Hi! I'm Ashley Racicot, a junior from Heidelberg University majoring in Spanish and Communication Studies. I am spending my whole academic year in Sevilla, and I can't wait to see what's in store!


And we’ll never be royals…

I apologize for being the worst blogger ever this semester! I honestly got kind of wrapped up in life, this semester has been so much different than last. I think it’s because everything wasn’t so new and shiny, and it was just normal life. So again, my apologies! Let’s see if I can’t squeeze a few more in here before I leave and perhaps do some reverse culture shock reflection too. 

The big news of the day today in Spain is that King Juan Carlos I has abdicated his throne, leaving his crown to his son, Felipe the Prince of Asturias. This has been an absolutely FASCINATING thing to watch happen, as a citizen of a country that has never been governed by a monarchy. The crowning of Prince Felipe is said to be happening “very shortly” but first the courts need to convene to complete the process of Juan Carlos’ abdication. I hope the coronation happens while I’m still here, because it was pretty cool to watch the live stream of Juan Carlos giving his abdication speech today and I’d love to the the coronation live as well.

The most interesting part of this however is the social media movement and the movement against the monarchy in general. I follow a few of the Spanish kids who live in the residencia on Twitter, and it’s been super interesting to see their reactions. The top Trending Topics on Twitter all morning have been #ElReyAbdica (the king abdicates), #IIIRepública (third republic), Felipe VI (which will be Felipe’s title when he becomes king), #APorLaTerceraRepública (in favor of the third republic) and #EligeTuRey (choose your king). The movements against the monarchy seem to be pretty strong - each major city, including Sevilla, is having protests tonight near the city halls. I’ll be passing through Plaza Nueva around that time tonight because of class, and I’m predicting it will be the largest of the many protests I’ve seen there.

I honestly have no idea which side will win out - the monarchy or the republic. Spain’s had two intents at forming a republic in the past and both times they’ve returned to a monarchy. The last time the republic ended with the start of a civil war, and the civil war ended with a dictatorship that lasted about 30 years. Since the death of Franco, the dictator, Spain’s head of state has been King Juan Carlos I and the country has been unified under the constitution of 1978. It will be really interesting to see how this all plays out! I’m hoping some of it gets resolved this week so that I’ll be here to see it.

Quotes from Morocco

"When the bus arrives, we must get on it quickly. It cannot be stopped long because the local boys with go underneath it to try and cross the border."

Our tour guide Achmed said that to us the night we were in Tanger. It’s a scary concept, but it makes a lot of sense. He explained that a lot of people who are down and out hang around waiting for the tourist buses to pull up so they can use them as a way to get out. It was something rally powerful, and not anything I every expected Achmed to say.

"Tsamninamina hey hey, waka waka."

A group of local Moroccan boys, when we were walking by them in our giant tour group, sang this under their breath in the narrow little streets of Tetouan’s medina. Had I thought of this Shakira hit a couple of times myself? Yes. Did I ever expect it to come from someone who was really from Morocco, in reference to a group of foreigners? No way haha. My friend Theresa and I actually did a double take and asked if that really just happened.

"Do you know which American is my Facebook friend? Obama."

Our local tour guide (in addition to our normal tour guide) in Chefchaouen, the blue city, was also named Achmed and so we called him little Achmed. Here’s a picture of him posing with Theresa.

He mentioned to us that he had been on CanalSur, a TV station in Spain recently and that he was Facebook friends with Obama, like not “like,” official friends. He then tried to show us on the iPad that he had in a giant pocket somewhere under his robe, but there wasn’t a good connection in the narrow streets of Chaouen… which didn’t surprise me one bit. What did surprise me? This little local man with his iPad who is friends with Obama. Also, he speaks 6 languages. Casual.

A Taste of Africa

This blog post is going to be a jumble of thoughts from my trip to Morocco, which was super cool and made me think a lot. I´m honestly not sure where to start, and this might be a bit of a mess but here we go:

The food in Morocco is delicious! We had couscous which I love anyways, but it was way better in Morocco, and bread with every meal, every time a bit different but always good. In Morocco they don’t serve individual plates, but rather one giant plate in the center. Even the salads are one big plate with a lot of separate sections and you just kind of take what you want and put it on your plate. It was all super good!

We couldn’t drink the water for the weekend, because it’s completely different than the Sevilla water we’re accustomed too, even though it’s clean. This included we couldn’t even brush our teeth with the water, because girls who have done that in the past have come back and gotten super sick. We were really good about it, and didn’t even risk things like an apple that the restaurant washed, because it was still washed in the water. The thing is though, Moroccans know that tourists are going to need bottled water, so sometimes it’s a little pricy, but it wasn’t too bad in the hotels.

The three main economic resources in Morocco are fishing, hand-made (artesano) products and tourism. We did see a lot of really cool and authentic things, but a couple of times I felt like I was being sold the country in a sense, for example when we went into the traditional wool and silk product store. The explanation that they gave was awesome and it was super interesting to learn about, but at the end it was “this rug costs 400 dihram (40 euro) and we can take money in whatever currency you might have, even American dollars!” I do understand though that we were going through a tourism company (I’m going to do a whol epro7con post on this next) and again, that tourism is important to the economy. 

Another super tourist thing that made me pretty uncomfortable was the camel rides. As I describe in my picture album, we literally pulled off the road with our bus and everyone got out to pay 3 euro to ride a camel. Four camels were tied up together and being costantly hit to go up and down and to walk around the circle of the parking lot, one was really sick and just standing there wearing a muzzle and another was the “selfie camel” that people just used for their new profile pictures. The whole thing was really sad honestly and I couldn’t bring myself to partake. To me, that was a completely unnecessary use of the tourism - perhaps if the camels were treated better or I don’t know. The situation was pretty intense. 

The other intense part about being in Morocco was that it was my first time in a Muslim country, which was a really interesting experience. Morocco is a consitutional monarchy, just like Spain, and a really modern state. It’s also one of the only Muslim countries which has not suffered from lack of peace and social/political/religious struggles. I felt pretty safe in Morocco, but it was super apparent that we were not form there, and not just because we travelled in a large group. I had never been in a place where my physical experience and dress told so much about me. We were often the objects of attention for the people who live in the cities, and I really don’t blame them for that one bit - we were foreigners in their land. 

I have to go (and I’ve already written a novel) but later I’ll post two quotes from the Morocco trip that were really interesting to me. So there you go, a taste of Morocco!

Sevilla is Happy!

Know the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams? Well not only did my friends back home make one of those, but so did university students in Sevilla - you can see all the things I walk by every day. Tuns out it’s kind of a challenge right now… Many cities/universities/etc. in the world have uploaded a video of them being “Happy” to show everyone what their home has to offer. Super cool, enjoy!

Q: Which one of the trips this year was your favorite?

That’s SO tough! I’m going to Morocco this weekend, so I’m sure that will be one for the books as well. But for now I’m going to rank in terms of Spain and outside of Spain.

My favorite trip within Spain was to Barcelona. Not only is the city incredible and interesting, but I got to spend time with my best friend and her family (who are like an extension of my family) which made it 1000x better. In addition, I had my first “big city New Year’s” in the center of Barcelona, and that was incredible.

Outside of Spain, I think my favorite trip was my solo trip to Lisbon, which sounds crazy but Portugal and it’s capital are beautiful fascinating to me. It was also the first (and really only) big adventure I’ve gone on by myself, and although it was a short trip I don’t think I’ll forget it soon… Although I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Q: I am interested in your post about the roomate situation. I myself am living with a student who doesn't fully embrace the culture and only speaks English to me. How have you been handling it?

I would say you definitely have to find your balance. No roommate situation is going to be perfect, even in the States, and for that reason it’s never okay to entirely freeze the person out. On the other hand though, you are definitely not obligated to be best friends. The way I rationalize is by saying to myself that I have plenty of opportunities to speak with native speakers - with my professors, in my class at the university, at my gym, on the streets in general, etc. My roommates and I live together and exchange some conversations, but we’re not best friends, and I don’t think we have to be. We’re all getting what we want/need out of our study abroad experience from sources outside of our rooming situation I think.

¿Dónde está la biblioteca?

This is one of the first questions you learn in an introductory Spanish class. “Where is the library?” probably right after “Where is the bathroom?” However, I never realized how useful this phrase really is until I started going to the University of Sevilla.

Now, I only take one class in one building, the main building, of the university. However, this one building has an indeterminate number of libraries. I’m saying I honestly have no idea how many there are and it’s super frustrating.

When you look up a book on the USEV library’s website, it looks for it in all of the many libraries that each building has. I am in the Humanities building, so any books I might need will be found in one of the humanities libraries, however it’s almost never the main humanities library. The first time I needed a book, it ended up being the German philology library… and I’m still not sure why because it was a book written in Spanish about general linguistics. I walked around for 2 hours trying to find this library and asking “¿Dónde está la biblioteca de filología alemana?” and every time I got a different answer. No one knew. Eventually my professor looked it up and we went searching together, and finally found it in the back corner of a hallway off of the German department. It’s quite small - no surprise here.

Since then (or during my quest to find that library) I have found the partial humanities library, the full humanities library, the English language and literature library (which is combined with the Spanish literature library, which makes absolutely no sense), the Spanish language and general linguistics libraries and the geography and history library. And I don’t think that’s all of them, because sometimes other Humanities libraries appear in the search options online.

Call me crazy, but this system seems super inefficient. I really don’t understand how they all put up with this, because it drives me crazy. I’ve also found that in most of these libraries I’m not allowed to look for books myself, I have to give the reference number to the person on duty and let them do it for me. Another thing just seems really inefficient.

Honestly, I may be a bit of a library snob, and I accept that. Really I’m just glad I’ve located most of the libraries I will need (and a couple I won’t) so I shouldn’t have to go around asking “¿Dónde está la biblioteca?” TOO often.

Pictures from Granada!

Here’s the link, friends! The captions pretty much explain it all, so you should be able to follow pretty easily. Basically everything was beautiful and incredible.