The Final Friday!

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!

Baelo Claudia aqueduct

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!

The World of Cadiz

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.