Part 3 of Tiffany Dixon’s (Candidate- M.Ed. Languages) travel journal continues. In her third week studying abroad in Trujillo, Spain, Tiffany finds her normally gregarious nature tested by conducting interviews in Spanish with strangers, and she travels to some amazing historical sites from Spain’s Moorish Period in Andalusia— plus, she sees an authentic flamenco show and goes sunbathing on a Mediterranean beach! If you haven’t already, visit Parts 1 and 2 to catch up with her travels, and then read on:
This week I was continuing with my interviews for my research project, which were going very well. Starting out, I considered myself to be a very social person. However, I quickly realized that this project was a test of my social skills. It was a bit overwhelming at first to approach total strangers and ask them to participate in the interview (something they probably did not want to do) in my second language without making them feel uncomfortable or frightened of a total stranger approaching them on the street. The people in Trujillo were very friendly and were very much aware that students came to their town to study; conducting interviews in larger cities we visited proved a bit more challenging. In Trujillo, I had the most success in finding interviewees in the Plaza Mayor and the park near my neighborhood where mothers would bring their children to play after the siesta. Of course, Tommy La Tortuguita came too!
By the end of the week we were heading to Andalusia, the southernmost autonomous region in Spain.
We made our first stop in the city of Córdoba where we visited the Mezquita, a Muslim mosque that was later conquered by Christian kings. However, the beauty of this mosque was recognized by the Spanish Christian kings who, instead of destroying the mosque completely, added on to this great structure. Therefore, we saw several mosques used for worshiping and Christian altars right next to each other. Córdoba is a very unique city because throughout history it has been the place where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together for many years in peace. Thus, it was also very common to see mosques, temples, and churches right near each other. The Muslim architecture in this mosque featured los arcos de herradura or horseshoe arches, made from limestone and brick in order to support heat expansion, and elaborately decorated walls and ceilings. This type of architecture is unadorned by the human image as this type of decoration is
forbidden in the Islamic faith.
After leaving the Mezquita we ventured down to the Calle de flores or Flower Street. The people who live on this street fill their flower boxes with the most colorful and beautiful flowers that flow down the entire street. The gift shops in this area sold merchandise with pictures of this street or items that smelled like the flowers.
In Granada the next day, we toured La Alhambra (literally, the red fort), which was a grand palace and fortress for Muslim warriors that included an advanced irrigation system and many gorgeous gardens. Just to give you an idea of how large this palace is, we toured for four hours and still did not see all of this splendid structure!
That night we went to a flamenco show! The women were dressed in traditional flowing dresses with many ruffles, their hair adorned with flowers, and high heels. The men wore simple pressed shirts, trousers, and dress shoes or boots with heels. They told stories and produced beautiful music of love, tragedy, joy, and pain with only a guitar, one to two singers, the clapping of their hands, and very intricate steps that they executed so effortlessly that it seemed they were simply stomping of their feet.
After leaving Granada we headed to the coast of Andalusia to Mata las cañas, one of the many beaches in Spain. Here we enjoyed the sunshine, the Mediterranean Sea, and delicious food at some of the restaurants on the beach. I was not as brave as the others but several students also enjoyed jumping off of the rock there and into the ocean. Many came up from the water with bad cuts and bruises but said it was well worth it.
For our final stop in Andalusia we visited Sevilla where we visited the largest cathedral in Spain. Many say that cathedrals are to Spain what skyscrapers are to New York. There are plenty, but their size and beauty are amazing. These cathedrals were often built by several generations of people over several hundred years. In this chapel the coffin said to be holding the remains of Christopher Columbus is held by statues of the Kings of Castilla, León, Aragón, and Navarra, all old provinces of Spain. Many people dispute the final resting place of Columbus’s remains as they were transported all over the Americas, Portugal, Italy, and Spain before they were said to have made it to this cathedral. It was an absolutely incredible experience to have possibly been in the presence of the remains of one of the discoverers of America.