Monthly Archives: October 2014

Throwback: Flamenco in Calasparra

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As I claimed before that I would post any and all of the posts that I previously missed under the title “Throwback”, this post refers to the weekend that I went to Calasparra, Murcia to celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week) with my roommate Rocío and her family.

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I have previously talked about the various religious processions that were celebrated that weekend. However, Saturday there are not any official processions and so used the day to see some of the other sites of the city. Argeo, her cousin, drove us up to the mirador, where you can see much of farmlands and rice paddies for which Calasparra is famous.

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From there we headed up the mountain to where the Virgin de la Esperanza (Hope) is housed. According to the legend a shepherd who was looking for refuge in one of the caves found a small wooden image of the Virgin. The city wanted to move the statue to a church centrally located within the city, but when they went to lift it, it was too heavy to be moved and so they constructed a shrine out of the rock there on the mountain. Not only is it a site known for many miracles and frequented by many pilgrims, as proven by the large quantity of ex-voto gifts (these are the gifts in wax or other precious materials contained behind the main altar). But also, as Rocío told me, it is a common place to hold First Communion or wedding banquets, particularly because it is right next to the river.

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After exploring the entire complex, we headed back into the car and visited the main river at another point in the city. This is the typical summer hangout spot, but we were too early to go swimming in April.

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From here we ventured out of the limits of the city to a restaurant on a hill that is known for live Flamenco performances. It is completely a family run production. For instante, the owner sang while one of the waitresses dances. Additionally, the family of the guitarist showed their enthusiasm for his music, joining in dancing. The young girl pictured below could not sit in her seat and was joined on the floor by her mother.

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Of course, Rocio graced the dance floor with her skills. I still do not have a clear enough definition of what constitutes the Flamenco and the Salsa and end up with a funky mixture of both styles all at once without coordination. That doesn’t stop me from joining in the fun, I just don’t appear elegant or graceful.

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They were even kind enough to allow the audience to sing, like Karaoke but without the lyrics on a screen. While Ro came up with a creative blend of words, our other friend made us all laugh with his silly phrases.

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Back to the Pool

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Although we have been training for almost two months, I count today as the first day of the season because today was the first day we were allowed to compete. It was a simple very low key competition at our home pool, but it serves as the only chance in the fall to swim other events that you do not have times in, so that you can swim them later on in the season. Therefore, I swam mainly off events, but who cares, racing is racing. In fact, it’s more fun to swim something you are not used to swimming because you generally surprise yourself. For instance, today I went a 1:13 in the 100 SCM breaststroke. I was hoping for anything under 1:20, so I clearly blew past my own expectations.

I have a feeling that this year is going to be a year of growth. First and foremost, this will be the first season that I swim full time. These past two years due to my masters’ classes in the afternoon have had to miss a few workouts each week. Since I no longer have classes, I can go to every single practice! I can already notice the difference in my endurance from last year, which is exciting because it means we can build on this initial strength and get even better. Additionally, we have a great group of people, who all want to get better generating an atmosphere for fast swimming.

Finally, I have been invited to represent the US for the first time in two different meets: SC Worlds this upcoming December in Doha, Qatar and Pan American Games in June 2015. I cannot express in words my gratitude for these opportunities to compete for the US internationally. I know that these experiences will help prepare me for what’s to come in my career and I look forward to the challenges that come with them.

Hostesses with the mostesses

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Although night’s out with friends can be invigorating and just what you need. Recently Rocio and I have been opting for intimate dinners with close friends, which are more conducive to conversation before heading out into Madrid’s streets. I like dinner parties. I like parties and I like themes. I think it runs in my blood, since all of the women in my family know how execute themed parties flawlessly.

However, most of these dinner parties that we throw are themeless. Like last Thursday’s, when we realized we had lots of food and hadn’t seen our friends in a while and invited everyone over for a girls night dinner. I am sure Pintrest has something to offer for a Girls Night Theme, and maybe it’s our ages, but no one seems to notice if the table has a nice center piece or matching plates. We are more concerned about eating and talking with one another, which in the end is the reason for throwing a dinner party, right? My main theory is that no one will remember exactly what you make, nor how it was presented (unless you burn it to a crisp, and then it’s a funny story), but they will remember the fun of getting together and being welcomed into your home for good meals. And so I do not carry on the tradition of great themed parties, (maybe they will come in the future), but I do continue the Perry tradition of being a hostess with the mostess. Below are a few photos from some of our latest get-togethers.

Let the fun begin!!

Let the fun begin!!

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Look at those muscles!

Look at those muscles!

We found Kate's swimming gear…

We found Kate’s swimming gear…

FISHIES!

FISHIES!

Just keep swimming…

Just keep swimming…

 

A Master’s in the Books

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How have two years flown by so quickly? I can still remember sitting in EP’s office, filling the official paperwork to begin my masters while she asked me about my thoughts for my final Master’s project. At the time I had no idea what I wanted to write about, but I knew that one course would help me find my way.

 

I didn’t have to wait too long and in my first semester I fell in love with the doors of Las Descalzas Reales. Flash forward two years and I can not only tell EP the theme of my final project, but its conclusions, something far more interesting than simply a topic. I know that when I first presented the project of using doors to study a convent, most thought that I was crazy. However, I had a wonderful guide to help me channel my crazy, MJ. Without hesitations she took on my advising my project, stating that from my initial project it was clear that I would dive deeper than just looking at doors.

 

Little by little the project about doors began to transform into an in-depth study to the nuns’ mental conception of the various spaces of their convent. By focusing each chapter on one of the three properties that the French theorist Henri Lefebvre (1974) recommends for understanding any society’s space: spatial comportment, decoration, and use, we were able to better understand how these nuns moved through and conceived of the various spaces at their disposition. Each phase prompted further reflections and analysis, leading to the theory of that the nuns’ divided their spaces into two separate entities, in a fashion that emulates the binary code.

 

Three weeks ago I had the pleasure of turning in the final project titled: De la puerta hacia el convento: Una approximación a la utilización del espacio en el Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales Madrid (s. XVII). I use the word pleasure, because in the end I was, and still am, really proud of the final product. I am grateful to my Team of Correctors, who spent countless hours helping correct and “castellanize” my Spanish so that these complex concepts made sense to my readers. Each shared their unique perspective, causing me to reconsider initial findings or to find a clearer way to express what I believed to be true, which in the end created a final project that I am proud to have presented.

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Going into the defense I was not nervous; instead, it was my chance to speak with academics about what I had been working on in libraries, archives, and my bedroom. We all know how much I like to talk and the 15 minutes passed incredibly quickly. The Tribunal comprised of three professors from the university, praised my work for its risk and execution. They also were complimentary of my efforts to avoid it being incoherent in Spanish, especially since two believed that I would turn in a final project in English. (To my knowledge, that was never an option). Since I was the last one to present, I did not have to wait long before they announced the final grades. And just like that, my masters in the History of the Spanish Monarchy at UAM has come to an end.

 

Many, myself included, thought that I would move home as soon as I finished the Masters. And yet, I am still happily here in Madrid. Since I have been granted paperwork through June 2015, I have decided to stay put. Simply said, I love my life here and see no reason to move while I am happy and successful. That being said, I do not want to sit around like a bump on a log and just swim because I know that part of my recipe for success these past years has been the ability to grow as a person in every aspect of my life: athletic, academic, and social. Therefore, this year I will continue my study into the spatial comportment of Las Descalzas Reales by considering manuscripts and other primary sources that I did not have time to consult during the thesis process, hoping to find conclusions worthy of an academic article. I will also be translating my thesis into English, to have a sample-writing piece for when I decide to apply to PhD programs (Feel free to ask for a copy around January). To compliment this work, I still have the opportunity to talk about Spanish Art and History on my tours with Madrid Museum Tours. Furthermore, I am taking a class at the Prado titled: The History of Beauty, but more on that in a later post. As for the other two pillars of life, both will be discussed in future posts, but I believe it is safe to say that the equilibrium of my life has been maintained, even though the Masters has officially ended.