Saturday, February 27, 2010

The extranjera

I have now been in Sevilla for 7 weeks. Slowly but surely, I'm getting my bearings and starting to feel competent in somewhat navigating the city. I've sorted out my neighborhood on my runs, I've found my favorite place for pan de chocolate and slick short cuts to all my classes. Yet, not a day goes by that I am not reminded that I am still a stranger. 
Universidad de Sevilla

The past two weeks have been dedicated to choosing our classes at the Universidad de Sevilla and testing them out to find a class schedule for the semester. Spanish students have much less freedom in their course selection than the average American liberal arts student and actually enter the university with a set major. They are coursed through their degree with few elective classes. As such, the university does not go out of its way to make the course selection process very transparent or user-friendly...

Likewise, the building where I take all of my classes is the old tobacco factory of Sevilla and seems more like the Minotaur's labryinth than an educational facility. Just to give you an idea, there two different departments hosted in the building, and each has their own room numbering system. There are two of every room number and there is no way besides trail and error to decide whether you are in Aula 7 of Filogia or Aula 7 of Historia! But, after sitting in on the first couple minutes of beginner English, two whole classes of a year long art history class that had been going since September and a class that turned out to be a practical class on reading ancient scripts for history majors, I think I've actually figured it all out and am now ready to conquer :).

But even when I'm not in the wrong class at the wrong time, I might as well be wearing a sign on my back that says "Americana." Loli kindly told me that "no tiene cara de americana," which roughly means that I don't look like an American, but I think she may have been trying to flatter me. In my contemporary art history class, the professor stopped mid sentence and mid lecture when he spotted me to ask if I was "una extranjera" and if I was understanding everything alright. As everyone's head swiveled in my direction to stare, I knew my cover had officially been blown. No amount of high heeled boots and giant earrings, or even my more olive-y skin was going to help me now.

However, in the classroom, I can rely on my Spanish to blend in a little bit more. On the dancefloor- that's another matter entirely. Last night Gayle and I went to a bar nearby that hosts salsa dancing in the basement (for Gayle's own embarrassing episode see her blog post). We went with the intention of being complete wallflowers and just watching these immensely talented dancers all night. Of course, by the night's end, I had someone ask me if I wanted to dance. Gayle grabbed my coat and purse out of my hand and shoved me onto the dance floor before I could stammer "No puedo bailar! Ni un poco!" (translation- I can't dance! Like, not even a little bit!) But the man assured me that he could teach me and it is very easy to follow salsa so I had no need to worry. 

He underestimated me. Since I don't want to have to relive the longest 3 minutes of my life over again, I'll just say that he was kind enough to drag me through the rest of the song then let me return to my proper place on the wall. 

I guess these are the kind of experiences that make living in a new country difficult. But, they are also motivation to keep working. As a result of last nights epic dancing failure, Gayle and I are spending today using the marvels of modern technology to learn some basic salsa dance steps via youtube and Addicted2Salsa's podcasts! If all goes according to plan, you won't be able to tell me apart from the espaƱoles in the classroom, the streets or the dancefloor. 


Lastly, a small eulogy for Chispi, the meanest cat in all of Spain, who was put down yesterday. I'm sure we would have become great friends if we'd just had a little more time togther. In her honor, you should all view one of my favorite pet funerals of all time- Lucky the Goldfish's Funeral. 

1 comment:

  1. Chispi was obviously a distant relative of Oscar--the meanest Siamese in North America. In honor of Chispi, I will fondly recall levitating Oscar across a dark room after one of his frequent biting episodes.

    You can tell Grandpa Reimer that you not only inherited his olive skin but also his dancing abilities.