Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, The end is near.

Juegos de aula, el comic y la familia real
A very traditional Spanish game is called the hankerchief game.  Someone holds the "pañuelo" between two evenly divided teams.  The holder calls out a number and the numbered person on each side has to respond quickly, run and grab the "pañuelo" and run back to their side before being tagged.  We saw this being played on the beach, and the teenagers were having a blast.  There is an endless number of variations on this game, and Begoña uses it with relative clauses that call for subjunctive.  Another game to use as a warm up is called "a mi derecha," where a student who has a vacant desk to his/her right uses a relative clause and subjunctive to see who stands up and sits in that empty chair.  The new student who has an empty chair on the right does the same until everyone has gone.  Example:  I am looking for someone who has a birthday in June.  This requires subjunctive in Spanish, and if it's your birthday month you get up and sit on the speaker's right.  We can all adapt this game in some form.  Begoña pushes forward in the book, and tomorrow we get to do more subjunctive.  Yippee!

Francisco focuses on the use of comics, graphic novels and literature in general for his teaching.  Since he is a literature expert, he finds this to be a dynamic way to constantly teach culture and language at the same time while exposing students to some of the finest writers in castellano.  Spaniards have a rich literary tradition growing out of newspapers, and therefore, the comics have perhaps played a bigger role than in American culture.  Just like Peanuts was a comic before it debuted on t.v. so too have many Spanish comics evolved.  He gives us some good tips on how to use them in class, and we learn that the bubbles that hold the speech are called "bocadillos."  I asked what we called them in English, and "bubbles" seems right, but please comment if you know better.  Maddy suggested we check out  for more comic ideas. 

Royalty in Spain seems like it could be a summer course of its own, what with all the drama surrounding these European families that have defined so much of this continent's ancient and current cultural landscape.  Ana talks about "La ley sálica " known in English as the Salic Law of Succession.  This was included in the 1978 Spanish Constitution, and in short, it does not allow a women to become Queen if she has a brother.  Spain is a Parlimentary Monarchy, and you can read about King Juan Carlos and his family until you are blue in the face.  Ana highlights some of the unwritten agreements that exist between the press (paparazzi) and the Monarchy, which contrasts in interesting ways with other European royal families. The transition between the Franco dictatorship and the constitutional monarchy took up the whole class today.
King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia

Tuesday, July 26, Back to classes

After a delicious and adventure filled weekend, we are back to classes on this, again cool and wet, Tuesday.  Begoña does not hesitate to throw subjunctive mood at us bright and early.  Most of us have to teach subjunctive, so many of us are engaged as she explains how to accurately use dependent and independent clauses.  We all appreciate this theme on our own terms, and what I take away is her suggestion to incorporate cultural information while having students give an opinion about things like, for example, kissing each other on both cheeks every time you meet up with friends in Spain, or arriving late after agreeing on a time to meet.  We also play a guessing game that sends a person out in the hallway who must come back and guess where s/he is based on our clues that include indicative and subjunctive sentences.  It's fun because we are language geeks.  Example:  It's true that you hear music.  It is sad that the music is too loud. You hope that they play your favorite song.  Answer:  You're at a concert. 

Francisco probably had a lesson plan for today, but all I needed to do was ask one question, and the rest was, well, history.  Kyle Jacobs (Kip's son who studies Spanish at Carleton College) asked me to find out what I could about a case called "el caso Garzon."  It has to do with the very bold, Spanish judge who went after the Chilean Dictator, Augusto Pinochet.  Opinions abound on this current topic, and the future promises more headlines that look back more than 70 years.  The new Historic Memory Law called "la ley de memoria historica" is a touchy topic that attempts to sort out the pain and suffering of the twentieth century in Spain.  Our trip to Guernica this afternoon will surely shed more light on this polemic. 

Ana takes us out for pintxos in the casco viejo neighborhood (the old part of town).  We overeat our way to happiness and stroll through the plaza nueva before we walk a kilometer or so to the train station for our 45 minute ride to Guernica.  The key stops in Guernica include the Peace Museum, the Henry Moore sculpture, the Casa de Juntas and famous Guernica Oak Tree.  Seeing and understanding the Casa de Juntas helps us realize that Guernica played an important politcal and symbolic role in the history of the Basque Country.  This helps explain why Franco had Hitler and Mussollini bomb this otherwise small and militarily insignificant town.  Most believe it was to send a message, by hitting the Basque Country in one of its most popular trading and cultural centers.   Eyewitnesses gave their accounts to journalists while Franco's journalists claimed the "Reds" were actually responsible.  The Peace Museum makes a terrific effort NOT to glorify war, and instead focuses on the value of peace, and what it actually means to live in peace.  This is very thought provoking museum that puts peace front an center in an effort to move us forward as a people so we can avoid the things that caused this tragedy in 1937. 

The building on the right is the Peace Museum in Guernica. It's worth a visit.  Please read the Tools for peace below printed in four languages at the museum:  English, French, Spanish and Euskera. 

Tools for peace
Firm dialogue
Respect for human rights
Looking to the future
Honoring our fellow human beings
Putting ourselves in the other party's position
Listening to different opinions
Searching for common ground
Meditating to unite the wishes of both parties
Inventing and creating
Gearing the situation towards reconciliation
Admitting our mistakes
Thinking positively
Investigating and discovering other realities
Confronting postures in a positive fashion
Reviewing laws and regulations
Not stigmatizing persons and their problems
Standing up to injustice
Making our postures more flexible
Taken from the Peace Museum in Guernica, Spain,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, Festival de Santiago

Today is Monday, and a holiday, so no one works or goes to school.  Stores are closed, and it is still raining, so it's a perfect day to recover from the busy weekend.  When July 25 falls on a Sunday, it is an extra special year for pilgrims in northern Spain.  The legend of St. James or Santiago is an interesting one and is symbolized throughout northern Spain with a shell (see image).  Pilgrims from all over the world walk all or part of the Camino de Santiago, from southern France west to Galicia, directly above Portugal.  Bilbao is part of the Camino, and we see hikers every day.  These shells are on buildings, signs and in the pavement all along the route.

Our list of films keeps growing, and we take advantage of this cold and rainy day to watch another.  Watching a different film almost every night makes it hard to keep them all from running together.  We watch "El lobo," a film about the ETA terrorist group in the 1970's that was infiltrated by a mole known as "el lobo."  It is a good film to get a sense of that part of Spain's history.  Another particularly good film is "los girasoles ciegos," for its poetic, human quality during a difficult political time after the war.  And  "Los soldados de Salamina." also shows the human side of war, focusing on an act of mercy during an otherwise brutal campaign.  One theme in every one of these films so far is the incredibly strong roles that women play.  The saddest example of this is "Las 13 rosas;" thirteen young women, some still teenagers, who fall to a firing squad.  All of these films somehow prepare us for our visit tomorrow to the small town of Guernica, made famous by Picasso's mural, which  reminds us of what happened there, on a Monday afternoon in 1937.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday, July 24, One more week

Donostia (San Sebastian), Heineken Jazz Festival

Our hopes were high for this day, and we planned well in advance to make sure we could soak up the sun on the beaches of this popular city of 180,000 people on the northern coast of Spain, a hop, skip and a jump from France.  Hannah Reimer's friend, Igor, from ten years ago, whom she met in Germany, met up with us and introduced us to his wonderful family.  Unfortunately, as you can tell by our jackets and sweaters, mother nature didn't get the memo about sending the sun to the jazz festival.  Instead, we walked around with umbrellas, usually open, and only caught a sampling of music as a result. Usually the beach is packed with people on this day, but the cold and rain has been parked over pais vasco for several days now. 

The great thing was to be able to see a young family speaking to the children in euskera and then switching to castellano so effortlessly.  It is a beautiful thing, and research has shown that it is good for the brain to use multiple languages throughout life.  The custom of going out for "pintxos" in Donostia (San Sebastian) is something you can do regardless of the weather.  So we sampled some delicious dishes at a number of fine establishments that fill the narrow streets of this charming town. Igor, Leticia and their two children showed us a great time despite the lousy weather.  They know they have an open invitation to visit Milwaukee anytime.  The Euskera word for good bye is "agur," and you hear it all the time around town.  So thank you Igor and family for making our visit to Donosti even more memorable.  Agur!

Saturday, July 23, Excursion

La Rioja:  San Millan de la Cogolla y La Guardia

These two plaques inside the monastery Yuso in San Millan de la Cogolla (La Rioja region) show the first record of written Basque (Euskera) on the left and Spanish (castellano) on the right.  Below you will see copies of the Latin texts that the monks were working on and trying to translate into the common languages that the people in northern Spain were speaking before these languages had a written history. 
Hardly visible here, but obvious in the margins up close, are what are called the "glosas emilianenses."  That is, glossed notes in the margins of the Latin text written in both euskera and castellano to explain the Latin, since only the very well educated could understand the written Latin in the eleventh century.  These glosses are like the annotations we write in the margins of our Shakespeare books so we can understand what Romeo was really saying to Juliet. 

Even though truck stops have certain reputations in the US, our lunch on the way to Laguardia (in English) was quite exquisite.  The "patatas a la riojana" were some of the best stewed potatoes I have ever tried.  I'm not a big fan of cured meats, but this Iberian ham (jamon iberico) was sweet and buttery.  They take great pride in feeding their pigs acorns to produce the best jamon iberico possible.  We then went to Laguardia (in Spanish), a walled city full of narrow streets and charm to walk off our lunch.  The town specializes in bodegas that cater to the wine aficionados of the world.

Friday, July 22, Last Day of classes of Week 2

Spain today and thousands of years ago

(Jeff, Kevin y Olga en el monasterio, Yuso, de San Millan de la Cogolla, La Rioja)

Begoña lays out the itinerary for tomorrow's excursion to wine country, La Rioja.  We will make two important stops:  Los monasterios de Yuso y Suso in San Millan de la Cogolla and La Guardia.  A description of each will be on tomorrow's page.  Today's activity in class is to demonstrate how to use "la coartada" (alibi) as a engaging tool to practice past tense in class.  Four students are sent in the hallway to collaborate on their wherabouts during two hours last night when a crime was committed.  Kelly, Eva, Olga and I are the suspects.  We agree that we were all watching a video together last night while eating popcorn and drinking Coca Cola, Light (Spain's Diet Coke).  The class calls each one of us in, one at a time, to interrogate us about last night's details.  The questions are all in past tense, and our classmates all discover what we were doing and then try to decide which one of us committed the crime.  We are such good lyers that all they can deduce is that we are all equally guilty, and therefore, they convict us all of the crime.  This is an activity we'll probably bring back to our classrooms in some form for when we teach the past tense. 

Francisco is a literature expert, and it seems like he has seen and read everything under the Basque sun.  He keeps giving us more movies and more books.  For insights into ETA he recommends a movie called "El lobo (The Wolf), 2004."  Picking up a Spanish newspaper today shows that this issue is still a recurring theme as Spain moves forward politically, unquestionably linked to its recent history.  The following trailer of "El lobo" illustrates the historical intensity of this on-going struggle. For another Spanish Civil War movie he suggests "Las 13 rosas," 2007, a film that recalls the firing squad execution of thirteen very young Spanish women in 1939.  It has taken Spain more than a generation to begin unburying its past with movies like these, and many would say that it is all part of the healing process that was impossible to begin between 1939-1975, the years of the dictatorship.  A 2007 law called "La ley de memoria historica" (Historical Memory Law) was passed to try to bring some closure to what happened during the Spanish Civil War and the 40 year dictatorship that followed.  However, like in all politics, it is controversial and criticized for possibly "opening old wounds." 

 To transition from the heavy stuff, Francisco shows us part of a more light-hearted film from yesterday's class called, "Los peores años de nuestra vida."  Here's the ending to ruin it for you since I find these love stories a bit tiresome.  The scene Francisco uses in class is on New Year's Eve and shows the custom of eating twelve grapes as the clock in the Puerta del Sol strikes twelve.  Using a film fragment to highlight colloquial language and customs is good way to engage students without using several class periods to show a whole film. 

Ana is our Spanish culture and history of the language expert who explains why we won't have class on Monday, the festival of Santiago.  We also get off on a tangent about the sun's nickname being "Lorenzo" and the moon's name being "Catalina."  She seemed miffed that we don't have affectionate nicknames for them in English.  It seems to me that July 25, the Festival of Santiago, is an expected three day weekend in northern Spain (maybe in all of Spain?) that marks the middle of summer vacation.  Ana spends considerable time preparing us for tomorrow's journey to San Millán de la Cogolla, considered to be the birthplace of the Spanish language.  The plaque to the right indicates its status as a Unesco Cultural Heritage site since 1997. 

This monastery claims to hold the first written records of Spanish (castellano) and Basque (Euskera) languages.  There was a time in Spain when Cristians, Jews and Muslims shared their intellectual wisdom to more the human condition forward through collaboration.  The ancient Hebrew, Latin and Arabic records give testiment to how much we can accomplish if we are willing to let go of certain stubborn tendencies that push us toward intollerance, division and war. An optimist might think that Spain may be experiencing that sort of renaissance today.  Ojalá!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thursday, July 21

Coartadas, Cine y Roma:

Our teachers are walking encyclopedias and do not hesitate to share their knowledge.  There seems to be no end to the ins and outs of Spanish grammar, and we learn the word "tiquismiquis" to refer to someone who is picky, anal, detail oriented, or in today's world, OCD.  Using a classic tale in present tense is a great tool for having students re-tell it in a different tense.  Another activity is that of the "coartada" or "alibi," to get students to ask relevant questions in past tense after a small group of suspects has time to collaborate on a story explaining their whereabouts.  Suppose a crime occurs between 9:30-11:30 p.m..  Tomorrow we'll see who has the best alibi. 

Using a film clip in class is useful to expose students to culture while working on comprehension and composition skills.  Francisco explains how he introduces a film clip, the relevant vocabulary and how to effectively set the stage so students know what to expect in the film.  Tomorrow we will see a clip and go through progressively more challenging exercises to analyze a popular film.

 Taxes are everywhere, and Ana shows us a check stub of a typical Spanish employee.  The wages and deductions look like our pay stubs, but the abbreviations and financial jargon need translation.  We also learn about Spain's maternity leave policy and the incentive for childbearing called, "chequebebe."  Mothers here can expect four months of maternity leave at full pay from their job and perhaps another two weeks for nursing.  Fathers also have maternity leave thanks to the current Socialist government, but it has not become the expected norm yet. 
Ana finishes this class with the linguistic situation in Spain.  The history goes back thousands of years and includes conquests and reconquests.  Language geeks like us love this stuff, but blog readers, probably not so much.  The Romans left Latin and some amazing aquaducts.

Tonight's movie is "El orfanato" (The Orphanage).  It has little to do with Spanish culture, and is best described as a creepy, psychological thriller along the lines of an American haunted house type film.  If you like that sort of thing, go for it.  No me gusta.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, Grammar and Culture

Tricky grammar details and more film:

Begoña continues to throw challenging grammar our way.  Today's topic is the past tense, specifically the difference between "el indefinido" and the "imperfecto."  Her examples are confusing and nuanced.  We all seemed interested in digging deep here to pull accurate meaning, and we realize what our students must feel like.  Among all of us we have well over 100 years of experience, and it is nice to see how the old timers know some things and how the young teachers are up to date in other areas.  Begoña herself has a wealth of strategies for teaching the finer points of grammar.  Thanks to Emiley, we all will probably use the example of an egg white surrounding its yolk when we teach the past tense next year.  What a great visual! 

We continue our discussion of the differences between the educational systems of the US and Spain while making our way through page 19 of the wokbook.  Our homework on this page is thought provoking.

Francisco recommends we read the book that inspired last night's movie, "los girasoles ciegos" from 2004.  We learn the word "topos" (moles) to refer to those Republican resisters who hid inside their own homes during the 40 years of the Franco Dictatorship.  The topos were the ones who could not afford or simply chose not to leave the country despite the persecution.  What this meant was that they lived underground for forty years, and in many cases went crazy in the process.  Francisco also gives us a long list of the best movies and books that have been published in the last 30 years to help us understand modern day Spain.  Our discussions lead us to asking about Opus Dei, and his personal experience with this religious group gives us a first hand account of Opus Dei's presence in modern Spanish society.  I wish I could say more, but my paraphrasing cannot adequately capture the story he told us.  Ask me about it in person if you actually read this far. 

Tonight's movie is called "Un franco, 14 pesetas" (One Franc, 14 pesetas).  I actually clapped at the end of this film.  Again, it deals with the post-Civil War Spain, around 1960 and one family's struggle to make ends meet.  It is funny, sad and poignant in a very charming way.  The problem with all of these Spanish films so far is that we probably cannot use them in our classrooms because of nudity, despite the fact that the nudity is more natural and less sensational than in American cinema.  Tomorrow Francisco promises to teach us strategies for using just fragments of movies in the classroom.  This we can do in some of our classrooms.  You decide.  Does this blog now have a new rating?

Tuesday, July 19, De la Sallle

Back to Kindergarden:

In schools that teach Euskera (the Basque language) children use the word "andereño" to address their female teachers.  Male teachers are addressed as "maisu." We have the pleasure of visiting El colegio de la Salle, a Catholic school, and Andereño Lourdes gives us a tour and explanation of the pedogogical system they use in this bilingual school.  The Ulises Program is one where they use a series of large cultural flashcards at an early age to familiarize pre-primary learners with what we might call "scientific and cultural literacy," with a global emphasis.   They also use a video program call Sensor that gradually introduces Euskera vocabulary via slick images centering on natural science and global geography.  Andereño Lourdes gives us a nice description of the school's schedule and its founder, San Juan Bautista de la Salle. 

We walk back to school for Ana's culture class.  Today we learn about the different regions of Spain, the different climates and cover pages 8-13 in our book.  And tonight we view the movie "Los girasoles ciegos" (The Blind Sunflowers) based on a book by Alberto Mendez, about the tragic Spanish Civil War and its effect on one small family.  It is very sad, but it gives a realistic portrayal of the church / state, iron-fisted rule of Spain that lasted from 1939-1975.  Spain is still healing from its civil war, and maybe this is hard for us to grasp, but in the Basque Country especially, there are daily reminders that many issues are still unresolved. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday July 18, Week 2, Day 8

In class, and our official visit to the Guggenheim:
Mondays feel like Mondays everywhere, but we are all happy to be back in class with our three wonderful teachers.  Begonia gives us an overview of this week's excursions.  Tomorrow we head to a pre-primary classroom to meet a teacher who will explain bilingual pre-primary education to us.  And on Saturday, we travel to the Rioja region of Spain.  But first, we talk about the finer details of Spanish verb tenses, which Spanish teachers love to talk about.  Begonia then talks in detail about the Spanish education system, public vs. private, and the system's peculiarities in the Basque region.

Francisco shows us some more Spanish language books, which are  colorful, soft-cover workbooks.  He also mentions that today is the 75 anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, which officially began on July 18, 1936.  We wrap up our discussion about using the newspaper in our teaching, and move on to how to use film.  We spend considerable time comparing the mentality of the Spaniards vs. Americans regarding the hot-button themes of sex and violence, reflected in film.  He gives us several Spanish DVD's to watch in our dorm, and tonight we watch Te doy mis ojos, a depressingly realistic view of domestic violence. Everyone seems to like it.

Ana continues covering the Spanish culture questions in our book, pp. 5-7.   

Our 4:00 p.m. official visit to the Guggenheim is a success, thanks to Francisco's great introduction.  This is must-see museum, both inside and out for anyone who enjoys architecture and modern art.  The wow piece on the ground level is part of the museum's permanent collection and fills the museum's largest room.  "La materia del tiempo" by Richard Serra includes seven of the most gigantic sculptures I have ever seen.  Each one probably weighs a gazillion tons because they are cleverly casted, rust-colored, iron walls that are like laberynths is spiral shapes that you can walk through.  The Guggenheims commissioned these pieces for the museum's inauguration in 1997. 

The "Intervalo luminoso" (The Daskalopoulos Collection) is this summer's collection of incredibly avant guard, modern art that uses a huge variety of media, including plenty of technology. Thirty internationally acclaimed artists contributed to this exhibit, and John Broch's hugely unusual piece fills an entire room.  Most people here either believe or simply cannot deny that the Guggenheim has been the catalyst in Bilbao's transformation.  Bilbao was a totally industrial, ugly, dirty and contaminated city, and is now a bustling cultural hub, full of parks, amazing architecture and gastonomical goodness that attracts more and more students, artists and tourists every year.  Our University of Deusto is a two minute bridge-crossing from the Guggenheim, and live jazz on most nights just outside the museum.  We are spoiled.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday, July 17, Day 7

Excursion to Santander:
Today we ride a coach bus to three different places.  First we go to the small village of Altamira, a pre-historic landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its caves that have animal paintings and etchings on the walls and ceilings of the caves.  Then we went to Santillana del Mar known as the medieval town of three lies since it is not holy, not flat and does not have a sea.  (You have to know Spanish to get that joke.)  This is a very touristy town full of small shops that sell local products.  Streets are cobblestone adn 98% of the traffic is pedestrian; very few cars, if any on most of these narrow streets.  Lunch was great; delicious fish as usual.  We then went to the famous beaches in Santander.  Parts of this city remind us of Milwaukee, but the beach is huge, and the views are spectacular.  The ride back to Bilbao is absolutely breathtaking along Spain's northern coast.

Saturday, July 16, Day 6

No classes today:  Bilboat
We decide to take the Bilboat tour up the river, again to Santurce, but this time on a boat.  It is relaxing and a feast for anyone interested in bridges, architecture, industry and history.  There is so much to see during this two hour cruise, and we gain a better sense of how the city has evolved.  Afterwards, we ride our bikes to the bus depot to buy our return tickets to Madrid, and along the way we pass by the Bilbao Athletic Soccer Stadium known as San Mames.  It is closed today, but we are considering catching a game next week, but we discover that would mean traveling to Valencia.  We then take a longer bike ride to see how far the trail goes through the city.  The end of the trail is at "Mozart Park," really just a playground in the courtyard of a weird apartment complex.  We are learning how to get around in this city.  Except for this unusual park, the other parks are very nice, and there seems to be at least one in every neighborhood; kind of like Milwaukee. 

On this day, I take full advantage of the "siesta."  Well rested, we take a walking tour through another part of town and run into a politcal demonstration consisting of over three thousand people marching up a long street for blocks and blocks singing, chanting, playing music and holding banners etc.  Most everyting is written in the local Euskera language so we have no idea what it means.  We were warned earlier in the day, coincidentally, that we should never ask any questions in these situations, so we remained obedient to avoid any trouble.  It was very peaceful, and I got the impression that their demonstrations are as common as our weekly sporting events.  We then went to the Corte Ingles (think Boston Store meets Walmart) to buy saffron and some snacks.  The crowd there was also big, but dressed quite differently than the demonstrators.

Friday, July 15, Day 5

Another day of classes and cycling to Santurce:
Today we examined a number of textbooks that are popular in Spain and discussed some of the latest teaching methods. Begonia went through a grammar exercise to help us think of how we use present tense verbs to communicate a wide array of actions that may or may not have anything to do with the "present."  Our colleague, Maddy, shared a verb conjugation game, which was a nice change of pace since Spanish professors (and Teachers) still act like the "sage on the stage."  Learning through doing in the classroom is still pretty rare in Spain, but to Begonia's credit, she went along with the activity and it was worthwhile.  Gracias, Maddy. 

Francisco used headlines from newspapers, photos, intros and articles to help us understand how we can use the newspaper as a valuable learning tool.  We did pairing, organizing, answering questions, analyzing and writing to demonstrate how it is good to start with the simple and work toward the more complex. 

Ana introduced us to Santurce (Santurtzi in Euskera), since tomorrow is their festival in honor of their patron saint.  This town is about 15 miles up the river that empties into the Bay of Biscay, and the locals will spend the weekend celebrating their port, fishing and other maritime activities.  Jeff and I decide to ride our bikes today in the afternoon and discover a very nice bike trail that takes us along the river all the way.  It's a good ride, and we enjoy the carnival like atmosphere once we arrive.  We pass by the famous "hanging bridge" that ferries cars and people across to the other side, and we lose count of the number of cranes and huge industrial rigs set up all along this historical waterway.  Ana then explains to us the whole social contract in Spain known as the "Estado de bienestar," basically the social security, education and health care system that has similarities and differences to ours in the US.  One thing seems certain, and that is that their system is being challenged by current economic realities just like ours.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A day of classes.  Getting to know the local culture:
Begonia gave us a good overview today of ELE (Spanish as a Foreign Language) programs in Spain and how they relate to what were are doing in the US.  We work on grammar exercises and share some teaching methods. 
Francisco gives us an introduction to the CCOO (Comisiones Obreras), the labor union that many employees of educational institutions belong to in Spain.  Every Thursday, teachers and other employees demonstrate during the recess at Deusto to bring attention to the university’s decision to freeze all the workers’ pay.  We then discuss Spanish newspapers and their role in Spanish society, which seems to be a bigger role than they play in the US.  He also explains the new European system of ranking language proficiency on a scale of A, B,C; each letter have levels 1 and 2, and A-1 reflecting a beginner and C-2 reflecting a native speaker who can teach the language anywhere.  Europe established this system around 2002 so that language proficiency could be agreed upon from country to country. 
Ana continued covering the Spanish culture questions, which keeps us engaged as we discover what we know, don’t know and would like to know.  She includes everything that might be included in a civics, history and Spanish culture class.    

Wednesday, July 13, Pamplona

A long day with bulls: 

We wake up at 4:00 a.m. to hit the road by 5:00 on a coach bus with other students from other programs.  We are given strict instructions NOT to run with the bulls, and in fact, they make us sign a form promising that we will NOT run with the bulls, and that if we do, we will not hold the University of Deusto liable.  We must be in the bull ring before 8:00 a.m. so that we don't miss the "encierro," which is when they let the bulls out of their pen on one side of town and run them through the city streets to the bull ring.  Interestingly, they have to train the bulls to do this and actually practice it the night before when the streets are relatively empty.  But before 8:00 a.m. people dressed in white and red line the crowded route in front of the bulls and then run with them all the way to the ring, trying not to get trampled.  This goes on for seven straight days in July, and the hospital usually takes care of between 30-50 injured people every day.  Some people have even died.  It seems barbaric, but when you see the crazy and often drunk young men (yes, only men as far as I know, because women generally are smarter than this) acting like something from the animal kingdom, you kind of get the feeling that these bulls are playing an important role in teaching "men" about limits. 

Bravery and machismo fascinated Hemingway, and this town personifies those human traits.  Some men really come across as macho by the way they can handle their interactions with these beasts.  Others look like utter fools, way out of their league, like they have no experience at all.  This is poetic expression of "learning the hard way."  The "encierro"  begins promptly at 8:00 and it takes about three minutes for the bulls to get to the ring.  What surprises many of us is what happens at the ring.  The ring is full of people, spectators like us in our seats, and crazy runners pouring in before and after the bulls arrive.  The bulls are immediately guided out of the ring for the bull fight later in the day.  Then, they let out some young bulls called "novillos,"  one at a time to "play" with the runners left in the ring.  This is where you see several people get trampled, tossed around and injured.  It is a random act of roulette as the young novillo charges anything moving.  The crowd eats it up and cheers for the bull as well as for some of the men.  The crazy ones who pick on the bull by pulling its tail or slapping it from behind are booed.  The brave ones who use their strength, finesse and brain to challenge the bull are cheered.  It is quite a sight to see and worth the price of admission.  Check it out!

After the "encierro" and seeing the six "novillos" tame the runners, we take a walking tour of the city and do a scavenger hunt of sorts.  My favorite part is when I ask a little old nun where I can find "el caballo blanco."  She points me in the right direction, and then I ask her if it is an actual "caballo blanco" = white horse, and she laughs because it's really just the name of a restaurant.  Making a nun laugh still gives me pleasure.  We have time to stop at Hemingway's favorite cafe, have "churros con chocolate" or a "cafe con leche."  For lunch we travel on the bus to San Sebastian known to locals as Donostia.  The awning says "Araeta Sadargotegia," which is the Basque language, and I have no idea what it means.  It's a huge place that can accomodate a large crowd, but the food is mediocre at best.  Downtown we spend some time walking the old part, visit the beach and relax a bit before returning to Bilbao.  It is a full day, and we are tired.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, Day 2 of classes

The word for this day is "chubasco."  It really means "downpoor," but in actuality it was just cloudy and drizzly all day.  We know that tomorrow we go to Pamplona to see the famous "running of the bulls" known to locals as the "sanfermines."  Therefore, knowing we have to awake at 4:00 a.m. to catch the 4:50 a.m. bus, we plan. 

But first we go to class and learn about the rest of the university, its history and key sites not to be missed on campus, beginning with the most loved "portero," or gatekeeper of the University (picture to the right).  We discuss the meaning of "grammar."  Yawnnnnnnnnn!  It's a good thing Begonia is an entertaining teacher who knows her stuff, as it were.  We also had a guest speaker, Natalia Gomez, who is actually working in Michigan at Grand Valley State Universtiy.  She recently received a grant from our government to help tackle the difficult problem of children of migrant workers in the US who are picking our produce instead of going to a proper school.  She is looking for our help to find websites that might help her work with these children.  Isn't it amazing how connected we all are?  Francisco is our teacher for using outside resources in our classrooms.  He taught us the expression "se me ha ido el santo al cielo" because we constantly veer off track on interesting tangents during on discussions. During our culture class, our teacher, Ana, gave us an introduction to San Sebastian, the other nearby city where we will stop for lunch after Pamplona tomorrow. 

During the afternoon on this rainy day,we went to the "tienda de los chinos" to buy "chubasqueros," rain ponchos.   Since rain is forecasted for tomorrow we want to be prepared.  Remember, Ernest Hemingway made Pamplona famous for his visits to this storied city during the first half of last century.  Get this:  from 1923 to 1959 Hemingway participated nine times in the fiestas de San Fermin in Pamplona.  The main plaza in town has a beautiful cafe called "cafe iruna," with Hemingway's name on its enormous awning.  This one man is a legend in Pamplona and is dearly remembered with a cement statue in his likeness outside the bull ring and historical markers around town.  Hemingway is often considered a man's man, the type of guy who exudes machismo, lives life dangerously, talks rough, drinks plenty and values the honor and valor that come from physical and mental challenges found only in battle, struggle and, in this town, bullfighting.  But we are getting ahead of ourselves, because today we are only planning our visit to Pamplona.  Hemingway would never waste his time writing about planning to do something so therefore, I need to stop writing NOW!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 11, First Day of Classes

Seventeen of us sit in a seminar style U shape of desks facing our professors at the front of the room.  We come from Canada and the US, from places like Milwaukee, Seattle, San Francisco, California, New York, Virginia , New Jersey, Alaska, Florida, Texas, Virginia and Alberta.  Some of us teach elementary school, middle school, high school and college.  Our three classes include Spanish Language with Professor Begonia Miguel Perez, Didactic Classroom Resources with Francisco Soguero and Multicultural Spain with Ana Ruiz Bazan.  Click on this video to get a sense of what the University of Deusto is like.  It's history covers hundreds of years.  Read more.
 On this first day of classes, we meet the teachers, introduce ourselves and tour the campus.  In the afternoon we do a walking tour of some key areas in downtown Bilbao.  This town is very pedestrian friendly and offers metro, light rail, busses, bike lanes, riverwalks, and boating in the calm saltwater / brackish river that rises and falls with the tides.  We visit the "casco viejo," the old part of town, which is full of shoppers, tourists, venders and locals, young and old alike.  No one seems to be in a hurry on this sunny and breezy Monday.  We walk up the 200 steps to the Basilica  to get a bird's eye view of the city and then find a place to rent bicycles.  Our homework from the Didactic Resources class is to read an article about using newspapers in the teaching of language.  Each class includes a separate spiral bound book, which is nicely organized and promises to keep us engaged on many levels.

the basilica

Monday, July 11, 2011

July 10, rumbo Bilbao

From Madrid to Bilbao:
On this warm summer morning in Madrid, and after a pretty lousy night's sleep, Jeff and I wake up to catch the 11:00 a.m. Alsa Supra bus to Bilbao, non-stop through the rolling plains where the rain mainly tames the flames of central Spain.  This bus actually has wifi for our internet, which young people may take for granted, but it still amazes me.  The highway gradually leads us to the foothills of the Pyrenees, reminding Jeff of California and me of northern Michigan and Wisconsin in some spots.  The clouds and humidity increase as we approach Bilbao.  MAP At 3:15 we arrive at the bus depot and share a taxi with another Spanish teacher to the dorm (colegio mayor, Deusto).  All the signs in this city are in Spanish and Euskera (the local Basque language), which is totally foreign to me; lots of words beginning with e and i and lots of k's, b's and blending of tz and tx; all very unfamiliar.  Jeff and I take a quick stroll along the "ria," around the Gugenheim, which we can see from the side of the mountain where our dorm is located.  This museum wows me like a building never has.  Even in Madrid, I realized I must have walked around the city 30 years ago with my head down because the architecture is impressing me more now than when I was young (er?). On the river side of the museum is an enormous spider sculpture.   The giant flower puppy dog made of real flowers in front of the museum adds to the contrast of larger than life buildings and geologic oddities in this old and rugged industrial city that is now experiencing a rebirth thanks to the Gugenheim.  This is our first night in Bilbao.  I am in a dorm room, all by myself with a tiny bed and a desk to think, read and write.  I feel like I'm on retreat.  It is so quiet here, at least on this Sunday night.  The food here is amazingly delicious; seafood options most days, red wine at lunch, fresh French bread, garbanzos and gazpacho, ample olive oil, potatoes, vegetables, dessert.  I'm in heaven and feel totally spoiled.  About ten of us, seven women and three men, take a walk to a nearby tavern/restaurant.  Most are closed on Sunday night, but we sit next to a group of four people in their 50's.  They overhear us and we overhear them, and I make some comment about the paper napkins that say "Eskerrik Asko," trying to pronounce it like I was a local.  Who was I kidding?  The guy next to me laughs and tells me it means Thank You in Euskera, the language of the Basque Country (pais vasco).  He tells me how to say it properly and then introduces us all to the two women and the guy next to him who is a real live Euskera language teacher.  The more we talk, the more we learne about Euskera (the language), Euskadi (the region of Bilbao), and that they are from a nearyby coastal city, San Sebastian (Donostia in their language). This region is famous for its iron works, and this guy's job is actually making traditional wooden, leather walking canes that have a hidden dagger inside.  They're called "bastones de mando" and are used ceremonially when heads of state from this region need a formal gift to give other heads of state etc.  Anyway, he tells me he thought I looked like I could be vasco and asked if my parents were from the Basque region.  Now of course, I am convinced that I am part vasco and that I must learn more of this language.  One man actually knows a relative of someone in our group and that makes us all like blood brothers and sisters.  It is amazing how eagerly they shared their proud Euskadi (Basque) heritage, and I do mean proud!  It reminded me of the Irish on St. Patricks Day, times ten.  As they leave, they bid us farewell with firm handshakes and affectionate kisses on each cheek for the women.

July 9, Madrid

Madrid, day 3
As you might guess, Señor Ballentine and I have been working hard learning the essential survival skills required for navigating the serpentine streets of Spain’s royal city, Madrid.  Today marked the official end of jet lag as we awoke with renewed energy and an appetite for adventure.  We take turns playing Don Quijote and Sancho.  After a delicious café con leche, we hopped on the metro to Banco de España.  Along the Paseo del Prado, we feasted on architectural eye candy.   The buildings glistened in the bright summer sunlight, not a cloud in the sky, and temperatures unusually cool for July, and deliciously comfortable for these eager trekkers.
Passing along calle Atocha, we visited the Anton Martin neighborhood, home of Todd’s Dulcinea from thirty years ago.  Tourists share the streets with us as we aim for la Plaza Mayor.  My comment is that in the past thirty years, the people in Madrid have gotten much younger. J  On the back side of la Plaza Mayor, the Mercado de San Miguel greets us with a vast selection of tapas.  Getting lost in the surrounding neighborhood led us to Opera, the famous opera house, which faces the Palacio Real, the not so modest home of none other than King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.  We continued our walk to Sol, the official zero kilometer mark of Spain; that is, the center of this wonderful world.  I was reminded last night that the name of the famous pastelería in Sol was La Mayorquina, so we made an important stop to reacquaint myself with “napolitanos,” a pastry straight from heaven.  These delicacies melted in our mouth and reaffirmed my good taste from thirty years past. 
A walk through Retiro park cooled us off and gave us time to relax next to families playing, lovers boating and young people re-enacting scenes from this week’s festival of San Fermin of Pamplona in northern Spain.  These college age students wore the traditional loose white shirt and draw string calf length pants and a red bandana around the neck.  They sang and danced in Retiro park making me want to be 30 years younger.  We then met up with a newly arrived student who will be joining us in Bilbao tomorrow.  Our bus leaves at 11:00 a.m. so now we must go to bed, but we probably won’t be able to sleep.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Friday, July 8th
We slept until about 8:00.  We had three things planned.  Todd needed to get his phone situation worked out.  He bought a pay as you go phone to use while here.  That was a good bargain. 
Todd bought some stamps and tobacco for his pipe.  We then headed to Altair, the school with whom USM has an exchange.  We met with the director, Carmen, and took a short tour of the school.  There are about 450 students from age 3 thru grade 12.  We also met a few teachers, one of whom will be coming to Milwaukee in August.
Since we were near the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu where Real Madrid played, we decided to take a tour.  Fabulous place.   Real Madrid has so much history and the Spanish, especially the Madrilenos, take pride in the club.  The stadium is about ten years old and is already undergoing a small expansion to add about a thousand seats.  That would bring its capacity to more than 85,000.
Lunch near the stadium; pipa shopping; siesta; out with Todd’s friends for tapas (Santa Barbara/Alonso Martinez).
We had lunch near the stadium and later we met up with a friend of Todd’s from when they were here in ’81.  David, his friend and Gloria, David’s wife, were kind enough to show us some local spots that they love.  We had more tapas and enjoyed a dark beer, which is not easy to find in Madrid. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Great travel day. Very uneventful. Took the metro from the airport to the hotel, left our bags there and took a walk to Retiro park. Beautiful COOL day made the experience more enjoyable. After a 3 hour nap, we headed to Aguelles (northwest Madrid). We're waiting for dinner time, 9:00 pm. Right now we are at Starbucks for the free wi-fi. Pictures to come.

After leaving Starbucks, we explored the university area where Todd spent some time in ’81.  It took him a  while to get oriented, but we found the dorm where he stayed.  We did a bit of walking on the campus, but the area was too big to cover given how tired we were feeling.
We stayed in the Moncloa area and found a tapas bar called the Blanca Paloma.  We had couple of beers, boquerones (fish), and un sarten de huevos rotos.  If Solly’s served tapas, they would serve this.  It was French fries in oil, an egg and sausage.  It was tasty. 
Afterwards, we walked along Princesa to the Gran Via and made our way to Sol and the Plaza Mayor.  Lots of great night life at midnight.  It was cool clear evening.
Metro back to the hotel and in bed by 1:00.
                                                             Sarten de huevos rotos

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Todd is wondering if the slang he learned in 1982 is still useful. Groovey.