Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Family visit and Prague

Alright, here´s an update on the last 2 and half weeks of my life.
The last weekend in October, my parents and Nikki came to visit. We spent most of our time here in Alcala, just hanging around in the Plaza and people watching or strolling around the streets--we were really lucky and the weather that week was in the 70´s and sunny. I showed them my school and my Spanish mom had us all over to our house for dinner one night, which was a lot of fun. I got to practice my Spanish skills since I was translating English to Spanish and Spanish to English the entire meal. My madre is a very energetic and social person and my family finally got to see what I mean when I say that she is constantly trying to feed everyone more (a cultural sign of generosity). She kept looking at my mom and dad and saying ¨Eat, eat!¨ and I of course got a whole piece of cake for dessert even though I told her I wanted half and everyone else got half. She also told Nikki that she should sleep in my bedroom because she couldn´t sleep well at their hotel, which she did the next night. Besides exploring Alcala, we spent a day in Madrid and went to the palace, the cathedral, El Rastro (the huge flea market), Plaza Mayor, and took a ride on the aerial cable cars to see a sky view of Madrid. And of course we ate Spanish food and desserts. A lot.

This past weekend, me and 2 other girls headed to Prague. Just a little history about it--Prague was a city built during the Communist occupation to show the supposed splender and richness of Communist states. And it was incredibly beautiful. Everything about this city was aesthetically pleasing--from the buildings to the cobble stoned streets to the many bridges to the parks with beautiful fall trees. We hit the main sights--the palace, cathedral, the old town square with their famous astronomical clock, and the St. Charles bridge. We also went to the old Jewish ghetto, where 118,000 Jews lived before being deported to concentration camps during WWII. We toured the jewish synogogues and saw an old jewish cemetary with some graves from the 1400s, but the most impactful part was the Pinka Synogogue. In this synogogue, they wrote the names of all the Jews from this ghetto that had perished during WWII, as well as their dates of birth and death (or more commonly the last time anyone had heard from this person). Just picture over 100,000 names and dates written in line after line after line all over the walls. And calculating the ages of these people--4 year olds, people the same age as me, people in their 80´s--just made the whole idea even more real. In the upper levels of the synogogue, they had pictures that some children from the ghetto had made. The adults had tried to keep the children´s schedules as busy and normal as possbile with school and activites, and one of the teachers had scrounged and searched for scraps of paper for the children to draw on. There were the normal drawings that children would do (flowers, school and friends, their family), but there were also some that were darker, with them behind walls and bars, dragons and monsters, etc., which shows that despite the efforts of the adults, these children obviously knew and were fearful of what was going on in their world. The worst was a display with pictures of the happy little children next to the drawings they had made.
In contrast with this exihibit, we also visited Prague´s John Lennon wall. During the Communist occupation, some young people had grafittied a wall with ¨Imagine¨ and a picture of John Lennon in addition to more quotes and sayings about peace. Although the Communists continually painted over it, the youths somehow managed to re-graffitti it every time until the Communists finally gave up. Today, the original ¨Imagine¨ is almost covered up with other grafitti from people all around the world who write messages of peace and hope in different languages. All 3 of us girls agreed that this wall that we had barely heard mentioned and wasn´t even marked on our map was one of our favorite things in Prague. Who would have guessed that amidst this beautiful old town one of our favorite things would be a graffitied wall?
We also attempted to see a classical music concert in one of the Cathedrals since Prague is famous for its music (Mozart played and composed there). But what we thought was a symphony concert turned out to be 1 person playing classical songs on an organ behind us in a church. After an hour, we couldn´t take it any longer and left. Well, it was a nice try at being cultured!

This coming weekend is our second Butler sponsored trip to Sevilla and Cordoba, 2 cities in Southern Spain. It´s exciting since we haven´t traveled all together in a group for about a month! And also because we don´t have to worry about flights, hostels, or food because it´s all taken care of. Definitely a plus. :)

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