Anna's Journey

Archive for the ‘Sanlucar la Mayor’ Category

The Feria

In Sanlucar la Mayor on May 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Last night, I lay in bed wishing that I hadn’t had green tea at 7pm, and listening to the sounds of Sanlucar floating through my window.

The crow of a rooster? Usually, but no.

The yowl of a stray cat? At times, but not last night.

The chirping of crickets? No, sir.

Last night, the sounds echoing through the wind and distracting me from sleep were the heavy bass of a drum, the rhythm of Sevillanas, and the roar of a crowd.

For the Feria has come to town.

Andalucians are people who will go out of their way to have a good time. They spent months constructing elaborate tents, or casetas, to fill a vacant lot near the center of town. They hung lights throughout the streets, and constructed a giant arch to welcome people to the biggest party of the year. And then, on Wednesday night, Raul the mayor cut the ribbon to announce the start of the Feria. Fireworks sparkled to the sound of a marching band. The Cruzcampo cerveza and white wine flowed freely. Women squeezed themselves into tight fitting, brightly colored flamenco dresses, painted their lips red, men put on their finest white shirts, and arm in arm they strolled the streets of the fair.

The Feria is a county fair with pizzazz. The sleazy carnies are the same, but other than that, this fair is nothing like anything I’ve seen in New England. Each night the town hall hosted concerts with smoke and disco lights that lasted well past three in the morning. Every caseta came complete with tables, a kitchen, bar, and waitstaff. Most were private. Some had televisions and speakers, others had music blaring into the night. Children rode live ponies on the merry-go-round. Trucks parked in the lot selling candy, coconut slices, cotton candy, hamburgers, and – naturally – hot chocolate and churros. People arrived at 6:30pm with their families and stayed out until 6:30 the next morning. At midday, kids rode horses and grandfathers drove their horse and carriages through the streets. People dined on tortilla, jamon, chicken kebab and fried fish.

As we circled the Feria each day with my visiting parents, we stumbled across friends at every corner. I waved to our next door neighbors, we chatted with the guy from the phone store, we complemented our gym teacher on her excellent physique in her flamenco dress, and we were invited into several casetas to partake in the festivities. We danced the choreographed Sevillanas, participated in the line dances, and just enjoyed ourselves with the people who we see every day in our town.

This town in the olive fields of southern Spain has become my community in eight months. I can’t believe that I will only be here for 16 more days before transitioning onto the next adventure (Turkey, here we come!).

And although the Feria kept me from falling asleep last night, I won’t forget the importance that people here place on – quite simply – having a good time.

The arch to the feria


Semana Santa

In Sanlucar la Mayor on April 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm

If you ask a resident of Sanlucar la Mayor about Semana Santa, you might receive an answer such as: “I believe the Virgin signifies the adoration of the woman”, or “I don’t see why religion has to be paraded through the streets”, or simply, “I just don’t like it”. Everyone has a different take, and depending on whom you ask, Semana Santa is either the most important week of the year, or the most frustrating, as no stores are open and bars raise their prices to astronomical highs.

Let’s take a step back.

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is the week before Easter. Every day represents a different day in the week before the death of Christ. Sevilla is the epicenter of Semana Santa in Spain, and possibly the world. Sanlucar la Mayor holds a miniature version of the events. Each afternoon, the pasos – giant, enormously heavy scenes depicting an image of the Holy Week, adorned with silver and gold – are carried by 40 men through the streets. Each man carries 40 kilos, or the equivalent of about 80 pounds, on his back for hours at a time. By the end, their shoulders and necks are giant and swollen, sometimes bloody. Often they walk the streets without shoes. The pasos are accompanied by hundreds – and in Sevilla, over a thousand – of Nazarenos, or people dressed in floor length silk robes with giant pointy hat that only show their eyes. Americans will recognize this costume as that adopted by the KKK. People pay their hermandades (brotherhoods) each month of the year for to walk with the pasos as a Nazareno. And when it rains, as it did this Thursday, the entire event is canceled.

In Sevilla, Semana Santa is something like Times Square at New Year’s, so I happily stayed in our town for the celebrations. Each day, I watched the pasos carried slowly down the tiny streets, followed by the solemn beat of drums and siren of trumpets. I observed the Nazarenos, many of whom are women, marching alongside the pasos, and stopping to chat with neighbors or hold their candles above the waiting hands of the crowd, letting wax drippings add to giant balls that have been collected for years. I watched a figurine of the Virgin, in a long velvet robe under a canopy of silver, with hundreds of candles and flowers beneath her, seem to float down the street. I must admit, while I didn’t – couldn’t – understand, I was shocked for a moment into silence at the beauty of her sad, sad porcelain face.

Planning and holding on

In Sanlucar la Mayor on April 3, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I am suddenly aware of the brevity of my time here in Spain. Months that once seemed to stretch endlessly before me are now cut short by the knowledge that I have a job this fall! While on one hand an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I am beyond excited, on the other hand, my mind refuses to focus on the moment here in Spain, instead racing to the future. It all seems twisted together. As I ate paella with a good friend who visited this past week, our conversation morphed from the taste of the rice to the best way to buy a car in Boston.

My hiatus from my career is slowly ending. Of course, it had to end. But is it a window that will open again, I wonder? Will I have another opportunity to live in a foreign country, to speak the language, to build deep friendships with the people who reside there? I think I so. I hope so. But I don’t know.

I know that life has unexpected turns, and that it can creep up on you, or rush at you, so that your moments spent wandering through the olive fields become just memories that you ponder as you drive to work each day.

Luckily, my position for next year is to teach Spanish. I will continue to immerse myself in the language and culture of this beautiful country – my temporary home – but this time, through the eyes of my students. As they taste the Spanish tortilla, clap along to flamenco, and learn the sentences that I use every day, perhaps I will awaken in them the desire to travel, to reside in strange lands, to learn to speak a language fluently that is not their own. To understand people who are not from their neighborhood, or country. To communicate with them; to learn from them.

This is my goal.

But my time here is not up yet.

And yet, I feel palpably that change is once again surrounding me, sweeping me up, directing me onto the next stage. My next stage – with a car, a commute, a full-time job – is exactly what I want for next year. And because of this year – a year of teaching, learning, and adventuring – I am excited about the parts of life that often seem so ordinary, even boring. I am eager to jump into my first full-time teaching position, to develop curriculum, delve into lesson plans, join a learning community as a faculty member, and stretch myself professionally.

But for now, hombre, I have to enjoy my time in Spain!

One misstep

In Sanlucar la Mayor on March 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm

tobillo: ankle

apretar: squeeze

vendar: to bandage

hinchado: swollen

So many new words I have learned since Thursday.

I was at the gym. Jason and I have been going to a Body Combat class every week, where we practice punching and kicking sacos, kneeing, jumping, and balancing. Some nights I’m not that into it, but on Thursday I was going all out. Pretending I was Jennifer Garner in Alias, kicking butt and taking names, hair flying out of my ponytail, grunting with each kick, with a grimace of serious concentration.

Which quickly changed to a grimace of pain.

In one of my favorite moves, you leap up, change position, knee forward, and then jump back into your original position.

Anyhow, I had been meaning to invest in some new sneakers with a bit more support, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

So I jumped up in my flimsy walking sneakers, and landed on the exact wrong side of my foot. I felt a pop, and limped to one of the punching sacks to sit down. Thirty long seconds later, Jason realized I wasn’t just taking a water break.

And now I’m out of commission for at least 10 days with a giant bandage wrapped around my right foot and a pair of crutches borrowed from the family who run the coffee shop. No work, no walking to the grocery store, no dancing in Sevilla, no bodega tours in Jerez, and definitely no gym.

Accidents happen so quickly, and it’s no use to think about what if I had changed my shoes? Or what if I decided to stay home that evening? Or what if I had just been a little less enthusiastic with my punching and kneeing?

But the weather is unbearably gorgeous, and I can stretch outside in the sun with my book,  and take long 100 meter walks to the end of the road. And I have a new TA job over the internet and I can increase my job application output. And if anyone wants to Skype, I am so happy to hear about your life.

Because suddenly I have so much time.

C’est la vie, no?



Love in the form of chocolate bizcocho

In Sanlucar la Mayor on March 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I’d been feeling a little blue this week, and quite frankly, been acting like a grump with the one person who has to deal with me 24/7.

Maybe it’s renewed homesickness after a week of intense family and friends time. Or maybe it’s the waiting for jobs to respond to me with hiring decisions. Or perhaps the nonstop rain pelting our little town.   Regardless of the reason, I came home from work yesterday in a bad mood.

And what did Jason do to respond to my mood? Instead of getting upset, he took me out grocery shopping and bought me a chocolate sponge cake. Real cakes that aren’t piles of whipped cream are rare here, and I had wanted to try this one for a while. It looked like my aunt’s banana cake with chocolate chunks sprinkled on top. The kind of cake I would bake if we had an oven. We took it home ate slices with glasses of pink champagne. Although it tasted a bit like the matzo meal cakes you buy on Passover, it was still chocolatey deliciousness.

After filling up on cake, we went out to catch the final dance number of Flamenco School Musical at our local community theater. There’s nothing like seeing Spaniards in bright sequin costumes dancing flamenco to the tune of “Dancing Queen” to raise your spirits.

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and happy to be back in Spain.

And the sun is even peeking out today.

Just a little ode to the guy I love.


In Sanlucar la Mayor on February 18, 2011 at 11:47 am

In one week, I will be back in Boston.

It’s like a reverse vacation. A vacation from a vacation, so to speak. A glimpse of reality. A look at the cold winter and snow that will be waiting for me next year. A week of reuniting with family and friends, enjoying a bagel or two (maybe with peanut butter!), maybe even watching the Oscars on Sunday night.

And then, before I know it, I’ll be back in Spain. Back at my colegio, among the olive trees, with the sun shining down as I wait for the bus (unless there is a tormenta of rain, which is also a distinct possibility), giving English classes, working out at my gym, and hanging out in the plaza El Salvador on Saturday afternoons.

The thing is, at this point, I’m not sure which is more of a reality. Will it feel like I’m snapping back to my ordinary life when I’m back in Boston? Or will it feel like I’m removed from it all, because my life is here? I’m developing friendships here, I have an apartment that feels like home. But I am assuredly a foreigner. When I speak to people the first time, they look at me strangely, and ask, “Where are you from?” Back in Boston, I’ll be able to order food without the waiter asking if I would like a menu in English. I’ll fit in.

I suppose that it isn’t that one place is more real than the other. Both Sevilla and Boston are my realities. I am myself in both places. I have friendships in both cities, although they are across the ocean. I know that my community here is temporary, but it is a community nonetheless.

More than anything, though, I am so excited to be back in Boston in one week!

Chopping and sizzling

In Sanlucar la Mayor on February 1, 2011 at 9:14 pm

As I write this, a lentil ground turkey soup is burbling on the stove.

I took a sick day today for flu-like symptoms that are spreading like wildfire around the school (getting sick  comes with the profession, unfortunately), and now that I’m feeling a little better, I couldn’t wait to get back in the kitchen.*

That’s right. You heard me.

These past few years, I had become the queen of fast, thrown together dinners, even eating cereal when I was too tired to cook (sorry, Mom!). Cooking was a chore. I wished I could just snap my fingers and delicious, healthy meals would appear on my table.

This year is different.

With a little more time on my hands and the support of a guy who happens to be an incredible chef, I am learning to love to cook. I love finding new recipes on and changing them to suit my style. I’m learning to make a killer tomato sauce. I’m beginning to understand the mysteries of spices. I’m even just starting to experiment with meat and fish. Last week, I made cous cous with garbanzo beans and veggies, pasta with homemade meat sauce, and fried fish. The week before that, it was ratatouille crepes with green salad. Chopping, boiling, stewing, and sizzling are fast becoming some of my favorite verbs. This is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding hobbies a girl could ask for.

I’ll let you know how the soup turns out!


*Now, you might be thinking, what is a young lady with the flu doing in the kitchen? She shouldn’t be anywhere near where food is prepared. But you must understand, that the only other person who will be eating this soup is, unfortunately, either destined to get the virus or not, regardless of who cooks the meal!


La Cabalgata

In Sanlucar la Mayor on January 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm

On Christmas, Santa Claus slides down the chimney and leaves presents under the tree.

In La Cabalgata, the three Kings – along with an entourage of queens, princesses, clowns, Native Americans, and Flintstones – travel throughout the town throwing candy, soccer balls, olives, and other goodies from 12-foot floats.

Which sounds more fun?

La Cabalgata consists of a giant parade the night before the Dia de los Reyes. The parade lasts the entire evening and culminates with everyone from the town and neighboring towns gathering in the main plaza to cheer on the floats. Lady Gaga and Shakira blare from giant speakers and colored lights shine down  as people grab their treats from the sky. One Rey even danced with a 20-kilo leg of jamon high above his head before tossing it into the crowd.

The silent streets of our small town were transformed into a mob scene. I never knew so many people lived here.

Happy Dia de los Reyes!



In Sanlucar la Mayor on December 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm

  What’s your daily routine?

 I read about the routines of a restaurant owner in New York City this morning, and have been thinking about my own routines.

 A SLOW MORNING I’m a person who snags every opportunity to sleep in, so I usually set my alarm clock for multiple alarms, which gradually wake me up each morning. I take a shower and eat breakfast while trying to decipher the Spanish news on TV. After breakfast, I read the U.S. news on the internet and check my email, or do some last minute preparing for my classes. Then it’s off to catch the bus to Espartinas for work.

 LIFE AT THE COLEGIO At the colegio, my work changes daily, but typically involves observing classes, teaching lessons, and working with small groups of students. I also meet with a teacher or faculty member each day to practice English.

 SIESTA TIME After work, I either take the bus home to eat lunch with Jason (at 3:00) or eat at the home of a family from the school and then tutor their son in English. At home, I work on my job search, watch American series on TV (especially Glee and Modern Family), check email, do some more tutoring or meet with a neighbor to practice Spanish, or walk through the olive trees. Two to three times a week, I go to the local gym for a class called “Body Fitness”, which is kind of like a combo of Zumba, pilates, and weight training.

 DINNER AND RELAX Jason and I cook dinner together and eat around 9:30-10:00. We’ve been trying lately to cut back on meat, so we’ve been making a lot of pasta, stir fry, and salad dishes. After dinner, I read for a bit – right now I’m reading The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan (on loan from Jason’s mom) and El Siglo XX: Europa hasta 1945 (which our landlord left in our apartment), write in my journal, and get ready for bed around 11:30.

 And that’s my life in Spain! Not so different from the U.S, eh?


In Sanlucar la Mayor on November 13, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Flamenco stands in sharp contrast to the tranquilo, no paso nada attitude of Andalucians. Flamenco singers belt their hearts out, turning red with passion, singing of suffering and loss, love and yearning. The entire range of human emotion – from extreme happiness to the utmost pain and loss is represented in the voices of the singers, the turns of the dancers, and the quick ballads of the guitars.

 Last night, we attended a free flamenco performance in our town. Tucked away on a side street to the left of the infamous restaurant Venta Pazo, the Pena Cultural Flamenca houses a small tapas bar, with a stage, and seating/dining area. We ordered a tinto verano, and sat at a table tucked into the corner of the room. After a lengthy introduction (the performance was a memoria to a famous Flamenco singer), the singer and guitarist took the stage.

 The performance began with the singer making jokes and asking his granddaughter to bring him a cafe to erase a lingering cough. But once the guitarist plucked his first chords, silence fell on the room. The singer clapped his hands softly to the fast-paced rhythm of the guitar, while the audience stomped their feet. When he opened his mouth to sing, the singer transported us back in time to a land of hard work and deep spiritual beliefs. He was a Jewish cantor, a Muslim muezzin, an ancient voice echoing through the ages. As the guitar picked up its pace, he sang louder and louder, barely stopping to breathe.

 Finally, at the end of the performance, the passion literally picked him up out of his chair, as he pushed aside his microphone, tripped over the chord, and ran to the back wall. The audience cheered “Ole!” and the singer was suddenly back to the present, a laidback, jovial, tranquilo Andalucian guy.

A passionate flamenco singer