Monday, September 28, 2015

On to real life

Ingrid on her way to work
Now that Elias is in school and almost all home repairs and bureaucratic paper shuffling is finished (we still have a few weeks before we are residents, and then some bank business), we can get back to a regular work schedule.  Ingrid and I are both working on finishing up some separate projects (I just finished long-overdue fixes of my and greggilbertlab web sites - should be live today or tomorrow!), but are now more seriously tackling writing up our chapter for Annual Review of Phytopathology, due in December.  It is an exciting time that feels a little like being a grad student again -- we are expected to read deeply in the literature, synthesize it, and say something reasonably intelligent.  I hope we are up to the task!

On top of the Torre de Oro, with La Giralda
in the background, where Columbus
is supposedly buried.

Fortunately, we still have the flexibility to plan our own schedules, including a visit to the Torre de Oro, where the riches coming back from the West Indies in the 16th and 17th centuries all passed.  The 16th century drawings of rows of dozens of ships in the port just down the block where we live are remarkable. 

Yesterday morning we took a 2-h bike / in-line skate trip through eastern Sevilla to the Nervión district, where one of two stores in the city sell essential Chinese food products, like tofu, black-bean sauce, and wasabi peas.  Sevilla has really done bike/skating lanes right!  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Superbloodmoon eclipse

What a view from our azoteo at 4:00 this morning
By 7:00 the moon was back

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Back to school!

Our expertise in Andalucian bureaucracy continues to grow, and now with some successes! Monday we finally got word of Eli's acceptance, and Wednesday he started at the Triana Music Conservatory.  It has taken us a while to figure out exactly how it works, but it looks like it is going to be a super music experience.   He was accepted for clarinet (he had to choose between that and piano for audition -- this was a great chance to focus on clarinet, and was equally good because a lot of the people who auditioned for piano were not accepted), but the program is much broader than a focus on one instrument.  Each week he'll have 2h of theory, 2h chorus, and 30 min private clarinet.  Wednesday the  clarinet teacher asked him to audition for the orchestra next week, and if that goes well, he'll add another 2h of orchestra a week.  Everything is between 5-8 p.m., which fits pretty well with our newly adopted Sevillan eating patterns --  desayuno a las 7, merienda late morning (optional), almuerzo a las 2:30, cena a las 8:00-8:30.  So we are a little early on the dinner side, but Eli and I both start melting down by 9.

Hunger strike. Father fighting for the education of his son.
We've been waiting for weeks for Elias to be assigned a school by the Delegación Educativa de Andalucía;  this was frustrating because Eli couldn't enroll in school until assigned by the Delegación, and school started on the 15th!  We, and the local school director, have called repeatedly, and were always told nothing could be done, just wait until they called us.  Finally, Thursday morning we got the call, I zipped across town to the Delegación  to be greeted by a big sign from another frustrated parent, and got the enrollment assignment -- to the wrong school.  They said there was no room at the school we requested, so they put him in the next closest school, which had instruction in Spanish, English, and French (not classes to learn French, but teaching subjects in it).  This would have been an interesting challenge, but even the Directora thought this was silly.  So once more we went to visit the Directora at the IES Vicente Aleixandre, where we expected Eli to be admitted, and she was so fed up with the Delegación that she enrolled Eli on the spot, complaining loudly that yes, there was space in his year, ¿what was the Delegación talking about?    So Friday Eli started his first day in ESO 2°  (Obligatory Secundary Education 2nd level = 8th grade), and had a great time.   He was a little surprised when in math class he and another new kid were each asked to go to the board and work out prime factorization in front of the class (apparently they had learned it earlier in the week), but that was followed by the teacher reviewing addition of whole numbers for the class, which he said he'll never get over.  But he came home happy and apparently automatically cool among all the kids who wear Hollister and California Surf shirts to school.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Two miracles in one day

We had two miracles yesterday in Triana.   First, my new computer arrived!  It has been a long time on iPad and a borrowed machine, and I'm excited to be setting up my new MacBook Pro.  As always, that takes a lot of doing, but it is actually great timing to do some serious housecleaning on the computer front.  The path to getting it was not without significant hiccups, but so far it has been great, and it will make blog posting (not to mention work) so much easier.

The Virgin out for a walk in Triana!
The second miracle was much more Sevillanista.  We went out for tapas dinner last night -- three really differenting types of great little fishes to eat whole, and Ingrid and Elias split some apparently extremely tender and delicious pork jowls.  Oh, and a great baked soft cheese (Rulo de Cabra) with a chili jam and a caramelized onion jam on the side.   But that wasn't the miracle, just another night of interesting tapas in the neighborhood.  On leaving, and walking the block and a half to our flat, we saw the street was completely blocked off with hundreds of people.  Friday they had decorated two of the nearby side streets, but we had no idea why.  Ingrid had also heard a marching band while Elias and I were out, but we hadn't seen anything. Then all of a sudden was this giant crowd of people.  We could see some priests and their monaguillos, and further up a large marching band, but mostly just people milling around.  Since the crowd was all gathered in front of our flat, we went in and upstairs to our plant-filled 2nd-floor (3rd floor in US terminology) to watch.
Costaleros waiting to take over carrying the Virgin
There were the hundreds of people hanging out, talking, and smoking, including a dozen or so costaleros, weight-lifter shaped men with cloth belts and head scarves that nearly cover their eyes then drape down their backs.  Suddenly, the miracle!  The Virgin was out for a walk!  Not sure which of the churches she strolled out from, sitting on a huge, silver platform and surrounded by flowers, carried by costaleros hidden under the platform.  The priests waved their incense, both bands played, and they marched on, with the Virgin stopping just below us.  There the tired costaleros were replaced by fresh ones, and after a bit, the party moved on.

The Virgin takes a rest right in front of our flat. 

Now just waiting for two more miracles.  For my shipment of supplements to be released from customs and for the Delegación de Educación to finally decide which school Elias can attend (so far he as missed 3 days of school, because the school can't admit him until the Delegación says so). Maybe tomorrow is another day of miracles?  At least I'll be able to unlock my iPhone and Elias can enroll in the conservatory, but those would be minor miracles, at best.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Settled into Sevilla

It has been a long time since updating the blog, delayed by the business of settling into Sevilla and the demise of my beloved MacBook Pro.  I'm hobbled until my new computer arrives, but able to piece together productive time on borrowed time on Ingrid's computer and from my iPad.

We arrived in Sevilla as planned on August 26, and settled into our museum-like apartment on Pagés del Corro in the historic district of Triana.  Triana is west of the rest of Sevilla, across the eastern branch (the "port") of the Guadilquiver River, but east of the main branch of the river, on what used to be and island (but now is more like a really long peninsula.  Our flat belonged to the owner of one of the main ceramic tile factories here (Santa Ana; Triana is the center of production of "azulejos"), but has been closed up since his death 6 years ago.  The family decided to clean it out and rent it, and we are the first to do so.  It is filled with old, dark-wood furniture, old-fashioned vases, tea sets, statues, and portraits, plus some really stunning tile work -- including a surprising tile portrait of Simón Bolivar.  We've been very busy working with our wonderful landlords to get everything back up and functional after 6 years of disuse, but it is a wonderful -- and huge -- flat.   It is much more urban than any of us are used to, and there are two tapas bars just a few steps away (and two floors down) from our bedroom window.  Since Sevilla life is 9:00-2:00 and 6:00-2:00 and in the street, we are entertained nightly with lots of happy voices, some singing, and an occasional "¡Ole!" from the tapas bars, and motorcycles zooming past on our narrow street.

The wonderful Triana Mercado (Market) is a couple blocks down a cobblestone street, and filled with little stands -- cheese and jams; fish; chicken, eggs, and rabbit; fresh pasta; bakery; fruits and veggies; tapas bars -- where we do most of our shopping.  There is also a grocery on the corner, and two bazars across the street which have just about anything, if you can find it.

We are a few buildings away from the intersection with Calle San Jacinto, a pedestrian-only street with lots of shops, ranging from banks to cell phones to pastries to tapas to shoes to roasted chickens to ice cream to pharmacies to ...,  which ends at the Triana Mercado and the bridge across to the rest of Sevilla.  We are within a 30min walk, bus ride, bike ride, or roller blade from pretty much anywhere in Sevilla, and really within 15 min of almost everything we need.
We've spent much, much too much time dealing with Sevilla's bureaucracy.  Sevilla shuts down for the summer, and most things don't open again until 1 September.  And most things require a chain of papers.  To get a cell phone you need a bank account.  To get a bank account you need either residency or proof of non-residency.  To get residency you need an empadronamiento, which requires an appointment, and the first one is two weeks out.  To get proof of non-residency you need a letter from the bank to take to the police office and then take that back to the bank.  To register for school you need the empadronamiento (not available until 9 Sep) to take to the Delegado de Educación, which then takes "unos días" before being able to register or even know which school, but school starts on the 15th...     I'll write up a guide on all this soon for future Sevilla immigrants.

The arrival at the Estación Biológical Doñana (where Ingrid and I are doing our sabbatical) was much smoother.  Montse met us with keys in hand,  signed the necessary papers to get our building passes, showed us to our office (with great windows!), and incorporated us into the group.  Pedro and his group has been traveling to meetings, so I won't be able to join with his group for another week or so.  

PhotoWe've been getting to know Sevilla, taking in a great flamenco show at the Museo del Baile Flamenco, biking (or roller blading, depending on preference) around the many bike paths throughout Sevilla, the tremendous gardens of the Real Alcázar, and with Montse and family to the beach.  We've eaten lots of great tapas  -- the most unique was huevas de maruca, which is very thinly sliced ovary of ling-cod.   Think chewy potato chip that tastes like smoky fish.

Finally getting to start some work again, mostly catching up on emails and such.  All of us are very ready for more regular schedules and productivity.