Watching Hamsters or Swimming upstream?

Sevilla Travel Blog

 › entry 22 of 47 › view all entries
I arrived in Sevilla laden with my original luggage and an extra 15kg of books, paperwork and one highly-prized TEFL certificate.
I was a human luggage rack and thankfully it was only about 50m to the taxi rank and then 100m from the drop off point to my Pension - Casa Sol y Luna. First impressions were great - it smelt wonderful and once I had navigated the ancient iron circular staircase to the first floor reception, I felt like I was in the right place.

The staff were friendly, spoke English and were ready to assist with any request. The only problem is that my room(s) had no air conditioning and we are in the middle of the August heat wave (and accompanying humidity). It is Day 5 and I now understand why everyone in Granada thought I was crazy to come here when I could have stayed in Granada. Although the temperature gauge is the same, there is a vast difference in comfort level - mainly due to the still air and horrendous humidity in Sevilla.

The plot now thickens. I have been like a mad thing for the past few days, trying to find myself a new home.
Where do I start ? I always knew this would be one of the most difficult challenges but never realised how much of a hindrance it is not speaking the language. The hardest part is making and receiving calls regarding accommodation. It is a nightmare of the worst kind.

I started with all the gusto and confidence of someone with complete ignorance. I was pointed to a web site called as a starting point. I read the ads (in Spanish), translated the ads (using my new best friend, Babel Fish website) and then proceeded to send emails (duly translated) and make calls. A debacle might not be the best description of my first few days here but it is the closest I can come up with.
Then I discovered these sites and scoured them as well.

I even inserted my own ad requesting somewhere to rent or share. That elicited some strange responses such as boarding with a Spanish family - full board for 580 Euros a month (when I could rent my own place for that). Then I received a request from a young man for Intercambio (friendly meetings where I speak and teach English and he helps with Spanish) but I have a sneaking suspicion he has another agenda!

The first place I actually visited was decorated in ‘faux church’ by the immaculately presented young doctor. I was soon to find out that it was not faux at all but many of the decorative pieces were antiques from Churches all around Spain. In fact, there was a bigger-than-life-size Madonna from the fifteenth century in the spare room. Oh, and there were also two (yes, two!) bigger-than-life-size photos of the owner on the lounge room walls, along with the usual Spanish custom of displaying photos of every family member, no matter how distant.

The apartment was small but pristine and at least there was a double bed in the room for rent (They are like hens teeth I was soon to find out). Can you imagine sleeping in a single bed again?
Well, so far, the Church is my best bet but the guy is away on holidays for a couple of weeks so who knows what will happen in the meantime. I am not sure I could live in a house with Jesus peering at me from every corner though.

The second place I looked at was on the edge of my favored ‘El Centro’ district and a little bit dodgy - close to a main road. Very ugly area but I persisted and thought the flat might be OK. Well, it was certainly big and airy but I thought I had entered the aftermath of Porkys 3. Three Spanish guys already inhabited this apartment and it was clearly evident. There was wet (presumably clean) washing everywhere and the kitchen floor was held a feast for any resident rodents or cockroaches, and I am sure there were plenty. The bedroom doors all had massive locks on them - not a good sign.
‘MY’ room was disgusting - I doubt it had seen a vacuum cleaner EVER. A tiny single bed with a sag in the middle was to be all mine if I accepted the ‘cheap’ offer. Uh-hmmmm I don’t think so.
You couldn’t see me for the dust, I hightailed it out of there very quickly.

I had a bright idea to utilize my Couchsurfing membership and sent off thirteen requests to local CSers. It was a simple enough email - just asking if they knew of anyone with a place to rent or share. Of all the emails I only had three responses. One was a friend of my favourite Sevillano and CS buddy (now living in Taiwan), one was to ask to meet for coffee, and the other was to ask why I wanted to live in Sevilla. More blank walls.
Oh, yes, and I also put an ad on the ‘looking for accommodation in Seville’ group but no response. So much for Karma - all those people I hosted and took care of in Melbourne!

After the first two days, I took to wandering the streets, looking for the ‘to rent’ signs glued to walls, with tear-off phone numbers. Of course calling on the phone in Spanish is even more difficult than face to face and the few people that I called were impossible to understand. Even so, I am proud of my efforts to speak Spanish so far.

My creativity came to the fore and I started to stop random people in streets or Plazas I liked the look of. I would ask them if they knew of anywhere up for rent locally. I left in my wake a few confused little old ladies but generally this tactic was well received, if not fruitless in the end.

It was with great excitement that I was to meet up with my young friend Javi a couple of nights ago. I walked a section of the Camino de Santiago last year with Javi, his father and his uncle.
It was a breath of fresh air to speak English again and he invited me to dinner at the family home - a little way out of the centre.

Firstly though we took a lovely paseo (walk around the parks) before being picked up by his gorgeously chic mother. What a wonderful evening I spent with all the family. After dinner we adjourned to the lounge room - no TV, no music, no alcohol, just an animated family conversation. I was very spoilt as both Javi and his future brother-in-law both speak English and assisted in the translations, including some very strange Spanish jokes.

Javier (Javi's father) offered to help me get a bank account opened but we later found out that I will need a special document from the Ministry of The Interior. I sent an enquiry off to the faithful old Aus Embassy in Madrid and this is the rather unhelpful response I received:
Dear Ms xxxxxx
As they mentioned, this document is issued by the Ministry of The Interior.
If you speak Spanish I suggest you contact the Delegacion del Gobierno in
your provincial capital, dial Telephone 11822 (telefonica Information) and
obtain the Delegacion's telephone number, contact them and ask to speak to
the Ministerio del Interior section of the Delegacion and ask them where
you may obtain this document.
I trust this information will assist.

Well, you’re buggered if you don’t speak Spanish aren’t you! Right now, I have relegated it to the ‘too hard basket’ (which is getting quite full actually).

I awoke yesterday with the same headache I went to sleep with previous night, and a horrible nightmare that lingered in my head all day. I went out for a walk in the morning to investigate another place but in the process I found out that there are indeed places for the homeless drug-addicted and drunk to hang out in this beautiful city. I accidentally stumbled on a plaza that had become home to their mattresses, bottles, garbage and an indescribable smell of urine in 40C heat. I hightailed out of there pretty damn quick and found an alternate route to the place I was looking for. By this point, I was completely turned off it. I didn’t fancy navigating afore-mentioned plaza on my way home in the dark on any night of the week.

Once back in the pension I found out that I could not book a further night as they were full up. I was feeling sicker and sicker and literally collapsed on my bed with the fan on full bore. Maybe the heat or maybe just a physical manifestation of ‘what have I done?’

After drifting in and out of sleep for 3 hours, with the fan blasting sickly hot air on me, I dragged myself up and headed out to search for a new pension. Unable to locate one with all the pre-requisites of air-conditioning, bathroom inside room and internet access I decided a plan B was needed. Casa Luna y Sol was appropriately named as it was like an oven, but having internet 24 hours a day was a godsend while searching for somewhere.

I therefore put plan B into action, hopped on the internet and searched for the cheapest hotel or pension with all the required amenities and within a reasonable distance so I could lug my 60kg of ‘stuff’ on foot. Success, but at twice the price of Casa bloody Sol y Luna.

You should have seen me this morning trying to navigate the cobbles streets with my groaning wheelie bag and massive backpack. I literally could not fit a toothpick in it now. It was so full that I had to take the butterfly clip out of the back of my hair as my pack was pushing my head forward. Balanced on the handle of my wheelie bag was my precious laptop bag and every ten paces I had to stop and re-align it as it slipped sideways with the phud-dud-dud of the cobbles. I also had my shoulder bag slung over one shoulder but bulging with the last minutes bits and pieces which seem to have come from outer space and no longer fit into my pack. I now have a new appreciation for the meaning of the term ‘drenched’. I looked like a pathetic wet kitten when I arrived.

So here I am, in Hotel Don Pedro, sitting in my luxuriously-air-conditioned room, own bathroom and 24 hour internet wifi (or wiffi as they say here). I have no intention of moving again so will book an extra 2 nights and hopefully get a cab from here to the bus station next Monday to return to Granada.
It will take a miracle this weekend for me to stay here now.

One minute I want to leave and the next my heart aches to stay and actually belong somewhere. I have a strange sort of homesickness as I don’t know where home is any more. I have spent more of my life starting new things than ever ‘belonging’.

I was sitting in the ‘perfect’ bar earlier on. It was tiny and ancient. There would be room for 30 people maximum if they all stood shoulder to shoulder. It had a crazy dusty loft above the bar with cubby holes stuffed with old dusty wine bottles - hundreds of them. There were the obligatory two dozen hams hanging from the overhanging mezzanine, further aged with the ubiquitous cigarette smoke. A plump but friendly woman ‘chef’ was stuffed into her triangular bench space where she deftly prepared a select variety of scrumptious tapas - mostly jamon, small boquerones (fish cured in vinegar) or any one of a dozen cheese varieties. The lone barman managed to fit himself into the remainder of the space behind the small bar and made one of the best tinto de veranos of my trip. I perched at one of only 3 bar stools and looped my handbag on the perfectly placed hook under the bar (top points, Spain). I sat there alone, pondering my situation and as I looked out the window, across the laneway there was a shop selling exotic animals.

A cage in the front window contained two hamster-like creatures. One was endlessly running on a wheel in one corner and the other was darting all over the place, never settling for a second. The one on the wheel was clearly content with staying in the same spot going around and around, without an end. The other was also happy to do his own thing. After watching them for a long time I came to the conclusion that although they both have the freedom to choose their path, ultimately they are in the same box - constrained by something bigger than choice.
Is that why so few of us humans are ever really at peace. Although we always have choices, we are still constrained by something bigger than ourselves??

I have this strange feeling though - every time I venture out into the streets here, my heart still sings. I would dearly love to stay here and work but I feel as though it might just not be the right timing. I’ll stop acting like a salmon, pushing upstream the wrong way, and take the next thermal out of here like the Golondrina (swallow) that I am.
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photo by: JP-NED