Friday, April 25, 2014

Semana Santa and Closing Remarks

After an amazing four days in the Canary Islands, it was time to return back to Seville in order to experience the well anticipated Semana Santa, Holy Week in english.  Holy Week is from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday every year and it is a chance for the churches to display their icons and altarpieces in their church.  Everyday is very similar with procession after procession and let's not forget the amount of people on the streets is ridiculous.  The processions are based around the center of Seville, near the Cathedral.  The history of this celebration dates back in the 16th century when many of the citizens were illiterate, and so in order for the Catholic Church to remind people of the importance of Easter, they displayed the sacrificing of Christ.  Every since then, it has been an annual event for all the churches to display their icon, the most popular being the Virgin Mary.  The people that are involved with a procession belong to the brotherhood that run the church.  Many people just stand on the sidewalks and gaze at the processions that go by.  It takes one procession about an hour.  During that hour you see, kids in these costumes above giving candy to other kids, music from the band, senior members holding these wooden crosses, and the most important the float.

This magnificant golden float is being carried by about 30 men.  It is an honor for these men to be appointed for this job and even to be in the procession to begin with is a great honor to represent your brotherhood.  These men practice and train two to three weeks prior to Holy Week and now I realize why.  I can't imagine the weight that is being applied to the men below and also on this specific day it was about 80 degrees.  You stand on the side gazing at the kids and members of the brotherhood walking by and then when the float appears everyone goes silent.  Some people will even reach out a hand and touch the float and then pray.  It was quite a sight and an experience especially coming from the US where going to church and praying on Easter is huge but there are so many distractions.  This is a week long celebration where even kids are involved learning to give candies to other kids at a very young age.  The city and people focus around this celebration and the significance these floats and processions have on this city is incredible.  Many business owners rely on Holy Week to make all their profits for the year and without this celebration Sevilla would not be Sevilla.  Getting around the city and even just eating lunch or dinner is near impossible due to the combination of people and processions.  Many places are completely blocked off for people that rented chairs in which all the floats go past certain areas.  These seats are very expensive but after experiencing Holy Week walking around and trying to see different processions, I can see where those seats might be a great investment.  

This past week was my last week of school in Seville.  My exams ended on Wednesday and then last night was our going away party.  It was at the same restaurant that our welcome party was located and it was weird because I felt like I was just their a couple weeks ago meeting all of these new students.  This time we were there recalling the special moments we had together, and the friendships I have gained through my travels here will stay with me forever.  It is amazing to talk to people who all had different reasons for coming here.  Some are here because they want to be spanish teachers.  Others are here because it was a great opportunity that they could not pass up.  Then there are others that came because they felt as though their lives were stuck in the same routine with the same people. My primary reason for coming to Seville was to play soccer.  Academics were a side note especially seeing the few amount of credits that are actually transferring over to CNU.  I did not expect the experiences that would ultimately change my life and my character.  Before coming to Spain, I was a confident person but like everyone I had my doubts.  With stress of soccer, school, and my future always in my head, there are always doubts that will arise.  I've lived in a foreign country for over three months now, having to speak a language that I really just started learning a year ago.  I have lived with a family that speaks zero English and I have played soccer with a semi-professional team that has the potential to becoming pro in Spain.  I have seen different cultures and realized the life that I want to live in my future.  Those stressors that I had  four months ago, are now looked at as challenges that I have the confidence to overcome, and know that my life will turn out the way I want it to.  I feel as though I can handle any situation or circumstance that comes my way no matter the difficulty.  What I know about the world and the people that live in it will never truly be complete, but my openness to others and their cultures is even more clear now.  My soccer ability has grown to a confidence that I never thought I would obtain just by practicing with a team.  I realize now that my "dream" of becoming a professional soccer player is now more a goal.  Lastly, my love for my family and friends is even more apparent then before.  You never truly understand the amount of love and necesity you have for your family until they are gone from your life.  The excitement I have to see my parents here in Seville is through the roof and the opportunity to travel Europe with my girlfriend, Becky, is something I have been trying to contain every since the plan to travel intiated.  Returning home to see friends and my siblings will be bittersweet because this city has completely changed me and I will never forget the moments and experiences I have had here.  I want to thank everybody that have kept up with my blog, there has been many posts and descriptions about my time here and I know at times it gets repetitive.  I hope I have done a good job sharing my thoughts and experiences through my eyes and it is because of you all that kept me blogging and remembering those moments that will always be here for my disposal.  I am not sure whether I will continue blogging during my travels around Europe but I will say that there will be one final blog when I return home.  A saying that I am going to leave you all with has been thrown around a lot within this past day, always remembering our time here in Spain.

No me ha dejado
(It has not left me)

Thank you all so much and can't wait to see you all back in the states! Especially, this little guy,

¡Adios amigos!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria aka Shred camp

After my incredible week of soccer, a group of four students from SAIIE took a flight down to the Canary Islands for four days.  Our destination, was Las Palmas, which is the northern most beach on the island Gran Canaria.  We attended a surf camp for three days, a total of 6 hours taught on the water and then an additional 10 hours to go out and surf whenever you want.  My first trial surfing was in North Carolina this past summer and it ended badly.  This trial was ubelievable, I was able to stand up on the first day and then on the last day I was able to actually ride the waves at an angle, as shown on this awesome picture above.  The waves were absolutely perfect for beginners.  They were all about the height of the above picture, obviously a little bigger on some days but very consistent, with one wave rolling in right after the other.  The weather was beautiful everyday and the water was a little chilly when you first entered but then your body got used to it.  It was actually quite refreshing because of the heat especially on the black sand that covered the beach.  The four of us, Riley, Zaire, Chris, and I stayed in a hostel with 8 or 9 other kids also attending the camp.  They were from all around Europe, France, Barcelona, Sweden.  It was awesome to meet these people and get to know their backgrounds and why they were there.  Most of them, it was just a great excuse to get away for a week.  
This was the hostel with about 3 other rooms like this one.  There was also an upstairs that was for hanging out listening to music or watching tv or if you wanted to just take a nap on the hammock.  The nap was essential especially after a couple hours out on the water.  Fortunately, my friend Riley and I really took advantage of our 10 extra hours outside of class and we might not have completed all 10 but certainly came close.  We had a great time exploring the the nightlife of the island, it is definitely a surf town.  Everyone knows everyone and there is no worries.  What a life it would be to have the opportunity to wake up to sunshine everyday, teach some kids how to surf for a couple hours, take a break and go surfing, then head back home to get ready to go out and meet friends every night.  It was a great vacation with a lot of relaxation because our return to Sevilla for Holy Week was the exact opposite.  Let's just say we were not ready for the amount of people on the streets at a given moment.  An update on going home status, I fly back home in 37 days, crazy how time flies.  ¡Hasta Pronto!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Football Week

There is so much to update on that, I am going to have to blog in stages focusing on the main parts of my last week.  First, we are going to start with my soccer game on Tuesday.  Our last game of the semester was played in the newest college that was opened up in Sevilla that has the same format as a college in the US, with a campus and everything.  Unfortunately, we could not find another team that was available to play for this day and time so we had to scrimmage against ourselves.  The weather was perfect and the field was a lot newer than the ones we have been playing on so everything seemed to line up for a good night.  The coach stuck my roommate and I at forward together and let us try and do our thing.  The Triana team plays right through the middle of the field with little involvement with the wingers, so this style suited us really well because we got the ball often.  Especially me, because I took advantage of when I was not getting the ball often, I would drop into the center mid and try and impact the game that way.  It was perfect I was very much involved with every build-up and after going a goal down, I made this run where I beat one player on the dribble and had a shot with my left foot that winded up going upper 90 on the near post.  It was a great start to the game because for the rest of the game I had the confidence.  We then went another goal down just to bring it back even when I received a pass from the outside back, flicked it to the running outside mid, who then fired away another goal.  Goal and an assist for the first part of the first half, I was feeling really good and this definitely showed throughout the whole game.  The second half was wide open with not much build up and more of a counter attack method.  Although, it was sloppy at times I was able to find myself another goal and almost rack in a third to complete my hat trick, but the pass to me wasn't made.  We ended up losing 4-3, but can't be too upset with two goals and an assist.  It was a great way to end the soccer program here in Spain because I really focused on what I learned while I was here and tried implementing that as I played.  I train for a couple more weeks so I am not officially done but what an experience it has been.

My next soccer experience was on Thursday, where I had the opportunity to go to the second leg Europa quarterfinal game against Sevilla FC and FC Porto, a Portuguese team.  In the first leg FC Porto won 1-0, and so Sevilla had to come out attacking in order to get a couple goals.  There was a big section of Porto fans that traveled for the game and they were crazy.  They were loud from the minute they entered the stadium singing their chants and taunting the Sevilla fans until the whistle blew when their team went a goal down very early on.  When it was time for the fans to enter into their section there were about 25-30 cops lining up around their area.  Things got so heated that the fans were hitting and throwing bottles at the cops and in return the cops were hitting the fans with their sticks.  It was crazy, very close to a straight riot.  The atmosphere of the game was amazing, the fans sang their chants and songs loudly and you could feel the pride in everyone of the Sevilla fans' voices as they motivated their team to win 4-1.  It is great to see the passion that these fans have for the game of soccer and their teams.  It is nothing compared to soccer or even football back home in the US.  It is addicting, you find yourself wanting to be apart of the chants and you want to become those old guys that buy season tickets every year, that have the same seats for years and years.  From a player's point  of view, I can't imagine playing with that many people chanting and screaming your name.  I know for the most part you just tune out everything around you but wow the feeling of playing for people that would literally die for you would be such an amazing experience.  Even after the game, the fans were still going crazy.  Chanting continued to the streets and eventually when they couldn't be heard chanting in their cars, they started honking various tunes.  People on motorcycles and mopeds were honking and waving their scarves and flags all the way until we got home, which is about a 30 minute walk.  It was a great week for soccer and then the surfing started in the Canary Islands on Friday, which is the next topic to look forward to, ¡Hasta Luego!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Save the Best for Last

An exciting second to last week spent in Sevilla.  On Monday, the two other students involved in the soccer program and I were able to visit a practice of one of the local professional teams, Sevilla FC.  Currently in their season, they are playing about two to three games a week so the practices are only in order to get their foot on the ball and stretch out the legs, nothing more.  The practice was boring to watch because you could tell that there wasn't a lot of desire to go hard in practice but it was awesome to take some pictures with some pro players that drove out.  The guy in the picture above, is currently the starting center mid captain called, Ivan Rakitic.  Obviously, he was as thrilled as I was to take a picture. The rest of the week was filled with classes and soccer.  This coming week I should have my last soccer game of the semester, which will be a nice sending off and hopefully it will go as well as the last game.  
  This week is the last week of classes.  Amazing how time flew by, you all are probably thinking that you just started reading this blog a couple weeks ago, maybe you did, but the times and experiences have been something I will carry with me the rest of my life.  Today,  I walked around Sevilla truly thinking that this is considered my city, a place where I could give people directions if they needed it.  Today, also marked the start of some very warm weather, it has been great all spring but today it was close to the lower 80's.  I took full opportunity of basking in the sun and watching some local soccer.  This week is going to be one of the best weeks because of everything planned.  Tuesday, hopefully we have our soccer game.  Thursday, my roommate and I have tickets to go see a Europa game against Sevilla FC and FC Porto.  Friday, our flight to the Canary Islands takes off and the start of our surf camp begins on Saturday.  Money well spent I would say.  Seeing that I will be in the Canaries next Sunday, most likely hitting the gnarly surf, I will not be able to update you all on my travels but don't worry when I get back I will have pictures and information regarding the amazing week.  I am missing home and the states, although I love it here I am definitely going to be excited to return home.  I also hope that everything goes smoothly with my sister and my soon to be nephew or niece.  I have no doubt that everything will be perfect and a new member of the family will be with us next week.  I want to thank everyone that has been keeping up with my blog and my life in Spain.  She might not like this, but I want to thank my girlfriend, Becky Sease, for being very supportive and patient with the means of communication while I've been here.  It has been difficult but in about a month she will be here in Spain traveling Europe with me and all the patience will soon pay off.
   Until next week, ¡Adios!
Not sure whether I posted this or not yet but I really liked it,
"Imagine all the people in the world living life in peace"

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The forgotten Triana Game

Well it looks like the semester is coming to an end, with only four weeks left.  Unfortunately, those weeks are filled with papers, exams, and projects but luckily, I have planned for them.  As many of you know, I spent my 21st birthday in Spain this week and what a memorable night.  Although it was nothing crazy, it was a birthday that I will never forget.  No traveling this weekend, but it was nice to spend the days in Seville, trying some different restaurants and enjoying the sun until the rain comes this week.  Two weeks ago, I had my first game but completely forgot to mention it on my blog.  This was not intentional because the game was amazing and a great experience for me.  I played right mid for the first half and then dropped into right back for the second half.  The way this team plays, is right down the middle, not much use of the wings, which is why for the first 10 minutes I found myself just running back and forth along the touchline.  Eventually, I made my way inside to try and find the ball a little bit more, which ended up working out well.  Some good plays here and there, but one run I was able to pick up the ball along the touchline.  Make a couple passes and find myself near the goal with some space.  I decided to slip the ball along the ground to one of my teammates for an assist.  It was great, my first game in Spain, and I get an assist in a position I do not play very often.  This gave me a lot of confidence for the remaing game.  I found myself having the ball a lot more when playing right back.  I tried being an attacking option but the game didn't really allow for me to go forward too often.  Nonetheless, I had some nice passes, couple moves, and the game finished up 3-3.  The level was not something completely shocking to me.  Don't get me wrong, they move the ball well and all of them have great touches but I found myself fitting in well with the rest of the team.  Perhaps a criticism I have of the team and the style that they play, is the amount of time they hold onto the ball before passing.  I understand that element of the game in Spain is huge but it seems that they take too many touches when the ball could have been off their foot a couple touches earlier.  Although I don't favor that style, I am trying to change my style to match that a little bit more.  I think coming back to the US, it will help my game a lot more to hold on the ball a little longer and maybe make more runs in attacking positions.  I am excited to play my second game and go home and try and implement what I have learned and what I am trying to change back home with my club over the summer.  I think I have improved a lot while being here as well as learned that the semi-professional level is no too far off where I stand today.  Sorry about not letting you all know about the game earlier but now that you know you can stop worrying about how I did.  Until next week, ¡Adios!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Marruecos, First Glimpse of Africa

Due to the strong caffeinated coffee, the three hour bus ride to the ferry was spent just awaiting the upcoming trip.  Trying to wrap my mind around what I was going to experience this weekend.  Looking back on the experience I just had, nothing could have gotten me prepared to be shocked like that.  Our ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar was short but spent in good company.  When we arrived in Tanger, it was off to the races to start exploring.  Our first stop was the city of Assilah, which is located right along the Atlantic Ocean.  Classic white and blue architecture filled each street along with very colorful and inspiring paintings along the walls.  While we were getting a tour around the city, the call for prayer came on the loud speakers spread throughout the city.  It was a memorable experience and although it woke me up at 5am the following morning it was rather peaceful.  There were many vendors and shops, least that is what I thought before we made our way to Tetouan on Saturday.  We stood out as tourists and the vendors would seek us out no matter how many times we refused.  Tourism is their source of income and although you might get some different looks, they appreciate you being there.  Moroccans are also very impressive in their vast understanding of languages.  Most Moroccans can speak English, Spanish, Arabic, and French.  Bartering would have been very difficult if they could not speak English.  Friday night we ate at the hotel because you were not allowed to go out in Morocco.  It is a completely different culture than that of Spain.  When you look out into the city at night, there was very few people around in the streets,  Saturday was perhaps the biggest shock for me and one that I will never forget.

  We left the hotel early in order to get a full day in the two cities of Chefchaouen and Tetouan.  Chefchaouen was a city that was filled with street vendors and some restaurants.  Again, the typical architecture with the blue and white was beautiful.  From the outside, nothing is given away in terms of whether the family is rich or poor.  The concentration is all on the inside, which is much different than life in the US.  Even in the hottest of days in Africa the color and shade provided by these houses make withstanding the heat rather easy.  My first experience bartering was successful and I was able to drop the price of this blanket down about 100 durum (currency in Morocco).  It is funny to think about whether you could have gone any cheaper and also the fact of how much it really cost them to acquire or make those goods.  A stream went through apart of the city in which to this day, women still go down to this stream to wash clothes.  It was quite a sight to see, you realize even in the 21st century people are still washing their clothes in a stream rather than the newest hightech dryer and washer from LG.  People are content with what they have and don't need excess to make their lives happier.  This was perhaps the most shocking after visiting Tetouan.

If I was dropped off in the middle of this city, I would never ever be able to find my way out.  There is no systematic layout of this city and what might seem like a way out, is just another conitnuous street of vendors.  As we were walking through the city, with our two body guards there was a funeral procession.  Four men holding a wooden casket followed by about 25 other men just walking down this crowded street with no warning or anything.  It is hard to explain how this single city affected me.  There were points where I was scared, excited, and amazed all at the same time.  This crazy way of life seemed so hectic and out of control from my perspective but to them, it was just another weekend.  People were satisfied with selling used shoes and maybe only getting the chance to sell about two a day.  Just when I think I've seen it all, I experience another culture and continent.  Lunch was spent at this amazing restaurant that served us authentic Moroccan soups, teas, and perhaps the best couscous I have ever had.  After exploring a little more of the city, we eventually made it out without any losses or anything.  We returned to Tanger where our hotel was and spent the night recalling what we just experienced.  Luckily, our recollection was over another amazing authentic Moroccan dinner.  

Sunday was nice and relaxful, seeing a different side of Morocco.  We stayed in the city of Tanger, where our hotel is, and made a couple touristy stops along the way to the Caves of Hercules.  The camel rides were a nice touch and I wish we could have taken them by ourselves for a little bit.  It makes for a nice humpday post on facebook and of course the profile picture.  We then visited the Caves of Hercules, which were very interesting because there were more vendors inside the caves.  A lot of the cave was man-made but the typical postcard of Africa is the picture I got below.  This trip to Morocco just made me want to experience more of the world.  There are places in the world that enjoy and live life differently than what I am used to and know of.  What I learn from these places simply makes me more aware of the world and the people inside it, but more importantly how it affects my life when I get back home.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Calm before the Storm

Well another week in the beautiful city of Sevilla and the sun has been shining for a week straight now.  Unfortunately, no trips this week mostly due to wrong meeting spot.  It was a nice relaxing weekend, where I was able to get some work done for the future as well as get some studying done for this upcoming week of exams.  The picture above is one of the many amazing inventions from me and it turned out flawless.  Two buckets with some metal frame found in the corner of the porch, topped off with an extra mattress.  This led to quite a relaxful Saturday.  Even though we weren't able to travel around we were able to find some fun in the city.

This girl from Spain has become quite a friend and was able to get three of us free tickets to a professional basketball game.  I don't know basketball too well but I do know that there are a lot of college teams that could easily beat these teams.  Whoever wants to play professional basketball, just come on over to Spain.  It was a great experience and I probably needed to switch up the sports a little bit anyways.  The future in Spain is slowly slipping away, fortunately I am staying in Europe to travel for another month after the program ends, but it is amazing how fast the time has gone by.  School is getting hard, where every class has some sort of presentation or paper due within the next two weeks.  Luckily, I have stayed ahead of all my work and was prepared to do less as the time narrows and sun shines.  I have a few more trips planned out and one of them being Morocco this coming weekend!  I am very excited to see a new way of living, obviously everyone has been warning me about keeping my wallet safe.  It will be a nice relaxful time after this stressful week of exams.  I can't wait to let you guys know how everything goes and the new culture I will experience.  Sorry about the short blog but I need to get some last minute studying done for a couple exams tomorrow.  Until next weekend, ¡Hasta Luego!