Summertime has descended upon Spain. I happen to be here during one of the warmest winters, falls, etc., and with Semana Santa and Feria de Abril already coming, it seems it’s going to be a really cruel summer. That said, I’m starting to get as itchy as my students for summertime and beaches and MORE sun. And while working 12 hours (plus private lessons and planning and commuting) isn’t much, I’m always ready for the weekend so I can sleep past 6:50 a.m. and take advantage of the weather, traveling, and this interesting and varied country. I work for the weekend. By the time Thursday afternoon at 12:55 arrives, I am more than ready for a break from my students. I usually start the weekend off with a looooooong nap, even before having lunch. Then it’s facebook/youtube/general laziness time. I typically eat dinner with Kike and go out for a bit before resting up for the weekend. But lately, I’ve been trying to do all of my work so I can do whatever me apetece (whatever appeals to me) during the weekend. That means cleaning, lesson planning, errands, etc. I’ve found that the need to pack as much into this experience has prevailed over what I really should be doing (you know, sleeping, putting a lot of effort into my lessons, etc.).
This last weekend, I didn’t even check my email for two days. On Thursday, I did take some time to rest, but I was so hopped up on caffeine, I couldn’t do anything but watch TV. At night, we celebrated my roommate Melissa’s birthday. Her two best friends, Carolina and Alicia, invited us over for dinner at their piso. They made all kinds of tapas, potatoes and a red meat cooked with beer and onions and mushrooms. Sobre todo, I was able to speak several hours in Spanish and have people understand me. I can express myself fine on paper and understand things well, but I seem to get really closed off when I have to speak. Of my Sevilla friends, I think I speak the worst Spanish, even though I’ve been assured many times that I speak well. I considered it a huge compliment that Caro and I could understand each other. From there, we headed to Buddha, where I fended off study abroad students trying to speak to me in Spanish (geez, I’m a brat) while getting free shots for my grupito because a friend’s ex-boyfriend works there. By the time I finally dragged myself home at 530 a.m., I was already cursing myself for how I’d feel the next morning – not hungover, but realllllly tired.
In order to reapply for my job next year, I have to get a medical checkup. After making about 6 phone calls to ask the insurance company what exactly I had to do, I got an appointment and instructions to go to the other side of town to get a sheet of paper for the doctor to fill out. Figures. Armed with enough crap to do for about 2 hours, I went to the Colegio Oficial de Medicos and waited a mere 30 seconds. Turns out all I needed to do was pay 3,48E and ask the woman for the sheet. I spent the afternoon drinking beer outside on a hot, clear day. I have to admit I love standing at a table on a sidewalk watching cars and people go by. And it helps being accompanied by a good-looking man. After downing about 3 kilos of salmonetes (red herring), I slept for a loooong time. Instead of finishing my things, I went for dinner at my friend Christine’s and went out. She lives with her Spanish boyfriend, Alfonso, so I did a lot more Spanish practicing. This was good for arguing with the cabbie who didn’t reset the meter and then took me to the wrong street. No me jodas, chaval. That means don’t screw with me, man.
Again, I woke up really upset with myself for staying out so long. Saturday, I went with 12 of my coworkers to the nearby town of Jerez de la Frontera, the foremost producer of sherry in Spain. It’s about an hour away by train, and sitting next to my bilingual director, Nieves, solidified my decision to teach again in Olivares next year. She was talking and talking about how much she enjoys having Martin and me there, and how the kids have really shown an improvement. Phew. I, too, have noticed the kids taking a lot more interest in what I’m teaching and making more of an effort. The turning point was really quitting my other job, but also stooping to their level and ensuring them that I’m also learning. During the day in Jerez, we all spoke in Spanish, and many noted the improvement in my language skills. When we arrived to the newer part of town, we walked into the historic center with Irene as our tour guide, high along the mountain the city rests on, to Bodegas Gonzalez Byass. If you’ve seen a bottle of wine dressed in a little suit with a hat and guitar, you’re familiar with the brand Tio Pepe. GB is one of the oldest and most well-known (along with the most successful) wineries in Spain. A little train took us past its extensive gardens to the corner where their brandy brand is made. Here, they don’t produce as much, but it’s really high quality, and the machines look ancient. We walked along whitewashed buildings that would soon be covered in vines to keep the stock cool inside to where the sherry is made – cask after cask after cask. I’ve read a lot about Spanish wine and even wrote a paper about it, but seeing the cobwebs growing between cask and having the sour smell of the wine mixed with the wood was kind of exciting. The bodega, the Spanish word for cellar or winery, has been visited by famous people form around the world, and there’s quite a bit of symbolism to a lot the casks and how the wine is made. In one of the rooms, there is a tiny glass of wine and a little bit of cheese in the middle of the floor. I missed the first half of the explanation, but the little tapas and glass is set out for the mice. The mice are supposed to be attracted to the cheese and drink the wine and get too drunk to climb onto the casks. It was quite curious watching them all run between the cheese and glass.
Upon exciting into the brightness, I was overcome by the huge cathedral. Irene took us past where she used to live and through the center of town. Compared to Sevilla, Jerez is small and relaxed and quiet. The thirteen of us took over a restaurant called El Juanito, where we shared alcachofas (artichokes), sopa de gambas (tomato soup with shrimp and noodles), pisto (vegetables), albóndigas con tomate (meatballs in a red sauce), ensaladilla (tuna, noodles, mayo and peas) and some other stuff I have no idea what it is. My coworkers are really fun, and a bit guareros, or dirty minded. When they noted my improvement, I replied, “Bueno, tener un novio español me ha ensenado mucha de la lengua.” I know that lengua means both language and tongue, but they all thought I meant he had taught me a lot about dirty things. Baha. We spent about three hours at the place, ordering more beers or coffees or sweets before heading back. I rode back a bit earlier with Felisabel from the art department. She’s taking class from a friend of mine, Jenny, who is also from Chicago. Jenny picked up on her north american accent and Felisabell said, “A girl from Chicago named Cat taught it to me!” If my students aren’t getting it, at least someone is!
That night, my dear friend Kelly celebrated her birthday. She had a big party at her house and made delicious and SPICY Mexican food. I ignored my drink and sat in front of the table stuffing my face. Kelly was the first friend I made here, so I knew most of the people there, and I found out a lot of the other auxiliaries had chosen to stay next year, too. We headed to C/Betis at about 3am, and all I did was laugh at how silly everyone is. I am so fortunate to have good friends here. What’s more, I have a really great boyfriend. Really, I’m kind of in love with him. He’s been involved with plenty of Americans, but I found out he has gotten bored with all the rest of them really easily. He wants me to go back to the states this summer to be with my family this summer, but he says he’s been looking for flights and trying to ask for some more time off to come visit me and see Chicago. I talk it up a lot.
After arriving back home about 530 am, we got up at 830 to go to Kike’s base in Moron de la Frontera, about 45 km away. He’s a pilot for the Spanish army and flies planes! I really wanted to see what he does everyday, since I talk about my little capullos allllll the time. And planes really excite him. So he chose to do his servicio, where he’s on duty for 24 hours, on a Sunday so that I could go with him. He gets to stay in a little room with two beds and a TV and a bathroom and wait for the phone to ring. We went early and had breakfast, then slept most of the day. He looks kind of adorable in his flight suit, but the hat is too silly. He showed my around his squadron and taught me the different kinds of airplanes and introduced me to the few people who were there. Nothing was open (sadly, I could not eat subway like I had the ganas to!), so we scrounged around in the cafeteria for something to eat. We had little choice – only Kraft dinner versions of Spanish food like paella de mariscos, fabes asturianos and instant soup. Luckily, Montero is a great cook and there was plenty of pepper. He spent a few hours playing guitar hero while I worked on lessons and my reapplication things. We tried once more for Subway, but ended up eating Digiorno pizza and drinking Dr. Pepper at the American bar on the base. A lot of Americans get stationed there, so I could talk to my compatriots about American things for once! I have to admit I know very little about the military, but going to the base was really, really cool. Seeing how things work made me realize just how intelligent Kike is. He studied physics and math and whatever the hell you need to know for flying a big plane and dropping bombs – and a lot in English, since his plane is American. And I know he loves me because he let me take his car back to Sevilla. A Mercedes. And I’m still alive and the car is still intact. It was freaaaaaking scary!!!
I’m off to The Basque Country with Kelly later this week, then I’ll be back in Sevilla for a day and I’ll head to the Algarve in Southern Portugal with Kike and some other people for the later part of the holy week.