Monday, June 30, 2014

What I'm Reading // The Art Forger

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I couldn't put this one down. I originally checked it out of the library as a filler between Wild and Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed (which I just couldn't get through). I am so glad I began reading it on a whim. The writing was very straightforward and there wasn't anything particularly lyrical to it but the story was impossible to stop reading. It put together all of my favorite things: art history, art collectors, art heists and degas. It's my nerdy kind of thriller. I wish stuff like it happened in real life. When I looked up the author, Shapiro, it turns out she held quite a few other power professions before becoming a full-time writer. Really neat. It's not a very subtle plot and the twists were pretty predictable but it was a fun and gripping read.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What I'm Reading // Wild

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As an English Literature major, a lot of pleasure reading fell to the wayside during college. When you're trying to plough through two novels and an epic poem in a week, it's hard to find time to read anything else. Wild was a victim of this reading dry spell. It went somewhere on a list until I had the time and the urge to read for fun again. I found this book inspiring. As a young woman traveling and living on my own, I found her journey to self discovery beautiful. She was brutally honest throughout the whole book and I was able to identify with her unpreparedness and the way she learned as she hiked along. Not knowing exactly what I was getting to in Spain, it was nice to know that I wasn't the only one correcting mistakes as I went. And at least I didn't lose four toenails in the process.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Feria de abril

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Words cannot fully describe the way Seville transforms when Feria descends. It is like the whole city has gone back in time, the streets are full of horses with women clad in beautiful flamenco dresses. I was lucky enough to borrow a dress from a friend and my good friend, Becky, came all the way from London to visit and photograph the whole thing. Thank goodness, because I have no idea where I would have kept my camera.  photo batch_ScreenShot2014-06-20at43159PM.png  photo batch_ScreenShot2014-06-20at43110PM.png photo batch_ScreenShot2014-06-20at43234PM.png  photo batch_ScreenShot2014-06-20at43141PM.png

Friday, June 20, 2014

On being Jewish in Spain

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I continually joke with my family that my religious identity is a crisis that I'll deal with further down the road. I'm too busy graduating into a horrible economy with slim job pickings and all of those problems that 20 somethings deal with. My religious crisis can wait. You'd think Spain would be the last place I'd fine some religious clarity. And yet, there it was, in Spain, of all places.
So in 1478 the Spanish inquisition began. Since then, Spain has been mostly a Catholic country, the south of Spain most of all. Exhibit A: Semana Santa. Easter shut down the whole of Seville. That being said, I was not prepared for the ignorance and lack of religious education I experienced in the south of Spain. The first time I experienced this was when I told a friend that Hanukkah was coming. I would say there is a consensus that Hanukkah is the most well known Jewish holiday, however, my friend looked at me blankly and asked what Hanukkah was. We tried finding a Spanish translation, but even then, he had no idea what I was talking about. Sometimes I feel that America's obsession with being politically correct can be crippling, but at least we learn about and respect other religions starting at a young age. The information gap I saw between my American and Spanish friends astounded me.
I tried my best to educate my friends about Judaism. I hosted Hanukkah and Passover dinners, serving traditional food and explaining what the holidays were about and why I celebrated them. Educating others about my religion was a foreign concept to me. I don't go to temple, the last time I really studied my religion was Sunday school, so I'm hardly a wealth of knowledge. Sometimes I found it difficult to answer the rush of questions. For example, I don't eat pork. It's a simple reminder of my beliefs that I can take with me wherever in the world I end up. Spain looooooves its pork. My friends are now used to my diet, but at the beginning they were full of curiosity about why I couldn't eat just about the best food in the world. I did my best to explain, but it's hard with so many questions and so many information gaps. 
Let me be clear, I didn't experience antisemitism in any shape or form while living in Seville. Just a whole lot of curiosity. I'm happy I could be a positive example and that my dietary and religious choices were met with open minds. I admit, I'm not horribly observant, to me, Judaism always represented family and tradition more than anything else. It was a connection to home. In Spain it became more; it became pride and an opportunity to teach others.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Toledo // Days Two and Three

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Our second day in Toledo was our frantic tourism day. We got an early start to beat the lines and began at the Greco Museum. Did you know it’s the year of Greco? He is a famous painter from Toledo celebrating the four centuries since his death. There are events and art shows all over Spain in his honor. I had never heard of Greco until a friend in Lugo told me I HAD to go to the Greco Museum. Turns out, I now have a favorite Spanish Painter.
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After the Greco Museum we went to the Transit Synagogue. This synagogue is both a synagogue and a museum. After lunch Rachel and I took a nap and powered through the Cathedral. The Cathedral is probably the most famous attraction in Toledo. At the beginning Rachel and I both agreed that the Synagogues would take precedence. This meant that we didn’t have nearly enough time in the Cathedral. After the Cathedral we made dinner in our apartment and enjoyed it out on the terrace with our favorite beer made in Toledo: Domus. Day three included a lovely breakfast of crepes and fruit. Then we rushed off to the train station to head back to the blazing heat of Sevilla. 
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Toledo // Day One

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Toledo was a trip I had wanted to do since last year in Barcelona. Unfortunately there just wasn’t enough time to see everything. So I made it happen this year with my trusted travel buddy, Rachel. In Córdoba we learned that there are three medieval synagogues still standing in Spain. We saw the one in Córdoba and decided to finish out the trifecta in Toledo.
As much as Toledo was about frantic tourism, it was also about treating ourselves. We were reaching the end of the school year, we were tired, and we wanted a break away from the heat of Seville. Instead of a normal train, we booked the Ave (Spain’s super speedy train) a month in advance for maximum comfort and speed. We also opted out of a hostel and booked an apartment through Air bnb. I highly recommend doing this if you plan enough in advance. The owner of the apartment picked us up at the train station and got us settled into our home away from home for the weekend. The apartment cost a bit more than a hostel, but we had a terrace, two separate bedrooms, our own kitchen, and a very central location.
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We ended up arriving during a holiday so there was very little open to tour. We ended up in the Jewish quarter and saw one of the two synagogues on our itinerary. As you can deduce from the name, the Synagogue of Santa Maria de la Blanca used to be a synagogue but is now a Catholic temple. I think they keep it open for the money, but I found it fascinating to see how Catholicism takes over and changes every other religious remnant in Spain. The mosque in Córdoba is the clearest example of this. There wasn’t much to see in the Synagogue of Santa Maria de la Blanca so Rachel and I played with my fancy camera and were shameless models.
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After that we wandered around the rest of the Jewish quarter, enjoying the beautiful day. We stopped to take photos outside of the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. The mammoth monastery was purposely built in the Jewish quarter to demonstrate Catholic dominance. After purchasing Marzipan (famous in Toledo), we headed back to take advantage of our apartment. We napped and then went to a delicious middle-eastern restaurant. I was very content among the hummus, falafel, and baklava. We ended our day by watching National Treasure 2…in Spanish. It was a fun and unexpected challenge.
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Saturday, June 7, 2014

What I'm Reading // Gone Girl

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I've had this book in the back of my mind ever since I found out it was being made into a movie. It seemed interesting and everyone was singing its praises so I thought, "why not?". I was incredibly disappointed, to tell the truth. I only held on until the end because I wanted to find out how it ended, and even that was a disappointment. Half of me wanted to throw the book across the room and the other half wanted to sit down and discuss it. It was a love/hate relationship the whole way through. I am looking forward to the movie because I think the drama border lining on soap opera will translate well onto the screen.

1. Surprising twists and turns
2. It's mostly a surface novel
3. What's up with the ending?
4. What is the feminist criticism like on this?
5. I don't know which protagonist I like (or hate) more
6. It will make a better movie than book
7. It wasn't at all what I expected
8. Reliable narrators?
9. The idea of perfection
10. Those treasure hunts

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ultimate Frisbee // From Portugal to Beaches

One of my favorite ultimate frisbee discoveries in Spain is beach ultimate. It even has it's own division; we play grass nationals and beach nationals. Some people say beach is more difficult to play, some say grass, I say, they're both great. But I kind of prefer beach. Alicante was wonderful. There was sun, the sea, good people and we came in third. We didn't win the best costumes but I think we made pretty awesome Incredibles. Simply put...I was happy.
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Portuguese Championships
Portugal only has 4 teams, so my team and another team from Spain headed over to Leiria to make the tournament an even 6. Due to starting out slow in the morning, we lost our chance at the top two (we should have won everything!) and we came in third. It was a good wake up call for the team and it was the most intense we've played in a while. While Alicante was about the fun and the party, Leiria was very much about preparing for Spanish nationals in June. The coolest part about the whole tournament? Playing in a huuuuuge stadium! I felt quite professional.
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Calafell was my last tournament before heading home for the summer. I told my team before we even got on the plane that I was going to give that tournament everything (both on the field and at the party). We played incredibly! I think we shocked a lot of the other teams at the tournament because we're not known for being very competitive. We ended up winning our pool on day one and had a bit of an off day the second day, finishing in fourth. But out of sixteen teams! Go us! We also did quite well in the performance, coming up with a spoof of some of the classic disney songs. I believe I made quite a convincing Sevillana Snow White. 
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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Semana Santa

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I jumped right into Semana Santa (Holy Week) the second I got back to Seville from Galica. I took a couple hours to unpack and shower and then met up with my friends to watch some of the processions. Seville got very high tech about Semana Santa and created an app that told you which processions were happening each day and where they would be at what time. This made it easy to choose the processions I wanted to see and pick locations. I chose La Esperanza de Triana, which is the second largest procession of Semana Santa and El Cachoro. My friends and I staked out a place around midnight and waited until 4am for to see the whole procession of La Esperanza de Triana from beginning to end. It was worth the wait and the sore feet. El Cachoro goes down the street right in front of where I live, so I literally had to step out my front door to see it. The displays of passion and religious devotion were beautiful, but Semana Santa was a bit much for me. It became frustrating to have to check the app every time I wanted to leave the house and dodge around the processions. I'm glad I committed and did Semana Santa once, but next year, I plan on taking a looooong vacation.  photo batch_IMG_1627-1.jpg  photo batch_IMG_1631.jpg  photo batch_IMG_1637-1.jpg