March 25, 2015

A visit to the CAAC, Andalusian Center of Contemporary Art

Monastery of the Cartuja. Photo by Amalia Ordóñez.

Monastery of the Cartuja. Photo by Amalia Ordóñez.

Since 1997, the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo has been considered one of the main places that house contemporary masterpieces in Andalusia. It’s located in the Monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas, better known as Monastery of the Cartuja. This area, where the monastery is now, was first born in the 12th century, when the Almohads set up several ovens to fire clay. Little by little the Cartuja got built by some members of the Sevillian aristocracy that were established there, as well as some figures of the Church. However, it was in the 19th century when an English businessman, Charles Pickman, purchased the Cartuja and transformed it into a pottery factory that would become world-renowned.

Chimneys used in the former ceramic factory. Photo by María de las Heras

Chimneys used in the former ceramic factory. Photo by María de las Heras

In 1992, it was held in Seville the Universal Exhibition, an event that led to the conversion of the pottery factory into a cultural center, today known as the Andalusian Center of Contemporary Art. What surprises the most about this center is the contrast between its buildings (mostly chapels, a church, some indoor patios, as the ones in the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcazar of Seville) and the abstract paintings that are exhibited in its rooms.

Entrance to the Monastery. Photo by Cristina Esquivel.

Entrance to the Monastery. Photo by Cristina Esquivel.

March 11, 2015

Morocco, the country that impressed us all

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I have never thought when I first applied for being a mentor that I’d be the one who would have the chance to visit Morocco. One might think that being originally from Cadiz, at the very south of Spain, I had visited this country many times. But for some reasons, I’d never made it to Morocco, until we headed there with the UNE Seville students.

On the way to Morocco we were all tired, since we had to get up at the crack of dawn that morning, but the excitement of arriving in Tangier made the bus ride a pleasant one (the guys were looking forward to be reunited with their UNE Tangier friends, who had been visiting Seville the week before).

When we first disembarked at harbor of Tangier, we were warmly welcomed by Abdeslam, our guide for our stay in Morocco. He first took us to lunch in DARNA, the Women’s Association in Tangier, where we started a Moroccan dining experience that would last three days! After the meal they told us about the goals and aims of this association. Then we met the UNE students from Tangier to play Scavenger Hunt, as a way to discover the city. I have to confess that this wasn’t my favorite city during the trip, but there were some spots that left me enchanted. We spent the last hours of the day in the UNE Campus in Tangier, where we enjoyed a great dinner and shared long talks. Some decided to go out and enjoy the Moroccan night, while others went to bed to get some rest for the following days.

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The second day of our trip started with some bad news: not only it was time to say goodbye to our UNE Tangier friends, but also our coordinator Ruben had to go back to Spain because of personal reasons. Fortunately, we still had the support and company of our guides Abdeslam and Lynn, the founder of ESA, who we got the pleasure to share this experience with. It was a long day, full of adventures: a camel ride in Cape Spartel; a stop in the only point of the world where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet; followed by a short stay in Tétouan, where we enjoyed some couscous for lunch and visited its souk (bazaar); and ultimately a stop at a viewpoint on our way to Chefchaouen. However, the best part is yet to come.

We were warmly welcomed once again by Akram (whom we have had met during lunch in DARNA), our coordinator in Morocco and also my host brother in Chefchaouen. We were served some delicious Moroccan tea and yummy pastries by Asid, Akram’s mom, a wonderful woman that made us all feel like at home. Then we met the other Moroccan host students and all went to visit Chefchaouen’s city center and its citadel.

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On our third day in Morocco, Abdeslam took us to the most beautiful spot I’ve been to in years. We went through the beautiful blue and white streets of Chefchaouen and even had to hike a little until we got to the top of a hill, where we got to see even better the beauty, which this little city has to offer. Afterwards we had some Moroccan tea, visited a weaving workshop and enjoyed another yummy Moroccan meal at Akram’s aunt’s house, where all the girls attended a henna session while being delighted in an Ansalusi music performance. The evening was all about going shopping and buying souvenirs, which would make us remember those wonderful days in Morocco. When we went back to our homestays, we were once more surprised by the dinner Asid had prepared for Nikitta, Leah, Akram and me. The day came to an end with a photo session where we put on typical Moroccan dresses and a visit to another wonderful spot in the city, where Akram and his friends took us to admire a sky full of stars.

cristina marruecos 04


As the time went by, I got more and more impressed by Morocco and kind of fell in love with this country.

February 12, 2015

No wonder it’s a World Heritage Site!


Defying the rain and the cold, we set off to Granada early on a grey Saturday morning. The sleepy faces son gave way to exclamations of amazement as we approached Granada and the sight of the snowy Sierra Nevada greeted us.

Thanks to the great location of our hotel, we were able to check in and leave for a short stroll and lunch before leaving for the Alhambra. Granada is a splendid city, with its Moorish stlye and the inviting smell coming from the tea bars. After this short break we hurried to catch the bus that took us to the Alhambra.



Neither the chilly wind nor the rain could defeat us on our way through this haunting palace. Fortunately, we had a really great guide who made sure we didn’t miss a bit of the monument’s bountiful history. No wonder it’s a World Heritage Site! We were taken through a maze of sumptuous chambers and charming fountains, where we learned about its history and took plenty of pictures –big shout out here to our guide and photographer, Robert. However, all good things must come to an end, and so did our visit to the Alhambra. A short walk downhill, trying not to fall, as it really was a steep slope, and we were back in the city.

We had some free time until dinner, so we took the chance to do some shopping –which included bargaining for scarves, purses, or Arabic handwritings. Some of us even got to experience holding a huge parrot on our shoulder! There was this Street packed with tea bars, and some of us chose to give them a go and treated ourselves with delicious Moorish-style teas at a cosy Alhambra-like bar. Granada is a city with a captivating atmosphere that leaves no one indifferent. Just like Sevilla, it’s filled with history, but it still keeps that romantic air that makes it different. Granada is full of life, specially of students, and, as I was telling some of the girls, it is the birthplace of many of Spain’s most famous music bands.

It is also worth mentioning the succulent dinner we got to try. Pasta, seafood, all kinds of meat, special meals for our veggies… We could choose among plenty of mouth-watering dishes, thanks for choosing that restaurant, Rubén!

On Sunday we enjoyed what was, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the trip, and of Granada, actually. The final day began with a walk from the cathedral, passing by Paseo de los tristes on our way to the viewpoint, where we were delighted by a marvelous sight of the city spreading below. Oh, and also by a skinny dog wandering about.

After some more shopping and another tasty lunch, we got ready for the journey back. It had been an intense stay in Granada, short but rather fruitful. Before coming back, some even had the strength to go hiking around the city! Some were asleep a minute after hopping on the bus, but their sleep was son interrupted by the wows as we got a final glimpse of Granada, with the white peaks of Sierra Nevada on the background.


All in all, I think Granada is a must see for anyone visiting or, actually, living in Spain. Sadly, the trip was for a weekend only, though I really hope the UNE students enjoyed it as much as I did!


February 10, 2015

If you go to Granada once, you will definitely go back


I wanted to start writing this the night before heading to Granada, but who was I kidding? The night before a trip you are excited and everything is chaotic, so definitely, it is not a good time to write.

Doing this trip as an ESA Mentor means a lot to me because I am in love with this city and I wanted to share this feeling with the UNE students. As I had foretold, the trip was marvelous despite of the fact we only spent one night there.

#1 Day: Saturday

It was extremely early in the morning and the weather wasn’t cooperating with us. However, our first adventure together (ESA Sevilla coordinator Rubén, ESA mentors and UNE students) had already started. After a three hours bus ride, we arrived in Granada. So, as soon as we got our rooms at the hotel we were ready to walk around the city and have lunch. Some of us decided to go for tapas to recharge our batteries: when you order a drink in Granada, you are given a free tapa. We had to try it! Then, the Alhambra and Robert, our wonderful tour guide, were waiting for us. The Alhambra is a Moorish palace and fortress where different Muslim emirs lived until the Catholic Monarchs (Reyes Católicos) reconquered the city. Every single detail in its architecture and gardens amazed us and we felt as if we had traveled through time.



Next stop: a walk around narrow and steep streets, full of leather bags, beautiful and colorful lamps, handicrafts... We felt like we were in Morocco, even haggling worked sometimes. At each corner, we could discover so many different features… from surprises and beautiful scenes for artsy pictures, to graffiti covering old walls. It was getting darker and it was time for dinner. We all had a splendid one together, after which we still had energy to enjoy Granada’s nightlife.


#2 Day: Sunday

A sunny Sunday ‘greeted us’ and invited us to enjoy our last hours in Granada. After breakfast, we went to the Paseo de los Tristes to admire the Alhambra from a different place. Then, it was time to be ready for hiking in order to arrive at Mirador de San Nicolás (Saint Nicholas viewpoint). Amazed by the spectacular view of the reddish Alhambra and the snowy mountains in the background, we stayed there a little while. Friendship started to be obvious in our group pictures. Finally, it was time to have lunch and say goodbye to this amazing and lovely city which fascinates people from any culture, country or age. But don’t worry, people from Granada have an expression: ‘if you go to Granada once, you will definitely go back’. So let’s believe this statement and we all will be back soon!

November 25, 2014

UNE Sevilla students visit the CAAC


CAAC is the acronym for Andalusian Contemporary Arts Center or Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo. The Center is located at the Monasterio de la Cartuja (the Carthusian Monastery) which was founded in the year 1400.

CM Capture 1

When some monasteries were sold in mid-19th century, Charles Pickman, an English businessman, purchased the Cartuja and converted it into an internationally renowned pottery factory. When Seville was chosen to hold the Universal Exhibition of 1992, the Monastery was restored for use as a cultural center.

Check out the website more more information about the center!

November 25, 2014

Interview with Rubén Díaz — ESA Sevilla Coordinator

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ESA: Can you tell us about the experience you had taking students to Morocco this past spring 2014? Where did you all go, what did you do?

RD: We traveled to the North of Morocco over a long weekend, from Thursday to Sunday. We started with lunch at DARNA, The Women’s Association of Tangier, a community house helping local women in need. Later on, we explored Tangier and its most notable landmarks: the Grand Mosque, the Kasbah, the Petit Socco, the Grand Socco, the Spanish Consulate, the American School of Tangier, the Tangier American Legation... Did you know that the American Legation building was the first American public property outside of the United States? We also visited the old city of Tetouan and its unique medina. And we stayed at host family houses in the blue city of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains. Over the weekend, we enjoyed a guided tour through the city, we hiked, we weaved, we rode camels, we had a henna workshop, we had lots of fun during an Andalusian music performance and we delighted in the Moroccan cuisine (the couscous, the harira soup, the bayssar... mmmm!!!). The whole weekend we were accompanied by Abdeslam, our guide, a wise man that introduced us to Morocco: politics, economy, social habits, traditions, gender issues, etc. We definitely made the most of the weekend.

ESA: How did the students respond to the experience?

RD: Very positively. Most of them described this trip as “terrific” or “by far their favorite experience of the entire semester” - many of them said it was “unforgettable” and “life-changing”. The weeks before the trip they all were concerned with what kind of accommodation, food or communication they were going to have in Moroccan houses. By Sunday, they all shed tears when saying good-bye to their new friends.

ESA: What did you hope the students would get out of the trip?

RD: As novelist Chimamanda Adichie warns, “We risk a critical misunders- tanding because of the danger of a single story”. I hoped that the students would understand that there is not a single story of Morocco, likewise there is not only one Spain, but many. As one of the students said while crossing back the Strait of Gibraltar, “You realize that although we live half a world apart, everyone is actually more alike than you thought”. Mehdi, Doua, Zaid, Abdeslam, Anuar, Akram, Chaymae... the Moroccan students they met - and lived with for four days - shared with them their stories, their thoughts, their fears and their hopes. And they realized the differences are much less important than the similarities.

ESA: Do you remember a moment on the trip when you thought, this is a truly beneficial trip for these students?

RD: There is a photo that is able to envisage that moment when I thought “Yes, this is what I was hoping for them to experience”. We arrived in Chefchaouen and headed to Doua’s house. Doua is a smart English Litera- ture student at the University of Tetouan and was born in Chefchaouen. She usually helps us coordinating with the host families, so her family house is a sort of a main office before students move in with their host families. So there we were, altogether having tea and pastries with Doua’s parents and the other Moroccan students who arrived to pick them up. With open arms and a welcoming atmosphere, there was no room for fears, just smiley faces and laughter.

ESA: Did the experience in Morocco bring something to you on a personal level? And on a professional level?

RD: Every time I travel in Morocco I learn new things on both a personal and a professional level. In general, the way we perceive the Arab world is contaminated by stereotyped images and preconceived ideas in which we shouldn’t naïvely trust. The reality is much more complex and complicated. And not always easy to be unveiled and deconstructed. I believe that the personal stories I have the opportunity to hear in first person when I am in Morocco help me expand my horizons. And what is education but expanding horizons?

ESA: You will be taking more American students to Morocco with ESA in the future. What hopes/aspirations can you project on those trips for the exchange between the two cultures?

RD: Metaphorically, I would like them to close their eyes and observe what they see. I hope we can spend as much time as possible with the Moroc- can students, listen to them, make things together, get involved with their community and share as many thoughts and experiences as possible.

I think it was John Dewey who once said that education is not preparation for life but life itself. My aspiration is that these trips become an important part of the students’ lives.

October 30, 2014

A chronicle of a Granada Trip

Waking for an early morning of long bus rides, us UNE students had no idea what was in store for our little adventure to Granada. After a two hour trip southeast of our home in Seville, I found myself in a beautiful city, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Quite a change from Seville, we stepped off the bus into a cloudy and damp atmosphere, a nice cool breeze rolling through the streets. The walk to our hotel was a brief, yet beautiful view; the buildings and streets of Granada were so different from those of Seville, a perfect mixture of modernity and antiquity. A quick stop at our hotel and we were off on one of those Rubenesque adventures (featuring long walks through beautiful scenery, uphill, through rain).

Honestly, from the moment I stepped onto the street, I fell in love with this city. We walked through these old gothic-style gates, stepped over puddles and weaved through the umbrella salesmen to head to the main part of the city. Looking upwards, relief statues littered the buildings, marble and stone eyes following us as we traversed the streets.

Halie Pruitt

At one point during our walk we passed what we assumed was a statue, but instead was a beautiful street performing angel. Although living, this angel blended in with her surroundings so naturally that it was difficult to pick her out at first!

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

Even during this “short” tour of the city, you could see the obvious connections to Morocco. Although the walls and buildings in the main part of the city were highly ornate buildings with Spanish influence, the small shops squished on either side of the walkways had Morocco spilling out of them. The tea and herb shops, the foreign dialect ringing in my ears, and, above all, HAREM PANTS. Obviously we saw the typical city sites-- Cute puppies and street musicians-- but the city was so different than what I had experienced previously. We could walk down a roadway and see crumbling antiquated buildings and bridges that have probably been there for hundreds of years, turn our heads and see new buildings and geometrically shaped street lights. But grabbing tapas and checking out the stores could not prepare me for the wonder that Granada held for us-- The Alhambra and Generalife

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

Now, I’ll be real with y’all, I was so extremely exhausted that I wasn’t sure I could survive out at the Alhambra. This feeling didn’t change until we reached the top of the hill and saw cannons and palaces. Looking at the sheer magnitude of these buildings really put my mind in its place. We were standing on these grounds, looking across the empty lands and looking back on a small part of history. Before we entered, our tour guide told us how there had once been several buildings akin to the Alhambra that had been blown up-- these were the only ones that stood today because a one-armed man went around to diffuse the explosives. I got excited. We hadn’t seen the inside of the buildings yet, but if this man was willing to single handedly diffuse explosions and defy the regime, they must have been worth it…. they must be amazing. Words cannot describe the wonder found within the body of the Alhambra. I have visited monuments, I have seen exquisite architecture, and I am close friends with beauty. The transition from the exterior-- a very plain brick structure-- to the interior was astounding. The walls were laden with highly ornate floral designs, all in plaster with extreme attention to detail. The ceiling was crafted with ornate wooden panels, designs and geometric patterns etched, visions of the night sky overhead. With the arabic on the walls and the faded colors, I felt as though I had stepped into another world; the pale white of the plaster became laden with colors of days long since past and revealed its true beauty. Rather than listening to me fumble at an attempt to describe what I feel is one of the true wonders of the world, you should just book your plane ticket now and head out to Granada.

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

As the sun slowly set on our first day in Granada, we began our hike to the Generalife. Meant to be a summer house for the Nasrid kings in Granada, the Generalife was surrounded by luscious gardens, gigantic hedges, and lengthy pools. Reaching the top of the hill where the actual summer house was located, we were followed by the fragrance of summer roses and honey suckle. Once we entered the building, it seemed as though the sun had stuck around long enough to grace us with the perfect warm array of yellows and oranges. Too comforting, in fact, because at this point our little group was ready to fall asleep on the closest hedge or friendly looking rose bush. And so our little tour ended here and we walked down from the mountain back into town.

Dinner with Ruben is always a spectacle. Returning from the Alhambra, we had a short time to get ready and head out. Leaving the hotel, we heard music and cheering. A festival? Upon further examination, we had walked into a crowd of seniors dancing classically in a square close to our restaurant. It was an omen of a great night for us UNE students. Dinner consisted of 2 fantastic plates and dessert. Dessert obviously caused the largest debate among our group, but we eventually were able to order and complete our meal. Tuckered out from a fabulous day featuring amazing food, sights, and conversation, this girl was ready for bed!

Opening my windows the next morning provided me with a pleasant surprise. Jackie and I had been given a room on the 4th floor with a spectacular view of the city. Not awake long enough to enjoy this sight, we were whisked off on another one of Ruben’s adventures!

Here is a note of warning, if you ever see Ruben with this face, be prepared for a hike.

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

So, we began our uphill adventure. With slopes steeper than your average mountain (or so it seemed) we traversed the streets of Granada to get the perfect view of the city. On our way, we spotted unique graffiti and people who were not dying from the incline.

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

However, once we reached the top, we understood why Ruben had brought us here. Guitar players surrounded the plaza that had a perfect overlook to the Alhambra. The sun of this early day lit up the hazy sky and left all content to take pictures and pet adorable puppies.

We were released from Ruben’s custody (JK <3) and split up to shop and eat on our own accord. I enjoyed an afternoon of shopping for scarves and pizza with Amelia until heavy rain forced us back to the hotel. Making the best of an unfortunate situation, we settled down at the hotel lobby and watched movies. Soon the rest of our group returned, bustled in by the wind and rain as well. Thus came an end to our Granada experience.

Visiting Granada has been one of my favourite experiences throughout my life, and makes me even more excited to visit Morocco and our fellow UNE students! I really enjoyed spending quality time with these guys, and can’t wait to have more adventures!

October 1, 2014

Hospital Universitario Virgen Macarena

UNE Sevilla students at the hospital

UNE Sevilla students at the hospital

Last September 19th 2014, UNE students were given a tour of the Macarena Hospital (forever more called “the hospital” because that is one long hospital name). The hospital is located in the Sevilla’s city center and is quite large, at least comparatively to hospitals in Maine.

While at the hospital, we were allowed to observe patients on kidney dialysis, enter a cardiovascular operating room, and visit several labs. Needless to say, we geeked out. Aside from observing cancerous vs non cancerous cells under the microscope, my favorite part was the operating room and the “man behind the curtain room” (I made up this nickname… It’s not actually called that!) Just outside the operating room is a n area with cameras recording all the cardiovascular operations happening within the unit. Doctors from the hospital can watch, analyze, and share their successes and failures with doctors around the world- which is quite amazing! It certainly is a progression in healthcare as the sharing of knowledge is vital for innovation.

Spain’s healthcare system, like every other industrialized country in the world EXCEPT the US, is universal. That means that every individual in Spain has access to healthcare and the government pays for (at least some) of the bill. While many Americans believe that universal healthcare is “socialized,” it’s really not. Moreover, I think it bodes well to point out that the US currently ranks the worst out of the top 11 wealthiest country… Oh, and we spend the most money. Not to mention, even with the implementation of Obamacare (which, in my personal opinion, is a step in the right direction) 8% of our population will still remained uninsured! placing even larger strains on an already broken system. But those are just my thoughts… What are yours?

This semester, I am taking a Medical Anthropology class that looks at medicinal practices from countries across the globe. So far, a major theme has been the differences between Eastern medicine and Western medicine. While eastern takes on a more holistic, natural method, western medicine is science based and largely treats the human body as a “machine” to be fixed. As a purely scientific mind, I am struggling to see the wider view of eastern medicine. Yet, I recognize that there are benefits to both methods. Which method is the “best” and how do we decide that? Moreover, what are the implications for healthcare worldwide?


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