Monthly Archives: November 2011

A busy week

Hey everyone!

I’m sitting here in the hotel in Granada (I’m on an excursion with Granada), getting ready to go to bed after having seen an amazing flamenco show. The past week has been super busy with midterms (what, you mean I actually have to study sometime??), and fighting off a little bit of a cold, so I apologize for my failure to post.

Anywho, I figured I should post a little bit before all my loyal readers get bored and leave, so here’s an interesting story from class…

In my “Current Spain” class, we have been discussing Spanish history, including the years under Franco’s reign. Our professor was telling us about the period of time in which Franco’s government was based in Salamanca, and how there is a plaque outside the building noting it. Apparently, a few years ago, the PSOE (Socialist political party) outlawed any sort of signage or symboism in Spain that refers to Franco in a positive, political manner. However, many local governments have protested this law, and so the plaques and such still (illegally) exist.

One of these is on my school building, a limestone emblem of the shield that Franco adopted. After class, several friends and I looked up at it before we headed home. We started to have a discussion about removing any sign of their history … it seems to me a little bit like pretending it didn’t happen, which I’m not sure I think is the right approach.

Eventually, the conversation turned to what the Spanish people think of Franco. Salamanca is in a fairly conservative area of Spain, and besides a large student population, also has many, elderly people who are, in essence, still “supporters” of Franco. Especially now that unemployment has reached about 20% here, this is some discontent and nostalgia for things as they “used to be” among a certain sector of the Spanish population.

One of my friends, then, who is in a homestay with a couple in their upper 70’s, shared this discussion he had with his host parents:[Franco had come up somehow in conversation…]

  • Host Parents: “We had years of peace and prosperity under Franco”
  • My Friend: “But didn’t he kill a bunch of people?”
  • Host Parents: “Well yes, but they were all Communists.”

Interesting. November 20th is the anniversary of the day Franco died, and traditionally there are protests both against, and in support of, Franco. However, because the elections are on the 20th this year, all form of political protest are banned.

In other news, my parents and sister are coming for Thanksgiving, and I can’t wait to show them all around Salamanca! (But first, we’ll be spending the weekend in Seville, Spain together next weekend.)


My Dirty Little Secret…

It doesn’t seem like I speak Spanish all that much.

Yes, I live in a country where the official language, and essentially “only” language spoken is Spanish. I go to classes that are taught in Spanish by teachers who don’t necessarily even know English. When I walk on the streets, I hear almost only Spanish. When I go out to eat, or go shopping, or check books out from the library, I speak Spanish. I can’t remember the last time a stranger spoke to me in English.

However, I speak English with all my firends. I speak English with my roommate, and I rarely speak (regardless of language) to the Spaniards in the residencia.

Spanish isn’t my major, and I’ve always been slightly ambivalent about becoming fluent. However, some days I feel like my time here in Spain is a little lacking in purpose, like a temporary “pretend” life. Becoming fluent in Spanish might help with that feeling.

There are probably things I could do to speak more Spanish, but they’re not intuitive or easy, and I just haven’t yet. Like I said… my dirty little secret.

Segovia, Bejar & Alba de Tormes

I haven’t been on any major trips recently. It’s a “lull in the storm” of sorts, this month I have plans to visit Granada, Sevilla, and Madrid. It’s been nice to have a few weekends to catch my breath and sleep in my own bed, although I’m looking at the calendar and trying to figure out how to make it everywhere I want to go! Anyway, just because I haven’t been on any major trips doesn’t mean I’ve been bumming around Salamanca – I’ve taken several day trips: Segovia, Bejar and Alba de Tormes.

SegoviaI went to Segovia two weekends ago with ISA. We (obviously) saw the famous Roman aqueduct, as well as a Middle Ages church and the Alcazar de Segovia (the castle). I thought that the aqueduct, which was built without the use of any mortar, was amazing. It was in continuous use until the 1940’s, and still functions today, although it is only used on special occasions. 

The Alcazar de Segovia was really cool. Fun fact I learned: the castle in Sleeping Beauty was modeled after this castle!

After taking a tour of the castle (and possibly posing next to some dashing Middle Age armor, although you’ll have to look in the Spain Picassa album for those photos), we were given free time to explore the city. We walked around, but it was a Saturday afternoon and most of the shops were closed. To be honest, while the Roman Aqueduct and Alcazar were really cool and made the trip well worth it, I wasn’t all that impressed with the rest of Segovia.

Bejar  I’ve really wanted to go hiking in Spain – there are a lot of really beautiful areas. However, getting to remote mountain towns by public transportation can be a bit difficult (as I’ve discovered), so instead of the beautiful area between Portugal and Spain, I settled for the Sierras de Bejar, about 90 minutes south of Salamanca. A few friends and I took the bus last Saturday, to Bejar. 

While we weren’t actually able to hike in the Sierras, we did walk through the woods. With the leaves falling, it was a beautiful and refreshing afternoon that reminded me quite a bit of Colorado.

Alba de Tormes – Yesterday was a festival day here (November 1st, All Saint’s Day) so we didn’t have school. I decided to go to Alba de Tormes, a little village about 30 minutes away from Salamanca, for the afternoon.

 Their main claim to fame is a large castle that the Duke and Duchess of Alba lived in at one point. Soon after I arrived at the castle, it closed for siesta (gotta love Spain!) so I didn’t have a chance to visit the museum inside it.

However, the town is directly on the Tormes River, and the trees were turning. It was quite beautiful, and I had a quite pleasant afternoon wandering around the little town taking photos and enjoying the solitude of a festival day.

Hope everyone had a good Halloween, and is ready for November and all that it will bring. I know I am – November 1st marked 2 months in Europe!