Pais Vasco

above: Playa de la Concha, San Sebastian, at sunset
below: view of San Sebastian from the top of Mt. Urguell

Well, friends, I have officially been here for six months. Hard to believe, eh? It was called to my attention this past weekend when I traveled with my friend Kelly. She’s another auxiliarfrom Chicago, and I met her through cafe abroad. We even rode the same plane over from O’Hare. Crazy.Willing to get out of Sevilla on our week off (which happens to be the week of a huge religious party, with the streets choked with tourists, religious worshippers and gigantic floats with life-sized Virgins and Jesus statues), we found a ridiculously cheap flight to Bilbao, the most bustling city in the Pais Vasco. This, my friends, is the Basque Country – where the language boggles anyone not fluent, the fish is fresher and the terrorist group ETA hides out. The Basque Country is fiercely independent – and with good reason. This part of the country is so unlike any other in a quite varied country. Not only does the language and customs separate the northeastern corner of Spain and part of France, but one of the most astonishing differences (even on the second trip there) is just how industrial and green and mountainous the whole place is. I’ve been in Andalucia for six months – a place that relies on farming and tourism, a landscape that is somewhat dry and barren and flat. The Basque region is full of green mountains with slanted-roof homes, sheep chewing on grass in between them, and cranes and smokestacks rising up from the deep valleys. Our hostel overlooked the town and the river, which is just a few miles upstream from the Cantabric sea. The following morning, we got our (crappy) free breakfast and headed into town. Our first stop was the world-famous Guggenheim Contemporary Art Museum, the attraction that spearheaded the makeover of the city. From the gleaming steel plates in curves and no right angles all the way back to the bus station, the town is brimming with modern art sculptures (including one of just streetlights) and oddly shaped manicured hedges. I still love the enormous statue of a dog outside the museum that’s covered in flowers. It’s called “The Puppy” so I love it for obvious reasons. Inside the museum, I couldn’t help but remember the words of the audioguides from when I studied here before. “Look at the ceiling. Isn’t it uplifting?” The building is more impressive than the art itself. While some fantastic works find their home (better still, temporary home) in this museum, the building looks like a huge typhoon crossed with the Sydney Opera House. We wandered through the exhibits, stopping to play in the gigantic sculpture “The Passage of Time” and marveled at the exhibits where patrons could take part of the sculpture home. What impressed me more was how well-behaved the school children from the region are behaved. They made my high schoolers – who should know better – look a bit barbaric! The were quiet and followed their teacher or guide and didn’t put their grubby hands on priceless art pieces. Shocking.

We took advantage of a gorgeous day by walking through the center of town (after a delicious 30cm/12in Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich, clearly). It’s modern, sleek and crowded – kind of everything Sevilla isn’t. Stopping for sweets like meringues and tarta vasca, a small cake with almonds and custard slowed us down a bit, as did sidewalk sales in the old part of the city. We finally made it to the Museo Vasco, which had interactive exhibits about the Basque people (44 of whom live in Wyoming and Colorado. Who knew?!) as well as artifacts. Kelly studied cultural anthropology, so I would compare her enthusiasm to mine in a dinosaur museum. The old city looks ancient and dark and medieval. It was beautiful. To get back to the bus station, we walked along the river through a park. The sun was setting and parents were toting their kids around. I also got to lay in grass (GRASSSSSS!!!!) for the first time in months, hence the picture below. I was quite excited. Check out my Don Gaa-esque sunglasses, which I bought for less than 2 euros. SCORE.

Our next destination was San Sebastian, where we’d be based for the next several days. Situated between mountains and sea, the city is separated by a wide river and known for its beaches, surfing and nightlife. The whole place was set ablaze by Napoleonic armies in the 1830s, so its appearance is very regal and contemporary. Along the promenade of Bahia de la Concha, the beach is framed by white iron fences leading from one mountain to the other, one of which towers over the old part of the city not destroyed by the fire. For dinner, we wanted to sample some seafood and pintxos – the basque equivalent of tapas. We were surprised to discover the tapas were pretty much all seafood (a problem for vegetarian Kelly) and not as cheap as in Sevilla. We split a small bowl of risotto and a glass of cidra at the first bar, then moved on to a second where Kelly had a delicious pistachio croqueta and I munched on a kebab with juicy beef and a cheese and meat ball. At most bars, like in many places in Sevilla, the pinxtos are all laid out on the bar counter and you get to point and choose which you want. Some of them look like something off of Top Chef – delicately constructed towers of bread, pate, meat or seafood with trimmings. I think I enjoyed the food more than poor Kelly, who found seafood in her tortilla española (which generally just contains eggs, potato and onion).

Our hostel was perfect – small, near the beach with a huge kitchen and free internet. It also had a huge selection of DVDs. The kitchen was great for socializing, and we were lucky enough to have people from Spain, the US, Australia, Denmark in our hostel. One of my favorite parts of traveling is staying in hostels and meeting people from all over the world. We happened to have another auxiliar and two English teachers staying there, so we all could communicate well and trash talk our alumnos.

The following day, we explored blustery San Sebastian. After walking along La Concha, which was recently pummeled by what locals call “the tsunami” (though I highly doubt waves can get that high in a big bay surrounded by cliffs), we took the gondola to the top of the mountain on the west end, Mt. Igueldo. From the top, you can see the whole bay and pay for amusement park rides like bumper cars, a haunted house and a log ride. The second we stepped off the funicular, it began to rain. So, we pulled out our umbrellas and rolled up the legs of our jeans and ventured out. In the rain, there sadly isn’t much to see, but we made our own fun, mostly with crappy umbrellas and my camera:

We mistakenly thought we could go to the Miramar summer palace, but we were wrong, so we had some lunch and warmed up while the rain continued to fall. I finally suggested we brave the other mountain, so we trekked up Mt. Urguell. It didn’t take to long, and we were rewarded by seeing the entire area. There was a football match that evening between the team from San Sebastian and Soria, from Castilla y León, and the noise from the visiting team lured us away from a gigantic statue of Jesus up top of the castle (and an adorable man who thought we were from Andalusia) and into the city.
After a nap and grocery shopping, we settled in to botellón with some girls from Minneapolis, but ended up just talking until 2am and were too tired to go out. Actually, we didn’t go out the whole time we were away. I’m so used to going out and having a few beers every night, but it was nice to detox and have a little wine with pizza. Classy.

above: Beautiful painted houses in the Casco Antiguo of Pamplona
below: A kiddo in a typical Fiestas mask in Pamplona

The following morning, we were up early and out of the hostel to go to Pamplona. Most of you may not be familiar with the town, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the Running of the Bulls, or the encierros de San Fermin. In this town, far from practically everything, the city swells to accommodate locals and foreigners who want to risk their lives to run about 430m through the old part of a city and into a narrow opening in the bull ring. We were there on a quiet Sunday afternoon that was pleasant and relaxing. After a coffee break, we explored the city center, full of colorful buildings, remnants of the Camino de Santiago and the encierros and a realllllly good-looking Navarran man who doubled as a tour guide. We stopped first at the museum of the city, perched along the river and in an old cathedral. The permanent exhibit is a bunch of old religious paintings, but there were dead bodies and gravestones and all that creepy stuff I like. we followed the route of the bull run through the center of the city of 200,000 towards the bull ring, stopping to buy the red scarves the townspeople wear during the festival (July 7-13) and have a really expensive beer in Cafe Iruna. For any Hemingway fans, this is the cafe he often sat at in the book, “The Sun Also Rises.” Though I don’t like Hemingway, I love that book, so I was willing to pay 1,90 fo a beer. It sits on Plaza de Castilla, and I remember how much I miss having a big, central plaza in town like I did in Valladolid.

We then walked the Camino de Santiago route through town. The Camino is a pilgrimage that spans hundreds of kilometers through the northernmost parts of Spain from France to the town of Santiago de Compostela (where I’m traveling in March YAAAAAY). Millions from all over the world complete the trek, and we even saw a few of them wandering through the city with walking sticks and conch shells (the official symbol of the pilgrim). At the edge of the old part of the city, there’s a large park with wild deer, turkeys, peacocks, goats and ducks. We spent about 40 minutes just waiting for the albino peacocks to open their feathers for us before having lunch at the Ciuadella, a large military complex now used as exhibition space. After spending the better part of the rest of the day watching movies, we spent the rest of the night in the kitchen experimenting and laughing and eating and making new friends.

above: Kelly and I reenacting the encierros. I think this is the closest we’ll ever come.
below: Having a beer at Cafe Iruna, made famous by Senor Hemingway himself.

Monday we were up early with a mission: sneaking Kelly and our new friend from Denmark, Anette, into France without passports. Since Anette is an EU citizen, we figured it wouldn’t be a problem, but were unsure about Kelly. The 45 minute bus ride took us along the sea and into France by way of Irun/Hendaye, and it was amazing how fast the signs went from Spanish and Basque to French! Having taken a year of French in college, I could barely ask for directions, but many people there speak Spanish. Woo bilingualism. Our first stop was the town of St.-Jean-de-Luz, a small and charming town with thatched roofs right on the sea. It’s a bit sleepy and no one was out when we arrived at 1030am, which is strange when you live in a town with perpetual summer. The scent of crepes and an extreme shoe addiction led us to the main shopping street, but the espadrilles were too expensive. Instead, we stopped by a small food stand (think a Marcos Grilled Cheese with french goodies). I did my best to order three crepes with different additions in French, but the woman just corrected me. I mistook her “rudeness” for her acutally trying to help us. As the grill heated up, she began to speak to us in perfect English, and then told us how to say all kinds of things, from asking if her creepy friend’s dog was mean to finding a liquor store. All things I have since forgotten, sadly. She didn’t charge us for our crepes, either.

our new friend the crepe lady, giving us free French lessons and delicious breakfast
We took a quick stroll along the beach, bought even more sweets (I had an alcohol infused pistachio/raspberry flavored turrón) and caught the bus to Biarritz. We climbed even further into the mountains to get to this beach. surf and gambling town, once a playground for the famous and the rich. Our quest to find lunch at a suggested Italian restaurant didn’t work, thanks to the personal rest on Monday practice, so we took some food away from a small stand, similar to the crepe stand, and ate picnic style on the beach. We took the path around the sea, which splashed and crashed along the coast, meaning surfers were in abundance in the water. The views of the lighthouse, castle-like houses and rock formations far out to sea were astonishing. I tried to coax people to go to the aquarium, but no one wanted to go, so I settled for the rip-off chocolate museum. We spent 5E for one teeny free sample and a three-room museum all in French. LAME. We barely made out bus back to St. Jean and then back to San Sebastian, but our bellies were full of delicious food, and I think Kelly liked France as much as I do (even on my fouth visit!)
Anette, Kelly and I on the beach in St.-Jean-de-Luz
We left Tuesday about 13h30 from San Sebastian, headed toward Bilbao. The day was rainy and I think we were both not looking so forward to heading back to Sevilla. After a 5 hour train ride to Madrid, a 40 minute ride on two metro lines, an hour of waiting in the Estación Sur de Autobuses and a 6 hour bus ride to Sevilla, I arrived back in my apartment, ready to collapse because the dramamine hadn’t worn off and it was 6:30 a.m. So, now I blog instead of packing for Portugal and lesson planning for next week. Tomorrow I’ll be on the beach with Kike, David, Sara, Inma and Alfredo. But it will be raining.

Working for the weekend

Summertime has descended upon Spain. I happen to be here during one of the warmest winters, falls, etc., and with Semana Santa and Feria de Abril already coming, it seems it’s going to be a really cruel summer. That said, I’m starting to get as itchy as my students for summertime and beaches and MORE sun. And while working 12 hours (plus private lessons and planning and commuting) isn’t much, I’m always ready for the weekend so I can sleep past 6:50 a.m. and take advantage of the weather, traveling, and this interesting and varied country. I work for the weekend. By the time Thursday afternoon at 12:55 arrives, I am more than ready for a break from my students. I usually start the weekend off with a looooooong nap, even before having lunch. Then it’s facebook/youtube/general laziness time. I typically eat dinner with Kike and go out for a bit before resting up for the weekend. But lately, I’ve been trying to do all of my work so I can do whatever me apetece (whatever appeals to me) during the weekend. That means cleaning, lesson planning, errands, etc. I’ve found that the need to pack as much into this experience has prevailed over what I really should be doing (you know, sleeping, putting a lot of effort into my lessons, etc.).

This last weekend, I didn’t even check my email for two days. On Thursday, I did take some time to rest, but I was so hopped up on caffeine, I couldn’t do anything but watch TV. At night, we celebrated my roommate Melissa’s birthday. Her two best friends, Carolina and Alicia, invited us over for dinner at their piso. They made all kinds of tapas, potatoes and a red meat cooked with beer and onions and mushrooms. Sobre todo, I was able to speak several hours in Spanish and have people understand me. I can express myself fine on paper and understand things well, but I seem to get really closed off when I have to speak. Of my Sevilla friends, I think I speak the worst Spanish, even though I’ve been assured many times that I speak well. I considered it a huge compliment that Caro and I could understand each other. From there, we headed to Buddha, where I fended off study abroad students trying to speak to me in Spanish (geez, I’m a brat) while getting free shots for my grupito because a friend’s ex-boyfriend works there. By the time I finally dragged myself home at 530 a.m., I was already cursing myself for how I’d feel the next morning – not hungover, but realllllly tired.

In order to reapply for my job next year, I have to get a medical checkup. After making about 6 phone calls to ask the insurance company what exactly I had to do, I got an appointment and instructions to go to the other side of town to get a sheet of paper for the doctor to fill out. Figures. Armed with enough crap to do for about 2 hours, I went to the Colegio Oficial de Medicos and waited a mere 30 seconds. Turns out all I needed to do was pay 3,48E and ask the woman for the sheet. I spent the afternoon drinking beer outside on a hot, clear day. I have to admit I love standing at a table on a sidewalk watching cars and people go by. And it helps being accompanied by a good-looking man. After downing about 3 kilos of salmonetes (red herring), I slept for a loooong time. Instead of finishing my things, I went for dinner at my friend Christine’s and went out. She lives with her Spanish boyfriend, Alfonso, so I did a lot more Spanish practicing. This was good for arguing with the cabbie who didn’t reset the meter and then took me to the wrong street. No me jodas, chaval. That means don’t screw with me, man.

Again, I woke up really upset with myself for staying out so long. Saturday, I went with 12 of my coworkers to the nearby town of Jerez de la Frontera, the foremost producer of sherry in Spain. It’s about an hour away by train, and sitting next to my bilingual director, Nieves, solidified my decision to teach again in Olivares next year. She was talking and talking about how much she enjoys having Martin and me there, and how the kids have really shown an improvement. Phew. I, too, have noticed the kids taking a lot more interest in what I’m teaching and making more of an effort. The turning point was really quitting my other job, but also stooping to their level and ensuring them that I’m also learning. During the day in Jerez, we all spoke in Spanish, and many noted the improvement in my language skills. When we arrived to the newer part of town, we walked into the historic center with Irene as our tour guide, high along the mountain the city rests on, to Bodegas Gonzalez Byass. If you’ve seen a bottle of wine dressed in a little suit with a hat and guitar, you’re familiar with the brand Tio Pepe. GB is one of the oldest and most well-known (along with the most successful) wineries in Spain. A little train took us past its extensive gardens to the corner where their brandy brand is made. Here, they don’t produce as much, but it’s really high quality, and the machines look ancient. We walked along whitewashed buildings that would soon be covered in vines to keep the stock cool inside to where the sherry is made – cask after cask after cask. I’ve read a lot about Spanish wine and even wrote a paper about it, but seeing the cobwebs growing between cask and having the sour smell of the wine mixed with the wood was kind of exciting. The bodega, the Spanish word for cellar or winery, has been visited by famous people form around the world, and there’s quite a bit of symbolism to a lot the casks and how the wine is made. In one of the rooms, there is a tiny glass of wine and a little bit of cheese in the middle of the floor. I missed the first half of the explanation, but the little tapas and glass is set out for the mice. The mice are supposed to be attracted to the cheese and drink the wine and get too drunk to climb onto the casks. It was quite curious watching them all run between the cheese and glass.

Upon exciting into the brightness, I was overcome by the huge cathedral. Irene took us past where she used to live and through the center of town. Compared to Sevilla, Jerez is small and relaxed and quiet. The thirteen of us took over a restaurant called El Juanito, where we shared alcachofas (artichokes), sopa de gambas (tomato soup with shrimp and noodles), pisto (vegetables), albóndigas con tomate (meatballs in a red sauce), ensaladilla (tuna, noodles, mayo and peas) and some other stuff I have no idea what it is. My coworkers are really fun, and a bit guareros, or dirty minded. When they noted my improvement, I replied, “Bueno, tener un novio español me ha ensenado mucha de la lengua.” I know that lengua means both language and tongue, but they all thought I meant he had taught me a lot about dirty things. Baha. We spent about three hours at the place, ordering more beers or coffees or sweets before heading back. I rode back a bit earlier with Felisabel from the art department. She’s taking class from a friend of mine, Jenny, who is also from Chicago. Jenny picked up on her north american accent and Felisabell said, “A girl from Chicago named Cat taught it to me!” If my students aren’t getting it, at least someone is!

That night, my dear friend Kelly celebrated her birthday. She had a big party at her house and made delicious and SPICY Mexican food. I ignored my drink and sat in front of the table stuffing my face. Kelly was the first friend I made here, so I knew most of the people there, and I found out a lot of the other auxiliaries had chosen to stay next year, too. We headed to C/Betis at about 3am, and all I did was laugh at how silly everyone is. I am so fortunate to have good friends here. What’s more, I have a really great boyfriend. Really, I’m kind of in love with him. He’s been involved with plenty of Americans, but I found out he has gotten bored with all the rest of them really easily. He wants me to go back to the states this summer to be with my family this summer, but he says he’s been looking for flights and trying to ask for some more time off to come visit me and see Chicago. I talk it up a lot.

After arriving back home about 530 am, we got up at 830 to go to Kike’s base in Moron de la Frontera, about 45 km away. He’s a pilot for the Spanish army and flies planes! I really wanted to see what he does everyday, since I talk about my little capullos allllll the time. And planes really excite him. So he chose to do his servicio, where he’s on duty for 24 hours, on a Sunday so that I could go with him. He gets to stay in a little room with two beds and a TV and a bathroom and wait for the phone to ring. We went early and had breakfast, then slept most of the day. He looks kind of adorable in his flight suit, but the hat is too silly. He showed my around his squadron and taught me the different kinds of airplanes and introduced me to the few people who were there. Nothing was open (sadly, I could not eat subway like I had the ganas to!), so we scrounged around in the cafeteria for something to eat. We had little choice – only Kraft dinner versions of Spanish food like paella de mariscos, fabes asturianos and instant soup. Luckily, Montero is a great cook and there was plenty of pepper. He spent a few hours playing guitar hero while I worked on lessons and my reapplication things. We tried once more for Subway, but ended up eating Digiorno pizza and drinking Dr. Pepper at the American bar on the base. A lot of Americans get stationed there, so I could talk to my compatriots about American things for once! I have to admit I know very little about the military, but going to the base was really, really cool. Seeing how things work made me realize just how intelligent Kike is. He studied physics and math and whatever the hell you need to know for flying a big plane and dropping bombs – and a lot in English, since his plane is American. And I know he loves me because he let me take his car back to Sevilla. A Mercedes. And I’m still alive and the car is still intact. It was freaaaaaking scary!!!

I’m off to The Basque Country with Kelly later this week, then I’ll be back in Sevilla for a day and I’ll head to the Algarve in Southern Portugal with Kike and some other people for the later part of the holy week.

Pants Party in Germany: Dusseldorf and Cologne

I was really itching to go travel, so I took the opportunity to use a four-day weekend to visit a friend in Germany. If you remember, I lived with a German girl named Eva for a few months before she went back home. I missed her terribly sometimes because she was always so excited about what was going on with me and she always fed me chocolate. She woke me up early one morning after the second term started and asked when I was coming to visit. I was convinced by the pleading in her voice to go online and book a ticket for the January puente, even though it was a bit pricey. I figured the hospitality and free tour guide were worth the extra cost.

I left sunny Sevilla on Thursday afternoon and headed to Düsseldorf, where Eva’s family lives. Actually, I flew into Weeze because RyanAir likes to make up for its low fares by flying you about 3 years from your desired destination. When I got off the plane, I was immediately stung by a damp cold I haven’t felt much here in Europe and a bit of drizzle. After the bus took us about 100 feet to the door, I walked past just three baggage carousels and out into the arrival area of the teeniest airport ever. Eva was standing just behind the ropes eager to hug me. I didn’t think she was ever going to let go, but her mother Gaby, a dark-haired woman with a round face, wanted in on the action. We’d talked several times on the phone when she’d call Eva, but it was wonderful to meet her in person. I immediately understood why Eva missed her so much when she was here in Spain.

We drove about 45 minutes towards Düsseldorf to the suburb of Lank-Lanten. Eva’s town has 9000 people but makes up a part of an eight-town cluster called Meerbusch. Her home is wonderful – open, friendly and inviting. Her mother put out all kinds of food on the table for me, from sandwiches to milkshakes to cheese to chocolate. She went to the grocery store especially for me! Eva and I stayed up talking for several hours about everything, as if we were just catching up from a day of work. I realized at that moment how much I had missed having her around to tell me about her adventures to Lidl allllll the way on C/Evangelista or how she spent three hours doing nothing in Maria Luisa. And I did most of the talking.

The next morning, we woke up early to travel to Koln. The drunken neighbor, Udo, with his scraggly red beard and penchant for saying inappropriate things at opportune times made for an interesting breakfast. Gaby had bought fresh bread and fruit for us to munch on for breakfast, and we headed out early. The bus never came (just like Sevilla!!), so Gaby drove us to the train station. We had major problems figuring out how to use the automated machines, but watching the small towns and fields go past on the way was delightful. Germany is kind of like Iowa, but with more woods and green pastures. Even with the gray skies, the whole place looked lush and was dotted with farm houses and farm equipment between towns. Most of the places along the route seemed very suburban – small shops and lots of living quarters. Much of this area was devastated by bombs during WWII, which is why the buildings all look so retro. But being in another place seems ot transport me places, and I don’t even seem to notice the ugly things so much.

Koln was bustling. We got out of the huge underground station in the shadow of the Dom, a large mass of spires and flying buttresses not destroyed in the bombings. Since I’ve been in Europe for close to six months now, I’m beginning to think all the cathedrals and churches are all the same. However, I’ve developed quite the penchant for wanting to see a city from the highest point in town – to watch the river bend, the roads lead to the church spires, the colors of the roofs. I’m sick of the Seville cathedral and could do without going in it ever again, but I gladly jump on the opportunity to hike 35 ramps to the top of the Giralda tower and see my adoptive city from up top. We paid 2E to walk up some 400 stairs around a small spiral staircase of one of the towers, leading to monstrous bells and still more stairs. I looked at the graffiti in scores of languages, examining it more closely than the intricately decorated spires. The city, despite the heavy fog and dreary drizzle, was enchanting up there, with the barges moving back and forth down the river and the street vendors with furters and pretzels. Street food is quite a novel idea.

After grabbing some, we were off to explore the busy shopping district on our way to the Colgate museum. I was definitely contemplating buying a one meter beer, but it was 11am and I wasn’t in Iowa, nor Spain.

At the chocolate museum, we ran around like kids through a Willy-Wonka inspired wonderland. We watched cocoa beans being split, molds being poured for hollow chocolate bunnies, truffles being coated in powder and got to indulge in plenty of samples. Though the price of 4,50E was probably a bit too much, watching Eva get really excited about a whole exhibit of chocolate was priceless. Despite living so close to this magnificent city, she hasn’t been to the Dom or chocolate museum. Seems like a shame that she hasn’t been taking advantage of everything. After walking through more of the city, Neumarkt and grabbing a berliner (like a jelly donut), we sat down at a restaurant to eat. I love trying new, authentic foods when I travel, but the name of the restaurant tipped me off to the fact that I wouldn’t be eating traditional food. It was called Chicago steakhouse and had pictures of Michael Jordan and Jazz on the wall. Regardless, I ate some delicious chicken for once and had a baked potato with sour cream. Afterwards, we went to some lame-o Roman history museum.

On our way back into Meerbusch, we found two of Eva’s friends from high school. It’s shocking how many Germans peak English and many of them speak it really well. They all spent a year in HS abroad, which reminded me of that German dude who was a freaking stud at WWS when we were juniors. He could drink a beer in about three seconds flat. It made me feel bad and stupid and ignorant for only mastering English. We met Eva’s friend Steffi for a beer before Gaby made us some wonderful pasta and we slept a little before the night out.

Eva’s friend all came over to meet me and we opened a bottle of champagne and had a few beers before taking a bus and train into downtown Düsseldorf. It was windy and rainy and really disgusting, but we had a really fun time. Her friends are incredibly warm and funny, and it made for a really interesting night.

The next morning, sufficiently hungover, we were joined by Udo and another friend, Juda, who came with us to Dusseldorf. The weather was horrible – windy, stinging cold – and there was no one on the streets as we walked through the Ko (a ritzy shopping district) and passed a lot of churches, parliament buildings and overturned chairs and plants. Apparently a huge storm called Emma was supposed to ground planes and uproot trees, but it never came. Instead, we encountered fog and were nearly thrown off-balance from the gusts. The only thing we really visited was the huge tower, from which we could see the empty city. It was so dreary out that it was difficult to enjoy the city. We ate at another American style restaurant before heading back to say goodbye to Gaby and get me to the airport. I was really sad to say goodbye to her mom, who had made me food for the plane and sincerely thanked me for being a good friend to Eva when she was lonely and had no one. Juda, Julia and Eva drove me back to Weeze and stayed until Eva’s car nearly got towed. I was ready to be back in sunshine and to not feel like an idiot for not knowing the language, but I had a kind of empty feeling for leaving Eva again.

When I got back to Sevilla, I could feel the warmth upon exiting the airplane and finally smell the azahar, the smell of the orange trees once the fruit falls. I fell in love with the city again after having some doubts about staying here.

Sanne and I took advantage of the sun and nearly 75 degree heat by heading down to Cadiz on Sunday. The beach was swamped with people, but seeing the city in the daytime not wasted and full of broken bottles nor windy and rainy was spectacular. It’s a wonderful place. And having a picnic on the beach, getting really pink and enjoying the quiet trash of waves was the perfect way to end the weekend.

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