Man oh man I didn’t realize how hard it was to keep posting! It usually takes me a while to write a post, so I don’t always feel like doing it haha but I must! I must keep the people informed of my “adventures.”
Anyway, my most exciting adventure recently was my viaje (trip) to Córdoba last friday to visit Madinat al-Zahra and La Mezquita (literally “The Mosque”). What an incredible adventure! Plus, my guide was my Islamic Art and Architecture teacher, which was awesome (drawback being she made us take notes).
We got to Madinat al-Zahra first. Madinat al-Zahra is basically an archaeological ruin now, which used to be a city, right outside of Córdoba. It was established by the Muslim Caliph Abd al-Rahman III. Whenever a new caliph took over, it was customary for him to build a city as a demonstration of his power, so Madinat al-Zahra was his. People were given 400 dirhams, the currency at the time, to move to the new city and establish their homes there. Some even had summer homes, or almunias, there. We got to walk through the ruins of the caliph’s palace, which was really cool. It was divided into two parts, a public part and a private part. As you might guess, the public part was the space for performing daily administrative tasks (just to clarify, a caliph is a Muslim political leader – think of it as something similar to being the “Holy Roman Emperor,” but not). It was amazing (look for my pictures on Facebook). Also, in addition to the cool ruins, there were about a thousand bajillion caterpillars. ¡Que asco! (Gross!)
After Madinat al-Zahra we went into Córdoba and wandered around for about an hour before actually going into La Mezquita. It was really pretty, a beautiful view, but Granada is still my favorite of course! When we finally went into La Mezquita, I was just blown away by how incredibly beautiful it was. The beautiful arches and images and bright colors. It was just incredibly amazing. It’s no surprise that it took almost 400 years to complete! The other kind of neat thing about La Mezquita is that it’s not every day that you find a Catholic church in the middle of a mosque. Yes, you read that correctly. After the Christians took over Spain, of course the first thing that they did was make cathedrals out of mosques, so there is a ton of Christian imagery throughout La Mezquita, which is also absolutely beautiful.
I thought I’d provide a little bit of an update on my internship too, or my “práctica.” I work for an organization called the Unión Iberoamericana de Municipalistas, or “The Iberoamerican Union of Municipalities.” The work in Latin America and take a subsidiarity approach to fostering democratic development. Specifically I work with their Escuela Superior de Gobierno Local, a graduate program where students from Latin America can get their master’s degrees in things like democratic development, political marketing, development management, and other things of that nature. When I first started, my work was pretty tedious. I did a lot of organizing. I wasn’t entirely surprised, because a) I’m an intern b) I’m new and they need to gain my trust c) Spanish is not my native language so they need to see what my comprehension level is before they give me anything important. I’ve slowly started doing more exciting things. Right now I’m in the process of making dossiers for some of the courses that EGL will be offering in the fall. It’s pretty cool. The people I work with are awesome too. This one man I work with, José, is Peruvian, and he knows I’ve been to Peru, so we became pretty fast friends. He loves talking to me because he knows I share is love for Peru! He’s also kind of the office DJ (I now refer to him as DJ José) and plays lots of great music. There’s also César. He’s pretty quiet most of the time, but he’s very friendly. Marta and Rosalinda are the ones who sort of run my area of the office and they’re both really great, super nice. This morning I went to breakfast with Marta and some other women from different offices in la UIM. I really love this Spanish schedule. In my seminar we talk about how Spaniards are “policrónicos,” meaning that they have a loose sense of time. We all went out to breakfast probably about an hour and a half after I got there and I’d be willing to bet we were gone for 30 or 40 minutes. But hey! It’s part of the culture! They do this every day! Inma told me that going out to breakfast with my coworkers is really important for getting to know them and really integrating myself. I had a lot of fun just sitting and chatting with them! Of course I just listened for the most part, really trying to get my listening comprehension down. But it was a nice relaxing break to get me pumped up to finish the rest of my work. I did stay about half an hour later than I was supposed to to make up for it, but I didn’t mind. I didn’t have anything else to do, and I really like where I work!
At first I was nervous that this internship was a mistake because I was afraid that I wasn’t getting any experience that would be relevant to what I want to do. I may not be saving the third world like I hoped, but I’m coming to realize that I’m still getting some very valuable internship experience. First of all, I’m learning how to work with people of a different culture. Obviously, since I want to go into international development, that’s going to be a really important skill. All cultures work differently so it’s important to notice what works and what doesn’t work, what’s okay and what’s not, so that we can work together peacefully and effectively. I’m also learning a new style of work. Up until now my summer jobs have always been retail. Now I’m in a completely different environment. I’m responsible for myself. My boss assigns me a task and trusts that I will complete it and complete it well. She doesn’t check up on me constantly like managers in retail often do. She explains my assignment to me (always providing me with an example first to make sure that I understand exactly what it is I have to do, which is really nice) and sends me on my merry way to complete it. I’ve even been trusted with taking things to the post office! That felt pretty cool. I feel like I’m really becoming a part of the office community now. When I eat lunch with them on Thursdays the all like to tease me about the huge sandwiches that Inma always makes for me (seriously, she pretty much uses an entire loaf of bread to make my sandwich, and also provides me with a juice box, an apple, and something sweet). They chat about cultural differences with me so that I can learn a little more about Granada, and they in turn can learn a little more about the U.S. We even do a little bit of a language exchange sometimes! For example, they taught me the Spanish quote, “Dar cera, pulir cera,” and I taught them its English counterpart: “Wax on, wax off.” I absolutely love working there! Well, my lunch is getting cold, so I’m off! Hasta luego!