Ode to the Too Lame, Too Furious

I’ve seen the better part of Spain from the passenger seat of a 2002 LX Series Mercedes. Up and down the Vía de la Plata, cruising Sevillian streets afterhours as the sun is peaking over the top of the Giralda and hitting beach town after mountain village.

Kike deciding to sell his silver car, affectionately called (HEY! I’m American! I name appliances and inanimate objects!) the Too Lame, Too Furious for its constant trips to the shop, was like losing a finger. The finger I used to point to things like bulls along the highway and monasteries popping up out of nowhere, ruined Moorish castles and strangely named rivers and pueblos. He didn’t even tell me, just a, “Like my new car?”

To be honest, his new car is way cooler and has a similar name: Too Cool, Too Furious. But I miss the musty smoke smell, the never-clean floormats and the way I knew what numbers on the radio corresponded with Máxima FM and M80. I’ve had some of my most memorable moments in that car.

Getting wooed by a new chaval, Winter 2007

When I met Kike, I had very little interest in him, just in the fact that I knew few Spanish people and wanted to learn more of the language. But his car showed my new parts of the city my feet couldn’t take me, became a place to steal kisses and helped me to feel more integrated in the way of life here.

Taking him (home) to visit my host family in Valladolid, Spring 2008

My first long car trip with the nov was taken five months after we met. I was filled with that kind of nervous excitement that fills your belly up with a mix of something wonderful about ready to bubble over as we drove the five hours up to Valladolid to visit my host family. After he treated me to a huge filet at his favorite restaurant in Salamanca, Dulcinea, we found our way to Aurora’s house and spent the weekend celebrating belated birthdays, meeting Aurora’s new daughter and teaching Kike about one of Spain’s original capitals. It was like a precursor to him meeting my parents, and I could finally show him a new place instead of the other way around.

Roadtripping to Asturias, Spring 2009

 Ever since my first trip to San Sebastian in 2005, I had been dying to get back to the north. Land of lush green landscapes, haûte cuisine and several seperatist groups, the land abrove the Picos de Europa mountains is shrouded with tradition and mystique. Kike’s mother was born in Asturias, so we made the trip with another couple all the way up through Extremadura, Castilla and, upon passing the tunnel from León to the Principality of Asturias, I was already in love. This was the land where Don Pelayo began his reconquist of Spain in the eighth century, where fabada and cabrales cheese becomes a staple of the harsh diet, and where goats outnumber people. Since the weather was rainy and cold, we did most of our tourism through the windows of Kike’s car, stopping off for coffees or photo ops. I completely fell in love with Asturies, its cider and a region that has never once been under Moorish control. This place, despite being cut off from the rest of Spain because of the Picos de Europa and the Cantabrian Sea, is turly the heart of Spain.

Spending weekends in the pueblo

When I found out I could be living in a city instead of a little village a tomar por culo, I was relieved. I was ready to go anywhere, so long as it meant living in Spain legally. But every now and then, I really enjoy getting to Kike’s village, San Nicolás del Puerto, to escape the city. Fresh mountain air, freshly hunted meat and Miura liquor are all formative parts of our weekends away, and the town has a reputation for beautiful landscapes. We’ve been to romerías, saint festivals and family celebrations, and being the girlfriend of one of the townies, I feel like it’s become my own, too.

Stealing a car, Blues Brothers Style, and driving to Antquera with friends.

When Kike came to visit me in Chicago, we had a bit of a role reversal. Instead of him taking the wheel, I transported him around Chicagoland, prompting him to tout my driving skills as better than his. When he was in the US one week, I convinced him to leave me his car so I could take my roommate and another friend to the nearby village of Antequera, home to dolmenes and the famous mollete bread I eat for breakfast. Apart from gorgeous views of the Malagueña countryside, the car allowed us to visit nearby El Torcal, home to Jurassic age limestone formations that were once underwater, otherwise unvisitable with a vehicle. Having two good friends and an open road made for a good day, and the paella was pretty good, too.

The Too Cool certainly has its merits, and I’m getting used to driving it (though it’s merely an updated model of the old one). But, like my first car, it has that nostalgic quality that, with every dent and scrape, seems to cling to something somewhere in your memory.

Today Kike left to go to the US for a week, so he left me in the care of Too Cool. I took Julie, Julia and Katerina to the Feria Regional del Jamón in Aracena, a mere huor away. We got lost twice, the car might have gotten a scratch and my tummy prevented me from eating ham or drining beer, but being on the open road with friends and turning kilometre after kilometre on the spedometer through the Spanish countryside made me love this new car.

When I Grow Up

My friend Lindsay, another American who worked in an elementary school in Sevilla a few years back, once told me the story of a teacher who used to berate kids for getting things wrong, getting behind in work and getting in trouble. When they learned professions, the children piped up with chants of, “I’m going to be a doctor!” or, “I’m going to be a politician!”, and were immediately told that they weren’t bright enough to do anything worthwhile.

From an American perspective, this seems to be the 180º of what our parents told us when we dreamed of being astronauts or the US President. I wanted to be a ballet teacher in kindergarten (without ever having taken a class), then a vet (have bad allergies) and finally settled on wanting to be a journalist. I spent half of my life training to write and speak well, only to teach little enanos colors and numbers in English. But being a kid and having a world of possibilities is quite a beautiful thing.

In the school I work in, bad work is erased until it gets done correctly. The kids who color out of the lines or write a number backwards are made to miss recess to do extra work, rather than running or playing as children ought to. In Miss Cat’s class, I’m happy to say, “Great job, Alba!” or, “What a cool monster, Tano!” to every kid, no matter how poor their work may be, simply because being proud of your work is a great confidence booster for a kid. They all want my attention around the clock, so the smiley face drawn on the hand or a sticker goes a long way.

I’ve tried constantly, especailly in my high school years, to teach values to my students. The high schoolers I taught for three years always gave me the, “Yeah, you’re a teacher, you don’t count” attitude, and that’s the greatest part about teaching the babies. Today, the four year olds went on a little field trip around the neighborhood to review what they’re learning in conocimiento del mundo, a subject about the world around them. The teacher put the kids into pairs and we passed shops and pharmacies and people on the street. The kids eagerly repeated everything I said in English, but more importantly, any storefront we passed, they each said, “I’m going to work here when I grow up, Miss Cat!” From hospitals to carpentry work, it seems that my students will in twenty years be carrying on as workers.

Since I had the back half of the group, I could say quietly in Spanish, you can do anything you want in life. Except eat candy all day long.

Por Dónde Se Queda el Corazón

My good friend Kirsten and I were sitting at a table at Universal facing the giant salmon-pink façade of Iglesia del Salvador this afternoon.

“You know,” she said, “I don’t know why I ever left Sevilla to go back to Germany.” I don’t either.

There are some universal truths about Sevilla that make this place hard to leave. Kike and I were walking through the church-filled neighborhood of Macarena on Friday en route to a school dinner. A vecino gave us a shortcut which led us down small alleyways named for saints and finally opened into a gigantic stone temple. Sitting on a stoop outside was a gypsy, playing flamenco guitar in the dwindling light of viernes.

Today I sat at Plaza Salvador, beer in hand, and watched Sevillanos socialize. I waited for an hour for Kirsten but was entertained by the beggars, posh children and bikers that always make this plaza full of life. They say the hispalenses live in the streets, and Sunday is the day to do it.

Afterall, the world is a handkerchief (the English translation of Spain’s “It’s a small world”), and running into friends when I live so far out of the center with a lack of a social life is one of the most pleasant parts of my life here. Within a block I bumped into my old flatmate, Megan, and two of my students from Olivares, and it turns out my other American coworker´s husband is an old friend of Kike.

Sevilla, sings María Dolores Pradera, tiene un color especial. Sevilla has something all it’s own.

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