(Note: If you came here looking for Travel Photo Thursday, go here for pictures of the Alhambra.)
Destination: Seville, Spain
Book: Dancing in the Fountain, How to Enjoy Living Abroad (NEW August 2012) by Karen McCann
Note: I read this book in e-format. It is also available as a paperback.
Seville is dangerous. And I don’t mean in the way portrayed by Robert Wilson in his wonderful mysteries, because when it comes to crime, Seville is pretty tame. No, Seville is dangerous because if you visit there, you may not want to go home again.
This book reminded me of how much I loved Seville. Karen McCann and her husband Rich came from a home in Ohio. They traveled to many parts of the globe. And when they got to Seville, it drew them back again and again until they finally settled in. I could totally do that. Especially with the help of Dancing In The Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad, the book that Karen wrote about the things they learned in the process of becoming expats.
Because it is unique, Seville will not appeal to everyone. People who think that the customs in foreign countries are inferior to what people do back home, people who don’t like a lot of partying and can’t survive the heat, people who think everyone should speak English–they would have a rough time living in Seville.
McCann and her husband plunge into life in Seville, determined to learn to learn the language, make friends and learn the local customs.
They struggle with language lessons, adjust their internal clocks to 5 meals a day (breakfast, 2nd breakfast, LUNCH, afternoon snack, tapas and sometimes dinner). She gives up on being a vegetarian and gives in to attending a bullfight. Their dog, the third member of the family, learns to do his business on the sidewalk instead of the fields and woods around their Ohio house. They survive the brutal summers by flying back to their new American pied-à-terre north of San Francisco. And through it all, they demonstrate why they are so successful at living abroad–because they are open minded and outgoing, which puts them in tune with the Sevillanos.
She does put her foot down once. Her loving Spanish women friends suggest that her hair is too serious. They want her to adopt the Farrah Fawcett-extravaganzas that they sport. Nope. She does, after all, have to also show up in the U.S.
And while she loves her doctor’s advice, she is afraid he may go too far, also. In a country where ham, wine and cigarettes are essential parts of life, he recommends for her high blood pressure:
“To bring it down, I”d like you to drink more red wine and eat more dark chocolate.” I agreed to that rigorous regimen, but if he wanted me to start smoking, I was going to have to draw the line.
He further explains that ham is good for you, but only the ham from Iberia, where the pigs feed on acorns.
If you have not guessed by now, I loved this book. Partly because I love Seville, but also because in telling the story of their adaptation to a new life, McCann teaches us how we can adapt to a lot of things in life–not just Seville, but any place else you travel to. Not just travel, but new circumstances that change your life.
And I loved Dancing in the Fountain for its humor. I must have laughed aloud at least once in every chapter.
In her language class she notices that the young multilingual Europeans in class “seemed entirely unmoved by such shocking revelations as the fact that there are two different words for ‘for’ and tow different verbs that mean ‘to be.’ (Could this have been what Bill Clinton meant when he so famously said, ‘It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is?”
When she and her husband give in to an urge to dance in a fountain, an old Spanish man comes by and tut-tuts that they would not do that where they came from. She thinks:
The curmudgeon was right about that. Back in Ohio, we never danced in fountains on hot nights, or any other time for that matter. We never went to bullfights or sang in the street or got thrown out of art classes or had friends hiding from death threats. Our new social life is a lot more interesting than the old one.
As I have written here before, we were fortunate enough to be in Spain during Easter Week when paseos crowd out all other news on T.V. Crowds throng the streets as parades carry Virgin Mary and Christ images on platforms from their home church to the main church in a town (the Seville Cathedral in Seville). As residents of Seville, the author and her husband learn that the novelty of Semana Santa wears off. They avoid going out when the streets are thronged with tourists and paseos, and she says the noise of the accompanying marching bands, which she describes their music as “half military march, half funeral dirge,”pervades their life.
Did I mention that Andalusian love to party? McCann tells us about Feria, the April horse-trading fair that happens shortly after the huge Easter celebrations. “The city often declares the Monday after Feria a holiday known as ‘hangover Monday,’ for reasons I probably don’t have to spell out for you,” McCann says.
The advice in the book is terrific, but if you’d like a list of 100 ways to Enjoy Living Abroad go to the book’s website and sign up for a free e-book to go along with Dancing in the Fountain.
McCann identifies herself as an artist. She sells her art at that website linked to her name in the first paragraph. But she is definitely one of the best travel writers I have come across. You come away from this book wanting the McCanns to be your best friends. Well, of course they DO have an apartment in Seville with extra bedrooms–but honest, that’s not the only reason.
Do you dream of living abroad? Where would you go?
Try out your dreams of living abroad by house sitting. Here’s how.
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The author provided a digital copy of this book for review, with no expectations or promises exchanged. All the pictures here are my own, scanned from pre-digital days. Please respect my copyright.