Monday, July 25, 2011

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!

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