Monday, April 29, 2013

The Swing of Things. La Vida Cotidiana.

I have been spending so much time outside of Seville. I've been to The Palms in the Canary Islands and to Lagos, Portugal. Both trips were amazing. I've been so busy while I'm actually here in Seville, that I've not been writing! Sorry! Now it's time to write long papers and study for finals, so here goes: a quick blog entry to update you about a few things.

I've seen some of the most important cultural events that happen here in Seville! Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Feria are two of the biggest and most important festivals here.

Traditional dress
Semana Santa is a huge religious celebration in Seville from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It was started back in the 16th Century! It consists of  a lot of processions of "pasos," which are huge statues that are carried through the streets by people dressed in penitential robes with hoods. A LOT of people in the streets for an entire week. It was an awesome experience!
One of the Pasos

The entrance to the Feria
 (Rebuilt every year with a different design!)

Feria begins just two weeks after Semana Santa, and has been in existence in Seville since 1847. The festival started as a livestock fair during the reign of Queen Isabel II. The fair runs for six days and for the duration, a huge portion of land is completely covered in "casetas," which are basically tents that are owned by prominent families, organizations, political parties, clubs, etc. Some are private and others public. Every day from dusk until dawn of the following day, you'll find tons of Sevillanas in these tents. They dance, eat and drink all night. During the Feria, Seville is more beautiful than ever. The city is painted in all colors. Lots of polka dots. Men dress up in suits and the women dress in flamenco dresses. There is also a part of the fairgrounds that has tons of rides. I loved Feria- another great thing about being in Seville during the spring semester!

Can I just hide here forever?

I leave Seville for Indiana in just sixteen days and it is such a bittersweet feeling. Everyone told me that once I finally got into the "swing of things" here, I wouldn't want to leave. They were right. Seville is my home. I've settled here. I have a perfect routine and I love the lifestyle. I have a great Spanish family; my host mother is seriously my best friend. She gives me so much support and I can tell her anything. I care so deeply about the girl I have been tutoring and I feel so sad knowing I won't be around to teach and help her as she grows. The friends that I've made will all be in different parts of America and the world. I won't be able to see their faces every day ever again. I am just now getting used to everything, and although I'm ready to see my friends and family in Indiana, I'm not ready for my life to change!

After being away from home for almost 4 months and it feeling like 2 weeks, I have realized that time FLIES. What scares me is the thought of it being five, six, maybe seven years before I get to come back to visit. So much will have changed. When will I ever get to travel to another country for three and a half months again? This has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Experience, Perception, Understanding and Awareness

Until you experience something firsthand, I don't believe you can fully comprehend it.

Sure, you can have a basic understanding of something, but I believe it takes a hands-on, face-to-face experience to have a true insight in regards to what you think you know. There is something about experience that is for me, beyond words.

When we learn about something that we haven't actually been through, we simply learn the facts. We might be able to demonstrate sympathy, hospitality and mutuality without having been through a situation (it is undoubtedly important to do so), but without having the experience we might never truly have a grasp on it. For example, you might be there for a friend when they lose a parent, but if you've not lost a parent you'll never truly know the feeling. You can over-exaggeratedly tell yourself you have no money, but until you've been flat broke you can't fathom what it's really like. Only after we have experienced the event, may we actually begin to conceptualize it. In reality, an experience teaches your entire being. As much as you let it, the concrete experience allows your mind, body, and soul to learn.

Experiences can change our perceptions completely. 

Indeed, we all perceive things quite differently. However, I think that as an American it would be wrong for me to say I didn't have a few preconceived notions about the Arabic culture as a whole before I traveled to Morocco. It's true. The fact that the world has stamped the title "Third World" or "Developing" on it doesn't help either.

Listen, Morocco was not the cleanest or most developed place I've been to, but I did notice that things were a lot more developed than I had expected. Most of the people I saw in Morocco were desperate, but they were at least working to make a living. Everyone came up and tried to somehow get money out of me. The areas I went to are highly dependent on tourism, and this is what they know. The people are not stupid. They simply do not have the resources that are readily available to many other people (like myself). They make due with what they have and they do what they have to do. I've been thinking for a few days, and am realizing just how much I judged these people before, without truly understanding anything about them. I feel terrible now. After seeing how they live with my own two eyes, I'm not sure I could ever make it work with as little as they do. In the end, the fact is that people are people. No person asks to be born into any certain flesh, place or culture.

You have to experience the bad to appreciate the good.

Seeing all of the things that they DON'T have in Morocco made me realize just how lucky I am. I've had all of these amenities for all my life and this experience made me even more thankful. I know that I can never fully conceptualize the life of a Moroccan because I am not a Moroccan, nor have I had to walk a mere step in their shoes (or lack thereof). I no longer judge this group of people, and it saddens me to think of how our perception of what we don't know is generally manipulated by society (among other things).

I've seriously taken so much away from this. This experience has made me reflect on my entire existence.  I realize now that a true understanding is most definitely based on experience. We need exposure in order to gain a fair perception. If we can't do that, we must at the very least be able discern the correlation between understanding and experience.
The town square of Chefchaouen

 Where the clothes are washed

 I'm sure this was only one of the daily chores

 Typical Moroccan clothing