THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
¡Hola de nuevo! Not long ago, you were arriving at the airport with all your luggage, trying to get through your jetlag, full of doubts and mumbling an ‘hola’. How were you going to survive your time in Spain? Well, time does actually fly, and now you can laugh at all the insecurities you had when you first arrived in the country. Now you probably know more places in the city than many locals, you have traveled around Europe (and even Africa), you can speak Spanish without going blank and you have boosted your confidence. To sum up, YOU have changed and that is fantastic. We are sure that you are looking forward to seeing your family and friends back home, but at the same time you will certainly miss this whole experience. How will you get back to your ‘normal’ life? We have all been there before and we know that it can be hard sometimes. ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened’ is a quote to follow during this transition but, what it is more important, try bringing everything you have learnt to your daily life back home. What about helping exchange students arriving to or departing from your home university? Why not engaging in some youth initiatives? And a masters overseas? How about getting a job where you get to practice your Spanish? Your experience abroad opens the door for many other experiences that are about to come. Your time here is not the end but the beginning of many other things! So, embrace it and keep the sparkle! See you soon here, back home or in another corner of the world!
Experiencing Semana Santa with your 5 senses
¡Hola de nuevo! After 3 months in Spain (yes, time does fly) you are more than ready to experience one of our biggest festivities: Semana Santa (Holy Week). As some of you have already realised, Semana Santa can be quite confusing and even daunting. There is a lot going on at the same time, and that is why we want to help you understand it and make the most of it. Although Semana Santa has a strong religious background (as a commemoration of the Passion of Jesus), it is also a cultural and social event that can be enjoyed by everyone. To understand it better, we recommend you this comprehensive post from a former mentor: http://servicesabroad.com/studentblog/?postId=1260/semana-santa-sevillas-biggest-holidays Sight: procesiones, pasos and nazarenos If you are in the city center during Semana Santa, you will definitely see at least one of the over 50 processions. They are religious statues representing the Passion of Jesus on enormous pasos (floats) carried around the streets by costaleros (bearers) and accompanied by hundreds (or even thousands) of nazarenos (penitents) who hold candles. The itinerary of these processions (from their home churches to the Cathedral and back) can easily be found on the Internet and the local newspapers. Hearing: bandas, marchas and saetas (and silence) Some processions are silent, while others are accompanied by a choir or chapel music, and a lot of them feature a band (banda) following the float and playing hymns (marchas). Along the itinerary, talented individuals may express their feelings towards the procession by singing a religious, flamenco-style song called saeta, which is often sung from a balcony. Silence is also a key element at Semana Santa, since it is a way of showing respect and appreciation for the processions. Everyone must remain silent when the float arrives and, in some particularly grave processions, during the whole time. How to identify if that is the case? If the penitents are dressed in black, it can be a sign, but the best idea is looking around and behaving like the Sevillanos. Smell: incense and flowers The strong smell of incense, an aromatic essence meant to purify, accompanies every procession. It is carried by young boys (or girls) called monaguillos who spread it in front of the pasos (floats) during the whole itinerary. Floats are also decorated with fresh flowers in gracious bouquets. Touch: crowds and no touching The city center can get quite crowded during Semana Santa, since everyone wants to see the pasos on the first row and some areas are of restricted access. Try to avoid big crowds and, if you get trapped in one (bulla), be patient and collaborative. Another important thing is that you shouldn’t touch the floats. Although some people do it, it can damage the float decoration and thus it is not a good idea. Taste: torrijas and pestiños As you know from previous posts, in Spain we love eating, and Easter is no exception. Torrijas and pestiños are always present at our homes during these days. Torrijas, like French toasts, are prepared with honey, eggs and wine. Each family has its own recipe (claimed of course to be the best). On the contrary, pestiños are made of flour, but are also covered in honey. [caption id="attachment_1348" align="aligncenter" width="300"] These torrijas were made by my grandma (and, of course, they are the best)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1349" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Pestiños made by cloistered nuns[/caption] Now you know a little bit more about Semana Santa, but we encourage you to go a see pasos and, whether you are a religious person or not, to embrace this very different experience.
WHERE FOOD IS MORE THAN JUST SUSTENANCE (understanding Spain through its food culture)
¡Hola de nuevo! I hope you are all having a fantastic time in Seville. After almost two months here (yes, time flies!) I am sure you are already quite familiar with our gastronomy and words such as tapas or churros are already part of your vocabulary. But our gastronomy is much more than new flavors; it’s a fantastic gate to understand our culture: Expression of our rich cultural heritage In our last post, we talked about Spain’s cultural heritage, and our cuisine is a fantastic way of discovering it! The Romans taught us how to cultivate wheat and vines, which explains why we love bread and wine so much. The Arabs brought to Al-Andalus new ways of cultivating fruit, vegetables and our precious olive oil. They also introduced new products that are now part of our most renowned dishes, for example rice (no paella without it), spinach (have you already tried our famous espinacas con garbanzos?), sugar cane, or citrics (yes, that means our delicious oranges). The Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Visigoths also left their mark our gastronomy. Tapas, a way of living A tapa, which literally means ‘cover’ or ‘lid’, was originally a hunk of bread that was placed over the glass of beverages to keep the flies out. This simple concept evolved to its current meaning, a style of eating. Going for tapas means sociability, cherished moments with your family and friends and informal gatherings in a relaxed atmosphere. If you are going for tapas, you know more or less when you are starting but you have no idea how the day will end (what we call in Andalusia a relío is not unlikely to happen: going for some relaxed tapas and ending up late at night or even early in the morning). We love food During my study abroad time in Australia, I remember my flatmates telling me ‘You Spaniards talk all the time about food’. And it is quite true, we are very proud of our cuisine and love sharing our family recipes (everyone will tell you how his/her grandma makes the best croquetas/gazpacho/whatsoever). Food is a way of relating to each other, of finding things in common. In other countries food is seen as way of getting nutrients for your body, here it is a ritual that has its times and steps (therefore our very particular meal times). When we cook, we put a lot of time and effort into it and we love a nice and colorful presentation. But the most important thing is enjoying your meal with your family and friends, and creating a shared moment. When food is finished, instead of quickly leaving, we have what we call a sobremesa (literally ‘over the table’): time for chatting and simply enjoying each other’s company. For Spaniards how we eat is as important as what we eat. And well, as you can see I could talk about food forever, but it’s better if you go and taste it! See you soon at the ESA picnic!