Wednesday morning started with a seminar on cultural differences, the goal was to better understand some of the ways in which cultures differ or are similar, and consider how to introduce frameworks that can help students understand, recognize, and appreciate differences. We discussed cultural value patterns such as individualism and collectivism, high-context vs. low context cultures, how cultures or individuals view time (poly vs. monochromatic), and power distance. I learned that I am a very low context person and tend to tell people how it is quickly! 🙂
After the morning session we got on a bus to head to Chinchón, a pueblo outside of Madrid. The purpose was to experience another way of life in Spain and to observe the cultural patterns discussed in the morning session in action. This was by far my favorite excursion of the program. I love small european villages, it’s such a slower pace of life and I love all the history and architecture that is present. We had lunch here together, then walked around the small pueblo and interacted with the people. At the monastery, there was a small bakery where they sold cookies to help with funds that were made with local products.
After we visited there, we walked around to observe the town. I talked to the pharmacist at the Farmacia, he spoke pretty good English and was able to tell me about the process of becoming a pharmacist in Spain, how much he made as a pharmacist, how the process of dispensing went in their stores. I learned the government regulates how many pharmacies can be open which is based on population in the geographical area, so you won’t find them across the street on the same corner anywhere. I also learned that you can’t even buy Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) without going to the pharmacy. Currently there is a law potentially being changed to allow purchases like those in other stores, but the profession is fighting it.
I was spending most of the day in Chinchón with a small group of ladies, we had been told by a few others to check out a bakery in the main square. So Gina, Sarah, and I went into this bakery. We found a women there eager to have us try her sample cookies and show us her products. I got a few honey pastries to bring back to Dustin and Sarah bought a cookie. We probably spent 1.50 EUR, if that. You could get a loaf of bread decorated for almost any occasion. (see picture below). We were heading out and the woman handed Gina a half eaten bag of pistachios and told her to have us sit outside. Gina is a Spanish professor so she was our communicator! We sat outside in 4 plastic chairs with this women as she told us about her life. It seemed that the bakery was handed down to her from her father, her brother left the village and become a translator, and this women seemed to feel like she was stuck in this place.
She told us we were smart for exploring the world. She told us a few other crazy stories and asked us to stay while she helped a few customers and then came back to chat. We did need to leave because our bus was headed back to Madrid, but before we left she went back in to get some cookies for us and bagged up some bread. She was a sweet older women who seemed lonely and stuck. This was one of those moments where I wish I could communicate with her in her language to share the gospel and love of Jesus. There were multiple other times that week where I felt the same way. I’m working on my Spanish but life keeps moving faster than ever!
Dinner was on our own when we got back to Madrid which was about an hour’s bus ride away. Dustin and I had dinner at a restaurant called Vi Cool which was a new contemporary take on Spanish Tapas. They also had some fun pizzas and I was able to get an all goat cheese one. The Tapas dishes looked good that were coming to the other tables, but it was a little bit pricey.
On Thursday we headed to the Las Ventas, (Madrid’s bull ring). The purpose of this was to gain a deeper understanding of this iconic aspect of Spanish culture and to consider how controversial topics can be an opportunity to practice cultural bridging techniques. This was quite the experience because we got there and the tour told us they couldn’t do it for another hour, so we split up to grab some coffee/tea and then came back to the ring. During this time it started to rain fairly hard and we got a little wet, ok more than a little wet! The bull ring staff finally opened up a gate so we could stand under a roof in an alcove, and while were in there, it started to hail with the pouring rain. The Spainairds thought this was crazy and kept saying how it never happens! Must be my luck, the only time I’ve traveled to San Diego where it is supposed to be 70’s and sunny all the time it hailed too!
Once we got all the group back together (some were still hiding out in the cafeteria across the street), we got the tour of the bull ring, then we had lunch, and our afternoon/evening workshops focused on cultural bridging practices, where we learned and practiced processes for bridging between ourselves and others who are culturally different. We discussed the skills involved in cultural bridging, the personal leadership model, and spheres of intercultural competence.
Dinner was on our own. Dustin and I grabbed a few bites of food from a Tapas place at the Mercado de San Antón. The market had some grocery places at the bottom but not like a typical open aired market. Apparently the markets were causing a stench in the city especially when it was hot from the meat that was being sold. So they turned many of them into more touristy/restaurant style places. The second floor was all tapas restaurants & bars that each had a stand. And the third floor was a full sit down restaurant with a roof top lounge. Lots of tapas dishes included dairy and eggs, I desperately wanted cooked veggies that weren’t peppers/onions but we ended up with chicken wings!
Friday was the last day of the seminar and the focus was Re-Entry and Creating an Action Plan for students. We learned about factors that impact re-entry and how to support students through that process. We spent a lot of time on Friday morning reflecting on our own seminar experience and developing an action plan for how will we incorporate concepts into our project we are implementing at home. I enjoyed lunch with some of the amazing ladies I got to know during the week at Dionisos a Greek Tapas restaurant, and I must say it was one of my favorite places to eat that week! I can’t wait to get to Greece someday! The afternoon was free to explore a bit so Dustin and I walked around and ended up at the Mercado de San Miguel for some fresh squeezed juice! To finish off the seminar on Friday I got to attend dinner and a Flamenco show. This is a form of Spanish folk music and dance from the region of Andalusia in southern Spain.