This week it was time to welcome some new arrivals joining us at the midway point of the course. Our eight new recruits crossed the Atlantic from destinations as far flung as Boston, Baltimore and even Alaska, before arriving safe and sound in Cádiz. Our first three students arrived early on Wednesday afternoon after a long journey from Chicago, and they were taken straight to meet their host families in their new home. Our coordinator Víctor even turned up to lend a helping hand with bags and communicate with the family so that the students could get settled in.
Later that afternoon, five more students landed safely at Jerez airport. Our staff welcomed them at the airport and took them straight to the beautiful Plaza de España, where they were awaited by their host families eager to get acquainted with their new tenants! After breaking the ice with an hola qué tal their host parents took them to their homes, where they enjoyed a meal together and got to catch some much-needed shuteye after over a day's travelling.
For the first day of classes with the new group in place, our teachers took the students to the wonderful Museum of Cádiz to learn about the city's history and its art. In preparation, the students were given time to research a particular era in the city's history as well as one of its artistic movements before presenting their findings to the group.
Once in the museum, the students were tasked with finding two different works of art from each major period in Spanish history and bringing photographs to share with the class, as well as getting a snap of the one work of art they enjoyed most in the museum. Particularly popular was the contemporary art, including a picture of a dog with the head of a man! They also particularly appreciated the museum's collection of beautifully-preserved Roman mosaics.
In the evening it was time for our new students to get acquainted with their new surroundings. Our brilliant coordinator Víctor agreed to be our guide for the evening, and led us through the historic centre to give us a stunning insight into the city and its different periods. A highlight was a visit to the Cathedral, an emblematic symbol of Cádiz's history. We learned how its differing architectural styles are a direct result of Spain's changing place in the world, from a vastly wealthy seaport in during the conquest of the Americas to a minor European economy after the loss Cuba in the Spanish-American War in 1898. The lower parts of the Cathedral are made of marble and the local ostionera, a kind of sandstone found typically on the Cádiz shoreline; the upper parts of the cathedral are made of much cheaper and more fragile stone as a result of the Spanish financial crisis at the end of the 19th Century.
We also had the chance to learned about Cádiz's Moorish past. The Moors arrived in Spain in the 8th Century, where they remained for almost 800 years. It is in Andalusia where their influence - linguistic, architectural and even culinary - is most chiefly felt. We passed by the old Cathedral of the city, which, much like the Cathedrals of Seville and Córdoba, was once a mosque. We also wandered the streets of the medieval El pópulo neighbourhood and even ran into some ancient Roman architecture, such as the ruins of the amphitheatre. This gave us the opportunity to learn about Cádiz's role as a major port and political hotspot in the Roman Empire.
The following morning, our students were once again putting their Spanish skills into practice by spending time chatting to the locals on the Plaza de las flores. In pairs, they were challenged to approach people on the street and ask them about their taste in cinema. In half an hour the students were able to find that most Spanish people in fact tend to watch American films, though it was interesting to note the increasing popularity of local cinema in Spain due to the popularity of films such as Pan's Labyrinth and Ocho apellidos vascos, a story about the clash of regional cultures in a country of such geographical and linguistic diversity.
In the evening we took a trip south of Cádiz to the Entre Ramas Adventure park in the quiet coastal town of Cabo Roche, where students had the chance to get harnessed up and do a spot of climbing! Guided by an expert instructor, students were taught the fundamentals on how to climb safely and how to operate their restraints before being let loose around the park! As you can probably tell from the photos, it didn't take long for them to (quite literally!) get the hang of things...
Students got into the swing of it (yes, these puns are well and truly intended) by traversing a series of rope bridges and hanging walkways before speeding down a series of ziplines and back to solid ground! After getting a firm grasp of the basics, they even branched out (again, sorry) into more difficult courses involving skateboards, climbing walls and trapeze lines. After a great couple of hours' physical exercise we hopped aboard our bus back to Cádiz, just in time to grab an evening meal with host families and get heads on pillows ready for another big day.
Keep following the blog for updates on our first Spanish tandem classes, a visit to La Caleta beach and a night out ordering tapas...
Paul Hyland recently graduated with a PhD in Spanish and Latin American literature from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a first class degree in Spanish and German, as well as an MPhil in European Literature from the same institution.