A reflection from early last semester, Fall 2018:
Two weeks in, I have learned a lot about the life of sevillanos and the city they call home, most notably from the flow of their lives that is reflected from street to street. From plazas and parks to fruit stands and flower shops, the people in Sevilla seem to live outside more than they do in their homes. The city is designed to allow for the social interaction of its citizens and small changes in pace reveal the rise and fall of each day. Many of us knew of the Spanish siesta before the program, but little did we know how much everyone in the city adapted to this practice. Every day around 2:00 p.m. the hustle of the streets slows as many shops, cafes and other businesses close their doors. The general routine is to take lunch at this time and leave work for the afternoon. However, work doesn’t halt for the day––people in Sevilla return. Around 5:30 p.m., you can expect to find most gates pulled up again and the activities resume. People flow back into the streets. While Americans are driving home in rush hour traffic, Spaniards are continuing for a little while longer. As a result, most people don’t eat dinner until 8:30 or later, more commonly 9:30 or 10:00 at night. Therefore, as the sun is going down, the streets of Sevilla are more lively than ever. Outside patios are full of those enjoying tapas (mini portions as well as platters of meats/cheese/seafood often shared by a group), an activity with its own Spanish verb––tapear. Many people gather by the riverside which is particularly beautiful at night, often with churros or gelato. Late into the evening residential neighborhoods hear the sound of children playing outside––and playgrounds can be found throughout the city, outside apartments and restaurants alike.
My walk to class takes me over the Guadalquivir river every morning and I often forget to watch for bikers as I see the kayakers and paddle-boarders in the water below. Speaking of bikes, I thought no city could beat Bloomington’s love for them, but Sevilla has certainly challenged the rest of the world. Wide green lanes are painted on every sizable sidewalk throughout this city of 750,000+ people and its a very real danger to be the pedestrian that steps out of line. It’s no surprise that biking and walking are common forms of transport when you see how the streets shrink into the city center. Narrow and curving without pattern, Sevilla’s sidewalks can be as thin as one brick, often reminding me of days in gymnastics on the balance beam. And yet, a surprising number of cars still try to navigate the passages. The study abroad center is located precisely in the middle of this maze, so every day we find ourselves flattening against a few walls, sidestepping the occasional rain of AC units from above, and trying to find as much shade as possible in our battle against the relentless sun.
Sevilla is such an active city and there are endless things to see, hear, and do. Monuments, museums, and the history of three religions. Yet some of my favorite things so far are around unexpected corners, inside small bookstores, and at the end of the day watching Spanish t.v. with my host family. Thankfully, I have the chance to stretch my discoveries over the next 3 months, because I know that it will take a slower pace to fully experience everything that is here.