Sunday, May 25, 2014


Frenar: To brake, slow down. With multi-hour lunches, siestas, and 10pm dinners, the Spanish way of life places more importance on taking one's time than on rushing through a tight schedule.  Even the way the city of Alcoy is set up, with densely packed buildings and not much room for cars to park, facilitates a meandering walk through its streets rather than a rushed car ride from one stop to the next. According to our Statistics & Probability professor Elena, the Spanish believe in taking their time during meals to chat because "talking helps the digestion," but this does not mean they do not work hard - it is simply a different style. As my hamstring injury has been limiting my ability to hike and run in this beautiful setting, I have also experienced this week a type of braking, which has come with its challenges and insights.

Universidad Politecnica de Valencia en Alcoy: The "study" part of "study abroad." Though 4 consecutive hours of class a day can be challenging, especially with the sunny weather enticing us to enjoy the outdoors, the university is a beautiful setting with modern classrooms and its own neat plaza. This is the view from our classroom window.

Tapas: Small portions of food; appetizers. We found a great little lunch place that gives 1 euro tapas on Wednesdays and will probably become a weekly tradition. My favorite tapas so far have been bocadillos (sandwiches) with tomatoes, mozzarella, and prosciutto.

Bocairente: Small town with rich Moorish tradition and lots of staircase-roads. On a day-long excursion, we climbed (literally - the network of tunnels and caverns was like a thousand-year-old McDonald's Play Place)  through the old Moorish caves on the outskirts of the town that were used for storing grain. I saw these two boys playing soccer in the streets and had to capture this typical Spanish scene, as we interrupted their game and filed past. As a side note, the topic of this post is futbol, as it is a happily inescapable part of life here. Virtually every park or open lot has a soccer field marked off, often with metal frames as goals. Many of the kids walk around kicking the soccer ball on the streets, and our own dorm has pick-up games on our court at least once a day. I even saw a sign in front of a garden in Xativa stating "no futbol" - not "no sports" or "no play" but specifically "no futbol" because futbol is The Sport here.

Observando: Observing. We visited El Castillo de Xativa, an impressive and imposing centuries-old fortress that overlooks the entire surrounding area. Standing on the battlements and observing the surrounding terrain, filled with mountains, greenery, and civilization, made me think of the millions of people throughout the ages - royalty, soldiers, servants, tourists, travelers - who had stood in that spot and beheld such a view.

Liga de Campeones: The Champions League, the most prestigious soccer tournament in Europe. We went to a joint bar called La Biblioteca (one room was library-themed) and El Autobus  (the other had a giant bus facade) to watch the final match between two Spanish teams, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. Not only was it a very exciting game (Real took it into overtime with Ramos' header goal with 2 minutes left in stoppage time) but the town of Alcoy, as I'm sure was the case in the rest of Spain, was abuzz with chanting, honking, flag-waving, and celebrating in the bars and in the plazas. We will also be lucky enough to be in Spain for 2 World Cup games, which I'm sure will be even more festive.

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