The REAL Flamenco in Sevilla

By Mike Schaller – AmeriSpan Staff
I wanted to study abroad because I had never been outside of the States and a semester in Spain cost the same as a semester in State College, PA. Seemed like a no-brainer. I knew it'd be fun, but I had NO idea what was really in store. I traveled with 3 of my closest college buddies and I thought I was the “Spanish expert” of the group because I had a couple semesters of college Spanish under my belt. I was in for a surprise when we showed up at the shuttle from the airport in Madrid to the Ave (the high speed train that would take us to Sevilla). I could form a sentence to ask where to go, but had no idea what the woman was saying when she replied in ultra-fast Spanish.
Lesson 1- there IS a degree of shock when you arrive in a place that doesn't speak your language- embrace it, it'll go away.
So we made it to Sevilla and found our way to our host family. It was a little difficult at first trying to get to know each other. The only one that spoke English was the 16 year old daughter and her English was about as good as my Spanish. We were anxious to explore so we hit the local tapas place and felt like we were on top of the world. We cheers'd over our first drink together and it was sweet!
School started, and we started to get into the Spanish way of life.
Every day at 2PM we'd come home for a big lunch with our host family, then crawl into bed and sleep for 2 hours. There wasn't much choice, literally everything, and I mean everything shuts down from around 2-5 in the afternoon. No groceries, no bars, no movies, just naptime. It's genius. Sometimes we'd spend the Siesta by the river where there was a vendor selling “Tinto de Verano” (kind of like Sangria). We'd pay 5 euros for a liter and bask in the glorious sun like kings. I can guarantee you our friends back at Penn State were not doing this in February!
There are too many stories to tell in one blog but I'd like to highlight the most memorable one:
One Saturday night, our homestay brother, Gabi, told us to get dressed up ‘cause he was taking us out for a night of REAL Sevilla. Don't get me wrong, we partied Spanish style all semester (botellon, late-night discoteca, tapas, etc.) but this night would be different.
We showed up at this plush club hidden in this little cove by the water and everyone was decked out. All the females were wearing traditional Flamenco dresses and all the gentlemen were wearing suits. We got inside and there was an incredible band playing music I had never heard. It was local Flamenco music, and it was awesome. Everyone knew how to dance, and dance with style, Flamenco style. We each found ourselves a lady to teach us the moves, and we were right in the mix. I looked around from time to time and thought I was in a movie. Ridiculous. Absolutely a dream! All of a sudden at midnight the band stopped and all the lights went out in the club. Everyone moved towards one side of the room and a bunch of people lit candles. There was a statue of the Virgin Mary called El Rocio. Everyone sang this song in a loud, boisterous voice and then blew the candles out. The lights came back on, the band started up, and the crowd went nuts! I was shell-shocked. Were we just part of some religious ceremony on a Saturday night in the middle Sevilla? Yes! That certainly never happened in Central Pennsylvania. That night will go down, without a doubt, as one of the best nights of my life.
Lesson 3: A host family can take you places and show you things you have no chance of finding on your own. Take advantage of it!
By the end of my 15 weeks in Spain I was thinking and dreaming in Spanish. I was having deep conversations with Spanish women, in Spanish. Seriously? That woman at the airport shuttle should see me now! Please, please, please, please, if you're reading this and are tossing around the idea of spending some time abroad- DO IT! And do it right. Get into the culture and take it all in. You're about to change your life!

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