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Putting yourself out there, whether trying out for a school play or pushing yourself to run an extra mile during a cross country practice, is the best way to discover a bit about your character. For most of my adolescence the adults around me had always stressed the importance of self-challenge. Now as a sixteen year old junior in high school I wanted to find a new way to step out of my comfort zone.
Before, it was merely a distant country where the people dressed in red, had tan skin and spoke every word as if it was a lyric to a song. Since the age of thirteen, when I was completely able to understand the beauty of the rest of the world, I always dreamed of traveling to Spain.
I came to Clark Academy for my sophomore year of high school. As I discovered Clark’s overseas programs I realized that through its Spain offering, I had found the untraditional way I was searching for to challenge myself. Immediately, I applied for the Winter 2011 Spain group. By late march of last year I had learned that I would be one of the nine other Clark students living in Segovia Spain for two months. Extremely thrilled, I continued my normal life in the United States, yearning for a taste of Spanish excitement. Through my summer, in which I took classes at a local college and the my kick-off of my junior year, the intrigue of Spain hung in front of me like the desire for desert hangs over a child struggling through his string beans. I couldn’t help but want my wait to be over already.
The destination was Segovia. A small, traditional Spanish city, just an hour outside of Madrid in the Castilla y Leon region. In anticipation of Spain I searched for pictures of the city, read reviews of Segovia’s weather during the winter and stayed vigilant during my Spanish Three classes. I hoped that this research would be sufficient enough to prepare me for my upcoming Spanish adventure.
The fall term of my junior year had ended giving me a six week break of anticipation. At home with my parents, I soon felt suffocated. I desired nothing more than to escape my ordinary life in the states for a dip into the culturally rich land of Spain. As the new year arrived the time until I boarded my flight at Logan Airport Boston dwindled down. On January sixth I was off. Leaving my secure life in the United States was a daunting challenge however, I was ready for it.
Researching Spain cannot compare to living the Spanish lifestyle. A challenge for the better, through my eight weeks in Spain I discovered the ticks of Spanish culture. A journey of learning and discovery- through history, culture, language, and music I found myself on an unpredictable journey through Spain. During those two months I overcame many challenges which led me to innumerable self realizations. A priceless experience, the trip surpassed my expectations. And so dear reader, I have decided to share my stories with you in hope that you find useful information on navigating life in Spain. These lessons I share have all come through the various experiences I have had in Spain. Finally, I hope you love my stories. I worked extremely hard to make the writings interesting for you, so enjoy!
Viva Espana. This phrase normally said with much fervor and gusto by its spanish founders reflects the passion that most Spaniards feel towards their homeland. This passion that can be seen in their eyes, heard in their voices and tasted in their flavorful food has influenced my decision to take the opportunity to travel to Segovia, Spain with Clark Academy’s study abroad program. After a six week long break of anticipation and packing, a four hour car ride to Boston’s Logan airport, and a six and a half hour plane ride I finally arrived in Spain. Together with my 9 fellow peers I hope to discover more about the rich history, vibrant culture and romantic language which this nation of red and gold is famous for.
Stepping onto the cobble stone streets of Segovia for the first time, I noticed the wrinkles and cracks of the stoned pathways. I immediately connected these cracks with the old age and sagacity of the city of Segovia, which I had researched a few times before arriving. From first glance I was enchanted by the old stone buildings, Romanesque style and hilly streets that the city is known for. Walking down one of the most bustling streets in town at 6:30 pm, the Calle Real, with my new host mother Maria Jesus, I was awed by the comforting street lights, numerous shopping stores, however most importantly, the energy and vigor that the natives so effortlessly exuded. My first time being exposed to Segovia I knew I had to discover every tucked away corner of the city.
Although I had been in Segovia for merely five days I already noticed the apparent pride many Spaniards had for their culture. One of the first times I realized this was in a local hangout spot, a cafe just a few minutes from the Calle Real. Sitting in a cafe with the rest of the group, I carefully sipped my steaming cafe con leche. I looked up to find an explanation for the sudden cheering and intense silences in the cafe. The Real Madrid soccer team was broadcasted on the television and all eyes were glued to the game. I looked up just in time to catch the star of the Real Madrid team, Cristiano Ronaldo, pull a trick of fancy footwork to bypass the defender and shoot the ball into the soccer net. Goal! The cafe bursted into cheers and applause completely confident that Real Madrid would now succeed in defeating their opponent. This moment in the cafe was so momentous because I was able to have a first look at the passion that Spaniards continuously emit no matter the situation that they are in.
In addition to the deep emotions the Spaniards portray during their sporting events, when I took a Flamenco dance class I was able to have another look at the passion of their culture. Monday night I arrived at the dance studio in Nueva Segovia, the new part of town, to dive into the beauty of this magnificent art form. As the Flamenco teacher, a fiery brunette, began the class I closely watched attempting to mimic her movements. I noticed as the teacher stomped on the floor, elegantly however, not afraid of making a big boom with her dance shoes and like Cristiano Ronaldo displayed fancy footwork of her own art form. I also noted the intricacy of the dance. The Flamenco teacher whirled and contorted her fingers, arms and body this and that way, with every step she made she would respond to it with one even bolder. I admired her ability to never leave a single move unfinished. Although the Flamenco class was only an hour, through it I was able to get a clearer picture of the pride, passion and self esteem deep rooted into the spanish culture.
Spain’s extensive history of high notes and low beats in many ways coincides with this trip I am currently partaking in. Although I hope for my time in Segovia to be full of only merriment and vivacity I cannot ignore the fact that it is inevitable that I and the rest of the nine kids will come across struggles ranging from homesickness to group quarrels. Nevertheless; I will welcome these endeavors with open arms because when I challenge myself to step outside of my cozy comfort box my personal growth is boundless. The Spaniards have an incredible ability to show passion in their daily lives no matter how tiny or grandiose the situation. During my nine week stay in Segovia I hope to learn from this ability and bring this characteristic to my day to day occurrences at Clark Academy. Even though my travel has just begun I know I will soon be able to say the famous phrase Viva Espana with ardent passion, replicating the tone of my new Spanish acquaintances.
“Hola, Nicole, Me llamo Teresa,” these word said to me during my first encounter with a native Spaniard came out of the mouth of my new mother. I was in Segovia, Spain for the first time meeting my new madre for my nine week stay in the traditional to of the Castillia y Leon region. While on the plane ride to Segovia from Boston’s Logan Airport, I had contemplated this moment over in my head thousands of times. “How would my new host mother look, Would I give her a hug or Awkward handshake, What would she think about me,” were all questions that I had constantly asked myself. Although I did attend Clark Academy, a boarding school five hours away from my home in New Jersey, I had never imagined being in a different country from my family. When I and the rest of the nine students joining me on this adventure in Segovia, Spain finally landed my emotions came rushing out of me like a gale of wind. I was a wreck of nervousness , anxiousness, panic, excitement along with a myriad of other ineffable feelings. However, above all else I knew that no matter how daunting a journey I was about to partake in, I had to rise to this challenge because in the end this tremendous risk would pay off.
Meeting my host mom at the Segovia train station had been one of the most exhilarating parts of the trip. Before arriving in Spain I knew a bit about the closeness of Spanish families and the friendliness and hospitality of the people and I hoped I would be able to experience this first hand. Soon after meeting my host mother Teresa, being taken to her apartment, on a busy street in Segovia and meeting her daughter Luisa, I was confident that I would be living with a wonderful family. I knew that having Maria Jesus as a host mother would make my nine week stay in Segovia much more enjoyable.
One of the most surprising things that I enjoyed most about Teresa was her sparse English vocabulary. Because Teresa did not speak much English I was forced to use my Spanish even more. Before arriving in Spain I had the facetious preconceived notion that almost everybody that I would meet would know English because it was should a popular and necessary language. I was shocked when Teresa told me she did not know English however, I grew to love this aspect of her. Living with Teresa’s family I gained the most authentic Spanish experience. Whenever Teresa and I had a situation where one did not know what the other was talking about, she pulled out her handy Spanish-English dictionary to resolve the miscommunication.
Although I did have a wonderful time living with Teresa, my whole stay was not full of “roses and lilies”, there were many obstacles that I had to overcome. One of the toughest challenges living with a Spanish family a six hour plane ride away was making sure not to become disconnected with my family in the United States. Spain and the United States seemed worlds apart at times so it became hard to not miss my friends and family across the Atlantic. With a couple of extremely different culture views it was difficult to be completely open-minded to some Spanish customs. When Teresa showed me how to unlock the front door of her apartment I was shocked with how tedious it was to open a single door. In fact the toilet, shower, and way of doing laundry were all completely different to me. These objects may seem simple and complacent however when acclimating to a new environment the longing for the slightest bit of familiarity is not strange.
Through my excursion to Segovia I learned that keeping balanced and level headed was one of the best traits I could have possessed. Although I wanted to absorb as much from my family’s Spanish culture, I also wanted to keep my American customs close to my heart, and share some of these traditions with my new family in Segovia. Teresa was the nicest person I met in Spain. After only a few days of staying with her she began to call me hija-the Spanish term for daughter. Having lived with her for nine weeks, Teresa became my madre. I know that I will always remember the warmth, accommodating and welcomeness she expressed to me and our interesting late night conversations over a tortilla con patatas.
About three and a half weeks walking the stoned streets of the Calle Real, maneuvering the city buses and scoping out the unrivaled spots for a quick bite of Tortilla Español, I had left my previous novice nature behind. I know prided myself on being a semi-expert on Segovia,having experienced a smooth transition into it’s bustling milieu. Segovia, Spain, a city with its own unique history, architecture and cultural mannerisms, had provided me with many new experiences and personal lessons, in addition to aiding in my quest for fluency of the Spanish language. Although I had become deeply enchanted with the small city, I began to realize that a departure from it would be inevitable if I wanted to gain a full view of Spain. Staying in the city would merely circumscribe my Spanish experience. My longing to step foot outside the city walls was like a caged tiger’s yearning for the African jungles. The upcoming trip to Salamanca could not have arrived at a more suitable time.
Piling into the car to begin the descent into Salamanca, my alacrity was too much to contain. It was the first time the rest of my nine other classmates and I would spend a night outside of Segovia, our makeshift home. As my teacher, Eric, keyed the car’s ignition, I waved goodbye to the cozy city craving a dabble into the unfamiliarity that awaited me in Salamanca. The one-hundred and seventy eight kilometers that separated the two cities allowed for a much needed time of self-reflection. I plugged into my ipod. Listening to the melodic tunes of Alicia Keys, Coldplay and James Morrison, my eyes glazed over the stretch of rolling hills in view. After the eternity of two hours we finally pulled into a parking space directly outside of our Salamancan nest, Hostal Italia.
Greeted with a brisk gale of cold air, I stepped out of the van for a first look at the city. Salamanca, quite accurately described as a “city of sandstone,” consisted of the slightest variations of tan colored buildings. Each store or apartment building blended in with the other giving the city a collective look. Salamanca was about three times larger than Segovia and sported chain food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King in addition to local Spanish hubbubs. The Romanesque city, previously an intellectual cornerstone of the world, housed the famous Salamanca University. The University greatly attributed to the sandstone city’s considerably large young population. Salamanca carried a definite air of liveliness. Although it appeared to be a finger freezing negative degrees celsius, people crowed around the city’s center, Plaza Mayor, to take pictures, shop the streets and enjoy conversation with friends. Despite the snow flurries, the Salamancans stayed put as if they were unmovable stone statues. They were unwilling to concede their spots outside to the harsh winter winds.
After taking a trip to the memorable church, La Cathedral Nueva de Salamanca, then going back to the hostel for a quick siesta, I was ready to discover Salamanca’s “nocturnal life.” My friends, Star, Jen, Britney, and I left the hostel around seven-thirty pm heading for Plaza Mayor. It was still extremely early, however we had many sights to cram into the short period of time allotted to us. When I asked the group what they wanted to do first, we all replied in accordance, “find food.” In my transformation into a native Spaniard I have realized that one of the surest ways to test a city’s passion was through its cooking. My friends and I had come up with an essential listing that would ensure that we would be most satisfied with our meals when we went out to eat-every friday and saturday. We walked around the city in search of a place that would adhere to our checklist of necessities which included a great price, cozy location, physical appeal, however most importantly mouthwatering comida. We finally decided on a bright corner restaurant that served a variety of dishes.
We were seated at a tucked away niche with a huge window for people watching. The waiter came to take our order and twenty minutes later returned with two medium sized maragarita-pesto pizzas. I gingerly divided one pie into two perfect halves, placing one side on my plate and the other on my friend’s. Next, I cut my half into five equal slices. Biting into one piece, the pizza melted in my mouth like butter in a warm saucing pan. Thirty-six minutes and four slices later, my feast had concluded. Salamanca had passed the first test. The flavorful food I had experienced gave me an assurance that I would enjoy the time I would spend there. Leaving our window seats, it was nine o’clock. The evening was young and with a full belly I darted into the sandstone night life.
Although I was overjoyed with my discovery of a new Spanish city, I missed my home and Spanish mother, Teresa, back in Segovia. When my paternal mother in the U.S. called and asked which city I had preferred I distinctively answered Segovia because I had developed a biased sense of loyalty towards it. However, I now realize that I cannot compare the two cities because each contain their own unique characteristics unparalleled to the other. As I continue to expand my growth, this passionate country has led me to yet another realization. The only way to fully appreciate anything is to be completely open-minded. Traveling to Salamanca after spending three weeks in Segovia, I could not expect to find something better or worse, simply different. As my journey through Spain continues I will consistently seek to discover the workings of the cities I find myself in, applauding their differences.
Dear reader, staying open minded will continue to be a theme as you travel throughout Spain. If you set your bar too high, you may end up disappointed with the outcome. It is much better to go into discovering a new place with your mind as an empty slate. And so with the fourth essay comes the fourth lesson. Live for the moment and do not try to over think what you presume should be happening. Appreciate what you have in front of you.Things do not always have to be perfect for you to have an enjoyable time. Be blessed to be with good company, in exceptional health or what ever good fortune you may be experiencing. If you go into your trip in good spirits and without over zealous expectations your are bound to be satisfied with your journey, wherever it may take you.
Recently departed from the sandstone city of Salamanca, it was a short four days until I found myself wandering the orange filled streets of Spain’s southern province of Andalucia. I was a three and a half hour bullet train ride away from my home in Segovia. With my trip to the sandstone city and my familiarity of Segovia, I thought my Spanish credentials were stellar. Surely I would be adequately educated to handle anything that I encountered in Andalucia. When I finally arrived in Spain’s southern tip I realized I could not have prepared myself for the colorful charm I would find at every corner of the province. I was mesmerized by the historical depth and beauty I had discovered deep-rooted into the weathered cobble stone roads. Our five day journey through the Andalucian streets was unique to all of my prior experiences.
Three days into our group’s much anticipated trip to Andalucia, the rest of my female cohorts, and I, piled into the tiny, “European sized” car. We were beginning our descent into Andalucia’s most populated city, Sevilla. Departing from the mountainous city of Ronda, of which I gained memories of pesto pasta “to die for,” and breathtaking sunset views, the entire Friday and Saturday morning I spent there would add to my myriad of positive memories of Spain’s sun engulfed southern tip. Blasting upbeat tunes from the base of the car’s sound system, I gave a silent goodbye to the mountain town as we maneuvered down it’s winding roads. In two hours I would find myself in the culturally rich city of Sevilla.
Rolling down the car window for a clearer glimpse at the city of Sevilla, the streets hinted at resemblances of the the American hotspots of Los Angeles and Miami with an undoubtable Spanish flare. At around four-thirty in the afternoon we arrived at the train station to drop off our rental car, then got on a city bus in route to our hostel. Sevilla, a city with a drawn-out history of Moorish and Catholic rule, consisted of intricately designed brick buildings, a tribute to its Arabic roots, and large cathedrals, a dedication to Catholicism. It was a saturday afternoon and the streets were crowded with families, busy shoppers and street performers. The city was alive. A twenty minute bus ride and fifteen minute walk and my nine peers and teachers Eric, Havana, and I had arrived at our hostel on a narrow street. Now it was six-thirty, I had finished unpacking and went outside to immerse myself in the Sevillan culture.
Sunday night I attended a Flamenco show in which I dove, head first, into the passion of the Spanish culture. I had known a little about Flamenco from taking a dance class and several guitar lessons on the art form. Seated in the second row of chairs, I was so close to the stage I could reach out and touch its wooded flooring. The stage was medium sized and raised about three feet from ground level. The wood was weathered, I presumed from the stomping of dance heels, and there were three chairs in the back left of the stage. As I noticed the huge photograph of a traditional Flamenco gathering hanging on the back wall, the lights of the venue began to dim and I heard the scuffle of feet. The show had begun and the two of the three back seats were now occupied by true Flamenco guitarists, producing the sweetest melodies from their stringed musical instrument. As the two dancers began their Sevillana, the type of Flamenco dance they began the show with, the guitarists effortlessly maintained the beat. Both guitarists dressed in all black, one played bold chords while the other finger picked a string of notes to create a harmony.
Although the dancers took center stage, my eyes never left sight of the guitarists in the background. Having learned to play the guitar three years ago, I understood its importance in contributing to the success of any performance. Most people’s eyes were stuck on the dancers, however, I respected the difficult job the guitarists had of conveying the movements of the dancers through song. As the dancers momentum rose and fell the guitarists had to follow. When the guitarists and dancers fell into accord a divine feeling of love, passion and ease was conveyed through the dancer’s flowing body contortions and the guitarist’s smooth finger picking. This zestful feeling would sweep the audience like a huge ocean swell and leave the observers with eyes wide, mouths agape and faces of amazement. Sitting in my seat, I had been blown away. I felt carefree, blissful and warmth in the upper left half of my chest. I had butterflies in my stomach. As the din of the Flamencos began to fade and the audience applauded in appreciation I thought to myself,” had I fallen in love with Flamenco?” Indeed I had.
The trip to Andalucia marked the halfway point of our total stay in Spain, in addition the Flamenco show had become a high point of my Spanish adventures thus far. Although I had only been in Spain for one month, it felt as if I had been residing in the country for a third of a year. It confounded me to think that through a thirty-day time period I had been exposed to a multisided view of Spain’s culture. I discovered it’s cerebral intensity through museums and monuments, artistic gifts through music and architecture and flare through the food and people.
Traveling to Andalucia and finally seeing a Flamenco show was the best way to celebrate making it halfway through my Spanish journey. After reflecting on the show later that night, I realized that although the dancers were center stage, the performance was memorable because of the collectiveness of the Flamenco troupe. One could not overlook or under-appreciate the job of the guitarists simply because they were in the back. Often in society people tend to look past things they feel are not important. As I continue my journey through Spain it is important that I keep my eyes peeled so I am able to appreciate what many people may overlook.
Dear Reader, one of the most important tricks to having a wonderful journey in Spain is being an observant traveler. There are so many things to see. Make sure you keep your eyes open. After seeing the Flamenco show in Sevilla, I came to lesson number five: pay attention to your surroundings. Taking the time to observe your backdrop will pay off. In this country of red and gold do not take anything for granted or else you may never notice the beauty hidden in the background.
Dear Reader, while in Spain make sure that you take advantage of seeing Spanish movies. Movies often give a bit of insight into the culture. One name to know in Spanish filmmaking is Pedro Almodovar. The most influential Spanish filmmaker. His work is respected world wide. Aside from speaking the language, visiting Spanish cities and going to museum exhibits make sure to see a Spanish film. To offer a bit of assistance, I have given movie reviews of four Spanish movies that I have seen while here. Each movie gave me a different insight about life in Spain. Whether you see all of the movies or only choose one is up to you. Just make sure to allot some time out of your trip for a movie session. I guarantee you will be glad after watching!
Suspense, Drama, Comedy, my list goes on and on. Every committed movie-goer should live, eat and sleep by these terms. Are you depressed and in need of a chuckle? If so definitely go for a comedy. Craving excitement? A suspense flick is the right choice as these will certainly keep you on edge. Is it in your best interest to be spun around on an “emotional roller coaster”? A drama will take you on a stomach- churning sized ride. As a full-fledged cinophile, it is true that I often find myself staying up until the wee hours of the night just to finish a DVD and dream up an extended ending to a film after it is over. Movies are used to tell a story of a specific time in history. I love them because by watching movies I am exposed to a new subject or aspect of life. We all have our Achilles Heel. The robust comic book character, Superman, had kryptonite, the evil witch from The Wizard of Oz melted when she came into contact with sunlight. One of mine happens to involve cameras, scripts and pricey budgets. “Lights! Camera! Action!” Of course I am talking about movies.
The first day of class when my teacher Havana told the rest of the nine students and me that we would be watching lots of films in the course, I was very skeptical about if these movies would be able to hold my attention. Back in the United States I was use to fighting to keep my eyes open as a monotone narrator described literature of the sixteenth century. The movies we watched in school were lacking in excitement. On a Wednesday night the class huddled into the cozy movie room to watch our first film. After seeing the film, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, I knew that I had completely under-estimated how much I would enjoy the class. Finally I had found a teacher who sympathized with my movie needs. Through the movies that we watched in class, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, Live Flesh, The Tongue of the Butterfly and The Others, I was personally exposed to Spanish culture. Passion continued to be a reoccurring theme in all the movies. Through watching the films and observing my surroundings in Spain I realized that Spaniards are accurately described as an extremely passionate group of people. I found suspense, drama and comedy in the movies we watched. Although some I found more enjoyable than others, they are all noteworthy because each made me aware of a particular aspect of Spain.
Vicki Cristina Barcelona, directed by the American film director, Woody Allen, was an introduction to my new life in Spain. At that point I had only been in the country for four days. Allen told the story of two young American women. Vicki was cautious and skeptical while Cristina was an open-minded and impulsive firecracker. The two were able to discover themselves in Barcelona with the help of an artistic and passionate Don Juan, Juan Antonio. I found myself relating a bit to both characters. Like Vicki, I knew I had to be cautious in Spain, however, I wanted to remain open minded to the Spanish customs. Through the character Juan Antonio, and his crazy ex-wife, Maria Elena, the American director stereotyped Spaniards as passionate, artistic, romantic and impulsive. After watching the movie, on the streets of Segovia, I kept my eyes peeled to see if the stereotypes were true. Sitting in a cafe drinking a cafe con leche, I noticed how tense the Spaniards were when watching their favorite Futbol team on TV. As I sat down on a bench near the Aqueduct I paid special attention to the intensity of a bickering couple yelling ,clueless of their obnoxiousness, at each other. After having the intense argument, the couple would reconcile and walk up the street hand in hand. The movie proved to be true. Spaniards were passionate, fiery, impulsive and not afraid to show it.
Live Flesh. The name of this film is just as fun as the Spanish filmmaker who directed it, Pedro Almodovar. An avant garde director in Spanish filmmaking, Almodovar played puppet master during La Movida, a post-Franco movement where Spaniards displayed skin to represent their new cultural and sexual freedom. Almodovar is known for making movies that push boundaries. My first Almodovar film was filled with sex and passion, two of Almodovar’s trademarks, in addition to violence, deceit and revenge. In this drama filled flick, Almodovar subtlety highlighted the differences between Franco’s Spain and Post-Franco Spain. In the beginning of the movie Almodovar showed Franco’s Spain through exposing the lifelessness of Madrid. It was around 10:00pm and the streets were dark and empty. When he showed Post-Franco Spain, Almodovar was able to capture the vivacity of Madrid. Again Almodovar showed the city at night, however, this time Madrid was bustling. The streetlights were bright, people where walking up and down the streets and shopping stores were open.
Almodovar is now a name respected by actors, actresses and directors world-wide. It was interesting to watch Live Flesh because it was my first movie directed by a Spanish filmmaker. Almodovar pushed the theme of passion into the faces of his audience. However, my favorite aspect of the movie was the nuance Almodovar used to compare a suffocated Spain to its liberated counterpart. Through watching Live Flesh I gained a clearer grasp on modern Spain. Because Spaniards had been previously suppressed by the Franco dictatorship, they now utilize their freedom to be is open, carefree and eccentric.
The most heartbreaking film of the term, The Tongue of the Butterfly, personalized my experience with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. We follow the life of a young Spanish boy, Mancho, who concentrates on his education, not aware of the chaos that will soon erupt between the Fascists and Republicans. Tensions in Mancho’s own household between Mancho’s dad who is a man of the Republic, and Mancho’s mom, who keeps her faith in the Fascist supporting Roman Catholic church also personalizes the Spanish Civil War. Unlike the other movies we watched this term, The Tongue of the Butterfly was also a book. Normally, I am able to fully understand themes and characters in the books that I read. However, after watching The Tongue of the Butterflies having already read the short story, I was able to connect more with the movie. Through the movie I was able to sympathize with the characters. At the end of the film when Mancho’s school teacher, Don Gregorio, is taken away by the Spanish military for his republican beliefs, I shed a couple of tears. The Civil War seems to be a past that the Spanish would like to forget. Bloodshed among country men is never a pleasant topic, however, I have noticed that Spaniards are especially anxious about the subject. Among Spaniards, the Civil War is not discussed because it is a topic that hits close to home for many people.
Scary movies have always been one of my favorites. Unlike most gaudy and over-bloody scary movies, The Others used lighting,make up, and minimal special features to create the full effect of a scary movie. Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, a young artist, his life revolved around civil warfare. Before Amenabar was born, his mother fled Spain because of the Civil War and government takeover by the Franco dictatorship. Chile was the family’s new home. Then when Amenabar was one year old, his family fled back to Spain because of the rising dictatorship in Chile. Amenabar infuses war into The Others by making the movie set during World War II.
The main character of the movie, Grace, lives in a huge house, with her two sun-allergenic children, on an island off the coast of England. When three strange characters move into the house to help Grace with chores,spooky things are brought to light. The fact that the entire movie is mostly in darkness symbolizes the depression of a war ridden country. Using religion as a major theme, Amenabar expresses the importance of the church in the lives of the adults of the time. He contrasts the adult ideas with those of the children who are more interested in loosening their values. Spaniards today are less likely to attend church due to the fact that Roman Catholic values were previously forced upon them.
The drama-filled movies we watched in class each gave me a lesson on Spanish history and insight to understanding modern Spain. I started my Spanish journey with Vicki Cristina Barcelona in which I learned about Spanish passion. Next came Almadovar’s Live Flesh. Through it I became aware of the reason Spaniards today are loose and carefree. The Tongue of the Butterflies gave me a personal connection with the Spanish Civil War. Lastly, young filmmaker, Amenabar exposed the darkness of war and religious confinement in The Others. As I watched the movies I would take note of the themes, then look to see if I noticed anything in my Spanish surroundings that would correspond with or discredit them. Watching films is a useful way to gain an introduction to culture and history.
Dear reader, as I said in the beginning, make sure to watch a Spanish film. All the movies I mentioned above are a great list to chose from. Sorry to say, there is no real lesson in this essay. However, movies will give you a broader perspective of society. They are enjoyable and enriching. With either Vicki Cristina Barcelona, Live Flesh, The Tongue of the Butterfly or The Others, there is no way to go wrong.
Leaving Spain turned out to be a bittersweet experience. Of course, I was eager to get back to my homeland, family and friends sin the United States, but I knew I would miss my new life in Spain. In such a short amount of time I had made a connection with my teachers, Havana, and Eric Spanish teacher, Juana, and my Spanish madre, Teresa. In addition, I felt Spain was a multi-layered country in which I had not yet fully discovered. Even during the final days of our trip, there was still so much more for me to learn. It was not until one week remained that I realized that the Bugle snack chips I had fallen in love with fifty one days ago were bacon and cheese flavored. This was a combination that I would have never picked had I read the label more closely. Because of Spain I found I was more free to trying things out of my norm. It is true what those who have experienced this passionate country say. Spain does change people. In my case it was for the better. Living in Spain for two months of the winter term was an unbelievable experience. I now know a great deal about Spanish culture, and have become more open to experiencing other cultures.
Viva Espana. When I first started this journey, I hoped I would be able to say this Spanish phrase with as much emotion and enthusiasm as the people who inhabit the rich land on the Iberian Peninsula. My journey has finally come to an end and I now scream Viva Espana! Viva Espana! Long live Spain. It is an alluring, artistic, and diverse, country with a fascinating history. I know one day soon I will again find myself strolling down Spain’s cobble stoned streets. Smelling fresh Tortilla Espanol in the air, I will think to myself, “It is great to be back.”
Dear reader, thank you for listening to my stories of my journey through Spain. I hope you find the tips and lessons I provided useful for when you decide to travel to Spain. As I had shown you in my previous essays, the trip had many high and a few low points. All of these experiences came together to provide for an interesting travel. My highlights of the trip were, watching a Flamenco show, taking Flamenco guitar lessons, living with Teresa, and traveling to the different parts of Spain. I also did so many things that I did not include in this book. I went to a Spanish circus in Segovia, and an aquarium in San Sebastian. I took many hikes with my group, relaxed on the beach in Fuengirola, a tourist town in Andalucia and visited the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. The point I am trying to make is, although in this guide I give you many tips of places to visit, make sure you discover Spain for yourself. Take the reins of your trip. The last piece of advice I would like to leave you with is: be ready for anything. No matter how prepared you think you maybe, it is impossible to predict the speed bumps that occur along the way. Stay on your toes, keep your head high, and pocket dictionary handy.
It has been a pleasure. Best of luck to you!
Choa Chu Kang, Other
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