The last two weeks have been somewhat of a blur for me. I’ve been running on minimal sleep at maximum speed, but loving every minute of it. I met my mom, my aunt and my uncle in Madrid two weeks ago, and we traveled to Sevilla together to spend the weekend there. It was wonderful but – to be completely honest – I have decided that I don’t particularly care for the south of Spain as much as I adore the north.
From what I have experienced, the people are more hospitable, the food is better (especially the bread!), and the landscape is much more beautiful in Galícia. But that’s just my humble opinion.
After spending the weekend drinking sangria, watching a traditional Flamenco dance, shopping, and riding around on those oh-so-wonderful tour buses, we returned to my home sweet home: Santiago de Compostela.
I had a great time being “tour guide” for the week! I took my family to all of my favorite restaurants, bakeries, and (of course) I introduced them to chocolate con churros. I loved being able to teach them about this incredible city and to show them what my everyday routine is.
We spent our last weekend together in Madrid. The highlights of our time there included visiting El Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia (I saw Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” in-person!), El Palacio Real, and…eating THE BEST pastries I have ever had in my life. There is this amazing pastelería, Mallorquina, that makes incredible napolitanas de chocolate (chocolate-filled croissants).
They were so good that we had one for breakfast, and then decided to have another for dinner. There’s nothing like being on vacation.
I was sad to say goodbye to my mom, but I know that I will see her soon. She asked me if I wished I could go back home with her, but I honestly don’t. While I am anxious to be reunited with my family and friends in the U.S., I am very content here and not quite ready to leave. Give me two more months and I know I will be ready to come home and spend Christmastime with my family. Although there are many wonderful places in the world, there really is no place like home.
So the trip to Philadelphia was all that and a bag of chips. We got into Philly Thursday evening and ate dinner at this place called Father and Sons Pizza, which was a little lacking, if I may be honest. But, aside from that, we spent the night in circle of hope church (http://www.circleofhope.net/blog/) a really awesome church in Philly that’s got two other sites, one in Philly and the other in Camden, NJ, right across the bridge. Friday the conference began and we got to see Nekeisha Alexis-Baker again. She’s so much fun, and I love the way she lives her life. She’s really one of my favorite people.
The main speaker was Ched Myers, and he was cool, but my favorite speakers were Andrea Ferich (an urban gardener in Camden – see: aferich.blogspot.com), Jenn LeBlanc, and Lily Mendoza, all three of whom were idigenous woman. The way in which they spoke of their experience was really quite moving and encouraging for me.
I also got to meet a lot of cool people (http://www.myspace.com/sethmartinsmusic) and have a lot of good conversation. I also got to go downtown, check out the Liberty Bell and Independance Hall, and eat some cheesesteak and really amazing Carribbean food from one of the street vendors we’d planned to check out. Overall, it was an awesome trip and I’m really glad I got to go.
Something I really like about Belmont is our “requirement” to take Service Learning courses. However, I’ve easily gone above and beyond the requirement because every time I take a service learning course I not only end up with something good to put on my resume, but I feel like I get far more out of it than most of my other classes.
For example, last year, I served as an English Writing Fellow in a course called “Peer Tutoring.” I sat with a class of about 20 freshman for a semester in their Freshman Seminar and had the opportunity to tutor them all with their final papers. In my class, we spent time discussing and reading theories about teaching/tutoring. We explored every idea from ‘how much help is too much help’ to ‘how might my comments help or hurt this writer’s future writing?’ Things like this were very helpful and when I got to actually read through all of their papers and hold conferences with each of them, I learned something new and gained perspective and insight to teaching with each student.
This semester, I’ve taken two Service Learning courses. The first one just wrapped up as an 8-week course all about Grant Writing. For those of you who don’t know, nonprofit organizations get their funding from funders (the government, foundations, corporations, etc.) by writing grants. I just finished a $70,000 proposal grant for the HCA Foundation to fund a children’s mental health organization in town–and it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. HOWEVER, I loved it. I got to interview my organization and learn how their nonprofit works and what they do to benefit society and children. Then I sat down, looked up the funder’s guidelines, and wrote the grant. It took me a really long time and ended up being 9 (single spaced) pages, but I was really happy with it and felt like I really accomplished something I never would have had the opportunity to do without this class.
Right now I’m taking a class called “Writing in the Community.” Basically, this is a story telling class. I’m interviewing a student from Glenncliff High School and together we’re going to write her story in a memoir. We’ve spent the semester so far learning about writing memoirs, reading them, and discussing ways to get a good story by asking the right questions. My teacher has encouraged us saying, “Everyone has a story worth telling.” The student I’m working with is a refugee and I’m very excited to work with her and write her story.
This week in the Hillside Apartments (on-campus housing) we had an International Food celebration program where we had food from France, Malaysia, Spain, Argentina, and Kenya. All of the dishes were made by Resident Assistants who had studied in each of the countries. We also had the director of the Study Abroad program as well as a representative from 10,000 Villages present.
Seventy residents (many of whom turned out to be from these different countries) enjoyed Chapati, a traditional Kenyan dish; Tortilla Espanola, the Spanish version of a tortilla which is much more like a fritata or crustless quiche than what we think of as a tortilla; Malaysian Popiah, also known as Spring Rolls; French dessert crepes, cooked by yours truly; and an Argentinian specialty called Milanesa a la napolitana con fritas a caballo–or in other words a veal and french fries.
With international music playing in the back ground, it was a wonderful opportunity to discuss Study Abroad trips and the experiences we all had with our residents.
There are some lessons that simply cannot be learned in the classroom. There are certain things in life that we must experience – people we must meet, places we must travel, things we must try – in order to better understand, well, life. I know that sounds like such a simple statement, but it’s so very true! I think about what I’ve learned from my experiences in Spain (thus far), and almost all of those lessons have been learned outside of the classroom…
1.) Getting to know people from other countries has taught me that love is a universal language, and that a genuine smile goes a long way. This week two of my friends, Olga and Carina, left to return to Germany. I don’t think I processed the fact that they were leaving until it was time to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes! (Especially when you aren’t sure if you will ever see the other person again in your life!) Before she left, Olga said something that really left an impression on me. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Alex, I just think that you will always be happy. You will be happy for the rest of your life. You’re so sweet and kind and easy to get along with… I know you are going to find someone who you really love and who loves you back.” It was one of the most heartwarming and most sincere blessings that I have ever received!
2.) You have to break free from the shackles of fear in order to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. When did I do this? On Monday night, when I decided to try octopus. Yes, you read that correctly…OCTOPUS!!! I sometimes worry about trying new foods because I would hate to have an allergic reaction (especially in a foreign country), but life really is too short to let petty fears like that one get in the way of priceless experiences. Octopus actually has a great flavor! If you can get past the texture, it’s quite delicious!! I would definitely eat it again.
3.) Mastering a foreign language requires you to be confident AND to be okay with making mistakes. It’s all part of the learning process. While I don’t always perfectly roll my “rr’s” or correctly pronounce the letter “c” (it’s more of a “th” sound in Spanish), I know that I am improving every day – getting closer and closer to becoming fluent.
Well, it’s almost midnight here…so I’m off to bed! This weekend my friends and I are going to A Coruña (approximately 70 km from Santiago de Compostela) to shop. I can’t wait Next weekend I’m going to meet up with my mom, my aunt, and my uncle and the four of us are going to Sevilla!! I really can’t wait for that!!!
Last Friday was my first concert of the semester. The newest large ensemble at Belmont, Concert Band,
performed an outdoor concert in the atriums between Massey and Wilson music buildings. The concert was a huge success, the ensemble playing well overall and having a great turnout for the performance. There were many students and faculty who attended the concert along with a local school who decided to come. Belmont’s concert band is unique because it offers an opportunity for students of all majors to perform challenging music in a relaxed and friendly environment. It is also an excellent opportunity for music education majors, like myself, to play a secondary instrument. So I have been playing bass clarinet in the concert band.
Now it is not unusual for many students at Belmont to play multiple instruments. For me personally, I play alto saxophone in my lessons and in wind ensemble. I play baritone sax and bass clarinet in jazz ensemble. My secondary instrument is clarinet, so I play soprano clarinet in my lessons and bass clarinet in the concert band. I am also learning how to play the cello for my string methods class. In this class we a being prepared to teach students how to play string instruments and we are learning the techniques of teaching a string ensemble. Although I am very busy this semester with rehearsals, classes, and homework this year has been very rewarding and it is remarkable to see the growth that both I and others have achieved since my first semester here.