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Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
I recently earned my Masters in History at NWMSU and am now working as a language assistant in a Spanish elementary school.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween in Spain

I got sick yesterday from some bad fish at a restaurant so I stayed home from teaching today. I'm feeling better now after getting some rest.

This week has been busy, but fun as we set up the decorations for Halloween at the school. We made a haunted house for the older kids to go through, which worked great. The students cam into a dark room and placed their hands in boxes to feel things like asparagus (fingers) and a cauliflower head in olive oil (brains). The last box was empty, but I had my hand in it ready to grab random searching palms. We also had various activities for the kids on Friday including freeze dance, pin the nose on the witch, a spoon race, and storytelling (which I did).

One day while out walking I found this cool car near my apartment. It's a Seat (a Spanish model formerly manufactured by Fiat) from the 1950s.
The Seat car company is still around and is probably the most popular car in Spain from what I've seen in Madrid and Alcalá.

Last Sunday Cody and I went to the Archeological Museum of Alcalá, which is part of the University. It was free admission and they had a display about a prehistoric man found in the ice of the mountains on the border of Italy and Austria. The body, nicknamed Ötzi, was not there, but there were replicas of the tools found alongside his body and several interactive videos. The body had been discovered by two skiiers who thought it was a recent death. The body and tools were the most well-preserved specimens of this kind.

The rest of the museum had a collection of archeological discoveries from Complutum, the ancient Roman city that set on the current site of Alcalá de Henares. This included mosaics:
fragments of elaborate pottery:
and even an ancient Roman board game:
On Tuesday night, Cody, Emma, James, Jacqui, Kevin, Pilar (our program coordinator), and I went to something called an intercambio. This was a language exchange organized by Pilar and some of her friends in which we speak in English for thirty minutes, then Spanish for thirty minutes. It's good practice for both English and Spanish speakers. It was fun.

I also saw the storks of Alcalá for the first time. The storks roost on top of many of the town's cathedrals and are listed as an attraction in all of the town's tourist brochures.
I continued my tutoring this week and picked up a new session on Monday nights. Here is a picture of an average Spanish neighborhood (one that I teach in).
On Friday night, a large group of us went to a tapas fair held in Alcalá de Henares along the river. Several tapas bars from the town sold their most famous dishes for one euro each. I had quite a bit to eat including baby eels on bread with ham and olive oil, bull's tail, fried octopus, a pork skewer, and a foie gras/head cheese patè with raspberry sauce (which was from the local fine dining restaurant, Sagasti).

Halloween was not seen in Spain in the past years, but recently it is emerging as a popular holiday among the youth as a part of globalization. Some restaurants now display jack-o-lanterns and children dress up in costumes (although most don't trick-or-treat, but continue doing the things they would do most nights like walking around town with their parents). The Spanish do celebrate the Day of the Dead on November 1. This is quite different than the Mexican version of the same holiday which has incorporated decorations of skeleton figures and sugar skulls. Spain has neither of these. Instead, the Day of the Dead is a day of rememberance for those friends and family who have passed recently.

Another tradition in Spain around this time is the performance of the nineteenth-century Romantic play, Don Juan Tenorio, by José Zorrilla. The play has many supernatural elements and is played throughout Spain every October 31 night. Alcalá de Henares puts on a large production of this play every year with famous Spanish stage actors. I went to the performance which was held inside the old medieval city wall. Before the play I caught a picture of this church in the twilight.
This was the only picture I was able to get inside the city wall area before the play:


  1. Sorry you got sick, but I would too if I had eaten what you mentioned in this post. Hope you're feeling better. That stork photo is really neat! Check out your sister's Halloween Party post.

  2. Got your email. Your trip to Toledo sounds like a fun time. Checked it out on the web. Very nice architecture.