First off, I would like to say that the recent ETA attacks are far away and haven’t affected me.
I have not been inconvenienced by the torrential downpour, either, and while I’m told that the river is a bit of a mess, I personally have only seen a higher-than-usual number of puddles.
I have pictures to post, but I’m feeling lazy and am not going to mess with them today. I’ll add them later.
In other news, while I’m very glad that the cold I’ve picked up seems to consist of nothing worse than a runny-ish nose and a mildly sore throat, I’ve had it for a week now, am thoroughly sick of feeling like a large portion of the water in my body is exiting through my nose, and really wish that it would either hurry up and get worse and go away, or just go away.
There was something else that I wanted to say about the Flamenco – I don’t think that I’d ever seen castanets used properly before. Or, for that matter, a fan used properly before. And, while we’re on the subject, that’s about exactly what I imagined for a skukusen.* Only, y’know, minus the throwing bit. And Neal.
So. Thursday we went to Alcazar de Los Reyes Christianos for a big welcome hosted by the Ayuntamiento (town council) de Córdoba. We did not get to hear the alcadesa (mayoress) speak; she had some other engagement, and her proxy was a terrible public speaker; between the ehs and ers and the quick sharpness of the words, I hardly caught one word in ten. The director of the Facultad was nearly as bad, though his flaws lay more in the direction of mumbling and not talking at the microphone at all. The Rector of the University of Córdoba, on the other hand, was entirely intelligible. And the site was certainly impressive. The Alcazar is a terrifically ancient edifice, complete with Roman mosaics in the main hall and small white salamanders on the other side of the little window near the roof, and there is a set of gorgeous gardens. I don’t have many pictures of them, because we arrived at dusk and it was getting too dark, but I did manage to take a few with the long exposure setting on my camera. It’s free on Fridays and I intend to go back in decent light – but not this Friday. We’re going to Sevilla, a trip that coincides excellently with my birthday.
At any rate, after the speeches there was a reception, una copa, which I have decided means that you eat dinner standing up while socializing and munching on hors d’oeuvres. And, of course, wine. I didn’t try any, but I did try some of the drinks that didn’t look obviously alcoholic. One was a white drink that Kona described as gazpacho; I was very confused because in my experience, gazpacho is a vegetable soup. I think that I’ve lated figured out that it was almond gazpacho. In any case, I don’t intend to try any more of it; the flavor was perhaps nice, but I couldn’t tell because it was VERY salty. In the words of Rodrigo, “salty like the sea.” (My host mother later fed me tomato gazpacho, which was also a drink and also quite salty, but not quite as salty as the stuff at the reception.) I also tried a yellow drink, fanta limon, which seems to be some sort of soft drink. At any rate, while the flavor was excellent (nice strong lemon, not too sweet), it was carbonated, which ensured that I didn’t like it. I was also persuaded to try a sip of sangria, and while it was sweet and better than wine, I could still taste the wine (and so didn’t like it). I think that I distressed the servers by pouring my own drinks (knowing that they would serve me far more than I actually wanted). While I didn’t like any of the drinks besides water, and on the whole, the offerings consisted of more fried food than I consider desirable for supper, the jamón was excellent (I particularly enjoyed the fresh pineapple and jamón on a stick), as was the ice cream. And it was less awkward than the copa at the restaurant, in that there was space to move and the gardens to wander if you got tired of socializing.
On Friday we went to the Mesquita Catedral, the Mosque-Cathedral. The mosque part was beautiful, lots of red-and-white arches and some gorgeous domes. I must admit to being rather more impressed by the mosque than the cathedral which was another example of overdone marble and gold and silver and stuff – for which they had knocked down the middle bit of an absolutely gorgeous example of arabic architecture. Our guide told us that when Córdoba had been conquered by Christian forces, there was some dispute as to whether to knock down bits of the mosque or not, which was eventually settled by a decree from the king – who had never seen the building in question. And when he got around to seeing it, he decided that it was a shame, because the mosque had been unique, and there are churches everywhere, but at that point it was too late. Our guide was very impressed by the fact that the Cathedral was inside the mosque – I’m sure that it was very nice, but it has been noted before that I’m not always impressed by cathedral architecture. I will concede her point that having the cathedral there may have saved the mosque from falling into disrepair, because the congregation kept up the entire complex in order to not have the mosque bits falling into the church bits. Pictures on that later.
After the tour on Friday I was feeling a bit off. I called it homesick, but suspected that it was just as much lack of things to keep me occupied as anything else. The trouble with packing really light is that the list of things to play with or get around to sometime has suddenly gotten much shorter – I’m down to reading The Silmarillion, playing with my computer/the internet, writing to people or in a journal, and doing some mending on that one shirt where the buttons are badly placed.
Eventually my host mother suggested that we go on a walk, and we crossed the Roman Bridge to a different part of town, one that I had not yet visited, with more houses and fewer apartments, where most of her family lives, and we visited with her aunt, and someone’s niece, and her father, and then her son and the son’s wife and her grandson Dani showed up, which occupied the rest of the evening.
Saturday we went for a short tour of the city, during the course of which I found the modern part of town, and I made a shopping list so that I could cook this week (harder than it sounds; I had to look things up and sometimes wound up resorting to google image search to make sure that I was putting down the right stuff. (I never did figure out how to say curry powder; my dictionary translated it as “oriental spice,” and I think that the “sweet pepper” she wound up giving me was paprika.)
Also on Saturday I got myself lost wandering around later than was perhaps strictly wise (the plan was to meet up with people quickly and not be wandering around by myself, but things look different in the dark, and some streets are distinctly sketchy and you wind up changing your planned route . . . and when I found the plaza where we were going to meet, there was what appeared to be a motorcycle concert going on, and I could have walked right by our whole group without noticing. I did see a very interesting graffiti artist exhibition, though (more on that with the pictures) and managed to get myself home again safely without getting lost again. I’ve determined that any more nocturnal wanderings will preferably involve meeting people at my door, or at least close to it at a place that I can get to easily.
Sunday I tried going to church, which meant walking to the closest cathedral (while there are apparently 8 Mennonite churches in Spain, they’re all pretty far away, and there’s no guarantee that I’d get on with them, anyway). My host mother described it as “preciosa.”
I just looked up preciosa, just to be sure that it really means what I think it means (precious/beautiful). And while that’s what it does mean, one of the sub-definitions was costly. So maybe “preciosa” really is secret Spanish code of the same sort as “interesting” in English. Or maybe people do really like these overdone church decorations. Based on tone of voice, I have a sneaking suspicion that it is the second. What worries me is the possibility that this may be catching. By which I mean that when I first walked into this church and looked at the overdone gold decorations and thought to myself, “well, that’s not too bad.”
What I’m trying to say is, if you ever show me a three-story wall of gold with overdone relief two or three feet thick, and I say, “Oh, isn’t that gorgeous!” please slap me with something. A wet fish would be appropriate, but many items would do. Alternately, dump cold water over my head. And then restrain me until I have regained my sense.
As for the service, it was better than I expected. There were, of course bits where the priest said something and the whole congregation responded, and not only did I not know what to say, I haven’t a clue what anyone said during the whole thing, but the music was nice (there was a group of singers and musicians up front, and they were good. The music was sort of contemporary/praise songs, though we did sing a Taizé Aleluya (only two times through, though). I did notice theological differences once or twice, but on the whole I wasn’t aware of any (quite probably they were there and just went over my head). I came to the conclusion that in future I should sit closer to the front in order to understand better (while I managed to identify all of the verses by the time we finished them – Psalm 103 and the Parable of the workers who are late to work – it took a while, and I think that I would do better with less sound system boom). The sermon was decent, and social-justice based (at least, that’s what I got out of it, and I felt like I understood most of it).
After the service, I wandered a bit, down to a street market and past a public park that was a small road network, complete with signage and stoplights, full of children on bicycles.
After lunch and hiding from the heat for a while, I went on a walk with some of the other girls in the program. We wandered and talked and took silly pictures and generally had a good time. We did get caught in a bit of rain on the way back, but I had my umbrella, and it didn’t get really bad until after I got back. It was a nice walk, and I was perfectly content not to venture outside again.
Yesterday I had a good time. The normal PRESHCO classes started, which is nice. My first class was From Text to Film: Spanish and Latin American Cinema. It’s a class that will fulfill one of the 200-level literature requirements for the major (which makes me very happy), and seems like it will be interesting. After that I went to Roman Andalusia (Andalusia is the southern region of Spain, where Córdoba is), a class that I wasn’t expecting to take but figured I’d go to anyway, to have some choices, just in case. It was very interesting, and the professor clearly loves his stuff; I left the class feeling sad that I probably wouldn’t wind up taking it.
After I got home, I cooked dinner. I hadn’t realized how much I missed cooking; after all, aside from the occasional pie or cake, and the fudge sale, I don’t cook very often at school. I guess that cooking for myself weekends during most of the summer, and even more frequently during August, left its mark on me. And I really got into both making the list and making the food; I think that I was right, and I needed a project. I did not try to make “typical american food,” whatever that is (probably something like Smith Traditional, actually), and decided that I would try to give an idea of what meals are like in my mother’s house, with recipes that I knew or had with me. My planned menu was lentil feta salad, the spinach thing I found over the summer (with chicken), and beets. We wound up dropping the beets because there weren’t any at the market, and the ratio of chicken to spinach was not what I had imagined (and, as I said, I never did find any curry, and I didn’t even try for tumeric), but on the whole I was very pleased with how it turned out (especially since I was making the lentil salad without a recipe). We had nice, whole wheat bread on the side, and people seemed to like it (Ivan, one of Pepi’s sons was over, and his girlfriend, and her niece, and Ana, my other housemate, arrived). And it wasn’t fried, and I had green things that didn’t have any butter in them (while on the whole, I like the food here, the lack of vegetables and the amount of oil/butter used is a little appalling at times). For dessert, Pepi made a tarta, which reminded me of a banana puddding with Nilla wafers, only without the banana, and with chocolate icing on top. It was good.
Dinner time. I’ll write about Ana, and about today, later.
*And mom, no, you’re not going to find that in your dictionary. In fandom, a shukushen is a lady-fan, a hidden weapon, as in Tamora Pierce’s book Squire: “Skinko produced a fan, offering to Kel. The shukusen was as heavy as she remembered, cherry-red silk on thin, elegantly pierced steel ribs that were dull at the base, razor sharp on the ends . . . they played, throwing the fan a little higher each time it completed a circuit of the group. It looked like a giant scarlet butterfly as it turned and spun in the air. . . . Taking the fan, she went to a pile of tent poles and picked one up. She carried it back to Neal, unfurled the fan with a snap, and slashed the open edge across the pole. A piece of wood dropped to the ground.”
As far as actual history goes, I’ll direct you to The Wikipedia article.
P.S. I’ve changed the settings so that you can post comments without having an account/logging in. I didn’t realize that it was set this way, though it explains why people made accounts . . .