The Golden Hour

I once made a promise to myself to run along the paths that stretch out along the Big River, past the graffiti and skate park. I did it for a while, telling myself that I wasn’t just doing it for the endorphin release or to counteract the fried food my fellow sevillanos love so much. I did it because when it cooled off at 9pm, the sun was setting over the Aljarafe and it turned everything golden. The river sparkles, the buildings become gilded.

It’s my favorite time of day. Nine o’clock is the golden hour: the urge to drink a beer creeps in and walking to my destination means my eyes are entertained.

I still hold that Seville is among the most breathtaking cities in Spain for its ceramics, the romantic horse carriages and streets that stretch only a wingspan. I gots proof, too.

Final light over Puente de El Cachorro
de Remo on the Guadalquivir
Vistas de Triana are my favortite
Ok, Ok, this is Aracena, but I love this shot

So, do ya get it now?

Preschool, Year One: The Good, the Bad and the How’d I Get So Ugly?

Thomas the Tank Engine is creeping back from my childhood, and not because he’s the 2001 version of Tickle Me Elmo. That’s my daily affirmation that I can push through these last few days of baby school and get through directing a summer camp. I’m beat, I’m spent, I’m a card house waiting for someone to just blow. I think I can, I think I can…

This first year of preschool has seen its share of both good and bad. Good in the sense that I could adapt, use the creativity I found I had in high school with a lower level, receive hugs and kisses every few moments, and watch my kids grow physically and emotionally, as well as intellectually. Bad in the sense that I’ve cowered away from responsibilities, crumbled under pressure like never before, and let my emotions get the best of me. Last week, for example, we had out annual Summer Show. At the last minute, I was told I needed to do a theater in English. I chose the five-year-olds’s favorite song, assigned parts to the most able students and prayed for a miracle. It was a disaster, a complete and udder kaka. The mics didn’t work, the kids froze. I cried, unable to catch my breath or face the parents who so regularly compliment me. It took me till the next day to face up to myself and say, they’re kids, they’re small, they barely speak their own language. I think I can.

There are times when I remember how beautiful it is to work with small kids. Last night at the 5 años celebration, Bea talked about the wonder of letting adults into the marvelous world of a small child. It’s really true. I had students excited to learn English, and every other subject, eager to tell me the most minute details of their lives (including baby brother’s eating habits), willing to do anything for their seño. I laughed, and a lot. I sang until my throat hurt.

baby steps

It’s certainly been a year of discovery  – discovering my own strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, discovering how a child’s brain works. Discovering how to have a bad day and let the kids make it better. And, most importantly, discovering that I could push myself just like I pushed the kids.

I will miss some of my kids dearly, their open minds and their silliness. I will not, however, miss JJ and D play fighting (resulting in A cutting his lip yesterday). I get a whole new crop of babies next year and I worry about taming them and charming them like I have my five-year-olds.

All grown up

For better or for worse, I survived. I have a year of real teaching under my belt, and I landed on my feet in the end. Actually, I surprised myself.

Punto, Golpe, Tacón

I suppose you could blame Geoff, my Rough Guides editor. When he sent me my assignment, I ripped open the envelope to find highlighted nightlife, listins, shopping and flamenco. Barf.

In college, when given an open assignment, I often chose to write about flamenco in my Spanish writing courses. I didn’t exactly like flamenco, but there was a ton of information on it, making the research process much easier. I knew about the gypsy and Middle-Eastern origins, that bulerías were fast and lively and cante hondo the deep, bellowing flamenco chords that reek of heartache and loss. Meh, we Americans have blues, so I kinda got it.

But Geoff demanded I sit through flamenco shows in tablaos, bars and peñas in the name of budget tourism, so I did. Besides, there’s all kinds of jaleo surrounding the topic, now that UNESCO has named it an Intangible Cultural I-don’t-even-know-what. I used the night spents listening to cante and toca with friends, using it as an excuse to get the old married folk out of the house.

Something happened. All of the sudden, I was suggesting other smaller, lesser-known shows. I went to Peña Hípica Búcaro and watched a young singer melt from hospitable and friendly to deeply moved by duende, that intangible fire that grows inside you, toes up (shout out to Federico!). The gold-laden chapel in the Cartuja Monastery provided a backdrop to watching an up-and-coming gypsy from Granada parade around stage, dressed in a man’s high-waited paints and using her jet-black hair as sideburns.

My vocabulary is now infused with sujeción, tango, compá. I own a pair of Roberto Garrado flamenco shoes with clavos, nails which have been hammered into the toe and heel to make the toc toc sound when you dance. Walking down the street become accented, depending on the compás we’ve just done in class. I love the Jeréz bulería: un DOS un dos TRES cuatro cinco seis SIETE OCHO nueve DIEZ.

While my dancing has always been confined to sevillanas, a four-part dance with little variation, I’m enjoying my class, my maestra Carmen’s flamenco face when she raises her shoulders and the booty-dancing at the end of the bulerías routine. With just a few more hours of class left before I head up north, I’m savoring the last little bit of arte.

Here’s a few of the lesser-known tablaos I have been frequenting lately

T de Triana (C/Betis, 9)
Though it’s arguably the most touristy and one of the newer, the rustic, feel and superb dancing gets shouts of olé! and serves tapas. Free, starting around 22:30 Thursdays and Saturdays.

Peña Hípica Búcaro (C/Alfonso  XII, 30, just east of Plaza del Museo)
Candles are lit next to Triana and flamenco’s love child, the eternal Camarón de la Isla. What seems like a group of young flamenco aficionados breaks out in song and guitar, providing a moving experience, though there is luittle dance. Shows Fridays and Saturdays around 22:30.

Miércoles de Flamenco, Monasterio de la Cartuja (Avda. de Descubrimientos, s/n)
The dancing takes center stage at the San Bruno chapel, whose gold retablao contrasts the stark white walls. The organization, Endanza, strives to bring lesser-known and new names in. Despite this, the duende is ever-present, and at 3€, it’s a cheap option. Wednesdays from March thru July, 20h.

Any other suggestions for flamenco, whether it’s an artist or a place to watch it?

But There’s a Light on in Chicago

And I know I should be home.

I discovered Fall Out Boy my freshman year of college when meeting another band put them on while cruising around the Chicago suburbs one night. I was drinking and loved the punk feel that night. Their song, Chicago is So Two Years Ago, was played on repeat the last week of my freshman year. I was burnt out from school and partying, ready for a little break and to once again become Nancy’s slave.

I mean, I worked two jobs and for my mother, but I was at home. I find this song creeping back into my consciousness as I countdown the days until preschool ends, camp begins, and I fly from Dublin to Chicago on August 1st.

It’s been officially 18 months and nine days since I was last on the North American continent. In that time I’ve gotten work papers, traveled to two more countries, directed a summer camp, technically became a blissful bride, met 154 small humans who have become my babies, seen friends off as they move back home. I’ve done a lot, and I’ve had fun. But I need America.

Jackie’s visit a few weeks ago brought things into perspective. Being first-generation American, she gets to hold on to her Mexicanness even in Chicago. Her complaints about the lack of spiciness in Spanish food proved that fact really quickly, and she pointed out a lot of oddities and annoyances about Spain and Spanish life that, well, I had kind of just gotten used to. I started thinking, maybe I’m over it, or maybe I just need a big dollop of America.

I am not-so-secretly making a bucketlist of things I need to do once back in America. These things include:

Drink a lot of margaritas. I miss them.

Wrigley Field.

Eat as many Chicago-style hot dogs as my stomach can hold. And sweet corn. Gah, Iowa.

Say goodbye to my dear doggy, Morgan, who at 16.5 years is still as stubborn as she was as a puppy.

Travel to Louisville to see my sister (and hopefully wear my ascot at Churchill Downs!).

Lots of dates with mom, lots of beers with dad.

Sit outside and not worry about the heat.


Driving a car, even if it is Nancy’s van.

Ethnic food.

I don’t think home is calling me too strongly yet, but I need some air. I need a big hug from my mom, too. Mostly, I need to reassure myself that all of this is a good idea, that Spain is where I need to be, and that I want to be there, too. August 1st can’t come fast enough, that’s for sure, but I know the short amount of time back home will be all too fast.

One thing I will miss about Europe? They don’t tip.

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