Aka the home of the stork, the birthplace of Cervantes (you have to see all of the Don Quixote stuff that they have here, it’s precioso!), and home for the next seven weeks. We arrived yesterday, after 31 hours of airplanes and airports, and we were exhausted. Our families met us in the Plaza de Cervantes and took us back to their houses to eat and unpack and rest a little. My roommate, Carisa, and I are staying with a woman who is originally from Chile, but she moved here 34 years ago and has never looked back. She makes really good food and a lot of it so that we never have to go hungry. There’s not as much rice as in Perú, but I guess that´s ok. It should be a lot of fun staying with her and her grandson.
Before dinner yesterday, Carisa and I walked all over the city. We might have gotten lost and we were probably in places where we shouldn’t be, but it all got resolved in the end. There are parts of the city that are very old, including the university and the building where Christopher Columbus received the money for his voyage to the Americas (fact!). The storks love to build their huge nests on the tops of these old buildings. The city also has many parks, and people are always outside walking around. Almost everyone lives in apartments here; I have yet to see a free-standing house. There is definitely some European charm here, and it helps that I understand the language that they are speaking!
Today we took a pre-test and met some of the people who are helping us with our classes this term. Classes officially start tomorrow which should be very interesting. After lunch, we took a couple of short tours. One of Alcalá (the parts where Carisa and I did not go) and one of the original university. Both were very interesting. The University of Alcalá was founded in 1499 by the cardinal Cisneros. Not only was it a place of learning, but it also provided housing for the students. Those who could pay or who received a scholarship stayed in nice housing which was separated from those who could not pay but worked for the university for payment. They focused a lot on knowledge, obedience, and chastity, with fairly severe punishment if such rules were broken.
This year also happens to be the 400th anniversary of both Shakespeare’s and Cervantes’ deaths. We went to a lecture where some professors from outside of Alcalá talked about some of the themes in the different interpretations of both Don Quixote and those plays of Shakespeare. It was really interesting learning about the complexities which movies have used to portray Don Quixote as well as how the Russians interpret the plays of Shakespeare. Also for those of you who understand Spanish and want to have a laugh, look up Cantinflas. He is fantastic!
Well, I’m off to bed, then classes and Madrid tomorrow!