It all started with Semana Santa at the end of March (Holy Week). The weather was still not-so-hot, but that week kind of kicks off the start of all the festivities in Sevilla -- the time of year you surely don't want to miss if you're looking for a highly-cultural experience. I decided to leave Sevilla for Semana Santa, since I'd experienced it back in 2010, been overwhelmed, not enjoyed the city itself as much, and wanted to escape to somewhere new! (Travel posts about where I went soon to come!)
But here is a sneak peek :)
After Semana Santa, we had one regular week of classes, but then, a good friend of mine came with her friend to visit for the weekend, so it wasn't really a "normal week" at all! Especially since there was an alternative thinking festival in Sevilla that weekend, and it brought me exactly what I needed -- some time to be around a certain type of people, mentality, openness, and form of expression that I had grown accustomed to back home, some yoga and meditation in nature, and some bomb vegetarian food! It was a really wonderful reset, and it fell on the first days of real spring weather we had, so it really set the tone and set up my mentality for the coming days, weeks, and moments!
And then! The next week, was the Comenius Project at our high school. This project includes students from bilingual programs in high schools in Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, and I think one other country. The students and some teachers come together for a week in a one of the countres to exchange language, culture, and food! It is the coolest thing, and I was so blessed that my time at the school happened right when the other students would be having their fifth meeting, and be coming to Sevilla. I was even luckier that I got to tag along and help out with the field trips!
Monday of that week (two weeks ago) was a normal school day, but on Tuesday, I went with them to see the Royal Alcazar (palace/gardens/overall amazing, incredible place in Sevilla, and a must-see if you come [travel post/review about it to come]), the Cathedral (another must-see/post to come soon), and the Ghiralda (same as the previously mentioned two items). It was so cool to get to see these high points of Sevilla, and experience them with a big mashup of cultures.
Wednesday was probably the highlight for me, because it included an afternoon at the beach (hehe). We started out by going to a wine cellar in a village outside Sevilla, and we got to taste some brandy that is over 50-years old! Then we took them all to Donana National Park, which is one of the biggest natural parks in Spain, and one of the best bird watching places in the world, and spent a bit of time there. We didn't really get to go into the park too deeply because of time, but we walked through it a little bit, and it's somewhere I plan to return to again soon! Next, we went to Matalascanas. It's a beach town that is built on the coast, with the dunes of Donana running along the other side of it. It's a place where many people from Sevilla have second homes, and go when the weather permits. We got lucky that it wasn't quite prime weather to go, and also that we were there during the week, so it was essentially just us. Being able to play in the sand and the sea equates a highlight of a lifetime for me, and I couldn't get enough! It was glorious!
After the beach, we took the group to El Rocio, a small, western town near Matalascanas. This place has no pavement, no parking stalls, in front of everything they just have the western wooden posts for people to tie their horses to! It's such a cool place to see, and really felt like I was back in the western days! It's a place where each year people make a pilgrimage with horses, carriages, etc, for however long it takes them from where they start, to come and see the Virgen they have in their church. They come and make requests for bounty in the coming year, and bring her their requests. The Virgen wasn't there when we were, but the church and the scenery were breathtaking!
The project wrapped up on Thursday at the school, with a big performance by a variety of the students. Some of them (one girl and guy in particular) performed the flamenco, she sang songs like an angel some typical flamenco/Sevillana songs, other students performed the Sevillana (similar to flamenco, but also completely different, and the typical dance done during the Feria here in Sevilla), there was a group from another school in Mairena that performed on drums, and a variety of other things. It was such a blast, and at the end of it, the group that had been playing the flamenco instruments continued to play, and everyone was up and dancing in a circle -- I even got dragged in by one of the high schoolers at one point to practice the Sevillana.
And when the performance part of the day was over, we had a HUGE spread of homemade, typical Spanish dishes, and of course, a paella!
Oh my, how could I forget that following this week of wonder, I went up to Bilbao to visit my friends, celebrate a birthday, and reconnect with the place where my love affair really started!? Wow! Now that I am writing this all out, I really don't feel so badly that it's been so long since I blogged, and I feel so, so, soooo blessed! What an incredible path I've been traveling! So much goodness, laughter, light, and love! Gah! I'm gushing now.. ^_^
But yeah, so following all that, I went up to Bilbao and had a great time with my old friends. It was so nice to rekindle the friendships and reignite the connections! And laugh A LOT. :)
Now this week was another really special week here. Aside from Semana Santa, the other massive week that happens in Spain, that happens best in Sevilla, is the Feria de Abril (feria = fair). People come from all over, especially all over Spain, to partake in Sevilla's Feria de Abril, and it's the feria that kicks off five months of feria's taking place all over Spain. It's the biggest and it's the most well-known of them all. And after going and experiencing it, I understand why. (I will put up a post specifically about feria soon!) But in short, it is an eight day fair that involves heavy drinking, flamenco dresses, and non-stop dancing of the Sevillana. Oh, and good food, always, always good food!
So that has pretty much been my life for the last month, and it wrapped up with yesterday, having a completely new beach experience -- I went with the phys ed teacher from the high school, who has become a friend of mine, and we took his two bikes back to Matalascanas and rode on the beach! It was so packed with people yesterday since the weather is now beachy, but the trick is to bike past all of it. We ended up alone on the beach, able to just bike for as long as we wanted. The whole way is 33km, and we did about seven or eight each way, but just going two or three you end up apart from all the people.
It was a real adventure too! I have never biked on the beach before, and I could have expected it would be hard to bike in the sand, but man, some parts of it were pretty killer! Not to mention that there were inlets all over the beach, so we kept having to pick up the bikes and trek through the water, sometimes up to our hips, in order to continue on. It was really amazing though, and a really great way to, instead of getting frustrated and annoyed that we kept having to stop and carry the bikes, remember to adapt to nature, respect her, and a great way to remember that she is so strong and Mother Earth is in charge! It was a great way to feel alive too, to try and charge through some of the water, just to find out if we could make it by or not!
At one point, my friend decided to stop, but said I should go on if I wanted. I felt inside me that I wanted to, and have learned to just listen to my heart, so I went on for about another mile, and then stopped and took a nice swim in my skin in the sea. That's one of the things I love so much about Spain, even if I was around other people, swimming nude in the ocean is completely accepted here! It's great! And, to top it off, I looked to the sky, and on one side of me there was the moon, with the sun on the other side. We made a perfect triangle, and it was a perfect moment of realignment. I haven't ever felt so free as I did in that moment to just be one with the sea and just simple be. Grateful doesn't even begin to cover it! :)
Today's Thoughts: You know, it's really remarkable what connecting with the earth does for your soul. To stand there and speak to her, thank her, ask her salty waters to remove any impurities in you, and leave behind just pure, good, love and light, it's an amazing thing. "Ask and you shall receive." Try to spend some time with nature today, and if you can, everyday! Even if it means sitting next to a tree than man has planted, just to share the air with something else that's alive and thriving is a beautiful thing. We are all one, we are all connected, love one another, and you too shall feel the goodness and warmth!
I love you all -- those of you who I've met and loved, you will always be a part of me. Those of you I've met and we haven't really loved each other, you'll always be a part of me too, and I respect you, cherish you, and can only wish you the best. Those of you I do not know, I love you, possibly the most of all. It is your vibrations on this earth that impact my life in unseen ways, and I can only think well of you, because this life is so lovely. I hope nothing but the best for everyone!
Live a life that makes you happy, live a life that you love, there's no time or reason for anything else!