La Estrellita

There’s a cutre little old man bar on the corner of San Jacinto and Plaza de Miguel Porres in Triana. Named for a virgin (clearly), it’s one of those bright, napkin-covered bars that old men stand at while drinking their coffee and chowing down a tostada con jamón.

Today, my class with Javi got cancelled because he STILL has a hangover from Sevilla Futbol Club’s most recent win, so I wedged myself in between two old dudes and ordered a media con tomate from the owner, a guy in his mid-40s. I got knocked in the side several times by the teetering old men who were having their morning hierbabuena, despite a sign over the alcohol shelf reading NO SE SIRVE ALCOHOL por la manana .

My toast was a little bit burnt and had way too much olive oil, but I was content to listen to a man who was three beers in (this was 11 a.m., mind you) before I had finished half the toast and was arguing with the other bartenders about the latest fracaso in Sevilla – whether or not Real Betis Balompié would descend to the second tier of the national soccer league. A Bético against a bar full of Sevillistas, he soon changed the subject to El Rocío, an annual pilgrimage to a church in the middle of a national park. People (most of my student included) rent or own a small home on wheels and walk from their villages to see the likeness of the Virgin of the Dew.

He said: “Semana Santa. Feria. El Rocio. Feria de Sanlucar. Las cojo todas!!”

I replied: “Lo haces bien.”

Wedding Crashers

After an exhausting day in the teeny town of Helicheville, accompanied by my students and a few nativos, I spent Saturday afternoon, evening and early morning at a wedding, the first of three for the season.

On any given Saturday in Spain, you’ll run into at least one wedding, if not several. Sevillian weddings, in particular, are a bit like the circus. They stop traffic with their outrageous fashions, high-end catering and the millions of extras that truly go over the top.

Manolo, a friend of Kike’s from the academy, and Tamara got married in a beautiful chapel called Las Adoratrices here in Sevilla. And, seeing as most Spaniards are Catholic, we had a long mass to sit through. You could tell people got bored halfway through Manolo’s father’s speech before the mass even got started. People chatted on their cell phones and others left to go smoke. Kike made a mockery of the institution of marriage, and I was sitting so far back I couldn’t even get a good look at the couple actually getting married.

The mass continues much like the one you attend Sunday. A lot of talking and me starting to pay more attention to the people around me in their parade of colors and the crazy things they stick in their hair. Spanish women dress up like they’re going to the prom with fancy hair-dos, satin dresses of every color, gaudy jewelry and those ridiculous birds nests in their hair. I think the only woman who pulled it off successfully was the mother of the groom. Anyway, I felt that my jewelry and simple dress made me stick out even more than I already do, what with my pale skin and freckles and nose that isn’t constantly upturned like a Sevillana’s.

After the rice and flower petal throwing, the couple took their pictures and I felt kind of abandoned while Kike greeted everyone from the academy. It’s evident that Spanish people have weddings in place of high school reunions. The couple then got into a vintage car instead of a horse carriage, and only because we had to traveled 10 miles outside of town to the reception.

This was all different from Jose’s wedding last year on Gran Canaria. He and his wife are both Catalan, from Barcelona, and the wedding was much more simplistic – no mass, no classic car and no fancy hats. He also invited a small number of people, so I didn’t feel so lost in a sea of people.

When we arrived at Hacienda la Pintada, I was overwhelmed by how andalu everything was – a vast courtyard in the middle of olive groves, a woman in Jerez-style dress serving Manzanilla sherry from a oak cask, waiters coming around with trays full of pates and caviars and croquetas. And clearly everyone was drinking. As soon as the bride and groom showed up, fireworks were shot over the courtyard and everyone was ushered into the dining hall, accented in corals and celestes and tans.

We sat at a table with three other couples and a suelto – Kike’s friend Fran whose fiance couldn’t come. Once again, we were the only couple not engaged or already married. But I didn’t care about this, just the seafood in front of me – gambas blancas, tiger shrimp, crab, clams, and all kinds of other stuff I can name in Spanish but not English. Then there was more garlic shrimp, grilled shrimp, more stuff that I can’t name. In between courses we had a fantastic apple sorbet and then came the fancy hamburger with potatoes, vegetables and baby lima beans. I tried my best to save room for the desert buffet, but I just couldn’t.

By this time it was already 1:30 a.m. and the wedding started at 6pm. We went to the dance floor and the bride and groom did their normal first dance, the bride dressed in a charming, fancy wedding dress,  and the DJ totally goofed on English pronunciation while people were more entertained by their cubatas, but, being a Spanish wedding, it was no sooner that we’d taken our first sips that a man with a guitar and another with a cajón broke into Sevillanas. Kike wasn’t drunk enough to dance, so I grabbed a Madrileño who had about as much of a clue as I did about Sevillanas. He was a good sport and I marveled everyone (hardly) with my arte in dancing.

Despite sore feet and fighting off extreme exhaustion, I lasted longer than Kike. While I can’t say it was the most exciting wedding I’ve ever been to because I didn’t know anyone, I had a good time with my man and his friends, and I will finally know someone whose wedding I’m going to later this summer!

¡¡Que vivan los novios!!

Fin del Curso


All of the sudden, I’m tearing another page off the calendar in my room (and, yes, it’s a really Spanish one with the Virgin de la Esperanza that I got at Las Golondrinas and includes the names of the saint days. TOMA. I am practically half Spanish).

I can’t believe it’s May already. Last year I was doing a lot more traveling, going out till all hours of the morning, and the time passed quickly. Clearly. But this year, I don’t know how the time has flown by . I consider myself fortunate enough to be here in Spain for three more months, but the uncertainty of next year is giving me that hurried feeling I get when things wind down.

There’s a saying in Spain: “Las cosas del palacio van despacio” which pretty much means that beauracracy really slows things down here. I know this all too well, as do Spaniards, and the province of Sevilla has a bad reputation for tardaring even más. I’m still waiting to hear whether or not I get a grant to teach again, then apparently I have to wait for a school assignment. Fine, but my documents expire in mid-June, and they need to be renewed before I leave the country or else I need to get a new visa in Chicago this summer, which pretty much guarantees I can’t start the school year on time in October. Vaya tela.

Today I got that feeling that things are quickly coming to an end. I stayed late at school this afternoon to go to Convivencia, which is pretty much like team-building and learning how to be a good citizen. We started with a two-hour lunch of tortilla, chachinas, fresones, queso fresco, ensaladillas and other goodies. I realized how much I would miss not working at Heliche next year – surely no one would welcome me to school every morning by calling me a bug like Emilio does (or a variation of “Hola, mediobicho/gato/saborilla!”).

It’s funny – I’m not a real teacher, but I have my own mailbox and pin to the copy machine. I’ve been at the school now two school years, which is more than a significant number of my compis. I know high schools change drastically every year, but I feel much more a part of that school than ever. I write the consejeria funny notes when I send kids down for chalk, Felisabel tailored my flamenco dress, and I eat lunch at Nieves’s house every so often. Sure, I’d miss my students, but I would really extrañar my coworkers and their dirty jokes.

One of my bilingual students, Irene, asked me today in art class if I would be sticking around next year. I said most likely, and that I wanted to. She said, “I hope so. We’d probably get someone who isn’t as funny and nice as you.”


La Feria en Crisis

I recently took one of those Facebook quizzes because it honestly called my attention (there goes my English getting more Spanish!) The result was feriante – someone who loves the April Fair, six straight days of dancing and drinking. I like drinking and dancing is something that happens when I drink too much, so this holiday was clearly invented for my own enjoyment.

The fair origins go back centuries, but in Andalucía the first was in a town just east of Sevilla called Mairena del Alcor. La de Sevilla started in a park with a few marquees, known as casetas, and has since grown to include over 1000 of them in a new location south of my neighborhood. The casetas are owned by businesses or families, whom are known as socios, and every year they must pay hundreds, if not thousands, to maintain their caseta.
Feria begins every year with a pecaito frito, a dinner for the socios. At midnight, the main gate to the fairgrounds is lit up in a ceremony called the alumbrado. It’s wonderful to watch the different parts of the fairgrounds light up, with people botelloning underneath. Then the party starts – flamenco music begins to drift out from the casetas and people begin to dance in the street. Most of the casetas are private, but there are about 50 public ones for political parties, neighborhoods, etc. We spent most of the time in public casetas that night, drinking rebujito (a half liter of sherry mixed with 7up) and dancing sevillanas, a four part dance.

The following day was the celebration of Sevilla’s patron saint, San Fernando. The Real de la Feria was hasta las trancas with people, many of them dressed in typical flamenco gowns or riding suits. Horse carriages and horses march in and out of the portada and to the bull ring, where there’s a corrida daily. I went with Kelly to a friend of Kike’s from his village, where we danced Sevillanas and drank rebujito. I right away felt welcome by Fabian, Carlos and Julian. We did our normal caseta-hopping, going to see Melissa’s friend, Carlos, Susana and Alfonso, Jessica’s boyfriend. Dressed up and dripping Spanish from my tongue, I danced and drank and had a great time.

And it showed the next day in my face. Vaya cara de sueno! I spent the whole day craving a nap, but decided instead to follow some of my coworkers to the fairgrounds. After a quick beer at Serafin’s, we went to the portada by day – white with yellow accents and looking like the front of a Feria tent. Against the blue sky, it was beautiful, and it was fun going to the fair with first-timers like Raul and Lourdes. After a quick walk around, we went to one of the nicest casetas I’ve ever been in – it looked like a home with its mirrors and fancy dining room flanked with bull heads. We ate croquetas, tortillas, puntas de solomillo and other Andalusian foods for less than six euros a head. In this caseta, there was a raised dancefloor and there was a little girl not older than seven in a short pink traje who danced better than all of the women aorund her.

We went to Calle del Infierno, a huge amusement park where gypsies sell carnations and toys, kids play drop the crane for prizes and two gigantic ferris wheels spin on either end. We walked through the stalls and hamburger stands, marveling at girls in trajes riding on the rollercoasters without managing to mess up their hair (LACA’d up!).

Although I didn’t notice it so much until the weekend, it was clear that the financial meltdown affected the fair – there was a sign in most casetas called “A Feria Goer’s Manual Against the Crisis” with a guide to saving money (I didn’t bring my horse this year because they wouldn’t allow it on the metro, etc.) On Saturday especially, the fairgrounds were empty and the casetas half full. It’s odd to think about how the crisis has affected everything here, and I experience it every single day. I’m really happy to have a job because of it!

My companeros de trabajo – Serafin, Manuel, Lourdes, Raul and I at C/ del Infierno

I am sick of writing about this because I’m still so tired from Feria and this weekend, so I will just include some more pictures. I pretty much spent the week running in and out of casetas, drinking rebujito but being more careful this year to stay sober and alternate with beer or pop, dancing sevillanas (I even succeeded in getting Kike to dance, though I’m sure he did only because he was drunk) and hosting Jeremy and Isabel, two friends who teach in Madrid, for the weekend. I really enjoyed myself, and I think now I’m able to stand on my own two feet here. I impressed people with my musing of saying I was from Chicago de la Frontera (a take on a town called Chiclana de la Frontera), firing off Spanish puns and dancing with mucho arte. Even though Kike was only down for a few days,I had no problems entertaining my roommates and coworkers and friends.

Que viva la Feria!! I’m already thinking of the color complementos I want for next year!

Tocando el cajon y cantando sevillanas en la caseta de Alfonso
Kike’s brother, Alvaro, and I, along with Victor’s head. I love Victor. He’s from Vdoid.
Twilight (crepusculo, thanks to the book) on C/ Pasqual Marquez
My roommate, Melissa, and I como gitanas
In one of the more memorable episodes of Feria, I stepped on a toothpick and it started bleeding, so a nice waiter patched me up with a bandaid and some food. Buena gente.
Me, Kelly and Sara at Sara’s boyfriend’s work’s caseta (and this is an easy relation!)
HORSIES all over the place (followed by a street sweeper)
Kelly and me
vaya pareja mas guapa!
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