Having returned to the apartment, we had lunch around 3:00 pm, and Julia took the bus to a friend’s house shortly after. I stayed in to videochat with Mom. Ramón woke from a siesta at 5:30 pm, and we headed out together.

I took a few pictures while out shopping.

I took a few pictures while out shopping.

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We passed the huge building that looks like a mushroom and walked through a quaint part of the city I’d never visited before. We arrived at a bar where we would be watching a soccer game, a very popular pastime in Spain. Today’s match was between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two most popular fútbol teams in Spain, and the place was completely packed with people. Ramón introduced me to a friend from work. He was tall, young, and German, as I learned after he started speaking to Ramón in German. It was difficult to get to him, because standing bodies occupied every square foot of the room. I’m never nervous to meet  Ramón’s friends, because no matter where they are from, they all speak English well.

The game was already a few minutes in when we entered the bar. Most people watched on a large screen where the match was projected in the middle of the room. Ramón’s friend asked me which team I was rooting for, and I told him that I wanted Madrid to win. (Madrid was the team I knew more about, so I went with that one.) The atmosphere was quite similar to that of an American football game, except here people curse in Spanish when their team doesn’t perform well. I noticed that there were no commercial breaks during the match. Instead, the live feed of the game would become smaller, and advertisements would be shown in the open space underneath on the television.

Madrid and Barcelona were tied 1 to 1 at halftime. We stepped outside for fresh air until the game continued fifteen minutes later. Everyone went back inside the crowded space to see the last forty-five minutes. As the clock neared the time limit, it was obvious which team would be victorious, but we stayed until the very end to see it all. My team won! Madrid defeated Barcelona 3 to 1. I remembered a discussion had in my English class at school about how much money some of the soccer players in Spain earn for each game. The teacher said that the most famous player on Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, earns around 300,000 euros per game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he earns a bonus for each goal he scores as well. We said goodbye to Ramón’s friend and walked home.

On the way, I saw the word antiquarium above an entrance to the lower level of Las Setas and asked what it meant. Ramón said he would show me, and we walked down the stairs below street level. Ramón led me into a very large area with walls made of glass, the same room I had seen the last time I came to Las Setas with him and Julia. The clear walls were home to the ancient ruins of Seville. We paid the small admission fee and grabbed a guide. I walked around looking at what was left over from a fish processing factory and several extravagant homes. The mosaic tile floors have miraculously survived almost one thousand years of neglect. I wished I could have seen what the antique buildings looked like when they were still in use so many years ago. I wondered how the buildings become covered over time, and a worker in the place explained the process to Ramón and me. With each generation, the families became poorer and could no longer afford to keep their lavish homes. As they were vacant, they were use as a sort of landfill and eventually became completely submerged in trash. Over time, that trashed turned to dirt, and the buildings were buried. It was all very interesting.

The Anitiquarium.

The Anitiquarium.

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With Medusa.

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The exhibit closed soon after, and Ramón and I were the last visitors to leave. Before returning to the apartment, we split ways. I was going to do more shopping and Ramón had to get ready to go to a friend’s dinner party. After a lot of walking around and buying very little, I stopped at a McDonald’s for some ice cream. I took my treat to the third story of the business—yes, a three-story McDonald’s—and sat in an empty booth. When I had eaten it all, I walked home.