I woke up and got ready quickly, with a 10 minute walk to the University of Cadiz, it was important I leave on time. My mama española had breakfast ready for us when we came into the kitchen. A light meal, consisting of toast with nutella, tea or coffee and of course, fruta. The deadline to get to the front doors of the University by 9 AM wouldn’t be hard, since I like to give myself enough time to enjoy the walk to school I usually leave at quarter of. It was a cool morning, but I knew it wouldn’t last long as the sun rose above the buildings. I noticed that it was a quiet morning in the plaza and as I walking through the streets.
The bus was waiting for us, prompt and ready to go. We left a little after 9:15, heading towards Vejer. With just an hour on the bus, we soon arrived in this beautiful city. Known as a pueblo blanco, this break-taking place is definitely worth a visit. We took a guided tour through the city, stopping at el castillo and la torre. The layers of history and the amount of research that must’ve been conducted to figure out what had happened in these historic towns is incredible. It was used as a means of defense during the times of the Phenocians and the Romans. Not only is it rich with culture but the views are only breath-taking. When the Arabs came in to dominate this area for more than 500 years, they left an impression in the culture of city. When the Castilian kingdom conquered the city, they turned it into a fortress. Using it as an advantage point against the Moorish armies. It is because of the Spanish kingdom’s use of the city as a fortress, that the city is now called Vejer de la Frontera.
After getting a some time to explore la Plaza de España, we loaded back onto the bus fun a short ride. We were soon near the coast, where the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia are located. First we explored the two level museum, with a beautiful view of the coast and the ruins. Then we followed the signs that lead us outside. This is the area where you can walk among the ruins. It is a very unique experience, a little imagination is needed but it was very interesting!
After an hour exploring Baelo Claudia, we all got back on the bus for one last stop. We were going to Tarifa! Not knowing what to expect, we all quickly unloaded the bus. When we got into the city, we learned that we had free time to explore the city. Not knowing what to do with our time, my friends and I took a walk along the coast. We reached a point in Tarifa where the Mediterranean Sea and Africa were to our left. Looking to the right, we could see the Spanish coast and the Atlantic Ocean. It was very guay, to be standing at a point in the world where two bodies of water meet. It was a beautiful coastline, but once you realize the geography of where you are it is much more powerful.
Finally the students and guides got back on the bus for the ride home. It was a long day of walking, so most students took advantage of this time for a little siesta (myself included). Arriving in Cadiz, it was nice to see familiar places. Almost like coming back to your home city. I walked back to my host family’s home, only to come back to a surprise! It was my host mom’s saint’s day, Dia de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. Her whole family came over while I was eating dinner. It was similar to a birthday party, with small gifts and a lot of pastries being shared. They sang a small song before she opened her gifts. It was a different sort of experience to be apart of. Although I didn’t sing along or have a gift for her, I appreciated her sharing this day with me. She was very happy to be surrounded by all her kids and grand kids. The energy and warmth they bring in with them spread to everyone who was present. They stayed most of the evening leaving close to midnight. There a lot of customs and traditions that strike me as being so different. Although I’ve heard of celebrating the day for your Saint whom you were named after, I’ve never seen in practice the fiesta and gathering that takes place so commonly in other places around the world. I love learning about new people in this way, and hope to learn more as I travel!
A day exploring different towns near Cadiz. Our first stop was to Vejer de la Frontera, which is one of the cleanest towns in Andalucia, which was built on a hill overviewing different towns. The town is known for their white houses and buildings as well. Something interesting was knowing that everyone must paint their house or business white. It was also interesting seeing La Cobijada statue around the town which are honored in Vejer. In Vejer La Cobijada is a sheltered woman who is dressed in a black mantle where one of her eyes are the only visible part. This is viewed as a costume in Vejer that brought roots from Muslims. Women now don’t keep up as much with the tradition of wearing the mantle anymore, but in festivals like Holy week they do use it. Holy week is very traditional in Spain where every town was their own celebration. In Vejer there are four original arches that they have kept and one of them is the most famous because of the view that extends from the arch. Vejer de la Frontera is a beautiful town.
The next stop was Baelo Claudia an ancient Roman town near Bolonia. This is the heart to understand the Romans life and development at the time of the Roman Empire. Here we could see the theatre, temples, the wall where the trading ports would come in, the basilica and much more. An interesting part was seeing the Roman reproduction of Doryphores. The statue is a athlete that is nude with a spear on his right hand. The archaeologists have said that the stones are from high quality marble which was white with grey. This finding was carried out by the University of Cadiz in 2012 while the archaeological excavation. It was found in a swimming pool in the Maritime Baths. This statue is the most significant in Baelo Claudia, which shows wealth and what they call a taste of the Roman period.
Our last stop was in Tarfia and they left the best for last. I was amazed by the beach in Tarfia. The water was gorgeous I could believe that I was there. The girls, I was with, and I decided to have lunch on the rocks sitting by the Mediterranean Sea. Our lunchtime was so relaxing just watching the ships go by. A lot of cruise ships and boats full of families passed by in the timing that we were there. Also, looking beyond the ocean which was the mountain that is in Morocco. When we finished our lunch, we walked down the boardwalk where the Mediterranean Sea is on your left-hand side and the Atlantic Ocean is on your right hand. Both sides were beaches and both were filled with people. Seeing the difference in the two was interesting because the Atlantic Ocean was filled with seaweed. The Mediterranean Sea was so clear you could see right through it. The water felt perfect and it was a great temperature not too cold. I think that Tarifa was a great idea to leave for last because it’s worth it.
Coming to Cadiz has been one of the greatest opportunities I have been handed. It’s a place where family is very important and everyone is kind enough to help you out if you get lost. I have been happy to have my house five minutes away from the beach and the university. During the first week, I have noticed how everyone helps you improve your Spanish. Classes in school are very interesting because it’s not only students from Lowell but from all over the world. I have met people from all over the world. I like the idea of having classes with other international students because they can help you out and vice versa. Class is a place where you go to learn the language and grammar, but also where you can have discussion on anything you don’t understand with the language. Spanish in Cadiz is the main language, which is a great way to expand my vocabulary in the language. Learning the language in Cadiz is interesting because you can learn the different meanings to different words. Living with a host family that only speaks the language is the best part because not only are you speaking Spanish at school but at home you must speak it. In the past week, I have learned a list of new words that are new to my vocabulary. The class schedule here is comfortable enough where it’s not too early and not too late in the day. I enjoy the environment in school because it’s very welcoming and everyone encourages you. Everyone who lives in Cadiz has different rhythms in speaking either very fast or well off speed to understand, which connects to the idea of having two professors is a great idea. The two teachers have different teaching styles and different ways of speaking. I have enjoyed being in the classrooms very much.
One of my favorite things about Cadiz are the beautiful beaches that it has. Cadiz is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. The view is amazing and the water is even more amazing compared to the cold beaches that we have in the United States. La Caleta Beach is a five-minute walk from my house which is the reason why I look forward going to the beach all the time. La Caleta Beach is stunning with their sailboats in the water. The sunset is a great view as well to see in the night. I was very surprised when I was told that the sunsets so late at night, so it makes the day feel longer and nights shorter. Another beach is La Santa Maria which is very nice and I’d say bigger than La Caleta. I experience here in Cadiz the caring for one another is great to see that people would ask me if it’s okay to watch their belongings. This city has shown me how everyone here is happy to help one another. Coming to Cadiz it’s a must to visit both beaches.
Our group is fortunate enough to have activities outside of class that helps us learn more about the culture. This weeks activity was learning how to make paella from people who have perfected it. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that is served in a big skillet. Paella normally consists of chicken, chorizo, vegetables, various types of seafood, and rice with saffron. I love to cook and I was very excited to learn how to make a dish that I love to eat. I originally thought we were only going to be able to watch them make the paella however, they let each of us take turns being the chef. After watching the chefs do each step, we were each given a cutting board so we could put our skills to the test.
Sangria and food culture
In addition to learning how to make paella, we were also taught how to make sangria. Sangria is a traditional Spanish drink that is made of red wine, rum, sprite, lemon juice, sugar and various types of chopped fruit. Typically the varieties of fruit include apples, oranges, nectarines, and lemons. The chefs were so welcoming to our group and excited to show us how to make a dish that is a staple for them. After about an hour of salvation, the paella was finally ready. This paella was worth the wait it was completely delicious. We all had so much fun cooking together. In Spain, meals are a big part of the day. Meals are a time to catch up with friends or loved ones and to spend quality time together. In Cadiz, family plays a big role in the way life is lived. Here the family is everything and it is noticeable in the culture. In the US our society moves at a very fast pace. This pace became exceedingly obvious once we arrived in Cadiz. In the US meals are often not eaten with family at a sit-down atmosphere but normally taken on the go. I have to admit I almost never take time out of my day to sit down and talk to my loved ones during meal times but this experience has made me want to put more of an effort into doing so.
Although the food and drinks were great the best part of the experience was getting to know each other better as a group. Today brought us closer because we were able to exchange stories of some of our favorite foods. Cooking is a great way to learn more about people and connect in a different way than we normally do. Cooking is also an easy way to connect with my host family. Sharing the kinds of food that we eat helps us both get a better understanding of the culture we come from. This trip has been such a great way to meet people that I never would have met. We are meeting people our classes from different parts of the world like China, Russia, and California. Additionally, we are also meeting people from our university that we wouldn’t have otherwise met. Cadiz is so beautiful and this experience has been so rewarding I’m so happy I decided to go on this trip. I strongly encourage everyone to study abroad!
When I told my family and friends about my trip to Cadiz they all told me that I need to take a trip to see the Rock of Gibraltar. This weekend I decided to take their advice and I took a day trip to go see what all the hype was about. From Cadiz Rock of Gibraltar is less than a three-hour bus ride away. The bus takes a little bit of planning but it’s fairly inexpensive and simple to figure out. I stayed in an air bnb at the linea de Concepcion which is about a 20-minute walk from the rock of Gibraltar. You’ll need to walk into Gibraltar unless you have a car or decide to take a bus. The host of my air bnb gave me a lot of helpful information about the area and helped make my trip go smoother. I would highly recommend staying on the Spanish side if you are planning a trip here because it is absolutely beautiful and you can still pay for everything with euros. Before you can start your trip to Gibraltar you have to go through customs so it’s necessary to bring your passport. The rock is technically part of Brittish territory, how cool is that?
To see the rock close up there are two options. You can either take in the views from the cable cars or on foot. If you’re feeling adventurous hiking is the way to go. I decided I was up for the challenge and choose to do it this way. Disclaimer prepare to get your steps in. If you’re planning to do the hike make sure you dedicate at least four hours of time to get from top to bottom. Sneakers and a lot of water are a must! There is so much to see so you will want to take a lot of pictures and breaks to admire the scenery. The best part of the hike is the views they are completely breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see Spain and Morocco from the top.
Another main attraction of the hike was the monkeys. At first, I wasn’t sure what type of behavior to expect from the monkeys. Before we reached the part of the mountain that was the ape’s den there were warning signs that the monkeys might become aggressive if they are confined on the stairs. I’ve never seen a monkey in person before so it was such an amazing opportunity to be so close to them. While I was busy worrying if the monkeys were going to be aggressive or not they were preoccupied eating fruit and relaxing and well just being monkeys. Be aware that some of the monkeys are curious and will try to steal your belongings. I first-hand experienced an attempted robbery. Luckily, I was able to come away with all my belongings ( it was more cute than scary). In general, they are very relaxed and don’t seem to mind receiving all the photo attention. On the way down we took the Meditteranean steps and the views continued to amaze me. At the end of the day, I was tired and sweaty but it was worth every step. Gracias Gibraltar.
The flamenco is something that a lot of people recognize as something traditionally Spanish, but its origins aren’t so clear. It is still a very Spanish tradition, but it’s constantly been changing and influenced by different groups such as the Muslims, Jewish and slaves from Cuba. Regardless of its origins, flamenco is something very easy to find and enjoy in Spain. Some groups are even starting to merge it with other genres such as rock or jazz, creating a modern hybrid of genres.
For those who don’t know, flamenco uses a few key instruments: the guitar, palmas (palms), the voice, sometimes castanets and the cajon. The cajon is a more modern addition to flamenco, coming from Paco de Lucia’s trip to Peru. He was referred to as one of the greatest flamenco guitarists and when he went to Peru, he encountered an instrument there that he wanted to adapt for flamenco. A cajon is a type of hollow box that produces different sounds when you hit it in different places and is now a very popular instrument for flamenco. In the workshop we attended, with Maria la Monica, she brought along a cajon that she used for making her music.
When it comes to the dancing, the feet could also be considered an instrument. Just like the palms, they can keep the beat. The dancer and the person keeping beat just have to be careful not to stray off tempo and move too quickly. They have to keep with the guitar and whatever other instruments are there, so they all work together. This seems complicated, especially when it’s a spontaneous art form that depends on the moment rather than rehearsal.
Flamenco is more similar to jazz in the sense that it’s more spontaneous, in the moment and based off of how the artists feel. Our workshop with Maria la Monica felt kind of like a “jam session” because there was no organized piece of music, just what they felt like playing in the moment. In the lesson, we were taught an expression that is used when the artist does something unexpected with the music, “olé”. An olé has to be spontaneous and genuine, even though we practiced a planned one to understand the basic idea.
For our workshop, Maria explained that she comes from a “flamenco family”. Basically, this means that her family lives a flamenco style life. There were jam sessions and spontaneous music and dancing while they had a sort of different attitude about the music. They see it more as a way of life than a kind of music, they “live flamenco” in their everyday. Now this is by no means the situation for every family in Spain, but it is really interesting to think about how there’s nothing really similar in the U.S. to this style of living. The emphasis on freedom, music and expression does sound a bit like the 1960’s in the states but it’s the modern reality for families like Maria la Monica’s in Spain today.
I’ve never been anywhere like Cadiz before. I’m not sure there is anywhere like Cadiz other than Cadiz. It’s a city with a rich and complex history, full of mixes of different cultures and influenced by every nearby former empire that ever existed. There are Roman ruins, Catholic churches, castles with remains of ancient mihrabs and statues of Hercules… things I had never expected to see in the same place. There are still aspects to the city that match up with what I expected from Spain but mostly my experience has been full of wonderful surprises everywhere we go.
For example, the catedral de Cadiz. On the outside it’s already a remarkable building, but as a group we got to go in and take a tour around. The building is just as beautiful on the inside, full of statues to commemorate saints and Popes, as well as a lower level that was just as interesting to explore. Beneath the altar, in the lower level was the crypt, while upstairs in the main level were the various statues and paintings as well as vestments and a place for silent prayer and meditation. When we got back, my host family informed me of how they worked to restore part of the stone ceiling. Due to the building’s age, it needed a bit of upkeep to keep it safe for visitors. To do that, they injected liquid into the stone to help it solidify once again. This way, the cathedral can remain as beautiful as it is for more visitors to get to see for a long time to come.
With how many different groups had power over Spain, it’s actually rather remarkable that anything belonging to a former culture or group remained behind at all. This cathedral is actually just as great a symbol of the various influences as anything else in Cadiz. There’s a clear difference in the styles of the cathedral, which was built over a period of 116 years. Over all this time, the project was picked up by different architects, who all shifted the style to what they wanted to do instead of what it had been. So, the cathedral starts in the baroque style but ends up neoclassical- a common theme across a few of the buildings in the area. One of our other excursions was like this as well, the castillo in La Puerta de Santa Maria. For the Castillo San Marcos, the different styles were thanks to the various cultures that came in and used the base of what was there for their purpose instead. The Castillo actually has the remains of an ancient mihrab that was preserved by the church covering it to reorient the building to the town instead of towards Mecca. So, they built a wall and preserved it very well, building on top of what had been the mosque, which was built on top of the roman base. Just walking around Cadiz, the influence of all of the groups that have been here is clear. All of the different styles of architecture and different materials used gives Cadiz a really unique feeling as a city.
Traveling to Spain and taking the opportunity to study abroad in Cadiz has been one of the best decisions I could’ve made. The amount of practice and life experience that I have acquired while traveling in Cadiz has pushed me even further. I’m grateful because not only has my Spanish speaking and comprehension skills increased in major ways in the past week, but I have also taken advantage of my time in one of the most enchanting cities of Spain. The benefits that I’m already seeing are making me feel reassured in my decision to leave home for a month.
It’s the perfect sized city. One that is large enough where you can always find new shops and streets to explore and small enough that when you do get lost you can easily find your way. The streets all have the same European look to them, which makes getting lost a common occurrence (for me at least). But once I had find a main street, I’m good. The city is surrounded by water on 3 sides. The location of the city makes it perfect for trading and fishing. These influence the economy and the food in town.
This city also has a large historical presence. With Roman ruins just a 15min walk away and the arabic influence still evident. I find the culture, the people, the architecture, everything so captivating. The different layers of cultures blending together. The Moroccan influence, the Christian persuasion, the Jewish culture as well. It’s quite an interesting blend of identities.
My favorite part of Spain has been the complete cultural immersion. There is no speaking Spanglish and getting away with it here. Living in the United States, most people will understand when you switch between Spanish and English to communicate. While living here, I’ve noticed that although people speak English, it’s easier to understand their Spanish. My host family doesn’t speak any English which makes the conversations very interesting at times. I’ve found that the native speakers are patient and will help with tough words, but they want to see that you’re trying. Showing that you respect their language and have taken the time to communicate in a foreign language shows. Of course, there are the universal signs that people also naturally give while conversing. Body language, tone and expression all help in carrying on a conversation. It also gives you nonverbal cues of how to respond.
One of the most surprising things for me was realizing the UMass students wouldn’t all be studying together. The first day we were split up by Spanish level. We were then placed in a classroom with other international students. People from all over the world: Russia, Italy, California, China, Las Vegas and Germany. It was the first time I had heard Spanish spoken with a Russian accent! I’ve been trying to take advantage of the diverse student base here. I sit with the Russian students at lunch and ask about different customs they have or traditions we share.
I’m excited to see where these last few weeks take me! Hasta pronto.