Who are the Robots?

Aracena Travel Blog

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December was coming to a close. It was a quiet couple of days leading up to New Years Eve. I received a lunch invitation from George on the 31st. It was only noon but we headed away from Sevilla towards the Sierras, a mountainous region peppered with small picturesque villages. We arrived at Alacena, a divine little pueblo famed for underground caves (once inhabited by monks), freshly harvested field mushrooms, fine ceramics and the highest quality jamon in Andalucia!

It was a crisp cold day but fortunately the rain had abated temporarily. The streets, narrow and pristine, were crammed with towns-people stocking up on provisions for New Years Eve. The sweet cinnamon and honey aromas enveloping the pastelerias were so rich and homely. I wanted to sample everything!

After a wonderful walk we agreed on a gorgeous corner restaurant already filled with extended family groups, cheerful and lively. The décor was like a great-aunts dining room with comfy wooden furniture, lots of hand embroidered cloths, curtains and napkins and fine ceramic plates dotted around the yellowing walls. A low ceiling constructed from massive wooden beams gave the impression of being somewhere solid and stable. I was having the time of my life and had not even ordered yet.

The best was yet to come. I settled for a simple revuelto with local field mushrooms. This is a very typical Andalucian dish, kind of like creamy scrambled eggs with wild mushrooms. I had earlier seen the farmer deliver an overflowing basket of many mushroom varieties and knew I would get no fresher. The dish was cream-like. Just the right amount of seasoning and melt in the mouth delicious. I could hardly speak – I was in heaven. It was a most wonderful ‘last day of 2009’.

I have been through so much to get to Spain and the delayed gratification is delayed no more. I feel so blessed and thankful that I took the risks I did to make my dream a reality.
Thank-you to everyone who touched me in 2009. Your kindness and love are acknowledged and remembered.

And speaking of kindness, I ended up spending New Years Eve with a dear family I have become close to in Sevilla. My friend Javi generously opened his home and heart. No fuss, no bother. We all sat around the comfortable table in the salon, our legs installed underneath the heavy cloth covering, warmed by the glowing Brazero heater. Champagne flowed and conversations spun in all directions.

The TV was later tuned to Madrid to ensure that when the time came we would be eating our grapes in unison with the entire population of Spain. On the first stroke of midnight we began to eat and by the final stroke had all devoured 12 luscious grapes. 2010!

More friends and family arrived and it soon became a league of Nations – Belgium, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Spain and New Zealand! What a great time we all had sharing languages around the table. Much later Javi gave us an impromptu concert (piano and song). Although no match for him, we did attempt to join in Karaoke style, but the lack of a bouncing ball was a serious impediment.

On the first day of 2010 and I woke smiling, already brave.

Sevilla was awash with sunlight for the first time in a couple of weeks. The rain had been consistent and the cloud cover determined. It was a beautiful morning and I selected one of my hour-long yoga podcasts to begin my day. As I began my practice in childs pose, I listened to the teacher introduce the class with an interesting anecdote. It bounced around in my head throughout the hour and by the time I reached my meditation pose, shavasana, I had assimilated his story with my world.

There are science labs around the world where literally billions of dollars are being spent on designing robots to behave as closely to the human form as possible. This requires not only body movements but facial expressions to match every emotion, mood and action.
In the next breath the teacher commented that there are equally billions and billions of dollars being spent daily on advertising and laws to make humans behave more like robots.

Think about it – take a minute to ask yourself how often you ‘buy into’ the marketers temptations – bigger, better, shinier, faster . . . or blindly follow the myriad of laws designed to stop us from having to think and be responsible (able-to-respond) for our own actions.

I remember my last few days in Melbourne, I walked down my local shopping street and looked along at the lampposts. Almost every one of them had a sign of some sort attached, telling me how fast to go, when I could or couldn’t stop, park, drink alcohol or manage my dog. It was a ludicrous sight.

What I have noticed in my new home is the distinct lack of ‘visible’ laws. I am not saying they don’t exist here, but in my smaller city they do not seem so evident. I am sure they also exist in the larger cities here in Spain.
The streets around my home are clean and pretty. I choose to watch TV rarely or read the papers now and I feel much less of a robot. I have chosen a simpler way of life and along with that choice comes a decision to minimize the amount of buy-in to the world around me.

New Years day rolled on and I enjoyed a wonderful home-cooked lunch with my friend Amparo and her elderly aunt (Tia Cristina). It was jolly and abundant and they refused to let me carry even a plate to the kitchen. I will treasure all these New Year memories and in fact have lovingly laid them in the Golden Box.

More days of long lunches and lazy evenings spent chatting in Bar Monsalves and my new bar over by Plaza Alfalfa.

I have put the wheels in motion to find more students for the start of the year, fully aware that April will be another 2 weeks without work. The entire city will stop for Semana Santa (Easter week) and again for Feria (festival). Later in the year, most of Sevilla will then head South to their beach apartments for the month of August meaning another period without work for me.

All of this has prompted me to consider other options this year. A plan has not yet been hatched but the thinking cap is on!

The week rolled into the 5th January and again Sevilla was thrown into two days of wild celebration and another vacation. The Spanish Religiously (yes “R” not “r”) celebrate Tres Reyes (Three Kings Day) on the 6th January when gift giving takes place (from the Kings, as opposed to Papa Noel). The eve of the 5th is Cabalgata. My friend from Belgium, Michael, and his mother were in town and joined me for the experience.

The city grinds to a halt as the entire population heads to the centre to view a massive parade, complete with hundreds of marching ‘Africans’ dressed in silk cloaks and billowing pants, faces blacked out like the ancient Moors and lips garishly painted bright red. There were also the mandatory brass bands and dozens of beautiful floats from which tonnes of caramels (sweets) were thrown to the crowds by darling children dressed in the theme of the float.

Children were alive with wonder and excitement, darting through their parents legs to jump for flying caramels yelling ‘aqui’ (here!) loudly. I am not exaggerating – the streets were coated in sweets. As the evening wore on, layers and layers of sticky sweets and wrappers collected on the bottom of my boots. It was like a scene from Willie Wonka! I felt like a child, suddenly Christmas was simple again. I was not robotically shopping for mandatory gifts.

The children on the floats wore the most intricate costumes – no detail had been spared. Miniature ‘Spocks’ on the Star Trek float came with tiny ear extensions. There were princesses, elves, cowboys, Harry Potters, genies, lions, tigers, puppies, turtles, parrots, miniature ceramic painters, sewers, cooks – you name it – yes, even some robots.

The parade continued snaking its way through the centre and we had to cross it twice more to get back home. Que bueno! As all the little children climbed into bed that night, exhausted with excitement, I too went to bed with a smile and expectation of the gifts I would receive the next day.

My gifts are not so tangible. I have given myself the gift of freedom to be myself, freedom to create my own experience of a life ‘very simple’. I woke grinning, again.

Yoga, shower and I headed off for yet another Cabalgata parade. This time I had to cross the river to Triana, a barrio (suburb) of Sevilla. In fact the inhabitants of Triana do not believe they are part of Sevilla – they feel that Triana is another village! This Cabalgata is bigger again - as well as tonnes of caramels flung from the floats, there were gifts and toys for the children. It was a crazy morning as I repeated the performance of the previous evening but this time I had remembered my camera.

I took a break about 2 hours in and found a quiet back street bar for a café and tostada brekky. Replenished, I caught up with the Three Wise Men again and merged with the crowds. Every now and then the marching bands would strike up a rousing tune, kids would sing and the black-faced Moors would join in with crazy dances and synchronized whistling. It was frenetic and fantastic at the same time.

By early afternoon I was spent and headed back to Sevilla (1km) for some lunch and a rest. The town was deserted as families shared abundant feasts at home and swapped gifts. I was glad of a simple salad and my feet up to read for a while.

Back to work on the 7th. With only a few students, there is not much to do. I am taking the time to watch a couple of English movies and get some posters out on the streets to attract more students.

Have a wonderful start to 2010. It will be a cracker, and not a robot in sight!

Liselore_Verschuren says:
Very nice blog, I enjoyed reading it!
Posted on: Jan 26, 2010
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photo by: davidx