Communitas as I can describe is a group which consists of like-minded individuals sharing the same challenges as an individual may also be facing. In my case my communita is made of my fellow API program students, who have been with me since we arrived in Madrid. We actually haven’t been in Seville yet. We toured Madrid, the Escorial, Toledo, and Cordoba throughout the week. My communita will actually gain some people and lose some people as we settle into our Sevillan residencias. We are split up amongst different apartment complexes in different neighborhoods of Seville. However, there will be a few more students arriving to my apartment within a week or so. . Most importantly though, through touring the Spanish cities the past couple days I made a group of even closer friends – better than a communita.
Speaking of communitas. We collectively struggled through the tour of El Escorial the other morning. After a night out and not getting sleep we found ourselves a bit ragged and slow as we listened to the Spanish guide lecture us about kings and Spanish Catholicism. El Escorial is about an hour outside of Madrid in the countryside. There facing the mountains outside of Madrid, the village of San Lorenzo contains the gem that is El Escorial. It is Spain’s sacred monastery that dates back to the 16th century. Many hours later we found ourselves back on the bus and not soon enough in Toledo. As soon as we got off the bus a couple other students and I went to find a local restaurant for siesta. We were in dire need of food and drink. We found a quiet den off a side street for the meal. The dining room was cozy as if it were a hunter’s cabin, as the walls were adorned with various buck mounts, game trophies, and old Toledo artefacts. How we managed to find this spectacular place I have no idea. Well during siesta we had an earnest bonding moment, (Davis, Idalvis, and I) over a glass of wine and tapas or appetizers, which came from our discussion of our first impressions of the groups dynamic of the communitas we were a part of. We three concluded the same notion from the escapades of the last week. Our shared observation was how it was incredible to observe firsthand the authentic forming of bonds amongst ourselves. While were out in the clubs the past couple nights it was great to see how everybody got along and who gravitated towards others. Now I’m no anthropologists but as we sipped our tinto de verano we were excited to realize that we had similar findings, of the comradery that was forming in our week of being a communita. We each felt as though we knew each other in a special way by sharing this first week in a foreign country together.
Honestly the best tactic to taking on the challenges and nuances of this Spanish culture has been to keep an open mind about everything and to not be afraid of failure. Many times I strike up conversations with shop owners only to get a shy smile as if they don’t quite understand. That’s alright, there are plenty others who are delighted to hear my earnest attempt at asking for directions or working through conversations at restaurants. I’d say when I am trying to connect with the locals in a fearless type attitude is when I feel most comfortable.
Our first week in Spain presented us with many adjustments and challenges. The vast majority of us have trouble speaking with Spanish folk but can understand them. It’s been good to know I’m not alone in my lack of language capabilities thus far. Although, the Spanish people are all patient and kind in dealing with us, and are enthusiastic in guiding us to speak in the native tongue. A similar feeling throughout our communita is the expected feeling of jet lag and our body’s adjusting to the eating and living habits of Spain. As far as meals go, I have come to experience firsthand that Spain is vastly different from the U.S. . A breakfast in Spain entails a minimal meal consisting of a café, cheese, ham, and a few fruits or bread. The next meal of the day does not come to fruition until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, which is the glorious Siesta. Traditionally the heaviest meal of the day, Siesta has several courses and is common for everybody to leave work to enjoy. Although we being foreigners, haven’t completely grasped this concept yet, as we have tended to opt for light lunches. We have only just begun to adjust this detail. Finally, around eight or later comes dinner or “cena”. This meal is similar to what American’s have, just pushed back later into the evening, as the night life usually doesn’t begin until 11pm. All of these new habits of Spain has caused a heavy learning curve, but in due time we will all come to understand Spain’s daily ritual. All along I feel lucky to have faced these challenges with positivity and understanding. I have pushed myself to do as Slimbach presents the correct way of dealing with culture change, “The transformative potential of global learning requires that we do not waste our sorrows […] we can learn to welcome [the challenges] as inevitable and indispensable friends. No longer do we stay on guard and keep the local culture at arm’s length” (Slimbach, 163). Even further obstacles we have all bonded through is the many tours we have endured through the hot weather. Now don’t get me wrong we have visited famous palaces, and renowned museums which contain priceless experiences, but all the while we have been prone to the intense heat and lack of public drinking water as if we were transported to a desert.
I chose the picture of John because metaphorically it shows our attitude in this cultural change. The setting is the popular Plaza de Mayor. We sat at this cafe to have a round of beers where upon we felt content with ourselves and chatted about our recent introduction of Spanish culture. Low and behold this man, likely who makes his living on the streets comes by clad in full armor and acts as if he is beheading john. We all laughed in a relaxed manner and i got a couple good photos of this candid scene. But when i reflect on this moment I think of how, the man in the armor represents the challenge of culture change and John represents our communita. In the moment he is smiling, at ease. That state of mind represents the overarching feeling I have for my transition thus far.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Stylus Publishing, LLC., 2010).