El Torre Ieronymus

wet tiled floor on the top of Cathedral in Salamanca

people sheltering in archway on top of cathedral

Wet! Cold! We made it up the Torre Ieronymus this afternoon and just as we got to the top, the heavens opened, thunder cracked and lightning flashed  – very biblical!   It was also very exciting, but it did mean that we got very wet and we didn’t get the great view of the landscape that we had
expected!  We got glimpses through the lashing rain as we dashed across the slippery tiled floor to the shelter of the next archway.  I managed to snatch a couple of shots as we huddled against the arches …. atmospheric!   We were also lucky enough to enjoy the amazing sound of the choir wafting up from the choir stalls as we stood in the gallery high up in the cathedral.

cathedral archesClasses were interesting today; I got most of my language homework correct after spending a good hour agonising over it last night.  I think I got the grasp of it but still need more time to think before being able to produce it in general conversation, off the cuff!  Next week promises more practice and work on the subjunctive so homework this weekend is to learn verb forms and tenses.  Aargh!
terracotta roof tilesHistory is getting better and better; it really is interesting and although Concha still shouts and rattles away “sin parar” we are learning to interrupt every now and again and ask for clarification to break the flow.  I am also understanding more.  The stories she has to tell about her “abuelo” and his experiences during the Civil War and Franco’s regimes are fascinating.  He was a Republican in a Nationalist regime in a city that was loyal to Franco.  He was sent to Africa and imprisoned.  He was released and on his return to Spain all his money was confiscated, he was not allowed to work.  He had been a teacher.  Fortunately, his wife had some money so they were not destitute and eventually he retrained as a lawyer whilst also doing some personal tutoring.  It seems that his wife’s connections kept him “safe” as many other people with the same political ideology were never released or had no opportunity to rebuild their lives.
detail of window on cathedralI am looking forward to next week.  Our Literature class is also great.  I love discussing Inclan’s play “Luces de Bohemia”.  Today we worked in small groups to answer some questions Antonio had set which gave us the opportunity to split up and share ideas and language with other students.  We all learned a lot more especially since the other students are really willing to help us and explain some of the background to the literature.  The History class is also giving the literature some context as this play comments on the social and political and literary situation of the day.
spouts on cathedral roof overflowing with waterLast class with Pilar today – no change in her manner but we did manage to get lots of good inter-cultural language and social context which was great.

Un dia en la Universidad de Salamanca

exercise book showing work done by studentWednesday saw us back to school again! Me encantan mis clases y creo que estoy aprendiendo mucho. My first class with Isabela is great; we have plenty of opportunity to interact and converse and there is freedom to produce language within the context of the grammar that allows for some imagination and interesting vocabulary emerges!  The range of nationalities in my class, I think, accounts for some of that variety as do the different personalities and cultural differences. There is a young Japanese man who has a very quirky sense of humour and some of the suggestions he makes are rather bizarre! It certainly leads to some hilarity and discussion about culture and language which is all in Spanish.
History was better today although Concha still talks like a train rattling down a track and probably just as loud!  However, I can cope with the constant talking as she is clear and the content is really interesting although it would be good to have a few minutes to process what she has said every now and again.  It is still the loudness of her voice that assaults my ears and wears me out!
Literature is hard but I love it.  We have joined a class half way through a course and it seems to be at quite a high level certainly as far as language competence goes.  The students have mostly been here for six months or so and so we feel that we are at a bit of a disadvantage both linguistically and in terms of subject matter.  However, Antonio, our teacher is really good. The classes are well-organised and there is plenty of opportunity to discuss in small groups. He uses a range of resources; youtube clips, songs, videos and ppts.
We finished off the love poems today – Frederico Garcia Lorca – Boda de Sangre

and a poem by Miguel Hernandez who wrote from his prison cell during the Spanish Civil War to his wife who was expecting their baby. I found this poem incredibly sad but others saw hope in it that his unborn child would see the freedom that he had been fighting for but would never see.
Menos tu vientre,
todo es confuso.
Menos tu vientre,
todo es futuro,
fugaz, pasado
baldío, turbio.
Menos tu vientre,
todo es oculto.
Menos tu vientre,
todo inseguro,
todo postrero,
polvo sin mundo.
Menos tu vientre
todo es oscuro.
Menos tu vientre
claro y profundo.

We have now started looking at “La Generacion del “98” and Ramon Maria del Valle Inclan.  Not an author I have ever heard of but apparently he is a key writer in Spanish Literature.  Just having had our history lesson helped to put the writing into context, especially for the love poems of Lorca and Hernandez.  1898 was a turning point in Spanish history as it was when Spain “lost” it’s colonies and led to a huge shift in people’s thinking.  At first reading Inclan’s work “Luces de Bohemia” reminds me of Samuel Beckett‘s “En attendant Godot” or the Theatre of the Absurd writers such as Ionesco or Brecht.  We will see….
University of SalamancaWhat else did we do today?  No Pilar today, thankfully but we had a visit to the Montessori school in Salamanca.  Interesting but a little disappointing – we would have liked to have seen a state school rather than a “Colegio concertado” which I suspect bears little resemblance to how schools work generally in Spain.  Los Colegios Concertados are the equivalents of Integrated Schools in NZ and so have the advantage of additional funding and a greater degree of autonomy.  There appeared to be quite a lot of “trumpet blowing” which I guess is to be expected, but the visit to the classrooms that we had all been looking forward to, was a bit of  a farce;  8 NZ teachers lined up in front of a class, then the kids were told to carry on as normal!  As you can imagine, that didn’t happen – embarrassment, awkwardness, they didn’t know what to do and neither did we!  We ended up asking them some questions about how they learned and one or two very articulate students responded in excellent English and then we were filed out again.  Total time in class 10 minutes.  It was interesting to see that despite my understanding that Montessori schools promote a relatively free and relaxed way of exploratory learning, these students were arranged in rows in single desks, no decoration on the walls, text books on desks and the lesson appeared to be teacher led.
students in a school sitting in rowsWe were given a presentation, too long, too fast, as I said, lots of trumpet blowing and largely uninteresting – most of what they are doing is what we already do in NZ.  Having said that I think the Primary teachers saw a slightly different picture and in order to promote the learning of English, subjects like Art and Music are taught in English.   Nevertheless we did get a useful table showing how the school system in Spain is organised.
playground in Spanish inner city school,  Sand and trees
One of our observations was that there was no green in the school at all – the playground was sandy – no grass – which seemed quite sad to us given the amount of grass even in inner city schools in NZ.
New Zealand Teachers at a bar in Salamanca, SpainWe have found a small bar away fromthe Plaza Mayor; Toro 70 is a small, “real” bar where we have now become “locals”.  Prices are much cheaper than in the touristy Plaza Mayor and it is in a quieter lane off the main shopping area.  We have also become regulars at a small cafe in La Plaza Mayor for early morning coffee before classes.  The owner of El Escudo welcomed us on the second morning with “un cafe solo y dos cafes con leche” on the bar almost before we ordered them!  What service!
Oh, and I did quite a lot of shopping today ……. cold spell due and I had no shoes!