I must blog about today, one of the best experiences I have had in Sevilla.
In my journalism class, we have been focusing on a particular part of Sevilla, "3 Mil Viviendas/Polígano Sur," which is a part of Sevilla constructed by the government. It was built in the 70's with the intentions of having Gypsies from the countryside move to the city. There were 3000 apartments built within walls, and have basically been left since. I don't like to use the word ghetto or projects often, but this is the only way to describe 3 mil. It has become a perpetual cycle of generations staying within the community, filled with violence, drugs and poverty. Taxis and busses are not permitted within the walls of the ghetto, and police only enter when absolutely necessary.
We have been studying this area because of the rich culture that lies within the walls, which includes a long history of flamenco. They have built their own community, and there is a lack of knowledge among other Sevillanos, who only have the knowledge of it being a ghetto.
Within 3 Mil, there are three high schools. The ratio of students to teachers is 5/1 and it is almost impossible to teach. There are many parents within this community who realize the importance of getting their children out of this danger zone, and therefore take them to "El Instituto" right outside of the walls, where I visited today.
As a class, we took taxis to the institute, where we met up with the guidance counselor, Nani. Nani not only has the normal responsabilities of scheduling, and 504 plans, but deals with issues regarding drugs, violence, and sex on a regular basis. We were taken by Nani to a classroom, where we were greeted by 12 boisterous teenagers. Upon seeing Ryan, a tall, blonde haired, blue eyed boy in my class, all the girls started yelling "ooooh how handsome." They were all blasting music in class, yelling hello, and ignoring the teacher. Oscar, our professor, introduced himself, and reminded the students that we would be interviewing them, followed by writing an article about them. We were there to find out about them, and they were to find out as much as possible about us.
With a 14/12 ratio, we were placed in pairs of two Americans with two Sevillanos. With four of them left, and two Americans left, Kelly and I agreed to work with four boys. I was apprehensive at first when I saw their eyes wandering up and down our bodies, but I was soon welcomed by their warm personalities and fascinating lives.
Oscar escorted Kelly, Daniel, Gabriel, Fran, Edú and I to another room, because of the volume in the other room. Immediately, Daniel handed me a sheet of paper with some lyrics, asking me if I knew what they meant. They were the lyrics to the song, "Moving" by Macaco. Half of the song is in English and half is in Spanish. The lyrics he wanted to know about were...
"Moving, all the people moving, one move for just one dream. We see moving, all the people moving, one move for just one dream."
I immediately recognized the song, as it is a hit in all of the clubs here. I jokingly told him I would sing with him, as Kelly didn't know the song, so we bonded right away over this song. I sang the chorus once and then let him do the rest.
Once entering the room, Oscar asked us what song we were talking about. Daniel sang it once for him. Nani also entered the room and prompted him to sing us his rap. Very timidly he stood up. Edú started to beat box, and Daniel started his rap, which he has written. He rapped extremely fast and they have a distinct accent, so what I understood involved hearing police, the government not understanding, and somehting about his home town. I plan on emailing him for the lyrics.
Anyways, following this, Edú showed us his talent with beat boxing. It just made me so happy that within 5 minutes of meeting these boys, they were able to open up and perform for us. For kids as underprivileged as these, it gave me great pleasure knowing that this is probably what they dedicate the majority of their time to.
Upon finishing his rap, Daniel started drumming on his chair. The fluid movements of his hands, and the amazing beat, left me astonished. I wish I could have taped it. After drumming for a few minutes, he started singing flamenco. The passion that he had, along with the talent, gave me chills. Fran started doing "las palmas" which is the clapping associated with flamenco. To sit and see these boys do something so unique to their country, and knowing that it has been passed down from one generation to the next, made me appreciate the moment even more.
After clapping and giving them praise, Nani and Oscar left, and Kelly and I were given time to get to know these boys. I had prepared three pages of questions, which I didn't have to look at once. The ease of the conversation was awesome. It made me so happy because they were so curious about the United States: sports, music, the weather, where we come from, drinking, drugs, crime, etc. The fact that we were willing to share with them, made them open up to us completely. I had to put on an act of being extremely out going but it more than paid off in the end with the conversation that we had.
A quick low down on the boys:
Gabriel: 16, from Cádiz (on the coast). He moved to Sevilla because his mother is from Sevilla. He does not live in the 3 mil. His favorite musical artist is Michael Jackson. He was extremely quiet and relied on others to crack jokes. Music does not interest him as much as the others. He still has no plans for the future.
Edú: 17, from Colombia. He moved to Sevilla but did not share for what reason. Edú absolutely loves working on the computer and fooling around as a DJ. He works with sounds on his computer and also records Fran and Daniel. He loves 50 cent, the rapper. He loves American clothing. His favorite rap group is the Wu Tang Clan. In the future he wants to do something with his rapping/music talents. He shared with us that he occasionally smokes (although the age to buy is 18). He, along with Gabriel was very quiet. He had a great smile, that filled up the room. His favorite American movie is Fast and the Furious.
Fran: 15, from 3 Mil Viviendas. Fran was definitely one of the two jokesters. He was teased as being the "fat one" and asked how to call Gabriel "stupid" in English. He definitely tried using his English when possible, to say simple things like "Hi." Fran loves Spanish Pop music, and has the talent of singing flamenco. Fran was the only one from the group that had distinct plans to go onto the University after high school. He told us he needs to get out of 3 mil, but wants to stay in Sevilla. He told us how hard it is to get out of 3 Mil.
Daniel: 17, from 3 Mil Viviendas. Daniel was definitely the most outspoken of the group. Right away, we were blown away by his wilingness to share his talent of flamenco and rapping. He claims that his grandfather is Manolo Escobar, a famous flamenco singer. Gabriel on the other hand says that he is "mentiroso" and not telling the truth. I may never know. Daniel is on the Bachillerato track, which is comparable to high school in teh US. He will have "licensure" in electronics if he finishes. The reason for coming to school, along with Edú, and Fran is to have fun. Gabriel on the other hand immediately admitted to coming to school to study. Daniel had extreme interest in the United States. When Kelly showed him a picture of Chicago on her blackberry, of the White Sox park, he shouted "how cool." Daniel asked us if we like Sevilla. We told him we have come to appreciate the little things a lot more in life. He told us, which is completely true, that the Sevillano lifestyle is a lot more "simple, much happier, much more relaxed....you enjoy life more." His favorite movie is Titanic and Harry Potter. He was also much more willing to tell us about life in 3 mil. After explaining the situation of drugs and violence in the US, he told us that drugs are just everywhere in his neighborhood, "it is bad." He also explained that by walking down the street, you see random people with guns in their hands/pockets, and little kids running right by them. He has full intentions of getting out of 3 mil, but "it is hard, a lot of people get killed."
Listening to the harsh reality of life for these kids, really put this semester into perspective, and how blessed we all are. These forty minutes we spent with the kids reminded me at least, about the less fortunate and to enjoy life: As Daniel said, life is happier here. They find happiness in little things like loved ones and flamenco. It is something to aspire to.
I was extremely sad to leave them today, but found out they will be coming to the CIEE study center next wednesday to visit us. Not only is it important for us to finish our work, but it is important for these kids to get out of their neighborhoods and see the center and other parts of Sevilla, to go in an actual taxi somewhere, and interact with people of other parts.
I will be writing an article on "mis chicos" within the next few weeks, which I will post. You all better brush up on your Spanish skills, because no English will be involved. I will write this weekend about my trips, but decided to write about a more simple, yet more meaningful experience today. And as a reminder, I love you all!