After 3 planes…3 delays…1 cancellation and 1 long layover, WE MADE IT TO PAMPLONA! The city is gorgeous and is surrounded by farmlands and mountains – well at least mountains by Midwestern standards. After we recovered from jet lag on Sunday we walked around the Universidad de Navarra; the school the 14 HC students studying abroad will be taking Spanish classes for 3 weeks. As we walked around the school, it reminded me a lot of HC, because in order to walk from building to building you must walk up multiple stairs and steep slopes since the campus is built on a hill. We all decided that HC could not send us to a university that was not located on a hill, in the fear that we would lose our leg muscles. On Sunday, we also received the schedule for our 3-weeks in Pamplona. We take trips to Bilbao, several small cities in Navarra and a town in France. Later that day, a few of us walked around the older section of Pamplona, which is enclosed by an old city wall. The neighborhoods in this area of town are filled with five floor colorful apartments with beautiful balconies and flowers.
On Monday after taking a placement test for class, we had a tour of Pamplona and a private tour of Plaza de Los Toros (the bullfighting arena). For those not familiar with the San Fermin tradition, every year from July 7th-14th brave Spanish men and women attempt to fight bulls in the streets of Pamplona. The bullfighters run through the crowded streets of Pamplona trying to fight the bulls and end in the stadium where they complete the final dual. As we walked into the plaza we could tell how old the San Fermin tradition is in Pamplona, as the stadium seats were stone benches that were disintegrating. Thankfully, in the plaza there is a mini hospital with two operating rooms (although I can’t see why they would need this?) and two rooms for prayer and relaxation (just in case the bull fighters have any doubt). Today was our first full day of class. There are two classes that we take while in Pamplona: a grammar class and a culture class. They spoke Spanish in both classes and I was excited that I could understand the teachers, which relieved some anxiety. After being in Spain for four days, I can already feel myself absorbing the culture, the language, the beautiful landscape and watching my worries that I had before-quickly disappear.
“El Dato Divertido”: Spain is very environmentally friendly. For example: everywhere that we walk there are recycling bins that divide the plastics, glass, carton and garbage, we must pay 2 cents at the grocery store for a plastic bag, there are only hand dryers in the bathrooms and on the farmlands surrounding Pamplona, there are dozens of huge windmills. I have quickly learned that the U.S. has a lot to learn from Espana!!