Thursday, January 14, 2010


As I've begun to learn to speak Spanish better I was very eager to have Manolo tell me what type of accent I had when I speak Spanish. Did I speak Spanish like a Mexicana with all the harsh sounds and Spanglish words? Did I speak Spanish like a person from Valencia, Spain with their beautiful lisping? (I do try really hard to make all my "c" and "z"s into "ths" because people from Valencia have my favorite accent). Or did I sound like a Sevillano with their bad habit of dropping the "s" off the end of all words and not lisping when they speak?

One day towards the end of Manolo's stay I asked him what accent I had. He looked at me quizzically and I explained the different types of accents and hoped that he would tell me that I had a nice accent like people from Valencia. His response: "You have an American accent. You speak Spanish like an American". Darn it. I guess I forgot that even if you do a pretty good job of speaking a foreign language, that you have an accent for forever (or at the very least a very, very long time). If a Japanese person lives in Texas for 2 years they don't automatically have a Southern twang. They may say a few Texan expressions but they always have a Japanese accent.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I wasn't suprised when there were differences between what Manolo and I ate for breakfast or what time we went to sleep at, but I was suprised when Manolo and I began talking about Christmas traditions and found how wildly different the USA and Spain celebrate.

In USA the holidays focus on December 25th. On Christmas Eve some families gather for dinner but some do not. Some families go to church that night at midnight but most do not. On Christmas Day Santa comes, presents are delivered, everyone gathers around the Christmas Tree in the morning and opens gifts. Then an early dinner is eaten (typically ham or prime rib) and everyone goes home (or to bed). After this Christmas is over.

In Spain it is very different. Pretty much all families gather on Christmas Eve and do mass at midnight. Christmas Day is a big meal with lots of friends celebrating Jesus' birth. There are no gifts but this is when the real holiday celebrations begin. The holiday celebrations last aaaaalllllllll the way until January 6th which is 3 Kings Day. On this day way back when according to the bible is the day when the 3 Kings visited Jesus and gave him presents to celebrate his birth. To honor this day, presents are given to your immediate family and they give presents in return. No Christmas trees (big boo for that!). Instead the focal point of the holiday celebrations is a rather large and intricate nativity scene in each home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


For those that have never been to Spain, it might be hard to imagine what Manolo's home town of Sevilla looks like. The video below shows various pictures from around Sevilla. Hopefully after watching you can begin to imagine the beauty, history, culture, and traditions that envelope you as soon as walk down the street. You'll see many pictures of a giant cathedral which is where Christopher Columbus is buried. For more history on the 2,000 year old city of Sevilla, read this wiki.

(The 2nd video is unfortunately the same song as the first but shows different areas of Sevilla.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Manolo and I are laying on the couch talking and Manolo informs me that when WE get married he wants a Metallica song to play as our first song. While I am very flattered that he thinks of us getting married after dating for only 6 months, there is no way in hell that a METALLICA song is playing at my hypothetical wedding. I tell him this and he makes me sit down and actually listen to the song. I must admit it was beautiful and the words were even more romantic.

His other choices for our future wedding: Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman by Bryan Adams which I also love and the Spanish guitar is amazing. The music video was filmed in Malaga which is near Sevilla.

As well as a Marc Anthony song that I had never heard before but is very romantic.

Año Nuevo

Last night Manolo and I were cooking dinner together and he asked me what I was going to be doing for New Year's eve. (I was really hoping to go to Spain for the Holidays but unfortunately at this time flight prices are $3,000 for a round trip ticket and out of my price range). I tell Manolo that I am not sure but it will most likely involve a nice dress, dinner with friends, drinking too much, a bar at midnight, and then home by 2am. Manolo was quite surprised to hear that this was a typical NYE in America.

Manolo explained to me that in Sevilla at 9pm on Dec 31 a large meal is eaten with your immediate family. You drink champagne and eat. As the clock begins bonging at midnight you stuff one grape into your mouth for each bong. It's supposedly very funny as the clock strikes 12 and your mouth is overflowing with grapes. You kiss everyone in your immediate family to celebrate the New Year. At around 1am you go to a friend's house to drink, sing, and play music. At 4am you go to the discos until 7am or later. At 8am (after breakfast) you stumble back home. While this does seem like a much more exciting NYE to me, I am not sure that I could handle partying all night from 9pm to 8am the next day!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Día de Acción de Gracias y Números

I was super excited to share the Thanksgiving Holiday with Manolo until I realized that it really wasn't all that exciting. We get together with family, eat a really big turkey, then sit on the couch and watch tv or football together, the end. At least that is the way it is in my family. There are no huge festivals, late night adventures (too much turkey in your belly to allow being awake past 10pm), songs, or elaborate traditions (besides going around the table and saying what you are thankful for). Manolo did enjoy the food (although roasting a turkey is not unique to America) especially the stuffing and he did enjoy the opportunity to meet most of my family. He thought the day was more like a typical Sunday dinner with family then a National Holiday. I must agree.

The one difference we did find was how to pronounce numbers. As we drove up to my Mother's house in the country he asked how to pronounce her address "12455". He was expecting me to say it as one giant number "twelve thousand four hundred and fifty five". Instead I said as is normal here in America "twelve - four - fifty five". In Spain almost all long numbers (except telephone numbers) are pronounced as a long number. For example a hotel room in Spain "307" would always be pronounced as "trescientos siete" while here in America it would be "three zero seven" or even "three oh seven". This further confused Manolo because he couldn't figure out why in the world we would ever say "oh" for 0 instead of the correct "zero". Unfortunately I really don't have a correct answer for him except that a "o" and "0" look similar.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

El Cantante

So … the singing. The damn singing. The all the time singing.

In Spain, fun and revelry are very much valued. I really appreciate their love of life, food, drink, family, and friends. Often in the middle of the dinner people will break out into song. In the car people sing. At soccer games people sing. Sometimes old traditional songs, sometimes funny songs, sometimes religious songs, sometimes new contemporary songs. A few times I have been in the middle of cooking dinner and I'll ask Manolo to hurry to the grocery store and pick up an item that I need but forgot. I'll say a word that triggers a memory of a song for him and this will set him off into full blown singing of that song. Like loud singing that does not help me when I just need him to hurry to the store and pick up an onion before the chicken finishes cooking!

I've never seen Manolo more disappointed in American culture then when I informed him that people don't actually go Christmas caroling like you see in the movies. I guess in Spain this is a pretty common thing, for friends to get together and go around and sing for their neighbors and friends during the holiday season. Manolo had assumed that we too would be doing this (and maybe they do this in other parts of the Country) but here in Cali it's just not done. Really we don't sing anywhere. When we cook, we don't sing. In the car with friends, we don't sing (unless a really great classic song is played). And much to Manolo's dismay, while there are a few chants played during American Football games, there really are no songs that we sing. For the Sevilla Soccer Club there are over 20 songs that are sung by the crowd during the game. And they sing one song or another during the entire game. Some are short but most are 3-4 minutes (or more!) and quite elaborate. (Believe me, one time I had to sit through Manolo reminiscing and singing me all 20 songs. The things we do for love).

The really interesting thing is that it seems that the Spaniards (and especially those from Sevilla) are naturally gifted with fantastic singing voices. Manolo is not known for his voice (compared to his friends and family) but boy can that boy carry a tune. And so can many of the other Sevillanos that I have met. The video below is a bride from Sevilla breaking out into song in the middle of her wedding. And while her voice is better then average it really is typical of the women's voices I have heard while visiting with Manolo's friends. (Plus bonus for this video being from the Catholic Church that Manolo has attended since he was a baby).