This week in Ciudad Real, students and professors alike are reevaluating old goals, monitoring personal progress, and grappling with the inevitable passage of time. At this point in the program, many students are rejoicing for their already perceptible linguistic progress, the meaningful relationships they've formed with their Spanish families, and the too often overlooked accomplishment of simply having left home to try new things, see new places, and meet new people. Of course, now is a time to admit that some goals may have been too lofty and may require more time: language learning is a slow but rewarding process. Despite absorbing new customs at a rapid rate, one must always be open to learning still more, and not to be surprised when misunderstandings still arise - ah to be human.
This week students have tapped further into their creativity as they have turned in submissions for this year's memory book. The memory book will be given as a gift to host families on the day of our farewell party, and students will receive a copy as well once in the U.S. In addition to expressing gratitude in notes to families, students turned in recipes, poems, artwork, reflections, and group jokes. This week we also dedicated extra time to our Theatre and Choir and Dance classes. In Theatre, the groups performing published works have blocked out all their scenes, practiced on stage, and nearly completed the memorization of their lines. Those writing original scripts have arrived at a final draft with which they are all satisfied (if it is that artists are ever satisfied with their work) and have begun its mise en scène. In choir, the groups are ever closer to memorizing the fast-paced Spanish lyrics, and in dance, choreography has nearly been finalized.
On Tuesday, we once more climbed into a charter bus, this time to a neighboring pueblo, Almagro. Each year, this historic city hosts a theatre festival, and per program tradition, different host families are invited to join us. Almagro boasts the only fully intact Corral de Comedias, a particular theatre venue from the seventeenth century.
Here we are all excited (students perhaps more so than parents) and ready to roll. Jesús, our accommodating bus driver, was happy to turn on the colored lights and blast the jams we brought, the same ones that the choir will be singing in our spectacular.
Once in Almagro, these gentle fellows adopted the appropriately serious tone that such a cultural outing requires.
We walked down the old winding streets towards the center of town.
Here we are in Almagro´s famous town square, or Plaza Mayor. We had a little spare time before the show began to explore and dine.
You might say that something was in the air; a special twilight enchantment, perhaps...
Just the men...
...and just the ladies...as you can see, our numbers are far from equal.
Anna and Claire take in the atmosphere while Caroline enjoys a bocadillo packed by her host family.
Alexis and Allyson cool down with lemonade and ice cream. Well played, ladies.
As it turns out, there was more in the air than merely the charm of an ancient town at dusk, but rather some no-nonsense rain clouds. Though we were scheduled to see the Compañia Nacional de Teatro Clásico´s interpretation of the 1621 play, La verdad sospechosa in the Hospital de San Juan, an open air theatre, the persistent showers forced the play´s cancellation. The group enjoyed an alternate activity, but sorely missed what would have been a singular experience. Just another reason to come back to Spain!
Also on Tuesday, a young student reporter from another newspaper, La tribuna, came to meet us and learn about who we are, and what we are doing. Her article gives a fresh perspective on cultural differences that our students face on a daily basis. Feel free to read the article online:
On Thursday, we celebrated Alexis´s birthday with, you guessed it: ice cream sandwiches!
Friday we traveled to Madrid, but this time in the AVE, or high speed train. Here we are lining up before passing through security in the train station.
Once in Madrid, we walked from the train station, Atocha, to the Museo del Prado, an art museum, home to the works of such artists as Velázquez, El Greco and Goya. Dylan and Tori are ready to enter, while Patrick struggles to hold a water bottle and camera with one arm.
Unfortunately, we are not allowed to take pictures inside of the Prado. Also unfortunate, the Congreso de los Diputados, or the national senate, is under construction, so an inside tour is impossible. Mary Kate is disgusted that the amount of scaffolding on the building´s facade prevents us from even taking a group picture in front. Oh well. Students are free to eat lunch and buy souvenirs.
John shows off his new purchase and Tommy pretends he doesn´t love having his photo taken.
Andrew is also camera shy. What he doesn´t know, is that the more he resists, the more the camera persists: close up it is!
Tommy and Megan are relieved that it is shady...for now!
The group gathers for a photo in front of the fountain Cibeles (obscured by group...) and the telecommunications building.
We take a little break before descending into the metro. Today is a day for tired legs.
We took line two on the metro toward the west end of the city. Madrid's metro is known as one of the cleanest and most easily navigated. When we reemerged in the daylight, we were greeted by the hush of less trafficked streets, and sunny, smaller plazas. We headed over to the Palacio Real. As the royal family does not reside here, its function is largely ceremonial.
Becca, Andrew and Jackie outside of the Palacio.
Once inside the Palacio, our tour guide led us through the lavishly decorated rooms, replete with porcelain, intricate embroidery, one of a kind stringed instruments, and crystal candelabras. After a long time on our feet, Bridget, Eric and Ana recuperate in one of the cool stone hallways.
Mikaela, Jackie, Savannah, Katie and Amy take five.
Not for long, however, as we left the Palacio for our last and longest/sunniest jaunt of the day. Before leaving, two Tommy´s pose in front of the adjacent Cathedral.
In the middle of our trans-city trek, we stopped for refreshments. These gentleman partake in rosquillas, or "donuts" as they are also called in Spanish. Here in Spain, Homer Simpson helps popularize the doughnut market.
On the way to our last museum, we briefly stop in Madrid´s Plaza Mayor.
La Reina Sofía exhibits more modern and contemporary art. It is the home of Picasso´s Guernica as well as diverse pieces by Salvador Dalí, and Jean Miró, among many others.
Caroline is delighted by surrealism.
Here Hope interprets Picasso´s Bust and Palette.
Tommy: another figure next to Picasso´s Figures by the Sea
Zin and Tori were extremely excited by the modern art, rushing to see all they could in the limited time we had in the museum. Here they are presenting to you Things by Joseph Togores.
Alexis and Allyson give us Max Ernst´s Red Birds.
After the Reina Sofía, it was time for the train ride home.
We arrived in Ciudad Real at 21:08. Once again, we've gone our separate ways for another weekend of activities with host families; look for emails from your son or daughter with more specific updates. Until next week!
In the meantime, to tide you over, here's a little video footage of the group getting off the bus in Almagro, and dancing to Shakira.
If this video does not play, visit our unlisted youtube site: http://youtu.be/v7RcxmbOWkc