Andaluces, Levantaos!

Do you ever dream about the real Spain? With its moorish arches, strips of golden beaches, flamencos and toreros?

Yeah, I live that dream. While I can’t say I know anyone who is a bullfighter or live on a beach, I am happy to call Seville, the Andalusian capital home. Today, on its 31st anniversary (my boyfriend is six months older than it!) I took the time to remember what I love so much about my new home: shrimp and other goodies from the sea, ferias and flecos, azulejos, toastadas, Cruzcampo and sunny afternoons with my Spanish family. I did what any of the 8.2 million inhabitants would do on their day off:

Sleep in, then have a toast with olive oil and ham.

Grab my bike and head into the center to pay homage the the bandera de verde y blanco, then visit a museum for free.

Finally, have a beer in Salvador.

Te brindo a tí, Andalucía, por ser tan grande y tan guapo. For your linxes and horses, your sherry and olives. For your gente and your history. For Picasso, Murillo, Antonio Banderas and David Bisbal’s hair, clearly.

And many thanks to Blas Infante.

What to Expect at a Spanish Barbeque

After Kike’s first trip to Somalia, I decided to throw him a surprise BBQ and invite all of his friends and a few of mine. Being American enouugh to love grilled meat and cold beer, I was shocked to find out that they way Spaniards do their barbeques no tiene ná que ver.
Kike’s friend Manuel invited us to his cortijo for a grill-out this weekend, and I went with sunscreen, dirty clothes and a pair of beat-up shoes, ready for the unexpected. But here are some norms to expect:

Expect to eat anything but hamburgers.

Expect farm equipment, but not sporting equipment
Expect to get dirty
Expect to have questionable facilities
Expect the barbecue to last hours
Expect weird music
Expect to head home at 7am.

Sevilla Bucketlist

Kelly and I were enjoying a rare day off from our teacher lives today, as our schools celebrated Teacher Day. Five hours less of slobbering, crying and poopy pants? Sounded fantastic, so we indulged in something neither of us, as wannabe sevillanas, would dare do: Go to Starbucks.

It got me thinking: When did I make the switch from being a tourist here? When did I stop wanting to run around and see everything Sevilla offers a tourist and  just, well, live like a Spaniard? After all, I don’t drink coffee between 12am-6pm, think a cold is an acceptable reason to turn down social plans and now have residency to prove that I’m getting there.

“I need a Sevilla bucket list,” I told her over my caramel macchiato. “You know, to keep Sevilla interesting.”

“What we both need is to relax these four days,” she replied. And despite doing the DELE, the guidebook, planning a summer camp, running a different one and working 43 hours a week, I’m making one, some of which were inspired by the website I devoured before moving here.

While waiting for Kike to get up from his nap and catching up on my TV shows, I started making a bucket-list of all the things I’d like to do in Sevilla, beginning with the one Kelly and I first did together:

  • Have a drink on the patio of Hotel Doña María at the foot of the Giralda. (4,50€ for coffee and a view is worth it)
  • Eat breakfast at the sumptuous Hotel Alfonso XIII (closed for renovations from March 2011)
  • Have churros from a lady on C/Arfe I once saw pictured in a book (Amazing! Just get chocolate or cola cao down the street)
  • Spend a session at the Arabic Baths (prune!)
  • Rent a paddle boat in Plaza de España (harder than it looks!)
  • Marvel at the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes, where priests went to die peacefully (go Sunday afternoons from 3-8, when it’s free entrance)
  • Climb the Parasol in Plaza de la encarnación
  • Visit the newly renovated Covento de Santa Clara
  • Explore Hospital de la Caridad, noted for its collection of sevillano painters like Murillo and Velázquez
  • Visit museums like Archivo de las Indias, Palacio Lebrija and Artes y Costumbres
  • See the Virgen de la macarena in her Basilica
  • Have a beer and tapa at Sevilla’s oldest tapas joint, El Rincolncillo
  • Pet puppies in the alfalfa Sunday pet market
  • Hike in Cazalla de la Sierra, a mere 10 miles from my boyfriend’s town
  • Visit the Huevo de Colón, an offbeat monument (thanks, Manuel!)
  • Explore the Cementerio San Jerónimo, resting place of bullfihgters and famous sevillanos

Please leave any suggestions, or come with me!!

Spain Life in Photos: Feria del Mosto

I was pretty set on my tastes when I came to Spain. Remembering my señora’s first meal in Valladolid (Niñas, this is pretty much whatever was in the fridge mixed with mayonnaise! Eat up!), I fantasized about walking so much and eating so little, I would shrivel away to nothing like any sevillana after a year in Spain.

Whoa, I was wrong. Besides cheap beer, I’ve come to love nearly every part of the pig, fatty guisos and anything that you can eat with a spoon, have adopted the afternoon snack and late meal times and have become a coffee addict.

Any time there’s a festival, I eat. And keep eating. Jeremy called me up to go to the Feria del Mosto and Aceituna Fina del Aljarafe in Umbrete. Just miles from Olivares, this town is famous for its grape juice wine and beautiful, perfect green olives.

As the Virgin del Rocio, the lushy one, looked on, we consumed bottle after bottle of the sweet wine in its principal stages of fermentation and popped olives in our mouths after every sip. I contemplated: What if I had missed out on this little morsel of goodness, available at every bar for free, the perfect aperitivo or snack?

It happened one night at Anselma…

Two years ago, my dear friend Lindsay called me with a journalistic question: How do you write for a guidebook and not make it sound like a 23-year-old party girl wrote it?

You give the job to me, I replied.

Two years later, when the Rough Guides series asked her to update another addition, she did. I’m in the process of revising the flamenco, nightlife, shopping and practical information sections of their Andalucía version, a task I welcomed and looked forward to doing.

Until I went to Anselma.

I gathered my two other married/pareja de hecho friends (ok , I’ll be fair, Lauren is engaged and Mickey is thinking about doing pareja de hecho) and grabbed a tapa from Dr. X in Triana. At half past 11, we took our spots in line in front of one of Triana’s most famous flamenco joints, Casa Anselma. I’d always marvel at all of the people lined up around the block while having my punto-pinchi-chipi-champi at Las Golodrinas. The owner, a singer who never really hit the big time but is friends with Pantoja, Paquirri and the lot of them, overcharges for beer but the show is earthy, long and fun.  figuring the place must be good, we snagged three seats at a table in the second row.

The place filled up so quickly that even the waitress couldn’t move through the crowd. I gave her a 20€ bill for our three glasses of wine before the show began. An old trianero, hair ablaze, strummed his guitar while he and two others played a copla. Two other stood up and requested a sevillanas. So did a drunk American, claiming she could dance. As it turned out, she was just being obnoxious and tried to clap her way out of it. Everyone in the place but us three roared with laughter.

Anselma, feeling upstaged by the guiri, took her place front and center and began to sing a well-known copla, Piensa in Me. She wasn’t outrageously good, but the crowd drank in her attempts to squeeze more money out of the free show. When she sang the namesake, she raised her hand to her mouth as if drinking a mug a beer and pointed with her other to the bar.

While singing another shortly after, a loud crash echoed through the virgin-covered walls. We all turned around, and the waitress had tripped and spilled a gin and tonic on a patron. He had one of those “Me cago all over your favorite Virgin” looks on his face, and the queen of the tablao took it personally. “Hey, she’s mine!” she shouted at sour puss, “If you have a problem I, as the queen of this house, ask you to leave!” The man stepped further into the bar and his friend came to his rescue, “You don’t know how to behave properly in your own business. This is no way to treat clients, and you’re just after the money!” Other clients started jeering and shouted, “FUERA!” until the pair left. I turned around and asked Lauren, how do we get out of here? I expected to have the bar empty out.

No one left. Typical, Spain.

Afraid to get up and leave, for fear she might follow us to the street, we stayed on as she told jokes. No one was safe – catalanes, homosexuals and foreigners were all ripped on. I started to grow more and more uncomfortable, yet couldn’t help but be entertained. Next, it was reported that someone’s wallet had been stolen and the owner did nothing to help. We knew then it was time to go and literally crawled over people to get to the door.

I went and met Kike at a bar on Calle Betis. I offered to buy him a drink, but upon opening my wallet, realized I hadn´’t been returned my 11€ from the drinks. Anselma is out of the guide.

On Becoming Pareja de Hecho in Spain

“What’s taking so long at table three?” I asked Kike. “Is there even a man working there?”

It was 3:42, twelve minutes past my appointment at Extranjería. Nervously tapping my toe, I looked over to my starved boyfriend whose unamused face had turned into extreme impatience. I was ok missing twelve more minutes of school but was concerned my pareja wasn’t thrilled to be waiting a few more for his puchero.

When a man with a large nose and equally big smile beckoned me (Kahhfuree-nay May-ree Haaaaa was what came out as my name), Kike pushed past the small group waiting outside the glass-encased funcionario land at the Foreign Residents office and asked permission to sit down.

I had remarked that the newly-renovated space was friendly, with deep blue and green walls, new chairs and an appointment system. The man’s “So, you’re a student and now you’re married” was the only thing that seemed foreign to me. Married, um, no.

Ok, so technically I am married, according to the Spanish government at least. Kike and I opted to do a pareja de hecho, most similar to a civil union in the US, to start the process of me getting permanent resident status. While I can’t ever be fully Spanish or even have a Spanish passport without renouncing my American one, this seemed like the easiest way to eventually live here legally and without a student status. It would only take three years of leaving the EU every 90 days.

Well, times changed at the homosexuals this law was meant to protect wanted full marriage rights. Spain said no, but amplified pareja de hecho laws, taking me on the fast track to free livin’ in Iberia. So, my lawyer says, Oh yeah, you can do this.

And it’s done. My school let me take off the afternoon, smiley face man gave me no frills, and I may just be starting to get REALLL Spanish.

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