Here is an update from Anne Owen, who is studying in Seville, Spain. You can check out her last blog here.
The past two weeks I’ve been busy preparing for my midterms. I blame myself, in part, because I had much lower expectations of the difficulty of learning Spanish and my classes abroad. But, at the same time, adjusting to a new culture and home combined with studying in a foreign language has proven to be as difficult as it sounds. After studying for hours and getting terrible “test anxiety” for the first time in my life, the exams are over and I’m now on my Spring Break.
Here, Spring Break falls over Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is a celebration that takes place over the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and is especially famous in Seville. The week features the procession of pasos, which are floats of wooden sculptures of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Some of the floats are very old and considered works of art. They weigh a lot and are used year after year gaining cultural and spiritual importance among the Catholic population. The Holy Week is also important for the city of Seville since the huge increase among tourists brings in a lot of money. The processions are organized by hermandades and cofradías, religious brotherhoods and the heavy pasos are held up by men lined up underneath them with little cushions on their heads for protection against the weight. They walk on the same beat with the same feet. Brass bands accompany the processions, which have given me a permanent migraine headache. My bedroom and another room in the apartment have small patios, which open up to overlook the street below with processions passing throughout the day.
You might recognize the outfits of the brotherhood from the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK took the idea of their outfit (all white with capes and tall mask/hat) from this concept. They wanted to create an image that represents a brotherhood while wearing all white and hiding their faces. At first, it was extremely strange to see people dressed this way in Spain.
The other night Nieves, my host mom, invited her whole family over to celebrate and watch the processions pass in front of our apartment. The apartment is in the perfect spot to watch the parades but it also means it’s very noisy and crowded and we can’t leave the building while they are passing. After they went by we had a huge meal and drinks. Natalie and I helped in the kitchen preparing hors d’oeuvres and washing dishes. Per usual in Spain, there was lots of queso curado and jamon, muchos mariscos (caviar, octopus, shrimp, cod soup) and rich, delicious tortes.
While so far the semester has been long and rather difficult, we have a short week to celebrate Feria, another festival, next week. I’m looking forward to see all the women dressed up in Flamenco dresses.
Thanks Ann! If you are new to the blog, check out the free language exchange community – ExchangeALanguage.com – I enjoy comments, so feel free to write below and ‘like’ the fb page to stay up to date on all the blogs.