Seville Bucketlist: One Year Update

On this weekend, one year ago, my friend Canilaydee and I were enjoying a rare Friday off of work. It was Día del Profesorado, which is pretty much a mental health day for teachers in Andalucía that also coincides with Andalusia Day. We came on the same plane over from Spain, so our days in Seville are in the same ballpark. Thus, over caramel macchiatos at Starbucks (the shame!), we decided to make a bucketlist.

One year later, I’m still trying to cross several things off the list. There’s a few I’ve had the chance to do, and other that will have to wait until all of this business of jobs, grad school and freelancing gets a bit more settled. In the past year I’ve:

  • Eat breakfast at the sumptuous Hotel Alfonso XIII (closed for renovations till March 2012)

My friend Lauren of Spanish Sabores and Recetas Americanas got married to her boyfriend Alejandro last June, so we wanted to do something special for her. The first weekend of May we had Monday off, so Kelly, Claudia and I booked her a table at brunch at Seville’s breathtaking Hotel Alfonso XIII. Acting as a bit of a shower, a bit of Sunday morning mayhem, we guzzled champagne and bite-sized breakfast tapas. Sadly, the weather didn’t cooperate and we couldn’t use the pool, but it was a great deal for endless food and drinks in one of Seville’s most beautiful buildings.

If you go: The hotel is closed until next month for renovations, and rooms are quite costly. As an alternative, you could have a coffee in the outdoor patio, a drink in the martini garden (where Cameron Diaz was spotted while filming Knight and Day) , or indulge in the Sunday brunch in the San Fernando restaurant. Prices weren’t available for the new temporada, but it cost us each about 39€, and they allowed us to bring our own cake.

  • Explore Hospital de la Caridad, noted for its collection of sevillano painters like Murillo and Velázquez

On a lazy Saturday morning just before Christmas, I entered the dark halls of the Hospital de la Caridad, a temple just off the banks of the Guadalquivir. The security guard sleepily took my five euro bill and held his arm up towards the heavy wooden door. Inside sat an arcaded patio, empty except for a docent that dozed in the morning sun that creep just behind the adjacent Giralda.

While the convent isn’t much to see, the chapel houses works by the Santa Caridad’s founder, religious painter Miguel Mañanra. The space is covered in scene from Christ’s life and the floor engraved with the names of the original members of la hermandad. While a little too opulent for my taste, the chapel and museum contain works of art that rival the collection in the nearby Fine Arts Museum.

If you go: Try and go on a Sunday for free access; otherwise, the entrance to a simple museum and inner grounds will run you 5€. I personally didn’t think it was worth it. The museum is located just behind the Teatro de la Maestranza just off the river, and can be reached by buses C3, C4, C5, 40 and 41, or just a short walk from the main sights of Avenida de la Constitución. Hours are Monday – Friday 9:30 – 13:30 and 15:30 – 19:30, and Sundays and festivals from 9:00 – 12:30.  

  • Visit museums like Archivo de las Indias, Palacio Lebrija and Artes y Costumbres

One great thing about being a teacher is the ability to be “invited” along to places. When I go on excursions with my students, we get to visit Roman ruins, horse shows and museums for free, so my visit a few weeks ago to the Museo Encuentado in the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares was  a real treat.

Two men dressed on period garb stood on the steps leading up to the neo-mudejar building that flanks one side of the Plaza de América, inside María Luisa Park. Using a hollowed-out gourd, they called the kids to attention before breaking us off into groups. Domingo explained the cultural heritage evident in Seville’s long history through the objects in the museum, and I was fascinated at how the museum could come to life for my young learners.

The museum has two floors dedicated to cultural heritage in Seville – artifacts, furniture, azulejos – and provides many dioramas of talleres that are especially pertinent to the area – the gold molding for semana santa floats, wine making, matanzas (if you want to know, click here), etc. I’ve yet to visit the other two, but all in good time…

If you go: The museum is located in the María Luisa Park that is walkable from the historic center, or you could alternately take buses 1, 6, 30, 31, 34, 37 or 38. The entrance cost is low – free for EU members and 1,50€ for all others, and the museum is open Tuesday from 2pm – 8:30pm, Wednesdays to saturday from 9am – 8:30pm and Sundays from 9am – 2:30pm.

  • See the Virgen de la Macarena in her Basilica

In Seville, one could ask if you were sevillista or bético, referencing the two Hispalense soccer teams. In a way, you could also ask if you were more for the Virgen de la Esperanza de Triana or the Virgen de la Esperanza de la Macarena.

When I have friends come to visit and we take a walk around my old barrio of Triana, I always pop into the small chapel on Calle Pureza where my preference, la Trianera, lives, to explain the cultural significance of Holy Week. Still, after four years and four Semana Santas passed, I still hadn’t been to the Basilica de la Macarena.

That was, until December 18th. And quite by accident. And on the worst day of the year to see her. The story is just way too funny and too much of a guiri moment, so click here if you want to read it.

If you go: Macarena’s oppulent home is located in the northern end of the historic center, just off of C/ Bequer. Alternately, you could takes buses C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, 2, 13 or 14 to the entrance of the church, which is free to enter. Standard hours apply, and expect to meet a lot of faithful on feast days and during Semana Santa.

  • Explore the Cementerio San Fernando, resting place of bullfighters and famous sevillanos

Just today, I crossed off another item (in addition to seeing the inside of the parliament palace). Kike lent me his car to cross town to the cemetery, where I was met with a hearse and a long funeral procession. Upon entering the brick and iron gates of San Fernando,  a guard who merely pointed to a sign prohibiting cameras. I tucked Camarón back into my bag and surrendered him to the guard, pleading that he keep it in the office.

I’ve always liked cemeteries for their solace and tranquility. Seville’s massive complex is located in the northern end of the city, and the Alamillo bridge is visible over the mausoleums and walls of graves. The plot is breathtaking – walls of white hold the mortal remains of Seville’s most celebrated bullfighters – like Juan Belmonte and Paquirri – and hijos predilctos, as well as flamenco singers and businessmen, like Osborne.

I was enraptured by the bright blue sky and ability to think clearly for once. The small details left on the graves, from fascists arrows to a plastic statue of a Disney princess to plastic flags and flowers, made life’s pleasures become a reality for me. Even in death, I could imagine what a neighbor treasures in life. In the hour I spent walking through decrepid old family mausoleums and placards that had been shattered and left abandoned, I saw shrines both great and humble. Loved ones of the departed cleaned and swept the gravesites, just like in the opening scene of the Manchego women in Volver. Much more than witnessing a cultural element in flamenco or bullfighting, I was witness to the utmost respect that Andalusians use when caring for the deceased. Well worth the loss of sleep for a bit of perspective.

If you go: San Fernando cemetery is open to the public every day from 8 – 5:30am. Keep in mind that it is a sacred place for Spaniards, so loud noises and photos are strictly prohibited. You can reach the cemetery by public TUSSAM bus #10 from Ponce de León in the center. The stop is located directly across from the entrance.

Other ideas for my Seville or Spain bucketlist? This year I’m traveling to Zaragosa and Murcia, two places I’ve never visited – so only Logroño will be left to conocer! What tops your travel bucketlist for this year? Leave me ideas in the comments after viewing my original blogpost here.

If January Marks the Start…My 2011 Travel Round-up

Let me tell you a little story about peer pressure.

When I was 11, my parents informed me that the dog had taken the news well. She faintly wagged her tail.

“What news?” I asked, hoping for the trampoline I’d begged my parents to buy us for ages.

Oh no, it was the M-word. We were moving. I’d have no friends. Maybe there wasn’t a Kohl’s there. Was Chicagoland > Rockford, or had my mother just confused after consumering too many kosher hot dogs growing up and was going crazy?

Well, I wanted to fit in. I did so by going to the Von Maur and using my birthday money to buy a pair of Jnco jeans because all of the popular girls had them.

I strutted into Edison middle school the next morning and was immediately dismissed as a poser.

Well, I didn’t learn my lesson. Now that I’m blogging, I give into the peer pressure of comparing stats, doing those dumb surveys and, as the new year has already crept up on us, a year in review. In 2011, I added two new countries to the list, had five visitors from the US, got my work/residence visa paperwork all together and turned 26.  I can’t say 2011 will be the greatest I’ve had (dude, 2010 was pretty, pretty good), but I managed to see some new things, meet some new people and probably consume a new pig part.


Amy and I rang in the New Year with oysters, an old boxing legend and a broken camera in Lausanne, Switzerland. I moped through Season Three of Sex and the City the next day while Amy was bed ridden. Colds and booze do not mix, people.

From there, I met several  friends in Berlin, Germany and got my history nerd on as I explored a concentration camp, museums and the off-beat Berlin.


Apart from the usual routine, I got to go to my first flamenco fashion show and a wine festival. Cheap wine, that is.


March came in like a león, as I spent a raucous night in Cádiz as a third-of the blind mice group at the annual Carnavales celebrations.

My first visitors of the year, Jason and Christine, spent a rainy sojourn in Sevilla,

but then Beth came during the Azahar and warm weather, and we drank in Granada, Jeréz and Cádiz (and then I got strep).


Ahh, a Sevillian primavera. I spent Easter Week in Romania with my camp buddies, driving a beat up Dacia from one forlorn corner of Romania to another. I loved it, and consider it a budget-lovers paradise – I spent in one week less than I did on my airfare! And ate a ton of pickles. I am like the Snooki of Spain when it comes to pickles.


The first week of May brought flamenco dresses, sherry and my five-year win over Spanish bureaucracy during Feria week. I spent nine days riding in horse carriages and proving I have plenty of enchufe.

A few weeks later, Jackie and her brother came to visit, and we took off to Córdoba for another fair.

Also, Luna turned one, Betis worked its way back into the premiere league, and summer was just on the horizon.


Switched to half days at work just as it was impossible to take the heat. Got to watch Lauren walk down the aisle and party all night (only to fly to Madrid for a conference the next morning. I made it!). And I got my first real year of teaching done, too!

I may have, at time, been a professional baby handler, but having a peek into a kid’s world is something magical. Magical if you like boogers, of course.


The first of the month brought a huge triumph: I was finally given my five-year resident card and had won my battle with extranjería. For the third summer in a row, I headed up north to Galicia and to summer camp. Instead of teaching, I was given the role of Director of Studies, so I got a work phone and unlimited photocopies. Perks. Teachers got crap weather, but I a not-crap team (they were awesome.)

The Novio, finally back from pirate-hunting, met me in Madrid for a few days. We got the chance to, um, do what we do in Seville (eat tapas and drink beer) before making a day-trip to the sprawling El Escorial palace.


A is for August and America and fAtty, as I spent 23 days eating up all of my favorite American goodies, like real salads and Cheez-its. I had help celebrating a birthday, as my dear amigas from Spain, Meag and Bri, came to Chicago for a few days. I also got to visit Margaret in her New Kentucky Home.

What I thought would be a good little sojourn was much too short, and I boarded a Dublin-bound plane and stayed overnight on the Emerald Isle.


School started again September first, and my change to first grade resulted in more naps, more work and more responsibility. Thankfully, I had my great kiddos back in my (own!!!) classroom. Life resumed as normal.


Though I vowed to make my fifth year in Spain new (and I have been doing hiking trips, seeing theatre and exhibitions, etc.), I fell in to normal school routine. In October, this was punctuated by a work trip to Madrid for a conference, studying for the DELE and endless barbeques. When in Spainlandia, I suppose.


The new month meant cooler air, a focus on studying and a visit from my final visitor, Lisa. I sprinted out of the DELE to catch a train, meet her and take her to Granada. We laughed at all of our college memories and she broke out of her little mundo to try new foods and explore Seville on her own.

Bri came, so we had a small Thanksgiving dinner, and I shared it with my not-so-anxious-about-pie goodness at school.


Amid lots of school work and the looming Christmas play, I enjoyed the Christmas season in the city. Brilliant lights, snacking on chestnuts, window-shopping. The Novio went to the States for work, and I followed him soon after to travel around the Southwest with my parents and sister. The Valley of the Sun, Vegas and the Grand Canyon were on the itinerary, but the extra $640.55 I won on a slot machine win weren’t!

Sadly, the year ended on a sour note when I got news that the child I had repped during my years in Dance Marathon passed away after a long battle with cancer. I don’t want to preach, but you can visit the website to see what the Dance Marathon at the University of Iowa does for kids and their families who are battling cancer.

Goals for the next year? Plenty, both personal and professional. Just be better, I guess. The second part of the year has been a huge slump, so it’s time to find me again. Be a better partner, teacher, friend. Fill up those last two pages of my passport. Figure out where to go next.

I want you to share your biggest accomplishment and goals for 2011-2012! I need some inspiration, readers!

Three Ways to Beat Holiday Blues Abroad

Author’s Note: I was overwhelmed at the personal responses I got from my last post, from friends and other bloggers alike. I am by no means giving up on Spain or planning a move home, but I merely wanted to make people aware that leaving one’s home country and striking out elsewhere has its downfalls, too. Even moving to a different city in your state can bring on feelings of isolation and homesickness, so it’s only natural that doing it all in a different country does, too. I woke up with a better attitude after having spilled my guts, but your words of encouragement certainly helped. As they say, a mal tiempo, buena cara.

Ho, ho, ho, I’m a huge Scrooge. Despite my usually cheery personality (please excuse my last post), I am not listening for sleigh bells or roasting chestnuts over an open fire (though I do love snacking on them). In fact, I chose to come to Seville because there was no snow, no Santa Claus and no Black Friday.

But what to do when everyone thinks the days are merry and bright, and you’re hoping for lumps of coal in your stocking to match your mood? Beating the holiday blues, especially when abroad and missing your family (and maybe even a few corny Christmas specials), can be as easy as finding your American friends and clinging onto what American traditions you can. So, amigos, without further ado, your holiday sneer cheer.

Bake until your mini primer burns out!

Although I’ve loathed Christmas for as long as I can remember, I remember all of the afternoons spent baking with my mother and sister in our kitchen growing up. Sugar cookies, chocolate chip for my dad, anise-laced wafers, fudge fingers, Mexican wedding balls – Nancy laid down a schedule and we stuck to it, often hastily stuffing my father’s christmas cookies into a tin and not even bothering to wrap them on Christmas Eve before Mass.

Using Lauren’s recipe for sugar cookies, I gleefully pulled out my new purchase from IKEA (a flour sifter), the vanilla Lisa brought me from home and the last lone egg Kike left me for baking purposes. I made a mess, as usual, and might have broken my mini primer (Santa Baby, hurry down my non-chimney tonight with a hand mixer, please!), but the elation of uncovering the hardened dough and using cookie cutters bought at a hardware store hidden in Bellavista brought me all kinds of elation. And since I’m home alone till Christmas, they’re all mine!

Thankfully, my group of guiritas and I will be having our second-annual cookie exchange this afternoon, so I can expect mulled wine, Love Actually and plenty more cookies to bring more holiday cheer.  If not, there are always pig-lard delicacies to enjoy!

Watch American Football and not feel bad about it

I get homesick a lot in the Fall with important holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving making us scrambling to find turkeys and a Halloween costume not resembling anything dead. And, duh, it’s football season. I love me a good conference rivalry and the taste of Natty Lite on my lips before the sun’s even up, so being away from the Hawkeye State during September, October and November is torturous.

But, when my holiday esteem has sunk so low, it seems impossible to fix, I repeat my affirmation: There’s no place like Monday Night Football. There’s no place like Monday Night Football… Given Spain’s six- to nine-hour time difference, I can’t always watch the Packers (first Super Bowl win in my lifetime I had the stomach flu, the second time I had to go to bed to get up for school). But even watching the Saints with my NOLA pal this weekend, drinking a Budwesier was enough to make me enjoy the Christmas Lights when we left halfway into the second quarter of the Packers game.

For American and British sports coverage in Spain, look no further than the Irish pubs: Tex Mex on C/ Placentines, O’Neill’s across from the San Bernardo train station and Merchant’s Malthouse on C/ Canalejas. Since they’re catered to study abroad students and tourists alike, many have game day specials or Anglo-friendly activities (Sunday brunch!? Sí!!)

See the Christmas Lights

I grew up in Rockford, Illinois, a mid-sized city near the Wisconsin border. Margaret and I looked forward to driving through the annual Festival of Lights, noses pressed to the windows. It was nothing special, but it was loads better than the lady down the street whose lawn barfed out Christmas lights and plastic Santas. And, really, Rudolph’s nose is much more delightful when it’s lit up.

In Spain, the holiday season officially begins with the alumbrado of the Christmas lights on the Inmaculate Concpetion Day, December 8 (Yes, in case you’re wondering, I was off school. ¡Viva la Virgen María!) All along main shopping streets and city avenues, brightly-colored lights are strung, causing the city to cough up half a million euracos and people to stop mid-tracks in front of the oncoming light rail.

But, really, they’re lovely. Spots to hit in Seville include Avenida de la Constitución, Calle San Fernando, Calle San Eloy and Plaza Nueva. I have to settle with the pathetic display on the Alcampo supermarket nextdoor, but it’ll do, especially since the building next to mine blocks the light.

Now that our bellies are full of cookies and beer and our retinas burned from all those bulbs, who wants to scrooge it up with me?


One of the words in Spanish for hope is ilusión. Simply adding the prefix des-, similar to the American dis-, makes it negative. Desilusión means disappointment.

In either language, it’s a word that conveys a let-down, the crestfallen feeling one gets when something doesn’t work out in the best possible way. My wise friend LA PAINE (famosa por tó Sevilla) once said that living abroad is like being on one of two sides of the spectrum of happiness – either you’re extremely elated, or you’re devastatingly disappointed.

I’m lucky that I tend to hover on on the positive side. I have daily belly laughs (um, hello, my kids discovered the entry in the dictionary on the human body, complete with pictures the same day I had a kid ask me if my boyfriend was Justin Bieber), breathe in an incredible and vibrant city on the daily and have more contacts than my phone can hold. I’ve done what I intended to do – build a life in a different country in a different language.

Now, I’m not one to put all my eggs in the proverbial basket or count them before they’ve hatched, but for the first time in a long, long time, I was genuinely looking forward to something. To a change, to a step in the right direction. And being the cautious one who looks both ways before crossing the street and taking the plunge and even getting out of bed, I was mum about it. I only told my parents after an offer came, spoke about it to Kike’s mother as strictly business.

If luck is all about being in the right place at the right time, I try and get there a few minutes early, simply because I’m prompt. But this Spanish suerte always arrives at the wrong time – in the middle of the school year, just before a big deal falls through, just a pelín off my ticking clock. It’s like I’m constantly running after the trabajo train, resumé in hand, only to be left at the platform.

Desilusión has taken on a new meaning as I’m in the holiday slump, the clouds hanging low over La Hispalense. The clouds in my head have been raining non-stop since Monday night when those flash-flood tears didn’t want to stop. I feel like I’m trapped in a small margin of what I’m capable of – rather than publish or die, it’s CLIL or die these days.

It’s Christmas time in the city, but I’m just wanting to wake up in Arizona on the 22nd already. Seville may boast sunny days atope, but the storm clouds in my head seem to be here for a while.

What to expect on the DELE Spanish Exam

updated with the help of Agasel in November 2015

A la bim! A la bahm! A la bim bohm bahm!

I expected a rousing Thursday! from my six year olds, but instead got “El día del examen de Miss Cat!”

Call it what you want – D-day, DELE-day, Run-and-hide-under-the-Cronómetro-book day, but November 17th was finally upon me. My pencils all sharpened, I hightailed out of work an hour early and took the train to Cádiz.

After nearly a year of toying with the idea, buying the prep books and finally buckling down to study, I got around to taking that stupid thing.

Psst! The format changed. Like, really, really drastically throw-your-stupid-refranes-book-in-the-hogueras changed. But, when I walked into the International House in Cádiz, I kind of didn’t know this, despite Lauren’s warnings and even the Instituto Cervantes announcing it. Alas, there were no books available for the new C1 or C2 formats, so I gleefully skipped over the grammar sections and watched an insane amount of news in Spanish. Because, duh, the DELE don’t like no tontos.

The city of Cádiz sat quiet and refreshingly beautiful, what with the haze of cheap rum and 16-year-old vomit lifted on a non-Carnaval night. The air was chilly on the peninsula, so I wrapped my arms tightly around my body and followed my phone’s GPS to my testing site, the International House Cádiz, a language school with academies around Spain.

The lobby resembled my elementary school’s, just brighter and not straight out of the 70s. My fellow testees hailed from all around the globe, brought together by our common language – castellano. I introduced myself to Marina, the exam coordinator, who was just a few months older than me and British, despite a Spanish name and flawless written Spanish.

The DELE exam in the superior levels are composed of four parts that examine your destrezas integradas, or your ability to understand, interpret and express yourself in Spanish. This means that rather than having a section simply dedicated to listening and answering multiple choice questions, you’ll be asked to listen to some kind of speech, short dialogue or conference and then speak or write about it. These competencies are the examen oral, the comprehensión lectiva, the competencia auditiva and the destrezas básicas, an evil hybrid of interpretation: audición e expresión escrita.

I followed Marina up a tight, winding staircase to the top floor. My bag and coat joined two others: one was the girl completing her oral exam in front of the judges, the tribunal, and the other preparing her…wait! She’s preparing something?

At 8 o’clock sharp (bravo, Spain!), Marina led me into a small classroom that had remnants of a young learners class in it. In front of the sturdy table sat two stark white folders. “Option 2 is a bit shorter,” Marina said as she pulled the door behind me. I read : La participación de jóvenes el el proceso político.” Ew, no. Option 1 it would have to be, a topic debated and groaned about in the halls of St. Mary’s: Spain’s push for the retirement age to be changed to 67 from 65. Coming from a long day of work, it seemed like something I could talk about when giving my personal opinion.

During the 20 minutes given to read the article enclosed in the folders, the candidato must read and take notes to prepare a four-to-six minute speech about the topic. Then, the interviewer will give the candidate the opportunity to establish and defend his opinion. Finally, the candidate is presented with a hypothetical situation and four photos, and he must talk about it and choose the best picture of the situation, defending the decision.

By 8pm, the tribunal had already seen well more than a dozen candidates. The handle to the door was icy cold as I pulled it shut, and I immediately regretted my decision to wash my hands in the bathroom – a soap dispenser disaster had left a huge stain on the lower half of my dress. I hastily explained my disheveled appearance and accepted their laughter.

After a few basic questions about how I ended up in Spain and how I learned Spanish, I gave my presentation, focusing on the article’s scientific evidence for abhorring the law proposal. The first few sentences felt choked, but noticing that the interviewer wasn’t writing anything on the blank paper before me, I suddenly felt eased. Being the last interviewee of the day, the interrogation seemed quick.  Using my own experience teaching, I spoke easily about my own hesitations at the new proposal.

After completing the third section – four pictures of work situations and speaking about which suited my personality best – I gathered my lone bag and said goodbye to Marina, knowing we’d see each other in 12 hours. Bursting into the cold air, I was relieved that Gustav, a tall Swede, had opted to switch with me and do his entire exam Friday, leaving me to get the most worrisome part out-of-the-way.

After a quick stroll around the star-shaped peninsula that the old city sits on, I had two beers and some pizza (hey, I earned it!) before retiring to my hotel. The long week at work, coupled with sheer mental exhaustion, made for a heavy párpados.

The following morning, I reached the testing center. Fourteen names appeared on the door immediately off the lobby – a long, thin room with NIVEL C1 written in messy script on the whiteboard. ¿Catherine? Candidata cuatro, José Manuel, the tribunal boss, said, a slight smile crossing his face. I wished him a good morning and laid my eraser, three sharpened pencils and a pack of tissues on the table ahead of me and settled in for four hours of castellano. When we were all seated, JM explained the last-minute instructions – we had to use the pens provided, were allowed to mark up test booklets and that there was a slight mistake on the oral competency exam.

I had found the copy of last year’s C1 exam online and quickly reviewed its contents while we waited for 9am to hit. Short dialogues were new on the listening section. And there were no narrative stories to write. I took a quick glance around. People were rubbing their heads, crossing themselves. I said a quick prayer: please don’t let this 300€ have been in vain. José Manuel looked at us and dropped his hands. You may begin, he announced.

The morning session before a break had two parts: the reading and listening. I grabbed the pen and got down to business on the reading. During the 90 minute exam, one can allow about 15 minutes per each of the five tests, called tareas. The first (if memory serves me right) is a formal text – contract, meeting minutes, etc. – followed by a series of multiple choice questions. I tend to score higher on the scientific tests, so this was a piece of cake, responding to questions about proposals of an apartment building’s neighbor assembly. The second task is a narrative text with paragraphs missing. Following the broken piece are seven short paragraphs. The candidate must find the correct six passages, thus omitting one of the false entries. I was delighted to have a passage about travel, but this section proved to be the most difficult for me. Blame it on narrative journalism classes. The third text was a scientific article about the improbability of life on Mars with a few straightforward multiple-choice questions, and then came the fun part: reading six or eight museum exhibit announcements, and answering short questions about them.

For example: ¿Cúal de las exhibiciones tiene actividades complementarias? Which of the exhibit has conferences, contests, etc. I would then have to match the correct exhibition to the description. The fifth and final section was the grammar, where prepositions and subjunctive conjugations were left out, and the candidate must choose the correct option out of three given. There were 14 questions, which I finished rapidly.  I had just enough time to quickly check to be sure the bubbles were filled in correctly before JM announced, ¡Lápices sueltas! and even took a pen out of another candidate’s hand.

The listening test was much the same: four tareas with 30 associated questions. While on older models of the exam were simply listening and answering true/false and multiple choice questions, the new version of the exam is again focused on those destrezas – using the language to make educated guesses.

Tarea 1 was the toughest, as the candidate had to listen to a conference and fill in six blanks from a pool of 13 answers, all of which are very similar. I had to listen to a woman talk about the practical use of great thinkers’ ideas. Yawn. Being a subject I had no interest in, it was difficult to focus my brain entirely. Next, in Tarea 2, there are eight questions that follow two short dialogues. the candidate must identify specific details or feelings and choose from three or four multiple choice answers. The third section is the same listening as before; listening to a lecture and selecting multiple choice questions. Finally, Tarea 4 presents short dialogues that express emotions or specific information, and the candidate, again, chooses the best answer from three.

As a tip, use the short breaks to read ahead in the questions and understand them completely. The listening exam passes quickly because you have to work at the pace set by the audio tracks. Thankfully, nearly all of the audiciones were easy to understand and the accents clear. I was also sitting directly in front of the CD player as candidate 4, which was to my advantage.

I burst into the bright sun, thankful for an extra jolt of endorphins and a quick coffee. Inside a small sweets shop, I bought PEZ – remembering my high school coach’s acronym – pure energy and zip – and popped the whole thing in my mouth for good measure, as the writing section would be the most difficult for me. The 30-minute break alloted passed quickly, but I was getting antsy to finish.

The final written section of the exam is the combination listening and written exam. On four short, lined pages provided by the testing site, we’d have to complete two tasks. As the Novio was helping me prepare, he said that my stinging complaint letters deserved an A+, but my narrative writing was unfocused and messy.

On the exam model, there are two parts: the first requires one to listen to an eight- to ten-minute speech, take notes, and then write an expository essay with the author’s opinion at the end, taking note of word count. Then comes a choice between a complaint letter and a narrative. Clearly, I chose the complaint letter and had to write to my city hall calling blasphemy against the lack of cultural programming for senior citizens. The long essay was a pain in the culo – ten minutes of someone droning on about the conservation of fossil fuels in marginalized communities. In the end, I had to squeeze my words into the papers provided and hastily count words, but closing my booklet two minutes and sliding it to the corner of my paper, I took a long exhale and slumped in my chair. It was finished. Terminado. Finito. Acabado. As I stood up to collect my bags, I saw people scribbling to finish and sweat collecting on brows.

I felt good. As the maximum number of points is 100, and one must score a 33 on each section (Yeah, I don’t understand that math either…), I figured I’d done the required for an APTO score (adequate) and would be awaiting a certificate in a few months. In fact, I think I could have done the C2, too, with a bit more discipline and hours dedicated to studying. Marina was nowhere to be found, so I called the Novio to tell him it was all done, popping chuces into my mouth as  a reward. I finally relaxed on the train, looking forward.

While I may not need an Instituto Cervantes-issued ticket for a job any time soon, having to get back in the study mode and do something else but enjoy the sunshine and siestas was good for me (and my wallet, aside from the books and actual exam). I won’t find out my score for another 6-8 weeks, but I can rest easy note having a date looming over my head.

You can find the model on the Instituto Cervantes website by clicking here and downloading the PDF. Here are the testing dates for 2017.

Update: I passed my DELE exam, scoring a near-perfect score in both reading and writing. My listening score was average, though my speaking section was dismal. I went in overconfident yet nervous, and by not adhering to the exam specifics, I probably sounded like an idiot.

Have you ever taken a DELE exam? What helped you study? Read my tips for studying for the DELE exam here.

Y nace en Santa Cruz.

Saturday, 9:53 am. Bike is parked next to Alfonso XIII, heavy with a layer of dust. No one is out, save the old men, hands clasped behind their backs in a slow, statuary salute.

Early Saturday mornings mean the city is entirely for me: no camera-toting tourists to dodge, no street performers belting out their tired anthems. The sting of smoke from the chestnut vendors blinds me from the soft, golden color of the sun, long before it drowsily roars with its midday strength.

La Esquina de Arfe becomes my fueling stop, just a brisk walk away from the nondescript churros stand. The woman twisting the long coils hands a doughy stick to a young boy, snatching it away at the last moment. Niño! she scolds, ¡Que te vas a quemar! I take my coffee templado and my toast a bit burnt with tomatoes.

Saturday mornings mean solitude – in the streets, in the Hospital de la Caridad, in my own head. I wander the streets of El Arenal watching vendors receive their fresh goods, feeling the sunlight on my face. After ducking into Plaza del Cabildo for a quick look at the antique shops, I burst out onto Avenida de la Constitución. In the City That Never Socializes Indoors,  the streets have filled with strollers and shoppers.

María Praderes Dolores once sang that Sevilla has a special color. I imagine that it’s the color of the sun that sets in Triana and is born in Santa Cruz, illuminating the Giralda spire on early Saturday mornings.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...