Posts Tagged With: Spain

Weekend Writing Warriors/#8Sunday – The Castilian Prince


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The second round of Weekend Writing Warriors in February. I hope everyone is staying warm these days. I’m trying to take advantage of the cold days by getting some writing in. Some days it works, other days not so.

I’m sharing another poem from Reflections & Dreams. This one is about a 14th century Spanish aristocrat named Don Juan Manuel. I admire him and the time period he lived in. I actually wrote my thesis about his work for my bachelor’s degree. I’ve had to shorten it so it meets the poetry word count limit. I hope you enjoy:

Standing on the rock plain,

Nation divided into quarreling kingdoms,

A world of hunger and decay,

Conflict and disease good company,

Death’s shadow emerges on the land,

Noble blood carves your destiny.

 

Defending the Castilian kingdom,

Sharing the word of God,

Raising your hand to the sky,

Peasants see the heavenly host,

Standing by your side.

 

Holding in your celestial hands,

A sword and a quill,

Cutting through adversaries,

Painting sage advice,

Enlightening gullible nobles,

Soothing despairing dames

 

Tyrants of neighboring lands,

You face without hindrance,

While forgoing slumber and bread,

Conniving, radical Moors attack you,

You answer with a Divine blade,

Etch your name in their hearts.

 

Seeking shelter in your abode,

A mighty castle towering the plain,

Your sanctuary and library.

Inscribing forty-two lessons,

That serve as an aristocrat’s bible,

Fighting the sands of time.

It might be a little difficult to understand, but it basically conveys what was going on in Spain in the Middle Ages – constant civil wars and madness. I’d love to know your thoughts, even though it’s hard to comment on poetry. Visit Weekend Writing Warriors to see more snippets from wonderful authors. I’m also looking to host some authors on my blog sometime soon. Ideally, I am looking for 2 authors, so if you’re interested hit the Contact Me link on my blog.

I will do my best to read everyone’s snippets, but I am working on a presentation today (sigh) so it will take me longer than usual.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , ,

What You Need to Know About Spanish Home-stays

Planning to spend the summer studying in Spain? Are you going to live with a home-stay? You are in for a rewarding experience. Being a home-stay veteran, I can tell you it will be an experience like no other. I learned Spanish in Spain several times, and lived with six Spanish home-stays during those times. From day one, you feel as if you are living as a local. Not only can you practise the language, but you are living someone who knows the city or town that you are studying in, which can save you precious time. But before you get too excited, I want to share with you somethings about home-stays that are often overlooked.

When you think of living with a Spanish family or home-stay, you may think it is like living with any ordinary family. This is not the case in Spain. A Spanish family maybe a family with one or two children. The rest and the most common are divorced/widowed middle-aged women who live in an apartment. They agree to host international students to make extra money, have some companionship and/or are interested in other cultures. Because of the economic situation in Spain, many people take on international students for extra money, since it is difficult to get a regular job.

Depending on where in Spain you are living, most Spanish families live reasonably close to the school/university that you will be attending. I’m talking about 10 – 15 minute walk or 5 minutes by public transport. If you are going to be in Madrid or Barcelona, this will be different. You will likely have to take the metro to get to school, which can take up to 40 minutes each way. Unfortunately, some families in these cities are located in the suburbs since housing is cheaper in these parts. In any case, your family will be very close to supermarkets, restaurants, bars, etc. The nice thing about Spain is everything is so close to your home, so you don’t have to drive at all! But be forewarned: it is most likely that your family will live in an apartment. Most Europeans live in apartments.

So here are a few things you can expect from a home-stay:

  • access to the apartment: you will be given your own set of keys and so you can come and go as you wish. And don’t worry about coming home late. In Spain, people stay out until the wee hours of the morning on weekends and Spanish families know that you will be too.
  • meals. Depending on the agreement, you will get what is called half-board (breakfast and dinner) or full-board (all three meals). I personally recommend half-board because you will likely want to go out to lunch with your classmates. It sucks when you have to race home in order to get that extra meal you paid for.
  • your own room. You won’t have to share it with someone else. Depending on the family, you will either have an en-suite bathroom, or have to share the bathroom with everyone else. Just assume you’ll have to share it until you meet the family, so you don’t get disappointed.
  • linens and towels, which will be changed for you once a week.
  • laundry. Your family will do your laundry once a week only. Water and electricity is very expensive in Spain, so don’t expect laundry service every two days. Some families may not do the laundry, in which case they will show you how to use the washing machine and then you do the laundry yourself. Again, you’ll only be allowed to do it once a week.
  • opportunity to practise Spanish. The best way to practise is with a native speaker. I personally prefer this than speaking Spanish with another foreign student.
  • house mates. Don’t assume you will be the only student in the house, especially in the summer. You will likely have one or two other students living with the same host family. Spanish apartment have up to four bedrooms, so there is plenty of room for every one. If there is another student that speaks your language, it is up to you if you want to speak it or speak Spanish. Your host family will not be offended if you choose to speak your native tongue with that student.

What not to expect from a Spanish family:

  • meeting you at the airport/train station. Understand this right now. The family will be waiting for you at home, but they will not actually come to airport or train station to meet you. Most families do not own a car, and will assume that you will be making your own way to their home. If you want someone to meet you at the airport, your school can arrange someone to pick you up and take you to your home-stay for a fee.
  • including you in their social life. Are you expecting them to invite you out to dinner? Think they will invite you to hang out with their friends? Think again. Families assume that you will be going out every night with your own friends, so they won’t be including you in their own affairs. Do not take this personally, it’s just the way it is done. In fact, most students would rather hang out with other international students anyway.
  • allowing you to bring friends over. Your school usually tells you this in advance and the norm is you can’t have friends over. Respect this. Anyways, most people in Spain don’t invite friends over to their homes; they go out to cafes or restaurants. So the old saying, when in Rome, do as.
  • spectacular meals. Although you get meals, do not expect them to be the kind that you might find in five-star hotels or restaurants. Some home-stays are good cooks, while others have the cooking skills of a college freshman. Accept this. Generally, meals are hit-or-miss with home-stays. If you have dietary needs, let your school know this as far in advanced as possible. Another thing about meals is that dinner is served at 9 or 10 at night – The Spanish eat late.
  • attending to your every need. You’re not staying at the Hilton! While families want to make your stay as pleasant as possible, you have to remember that they have their own lives and are often very busy. So don’t treat them like they are your personal butler.
  • Knowledge of your own language. The majority of Spaniards don’t speak English, and if they do it’s just the basics. Some families might speak other languages like Portuguese, Italian or French since they are similar to Spanish. Families assume you want to practise speaking Spanish. If you want to speak your own language or your level is very low, you’d be better off sharing an apartment with other foreign students or living in a residence.

 

One other thing to know about families is that many of them have their own set of rules. When you first arrive, ask them what rules/norms they have about their home. They will appreciate this and you immediately get off to a great start. They will see that you are considerate, and may even be flexible with some of the rules.

So I hope this helps because I sure wish I had known all this when I first stayed with a family. I hope that you will have the same wonderful experience that I had.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , ,

Five Places You Must See in Spain

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Of all the countries I’ve been to, Spain is number one. I’ve lived there for six months and traveled to every major city on the mainland. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel a special bond with this wonderful country and every time I go there, I always want to go back. In fact, I’m there right now studying Spanish.

One thing to know about Spain is it is like the United States. Each region has its own autonomous government and the people are fiercely proud of their regional culture and history. It’s hard to believe that in a small country like this, the food, architecture and dialect changes from region to region.

Having traveled all over this country, I’d like to mention some places YOU MUST VISIT if you happen to be traveling to Spain this summer. Hope you find these places inspiring!

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1. Seville – if I could recommend just one city to visit in Spain, it would be this. Locally referred to as Sevilla, this is Spain’s fourth largest city and capital of the Andalusia region. It is one where you experience Spain’s moorish history through its architecture. It is also home of flamenco and you can even go to see an authentic flamenco show in a tavern for free; you would have to pay to see one in Madrid and Barcelona and it would be mostly touristy. Seville can be reached via Spain’s high-speed train from Madrid – a two and a half journey, whereas a car ride would be five hours. There are trains every hour between the two cities, so you could even go there for the day if you were staying in Madrid.

2. Toledo – Sorry no pic available for this one. This town makes the perfect day trip from Madrid as the journey takes one hour by car. You can get there via bus or train and if you are on an organized tour of Spain, you’ll likely be stopping here. This was Spain’s first capital city and here there is a museum dedicated to El Greco. The locals pronounce Toledo as To-leh-do, rather than Tol-ee-do. Be forewarned: bring comfortable walking shoes as the streets are cobble-stoned and hilly, so expect a lot of climbing.

3. Oviedo – No pic for this either. this city is located in Spain’s northern region of Asturias. The Asturias is one of the four regions that makes up Green Spain.  When you’re in this city, you feel like you’re in Ireland or Britain due to the climate and rugged hills. This is one city where you won’t be drinking beer or sangria; instead you’ll be delighting on its’ local drink – cider or sidra. This cider is different from any cider drinks you may have tasted in the past. You can barely taste the alcohol and it’s cheap – 3 euro a bottle. What is more interesting is when you order this, the servers pour the bottle into the glass with their arm raised above their heads, so you can see the drink cascade into the glass. What first attracted me to this city was its historical significance. The former Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco, spent part of his earlier life here. In fact, he met and married his wife in Oviedo and this is where is only daughter was born. Call me corny, but I was very interested in Franco.

0184. Córdoba – Located in Spain’s Andalusia, this is a smaller version of Seville in my opinion. It makes an ideal day trip from Seville since it takes 45 minutes to reach it by train. As you can see in the photo, it is known for the Mezquita, a former Moorish mosque. It is wonderful to see, and I recommend visiting it. Córdoba is a great way to experience Andalusia in a small city sense and the narrow, winding streets are perfect for getting lost in. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5. La Coruña – Known locally as A Coruña, this port city is located in Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia. This is where Spain meets the Atlantic and has a quaint promenade that runs along the shore. Though this city is not as popular with tourists as its’ neighbor Santiago de Compostela, it is still a great city visit. If you want to experience Spain, you have to go to the north. This city is similar to New England in the fact that it is a maritime city. One sight of note is the Torre de Hercules, which is one of Europe’s oldest light houses. Locals here speak their own distinct language, which is Galician – a mix of Spanish and Portuguese. Galicia actually borders Portugal and the language was once used in medieval Spanish literature. Like the Asturias, Galicia sees a lot more rainy and cooler days than those in the central and southern parts of the country. However, when the central and southern regions of Spain are baking in the summer heat, La Coruña is usually 15 degrees or 59 Fahrenheit. 

Categories: My Travels | Tags: , , , ,

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