puente (Sevilla, Faro, El Rocio)

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January 4th 2010
Published: January 4th 2010
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Christmas break. Nearly 3 weeks of neither school nor work, I am now able to catch up on this blog, on all writings. The Puente was essentially my first predominately heterosexual road trip since family vacations. I learned a lot about my friends and also about myself. We left sometime around 2:30 in the afternoon. In the car were Izzy, Martin, Aaron, Aaron's friend Amy, and myself. We were heading to Aranjuez to meet up with Rachel and Thomas; and from there we would head south on the A-4 into Cordoba, our first stop on the trip. I chose to ride with Rachel and Thomas in the first stretch, even though I was technically pitching in €'s for the rental and gas for the other car. I enjoyed my time greatly with Rachel and Thomas. We listened to incredible music on their ipods, a nice jazz mix complete with Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. It forced me to think of my own personal music tastes and how very limited I am in an age where I can find anything possible online and discover something new to appreciate. We discussed cinema and culture, all recollecting fondly of our favorite animated films, both

of theirs currently being UP[/url (which I have yet to see).
We managed to enter Cordoba right around dinner hour (about 10:00p.m.) and drove into the inner city. We got out and walked around some. Finally we decided upon an interesting restaurant, and would share various tapas and croquetas. We conversed about our upcoming adventure. I ended up ordering my first fish meal, Amancio has been pushing for me to try new dishes, specifically seafood, and I figured it was time to find out what I have been missing out on. I came to discover that my preferences, that being a fishless diet, is more appropriate for me. I ordered tortilla con camarones, it looked terrible and smelled even worse. Though I ate what I had ordered, and so did the others, especially as the wine passed the table a few rounds. We shared in a hearty meal, it seemed as though it was the perfect amount of food to go around, even for those who chose not to eat fish (like Martin and I).
We ended up back in the car to head towards Sevilla. We got in at nearly 1am, thankfully our hostels were still reserved. Martin,

Aaron and Thomas wanted to go to a bar, the girls were getting ready for bed, I shared in their exhaustion. The group was split in two, one at Hostel backpacker Picasso, and the other group in Van Gogh. Aaron, Amy and myself ended up in a very tiny triangular-shaped room. We all awoke early enough, though Aaron informed us that Martin had called and discovered one of the tires of the rental car was punctured, needing to be changed. Aaron went to investigate. I needed to shower, and I wanted my free breakfast that the hostel provided. After I got ready, I checked out of Van Gogh and walked around the city. There are no words I am able to express how beautiful Sevilla is. Pablo explained to me how much he enjoyed the city, and how often he would go out, how young he felt only a few years ago living there.
The group from the other hostel had eaten breakfast and we all met up in order to access the tire trouble. Aaron and Martin quickly got to work on the situation. It was interesting to observe these men working as the women and myself stood back

and rambled about various Glee episodes (though I was more the observant) and America's Next Top Model. We fixed the tire and Thomas handed out the tickets to Real Alcazar of Sevilla, this incredible palace still used by the royal family. The Mudéjar architecture is one of the lasting examples In Spain. The royal gardens are some of the most beautiful and colorful, even in the winter months! I was recommended by several people to visit Granada to also enjoy Alhambra de Granada; I was in total accord to this suggestion, definite plan for a future excursion.
It took most of the day to go through Real Alcazar, I wondered mostly by myself, as I was the odd one out, everyone else was paired up- Rachel & Thomas, Izzy & Martin, Aaron & Amy. I didn't really mind, though after a few hours I felt slightly alone. I promised myself then if I was ever to return, that it would be with someone that I could truly share the experience with, and that notion, that promise made me smile. The afternoon quickly passed and we were over the experience, we wanted to eat. The streets were populated with a nomenclature

of artists, musicians, tourists and locals all scrambling from one place to another. We stopped at a bar to eat some tapas and a drink. Not really knowing what it is we were wanting for lunch, we walked around more and found this small bistro, where one of the servers and I locked glances, I smiled and received one in return. I asked if we could stop and eat. Martin and Izzy were wanting pizza and said that they would continue to look, Thomas was a bit perturbed because he wasn't very enthused about the group splitting up, we were to leave later in the evening. Martin and Izzy agreed to stay and have a drink and look for food later. I ended up spending € 9 on what was basically chicken strips, guh! Though the server was adorable and in the end I gathered up what little strength and confidence I had and gave him my number. I mentioned this to the group, and how I was still technically single, though I had been dating Alex. I'm still uncertain on whether I had wanted the relationship to continue or terminate it as I had often spoken of doing.

our dinner, we needed to look for a place for Izzy, Martin and Aaron to eat. They had mentioned their wanting of kebap, Thomas didn't think we would find one, as it turned out though there was one close to where the cars were parked. There was even wifi. Izzy had brought her macbook along with her. As she checked her email she received some devastating news. One of her close friends, a person who she had taken wedding photos of this past summer died of alcohol poisoning. At first we had all thought that maybe it was something relating to America (based on her gasp) but it was on a much more personal level. We had all remained quiet until Thomas broke the silence and mentioned that maybe we should begin to head towards Faro, Portugal.
The mood completely changed as we all returned to the cars. There was a tacit agreement and I continued the journey with Thomas and Rachel. We had originally planned on having people take turns, though with Izzy in tears, it was best that Martin remain with her, and have Aaron drive (only Martin and Aaron were insured to drive the rental vehicle).

wasn’t much to do on the ride other than listen to more music and watch the sun pass over the Spanish plains and have night enter around 7 o’clock. I grabbed my ipod and asked Thomas if he would like to hear some music (I believed that Rachel was sleeping) since the radio was turned down, it would be nice to hear some familiar tunes. I decided upon Kings of Convenience. I had recently viewed them in concert with Charisma, and I wanted for Thomas and Rachel to hear (I had put one new song on her mix). What KOC I had they seemed to enjoy; I softly mouthed the words in the backseat as the car passed slower Puente travelers, but not too fast, Aaron and the gang were mere kilometers behind.
We checked into our hostel. It turned out to be a real bargain, it turned out to be less than €20 for the two evenings we would be there. We settled in, both Aaron and Martin needed to shower, they were a bit dirty from the tire-changing fiasco. I was sharing a room with Izzy and Martin. Unsure as to whether I should approach the subject of

her recent news, I decided it was best to be more instinctive, and just go in for a hug. She smiled slightly and said she needed a good evening out, I think we were all in need of such a night.
Finally after everyone was ready to leave, Amy decided that she was not feeling well and decided to stay in. Without much argument we headed out in search of a good place to eat our first meal in Portugal together. It wasn’t very far until we discovered a very quaint resturant in the corner of their downtown district, the menú was obviously placed near this red carpet that seemed to be everywhere we went, it reminded me of the Wizard of Oz somehow… The server was very open and social- he spoke several languages and his demeanor was very encouraging. He pushed together several tables and had several bottles of green wine out before we had decided upon what we would be eating. Again, the decision on what to eat, I really wanted to be able to order seafood, but I just couldn’t. I ordered the steak, Portuguese style. Martin ordered the same, though he wanted his cooked very

thomas balancing chair at lunch
rare (I like my meat well done). My steak was incredible! It came out sizzling, with potatoes all around, and a nicely placed fried egg atop the meat. I had not had a steak in such a long time, and what a time for me to have it. I felt like a king gulping down the delicious tingle of the green wine and the tender juicy meat that coursed down my throat.
As the meal progressed, so did the conversation. We talked about random absurdities, popular culture, and as the wine bottles emptied into our glasses we began to get more and more emotionally honest with one another. The conversation lingered over to race and class. Something I continue to struggle with, something I have sought therapy over, something I have confided in my friends and received ill response to. Dare I speak of this assay into my fears with a fair and honest voice? Risking what potential long-term friendships I may have? Or do I let this opportunity pass and simply keep quiet, keep still from anyone ever knowing me better?

In the end I talked to Rachel about what has been bothering me, how I continue to feel out of place in the program- in the social standings and progress of the auxiliaries, basically my lack of education. It bothers me. Everyone I’ve come across has a degree, and I am still working on my BA (after all of these years). I know it should not bother me, but it really does. I feel tremendously behind. Rachel assured me that I will complete school and all will be fine in the end. I know this in my mind, and I am in Spain for a reason. I am able to take online courses while abroad, so I am completing some schooling, I should not be so hard on myself. I just want to be complete; I want to be finished with school. We all have our own struggles and issues to deal with.
We found an empty discotheque somewhat near our hostel and ordered drinks. I was pretty buzzed off of the wine and after our dinner I was feeling especially optimistic. Izzy wanted to get her groove on, so we hit the dance floor. Her moves were pretty spectacular; I did my best to follow her as she led. Martin chose not to participate, he drank

rachel and i, my fav pic
and took photos as Rachel ran around with horns trotting after Thomas, this made all of us laugh. There was a small group of teenagers that began to observe our dancing, and as the evening progressed they also were entertained and encouraged us by joining in, which made Izzy quite content in her abilities, I too was impressed and often took breaks to either pee or drink more. It was getting late and we were sufficiently smashed and tired from all the activities.
In the morning we ended up searching for a place to eat breakfast, we found a café where we stopped for a drink. As we continued on, Martin spoke with a gentleman who was giving boat tours of the neighborhood. “We ventured through the city in search of breakfast and found the tour boats to take you out to the Ria Formosa Lagoon. It is a natural area of barrier islands and one of them is big and has been setup with trails and has a beach for you to enjoy. We rolled our pants up and waded out in the water just collecting seashells and enjoying the nice day. We found a couple of beached porpoises during our walk on the beach, it was sad”. - (From Martin’s blog) That evening after another wonderful dinner of green wine and Italian food we returned to the hostel and played cards games. I was surprised and laughed at myself because I thought, is this really what straight people do for leisure? I again was taken back because I’m just not used to be in a prominently heterosexual environment. But they are the very best. And they are my friends; they accept me full heartedly and I am continually surprised by the people that enter my life.
In the morning we checked out and headed towards El Rocío, Martin informed us that there was a national park we should check out. And also the entire group was curious about the cathedral, Pablo informed me before I left that it was quite the sight during certain times of the year with religious pilgrimages and the town itself completely transforms during those periods. We made it within hours and found this neat hostel/RV park where we checked in. We were placed in separate “houses”, these tiny trailer houses (of sorts) where you could cook and somewhat entertain. I thought they were

izzy and i
quite neat.
We entered the city and walked around. The ground was sand and the main way of transport was horse. Both Izzy and Rachel were enamored by the fact and wanted to go riding. I loved watching the fine Spaniards ride down the road, I would remark every once in awhile, or leave it up to Martin or Aaron to fill in the gaps I left wide open. Lunch was fantastic, Izzy made an error and asked the server what he recommended, not knowing that it was a big ugly squid. I had to move from my seat because of the smell, it was just too terrible to bear. After we walked around more and did some shopping, we then decided to head out to the park. It was soo very beautiful. There was a small palace in the middle of the grounds that now housed a museum, which I wasn’t particularly interested in. I walked around with Izzy and Rachel. We talked to a few people who were participating in the European study abroad program (the name I forget at the moment) they were very nice. That night we wanted to buy some food to cook in our

the gang
little kitchen, but we could not find a store to get something to prepare, instead we went out for dinner in town.
The Puente trip was good. I was able to see more of Spain, and also a small portion of Portugal. I was in great company, and I genuinely felt part of the group. I will miss Rachel and Thomas greatly when they move to Austria. This post should have been completed long ago, in the future I will break down blogs by cities, not trips, so it won’t end up as long as this. (I could have also written this much much better.) -besos, Mark.

Additional photos below
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heading towards palace

rachel with the lion

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