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Out & about in Seville

Lately, things have happened.


I solved the mystery of the pan flute guy.

I used to complain about the pan flute guy when I lived in Triana. My attempts at siesta were constantly interrupted by tunes from (arguably) the world’s most obnoxious instrument. I assumed it came from a hobo in my neighborhood.

Turns out, the culprit is an afilador (knife sharpener) advertising his services. How do I know this, you ask? Because I consulted a local (my coworker).

I was outside with my P.E. class (yes I teach gym, you can laugh here) when I heard the high-pitched tune of a distant pan flute guy and asked the gym teacher, Francisco, about the name of the instrument. He couldn’t remember how to say “pan flute,” in Spanish or English, so instead drew a picture of one with a stick in the sand of the volleyball court. He then explained the afilador part and it all made sense… but not really. I suppose Spanish knife grinders are truly multifaceted individuals, skilled not only in sharpening knives but also in the intricate musical styling of the pan flute.

I went to a bar worth returning to.

I’ve had an issue lately with the Sevillano nightlife. Come Friday night, I am often ready to go out en plan not-tranquilo (i.e., I’d be happy to do something more stimulating than my typical tapa + cerveza + sleep routine). However, I’m also too lazy to put effort into my appearance or make the party person’s pilgrimage a discoteca where I’ll have to sweat on a bunch of strangers to a backdrop of electronic and top 40 hits. So what’s the in-between option?

For me it usually involves drinking a bit at home under the pretense that a few glasses of wine will energize and inspire me to hit the town. Trouble is, wine does not work that way, and I usually end up in my bed by 2 a.m.

Anyways, this new place (I’m mostly writing about it for my own benefit so I remember what it’s called) is Cafe Canalla, located a few blocks from the Alameda on Avenida Torneo. The location is key because it’s maybe 10 minutes from my house; no need to walk a half marathon just to show off my sloppy dance moves.

Even more importantly, the music was good (Beach Boys, No Doubt and Bob Marley, all in one place!) and so was the crowd. Well, except for one of the guys we were with.

I am trying to be a better wing woman this year, since last fall I think I scared away a few of my friends’ male prospects by being rude and generally unpleasant (always for a reason, I’m not just an unwarranted asshole).

This time I was polite and affable toward the group we met in Plaza Alfalfa, but it was all for nothing because one of the dudes in the group—not the one my friend was gunning for, at least—bit my face. What the joder? That’s not normal or civilized behavior. He just came up to me at Cafe Canalla and BIT my FACE like it was nothing. And it hurt. Would that be assault in the U.S.? I don’t know, but nobody blinks in the land of piropos, ass grabs and myriad other forms of unwanted physical contact.

Somehow despite being chomped on the cheek by a near-stranger, I still have fond memories of Cafe Canalla and would happily go back, next time without that toothy tool in tow. Also, there is no such thing as too much alliteration.

I changed the organization of this post and moved in a different narrative direction.

It might be worth clarifying that I want to be a better wing woman because I am not in the dating market, so “wing woman” is my role in a group of otherwise single ladies. Nevertheless, I’m a social person: I like going out and meeting people, especially Spaniards, since I have so very few (read: ~0) Spanish friends. Lately I’ve been eager for any opportunity to use/practice/improve my Spanish.

But damn, a girl needs to be wary of sending the wrong message. American women here don’t exactly have a reputation for being great conversationalists, and bars aren’t a prime place to meet people who are searching for platonic friendships.

A solution might be meeting with an intercambio, or language exchange, but even that can be complicated. An intercambio is theoretically a way to meet new people and practice a language, but those of us who are honest with ourselves will acknowledge that, in many cases, meeting with an intercambio is a blind date.

Before I offend every intercambio aficionado with that generalization, I admit that I can think of 1,001 situations in which the intercambio has not been utilized as a dating tool. One of my old language exchanges when I studied here was a Spanish guy who had a girlfriend and never got weird with me. He was genuinely in it for the language practice.

Another one of my old language exchanges was a Spanish guy who never mentioned a girlfriend but did get weird with me. In a caseta at the Feria, he asked my friend Manolo (also a Spaniard) if I was easy and if he had a shot at getting with me, ideally later that day. Since Manolo is not a scummy SOB, he advised me of the intercambio‘s inquiry and we hightailed it out of there.

It’s tricky terrain, the intercambio, and I recently started trolling the Internet in search of a female intercambio, hoping I might avoid sending any mixed signals that way (gross, so heteronormative of me). But then I just felt pathetic, like I was using the Internet to find friends. Which I was. And then I wanted to stop thinking about it so I left it alone.

Anyways, back to my wing woman duties. I’m going to try harder, friends, so that you have as much luck as possible with your prospects, instead of them saying, “We like you, but your tall friend with the abysmal personality has got to go.”

In the meantime I’ll keep meeting people who lose interest in talking to me as soon as they learn I won’t be going home with them later that night. My non-singleness is actually a useful device for sorting out the jerks from the nice people. A bit disheartening, though, that the nice people haven’t materialized yet.

Ah, well, en fin. I ran into one of my old professors on Friday and we talked at length about my life trajectory, in general terms, and he left me with two useful pieces of advice: first, that I need to change my routine here. And I do. I need to stop going to the same places and doing the same things on a weekly basis, because if it didn’t work for me over the last three months, why would it work for me now? Scoping out different, nearby locales (Cafe Canalla included) is a good step in the right direction.

His second piece of advice was to treat the rest of my time in Spain as a sort of sabbatical. This is an ingenious way of framing the situation so that I stop worrying so much about what I feel like I’m not accomplishing—or where I’m going to find work when I move home this summer—and focus instead on my own intellectual growth, however I want to go about it. Amen.

One part of my sabbatical? Walking around with my camera in the evenings and pretending to be a tourist, documenting the creepy winter trees in Plaza de San Lorenzo.



8 Responses to “Lately, things have happened.”

  1. Really?! Biting the face??? That’s just bizarre….who does that?! i can’t imagine that is ok in any culture lol

    Posted by Brittany | January 15, 2012, 9:36 am
  2. You didn’t know about the amazingness that is Café Canalla? PUES A VOLVER! And the pan flute guy haunts me. It doesn’t matter where he is. Luu doodadaluuu!

    Posted by Cat | January 15, 2012, 11:08 am
  3. Good luck stretching to new directions; if this post is any indication, you are already on your way.

    Also, face-biter, what were you thinking?! That is horrifying to have to add that guy to the scrolling list of weird-os to watch out for.

    Posted by Cassandra | January 15, 2012, 1:39 pm
  4. I love those creepy winter trees! They had some in Zamora (all in a plaza) as well.

    I have had two male intercambios without it getting weird, so there’s hope! I don’t know why, but I preferred those to the females, who I felt thought I wanted to find friends and just needed an excuse.

    Posted by Kaley [Y Mucho Más] | January 16, 2012, 7:43 am
  5. I just heard a pan flute guy here in Madrid below my piso! I thought, wow, even in the “big city” their still sharpening knives! Then I saw your post and started laughing!

    Posted by Lauren (Spanish Sabores) | January 20, 2012, 5:56 am
  6. Creepy winter trees…love it.

    And I think hyenas bite each other’s faces when they are vying for the carcass of a dead wildebeest. So, it has happened before. Just sayin.

    Posted by Shawn Moksvold | January 29, 2012, 1:02 pm


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