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After a 2 1/2 hours train ride at speeds up to 300 kmh you arrive in Sevilla from Madrid. I will be reporting on Sevilla and my experiences here for the next week. But, right now I want to tell you about the thing I am noticing above all else. It is the scent in the air. The air in Sevilla has a sweet, slightly citrus smell. I thought it was just a scent from a store or some over perfumed woman. But, the smell is every where.

I tried to understand where the scent was coming from. Maybe, it was some kind of socialist social engineering program where they sprayed the streets with this scent to get people to forget how miserable they are with universal healthcare. But, it wa nothing so sinister. For I looked up and noticed that orange tress are all over the place. This is in the city center, not a semi-rural arer. And since this is spring they are beginning to flower. I have never smelled anything like it.

I can’t imagine what it is like to live someplace where the streets smell sweet and if I become overwhelmed with the inhaling of citrus I have could be taken to the hospital and not charged.

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 5:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Semana Santa

More so then any other country Spain celebrates Holy Week. An amazing thing considering that if it was not for the immigrants from South America the churches would be monuments to a long ago past with no future.

Semana Santa begins next week and all governmemt offices, schools and universites are closed. Most Madrilenos seem to heading out of town to various locations in Spain and other destinations not far: Lisbon, London, Paris and Marrekesh.

The heart of the Semana Santa activities is Andalusia; Sevilla in particular. Processions of men dressed in clothing that shared a fashion designer with the Ku Klux Klan (another irony considering the KKK’s take on Catholics), carrying their favorite saint through the streets. All traffic comes to a halt and people pay their respects, or in my case take pictures of this cultural phenomenom.

I will post pictures and shared additional observations when I return.

Un saludo

Published in: on March 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Una Cita-Quedamos-Pedir Salir

There is a big cultural difference between the US and Spain regarding men and women asking each other out for a “date”. Actually, linguistically there is no way to ask someone out for a date. You can ask someone for “una cita” or a “quedamos”–both ways of expressing “to meet”. But there is no implication that the people are getting together for anything other then to meet and have an good time. There is no implication of anything to come after the gathering or implications for advancement of “the relationship” to the next step.

This is the norm in Madrid. People meet, hangout, go home and life goes on. I was presented this concept in oppostion to my Spanish professor’s experience in the US. When men asked her out, they never seemed to do so just to gather. She told me that the men always thought they were “on a date” and this caused her issues when she lived in the US. It actually inhibited her ability to have male friends in the US as they did not seem to be able to interact with her outside of the context of “dating” her. She was used to going out with men in Madrid who would meet for cafe, kiss both cheeks, have a pleasant conversation and then go on their way. Not expect to come home with her or ask when they were going to “get together again”.

On the other hand, when it is clear that two people do indeed like each other and are attracted to each other you can “pedir salir” (ask to go out). This is a situation where it is known the people are attracted to each other and are going to hangout. It is not the same as asking someone who you do not know, or barely know for a date. You don’t get to know people through “dating” here. You get to know them by your friends and their friends all going someplace together. I have rarely seem people out by themselves here. They are always with a group of friends.

I am trying to avoid over analizing this different. Trying not to think about the goal directed behavior of people in the US as opposed to just being in the moment. Trying not to consider the implications of men and women being able to be friends with each other without having to deal with issues related to “what’s next”. Trying not to think about being in a society that if a man buys dinner, heck even a cup of coffee, he has not bought “you” (especially interesting in a culture when a man can legally buy a women’s time–but that is another blog).

So to the female readers of this blog, do you have male friends who you can just hang out with. To the male readers of this blog, would you take a female out without further expectations.

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Starbucks in Principe Pio is gone

Just like that! I am in severe need of a chai tea latte and I went to the place where the Starbucks used to be in centro commercial (the mall) at Principe Pio. And it was gone!

I was disoriented. I thought I was on the wrong level. But the elevator was still there and the Imafinarium was in the spot next door to where Starbucks was. Only Starbucks was gone!

This is indicative of how bad the economy is in Spain. There are a dozen or more stores that have “dissapered” since I first landed in Madrid. Stores that served as landmarks. Some I promised to go check out there wares, others I visited frequently. And then one day you walk by or go looking for a chai tea latte and the store is gone.

Unemployment is officially at 20% here. From what I have seen in the increase in people begging from money on the streets and sleeping where they beg, I suspect the government is not telling the whole truth.

And while I will miss having my chai tea latte there is no doubt the people who worked at the Starbucks I used to by it from will miss their paycheck more. I guess I will give the 3.75€ to one of the beggars on the street. Perhaps they worked at another Starbucks.

Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 12:35 am  Comments (1)  

Connecting to the world

How did we get to the point where the internet was our life-line? Finally, after 8 weeks I now have ADSL in my piso and I feel like I have been given manna from heaven. Right now I am listening to WAMU 88.5. The station I listen to on my drive to SU from my home. And here I am in Madrid, Spain listening to the same thing! I can now call home on Skype and see faces! I can do research in bed for my book. I can watch TV shows front the US in English!!!

I did not realize how lunch I longed for this connection. However, does being able to connect so easily with things in the US inhibit full engagement here?

Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment