Monday, June 20, 2011

Lisa Moynihan: Oviedo, Spain

Hola everyone! My name is Lisa Moynihan and I am a History major and Spanish minor at the University of Utah. I have had the incredible opportunity to study in Oviedo, Spain for the past four weeks. I do not know if words can adequately express how amazing this experience has been, but I will try my best to do it justice.
This is a view of Oviedo from Naranco, the peak of one of the surrounding mountains.
Spain is a country rich in culture, history and tradition. I have loved learning about and experiencing this culture first-hand over the past four weeks. Some aspects of Spain are similar to the US, but many are much different. Perhaps the most interesting difference from the United States is the schedule on which the Spanish live their lives. Nothing opens before 8 am (and that is usually just the cafes, most stores, tiendas, do not open until 9 or later), and my classes at the University of Oviedo do not start until 9:30! The biggest meal of the day, comida, is eaten around 3:00 in the afternoon. At this time most businesses close and almost everyone-men and women, children and the elderly-goes home to eat with their families. After comida, everyone takes a nice long rest called siesta! Siesta is one of my favorite aspects of Spanish life, and one I wish the United States would pick up on. Dinner, or cena, is usually a smaller meal eaten around 9:00 pm. The nightlife is never-ending and it is quite normal for people to stay out until 6:00 am on the weekends, dancing the night away at popular discotecas. It took me a while to get used to the schedule, but now that I am used to it I think I will really miss it when I go back to the US!
Living with a host family has been one of the richest aspects of this experience. And while the language barrier has been frustrating and trying at times, living in a true Spanish household has been by far the most rewarding experience of this trip. It has taught me just as much, if not more, than my classes! (Not that my classes are not fantastic, because they really are!) I live with one woman named Deme and she is truly one of the most inspiring individuals that I have ever met. She was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident 33 years ago and has consequently been in a wheelchair ever since. However, despite the obstacles she has had to face, she is an independent, strong and successful woman loved by all she meets. She is the first woman in Asturias to have a driver’s license that allows her to operate a hand controlled car and gets around her seventh floor apartment and Oviedo with the agility of a young woman. She has helped me immensely with my Spanish and has shown me unending kindness and hospitality. I am going to miss her terribly when I leave Oviedo.
Here I am with Deme and her family and friends at a Sunday afternoon picnic!
Oviedo itself is phenomenal. It is the capital of the autonomous principality of Asturias, which occupies the central northern coast of Spain. Oviedo is surrounded by mountains and has a climate much like Portland, Oregon. However, despite the semi-rainy weather, Oviedo is beautiful, green and lush. There is much to do and see in the city. Personally, I love sitting at cafes, sipping cafe con leche and eating delicious churros con chocolate (pure heaven for the taste buds) and walking around the crowded streets, looking at the unique and beautiful architecture, while observing the equally unique and beautiful people. These are some of my favorite places in Oviedo.
This is one of my favorite buildings in Oviedo. The architecture here is truly magnificent.
This is the church that was used to film Vicki, Christina, Barcelona. It is just outside of the city center.
The cathedral is central to life in Oviedo, both religiously and historically. It is the third most important cathedral in Spain and is the burial place of SIX medieval Asturian kings. You are not allowed to photograph the inside of the church, but it is absolutely breathtaking.
Another Oviedo favorite is the Sidra bars! Sidra is a hard apple cider drink that is distinctly Asturian. But the best part about Sidra is that it has to be poured into a cup from a distance so the tastes will mix correctly! The waiters at Sidra bars hold the bottle up high in the air and pour the Sidra perfectly, without looking, into a cup that is at their hip. It is incredible how hard it really is and how good they are at it! We were able to go to a traditional Sidra festival called Espicha, which was one of my favorite nights of the trip. At Espicha we got to eat traditional Asturian food, learn traditional Asturian songs and dances and pour traditional Asturian Sidra. It was awesome!
Here are two Asturian dancers performing at Espicha!
Not only have I had the opportunity to explore Oviedo, but I have also been able to see much of the northern coast of Spain… and it is GORGEOUS! Thanks to the well planned out weekend excursions and some independent traveling of my own, I have seen many beautiful places that I probably would have never known existed had I not been led there (or stumbled upon them).
This was taken at a beach, or la playa, at Llanes, a little coast town on the northern coast of Spain.
Cangas de Onis was the first capital of Christian Spain in the 8th century:
Covadonga is the site of the first Christian victory over the Moors in the 8th century. This is the cathedral at Covadonga.
One of our stellar leaders, Professor Tim Cannon, organized an incredible 6-hour hike for us in the Picos de Europa mountain range. We hiked to a small village tucked away in the mountains that can only be reached by foot or, quite recently, by train. It was an incredible hike and one of my favorite experiences of the trip.

Just last weekend a group of friends and I ventured to Basque country and spent time in Bilbao, home to the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art:
And in San Sebastian a beautiful beach town on the France-Spain border:
I could go on forever and ever. This program is amazing and has truly changed my life. I feel so privileged to have been a part of it. I believe that traveling opens doors and ideas and makes you a more informed and understanding individual. My time in Oviedo has only left me wanting more. I cannot wait to see more of our incredible world!

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