BC Students Travel to Granada

Ariel Dineen and Rebecca Bender

 

We got to the Madrid airport with an hour to spare. We had time to break into small groups, walk around, window shop, order cafés con leche and eat bocadillos de jamón (ham sandwiches which we would eat every day for the next twelve days). And once it hit twenty minutes before boarding time, we began to make our way back to the gate.

That was when the first disaster struck.

Haley forgot her coat at security. So, with twenty minutes to go, she and I sprinted through the Madrid airport, asking for directions in rushed (and broken) Spanish. Of course, like in all cases with airport security, Station A will tell you you need to go to Station B, Station B will say you will find help at Station C, and Station C will send you all the way back to Station A. Five minutes before boarding.

So without the coat we sprinted back to the gate, had about one minute to recover from our physical endeavour, and then boarded the small, antiquated plane to Granada.

I forgot how I got from the plane to the school, all of us being 75% asleep. But as we neared the school, the nerves and adrenaline began to hit. We were really there, in Spain, with a Spanish family waiting to whisk us away. We were terrified.

That was the beginning of my adventure in Granada. I stayed with a wonderful family and had the best host sister, Lucía. Every day was reserved for culinary and cultural exploration. And at night, our buddies would take us out to “tapear” (eat tapas—small Spanish appetizers) and go dancing. Three mornings out of the twelve days we were there, we hiked up to an old neighborhood called “El Albaicin” to take classes at CELEI, our cultural immersion program. CELEI’s purpose is to help students become fully integrated into the community, while taking advantage of all the possibilities and experiences one might find in Granada. At CELEI we took language classes, watched Flamenco videos, and swooned over our gorgeous belly-dancing teacher named Mavi. She taught us a routine to be performed at the end-of-year talent show as well as how to Salsa dance. The program definitely helped enhance our visit!

Now let me help you visualize the city of Granada. Though hiking up the steeply snaking cobblestones was painful, it was entirely worth it. The houses were beautiful and rustic, shops would entice us with jewelry and leather bags, but nothing could beat the view. Unfortunately the Albaicin was designed to be tricky and confusing to navigate, in order to keep enemies away, so you can imagine how many times we ended up turning the wrong direction. The only thing could keep us on track was the regal Alhambra, a city-like palace occupying the Albaicin’s neighboring hill. It was originally constructed as a fortress in 880, but was converted into a royal palace in 1333. From its many fountains and gardens, the Alhambra is a stunning place to sit, relax, and get yelled at for talking too loudly. Behind it stands the even more regal Sierra Nevada, “the snow capped mountain range”. Everything about the city is breathtaking.

On our first Saturday in Granada we took a three hour trip to Córdoba. Córdoba is one of the oldest cities dating back to the middle ages, but is also the birthplace of Señor Moyano. When the teachers told us to look around, we all grumbled and mumbled… It was raining and all we really wanted to sleep. We broke up into three groups and slowly started off into the twists and turns of the streets. While I’m sure the other two groups had more success, mine got lost in minutes. One second we were staring up at the Mezquita and the next crashing through a wedding. Once we disentangled ourselves from the procession and almost got hit by a motorcycle gang, it was safe to say that we had no idea where we were. No amount of Spanglish could help us and the map of the city was covered in black paint, making it useless. Once the rain stopped we brightened up and with a boost of energy eventually clamored our way back to the Mezquita just in time for our tour. The inside of the Mezquita is almost impossible to describe. From the rows of red and white arches to the paintings and gold statues cascading down the walls, it is the type of place that takes your breath away. Though we are all of different religions and beliefs, the feeling of connection to a greater being was impossible to ignore. After observing the furnished rooms, we were dragged out, not wanting to leave. Of course everyone slept on the ride back!

We were a part of another culture, speaking another language, and making friendships that will hopefully last us a lifetime. To understand how amazing this experience was, you will just have to go to Granada yourself.