Thursday was our first day here in the lovely city of Leon! We went to orientation, where we got some helpful information and our student cards for the University of Leon. And the staff showed us a really cool Macaw exhibit being put on by the Leon Center, containing displays of various Macaw handicrafts. I thought it was really great that the Leon Center was able to create such a strong relationship with the Macaw people given the past history of Spanish conquistadors. I also enjoyed the stories that went with several of the crafts, which gave us some insight into the religion and view of life that the Macaw people had.
After our orientation, we got to have a lunch break and returned to the Center for our language classes. I thought we'd have a class on the Spanish language, since it was a language class, but instead we had a class about the economy and the crisis in Spain. Our professor talked to us in Spanish, and we all responded in Spanish, which was difficult because sometimes I couldn't catch quite what she said. It might have been because she was talking fast, or as a native speaker she slurred some of her words. I took a few years of Spanish in high school and Spanish 203 at UW, but it was still difficult for me to understand the videos that she showed us as during class. Everyone in the videos talked really fast so it was hard to comprehend at first, but our professor helped explain what was going on, so we all still learned a lot!
On Friday, our day started with a lecture from Miguel Albin, a young man who talked to us about youth unemployment and some of the current political issues in Spain. It was a very engaging talk, and I enjoyed all the videos and articles that he showed us. I found the evictions topic and the diferentes scandal to be particularly interesting. Both of those are situations that I couldn't really imagine lasting for a long time in the U.S. For example, if someone didn't pay their mortgage, they were legally evicted from their homes. I never would have imagined that people would protest this on the streets to get media attention and call the police! I remember we saw an instance on this the first day we arrived in Madrid, and I was really surprised that there was even a possibility for the home owner to not be evicted. It was a really interesting contrast to how the government works in Spain.
After the lecture and another lunch break, we went to visit the Sierra Pambley Foundation, and listened to a talk about the Foundation and it's work in the community. The discussion also developed more broadly in regards to the economic situation in Spain. Afterwards, we were given a tour of building, which was really fascinating due to it's long history. We had the opportunity to enter the main library, which had changed ownership a couple times due to Franco's dictatorship. It was great to hear that despite all the conflict and turmoil of the past, the culture and knowledge within the books were maintained. Below is a picture of the shelves and tables in the library:
After our tour of the Foundation building, we were taken the Sierra Pambley museum, where the home of a former owner was now available for public viewing. The museum had several floors, and our charming tour guide took us through the entire place. It was really amazing to be able to see furniture and other home items from so many years ago. The story of the man who planned out the whole house before his wedding, but didn't actually get married, was really depressing when we saw how detailed he was with his planning. There were even rooms for the future children and toys for them to play with! I didn't know we weren't allowed to take pictures, so I snapped a few shots of the fine china and decor that was in the home before the tour guide reminded us.
It was really a shame that was the case, because I really wished I could've taken some pictures of the beautiful 'French palace' room on the next floor. It was well decorated, painstakingly restored, and when I stepped in there I really felt like I'd been teleported back to 18th century France. It was absolutely amazing, and I REALLY wanted to take pictures! Alas, I couldn't, and soon afterwards our tour came to an end.
Outside of the museum was a beautiful cathedral across the street, and just from looking at it, it also made me feel like I'd been teleported hundreds of years back in time. I thought it looked like a very typical cathedral, made sometime in the Middle Ages. It made me wonder what it looked like to the people who were living in Spain back then. The structure must have had a much different aura to it than it does now, a building in a busy street. I don't necessarily think that it's been diminished due to modernization, but I think it would've been truly outstanding in medieval Spain. I feel very fortunate to have had an opportunity to see it myself.
Friday ended with our return to the dorms and a student group dinner in the dining hall. It was a busy couple of days, packed full with a lot of activity, but I think we all learned a lot from.