Okay so about the past few days, I think I'll begin with Lagos. The big group of our friends decided to take a trip with Discover Sevilla, the local travel agency that our friend Connor is interning with. The trip cost 125 euro and included bus, hotel and several parties and tours of the city. We left Friday morning and by 12:30 we were in rainy and stormy Lagos. Lagos is in the southwest corner of Portugal, and it the place where people looked out to see and thought that it really was the end of the world. The cliffs drop off into the water, and when you look out to sea you can just understand how people felt that the world really was flat. Our weekend was mostly spent inside since it stormed for 80% of the time that we were there, but despite that we still had a blast. We went out for our meals since the hotel didn't have a restaurant (and food wasn't included) so we had everything from American food to Thai, and the food was delicious. We got to meet many other americans that are studying in Seville, but unfortunately nobody Portuguese.
Since Tuesday was the holiday Dia de la Hispanidad, we didn't have class and so Monday was a big night for going out. I had talked earlier the previous week with Carolina about cooking for her so that I could share my favorite dish (mom can you guess what it is?) and so on Monday I went to her apartment with two bags full of food and we just hung out with three of her friends and talked for hours. Her apartment is in the same district of the city as mine, but its closer to the river giving her a beautiful view of the city. From her balcony you can see the city, the Giralda, the river, all of it. It was absolutely beautiful.
Anyway, I cooked stirfry (using some improvisation as I couldn't find all the vegetables I wanted, rice, or teriyaki sauce), but despite missing those things the food was absolutely delicious. I cooked with peppers, onions, carrots, spinich and chicken, and cooked these tiny stringy pasta noodles instead of rice, and I used soy sauce instead of teriyaki, but all in all it was awesome! After dinner we just sort of hung out for a while (we finished dinner around 11) and all of a sudden Carolina and one of her friends began to get into a heated discussion about life and living life. They began discussing the difference between themselves, Carolina is a dreamer, and her friend is a realist. Carolina argued that when things aren't perfect in life, when you aren't getting what you want, that you have the power and the responsibility to go out and change things for the better and get what you want. Her friend on the other hand thinks that sometimes you have accept what you have as life even if its not what you thought you wanted, and that things aren't always going to go the way you think they are going to go et cetera. I really enjoyed this conversation because these girls did not slow their spanish down for my benefit.
I had to keep up or not understand what was going on. Thankfully I kept up and was able to contribute my own opinions to the discussion. I'm definitely agree more with Carolina's point of view in that if you want something, or you want your life to be a certain way you can LUCHA (fight) for what you want. It won't happen instantly, it may never happen, but if you give up the power of dreaming, its your own fault you aren't getting what you want. And dreams are not a stagnant tangible thing, often times they change. They are altered as we grow older, as we experience new things, as we meet new people. Its true that its important to always keep your feet on the ground, but if you don't see past the day to day monotony of the life you are living, then you can't argue that being a dreamer is the wrong thing. For me the most exciting part of this exchange though was that it was not in my first language- yay!
As the discussion started to cool down Caro and I started to share quotes that we like that sort of sum up our feelings on the philosophical discussion we were having. I shared three of my favorites - two that are in spanish, and one that I wrote down in english and had Christina (one of the friends who speaks english) translate. The quotes were "viva la vida que amas, ama la vida que vives" (live the life you love, love the life you live) "tienes toda tu vida para vivir y solo un momento para morir" (you have all your life to live but only one moment to die) and the Marianna Williams quote
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'who am I to be so brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?' Actually who are we not to be? You are a child of God, your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. Its not just in some of us, it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
The last one I shared was "It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power." Caro liked the quotes that I wrote so much that she now has them sitting above the painting that her grandmother painted in her apartment.
On Tuesday, since we had our classes cancelled, I decided to back out to Hacienda Dos Olivos for my first riding lesson. The bus service wasn't fuctioning as usual so I took the 11am bus from Sevilla to Benacazon which is a little bit further from the farm than Aznalcázar. As I was waiting for Johanna to pick me up two men in a horse carriage came down the street. While it may be something we don't see in the states ever, here it is normal for horses to still be useful animals. I love that there is still a hint of that respect present in the lives of Spaniards. Anyway, Johanna picked me up, and off we went to the farm.
Since there was only an hour and a half left before lunch and siesta, Nancy (the yard manager and trainer) decided that she would give me my lesson after siesta at 5:45, so I got out my camera and spent that time photographing and talking to her, trying to soak in as much information as possible. She seems very young (maybe mid twenties), but knows so much and has so many incredible experiences all around the world working with horses that she must be a little bit older than she looks. She is English, but she has worked on farms in France, Germany, Dubai etc., and now she is living and working in Spain. She is so smart and so knowledgeable about horses, that I just want to spend the day listening to her talk with a pen and notebook in hand. Maybe at some point I will have the opportunity to do that.
After the morning work was finished we all headed back to the house to have lunch with Johanna, she cooked a rice and vegetable dish that had some meat in it similar to paella. We all just sat around and talked for a while, which is the Spanish way. It was only my second time out at the farm, but already they have made me feel completely at home both in the barn and Johanna has made me feel at home in the house too. After lunch during siesta we started watching TV in the living room but I ended up falling asleep pretty quickly. I had stayed out until 6am with Carolina and her friends the night before, so I was fairly tired. Anyway, I woke up around five and headed out to the barn to begin getting the horse that I was riding ready for my lesson.
I can't pronounce the horse's name, but WOW what a cool horse! He is definitely the horse used in most of the lessons that anybody can sit on, but he still managed to make me look like a total beginner. He is so well tuned and so smart that even when I couldn't feel what I was doing wrong (classical dressage is completely different from anything I have done before) he could feel it so he responded accordingly. Basically this means that if I wasn't asking the question right, he wasn't going to fake it for me, he'd tell the instructor exactly what I was doing. These types are called "schoolmasters" and they are incredible because they are "easy" enough for anyone to sit on their backs but they will do exactly what they are told even if they probably know thats not what is actually wanted from them. Anyway, back to my lesson. I think I learned more in that 45 minute lesson than I have learned in the past few years. Its not that I necessarily learned anything new, but Nancy explained things in a way that makes you say ohhhh so thats what that means.
Its like having that little lightbulb moment when the pieces start to click together. From talking about something like getting a horse to go "on the bit" which is an elusive concept in the education of most hunter/jumper riders (its not just about getting them to tuck their nose to their chest) which is something I have known for a long time, but for her to say so simply, the idea is less about having them tuck their nose, and more about them using power from their hind end to lift their back and stretch their neck forward so their poll comes over the bit. Its such a simple way to visualize and understand that subject that so many trainers try to complicate. There were several more moments like this, and it was only the first lesson. I improved dramatically from start to finish, and I wish I could have lessons like that everyday. Its the most incredible feeling!