Hola, mi amigos/as! Yes, I’m still alive. Still sort of Irish and still a little funny looking. Sorry for the massive gap between updates. I’m in a little town on the Atlantic coast of Morocco called Essaouira. I’ve been in Morocco for the last three weeks and have been having a blast. Before I get into the madness that is North Africa, let me back up a tad and pick up where I left off in Portugal.
After a final sleepless night in Lagos, Portugal (fellow hostel roomie came in at 3AM with what sounded like the worst case of bronchitis I’ve ever heard, waking us all and spewing lord only knows what kind of yumminess into the sealed environment we were all breathing for an hour straight.. end parentheses), I hit the bricks and took the 5:30AM bus across the border and into the Andalucian (southwest) portion of Spain – destination Sevilla aka ‘Seville’ to the rest of us countrybumkins – for four days before heading south to Morocco.
Turns out Andalucia is becoming a hot spot for renewable energy in this part of Europe. With incredible amounts of year round sunshine and heavy winds that pour through the area, the region is hopping with new energy development. On the four hour ride to Sevilla, I saw countless wind turbines doing their thing and even a few being built as I watched.
I’ve seen all sorts of green energy development in my travels so far, reinforcing my thoughts about getting more involved when I get back to the US. Not sure how yet (national or int’l policy? consumer advocacy? grad school? private business?) but I’m excited about it, whatever it is.
I loved Sevilla. In contrast to the mostly white and comparatively sterile Lisbon, Sevilla feels comfy and inviting, colored with a warm pallette of yellows, oranges, reds and deep blues that cover the area in pastel paints and mosaic tiles everywhere you look.
The attitude of the people and the lifestyle confirm that feeling. Here’s what I’ve taken away from my experience here: Sevillans like spending time with their friends and family, they like eating and laughing, and their culture is full of passion – from dancing to religion and their beloved bullfighting.
At the same time, everything seems to be a bit more laid back here. Days start a bit later, are broken up with a siesta in the afternoon to either nap or grub on some tapas (small plates of food shared) with friends in the sun, and go late into the night. Dinner starts late and its not unusual to see people of all ages (toddlers to the elderly) out strolling through the streets together arm in arm well after midnight. In the US, bars close at about 2AM. In Sevilla, clubs dont usually get hoppin’ until 3 and often go ’til 6. Hence the late start to the day..
After getting bumped from what I’d heard was the best hostel in Europe, they put me in a new one on the edge of the central part of town. Turned out to be a stroke of luck as I ended up meeting a ton of really amazing people and spent the next four days laughing my ass off and exploring with them. The new place was a melting pot. On the first night, I met fellow travelers from England, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Argentina, Australia, Canada and the US. Most had just arrived in town and were starting a semester or year abroad at the University in Sevilla as part of the Erasmus program. Others were just like me, passing through after a few days. But for whatever reason, nearly all of us arrived on the same day day and immediately hit it off, forming a little posse that met on the terrace of the hostel each night, cooking group dinners with cheap Spanish wine, telling our stories and sharing in the excitement that the students had as they set out on their new adventure in this new place, the first time out of their home countries for some of them.
As I expected, I loved the food. Iberian sausages covered in buttery onions, potatoes all sorts of ways, gazpacho served in champagne flutes with ice cubes specially formed so you can suck the garlic-y soup through them, delivering ice cold goodness to your tastebuds.. Fuggedaboutit.
I spent one night getting in touch with my flamenco self. Under a corrugated metal roof, I joined the throngs sweating under the whirring ceiling fans sipping sangria and watching one guitar, two singers and one amazing dancer do their thing. Talk about passion. Wow. Dat girl could dance..
On our last night, we all agreed to head to the bullfight together. We’d spent previous nights comparing notes about why we were all hesitant. ‘Do I really want to encourage that?’ etc. But eager to see why this was such a large part of their culture (it’s BIG here unlike the Catalan region up north where it’s been banned as cruelty to animals), we went. Some reluctantly.
I now get the cultural part. It’s full of amazing pageantry. Pomp, costumes and posturing and all that. But as the first bull met a rather brutal end after 23 minutes of poking and running around, I looked around at the other 10 or so mouths in our group. Many were agape. Five more bulls bit it. One after the other, the same way. I definitely don’t feel qualified to judge a culture. Especially one I’d only only spent a few days in but damn.. We do a lot of messed up things to animals in feed lots around the world but at least you can argue it’s done to feed hungry people. To my eye, bullfighting seemed all about taunting and then killing bulls purely for sport. To entertain people – felt like I was in the Colosseum but with bulls instead of Christians. Barbaric might not be the right word but it’s darn close. Suffice it to say that was my last bullfight.. Maybe the West Coast has just made me a bit of a softie..
The rest, however, I loved.. Next stop, North Africa. Stay tuned.