I always find it sad saying good-bye to friends when I don’t have the slightest idea of when we’ll meet again. It does, however, help me keep thinking optimistically about the next time our paths might cross and automatically nixes the possibility of taking any of friends for granted. With that in mind, Michael and I left Brett, Don and the bustling heat of Madrid and exchanged them for Mauricio and the stifling heat of Sevilla.
Lucky for us, our Couchsurfing host Mauricio let us have free reign of his apartment and we came and went as we pleased. Twenty minutes into the center on Sevilla’s impeccably clean metro system, we soon found ourselves in the midst of Dia europeo de la música, and enjoyed a free outdoor concert of Moroccan-influenced Spanish music. We had a quick walk around to preview some of the sights we’d visit the next day and made our way to a flamenco show at Los Gallos. Despite the fact that it was clearly designed for tourists (30€ for the two-hour show, including one drink – we chose sangria), the actual quality of dancing – and live music, of course – was excellent. My mind wandered to fill in the female dancers’ inner monologues with tales of strife to match their passionate grimaces and wondered at the male dancers’ machismo.
After the show let out after midnight, the temperatures had finally dropped to a comfortable warmth and the city was still alive. A closed metro meant splitting an overpriced taxi ride home (the driver tried to charge us even more when he got lost, but I wasn’t about to let that happen). We slept in without thinking that we’d awake to the hottest part of the day; sunscreen slathered on, water bottles loaded, the day brought us to the heights of la Giralda, to the cool respite of Sevilla’s cathedral, and to the exquisite Moorish palace Real Alcázar. Having gone a little picture-crazy, I took a break with a Spanish newspaper and the freshest mojito I’ve ever had until I decided it was time to buy some stamps.
Up until this point, my Spanish had taken me as far as buying tickets and food (para llevar and para tomar – “to take out” and “to eat in” were the first verbs I learned in Madrid). But the hour had come. Postcards had to be sent. I didn’t really know the word for stamps, though I had seen it before. I approached the tabac counter and confidently stated, “I need 1 chair for the United States and 2 chairs for Germany”. Whoops.
You see, sillas is the word my brain decided to use instead of the correct word sellos. Damn vowels. Tricksy little phonemes, they are. In any case, it was a nice reminder of the early days of learning a language when it’s still funny to make mistakes. I laughed it off, corrected myself and got what I needed.
Mauricio was at home that night, so Michael and I taught him the basics of salsa while he patiently listened to my Spanitalianglish mixed instructions. He was a quick learner and it was lovely to finally get to know the person whose casa had been our casa for the previous two days. (Side note: I’m always amused when I have the chance to introduce a person to something foreign to my own cultural upbringing – a very WASP-y one, albeit nowadays minus the P – and closer to theirs. Back in Gießen, for example, I cooked the first sweet potatoes that my language tandem partner from a pueblo near Puerta Vallarta had ever eaten. Funny how the world works).
Sevilla’s andalusian atmosphere of forced relaxation imposed by the sweltering heat dominated my impression of the city, and at first glance I liked it more than Madrid. Not a place I could live, but definitely good for a holiday or two, Sevilla’s vibrant arts scene and wealth of beautiful city scenery could have kept my attention for much longer than two days. Rolling on to the next destination – Valencia – we headed back to Madrid for a train connection that turned our rough itinerary thoroughly upside down. Look for some seriously useful travel advice in the next post on Madrid, otra vez!