Name: Bryce Tyler de Venecia
Location of Study: Toledo, Spain
Program of Study: Fundacion Jose Ortega y Gasset – Toledo
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising junior at the University studying biology and Spanish. After graduation, I intend to apply to medical school. I was born in San Diego, but at a very young age, moved to Denver, so I have always considered Colorado my home. I attended Cherry Creek High School where I was a varsity swimmer for all four years. Currently, I am on the Notre Dame Men’s Rowing Team and enjoy competing for the University, hopefully I can find a club to train with in Spain. One of my favorite things about the University is the Spanish mass offered every Sunday in Dillon Hall. I cannot wait to attend mass in the historic churches of Toledo.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
Despite having studied Spanish for nine years, I have yet to use my skills extensively outside of the classroom environment. When I volunteered in the Emergency Department and English Learning Acquisition Program during my high school years, I had brief encounters with patients and students with whom I was able to converse in Spanish. I have always dreamed of traveling to a Spanish speaking country. The SLA grant helped me realize this dream as I study abroad in Toledo, Spain this summer. I intend to travel to South America later in my college and professional career, so I feel blessed that I will be able to experience the peninsular culture to establish the cultural and historic background of the Americas.
As a doctor, it is quintessential that the patient understands the doctor in full, so with the Hispanic population rising in the United States, Spanish will be an important language to know so that I can better understand and comprehend the patient. Additionally, I wish to devote my time as a doctor to the impoverished people of South America by providing access to affordable healthcare. Since I visited my grandfather in the Philippines at his Free Rural Eye Clinic and saw the positive changes that come out of such programs, I knew that my calling was to follow in my grandfather’s work by helping the people South America. A simple disease that is considered a nuisance here in the United States can spell death for a person in an impoverished nation. Diseases also are economic drains that keep the impoverished in their economic situation for longer. I wish to help the people break the cycle of poverty by giving my time and medical experience.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
Through the grant, I will greatly improve my Spanish speaking skills by studying at the Fundación and obtain a better understanding of the Spanish culture by living with a host family and travelling to as many parts of Spain as possible. With the host family, I will be able to learn much more about the Spanish culture from day to day conversations in Spanish than any text book will ever teach me. Additionally, I will be able to expand my pallet by tasting a wide variety of food from Spain that I will be able to cook when I return to the United States.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- By the end of the summer, I will be able to understand the cultural approach to medicine outside of the United States.
- By the end of the summer, my Spanish language will be greatly improved.
- By the end of the summer, I will have traveled to Pamplona to run with the bulls.
- By the end of the summer, I will have been inspired spiritually by the history of the churches in Spain and the work of el Greco’s.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
With the exception of this blog, I intend to not speak or write a single word in English. This will help me take advantage of the short amount of time that I have here in Spain. Since I will be living with a family, I will not have the temptation to speaking in English like my fellow students in the dorms. I intend to be enrolled in an “intercambios” program where I will be paired up with a student of Toledo that is my age to learn some more Spanish and to teach him/her English. Lastly, I will be involved in an internship this summer that will expose me to the medical field here in Spain. I will be working in a geriatrics physical therapy clinic for recuperation after surgeries and injuries.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
For just arriving in Toledo this week, it has been quite a whirlwind of activity. Every time I think I have seen Toledo in all of its majesty, I round another corner and am greeted with another fantastic spectacle.
I am currently enrolled in the Fundación de José Orgeta y Gasset which is an intensive immersive program that will help me improve my Spanish over the next six weeks. The building is a converted covenant because Toledo used to be the city of covenants in the 1500´s. There still exist many cloistered covenants within the walls of the old city. I had the option to live in the dorms of the Fundación, but I opted instead to live with a host family since I thought that this would allow me to truly experience the culture and learn the language. I was not disappointed. My host mother, Pilar, has been wonderful and I have already learned so much from her. Her only fault is that she enjoys having me there too much, she is always cooking me the most fantastic foods. This is one part of the Spanish culture that took me quite a while to become accustomed to, the eating schedule. Here in Spain, they do not eat very much for breakfast which is usually around 9 to 10. I wake up and eat pan tostado (toasted bread) with olive oil sprinkled on top and a cup of tea. It is not until 2:00 PM that my host mother even starts to cook lunch, so my stomach is usually roaring at this point. However, hunger is the best spice and the lunch is definitely worth the wait. She has cooked me wonderful meals such as tortilla (made from potatoes), tortilla francesa (an omelet like dish), delicious fish, savory pork, and arroz con ajo (garlic rice). I made the mistake of saying that I love flan, so the next day when I opened the refrigerator, I found myself staring a three flans from the local sweet and dessert shop. If I were not swimming and exercising daily, I would gain quite a few pounds upon returning to the United States. To show my appreciation for all she had made for me thus far, I showed her how to prepare chicken adobo, a Filipino dish that is very common in my kitchen at home.
At the Fundación, I am taking two classes worth six credits towards my Notre Dame education: Art and Poetry in times of War and Revolution and a Practical Application Course. This weekend, I am going to visit the famous Prada Museum in Madrid for my Art and Poetry course. I cannot wait to see all of the famous artwork by Velasquez and Goya that I have heard about since I first started studying Spanish. My all-time favorite artist, however, is El Greco. As luck was to have it, I arrived in 2014, 400 years after the death of the beloved painter. El Greco lived a large portion of his life here in Toledo, so a large portion of his artwork is here. I intend to enjoy every one of his paintings during my time here. I am equally as excited for the Practical Application Course as it enrolls me in an internship within the city of Toledo. I will be working in the Residencia de Mayores where I will be working with nurses and physical therapists in recuperation after surgery and injuries. It will be fantastic to have experience in the medical field here. I look forward to talking with the patients, hearing all of the stories they have to offer me and giving me a window into the past.
I arrived in Toledo five days before the most elaborate festivals of the year, the Corpus Christi. The celebration was incredible and the whole city exploded with life as every street was decorated with banners and flowers. The day of the festival, the streets were strewn with all types of dried herbs, so the whole city smelled like a freshly brewed cup of tea. I took a tour of the city with my fellow students and learned that this procession has been a tradition of Toledo since the 1500’s. The tour ended just in time for me to catch a glimpse of the procession and, running ahead, I witnessed the blessing of the tabernacle and the body of Christ by a cardinal in the main square, Plaza de Zocodover. All around it was an awesome and spiritually uplifting sight to see.
Since Corpus Christi is such a big event here in Toledo, there were large scale events hosted by the city all week long. One of these events was the classic cultural event of the Bull Fight. In the Plaza de los Torros, I was able to witnesses the bloody dance between man and beast with the locals of Toledo and other Spaniards that had made the pilgrimage to Toledo for the festivals. One of the matadors in the ring was only 14 years old and already quite famous for his bullfighting skills in the country. I know that when I was 14 I would not have had the courage or the coordination to face down the daunting horns of the bull. One of the most entertaining parts of the bullfight was the pomp of the matadors. With a live band providing the foundation, the matador, in his vibrant outfit, seemed to glide across the dusty floor. With carefully placed steps, he would entice and anger the bull for half a minute before strutting away to feed off of the cheers of the crowd. The extent of their pride made me laugh, but they definitely were skilled enough to merit their ego.
This weekend, I plan on visiting Madrid to visit some of the museums such as the Prado and the Museum of Reina Sofia to see some works like “Las Meninas” and “Guernica”. I have been excited to see these works of art since I started learning Spanish in high school and my teacher taught me their cultural and artistic depth.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
This past weekend, I went on an excursion with the Fundación to Madrid and decided to stay the next day to explore the city a little more with some of my newfound friends. Fortunately, Toledo is only an hour drive from Madrid, so we did not spend too much time traveling. That is one thing that I enjoy here in Europe. There can be such a dynamic change in culture and climate in such a short travel time. The people here notice that fact too. Everyone I talk to asks immediately how long it takes to get from coast to coast once they find out that I am from the United States. When we got to Madrid, we picked up a local tour guide to show us around the city via bus. After learning about the history of Madrid, we entered into one of the most famous museums Madrid has to offer, the Prado. Here, we were able to see a large portion of the Greco, Velasquez, and Goya’s paintings. There certainly is a large difference in the understanding of the power of a painting between seeing it on a computer screen and seeing it in person. First of all, there is the size of the painting. In Goya’s “The Third of May 1808”, I have only seen the painting on slide shows in my various Spanish classes throughout my studies in high school and at Notre Dame. I always imagined the painting to be relatively small, so I was very surprised when I rounded the corner and the Christ-like figure in the center of the painting was large and bright enough to light up the entire room. My favorite room, since I am very biased, was el Greco’s room. The colors he used to dress the various religious figures make them seem other worldly. The light green and red combination is my favorite of his, like the Goya painting, illuminates the room with its bold color. One of the art history professors at the Fundación, who came on the trip with us, noted that these paintings were originally meant to be viewed under candlelight where the robes have the illusion of movement. It is a shame I was unable to see this effect (I don’t think the Prado would risk the thousands of precious art pieces). Three hours in the Prado was not nearly sufficient enough, but that was all the time we had planned for the museum. Perhaps if I have a whole year I will be able to leisurely pace through the vast pieces of art. The Prado was the only thing planned for the excursion, but a large portion of the students from the Fundación decided to stay in Madrid for the weekend to experience the biggest city in Spain.
Madrid was a very globalized city: a Mecca for young tourists like our hostel-mates from Australia and Brazil given its fame for its discotecas and a destination for business people to cultivate their ideas around the fertile Iberian Peninsula. I met a wide variety of travelers in the hostel and was able to take a glimpse into their side of the world. For example, we discussed the World Cup with our Brazilian roommates who refused to watch the matches due to their discontent with the way the government is paying to host a game but not invest in the residents. I was able to chat with some natives from Madrid when some friends and I went to a local cafeteria to have a cup of coffee before bed. The next day, we decided to visit the Museum of Reina Sofia to see the famous Guernica piece by Picasso. Much like the Goya work the previous day, the weight of the Picasso painting was staggering. Guernica had a whole room to itself where it caught your attention and refused to let you go. The images were so gruesome and the painting so colorful despite only being painted in black and white. It was visible that this bombing in northern Spain had quite a profound impact on Picasso as the room following had at least another twenty paintings that were practice for the final piece. He did not want to miss a single emotion in the painting: loss, grief, confusion, rage, and finally hope that this will not happen again. After the museum, we visited the Parque del Buen Retiro where we were able to walk through vast gardens before relaxing with horchata in hand after a long day of walking.
This week, I started my first week of working at the Residencia de los Mayores. I am very excited to see what the rest of the summer is going to bring me while I work here. Within the first couple of days, I was able to work with the physical therapists, nurses, and doctors while still having time to sit down and talk with the residents. I know that this experience will greatly help me in learning the language because the residents talk so fast. It took me a while to grasp the speed at which they talk, but now I look forward every day to lunch where I can sit among them and ask them about their history. I have also been considering going into geriatric medicine, so I am learning a lot of terms in Spanish from the nurses and doctors that will undoubtedly be useful in my future career.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
This past week, I was able to visit El Escorial and Barcelona, allowing me to see a whole spectrum of church architecture, built across the ages. Of course, I already have a plethora of cathedrals and churches throughout the crooked streets of Toledo that have been wonderful places to attend mass. My first mass in Toledo, excluding the procession of Corpus Christi, was the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist and held entirely in Latin. This was the first mass I attended that was strictly spoken and sung in Latin. Although I do not know much Latin, Spanish is a romance language and derived from Latin, so I was able to sing along and know what verses the readings were from. This mass was held in the Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo, where the procession of Corpus Christi begins and ends. My next mass was in a smaller church just a couple of steps from the entrance to the Fundación. Even though it was smaller, the church was elaborately decorated with murals of the saints and Holy Family making it an impressive sight. The mass was provided over by a very energetic priest who, after realizing that my friend and I were not from Spain (it could have been the fact that I was the only one in there over 5’9”) proceeded talk to us for an hour. We now attend the daily mass that is at 8:00 PM, perfectly timed before dinner.
This weekend, the Fundación took us on an excursion to El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen, a half hour drive north from Madrid, to learn more about the political history of Spain. El Escorial is the Spanish monarchs’ old residence that now houses a monastery, a school, a basilica, and a museum. It is located at the foot of a mountain, so seeing a mountain was comforting as it reminded me of home (Denver, Colorado). Our luck never ceasing to run out, we happened to be in the Basilica of San Lorenzo when the closets containing the relics of the saints were open. There were so many relics of different shapes and sizes in glass containers or in ceramic pots that I was not able to find Saint Francis’ relic. None the less, it was the most beautiful part of the entire palace knowing that I was seeing the remains of the men and women who gave themselves completely to the Bible, often being martyred in the process. Coming in a close second is the library that is right across from the basilica or the el Greco painting, The Martyrdom of Saint Maurice, that once again steals the show with his explosive colors and nobly composed figures. During lunch and after the complete tour of El Escorial, my friends and I found a question concerning an integral part of the church that had us racking our brains for several days: what was the difference between a basilica, like the one we had just seen in El Escorial or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart back at Notre Dame, and a cathedral like the one in Toledo? It certainly is different here in Spain without a mobile plan, you cannot just whip out the iPhone and search Google for an answer to any question. Thus began a long conversation including various theories and insights from everyone around the table. Someone mentioned that the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Notre Dame was not always a basilica, so that gave us a clue that the church has to be nominated to have a significance to be elevated to a higher status. Since I did not have access to my computer and therefore internet until a couple of hours ago, we spent the whole rest of the weekend hypothesizing. Now we all know that a cathedral houses the cathedra of the bishop and that a basilica is designated by the Pope as being historically significant or housing a relic.
One thing I learned from my trip from Spain is the weight of the Civil War and the dictatorship of Franco that still is burdened today by the people. The Valley of the Fallen is a stark example of the time of Franco. This memorial was built by Franco to house the bodies of those who fought and died in the Civil War fighting for the dictatorship. Later, Franco added the bodies of those who had died fighting for the Republic as well as a publicity stunt. The memorial and the basilica were built by prisoners of the Franco regime. The architecture and artwork within the basilica, which is carved into the mountainside, carries archetypal fascist imagery which makes the whole place feel ghastly and dark. Behind the alter is the grave of Franco with fresh flowers, which surprised me.
The excursion ended and we were sent on our own to enjoy the weekend. I decided to take this weekend to go to Barcelona and see some of the great architecture and artwork that the city has to offer. Upon arriving in the city, after an eight hour bus ride through the night, I could taste the artistic spirit of the city on the air and witness the creativity by the buildings, not one of which had a similar façade. I spent the first day wondering the streets of Barcelona and ended up visiting a Museum of Catalan Art after enjoying a refreshing kiwi mango smoothie from the market just off of La Rambla. In front of the museum is the Fuente Mágica (Magic Fountain) which, indeed, was magic at night when the fountain puts on a water and lights show choreographed to classical music. I awoke the next day and turned 20 (I never thought I would have a birthday in Spain let alone in Barcelona)! I feel very blessed to turn such a pivotal age seeing some incredible sights. In the morning, we went to mass in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia where Antoni Gaudí is buried. After mass had ended, thanks again to my tall stature, the priest invited all of us who had not been to mass in the basilica before to come up to the alter to receive a blessing. Once mass had ended, the local people of Barcelona in the crypt with us struck up conversations and wished us safe travels with prayer cards and booklets describing the life of Gaudí. We then bought tickets to the Sagrada Familia, which is above the crypt, and in the time between buying the tickets and entering the basilica, I read about Gaudí and his life as “God’s Architect”. Learning about the life of Gaudí, who rejected fame and fortune to live a more humble and holy lifestyle, made me appreciate the surreal basilica even more, but still did not prepare me for the most beautiful stonework, elaborate designs, and breathtaking stained glass. The Sagrada Familia was, in my opinion, is the perfect tribute to the Holy Family as it provides a welcoming and elating place to pray after the shock of awe wears off from first witnessing the church (much like the shepherds were struck with fear and awe by the sight of the angels). I cannot wait to visit it again once it is finished in 2026 (that is the date the booklet gave us, but based on the amount of work they have to do to fulfill the model, I think it might take a bit longer). After the church, we continued the Gaudí trend by visiting Park Güell, which provided us with an amazing view of the city. Our final trip of the day was to the Picasso Museum. Even thought it was a very busy weekend, filled with sore feet and perplexed looks at maps (and cubist art), I left the city one year older with an elated spirit.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
I almost feel as though my time here in Spain is more chaotic than in Notre Dame, despite the daily siestas and not having class on Friday. By chaotic, of course, I mean that every day is filled with so much to see and do that I feel slightly overwhelmed. This fact will not deter me from attempting to fit in everything. My most tragic encounter has been with the public transportation system in Toledo. I can take two lines from Zocodover, the main plaza in the old city in Toledo, the 61 or the 62 to get to my host mother’s house in Poligono. I have almost figured out the schedule of the buses, but the schedule entirely depends on the bus driver. Usually I arrive at the bus station at 7:40 to catch the 8:00 bus, just because I am so paranoid about missing the bus. One time I barely missed the 61 so I went to the 62 bus stop where I saw the bus departing and chased it for over two blocks, but my efforts went unnoticed and I was forced to return dejected to the 61 bus stop.
I always look forward to my time at the Residencia. It is here that I am able to work very closely with Dr. Raul, a geriatric practitioner. He has been very kind to me and wants me to fully integrate in the Spanish medical system during my short six weeks here. This past week, he challenged me to diagnose a couple of his patients based on the information he had given me during the previous three weeks. Of course, he confirmed my diagnoses, but I believe that the close proximity I get every day with the patients and doctors have taught me more than I could ever learn from a book. Another great experience that I have in the Residencia is that I am able to participate in the treatment side of medicine that I would not normally have access to during my medical school training but nonetheless require an understanding as a doctor. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I work with either the physical therapists, Juan and Maria, or with an occupational therapist, Esmeralda. It is wonderful to learn so much about these two fields. Although I have yet to take an anatomy and physiology course, Juan and Maria are both very patient in teaching me the vocabulary for various muscle groups and joints in Spanish. Juan is trying hard to learn English, so our conversations are always him speaking English with me replying to him in Spanish.
I alternate my weeks with one week being with the physical therapists and the next with the occupational therapist. The brain is certainly a fascinating organ. It is the most powerful part of our body, responsible for integrating all of our bodily functions and for all of our greatest human accomplishments, but it is also very susceptible for damage. In occupational therapy, I work with Esmeralda to help the residents return to their independent lifestyle after strokes or while they deal with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or dementia. I currently study the nervous system in my laboratory in Notre Dame and plan on continuing to study the system in medical school. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with Esmeralda to attempt to improve the patient’s standards of living.
Despite all of the great work I am able to do with the professionals at the Residencia, I consider the greatest blessing of my time here is to be able to speak with all of the residents and learn about the history of Spain and of their individual lives. I just told them today that I have just over two weeks left. I have become very close with several of them throughout my time here and it makes me want to stay longer. They love talking with me and want to hear all about the United States (mostly how big it is) and even the travels I have taken within Spain. The residents inform me about all of their favorite and traditional foods that I must try before I leave.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
I currently write this entry with a dull pain in my left wrist but with elated spirits because I have just completed a weekend in Pamplona, surviving the famed San Fermin festivals and the running of the bulls. Despite my slight injury and a need to recover from my overnight bus trip, my trip to Pamplona will only bring up positive memories. Since it was one of my goals for this trip to be able to experience the San Fermin festival, I had the plans for bus travel all set the first week I got to Spain. On the bus ride, I met an American who had been teaching in Germany for the past five years that was willing to run with me (only one other friend of mine out of a group of twelve was willing to run). Unlike the majority of my travels, my trip to Pamplona could not include a hostel stay because many of the hostels within the city limits were booked months in advance. Therefore, the plan was to stay in Pamplona for 18 hours to see the festivities and return back to Toledo without having to sleep in the park (a common occurrence during the festivals).
For the run, the traditional dress is a white shirt and pants with a red sash tied around the waist and a red handkerchief tied around the neck. We descended from the bus dressed in all white. Right as we got off the bus we found several stores to buy the necessary red sash and handkerchief to complete the outfit. In the early morning hours, we found a chill that I had not experienced in Spain. Toledo can reach 100° and higher weather for days on end, only cooling down to about 85° during the night. In Pamplona, the streets were slightly slick from the previous night’s rainfall and the grey sheet above us provided necessary reprieve from weeks of heat, but it threatened to rain, potentially endangering the run. We had to rush from the bus station to the heart of Pamplona, but fortunately, it was only a ten minute walk given the small size of the city. Once we had made it to the streets where the encierro (the running of the bulls) was to occur and the adrenaline started pumping through my body, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I must admit I had one or two moments of second guessing my decisions with less than two minutes to go before the encierro. I am glad, however, that I stayed in the streets because it was the most exhilarating moment of my life.
A firework went off to signal the release of the bulls from their corral and to prompt the runners to run for their lives. In the chaos and the mass of bodies, my mind turned off with only two thoughts running through my mind: stay away from the horns and make it to the Plaza de Toros where I was to meet up with my friends. Fortunately, I succeeded in the first goal even though the bulls ran less than two feet away from me, but I was pushed down by another runner ten feet away from the gates of the Plaza. It was this fall on the cobblestone streets that injured my wrist. The city of Pamplona has been tightening restrictions over the years to ensure that less people get injured every year, so when I fell, I rolled under the fence and was quickly treated by a Red Cross nurse. She suggested that I did not go into the Plaza after my fall, but after I showed her that my injuries were not grave at all, I was allowed to enter the Plaza. I met up with my fellow runners that I lost when I fell and we took the obligatory Facebook pictures when suddenly there was a bull in the background of one of the photos. This was perhaps my favorite part of the encierro. After the larger bulls for the fights are safely in the Plaza quarters, the city releases one year old bulls with blunted horns into the ring to allow the runners to have more adrenaline encounters. On the fourth and final bull, I finally built up enough courage to confront the bull. When the bull turned around and looked me in the eyes, and knowing there was no escape, I extended my healthy hand out in front and grabbed the young bull by its horn.
After the running, we wandered the city until the corridas (the bullfights). Much of the city was closed down because of the festivities, the only exception being food stores and souvenir shops. The corridas were not as good as the ones I saw for the Corpus Christi celebrations in Toledo. One of the toreros tried six times to make the striking blow with his sword but failed every time until his seventh attempt. The hospitality of the Spaniards really shown through during this corrida as groups of Spaniards around us would strike up conversation and offer us the food and drink they had brought to the spectacle, so there was no need to pursue dinner afterwards.
As a little reward for myself for surviving the running of the bulls, I bought myself the book by Ernest Hemingway that made the festival so famous. The title in English is The Sun Also Rises, so when I went into the Hoja Blanca, a bookstore sheltered behind the cathedral in Toledo, expecting to find a title similar to that in English. After twenty minutes of combing the shelves for the literal translation of the title and asking for the help of the store owner, I finally decided to open up a book by Hemingway titled Fiesta, and, by reading the biography of Hemingway in the first couple of pages, discover the translated title of the book. Coincidentally, I was holding the book in my hands since Hemingway decided to change the title from Fiesta to The Sun Also Rises because he believed that his American audience would not be able to associate the title with the San Fermin celebrations. I am actually pleasantly surprised to see how much my Spanish has improved during these couple of weeks as I am able to read the book with as much fluidity as if it were written in English.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
I cannot believe how quickly my time here has passed. When I first came here, I thought to myself that six weeks would be sufficient amount of time to spend in Spain. Now with the last weekend coming to a close and finals ahead of me, I realize that I have so much more to accomplish in Spain. The best opportunity I could have gained from this trip is that I now have a home in Toledo, so that when I return (hopefully in the next couple of years), I will have a place to stay with a flavorful plate of rabo de toro or paella. This trip also gave me a defined plan of how I want to spend my time the next time I am in Spain.
This past weekend, I decided to remain in Toledo. I am running low on funds and did not really plan a trip in advance with my peers. Fortunately, a large majority of them decided to stay in the city too. I am very glad I had this opportunity to casually stroll around the city because, even though I am living in Toledo this summer, I often find myself in a “to and from” mindset instead of simply taking in the beauty of this ancient city. Toledo certainly is a city that is unrivaled. With narrow cobblestone streets passing in and out of towering buildings, it is easy to lose yourself to the past. Stores that are built on top of Roman ruins have a window in the floor to ensure that every customer appreciates the history of the city. One night, my friends and I climbed a rock that overlooked the city. We had brought Spanish tortilla (not anything similar to a Mexican tortilla, this one is made out of eggs and potatoes), cherries, and bocadilla essentials (bread, Iberian ham, and brie cheese) to picnic on the outcropping. It was the best way to celebrate before finals. After the sun had set in a splash of pinks and purples, the lights of the city slowly flicked on one by one until the ground was blanketed with stars.
We were quite lucky with our timing of our weekend stay in Toledo since, there was a large festival honoring the art of el Greco. This festival is an annual festival (not like “El año del Greco” since it marked the 400th anniversary of his death) that mimics the life and time of el Greco through a series of medieval fairs. Just when I had thought I had experienced all of Spanish cuisine, I was confronted with a whole range of amazing foods at the fair. The medieval fair made Toledo seem even older as I would walk through the streets and find tented stands instead of the modern day shops. The antiquity of Toledo was strongly contrasted with the crown jewel of the festivals, the Lux Greco. The Lux Greco is a light and sound show that is cast upon one of Toledo’s famous landmarks. The show was possibly one of the most surreal and beautiful assortment of lights I had ever seen. I would highly suggest looking up a video of the light show on YouTube since it is hard to describe in words how the light makes a moving canvas out of the building. This year, they projected the light show onto the cathedral. The cathedral once houses one of the biggest bells in the world. When it was first rung in the bell tower of the cathedral, it was said to have been so powerful that all the glass in Toledo broke, many people in the surrounding neighborhoods went deaf, and that the tolling of the bell was heard from Madrid (a 50 minute drive away). Therefore, for obvious reasons, the bell was decommissioned. The Lux Greco show had a very powerful display of this event as the play on light and darkness in the show allowed for the bell to toll three times before the entire cathedral came crumbling down.
It will be very tough to say goodbye to all of the people I have met here in my time in Spain. I have become very attached to all of the residents in the nursing home where I have been working as I heard throughout the weeks about the pains and joys of their life. They have taught me so much and have helped me improve my Spanish more that I could have ever imagined. Additionally, I will miss all of the staff and residents at the Residencia, who allowed me to have a truly immersive experience that applies to my future as a doctor by showing me the Spanish health care system. Lastly, I will greatly miss my host family. They have been so kind to me over the weeks, I will find it very hard to repay them for all they have taught and gave to me. Today, my host mom made me the famous paella and, quite frankly, it was delicious (I still think rabo del toro takes the cake for the best food here).
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: