Thursday, May 01, 2003

:: May day ::

May 1 is a holiday here as well, and it had always seemed funny to me that everyone celebrates labor day by NOT working. I’m not complaining, though.

Below are a couple of entries that I had been working on at the beginning of the week. By the way, today is a cold day. It´s nearly 12 noon, and the sun hasn´t come out yet. The temperature has remained somewhere between 10 and 12 degrees centigrade. Brrr...

:: Weather & wardrobe 1 ::

The rain in Spain, at least here in Pamplona, has a very fickle mind. Last year, before coming over, someone had passed on to me a joke about the weather here: If you don’t like the weather, not to worry, as it will change in the next 15 minutes. Yesterday, April 30, was a perfect example. I woke up to the coldest morning so far of my week-long stay (about 12 degrees or so). A nice hot bath and a warm breakfast of ham and butter and toast and coffee later, it had turned dark and cloudy and had started drizzling. From the window of my bedroom (the flat I stay in is on the 7th floor of an eight-storey building), the streets below were punctuated by clumps of colored mushrooms; almost everyone out in the street was carrying an umbrella. I put on a sweater and then donned my raincoat. By the time I went down and exited the apartment building, the drizzling had stopped. Which was actually a relief. I debated briefly with myself whether to ditch the thick raincoat and bring a lighter jacket instead, but the thought of going up and then down eight flights convinced me to just stick with what I already had on me.

The twenty-minute walk to the university was cold, but not unbearably so. After the class I decided to walk across town to the bus station to buy a ticket to Madrid (Ill be spending the weekend there attending a youth vigil and then a canonization mass with the Pope), and the sun had started peeking out from behind the clouds. Within another hour it was beating fiercely down on the city, as if trying to drive away the spring cold and herald the early coming of summer.

Every day so far has been a similar story. Within the same day there would be cold and windy moments, cloudy and dreary moments, and cheerful and sunny moments.

This, of course, makes for difficult wardrobe decisions. As a guy who feels most comfortable in jeans and other, less formal clothes, I never thought that I would ever have to fight a daily battle deciding what clothes to wear. Maybe this experience will help me understand women a bit more.

:: Student life 1 ::

I just finished the first three classes of the first course, Las Escuelas de Communicación Sociál (classes run until the 9th of May). It is being taught by a team of some of the most prestigious professors in the Faculty of Communication: Pedro Lozano, Juan Jose Garcia-Noblejas, Angel Faus, and Alfonso Nieto, most of whom, I am told, are pioneers in the field of research in their respective areas.

My Spanish has improved a lot from last year, and I can follow the lectures fairly well. Still, there are moments when I get lost when there are references to historical events or cultural matters that I am not familiar with or when they use turns of phrases that I have yet to pick up. My notes are a mix of Spanish and English, which shows me that I still think in English most of the time, and therefore still have a long way to go as far as learning the language is concerned. Nevertheless, I am still pleased with how far I’ve gone considering the relatively little time I’ve had to learn it, and really look for ward to the challenge of learning how to speak and write Spanish in a clear and elegant manner.

Most of my days have been spent attending classes in the morning and working in the afternoon preparing classes for the Business Writing course I will teach beginning June. It has been a quiet life so far. Busy, but not pressured.

In these last three days of classes we covered the following topics: Concepto y características de la información internacional, La sociedad de información, Globalización de las relaciones internacionales, Emergencia de una opinión publica transnacional, La información sobre conflictos, and Análisis del tratamiento informativo de la Guerra de Irak.

We have a long weekend ahead, as today is a holiday and there are no classes tomorrow. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, so I will take advantage of the opportunity to make a trip to Madrid to meet Chaz Navarro, my cousins, and attend the two main activities organized for the Pope’s visit this weekend.

:: Going places 1 ::

Last Sunday, April 27, the guys in the place where I stay invited me to go out for a ride and visit some interesting places in a nearby town. We went to Estella, small town some forty kilometers west of Pamplona. It was a quick and very pleasant drive, through a new highway, and we got to the place in about half an hour. If only getting around Manila and the nearby places were as easy!

Estella is a small town with a long history. It was a bastion of the Carlist forces during the Carlist wars of the 19th century. We first went to a church called San Pedro de la Rua, located on top of a hill. The church is built in the Romanic style, dating back to the 12th century. The archway around the main entrance door (we managed to get only to the door as the church was closed) is Romanic in style but with faint gothic traces, since it was built at around the time that popular architecture was passing from Romanic to gothic (I got a quick lesson in history and architecture from the guys with me). Across a small plaza is one of the palaces of the royal family that used to govern the kingdom of Navarre (also closed!). We then went walked to two other churches (also closed!), and settled for a pleasant walk around town.

The town has a medieval air about it, and you can easily imagine yourself knocked back a few hundred years walking through narrow streets that seem to have changed little (except that they are cemented and lighted by electricity) over the centuries. One thing that struck me right away is the faith of the people of old. Estella has a population of about 15,000, which must have been several times less a few hundred years ago. Yet I counted at least 5 churches within the small area occupied by the town. Obviously, the people then, primitive as their technology must have been, did not hesitate to build great things for what they believed in.

After taking merienda in a small café in the town plaza, we then went to the monastery of Irache, dating back, as far as I could understand, almost a thousand years (!). It is one of the main stops along the Camino de Santiago. Our luck continued to prove true, as the monastery had closed a few minutes before we arrived. So we took a short walk to see the large, modern winery and warehouse just beside it, famous not just for its wine but also for a fountain with two spouts, one for water and the other for wine, dispensing the precious liquids — for free! — to the tired pilgrims walking along the Camino de Santiago.

On the way back we drove through a large, private estate and winery built around a small medieval town, with excellently restored structures — a mansion, a small church, stables, a grain storage house, and a few other buildings. In travelling 100 kilometers we went through 1,000 years of history. Amazing trip.