Hope you like pilsners
After the paperwork, flights, seeing friends in Oslo, and touring through Riga, Madrid and Toledo, I am finally in Seville, Spain. In just three days, I have met my host family for the next three months, started classes, and begun learning the winding Andalusian streets. It’s a lot to happen so quickly, in a place where life moves so slowly.
The first thing that, presumably, hits every American visiting Southern Europe is the relaxed pace of life. Lunch starts at 3 p.m., dinner goes for hours, and ages 15-50 can be found partying in the streets and clubs until 5 a.m. every Thursday/Friday/Saturday. When the night falls, a busy day would include having your meals, a conversation, some drinks, and maybe a walk. But, looking back on the day, you rest assured knowing that you’ve experienced each event fully.
Even the routine task of walking to school is enjoyable in such a colorful city. I step out of my apartment and walk past the discoteca next door, where workers constantly sweep glass from the never-ending festivities. The street to the river carries smells of restaurants preparing food and tiny cars in neat lines. (Apparently, everyone here is the most incredible parallel parker.)
I cross over El Puente Triana, the central bridge in Seville that joins the different zones and neighborhoods. On my right is the Torre del Oro –a 13th century tower built by the Moroccans. Below are paddleboats and speedboats carrying tourists and locals alike. I continue down the vibrant street where businessmen ride motorcycles and old men smoke pipes. There are open-air markets to cut through. Plaza del Salvador is constantly full of street musicians and people enjoying their coffees. Finally, I reach my university, ascend to a rooftop patio overlooking the city, and relax as I wait for class.
During my walks through the city, I’ve learned that I have horrible radar for recognizing locals. It’s no longer surprising to see a person from any ethnicity or appearance chatter away in the accent that is so distinct to the Andalusian region. Maybe even one day, a 6-foot-9-inch American like myself will be able to walk through the streets unnoticed. (This might be pushing it.)
As a proud “Hophead,” I have made sure to sample the Spanish beers. Mahou, Estrella del Sur, San Miguel, and of course, Sevilla’s favorite, Cruzcampo. They all taste the same. Spain seems to be in the beer dark ages where pilsners are all they know. What’s worse… the word “cervecita” exists. (Meaning “little beer” or “8 ounces of beer-flavored water.”)
So, while Spain may be experiencing an economic downturn, perhaps due to their distaste for “normal” business hours, I definitely see other pressing issues that need to be addressed.
As of now, I only have three months left in Spain. For most here, that’s enough time to read a book, maybe run some errands, and take a siesta. I’ll have to squeeze in improving my Spanish, going to a bullfight at the nearby stadium, traveling to Lisbon, Portugal, and deciding whether to support Sevilla or Bertiz- the rivaling soccer teams here. On second thought, that decision will be made for me due to my host family’s strong loyalty to Sevilla and my desire to still be fed. Now if we could just get some real beer, I’d be the happiest guy in Spain.