In order to dedicate a whole blog to Iceland, which it obviously deserved, I had to skip out on a few things that happened in Trujillo, so this blog is a little out of order as I go back and recount those and then skip ahead again in order to catch you up on the recent happenings around town.
Awhile back, one of Austin’s teachers told him about an astronomy night that would be happening at the castle. Being the nerds that we are when it comes to stars (see our past experiences with planetariums in BA and in Trujillo), we decided star gazing at the castle would be an excellent way to spend a Friday night.
An outside group came to facilitate the evening, bringing with them a projector and a giant robotic telescope. After pointing out different constellations in the sky and teaching us a little about the polar star (which I’m now an expert at finding), they divided us into two groups. The first group viewed the different nebulas on a projector where they showed high quality images, the other group used the telescope to look at the stars and nebulas that were right above us. Austin and I made sure we started with the telescope and were able to look at Venus and a few star formations. After awhile they brought cake and coffee around to keep us warm. One of the coolest parts of the experience was that it took place on the backside of the castle, the part that has been closed for the past however long as they renovated it. They also turned off all the lights on the castle so that we’d be able to see the stars with as little light pollution as possible. Austin and I were both impressed that we were able to understand every word they were saying in Spanish.
Austin’s older brother came to visit us awhile back which was a fun experience for Austin and I as we were able to re-experience the city as tourists with one of the teachers we work with giving us all a tour in English. That was also a good time for Austin and I to ask questions we haven’t had the opportunity to ask yet such as “What are those ruins out in the countryside?” (An old monastery).
But it was also fun for me to see Austin and his bother who look somewhat similar and act incredibly similar interacting with each other. There were times when his brother would say something and it sounded like I was hearing Austin’s voice coming out of a different person.
Also, it’s officially winter time, which I think I’ve mentioned before, but Trujillo is now surrounded by fields of green grass rather than fields of dead, yellow grass. There’s the old monastery in the bottom left of the photo.
At the end of the week we brought Austin’s brother and his girlfriend back to Madrid where they flew back to the States and we flew off to Iceland. While in Madrid, we gave them the world’s fastest tour of that great city which included a visit to the cathedral downtown. I had yet to go inside for longer than a visit to the bathroom so it was fun for me to be able to really admire the ceiling and artwork inside. The style of this cathedral was far different from most we’d seen and I absolutely loved the colorful ceiling.
And of course it’s always nice to see the non-white washed statues of Jesus.
On our way back to the hostel we passed by the Palace Hotel which is a pretty swanky hotel right in downtown and noticed that the flags around the fountain in the center of the roundabout had been changed so that the Argentine flag was added into the mix. Could it be anymore perfect for Austin and I? While I’d like to pretend the city just knew we’d be walking by at that moment and wanted to honor us, Mauricio Macri, the current president of Argentina was visiting Spain that weekend and we suspect the presence of the Argentine flags means that he was staying in the Palace Hotel.
At the beginning of the year, when I joined my soccer team, they handed out little papers for us to sell as a fundraiser for the club. Each paper was a bet on a spot for an event called the Caca de la Jaca. Having no idea what this was, I made my teammates explain to me very quickly what I was supposed to be selling.
They told me that the Caca de la Jaca was an event where a horse was released onto the soccer field, and the field was divided up in to a thousand tiny little squares on a grid system. The horse was then allowed to run freely around the field until it pooped on the field. Whichever square it pooped on would win a thousand euros, then you would wait for it to poop again and the second prize winner would get two hundred and fifty euros. When I came home and told Austin that this would be happening in March, we agreed that we had to go.
So the first weekend of March, after we returned from our trip to Iceland, we went to watch the Trujillo men’s team play a game of soccer. It was a pretty good game, they won, and at this point we know enough people in town, and I know enough people in the soccer community, that we had a few friends on the team so we enjoyed watching them play. After the game, we watched as they released our friend’s horse onto the field and the Caca de la Jaca began.
I’d say we stayed for the whole event but that would be a lie. It took them awhile to get the horse on the field, so we headed home and ate lunch. When we returned to the field the crowd was remarkably smaller but still patiently waiting for the horse to poop on the field. It was a pretty fun atmosphere, everyone was hanging out in small groups with their friends, keeping an eye on the horse. Every time it stopped for awhile an excited murmur would ripple through the crowd. It wasn’t until about 5:30 that the horse finally pooped on the field, a good three hours after it had been let out onto the soccer field. Austin and I headed out after that, not wanting to wait for the second prize. The whole event had us laughing at the absurdity of it. The things you do in the countryside to have a little fun…
Over winter vacation I applied for graduate schools so I could go back in the fall after finishing up in Spain. They finally got back to me a few weeks ago and offered me interviews which required my presence back in the United States. As annoying as it was to have to make the flight back to the States for so short a trip, I was excited by the opportunity to participate in the interviews and go back to the world of Student Affairs. Because the interviews happened on either end of a weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday wandering around the national park in Arizona spending the time by myself, away from other people, desperately hoping to avoid triggering culture shock by spending too much time in California and then totally messing up my interview because of it.
It was a good attempt, but I ended up getting culture shock anyways (just the sight of the Los Angeles freeway system is apparently enough to knock me a little off kilter). So let’s all just cross our fingers that the interview went okay. Cheers to all my lovely friends who helped pull me together in the fifteen minutes before my interview started.
The time I spent in Arizona, on the other hand, was amazing. Having all that alone time gave me the opportunity to really process my interviews on the East Coast and think about why student affairs is important to me and I hope that was reflected in the answers for my interview even if I wasn’t able to have as much energy behind my words as I might otherwise have had. On the second day I went for a quick morning hike up to Devil’s Bridge (top left picture) which was a rather terrifying experience when I got to the top and actually was able to walk out onto the bridge. It’s a sheer hundred foot drop from the top of the bridge with absolutely no handrails. That’s the type of thing that Austin and I would see in Spain and joke about how in the US it wouldn’t be legal and it would have bridges and safety ropes all over it. I was a little surprised to find it not at all idiot-proofed despite the fact that it was located within the US’s borders. That just seems like some sort of lawsuit waiting to happen.
When Austin and I were at the stargazing event at the castle they pulled the whole group together and had us take a group picture with Orion and the castle in the background. While the photographer was taking the photo, his phone began ringing with a really catchy tune that I immediately recognized but couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I turned to Austin and said, “Why do I know this song?” He didn’t know either and we went back to smiling for the picture. Afterwards, the woman in front of us turned around and said, in english, “He is not Spanish, but this is Spain.” Austin and I were both extremely confused as to why in the world this woman was telling us we were in Spain and that the cameraman wasn’t Spanish. But then I thought back to my question to Austin. For us, the question just means, “How do I know this song?” or “Where do I recognize this from?” but if taken literally, asking why I might know this song, then suddenly the woman’s response makes sense. I know the song because the cameraman was not Spanish, and we were in Spain, but maybe the song was from wherever the man was from, which might also be where we were from. So that was another one of those moments where you realize that, taken literally, english doesn’t make any sense. On a slightly related note, I have this problem every time I forget and ask my students “How’s it going?” instead of “How are you?”One gets a rote “I’m fine, thank you and you?” and the other gets a lot of blank stares.
Occasionally our grocery stores stop carrying certain items. The truck forgets to come, the store managers forget to order it, Austin and I don’t always know the reason but sometimes things just disappear. Most commonly that item is broccoli, lately it’s been refried beans (which led to me having quite the adventure as I tried to learn how to make refried beans by hand; spoiler alert, it’s hard) but for about a week there weren’t any chicken breasts. For Austin and I, that’s a bit of an inconvenience because our diets pretty much revolve around chicken. When hanging out with the other American in town we mentioned how we had eaten turkey for a week because the chicken breasts had disappeared and she asked us why we didn’t go to the butcher. We’d never been to the butcher before, I’d never even been in the States and I wasn’t sure where it was. Turns out it’s right on my walk to school and she suggested we go if only because it was quite the experience. So during our Friday/chore day routine we walked up to the butcher’s store and wandered in. Just looking at the case was an experience. Every different part of the animal was displayed there for us to see; I’ve gone back quite a few times since then and I think the strangest thing I’ve seen were the pig faces, but it was just the skin. Anyways, so we wander in and ask for chicken breasts. I sort of just expected him to pull one out of the case in front of us (even though I didn’t actually see any) and instead he grabbed a whole chicken, a cleaver the size of my face and chopped up the chicken and pulled out the chicken breasts for me before expertly chopping off the other useful parts of the chicken and returning them to different bins in the case up front. Austin and I were convinced he was going to chop his fingers off but so far he’s kept them safely away from his blade. The butcher and I are good friends these days, it’s way more fun to go get my chicken and beef from him.
One more story before I go: So I went to do a listening exercise form the book with my ninth graders last week and we were learning about cheerleading. So I read them the list of ten things they probably didn’t know about cheerleading and then we did a few reading comprehension activities. One of those was a list of five true/false statements from the reading, the first being: Cheerleading is a new pastime. The list had stated that cheerleading was over 100 years old because it began in the late 1800s so I identified this statement as true. I read it out to my students and they all, uniformly, said false back to me. And when they all agree it’s usually not because they didn’t understand the question. So I knew they understood what I had said and so I looked at the class I said, “Wait, 100 years is new?!” And they all said yes. And then I realized that when you grow up in Spain and the history of your country dates back to the Roman times, and when you grow up in Trujillo, a town that has Roman ruins in it, 100 years is incredibly new. 100 years is practically yesterday when your country acknowledges the full history of the land on which it’s situated. I laughed, I couldn’t help it. I explained to my students what was so funny, and then they all laughed because I thought 100 years was old.