The adventures never stop here. Neither do the field trips.
Two field trips in one week?! I can handle that! My Latin American Relations class took a trip to Museo Naval in Madrid on Wednesday of last week. The Naval Museum might be my favorite museum I have visited thus far in Spain. One of the reasons I enjoy this class so much is because it is directly linked to United States history. Seeing things like a model of the USS Maine and a map of the United States from 1780 (with Lake Winnebago) But by far the coolest object in the museum is the ORIGINAL map of the Americas by Juan de la Cosa from the year 1500. Personally, my favorite aspect of this map is the picture that lies on the far left of the map, an area unexplored by Europeans at the time. The picture is a drawing of San Cristóbal (Saint Christopher), the patron saint of traveling. Just imagine Juan de la Cosa’s conversation when he was making the map: “Wait, we don’t know what goes there!” “Just put a picture of St. Christopher, it’ll be fine!”
Field trip number two of the week was also to Madrid, this time my Literature class traveled to an area called “Barrio de las Letras”. This barrio (neighborhood) was home to many great Spanish writers in their day, including Cervantes, Quevedo, Góngora, and Lope de Vega. Attractions of the district include the house of Cervantes, where he died in 1616, and the house of Lope de Vega (a Spanish playwright from the baroque period), which we were fortunate enough to be able to tour. We also saw the controversial house of Quevedo and Góngora. Both poets in the baroque era, Francisco de Quevedo and Luis de Góngora were literary rivals. This was a serious feud: Quevedo wrote a poem called A Una Nariz, a poem about the size and ugliness of Góngora’s nose. Not serious enough for you? Quevedo went as far as to buy the house Góngora lived in, solely for the pleasure of kicking Góngora out of his own house. Harsh.
This particular weekend was not particularly exciting. The last week of February means one thing: exams on exams on exams. Midterms week came up very quickly. Two minute tangent: a pet peeve of mine is when courses have multiple “midterms”. A midterm is an exam at the halfway point of the course. If a course has three exams, you can’t call them “midterms”, because it isn’t in the “middle” of the “term”. Midterms here are actual midterms: one exam exactly halfway through the course. Unfortunately, that means five exams in two days. ROUGH. I spent most of the weekend at the library and in various coffee shops, trying to remember the difference between juglaría literature and clerecía literature, when the letter B is oclusivo and when it is fricativo, and the ideological differences between the Carlistas and the Isabelinos. Not a very enthralling weekend; let me tell you.
It was a long, stressful, library-filled week. But five exams later, it was time for another #fieldtripfriday or #viajeviernes. This time we were off to Soria, a city and province two hours north of Alcalá. Seeing snow for the first time in two months proved to be quite entertaining, a significant number of the students here are from warmer areas of the United States and have never experienced snow before. This snow was nothing like winter in Wisconsin; it didn’t even stick when it hit the ground. Still, it was entertaining nonetheless. Our Soria visit was focused on Antonio Machado, a Spanish poet of the early 1900s. The purpose of our visit was to see the places that Machado wrote about in his poems, to add personal experiences to our interpretation of the literature. My favorite destination of the day was La Ermita de San Saturio. Ermita is synonymous with iglesia (church) and San Saturio is the patron saint of Soria. This church is built into the side of a mountain, with the chapel at the very top and pretty steep caves at the bottom.
The following weekend was much more relaxing than the previous. First weekend in March and the thermometer hits 65, that isn’t something you see in Wisconsin. While it hasn’t exactly been cold here, this was the first really warm weekend and you could tell. Alcalá came out of hibernation. We went downtown for coffee on Saturday afternoon and the Plaza Cervantes (the center of town) was bustling. There were people everywhere! Families eating ice cream, people at bars watching the fútbol game, kids running around outside. People-watching and drinking coffee made for a very enjoyable afternoon.
Thought for the day: This blog covers a scrambled variety of things over a two-week time span. I think the reason this post was so difficult to write is because everything feels routine to me now. Looking back on my first posts, I wrote about things like taking the bus and eating dinner late and figuring out the euro. But now all of those things are normal to me. I take the bus to school everyday now; I am not ready for dinner at 6:00 any more; I know to mentally multiply by 1.3 when I go shopping. My Spanish life is starting to feel less like an extravagant vacation and more like my real life. I am more comfortable with my surroundings and I feel like I know what I am doing (most of the time).
It’s crazy that all of this feels so normal!