Tonight I had my first presentation for my class about spiritual currents; it is the reason I have not posted anything in the last couple of days, although I have a few things that I want to post retrospectively. I figure that since it has been so preoccupying I should post about it first and then get to the other topics tomorrow.
Our class consists of five students, and so three of us, the young ones, gave our presentations about our current research on the convent Las Descalzas Reales. We have not, as yet, completed our written work for this project and so, like my thesis presentation, this was more of a chance to present our current findings and information and have a conversation before we sit down and write the final product. This project has given me a chance to explore the spiritual space of Madrid in the 16th century, which is not far from what I explored in my undergraduate thesis looking at the convents of Mexico. I will not lie and say that I was pretty nervous for this discussion because I had to speak for 20 minutes plus a discussion afterwards in Spanish and it is not that I cannot do so, but I wanted to make sure that I utilized a high level of vocabulary to get my point full across. However, with Aman’s help I perfected my written presentation coordinating it with the visual and spent the last few days going over and over it. I am sure my roommates have loved hearing me speak out loud…
Needless to say I was ready to present today. I knew that I had done all the work in advance, the research both spatial and documental and so this was the fun part, teaching everyone the topic I have spent over two months studying. Right? In many ways I connect these types of experiences to my swimming career where you prepare for months, or years, for one meet and although you know that you are prepared those little butterflies creep into your stomach. My coach Matt once said that those butterflies are not nerves but rather are excitement. I like that metaphor because it puts you in control instead of some inferior emotion. Anyways those little excitement butterflies started to flap wildly as my other two classmates did not show up to our class before. Thankfully, I saw them when I went out to get water before the class started, which helped ease the excitement. There is something about communal activities that makes doing something difficult somehow less so. I did not mean to go first, in fact, in my head I was going to go last because I wanted to get a feel for these types of presentations in Spain by watching my companeros, however, I also wanted to make sure that my powerpoint functioned because my argument hinged upon visual evidence. Fortunately it did work. Yet, it appears that I need a class in how to use zip drives because I did not understand that if I took it out the powerpoint would not work… that meant I was going first.
Twenty minutes goes by quickly, especially when you are speaking in another language. I was having a good time discussing my topic, if there is one thing I have learned by now, it is that I love discussions of spatial relations. They are so complex and there never is one answer, it comes down to understanding the mentality of the participants and how they most probably utilized this space. I am proud that they understood my presentation, at least enough to ask me questions which is the true test of your ability to present. If they are silent you presented something too simple that did not engage the public mentally. I know that I made mistakes, but I was capable of taking questions, which is a huge step towards my goal of becoming fluent in Spanish. The talk gave me a chance to propose many of my personal ideas and it was nice to be able to discuss them in such an academic atmosphere. It was nice to hear the talks of both of my friends afterwards because in many ways everything is so interconnected because we are all using the same building to understand the roots of spirituality in Spain during this time. Next week, our other two classmates will present their topics, but overall this has been a very positive experience and I look forward to writing the final paper this weekend.
Have you been wondering why I started with Poppin bottles? The answer is simple, before I left today I told Stefan that if I was proud of myself that everyone would share of bottle of champagne with me to celebrate. We have all had a little champagne and now I can rest easy that I made it through my first spanish presentation.