Note: My name is Scott Himelein and I'm studying in Seville, Spain, until May. I will be attempting to update this blog for RichmondSpiders.com as frequently as possible. Before diving in with this, I wanted to inform my readers that I can never properly show you what studying abroad is like. When I struggled with the idea of going abroad in the fall, I was informed from every which way that it would be: "the ____ four months of your life". I heard the words "Best", "Inspiring", "Independent", and "Influential". I respected my friends' opinions and advice but never quite appreciated or trusted what they were saying. I'm writing this only nine days into my experience and I can already start to see what they meant. My point is that if you're trying to gauge this blog to see if going abroad is right for you, you're reading for the wrong reason. I hope to inform and entertain as much as possible, but in reality, you won't truly know about the world abroad until you experience it for yourself. Enjoy...
Blog Entry #2
Hello to all. In the past couple weeks, there have been some things that I'll proudly talk about, ones that I'll reluctantly touch on and others that I probably should just leave alone. In my last post, I wrote about some major cultural differences I noticed upon arrival. In terms of Spanish culture recognition, there haven't been many developments since then. Sevillans are still late, they still siesta and they still speak Spanish. I'm starting to adjust and consequently, I can now talk about what I've been up to.
First, the good...
Last Sunday, my housemate Larry and I visited the widely-renowned Cathedral. It is the largest Gothic and third largest cathedral in all the world. For about two hours, we walked around the central nave, up the Giralda tower and outside to the Patio of Oranges. 'El Catedral' contains 80 chapels, and the perfectionist ideals of the architects are evident in every one of them. It seems the same amount of attention went into every artistic component, whether it was the pocket-sized sculptures that the majority of people don't even notice or the enormous paintings that one would be blind not to.
No wonder it took more than 400 years to build. This wasn't just a part of the builders' lives; it was their entire lives. People struggle today to commit themselves to sports teams, to relationships and to their jobs. These brilliant minds committed themselves every single day--not to an institution or another being--but to a piece of architecture. They spent lifetimes making sure every cross, sculpture and stain glass window was exactly, perfectly right. That's astounding. It is an architectural masterpiece I don't think anyone will ever try or want to duplicate again.
After the Cathedral, Larry and I arrived home in time for lunch. Because of the siesta break from work, lunch is very similar to how Americans view dinner. For my home-stay family, it's the time that the daughters, who are both in their twenties and out of the house, come home and hang out. The family leaves all work-related stresses behind and instead enjoys paella and good company. It's slowly but surely becoming my favorite time of the week. I'm able to absorb a lot about the culture, language and simultaneously feel like part of a loving and caring group. We talk about serious things like the high unemployment rate and the inefficiency of government but, like a typical family, we also talk of nothing. Lately, our better conversations have ranged from "tacos" (Spanish curse words) to the 'Do's and Don'ts of weekends to make sure Scott doesn't get deported'. I can't overstate how much I like these meals.
Unfortunately, there's also been bad since I last posted...
When brainstorming what to do with our days in the city these past few weeks, my friends were always able to persuade me to do things by simply reaffirming, "Well...you're only in Spain once." I was convinced to do a lot. I stayed out all hours of the night, partook in a lot of Botellons (outdoor social events typically by the river) and got caught up in situations reminiscent of Stifler in American Pie 3 (e.g., his dance-off). Having said all that, it shouldn't be hard to believe I got up one morning with a fever of 102 degrees and had serious trouble breathing.
Thus began three of the worst days of my life. I got sicker and sicker, and my mind started to process less and less of the Spanish language. Speaking to my home-stay family became a chore, and by the time I reached full-veggie status, all questions and responses were in the form of charades and head-nods, respectively.
My home-stay mom decided it would be best for me to visit a doctor. I assumed that one of my parents would talk to the doctor for me, but instead it became another stepping-stone towards independence. I limped my way through a conversation about what color my mucus was ("verde?"), if I had been wearing a coat out at night (sheepishly shook my head) and if I understood all the instructions about my medicine (smiled and nodded blankly).
For three days, I was able to experience all of Spain that my bedroom had to offer. I slept most hours and mustered my way through meals. Cabin fever reached a high by the end of my quarantine when I found myself counting the amount of cute pink flowers that comprised my wallpaper. I've decided that as much as I want to do things these next four months based on the "You're only in Spain once" mentality, I need to balance it all with "You only live once".
Since my recovery, I've returned to classes and the outside, active world. I'm starting to ease into my previous lifestyle, but with a little more care. I come back home earlier at night, I'm in the process of finding pick-up soccer games and a gym and I just bought a heavy-duty, 100% Spanish coat.
So, as much as the past few days were a bummer, they were also a necessary evil in the learning process. I hope I never have to return to "el medico" and can instead avert my attentions to the ever-so-important "how to not get deported" lunch conversations. They seem vital.
Well, I'm nearing 1,000 words, and you know, I'm only in Spain once. Hasta luego.