Thursday, December 29, 2011

So it ends. It's over. So is the year.

A fellow writer who takes writing much more seriously and professionally than I do recently told me that he really doesn't like my photoblogs. Lucky for him, this is the last one to go up for a while.

After a week and a bit in the real American world, deliriously living in a hotel actually, I am confident I will now do a highly competent job of captioning and posting my final Spain gems of photography.

A tower of gold in darkness. The end is all a blur.
Dancing by the river. Just a regular stop on the walk home.

I head down the marble stairs to breakfast.

And promptly gorge myself with my favorites. Going all out!


An undercover photo illegally taken at the extensive nativity display around the corner.

The schoolyard. Casual tropical gardens.

Just your local church.

Getting artsy in the neighborhood.

You forget that these are things you see every day.

On your street corner.

At eye level.

Who was Lorenzo Fernandez? Why was my street named after him?

You are my dad. Not, Lorenzo Fernandez.

Super Closeup #1.

#2. Hey LuisManuel

Lunch and learn with the 3 o'clock news.

Door to the porch.

I am not sure I really did live somewhere this cute.

Going out. I am pretty over having to open the gate every time.

A really tall tree. A really white set of buildings. A really average corner.

Cafes and shoe stores. Spain's two main sectors. 

The commercial palace with the mostest: Corte Ingles

My trainer buddies at the gym. Let's hope I'll keep up the good work!

Night falls at the bus stop. And everywhere in Sevilla.

Ana goes crazy in the kitchen making paella.

While Sebas sings?

We ate most of it before I even paused for a picture.

Courtney is tall.

Me and the fam.

We're the five best friends that anyone could ever have.

The house got decorated for Christmas before we left. Feliz Navidad!

That ad I walked by every day for your dream boobjob.

The Cruz del Campo, more famous for it's alcoholic inspiration than it's religious meaning.

Goodnight, house. Goodbye, Sevilla.
Hello, Jews, Philadelphia, and Shabbat!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Amtrekking to Philadelphia

Note to all: This would be the point where I stop blogging regularly, stop doing wonderfully fascinating things, and continue with my regular but not-so-average American life. So, just kill this tab now if you don't want to bore yourself with the writing exercises I am entertaining myself with while I figure out next steps for this bloggyblog.

After three days of mini-jetsetting around the metropolitan New York area to see everyone possible and do everything possible before jetlag smacked me upside down at 10 pm, I am now sedentarily chilling on an Amtrak regional coach. Not at all as nice as the renfe trains of Spain. The lady behind just yelled at me because I answered my phone to say bye to my dad, who I will not see for 8 days.

Calm yourself, woman. It's the quiet car. I get it. I'm sorry. I just got on the train. Gimme a hot second.

Now, that would not have been so out of line of this woman until SHE ANSWERED HER PHONE TWENTY MINUTES LATER. You grinch. Stealing joy from young people, on their phones wishing a Happy Hannukah to their dads. I have expletives for her, but I will keep them to myself for now.

Modernity has me spoiled into saying, "Thank goodness for wifi and outlets on the train." I managed to straighten my hair and blog on this trip. I also took a survey on alcohol at Northwestern and read up on Kim Jong Il's death. I would therefore say I am a well-rounded and well-coiffed individual who efficiently and effectively uses her time and resources (someone's practicing for summer job interviews...)...

My life isn't a 100% back to normal and I'm hoping it never will be. However, the next eight days, in addition to being Hannukah, the fabulous Jewish reason to give presents and eat fried potatoes and donuts, will be my longest stay in a single place in the month of December. And I will be living out of a suitcase in a hotel in downtown Philly (hit me up if you're around!)

In just thirty days, I will have been in three states and five countries. Pretty not-so-average. Pretty fun.

I miss you, Sevilla, but I love you, America.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And then it was over.

I'm home. America home. Far, far away from the ham and the siestas and the all-day espanol. I'm in my house in Scarsdale. With my parents and my siblings and my dog. I'm eating Trader Joe's and homemade cookies and my phone has a QWERTY keyboard.

I don't think this reverse culture shock will hit me. Not at all saying I am an exception to the rule, or I'm a cold-hearted being with no relational changes based on the last our months - just that I don't feel like any time has passed. I'm just home, after a semester, or a vacation. Everything looks the same, everything is the same. I am pretty much the same.

When I woke up this morning, earlier than ever (but 2 PM Spain time), I just felt well-rested, as though I've been in a hypnotic dream state since September and someone just gently shook me awake. Get up, you're back, it's real, and you've got places to go and people to see.

My sister made a sign for the garage door, just like every other vacation. This one read "Bienvenidos a casa, Estefania!" The 30+ likes on my facebook status were a sweet virtual welcome home. Then I got a surprise visit from two excellent friends, who stayed with me until my eyes were shutting. At 9PM. As I mentioned, I'm having time difference problems.

Other than the schedule, nothing else seems to be too tough. Warm showers that don't shut off, my own big room with a lot more clothing, a kitchen with multiple types of cereal. I don't even really like cereal, but it's just fun to read boxes with English on them.

Yes, I miss my senora and the smell of her kitchen. I miss loud Spanish TV gameshows I will never understand. I miss the smell of smoke from my host dad's daily cigarette wafting up to my window. I miss the slippers they gave me to wear around the house.

So, while my feet are cold, I'm not getting cold feet about being home. I'm happy to be back. I have a lot of thought processing to do. But, you can ask me about that when I see you soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Light the Night

Sevilla put out all the stops for my last few days. I woke up and got some yummy yummy churros with Livy at my local place. Not going to have that in America. Probably for the best, considering I feel my arteries tensing up at the thought. Alexa then joined us and we took the 2.5+ mile stroll down to the river and across the bridge to the Triana neighborhood, famous for ceramics. Souvenir time! Grandparents, prepare yourselves. I cashed out! By noon, I was in a t-shirt, no jacket. The sun was blazing down, smiling at me, begging me not to leave. If it's 70 degrees in the middle of December, I must be psychotic for leaving.

I metroed home for lunch. Nothing too exciting or memorable happened besides your average flamenco dancing and complaints about the economic crisis. Typical. We had some really good purple cabbage. My palette has so expanded since I came here. (No, mom, I'm still not ready to eat beets.)

After lunch, we ran around our favorite shopping center and I picked up more unecessary items, like a sweater, three scarves, and a keychain of FC Sevilla, the best futbol club in the whole world ever to which I will always be a loyal supporter.

So much for relaxation, Tessa and practically ran to the metro to get down to JYS's program closing ceremonies. We enjoyed some coffee and pastries and too many sugar cookies before a brief speech and presentation of silky Spain red and yellow sashes that would look awful on Northwestern purple at actual graduation.

Celeste, our program director, commented that our group was really something special, really the best ever. And I'm sure that ever year is 'the best' but at the end of the day, this group was incredible. We all bonded within days, all forty, no exclusivity. No one made plans without inviting EVERYONE and I know that I would be happy to sit and talk anyday soon with any small group from our crew. We roll 40 deep. Sevilla would've been next to nothing without all of them.

A bunch of us left the hotel only to be distracted by the millions of bright shiny Christmas lights. We stumbled upon an incredible audiovisual light show, projected onto the back of the government building, where hundreds of people had crowded around to watch. Then, I got famous.

Whoa, what? Canalsur, the main television channel, interviewed us! Six guiri americanos, looking incredulous, being loud, and in awe of how cool the lightshow was, we were perfect for their 10 o'clock segment. I gave an elongated discourse extolling the virtues of Spain, Spanish culture, and the stellar lightshow.

The reporter asked if we had anything like this in America. I responded, "No. No tenemos nada como esto, como teneis aqui en Espana. Esto es mejor, impresionante, increidble."

And I wasn't just talking about the light show. Everything that Spain has shown me, America doesn't seem to have it with quite the same finesse, nor funness. It is better, awe-inspiring, and incredible to me. I am like a kid at Sesame Place when I walk around here.

We ran around the city at night, walking another five miles and stopping at most of our favorite tacky bars like Long Island, Demo, and Betis 56, and almost got kicked out of Lo Nuestro because Americans don't have flamenco in their blood. Still, I got to see three of my friends show off their newly learned moves and listen to some live music, an appreciably better sound than David Guetta. The night included free chupitos, dancing Italians, and  life contemplations. I musn't disclose all details, but I can definitively say it was a class A 'last night, do it right' out.

And now I have 15 hours left.

One last hurrah

My mind went into mechanical overdrive on my last day in Spain. Pack bags. Buy presents. Eat food. Take pictures. See friends. Say goodbyes.

So, I did those things. I woke up to faux christmas, a fully decorated living room and dining room with sparkles and Jesi and candles and the poinsetta I gifted the fam. Leaving the house to meet Kate for some lastminute activity, I hit up a belen, a nativity scene that my senora had been yapping about for at least a week, nagging us "did you go yet? did you go yet?" I was expecting some nice statues of baby Jesus and Mary and an ox. Kate and I found a huge basement room with dramatic Indiana Jones music, mood lighting that changed to reflect day and night, and thousands of tiny figurines replicating Bethlehem. One house even had a little menorah in it! They were all Jewish... 

The belen was so cool I was compelled to dump my little one and two eurocent coins in the donation box. Win-win for me and the monks of Hospital de San Juan de Dios, who make this insane display every year. I ended up going back a second time that day, on a shopping adventure with Anna and other Kate. We played in Corte Ingles for a last time, where I picked up a CD of Spanish guitar and flamenco for my dad. I also bought myself a nerdy typewriter necklace to remember how much absurd typing I did during this entire semester. This blogbook is going to be a thousand pages, I think. Order yours today! Justkidding.

I stopped by the gym on my way home to say goodbye to my adorable trainers and get a quick picture with them. You can tell just how motivating they are by the fact that they convinced me to come to zumba an hour and a half later. A final gymming hurrah! I can do this in America!

I came home and finished packing my tchatchkes, a whole bunch of tickets and knicknacks and other memorabilia from my time abroad. As I started writing my final note to my host family, Courtney and her parents arrived! Elise and Bill were just charming and we all enjoyed a blowout dinner of tapas and paella. My senora even got me to try some chicken - I couldn't not eat it after she said, "You eat it today, you can confess tomorrow!" Not worth explaining that that's not how Kosherness works, I gave in to the curry paella kick of spices and nommed on what southern Spain is all about. Worth it. 

We took a long family photoshoot with the Christmas decor, American and Spanish flags, multiple moms and dads and siblings, and a lot of laughter. Courtney's dad Bill, a total baller, carried my suitcase downstairs for me and then the night was over. 

I gave the family my note, "Living in your house is like living in a dream. I will never forget you all, and all you have taught me. I am incredibly grateful to have had an experience unlike anything I could have imagined. A thousand thank yous. See you soon."

And I do hope to be back soon. That whole "Mi casa es tu casa" saying? They mean it, and I felt it every day for four months.

My day ended with a group meetup for beverages and so-longs around the corner. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I posted a while back about learning how to breathe in Sevilla. While I am fully aware that breathing is something I have done a lot of since I was born, I know that when you breathe the air in Sevilla, your muscles relax and your head doesn't hurt. 

Since finals ended and I definitely passed all of them (!), I am finding myself sighing. A sigh is a pharyngeal fricative, 'a deep and especially audible, single exhalation of air out of the mouth or nose, that humans use to communicate emotion,' according to the commoner's bibleguide to the world, Wikipedia.

I came home from my last exam and my host brother asked me, "Que tal?" an equivalent of "How are you?" And my response was a big sigh. Of relief. No more studying! Vacationtime!

As I heaved my suitcase off of the seven foot armoire, I sighed. Heavy, huge suitcase+ short/weak me = potentially dangerous situation. I survived, so I sighed once the suitcase made it's way down.

I then looked around my room and sighed because I like it, and I don't want to leave it. Sigh of comfort and a dash of melancholy.

Next, I had to open my closet. This new sigh was more of a horrendous groan - how did I accumulate so much clothing!? How will it all fit in my suitcase?

An hour later, everything packed in one bag, as if Mary Poppins  magically possessed me, I sighed an "Oh! That wasn't bad at all!" sigh.

As I took a bite of my dinner, a usual white fish, I found the taste particularly delightful. A buttery, garlicy flavor with tomato. I sighed of oral fixation and gastronomic wonder. 

Then, I went out and sighed at how beautiful Sevilla looks at night. And then I saw two shooting stars, and I gasped, which is like a cousin of a sigh.

In the taxi back, I sighed of a strange mix of content and distress. No more wine and hugs by the moonlit river, under the palm trees? 

I also sighed because I was exhausted. As I am now, so I am yawning while I write this. Sevilla, you've worn me down and out, but I'm still floating on cloud nine.

Thank goodness for siesta.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

State of HisPanic

Something has sent me into a completely crumbling overload of messiness!
And I consider myself to be absurdly composed, at least in the eyes of others. However, I'm falling to pieces.

I had no problem adjusting here. I came, I saw, and I conjugated new verbs in weeks. I loved almost everything and have only the most wonderful things to say and tell and share about my time here.

But now, I'm having allergic reactions to the end. My body is tensing up involuntarily. I'm on the verge of tears. I feel itchy and I keep sneezing. I took some miscellaneous drug that I thought was a general all-remedy but I don't think it did much. It also tasted suspiciously minty. Hmmm...

Self-diagnosis: I've got the leaving blues. Weird because I can't wait to get home to Scarsdale and then Northwestern and really, America in general. It's time to go, for sure. Spain impressed me and changed me but I am an American girl.

I've decide this sudden on-set angst and anxiety derives from a general stress of time and how little of it I have. To pack, to say goodbye, to be at home, to get to school, to finish college, to grow up...

Oh, and probably stressed most about that final on the history and organization of the European Union tomorrow. Wish me some buena suerte because I will definitely be needing it. (At least I can name all the capitals now? Useful takeaways from study abroad! Malta: La Valeta, Cyprus: Nicosia, Eslovenia: Ljubljana, Latvia: Riga... I'll spare you the rest)

Oyoyoy. Call a doctor, I'm having a hisPanic attack.