España vs. Me: Round Two

The history and culture shock of Spain continued down its path with me as I began to more fully comprehend the  amazing accomplishments that took place in the last five thousand years or more.

La Granja Royal Palace was an interesting find on our tour throughout Spain. Just outside the small town of San Ildefonso, the summer palace and its gardens were a wonderful delight that I did not think any king would ever want. The 1,500 acres of gardens, trees, groves, and amazing flowerbeds and fountains were stunning.

A flower bed of the La Granja gardens.
A view looking down at one of the main fountains at the garden.

The most incredible thing was how the king had Red Woods shipped from the United States to Spain just so he could have them in the garden. The fountains and architectures were modeled after Versailles, and I found it interesting how the palace now belongs to the people and that they are allowed to visit inside of it. The garden continues to grow all of the original species of plants that were originally planted, and the palace itself contains all of the original furniture and architecture from its original conception as well.

The Mezquita that we had the welcomed pleasure of seeing is the ultimate symbol of how the three cultures of Spain, Jewish, Moor, and Christian, came together and completely redeveloped a new mosque-cathedral as new kings ruled over the area.

View of one of the old entrances to the Mezquita of Córdoba, Spain.

Though the mezquita is mainly a representation of the Moor and Christian cultures, I believe that the history behind it was influenced by all three cultures, even if it wasn’t at the same time. Each chapel represents a different part of the religions and I found most fascinating the pillars that were inscribed with different meanings.

A neighborhood of the “Village of Three Cultures”.

Frigiliana is a town that takes the time to celebrate the Festival de las Tres Culturas (Festival of Three Cultures) at the end of August. This festival commemorates the coexistence between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions, as well as the regions historic confluence.

One of the most pure colored houses of the “White Village”.

This special town, also known as the “White Village” inspired me to find the time during this study abroad trip and visit it again. Though I did not like all of the stairs that we had to climb, this white village full of artists and flowers was the push I needed to continue my journey through the Spanish culture and the Spanish Language.

Grace Englehart is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Creative Writing and Spanish. Grace is spending the summer term abroad with the faculty-led UMKC Spanish Program in Granada, Spain.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The Final War Zone

I’m in a war and I’m being attacked. The enemy’s name is FINALS and my name is (apparently) DEFEAT. I have six papers due and I just don’t think my brain can handle the pressure. It’s so much to take in and do all at once.

I’m being a bit dramatic, I know. In all actuality, I’ll be fine. I guess I’m still getting used to the Maltese style of doing college. No assignments through the semester, then BOW, all assignments due at once. AND, that one test or assignment or paper determines your entire grade. Ugh.

Onto the next topic, the past week flew by, but it was really good outside of all of the homework I had. I got sushi with my flat mate again. Next week we’re going to try a new place.  Here is a picture of St. Julians, where the sushi place is located.

Friday was adventure day. In my last post, I committed to truly taking time and energy to learn more about Malta. Well, to begin I went to the Hagar Qim museum and cave I really enjoyed it and learned a great deal about the archaeological history of Malta. It’s one of the oldest cave on the island of Malta and has some of the oldest archaeological evidence of human life. It was formed million of years ago after Europe’s “ice age.” At one point, Malta wasn’t an island — it was physically attached to the rest of Europe (which is evident by the similar plants and species in southern Europe and Malta). But the ice age caused moisture to seep into the land, breaking off a piece of Europe, forming what we presently know as the island of Malta. I wasn’t lying when I said I was going to up my learning game.

After I left Ghar Dalam I did some more adventuring. I walked through some fields (and discovered some beautiful sites) and ended up at Pretty Bay.

Saturday, my initial plan was to go ziplining, but most people already had other plans so I decided to switch it up. Instead, I went to Valletta for the colour fest. When we got there, nothing was going on. We soon found out that it was actually at night time, not during the day. We still did some wandering, and afterwards we went to a cheap and elegant restaurant called Cafe Cordina. I ordered some amazing chocolate cake and a sandwich.

When I got back from Valletta, I was a bit tired. But I found out there was going to be fireworks in Marsaxlokk the same night. Of course I had to attend, so basically the entire residence reserved multiple taxi-vans to head south to the coast. There was actually a whole fair going on, along with a wine and cheese festival. We couldn’t find a good place near the coast to sit, so we walked about a quarter of a mile to a big open field to see the fireworks. They had some issues when they started — we could see in the distance a grass fire that must have been caused by the fireworks. The fire department even came. But once it got started it went well! After they ended, we walked back to the festival and I grabbed a Nutella crepe before they closed.

On Sunday I went on yet another residence hike. I loved it, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. We went to six uncommon beaches along the Maltese coast. Some of the beaches looked like camp sites and trailer home areas. Beautiful, nonetheless. My favorite stop on the hike was Paradise Bay (for obvious reasons….it was paradise).  I plan to take another solo trip there soon.

I’ve learned during my time here that I just really love asking people questions and learning about them and getting to know them. On the hike, I asked my friends what were the biggest things they’ve learned since studying abroad. These were their responses:

Friend 1: She really wants to live near her family when she gets older.

Delaney: Who you’re around can make or break your experiences. A good experience can be ruined if you’re with wrong people.

Me: There’s always more to learn; you can learn anything from anyone because each person has a different experience or perspective to share.

Here are some pictures from the hike:

Final thoughts:

It feels like the more experiences I have, the more unclear my future and career path is to me. There’s just so much out there. But that’s okay. I have tons of interests, and as long as I am narrowing it down everything will be fine. This experience has been beyond helpful in helping me pinpoint my interests!

I am learning now how important those seemingly meaningless classes I took in middle and high school were. I truly wish I had retained more information. Majority of the stuff I’ve learned in school has seemed so irrelevant and pointless up until now. I used to always think “what is the point of learning this?” when I would be in world history classes….thinking I would never actually need or use this information in the real world. Boy was I wrong. Here I am, in the “real world,” feeling like I don’t even know enough to have a “real” conversation. I wish I knew more about the world. I think one of the best ways to get people interested in and concerned about world issues is by exposing them to the world and diversity at a young age. The reason world history never seemed interesting was because I didn’t have any experiences to connect what I was learning to. World history and world issues just seemed like some distant phenomenon. But now that I’m abroad these same issues that felt distant and irrelevant before are now knocking at my back door and affecting people that I know. If or when I ever have children, I want to be in a financial position to  expose them to the world at a young age. I guess I have to figure out this whole career business first though.

To conclude, Malta is great but I’m ready to head home.  I miss my family and Chipotle and Popeyes and my church. That’s all. Adios.