Deadlines. Cathedrals. Gasoline. Chicken Spinach Alfredo Pasta. Christmas. Being Sick. Madre mia, there’s been a lot going on the past couple of weeks, and I must admit it’s made me feel a bit like Charlie Sheen: “I have one speed, I have one gear: Go!” Somehow I’ve got to figure out how to gather up all of my scattered experiences and shove them all (in a creative and orderly fashion of course) into one post. Why am I not getting paid for this….?
To begin with, last week I was privileged to travel to Seville, Spain with my friend Carter. Thanks to RyanAir’s Mercedes quality and Wal-Mart price, we were able to go for next to nothing. Seville is in the province of Andalucia, the southern most part of the country, and just a mere 40 minute flight from my lovely home base of Valencia. The morning we left our prospects were not looking too good. The drizzling rain seemed to foreshadow a cold and gloomy excursion down South, yet we surprisingly found ourselves in beaming rays of sun by the time we started out on our morning tour of the city. The hostel we stayed at was amazing and gave two free daily walking tours of the city, both of which we attended on Thursday. By the end of the second tour I felt like my knowledge and appreciation of Spanish history and culture had doubled in mass and I found myself breathless at the depth of what lay all around me. The Catedral de Seville would have been worth the price of the entire trip alone.
The poor structure has been tossed and turned, twisted and flipped around so many times I’m sure it doesn’t even know what it is anymore. It was originally built as a Christian cathedral on top of ancient Roman ruins (remember this fact), before the Moorish invasion. After the Muslims took over the city, they decided that instead of tearing it down they would simply turn it into a mosque. Hence the Arabic inscriptions and other architectural motifs. However, what’s worth noting is the structural genius of the enormous tower (at the time of construction the tallest in the world). When an earthquake shook the city after the Christians were again in power, most of the cathedral was destroyed, save the tower. The reason? Just as all modern day skyscraper foundations are built with absorptive capabilities (aka: they jiggle and jive when the ground shakes), so the Roman ruins below acted as a shock absorber for the tower. So thanks to Rome I was able to climb 150 ft. to the highest point in Seville to receive a miracle of a view of the city. Breathtaking. Some other quick interesting facts I digested: Columbus left Spain from Seville, much of the Spanish Inquisition took place in Seville, Columbus might have been Jewish, and Napoleon wasn’t as short as people say he was. There you have it.
Upon returning to Valencia in slightly less than perfect health, I threw myself back into my design project, working furiously from Sunday till Wednesday night, seemingly without stopping. With other deadlines and test dates looming on the horizon, my academic activities have been rather full and fast-paced. But fear not, for Christmas is near! At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself to try to make it through my workload. I know it’s really not that close but I just made my plans for the break and now my mind is unable to focus on anything but vacation! (As if studying abroad isn’t a vacation in and of itself). But as we are on the topic of Christmas (did I mention how excited I am about Christmas?), I am happy to share with you that I will be joining two friends on the most amazing journey of epic porportions to DUBLIN!!! Oh green, celtic, sheep covered land, how I long to see you. But before that we will meet up in Barcelona on Christmas day to celebrate for a few days, before commencing our post-Christmas plans. And after that who knows? Rome? Paris? Munich? The world is at my fingertips (well, at least all of the world with a RyanAir connection).
Scaling it down a bit, I’ve had some great joys in many of the smaller things going on in my life as well. This week I learned how to make chicken spinach alfredo pasta, of course with garlic mashed potatoes on the side. Unfortunately it seems that no one here has even tased alfredo pasta, not even my Italian classmate. Not even my friend ALFREDO! But even if I am the only person in Spain to have ever tasted this dish, I will delight in every bite until the pot is bone dry. Another major win for me has been finding clients for English lessons. At this point I have two people, one whom I sit and listen to for a half hour, occasionally correcting and at times discussing work-related dialogue. 10 euros. Bam. Starting this Saturday I will begin to be paid for playing with two little niños for an hour and a half, speaking in English of course. 15 euros. Shazam! See, it’s easy to earn money while studying abroad in a foreign country!
I’m the type of person that needs a lot of alone time to reflect upon and process all of the information that I face. Often times it’s while riding my bike next to the onion fields and irrigation channels on my way back to my flat, or as I am walking along the tiled sidewalks in the gleaming sunshine on my way back to my hostel. Me, myself and I have many a good talk, and I often come away with a new perspective on some aspect of life. This past week, as I was walking throughout Seville, admiring it for all it’s beauty, I walked past a group of construction workers at a job site. As the sight of the dirty, sweaty men hit my eyes and the smell of diesel smoke from their machines entered my nostrils, it was as if I was briefly jolted back to some sense of reality which I have been living apart from for so long. And I remembered then that the experiences I have been blessed to have lately, the travelling, exploring, sight-seeing, and sun-soaking, are incredibly precious and rare, so much so that I began to feel the guilt from having taken them for granted. So while I am enjoying my stay on cloud nine, admiring the view from above of all the hardships and toils of the lives of the majority of the people below, I will work diligently to hold on to the threads of reality and not lose sight of how incredibly blessed I am. I will remember of what real life smells, of onions and diesel smoke.