Tag Archives: History

The very very basics… Bonjour!

Classes are finally over and I get to live again. I get to learn all the things I want to learn during the entire summer and not the ones my textbooks impose on me. I get to start this summer with a clean slate.

Almost two months ago I decided to learn French for numerous reasons, but mostly because it has been a language I have always thought about but never really taken seriously. Now that I study literature and want to learn about the world, French appears to be everywhere. From the French names I can’t pronounce and the cuisine I’m unfamiliar with to the provinces and cities I have yet to explore in France. I have never been to Paris, and even though it seems to be on the top of everyone’s travel list, it’s not really on the top of mine. But it’s still there, because even if I’m not one of those true romantics, there’s still a certain magic that showers the city of love that I’m in love with.

That’s what I think about when I hear the language. French sounds like magic, it sounds like gloves holding a glass of cognac next to a gentleman with a mustache and a naked woman in a black and white image smoking a cigarette while  laying on top of her lover. French has a certain way of being silly and mysterious, It sounds like my next target.

I started the evening by typing “how to learn french” in Google, even though I’ve clearly learned throughout the years how to look for resources by picking up techniques for learning languages. I clicked on the Babbel site an started their basic lesson…

1. Bonjour!

2. Bienvenue!

3. Comment tu t’appelles?

4. Je suis Monica.

5. Ça va?

6. Bien, Merci.

From this lesson I learned that I’m going to be watching french films throughout the summer and that I’m going to start by focusing on how the language sounds. Once I get the phonetics right, everything else should be able to flow.

Bienvenue to my journey!

The King abdicates on the first day of class? (June 2, 2014)

It was finally here. The first day of classes had arrived and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was in Spain and even though all I wanted to do was explore the entire country, I was excited to experience school abroad. Naturally, I got lost and eventually found the classroom. Everything seems so silly now that I think about it, because the buildings are actually pretty small. But because everything was new, it seemed like a huge labyrinth at the time.

I woke up earlier than I should’ve, because that first day of classes you’re excited and your body suddenly becomes an alarm clock, after not being able to even hear an alarm for the first five months of the year. I arrived early to find my class and walked around the buildings taking it all in. I was studying in Spain. It was a big deal.

defiende la educacion

My first class of the day was called, “Obras Maestras de la Literatura Espanola a Traves del Cine” which roughly translates to “Masterworks of Spanish Literature through Film”. It was from 9:00am to 11:30am and we were to discuss the syllabus and medieval literature on the first week.

As the classroom, full of mostly girls, was enchanted by the captivating accent and attractiveness of the Spanish professor, we all received breaking news early that morning. Our professor pulled up the Spanish newspaper and the headlines were the same in the English and French papers as well. Everyone was taken by surprise and we were there experiencing a historical event:

The King of Spain had abdicated!

History:

In 1969 Franco chooses Prince Juan Carlos to be the next head of state expecting him to continue the authoritarian regime. Juan Carlos becomes King two days after Franco’s death on November 22 of 1975 and his father abdicates in favor of his son in 1977. Soon after enthronement, Juan Carlos introduced reforms to dismantle the Francoist regime and begin the Spanish transition to democracy.

During the break between classes I could hear faculty members and students discussing the topic. People were reading the newspapers or switching between channels to encounter the same news in every one of them.

My second class was called “Spain and the European Union” and naturally we discussed the breaking news of the day. I learned a lot that day about the monarchy. The King doesn’t really have any political power anymore, however he does have complete immunity, which I found was insane.

I went home after class to eat lunch with my host family and discussed what everyone else was discussing as well. We watched the news on T.V. while eating paella and I learned about the different views that Spaniards have about the monarchy. While the older generations that have been through the Franco regime in one way or the other, believe in the importance of the monarchy and see it as a fundamental part of Spanish culture, the younger generation believes in change and mostly do not believe in the purpose of having a monarchy anymore. The younger generation want to have a say in the future of their country.

paella

The next week or so would be full of conversations about the King and the future of Spain…

Source: wikipedia

A Puerto Rican in Israel…

My name is Roberto Rodriguez Calderon and I’m 19 years old. I live in Canovanas, Puerto Rico and I’m a third year B.A. student of psychology at the University of Puerto Rico in the town of Carolina. Usually in my free time, if I ever have any, I like to write, read subjects of astronomy, neuropsychology, philosophy, physics, literature and history, listen to music and sleep.

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What do you think about traveling?

I believe traveling has to be a vital decision on the life of every human being, especially on young people. If we look at it from a philosophical point of view, its stated that we humans are always trying to understand our surroundings, of course some of that understanding can be done by reading books, but obviously it doesn’t compare to what you experience by actually doing the traveling. It is in that particular experience that you learn from the world and about yourself, at the same time. Traveling helps you grow as a person and brings personal joy, when you realize that you know a lot more about the world you live in.

What do you think is most important, the journey or the destination?

I pretty much believe that the journey is the most important thing. Because, yeah choosing the destination is always a hard choice because they’re a lot of places that one wishes to go, but it would definitely be the journey you do since most of the learning that really counts occurs from the moment  you go out the front door until the moment you come back.

Before this summer, had you traveled anywhere outside the island of Puerto Rico? Did you learn anything?

Yeah, I traveled to the Dominican Republic, the states of Florida and North Carolina. I can’t say I learned much from those places since I was a little kid when I first visited them. But I still have the memories which I usually analyze and I get some bit of information that helps me think about deeper things. For example, I have memories of being with my family in the Dominican Republic and having conversations, even though we all speak Spanish, in which they would laugh about some words that I said. By the time I didn’t know the reason behind their laughter, until I read a book in which I learned that some Spanish words in a country have a different meaning in another country.

It seems that culture is always a key component when traveling. Why did you decide to go to Israel, out of all the countries in the world, during this summer?

That’s simple. I have a cousin that lives there and so I thought it would be a great idea to go visit her, visit the country and actually meet her for the first time. I had no idea about the political history, neither the language but I knew one or two things about their culture.

Did any negative events occurred while you were visiting? and if so, how did those events affect your stay?

More than an event I would referred to it as a social phenomenon which is war. Is funny because I always had this dream of becoming this great soldier, obviously I got rid of that dream once I got into college, but having experienced that phenomenon in which my family and I took on the role of the civilians suffering casualties, helped me recognize that I made the right decision on not joining the army. The war affected in great way the whole stay since we had to keep moving from city to city trying to escape the missiles. It was really hard because it didn’t matter in which city we were, we always had the alarms go on as a sign that there were missiles directed to the city.

When you heard those alarms, what thoughts came to your mind?

The first time I heard the alarms I was reading so I didn’t really assimilate what was happening. But after having the alarms go on from 4 to 8 times per day I started having thoughts on wanting to get back to Puerto Rico. I was scared that the airport was going to get hit by a missile and that the war was going to get out of control.

Having experienced a situation like this one, what would you say to people who want to travel but are worried about safety issues?

Well… I mean we always have to, not be worried, but conscious about everywhere we go. Because bad situations can happen anywhere and it’s just a matter of knowing what to do when things like that happen. But nevertheless you shouldn’t deprive yourself from traveling just because of safety issues, because at the end of the day we never really know what’s going to happen.

Considering this particular voyage, what has been your most memorable ‘out of my comfort zone’ experience?

I have some memorables ‘out of my comfort zone’ experiences from this trip. First, the fact that I was traveling alone and without a cell phone from Puerto Rico to Israel was a bit nerve-racking. Second, since every Friday afternoon we did a religious ceremony call “Shabbat”, through all the afternoon of Friday until Saturday afternoon we couldn’t use any electronic devices.  That was hard because I’m always reading or studying from my laptop. And the last one was changing my eating habits for the period of time I spent there from eating rice, chicken and beans to vegetables, fish, bread and a lot of hummus.

From all the things you experienced when you traveled to Israel, what are the top places or main attractions that you would recommend to other travelers that are wanting to go to Israel as well?

I would tell that someone to go to the dead sea and have a great time floating in it covered in mud. If the person is into old fashion or vintage I would tell them to go to Tel Aviv/Yafo especifically the Yafo part. To those who like to be more active and go out I would recommend to go to Eilat, which is a city packed with a lot of hotels and a lot of people to meet. Jerusalem should be visited because it has a lot of history, plus visiting the wailing wall is a great experience. The beach definitely has to visited and stay there until you experience watching that beautiful sunset that Israel has to offer. The last one I definitely think it should be the Holocaust Museum(Yad Vashem) which is a World Center for Holocaust Research and has much information about the holocaust.

Do you have any travel plans in the immediate future? Or where is the number one place on your list to visit next?

For now I’m planning to visit once again the Dominican Republic to spend some time with my family and actually travel within the country and learn more about their culture, history and famous places. But my number one place to visit I believe is India. India is recognized as a place of much wisdom but at the same time much poverty, so it makes it really interesting for me.

Would you ever go back to Israel?

Yes, I would. Because even though I couldn’t experience much of the country because of the war, I had an amazing experience in those short periods of time that I was doing something else besides escaping. As a result, I ended wanting to see more and experience more and because of that I would love to go back to Israel and spend more time in that amazing place.

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Top 5 Things To Do In The Beautiful Old San Juan

From walking down the cobblestone streets to breathing the fresh ocean air and enjoying the history behind the old Spanish fortifications located right across a beautiful set of colorful colonial houses, Old San Juan has become my favorite traveling destination of all.

History:

Old San Juan is the historic core of the city of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. It is the oldest city under United States jurisdiction founded in 1521 by Juan Ponce de Leon, the first governor of the island. In 1493 Christopher Columbus landed on the island on his second voyage, and named it San Juan Bautista in honor of John the Baptist. The location made the original settlement Spain’s most important military outpost in the Caribbean. In 1509 the settlement was relocated to the islet now called Old San Juan and it was named Puerto Rico or rich port. However, around ten years later the confusion of the names led to a switch where the city took the name of San Juan, while the island became Puerto Rico.

Top 5 Things To Do:

  1. Fortifications

Walking or taking the free trolley on a beautiful warm morning to the different fortifications in Old San Juan is a great way to start the day. Old San Juan has over 500 years of history and colonial architecture and visiting the castle San Felipe del Morro, the fort of La Fortaleza and the fort of San Cristobal will allow you to travel back in time with their canons and ramparts used to protect Spain’s empire against Carib Indians, pirates and other countries. These monuments are the must-see attractions in the area and give the region a sense of magic that may not be experienced in other cities.

  1. Cafe Manolín

After a morning full of walking and sightseeing a delicious lunch is in order. My favorite restaurant at this time of the day is Café Manolín located where San Justo street meets La Fortaleza street. Manolín is a family friendly café that has been there for over 70 years and serves the most exquisite Puerto Rican food at an affordable price. The clientele varies from functionaries of the government to tourists and citizens of the island. This restaurant is opened 7 days a week and offers homemade mouthwatering desserts such as: Tres Leches (three milks cake), chocolate cake, and Flan de Queso (cheese custard). It is also very well known for their traditional coffee called ‘café colao’.

  1. Art Galleries

A wonderful and relaxing activity after a delicious lunch is to walk up and down the streets of Old San Juan where delightful art galleries can be found. Here, you will be able to find Caribbean and Latin American contemporary art, pop art, sculptures, naïve art, etchings, silkscreen, photography and much more. You can browse the many galleries while getting lost in this beautiful city and enjoy the very special and cozy sunshine that reminds you that you are in an island in the Caribbean.

  1. Paseo de La Princesa

After enjoying an afternoon full of art and beauty I recommend to head off to one of my favorite spots in old San Juan. Stroll down Paseo de La Princesa when the sun is going down and enjoy the magnificent view of the water and the docks while being entertained by life music and free cultural performances. In the Paseo you can also find street vendors, artisans and a restaurant called Café La Princesa located in a beautiful garden by a colonial fortification that offers traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. Dine in this rustic and homely atmosphere surrounded by the enchantment of a night showered by stars.

  1. Poet’s Passage

When the night has set in and you have finished dining, there is a wonderful little place that should be visited. The Poet’s Passage is an artsy café located on Cruz street that hosts creative events such as open mic and poetry slams. It is an amazing experience that will stimulate your creative thinking by meeting talented artists, writers and poets. This is definitely a delightful way to end your night.

Old San Juan is a magical place where there is a little bit of everything for everyone’s taste.