a lot. ❤ u Luna aka lunietoons
a lot. ❤ u Luna aka lunietoons
By tomorrow I should have 2 stories done. I’m feeling surprisingly calm even though my linguistics culture piece is only about 75% complete in terms of sources. I need an author, graphic designer and tour guide to speak to me about Salamanca font historically and culturally. The great part about this story is that I am so interested in it, so I really want to get in touch with these people just so that I can learn more about it.
Yesterday was pretty frustrating… the graphic design place didn’t answer their door so Danny and I left them a note to call me, no one did. We got lost trying to find a tattoo parlor to interview after that… but luckily Maria pointed me to another one later that night. I was hoping that the tattoo artists would tell me that students come in to get the Vitor symbol or the Salamanca font tattooed all the time, but instead they said that other symbols related to Salamanca like the frog were much more popular. I’m hoping that this woman who has a Vitor symbol tattoo gets back to me soon with a photo. I really really want this story to work out because I think it is so interesting. I also would love to have 2 stories completed before Madrid so I can start focusing on a bigger 3rd piece.
The bullfighter profile will be done later today. At 11am we are going to interview the fighter’s brother and manager to get some quotes about how he is as a fighter… what makes him unique and particularly skilled in comparison to other young fighters. I can’t wait to get this piece done.
Once these sources come through and I have all the quotes I need, the rest of today will be pluggin’ and chuggin’, my friends, pluggin’ and chuggin’.
I’m feeling a little anxious. We leave for Madrid in less than a week which means I need to get both of my Salamancan-based stories done before Tuesday. I’m making good progress I think, but finding sources today was a challenge. I got probably two or three useful sources, but the others were pretty unsuccessful. I had a blast exploring the city by myself. I walked around an open air market on my way back to the school and found a woman selling crystals. I like to carry a few crystals around with me wherever I go, so it was comforting to find some today. I didn’t buy anything, but it was still nice to be around the energies and feel connected to the earth for a bit… it made me feel a little less anxious.
Our host mother had our clean clothes laid out on our beds when we arrived home for dinner. She is the absolute sweetest, I feel so lucky to feel right at home even in a foreign country.
The other day we visited the University of Salamanca and I forgot to blog pictures from our tour… so here they are now! It was so beautiful and had so much history. The oldest classroom in the University had probably around 15 rows of long, thick wooden benches attached to long wooden desks that were so old they looked like hefty tree trunks. At the front of a classroom stood a podium straight out of Hogwarts… this professor definitely taught there at some point in his life:
The movie Eyes Wide Shut came to mind when we entered this particular room, which makes sense considering Salamanca is apparently a refuge for sexual deviants according to a local girl that Emily talked to. Seriously, though, I’m thinking some weird stuff definitely happened in this room:
Maybe it’s just the shade of red, but come on… can’t you see this guy sitting in one of those chairs? Creeped me out.
A story I’m working on discusses the history of Salamanca’s unique font, which after talking to an expert today may have connections to the occult. (cough, Eyes Wide Shut, cough) The style is unique to Salamanca and originated within the University. The first symbols and words were written in bull’s blood. Spooky, spooky!
A modern example of the font, not written in blood:
I am so intrigued by the mystery surrounding the University and can’t wait to learn more about it for my article. Fingers crossed that I’ll get some good sources tomorrow.
The first bullfight was tough to watch. I’m usually good with blood… the more violent the horror movie the better, in my opinion. I expected my reaction to the climax of each bullfight last night would be indifferent. I went into the arena understanding the skill, pride and tradition that comes with bullfighting. I understood the reverence… brutality and cruelty seemed like a non-issue. I was there to report objectively, to analyze the bullfighter through the eyes of regular spectators. I had no idea that the first kill would leave me nauseous and teary-eyed.
A man sitting behind me dressed in his “Sunday best” noticed my scribble-filled reporter’s notebook and tapped my shoulder. “Todo bien? Todo bien?” was what I could understand from his question. He wanted to know if I was exposing the bullfight… if I was shining a negative light on such an old tradition which I, as an American tourist, simply could not totally comprehend or relate to. Through the eyes of the unfamiliar American, he, like the rest of the spectators, had paid for seats to see trained killers tease and defeat their prey. Through the eyes of the Spaniard, however, el toro is secondary in importance… the fight is all about the matador. They aren’t thinking about the bull. Of course there were times when a woman behind me would say “que malo, que malo” as blood spurt and splattered from the bull’s mouth, but the majority of the crowd’s reactions were words of praise for the tactful fighter.
The matador arched his back, fist thrust upward and head held high. The crowd roared in response. The pride and adrenaline that comes with bullfighting must be addictive. Each step was calculated, the pace metered and reactive. Dylan turned to me and said “like a cartoon villain”… a perfect description. A professional villain, how curious.
The first fight was devastatingly horrific. The next 5 killings were easier to stomach. The process is ceremonial, a man on a blindfolded horse emerges and spears the bull first, digging forcefully into the flesh as the blood trails down the bull’s side in response. Other matadors run around the arena thrusting colorful yarn-covered, speared batons into the bull’s back, the tassled ends bouncing as the bull angrily prances around in the sand. When the main matador enters the ring, he makes the arena his stage. It is an art, a performance, he wants to give the crowd their money’s worth. I was intrigued, captivated. I couldn’t believe that something so brutal could be so highly praised. I couldn’t understand why spectators cheered and gave a standing ovation as three horses carried the dead, blood-covered bull out of the arena at the end of the fight. It took me awhile to understand the tact and skill involved in the process, but when I did, it clicked. I was clapping in reaction to certain “good” stabs, I was clapping after the matador made a skillful wave of his persuasive flag, teasing his prey. It was like a horse race, wrestling match, and a scene from Fight Club rolled into one.
This morning I interviewed a retired matador who now teaches 90 students in Salamanca’s bullfighting school. He started training when he was 14 years old, his family lived on a farm that raised bulls for the fights. He was charismatic, charming… the perfect candidate for this sport. He will be a candidate for the profile I want to write. I am so excited to pick the brains behind the brutality, to understand the tact and how bullfighters train to kill.
Last night was a blast. We had our own bar crawl through four different bars around Salamanca. Delicious tapas were accompanied by wine, sangria and beer… by the end of the crawl we were all giggles and smiles. I took probably way too many selfies last night, including this one underneath a bicycle ceiling:
After Carlene, Maria and Ramon (el jefe of our school) decided to call it a night after the last bar, the rest of us went out for awhile longer. We stumbled upon a Futurama-themed bar that played American music and felt right at home. More selfies to illustrate the scene:
We met a couple of promoters in the Plaza after we left the Futurama bar and they took us to a place which was a bit closer to where Carly and I live. The bartender was a super cute Spaniard who spoke English so I was pretty content even though the bar was basically empty. We got home really late… thankfully Carlene started class a little later this morning or else I would have been exhausted and dehydrated from all the vino.
This afternoon I went with Gina to the bullfighting museum to see if I could speak to anyone about a profile I am working on about a bullfighter or trainer. A man named Pablo pointed me to La Diputacion de Salamanca to talk to some administrators of the bullfighting school who might be able to coordinate an interview with a bullfighter or trainer. A very helpful woman named Jesus at La Diputacion’s information desk told me that an administrator would call me once they returned from lunch, and about 45 minutes later they did! I am going back on Monday to talk to somebody, fingers crossed an interview comes out of our conversation. I was extremely nervous over the phone, but I think meeting in person on Monday will be more comfortable and I’ll be able to use my Spanish correctly and confidently.
I have two Skype interviews on Monday and Tuesday for co-op positions, both at 10pm… and my deadline for this profile will likely fall a day or so later. Next week will be nerve-racking, but I’m trying to stay positive because so much good can and will come out of each challenge no matter the outcome. In about a half an hour we will be attending a flamenco class, stay tuned!
After a delicious dinner at home, Carly and I walked to meet up with other friends at La Plaza. A group of young a cappella singers were singing this song in the middle of the square. A perfect end to a great day.
I woke up this morning about 15 minutes before my alarm rang at 7:45am from a horrible nightmare about my 15 year old brother. Being the superstitious, worried sister that I am, I figured it was a bad omen. I am absolutely one to let something like that hang over my head, so I laid in bed for awhile longer and took some deep breaths. After all, the energies you put into the universe inevitably come right back to you… so I wanted to flip-flop my negativity in order to get the most out of my first day of classes in Spain. Satur helped switch the mood. “Hijas! Hijas!” she exclaimed, begging us to chow down on some toast, jam and butter before throwing our backpacks over our shoulders and heading out the door.
Just a bit of coffee and I was feeling better. Despite missing my brother and wishing I could call and make sure he was safe, I was able to focus on Arturo’s orientation. He talked to us about safety, manners, the history and geography of Spain… basically everything we would have to know moving forward. An interesting note: shoes must be worn at all times when at home… pretty much the opposite of US manners. Also, I will no longer take a purse out on the town, and now I know some of the tricks of the trade when I cross paths with suspicious gypsies or expert pick pocketers.
We were welcomed to the city by Salamanca’s head of tourism who gave a speech and let us lout onto the balcony of City Hall which overlooks the Plaza Mayor. City Hall is a palace. The Plaza Mayor is gorgeous.
A bit of a roadblock happened later in the day when a classmate and I wanted to pitch the same news story to Carlene. At first, I was nervous and frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to write about what I really was interested in. I figured the omen from earlier that morning was baring its teeth. Communication, as always, solved everything. We came to a conclusion that will hopefully pan out really well for our first story. Everyone on this trip is truly in it together, we all want to succeed and we all want to see each other succeed. It’s so refreshing to know that I am surrounded by mature, driven adults who are approaching this program with a professional goal.
Carly and I are sitting in our room blogging right now, waiting for 10:15pm to roll around so we can meet the rest of the group for ice cream in the Plaza! Hasta Luego!
At around 10am we arrived in Salamanca and were ready to meet our host families. My roommate Carly Metz and I were introduced to our Salamancan madre, Saturnina Bravo Inestal. Her infectious joy gave me immediate comfort and as she quickly referred to Carly and I as her ¨niñas¨ I knew that Satur would be a caring and compassionate temporary madre.
Satur´s house is a long hallway with rooms branching off of it. Carly and I are staying in a shared bedroom at the end of the hall, next to the living room/dining room. Satur and her husband, Francisco, share a bedroom next to the front door. Two bathrooms and a kitchen separate their bedroom from ours.
After a long siesta, Satur fed us pasta carbonara and walked us to the school we will be attending for two weeks. We met up with the rest of our group (there are about 16 of us total) and were introduced to Maria, our trip coordinator for Salamanca. Maria took us on a tour of the small city of about 165,000 residents. The narrow, cobblestone streets reminded me of Pescopagano or Siena, small Italian towns I visited with my family a few summers ago. Young street performers danced and chanted while Maria showed us Salamanca´s New Cathedral. The Cathedral´s gothic architecture captures the antique essence of the small city, and the yellow coloring reflects Salamanca´s nickname ¨The Golden City¨.
Maria then showed us the Old Cathedral, a much smaller structure simpler in texture compared to the New Cathedral.
The University of Salamanca, the 4th oldest university in the world and 1st oldest university in Europe, was next on our tour of the city. The intricate architecture of the front door was mind-boggling, the famous hidden frog difficult to find among all of the designs. A vendor outside of the university was selling toy frogs and explaining the story of the mysterious ¨rana.¨
The courtyard facing the doorway is lined with buildings dedicated to the university´s medical students, a statue of one of the professors stands in the center. Past the medical center at the back left of the courtyard is a cast iron gate separating the concrete from the greener courtyard inside. A sign stuck in the grass says ¨no pisar”, keeping guests off of the green and preserving its beauty.
Inside the building there is a dome ceiling covered in a mural which depicts all of the zodiac signs. Carlene and I searched for our sign, Pisces, but were unsuccessful in finding a symbol relating to the fish. I am a complete zodiac freak, so this was definitely one of the highlights of the day.
Arturo Jarque, founder and CEO of our program Active Learning Abroad, took us out to a very swanky Salamancan restaurant Vida & Comida where we celebrated over delicious wine and unique food. The menu contained a four-course appetizer selection and a choice of a main dish. The appetizers were salad with calamari, poached eggs with mushrooms and ham, an octopus platter, and prawns with risotto made from squid ink. Although intimidating at first, each appetizer was incredible.
For the main course I had ox tail which pretty much tasted like ribs. The sauce tasted like liquified plums, so rich and fruity. Conversing with Arturo made me feel so comfortable, he talked to us about his time in Baton Rouge studying for his Masters degree and his 8 year old daughter. Good wine, good food, good friends… a perfect welcome dinner with a group that I truly feel comfortable around.
Listened to while driving through Salamanca.