Córdoba: Oranges and Abd al-Rahman’s Alhama!

Hola from Córdoba, Spain! 

On Monday we drove about 4 hours from Toledo to Córdoba on a bus. All along the road were olive trees, which made it a beautiful drive! Córdoba is amazing. We are staying right next to the mezquita (mosque), and we can see down the hill across the river. There are orange trees everywhere with oranges on them!

There are beautiful orange trees everywhere! They are edible but very sour, so it was recommended that we do not eat them. That must be why the trees are so full!
There are beautiful orange trees everywhere! They are edible but very sour, so it was recommended that we do not eat them. That must be why the trees are so full!

On Monday afternoon, we had a walking tour of Córdoba, which was really interesting. I always love going on walking tours because I feel like it is a great way to see the city and it doesn’t move too quickly. We got to walk through some of the main areas of the city and down by the waterfront. 

These remains of a Roman temple were pointed out on the walking tour. Córdoba has a long and rich history!
These remains of a Roman temple were pointed out on the walking tour. Córdoba has a long and rich history!

The mosque’s construction began in the late 700s by Abd al-Rahman. Abd al-Rahman escaped Damascus as a young man, and as a member of the Umayyad dynasty, his family was being massacred, and he managed to escape. The Muslim land of al-Andalus (what we now think of as the Iberian Peninsula) was where he sought refuge, as it was about as far as he could get from Damascus.

The stunning red and white colors are made of red brick and white stone. The alternating materials were used to strengthen the mosque structure, as well as to create a decorated arch.
The stunning red and white colors are made of red brick and white stone. The alternating materials were used to strengthen the mosque structure, as well as to create a decorated arch.

He longed for his homeland, and this shows in his design of the mosque. Abd al-Rahman’s original mosque was smaller than what we visited today, as additions were made by subsequent rulers. The original mosque was made up of 11 naves, running north-south. The qibla wall of mosques is the wall that everyone faces to pray, and there is a niche called the mihrab where the leader of the prayer sits, and their voice is amplified through the mosque. The qibla is meant to face toward Mecca, so from Córdoba, this wall should face east, however, the qibla here faces south. This is because Abd al-Rahman wanted to recreate as much of his homeland as he could in al-Andalus, and mosques in Damascus face south. I think this is one of the really interesting facts about this mosque!

At its largest, the mosque had over 1000 columns. After the cathedral was added, there were less than 850 columns remaining.
At its largest, the mosque had over 1000 columns. After the cathedral was added, there were less than 850 columns remaining.

Over time, the mosque was expanded 2 more times in the southern direction, and then was expanded once more in the eastern direction. This last addition added 8 extra naves to the original 11, which puts the mihrab off center. However, the mihrab of this mosque is absolutely beautiful, and while off center, I am so glad it was preserved and not moved, as it is made of mosaics from the Byzantine empire. Byzantine artists were hired and sent by the government from Constantinople to Córdoba to complete the decorations on this mihrab. Nothing compares to seeing it shine in person!

The stunning mihrab with Byzantine mosaics! The picture doesn’t capture how beautiful and shiny it is.
The stunning mihrab with Byzantine mosaics! The picture doesn’t capture how beautiful and shiny it is.

As you walk farther into the mosque, suddenly, there begins to be Christian imagery, and then, a huge cathedral rising out of the mosque. It was built in the 1500s, long after Córdoba was conquered in 1236. After Granada was conquered (the last of the Muslim kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula), the Christian officials wanted to make the mosque in Córdoba (which had already been used as a church for many years) into a cathedral to show their power and control over the area. King Carlos, a descendant of King Ferdinand (of Ferdinand & Isabella!) allowed the cathedral to be built. It is so interesting to see the contrast of Gothic architecture and Arabic architecture right next to each other.

The contrast between Gothic Catholic and Muslim architecture can be seen here, in La Mezquita de Córdoba.
The contrast between Gothic Catholic and Muslim architecture can be seen here, in La Mezquita de Córdoba.

I was so excited to visit this site and it did not disappoint! I feel really lucky to be able to visit. I also loved the courtyard, which features running water (an essential component of cleansing before prayer for those practicing Islam), palm, orange, and cypress trees, as well as one very old olive tree. The palm trees are a Mediterranean tree that Abd al-Rahman liked so much that he wrote a poem about them in his old age. The cypress trees are from Iran and are usually used in cemeteries because their roots grow down, not out. The orange trees are not original to the courtyard, but were planted in the 13th century by Christians. Orange trees are from China and were brought to the area by the Arabs. 

A palm tree in the courtyard of La Mezquita Alhama de Córdoba
A palm tree in the courtyard of La Mezquita Alhama de Córdoba

After visiting the mosque, we went on another walking tour to the Judería, or Jewish Quarter. The Judería is from the 1200s, after Christian conquest. We visited la Sinagoga de Córdoba which was built in 1315, and is one of 3 surviving synagogues in Spain, the other two being in Toledo. The synagogue was built in Arabic style, and the Jewish residents had to request permission from the Christian leaders at the time to build it.

The sign outside La Sinagoga de Córdoba, in La Judería.
The sign outside La Sinagoga de Córdoba, in La Judería.
The Arabic Architecture is highlighted here in La Sinagoga de Córdoba.
The Arabic Architecture is highlighted here in La Sinagoga de Córdoba.

I enjoyed the walking tour, as usual, and I am excited to see what else I learn in Córdoba! I was really excited to visit this city because we read so much about it before departing, and I feel so fortunate to be able to visit the sites I have been reading about! 

I love the orange trees here, and I couldn’t decide on my favorite photo to share here!
I love the orange trees here, and I couldn’t decide on my favorite photo to share!

Thanks for following along! 

Emmaline

Toledo: The City of Three Cultures

Hello from Toledo, Spain! 

My name is Emmaline and I am a sophomore Anthropology major at Linfeld. I am currently studying abroad during January Term in Spain and Morocco, studying history and cultural encounters in cities throughout Andalusian Spain and Morocco. The course started at 5:30 AM on January 3, when I woke up to ride the shuttle to PDX. We then flew to Amsterdam (10 hours!), and then to Madrid (about 2 hours). We then took a bus to Toledo, about an hour south of Madrid. It is absolutely beautiful here and so full of history.

Toledo is surrounded by a river on three sides, making it an ideal site for a protected city
Toledo is surrounded by a river on three sides, making it an ideal site for a protected city

Toledo was an important city in the Iberian Peninsula for the Roman Empire, and then was taken over by the Visigoths during the 5th century when the Roman Empire had weakened significantly. The Visigoths established Toledo as their capital, and in 711, Toledo was taken by the Arab troops, looking to extend their empire. Toledo was taken back by the Christian Alfonso VI in 1085 during the Reconquista. Toledo is known as “The City of the Three Cultures,” as it was a rare city where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived and co-existed together. All of this background is important because it explains why Toledo is a great city to study culture and history in. 

I love the colorful buildings in Toledo!
I love the colorful buildings in Toledo!
I love seeing all of the plants on balconies here in Toledo!
I love seeing all of the plants on balconies here in Toledo!

Today, we attended a lecture at the local university, La Universidad de Castilla – La Mancha. We learned a bit more about Toledo’s history, and that is where the great information I shared with you came from! Afterwards, we toured the university, which has archaeological sites inside it! There are Roman ruins and evidence of water collecting and distributing. I loved seeing this, as I want to study archaeology in the future. Later in the afternoon, we went on a walking tour of Toledo, where we explored sites significant to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian history in Toledo.

The main tower of the Toledo Cathedral
The main tower of the Toledo Cathedral

We visited La Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz, which was a small mosque built in 999. It was later turned into a Christian church, after the Reconquista. A wall was knocked down and an altar was added to transform the space, but of course, it still resembles a mosque! A Roman Road was discovered under the mosque in 2010, which was really cool to see.

Christian iconography viewed through an Arabic style arch in La Mezquita Del Cristo de La Luz
Christian iconography viewed through an Arabic style arch in La Mezquita Del Cristo de La Luz

After the mosque, we visited Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue. All of the Christian names for Muslim and Jewish religious sites were added after they were transformed to Christian sites of worship, which is why they don’t exactly match up. The synagogue features Arabic architecture, because the best architects of the time were Arabic. This synagogue was also later transformed into a Christian church by adding an altar.

Arabic art and architecture in Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue
Arabic art and architecture in Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue

Lastly, we visited the Catedral Primada de Santa Maria. It is an incredible mix of architecture and highlights the mudejar architecture style, which is a mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian artistry. It has a beautiful altar, and is full of detailed work. I found it so interesting to see the sites I have been learning abut and preparing to see, and the co-existence that happened in Toledo throughout history. This created a very unique city to study culture and history in!

The main facade of the Toledo Cathedral
The main facade of the Toledo Cathedral
This altar depicts the life of Jesus Christ. Many people in Mesieval Toledo could not read, so the pictures made it possible to understand the stories of the Bible. This is made from painted, sculpted wood, and a lot of gold!
This altar depicts the life of Jesus Christ. Many people in Mesieval Toledo could not read, so the pictures made it possible to understand the stories of the Bible. This is made from painted, sculpted wood, and a lot of gold!

Tonight, we went to the parade for Three King’s day, which is tomorrow, January 6. This is the end of Christmas festivities here in Spain, and the parade was exciting. There were floats for each of the three kings, and afterwards, there were fireworks and people threw bouncy balls down into the square. It was a lot of fun and I am really glad I am able to experience an event like this in Spain!

The streets were packed for the Three Kings Day Parade!
The streets were packed for the Three Kings Day Parade!

I am enjoying Spain and I feel so lucky to be studying abroad here! I am so excited to see what the following days bring.

Thanks for reading and following along on this great adventure!

Cape Town ep.4

Holiday season came and went and with it went the post I had planned for last week so you get two in a week! This will be the second to last as I talk about my initial thoughts being back in the US and then I’ll wrap up with lessons learned in a few days. Ok on to today’s post: 

You know the phrase, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”? (If not: it’s about the bathroom, ok cool got it? Great.) You’re probably wondering why I started this post with that, and I promise there’s a point.  I mention this is because when I got back from Cape Town, this phrase was running in my head on a loop. The reason for this is that in Cape Town, because the huge water crisis happened so recently, there is still a large focus on saving water. When we arrived in Cape Town, we were told the phrase as a part of our water conservation talk and by the time I left, it was second nature.

Coming back to the US, one of the reverse shocks I had was just marveling at how much water waste there is. Before I went to Cape Town, I thought I saved water a bunch since I grew up in a house where my parents would be irritated if I left the tap on unnecessarily, but now after being in CT I have a very different appreciation of saving water.  I’ve found it difficult to flush every time I use the bathroom because I can’t stop thinking about the 9 liters of water that are being used, sometimes needlessly.

This is only a single example, but it illustrates just how true the phrase “Abroad changes you” (which I used to think was a huge cliche!) is. I’m from another country so I’ve always had a different perspective on life because of it but my time in Cape Town brought different issues to the forefront of my mind. When it comes to the water, you’d think being a Californian would have made me more conscious, but apparently I needed an extreme to really learn.

Besides that, one of my greatest challenges of returning has been readjusting to the pace of life here. I was used to working 50 hour weeks (or more) since I work in sales, and being in Cape Town slowed me down a great deal. As needed as the break was, one of my ongoing challenges has been speeding back up. I have major projects at work I need to take care of, but have spent several days feeling almost groggy. I’m continuing to improve and expect to get back up to full speed soon, but still plan to create space for quiet and slowness so I don’t lose them in the fast pace of living in the US.

The other obstacle has been answering the question “How was South Africa?!” I’ve now opted to just answer “Amazing.” because I know people aren’t looking to have a long conversation and are going to smile and move on quickly. The long dissections of Cape Town I reserve for a select number of people who I know are genuinely interested. One thing which has helped a lot has been staying in touch with my some of my friends from Cape Town. We have a group message and when one of us has felt nostalgic or sad we’re able to come together. Overall, being back has been an adjustment but I am grateful to take my experience abroad and use it in my life back home.

This time around I don’t have pictures but since this readjustment is a journey, have a photo from one of our hikes.

going down the hill in cedergburg
going down the hill in cedergburg

Until next time,

Camila

December 1st-8th 2018- A Hui Hou Japan (Until We Meet Again, Japan)

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum Basement Floor

Konnichiwa! On our last week in Japan, we got another week off so we explored what we could before our departure. However, the weekend before we had to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam or JLPT for short. The JLPT was a standardized exam that measures Japanese language proficiency for non-native speakers. It was almost like the Japanese version of the College Board SAT. After the JLPT, there were no more classes, studying, final papers, presentations, or homework! So here is what I did during my final week in Japan. For the last time, 始めましょう !

Saturday 12/01- The day before the JLPT exam, my KGU buddies and I got together one last time by having dinner at a shabu-shabu (hotpot) restaurant. We had such a great time together. I also gave them a small box of Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts as my way of saying thanks. Overall, my KGU buddies have been really helpful and kind during my time in Japan. In the beginning, it was a rocky start getting to know them because my Japanese wasn’t that great but now I can happily say we have become great friends for life!

My KGU buddies and I together one last time
My KGU buddies and I together one last time

Monday 12/03- My final week off started by going to Harajuku and Shibuya for some shopping and a little sightseeing. First, I went to see the famous Hachiko statue in front of Shibuya station. For those of who don’t know Hachiko’s story, Hachiko was a famous Japanese Akita dog known for always waiting for his owner in front of the station even after his death. I remember seeing the movie, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale back in 7th grade in my Japanese class and asking if the statue still existed. I never knew that 9 years later, I would actually see that same statue. After that, I went to the Mocha Cat Café in Shibuya. Now, I am not a fan of cats, but they seem to be pretty popular in Japan. The admission price was 200 yen for every ten minutes. There were two floors of cats and they were all over the place! After playing with cats, it was time for me to do some shopping. I shopped at the famous Shibuya 109, known for its many stores filled with cute Japanese products and mainly fashion. After that I shopped at H&M and UNIQLO, and that concludes round 2 of my Harajuku/Shibuya trip!

Tuesday 12/04- I stayed in the Yokohama area by going to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum which was about all things ramen. The first floor is all about the history of ramen in Japan, but the two basement floors are the most fun. It is a replica of an old town of Japan and there are nine different restaurants serving different types of ramen. You can even request to have a mini sample if you want to try multiple bowls which is exactly what I did. I had three mini bowls from three different restaurants and they were all so good! I wish I could have tried more, but I was so full. Maybe instead of having a wine studies major at Linfield, how about a ramen studies major with ramen tasting?! After that, I worked off all that ramen by doing some shopping at World Porters shopping mall in Minato-Mirai. While I was shopping, I came across this unique section called Hawaiian Town. It was a section of all things Hawaiian including restaurants, cafes, and shops. There were even signs that had names of Hawaiian towns such as Waikiki, Ala Moana Blvd., etc. I wished I had found this place earlier because the atmosphere has a nice taste of home.

 

Wednesday 12/05- I returned to Tokyo by doing some omiyage shopping. First I went to Nakamise shopping street in Asakusa which is the best place to get local souvenirs from Japan. Then, it was round 3 of my Harajuku/Shibuya trip. It started by having lunch at Harajuku Gyoza-ro, then shopping at places such as Kiddyland and the Takeshita shopping street which wasn’t too crowded compared to the last time I came. The main highlight of my trip was going to a conveyor belt-dessert café called the Maison Albe Café Ron Ron. It costs $18 USD for an all-you-can-eat dessert experience. There were a variety of desserts to choose from, and I ate about nine plates! At night, I hung out with my former Linfield International students/Tokyo friends. We first went to Tokyo Tower, the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower (not to be confused with the Tokyo Skytree that I went to during fall break). The view was really pretty especially since we went at night. After that, we had dinner at a restaurant where we ate monjyaki. Monjyaki is similar to okonomiyaki, but the batter is softer and you cook the ingredients first and then pour the batter in the center. Plus it is often eaten when partially cooked. There was also okonomiyaki served at the restaurant and I actually helped cook it on the grill. I had a fun time hanging out with my Tokyo friends for the last time because I may not ever seen them again for a while.

Thursday 12/06- The next day I headed out to the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum aka Doraemon Museum in Kawasaki. Fujiko F. Fujio was a manga artist known for creating many manga including the popular Doraemon. For those of you who are not familiar with Doraemon, he is a cat that comes from the future to help a boy named Nobita by using many tools that I wish existed in our world. The museum also included works from Fujio’s other manga including one called Kiteretsu Encyclopedia that looks similar to Doraemon in plot lines and characters.

Model of Gian in the Woodcutter's Spring from Doraemon manga, "The Woodcutter's Spring"
Model of Gian in the Woodcutter’s Spring from Doraemon manga, “The Woodcutter’s Spring.”
Model of Doraemon in children's play area
Model of Doraemon in children’s play area
Me in front of Christmas tree in Doraemon Museum
Me in front of Christmas tree in Doraemon Museum

In the evening, I reunited with my host family before I left Japan. When I met them in front of my dorm, I was very happy to see them again. We had dinner at a restaurant that served Japanese-style spaghetti (sorry I forgot the name) because it was eaten with chopsticks. During dinner we exchanged gifts with each other. I gave my host family a box of Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts along with 3 bags of Kona coffee. In addition, I also gave individual gifts to each of the family members including a toy for the dogs. For my gifts, they gave me a pair of beautiful chopsticks and a hand towel plus, they also had a gift for my real family back home! And they gave me a decorated card with messages including a video made by my host sister. My host family has done so much for me during my homestay, that words cannot express how thankful I am to meet them. I still (and hope to continue to) keep in touch with them even long after my homestay ended. No matter how many International students they “adopted,” and if they get a new one next year, I hope that they will always remembered me. As soon as we returned to my dorm, I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. Right before my host family left, we took a family selfie and I gave my host mother a tight hug before we parted ways. I will say this once again, I WILL HAVE SERIOUS WITHDRAWALS from my host family when I leave Japan.

My host family and I
My host family and I together before we parted ways

Friday 12/07- My last full day in Japan was spent at one of the greatest places in Japan! Can you guess what it was? Here is a hint: It is the happiest place on Earth. That’s right! I went to Tokyo Disneyland! Here are some differences between Disneyland in America and the one in Tokyo. First, the ticket price in Tokyo is cheaper than America’s for a one day pass. Second, Tokyo Disneyland is known for their popcorn. There are many popcorn vendors around the park and they come in many different flavors including a curry-flavored popcorn. Plus, they sell popcorn containers that are shaped like Disney characters that you can use to carry the popcorn in. Plus at Tokyo Disneyland, they have many rides and attractions that are similar to the ones in America such as It’s a Small World and Haunted Mansion. I only stayed a little while because the park closed early that day, and I wasn’t feeling too good in the afternoon. But, I had fun because the park was in their Christmas season which is the most magical time of the year for Disney. Plus, I got to see a parade and got myself a pair of rose-gold Mickey Mouse ears. If I ever decide to go back to Japan, I will definitely go to Tokyo Disneyland again!

Saturday 12/08- This was the day I departed from Japan. Hours before I left my dorm, it was a bit hectic as I had to get everything out of my room, and fit all the souvenirs that I had bought in both of my suitcases. As soon as that was over, we met most of our buddies in the dorm cafeteria. After turning in our insurance cards, room keys, and student IDs, it was a two-hour bus ride to Narita Airport. When we arrived at the airport to check my bags, I found out that one of them was overweight by 11 lbs. Luckily, my KGU buddies helped me make my bag less overweight. I had to end up carrying some of my stuff in a bag, though. Before I proceeded to TSA, we all had dinner together, and took last-minute selfies and goodbyes. Then before I knew it, I was heading back home. Even though it was a 7 hour flight, I slept most of the time and when I woke up, it was already 1 hour before arriving back in the US. As the time was counting down, I thought to myself, “Man, it is going to be so hard going back to reality, and it will feel like c***!” The moment the plane landed in Honolulu, the weather was cloudy with showers. However, there are some things I am looking forward to being back home. I get to spend the holidays with my family, and I get a chance to see my high school Christmas concert since I came home earlier than usual.

Well, that is it for this blog, and the last of the blogs. Looking back at my study abroad experience, I can say I have no regrets. Even though there were some setbacks and challenges, it didn’t stop me from doing things I wouldn’t imagine myself doing. I traveled by myself during fall break to Kyoto and Hiroshima, I tried windsurfing even though I failed, I got used to riding the rail system even though it can get crowded at times, and made some awesome friends and family in Japan. I wish I could stay longer, but next semester I have a 16 credit load, plus I will be in the Hawaiian Club Luau. Yes, I manage to do everything I can possibly do in a short time. If there was song that could describe my experience, it would be “I Lived” by One Republic.

Since this is the last blog, I would like to take some time to say a few thank yous. First, I want thank my Japanese professors Christopher Keaveney, Masayuki Itomitsu, and TA Ayaki Horii. Part of the reason why I am studying abroad is because Japanese is my minor and language minors are required to study abroad for a semester. They were the ones who encouraged me to minor in Japanese and study abroad, while making it possible to pursue the rest of my college career. Second, I would like to thank the Linfield College IPO, specifically Shaik, Matt, Marie, and Michelle. The IPO was a huge help preparing me before, during, and even after studying abroad. They made sure we turned in our forms on time, answered any questions that we had about studying abroad, and made sure our experience was comfortable. Third, even though I already thanked them, I would like to give another thank you to the International Center at KGU (Matsuoka san, Murakami san, and Yamada san). They were the ones who coordinated our time at KGU, our go-to people when we needed help, and blessed me with a loving host family and great KGU buddies. どうもありがとうございました (Thank you very much)! Lastly, I would like to thank YOU for following my journey throughout my blogs which will hopefully inspire you to study abroad in the future if you haven’t. It will change your life for the better, and you won’t regret it. Linfield makes it possible for everyone to study abroad, including nursing students and athletes.

さようなら and Aloha (Goodbye)

-アリッサ クワモト