Un dia en la Universidad de Salamanca

exercise book showing work done by studentWednesday saw us back to school again! Me encantan mis clases y creo que estoy aprendiendo mucho. My first class with Isabela is great; we have plenty of opportunity to interact and converse and there is freedom to produce language within the context of the grammar that allows for some imagination and interesting vocabulary emerges!  The range of nationalities in my class, I think, accounts for some of that variety as do the different personalities and cultural differences. There is a young Japanese man who has a very quirky sense of humour and some of the suggestions he makes are rather bizarre! It certainly leads to some hilarity and discussion about culture and language which is all in Spanish.

History was better today although Concha still talks like a train rattling down a track and probably just as loud!  However, I can cope with the constant talking as she is clear and the content is really interesting although it would be good to have a few minutes to process what she has said every now and again.  It is still the loudness of her voice that assaults my ears and wears me out!

Literature is hard but I love it.  We have joined a class half way through a course and it seems to be at quite a high level certainly as far as language competence goes.  The students have mostly been here for six months or so and so we feel that we are at a bit of a disadvantage both linguistically and in terms of subject matter.  However, Antonio, our teacher is really good. The classes are well-organised and there is plenty of opportunity to discuss in small groups. He uses a range of resources; youtube clips, songs, videos and ppts.

We finished off the love poems today – Frederico Garcia Lorca – Boda de Sangre

and a poem by Miguel Hernandez who wrote from his prison cell during the Spanish Civil War to his wife who was expecting their baby. I found this poem incredibly sad but others saw hope in it that his unborn child would see the freedom that he had been fighting for but would never see.

Menos tu vientre,
todo es confuso.
Menos tu vientre,
todo es futuro,
fugaz, pasado
baldío, turbio.
Menos tu vientre,
todo es oculto.
Menos tu vientre,
todo inseguro,
todo postrero,
polvo sin mundo.
Menos tu vientre
todo es oscuro.
Menos tu vientre
claro y profundo.

We have now started looking at “La Generacion del “98” and Ramon Maria del Valle Inclan.  Not an author I have ever heard of but apparently he is a key writer in Spanish Literature.  Just having had our history lesson helped to put the writing into context, especially for the love poems of Lorca and Hernandez.  1898 was a turning point in Spanish history as it was when Spain “lost” it’s colonies and led to a huge shift in people’s thinking.  At first reading Inclan’s work “Luces de Bohemia” reminds me of Samuel Beckett‘s “En attendant Godot” or the Theatre of the Absurd writers such as Ionesco or Brecht.  We will see….

University of SalamancaWhat else did we do today?  No Pilar today, thankfully but we had a visit to the Montessori school in Salamanca.  Interesting but a little disappointing – we would have liked to have seen a state school rather than a “Colegio concertado” which I suspect bears little resemblance to how schools work generally in Spain.  Los Colegios Concertados are the equivalents of Integrated Schools in NZ and so have the advantage of additional funding and a greater degree of autonomy.  There appeared to be quite a lot of “trumpet blowing” which I guess is to be expected, but the visit to the classrooms that we had all been looking forward to, was a bit of  a farce;  8 NZ teachers lined up in front of a class, then the kids were told to carry on as normal!  As you can imagine, that didn’t happen – embarrassment, awkwardness, they didn’t know what to do and neither did we!  We ended up asking them some questions about how they learned and one or two very articulate students responded in excellent English and then we were filed out again.  Total time in class 10 minutes.  It was interesting to see that despite my understanding that Montessori schools promote a relatively free and relaxed way of exploratory learning, these students were arranged in rows in single desks, no decoration on the walls, text books on desks and the lesson appeared to be teacher led.

students in a school sitting in rowsWe were given a presentation, too long, too fast, as I said, lots of trumpet blowing and largely uninteresting – most of what they are doing is what we already do in NZ.  Having said that I think the Primary teachers saw a slightly different picture and in order to promote the learning of English, subjects like Art and Music are taught in English.   Nevertheless we did get a useful table showing how the school system in Spain is organised.

playground in Spanish inner city school,  Sand and trees

One of our observations was that there was no green in the school at all – the playground was sandy – no grass – which seemed quite sad to us given the amount of grass even in inner city schools in NZ.

New Zealand Teachers at a bar in Salamanca, SpainWe have found a small bar away fromthe Plaza Mayor; Toro 70 is a small, “real” bar where we have now become “locals”.  Prices are much cheaper than in the touristy Plaza Mayor and it is in a quieter lane off the main shopping area.  We have also become regulars at a small cafe in La Plaza Mayor for early morning coffee before classes.  The owner of El Escudo welcomed us on the second morning with “un cafe solo y dos cafes con leche” on the bar almost before we ordered them!  What service!

Oh, and I did quite a lot of shopping today ……. cold spell due and I had no shoes!

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