Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sevilla and the Spanish Language: My Introduction to the Phenomenon known as España(eth-PAHN-yah). And yes I´m being mildly patronizing.

So I spent more or less 6 weeks of this summer in Sevilla, a bakingly beautiful city in southern Spain and the capital of Andalusia. I took a few classes at a sort of technical college/satellite university thing associated with the University of Sevilla, visited and explored the many historic buildings and castles, (these will be mentioned in further detail when my narrative thread collapses later into just pictures and captions.) and lived with a Sevillan woman named Marisol and two student roommates from UNC: Aaron and Andrew. Exposition: over; spastic visually-driven elaborative explication: beginning launch sequence.

This iswas Aaron and my's room. (Aaron and I's room? Aaron and me's room?  Aaron and mine's room? But if you took out the other subject "Aaron" it'd make sense to be "my room right"? You'd think that by the third year of college I would stop running into grammar problems that I don't understand.) (I have come to the conclusion that all of those options are stupid and that grammar is bad. "This is the room that doesdid belong to Aaron and me.")
 We lived in northern Sevilla, in and among the ordinary people who call the city their home, doing our best to fit in and live like one of them, and throwing ourselves into the culture so as not to stick out like a Tourette's patient at a silent auction (like an Arab-American on day-time television; like a rabid badger in a butterfly house; like a pyrophobic vegetarian Polish immigrant with an umbrella on the 4th of July. Pick your favorite.)

Of course that was doomed for failure from the beginning and despite our best efforts we inevitably stuck out like the guy at Golden Corral who neglects to get a clean plate when he goes to the buffet for seconds.

("Forget water conservation or dish use efficiency, I ain't catchin' no e.coli. or none of that Tourette's neither.")

("You're disgusting; I don't care if you "Forgot to snag some butter for your muffin the first time." Honestly I don't know why you think filthy euphemisms excuse you from any responsibility for bringing these toxic germs and bacterial poisons into vaguely close proximity with our fresh unsoiled buffet butter.)

At this point I should probably explain why that picture looks a little funny and why the snail picture from the other day was so blurry too; I have a camera with me that I've been taking excellent care of, but due to some unexpected and inexplicable structural damage that must have arisen from some internal pre-existing mechanical condition, the display is now broken. The viewfinder is blank. The independent and automatic photo-capturing mechanism has been crippled. My camera is essentially a vegetable.

 (One that is somehow magically capable of taking pictures. Like an eggplant with a cameraphone. Or a cyborg carrot with photographic memory. Or Terri Schiavo stuffed in a pumpkin with one of those picture-drawing inside-camera-dwelling birds from the Flintstones.)

(That was insensitive. I think I'm unconsciously trying to shake myself out of the thus far semi-apathetic style with which I've written this blog by being tentatively offensive and occasionally vaguely political. I use the word vaguely a lot.)

(I wonder if I made that joke too exclusive by mentioning Terri Schiavo AND The Flintstones...)

But the point is that my camera is deaf blind and dumb. I can no longer see what I'm taking a picture of, but neither can it. Being a vegetable, the camera can only be pointed at things and made to carry out its sole surviving operation, capturing an image. (Which is basically the camera vegetable's equivalent of breaking down food for nutrition. or pooping.) The camera no longer knows what the term "white balance" means, and, like a vegetable or misbehaving small child, can only focus on that which is immediately in front of its face. Anything that is not exactly 3-5 inches in front of the camera lens is already out of the camera's focus area and thus not deserving of too many pixels. This is cool for a little while because I don't know what my pictures are going to be like until I load them up, and the contrast of up close and focused with the blurry artsy background can be pretty cool, but eventually that gets old and I want to be able to have nice pictures of things, and more importantly I've discovered that I'm really bad at pointing a camera at things well unless I have a viewfinder that tells me exactly what I'm including in a shot.

(I have bad aim? who knew!? (I'm discovering that phrases like this do not translate very well to the written word. There doesn't seem to be a right way to write them down so that they actually sound/look like they should sound. look. They don't look right. It doesn't look right.) I would do something with the bad aim question but everything I'm coming up with involves Dick Cheney, sexual innuendo, and/or my inability to throw a Frisbee correctly. I feel like all that's been done to death so I'm just going to leave it alone and spare you the shame and resentment. (That's what she said.)

 (Oh God.)

So we failed at managing to completely convince people that we were Spaniards, but we still succeeded in pandering and ingratiating ourselves to the Spaniards so that they would accept us as surrogate or honorary members of their society. So yeah, we hung out and spoke Spanish and the natives tolerated us.

Marisol helped here too; she wasn't afraid to tell us when we were being silly and/or terribly uninformed about Spanish culture. (She also helped with the involving us thing by speaking nonstop Spanish to/at us until we managed to muster up the confidence and vocabulary to begin holding up our end of the conversation.Yay for immersion!)

It went pretty well with people outside our homestay too, except for the occasional ridiculous accent or people who insisted on speaking English to us. Usually I tried to look vaguely Germanic (because I was forced to accept early on that Mediterranean was not a look I could achieve. It was a dark day. And I still don't think the intervention was necessary; they handled my hopes and dreams like Dick Cheney handles his hunting buddies: act like everything's normal, then yell something about a bird and blindside them with a shotgun to the face.)

(I've gotten to the point that I usually no longer even acknowledge my mid-sentence tangents. My whimsy just apologizes, sarcastically pretends to curtsy (ass), and backs up while my more focused and driven, business-casual, goal-oriented part of my brain takes over and politely skips a few lines and starts the sentence over.)

Usually I tried to look vaguely Germanic, as opposed to American, but I'd still get addressed with English sometimes.  When this happened I would just ignore it and keep speaking Spanish like the headstrong American I am, (sentence I never thought I would hear or see or say)  but sometimes they'd throw me off with their English. I'd ask for water, they'd ask "you want ice?" in a thoroughly Spanishy accent, and I would spend 3-5 minutes waffling and then asking them to repeat themselves because when I put "lluwan ais" in my mental Spanish dictionary I just get back *does not compute*, or occasionally *syntactical error?* or *I have no clue what that is, just say sí a lot, find a distraction, and get out of there as soon as possible. Maybe throw a Frisbee or something and then use the subsequent ensuing chaos to follow it out the door and down the street. Meet you at the bus stop.*

(My mental Spanish dictionary isn't very helpful. It mostly just whispers curse words in my ear and makes dirty jokes at inopportune times.) (And subtly makes fun of my athletic abilities.)

So yeah, Spanish.

Another thing: the food was crazy amazing delicious and I miss it already and I will be talking about that a lot next time. 

 So I totally meant to include a lot of pictures and talk about cool places in Sevilla and elsewhere in Spain, buttttt that didn't happen, so all you've got is a picture of my Spanish bedroom. It'd be awkward if I removed the bedroom picture now so ummm... yeah. That's cool I guess.


  1. I love you michael.

  2. I am in love with your mental Spanish dictionary

    1. I think it's in some kind of complicated quasi-relationship with my whimsy at the moment, but I'll let you know if something changes