Intersecting Paths and Gaudí’s Imagination

March 15, 2018

At the top of the Passion Towers of the Sagrada Família

I began my first day in Spain by simply wandering around the hotel where I was staying. In a span of only a few minutes, I stumbled across the Palau, its full name being the Palau de la Música Catalana. The pillars were decorated with tiles of contrasting colors. Above the entrance was an extremely impressive array of statues and busts of various composers. My curiosity peaked when I saw a baby grand piano in one of the large glass windows, so I walked around the hall to find a way in without having to pay for the guided tour. (I’m cheap, I know.) The side of the building was covered in glass windows and so had a decidedly more modern look than the front. The interior reverted back to the typical style of the bourgeoisie, complete with gilded stairs and high, elegant arches. In the center, however, was a charming little café area with yet another piano. An old man dressed in a rumpled black coat and a large striped scarf was seated at the piano and playing Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C Major. The music filled the area, lending a nice juxtaposition to the quiet chatter of people milling around. To my surprise, once he finished performing the composition, he simply collected his keys, which were lying on the stand, and left after acknowledging the scattered applause. After questioning a guard standing nearby, I learned that the piano was there for public use, for any person to come and play if they wanted to. After some seconds of internal debate, I decided to play a piece, despite weeks of avoiding practice.

Once I finished, I was reminded acutely of Westtown’s South Room. Anybody can go in and play, and the main purpose, as I see it, is to find some respite in the middle of a busy day. It is by no means a formal performance, which I tend to strongly dislike. As I walked out of the music hall, I was filled with a similar sense of glee I had felt when I first played in the South Room four years ago. I also felt something new. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also once said, “Music is the universal language of all mankind.” This was the first time I understood this sentiment. When I had glanced up after performing, there was no sense of awkwardness when I addressed my audience. I felt connected to the people listening.

Recording of my playing in the Palau. Check it out, if you want!

In the afternoon, I began following my itinerary with visiting Casa Milà, or more commonly known as La Pedrera. It is currently in use as both a place of both residency and business. However, it dates back to 1912 when it was designed by Antoni Gaudí for the Milà family. The architecture was different from any other that I had seen before, in that I could not find a single right angle. This characteristic remained constant as I went through my tour of Casa Milà. The courtyard had an ovular shape, with the open sky overhead. Some surfaces were splattered with faint hues of blue and green. Even with this show of eccentricity and my knowledge of the pictures on Google Images, I was not prepared for what waited on the roof. Shapes that resembled bodies and faces lined up one after another in the middle of the curving tiled path. Some had white tiles stuck on them, others were left blank. As cliché as it sounds, if I could not see the city roofs around me, I would have believed I stepped into another world. Continue reading “Intersecting Paths and Gaudí’s Imagination”

The End?

Wow time goes by fast! I honestly meant to post a lot earlier, but time flew by and now I’m already back in the United States, taking classes at Westtown. It’s almost frightening how an experience like my trip to Spain can pass by in just the blink of an eye. Indeed, it’s already been over a week since I returned from Spain. In ways, it’s a relief to be done but at the same time I can’t help but feel sad that it’s over. Regardless, endings are a part of life and it is important to note that every ending opens the door for reflection. Continue reading “The End?”

“Somos los Mismos”

Well, it’s officially been one week since I arrived in Barcelona for my senior project! It’s quite incredible to think that I’ve already spent seven days here, completely absorbed in Spanish culture.  How do I even begin to describe all the places I’ve visited, all the things I’ve seen, and all the connections I’ve made? Honestly, I could go on and on, so instead I will try to summarize my experience thus far.

To begin, I -as well as the Westtown group- have visited almost every corner of the city in Barcelona. I’ve learned about the city’s history, seen the cathedral, toured the museum of modern art, and explored a number of the city’s neighborhoods. Tomorrow, we are going to learn about the modern architecture of the city, including the work of Gaudi. Most importantly for me, I’ve witnessed the everyday life and culture of Barcelona. This past weekend, for example, my host’s mother took me out around the city and for lunch I got a taste of Spanish tapas, a classic Spanish dish. They were delicious!

While we were eating, my host mom and I began talking about the differences between the lifestyle of Spain and of the United States. As we noted these differences, we also discussed that, aside from the differences in language and culture, people from the United States are no different from people from Spain. “Somos los mismos” was what my host mom said. In English, this means “we are the same”. Certainly, I’ve heard this idea repeated over and over again in school, but for whatever reason this conversation has stuck with me. Perhaps for me to comprehend this idea it was necessary for me to go away, leaving my homeland entirely and living with a different family. Whatever the reason, my host mother couldn’t have phrased it better. Indeed, my comfort with my host family is a clear indication that, aside from our linguistic and cultural differences, we all share many things in common with one another.

On the days when I haven’t been touring Barcelona and other sites, I’ve been attending classes at AULA. I have to say, things are a bit different from what I expected. After all, when I first arrived, I thought I was going to be able to take art classes such as drawing or photography in school. Contrary to what I thought, there aren’t any art classes at AULA! Students that want to do art have to do it outside of school because there is simply no time in the day for these kinds of classes. As a result, the artistic part of my project will have to be limited to what I do outside of school. I’ve been taking photos with my digital camera, as shown in my last post. I haven’t had enough time to use my film camera yet, but I plan to bring it along for my next visit in the city.

On a final note, the students at AULA are quite kind. This past Friday, we all went out as a class to visit the ruins of Ampurias as well as the small town of Cadaqués. The more time I spend with these students, the more comfortable I’m becoming with speaking Spanish to them. Many people have commented that I speak Spanish really well which has been the quite the confidence booster! Overall, I’m going to miss my host family and the AULA students when we leave for Madrid this coming Monday.

That’s about all for now! I hope to post again soon.


Photos – Cadaqués and Barcelona

Here are some photos I’ve taken of our visits in Cadaqués and Barcelona. I’ve touched them up a bit and I’m sorry I don’t have more with people!! Thanks to my photo class, I’ve become more focused on taking pictures of my surroundings rather than of people I’m with. Anyway, I will see if I can put up some photos of me and the rest of the group sometime soon. Hope you enjoy!


Arrival in Barcelona

Hello again!

After a long seven hour flight, we arrived in Barcelona, Spain yesterday around 9:00 AM. Upon our arrival, we met up with T. Jenny who teaches English in AULA. We then had a short breakfast and set off for our first day in AULA. Needless to say, we were all quite tired due to the jet lag and we passed the majority of our bus ride in silence. Despite the fact that I was so tired, I was inevitably captured by the beauty of Barcelona. Along with the beautiful architecture, Barcelona is situated right next to the Mediterranean Sea and thus the view of the city is mesmerizing.

We arrived at AULA around 11 AM and were given a tour of the school by a few students. Immediately, we were immersed in Castilian Spanish. In Barcelona, most people actually speak a mix of French and Spanish which is known as Catalán. Because we have only been taught Castilian at Westtown, the AULA students speak Castilian with us so that we may better practice the language. At first, I had trouble communicating with the students because I was intimidated by the speed at which they talked. Today, however, it was much easier to understand the teachers and the students. I’m still a bit scared to talk, but the more time I spend in AULA the more my mindset shifts from English to Spanish.

In terms of the school, it was a bit strange arriving at AULA. As we stood in the patio waiting to meet our tour guides, all the students stared at us and I could see them whispering with each other. Our tour guides later clarified that these kids were staring because the majority of classes in AULA don’t change very often. Indeed, most students have been attending AULA since they were only three years old. Given our experience in Westtown where classes change almost every year, this idea was certainly surprising.

After the tour and classes, each one of us went home with our host families for the night. Right now, I am a staying with a student whose name is Juan. Juan’s family lives in an apartment more towards the center of the city. Although I am far away from home, I feel quite comfortable with Juan’s family. They are all incredibly generous and in many ways I almost feel embarrassed by how much they do for me. For example, when I arrived here, I realized that I had forgot to buy an adapter so that I could use my electrical devices overseas. When I told this to Juan’s father, he immediately went and bought me an adapter. I couldn’t be more grateful!

After a long day, I went to bed yesterday around 8 PM and I got a full eleven hours of sleep. I’m pretty sure I’m over the jet lag, but I guess I will truly know later tonight. Tomorrow, our group is going to take a break from classes at AULA and we are going to visit a museum and a few historical sites in Barcelona.

I will be writing again soon!


Oh my Gaudi!

Today we visited two of Antonio Gaudi’s most famous works: Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familia. A modernist architect at the turn of the century, Gaudi must have been Divinely inspired. This man was a genius; it is hard to find adequate words to describe his marvels. Before touring Gaudi’s works we stopped at El Mercat de Boqueria, a market along La Rambla, a wide street leading up to the northern area of the city. Inside the market vendors were selling colorful candies and fruits. Further back slabs of meat hung from the ceiling and vendors were selling fish, eggs and bread. After breakfast at the market we headed up to Parc Guell.

Parc Guell was a maze of winding pathways traversing a hill side overlooking the city. There were so many panoramic views of Barcelona–the shining sea and skyline were exquisite. At the front entrance to the park was a beautiful building decorated with mosaics. We sat for a moment on the iconic mosaic benches lining the top of the structure. After lunch and a cup of coffee we hiked to La Sagrada Familia, an unearthly and breathtaking cathedral on which Gaudi worked until his untimely death in 1926. We stayed until closing. Although still under construction, La Sagrada Familia is striking. Soaring ceilings, intricate masonry, enormous stained-glass windows–this was just the beginning. Although I can try to describe the cathedral, I don’t have the right words to describe my experience. As I sat and prayed, admiring the otherworldly beauty surrounding me, I felt like God was right there sitting next to me. Whether or not you believe in God, or a Higher Power, Gaudi’s church is a sacred place of peace; it is a sanctuary. Gaudi had an incredible ability; he was a visionary and he left the world with a beautifully sacred space in which to contemplate life’s great questions.


First Day in Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona early this morning, just as the sun was rising. After a cab ride to our apartment we met Miguel, the owner of the apartment. Miguel shared with us some of his favorite restaurants and a nap we decided to explore the Born, the neighborhood in which we are staying. The Born is home to Santa Maria del Mar, one of Barcelona’s most famous churches. After sitting in on some of Sunday mass we wandered around some more, walking by the Picasso museum. We eventually stumbled upon one of the restaurants that Miguel had mentioned. It was truly serendipitous–we thought we were lost and were just about to go back to the apartment to re-orient ourselves when we saw the restaurant, known for its Tapas style Peruvian Japanese food. Later in the afternoon we hiked around seeing the Arc Triomf and Parc de la Ciutadella. In the park we saw the Cascada Fountain, designed by Josep Fontsere and his apprentice Antoni Gaudi.

Off to Barcelona!

Hello everyone!

As I begin writing this post, I am still having a hard time believing that this time tomorrow I will be on a flight to Barcelona, Spain. Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited and nervous at the same time. After taking Spanish throughout high school, I’m really looking forward to immersing myself completely in Spanish language and culture.

Specifically, I am going on the faculty-sponsored trip to Barcelona. We will land in Barcelona on Monday and will meet up with our host families upon arrival. We will then take classes at Aula Magna Europea (AULA), a private school that participates in an exchange program with Westtown. Along with taking classes and learning about Spanish history and culture, we will be given the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities; personally, I am hoping to take art classes such as photography and drawing. In addition to visiting historical sites within Barcelona, we will also visit Madrid for our last three days of our trip. We will return to Philadelphia on March 8th.

Through this project, I hope to enhance my Spanish speaking abilities as well as heighten my understanding of Spanish culture and art. I plan to bring my sketchbook, journal, and film camera for this trip in order to fully document my experience over these next three weeks.

With that being said, I’m off to pack again!


¡Hola Aula!

Hello everyone!

Seeing as it is my second week in Spain, I figured it was about time for my second post from Spain! Yesterday, the group and I started classes at the Aula School, that our host students attend. Now what makes Aula different, is that the kids begin there at around 3 years old, and but for a few exceptions, no new students enter at any higher levels. These kids form bonds with their classmates that last their entire childhoods. Not only that, but the Aula School prides itself in its multilingual approach; the kids are taught French, English, Spanish, and Catalan, and have a mastery of all four languages by high school! I find this very interesting and very exciting, since languages fascinate me.


The classes we attended yesterday were conducted in Spanish (except for English class) and I was very proud of myself when I realized I could understand everything, including Philosophy class! I found both the philosphy class and geography class very interesting, despite some doubts I had previously. After school (classes begin at 8:50 and end at 5:30!), me and a few other girls stayed late to watch our girls at basketball practice. The girls I´ve been in close contact with here in Spain all love basketball a lot! My host sister and her older brother Victor, even have a special soft spot for the 76ers!

I was very glad to see some of the group that I hadn´t been able to see last week, at school yesterday, and again today, when we went on a fun, but very, very rainy excursion with the exchange group from Boston which is sharing our time in Barcelona with other students, to the Dali museum and the town of Girona, and its large cathedral. I have lots of pictures and videos, but unfortunatly, I can´t post any without using my own laptop, which still is not connected to wifi. I´ll have to make a special post just for photos and videos when I get the chance! I really,  really liked the Dali museum; there were lots of extremely strange things in there, but they were all very interesting and beautiful. The cathedral and the town of Girona were also beautiful, and on a sunny day, it would have been fantastic to walk along the cobbled streets of Girona, up the hills. Unfortunately, today it was raining A LOT.

Tomorrow, we have a half day of school, then we are taking the metro downtown and visiting the MNAC museum in Barcelona. I´m not sure what is in that museum, so that will be a surprise for me.

Right now it is about 5 minutes to 9 and I hear my host mother singing and bustling in the kitchen, which means dinner should be soon. They eat dinner very late hear, almost never sooner than 9 pm, and that is early! It gets hard sometimes to contain my hunger, but usually we have lots of little meals in between larger ones. Today,  after lunch, we were lucky enough to find a gelato and gofre (waffle) shop called the Madonna in Girona, and almost all of us got waffles with ice cream and Nutella. Nutella is so delicious! I definitly will be buying some when I get home.

On the schedule for the rest of the week (weather permitting), are Greek and Roman ruins on Thursday, along with a visit to Cadaques, and on Friday, we are going to have a seminar about Picasso, then go to the center of Barcelona, probably by metro and/or bus, tour through the neighborhood of Raval, visit the iglesia Santa Maria del mar, and then the Picasso museum to end the day. The weekend is free to our host students to decide, and from what I´ve heard, Maria has a basketball game on Saturday, and there might be a surprise party on Sunday!

I´m liking Barcelona, my host family, and even classes at Aula a lot and I have definitly become closer with people on the trip, some of whom I never really talked very much to before. We´ve all shared an experience now, and so we can relate to each other in ways other people can´t.

More later (hopefully with pictures and videos!)

Adeu! (that´s Catalan!)

¡Hola! Kendall

Hello everyone! I am here in Barcelona, writing from my room in my host sister, Maria´s house. She lives in an apartment in Barcelona, as do the majority of the kids that are participating in the Spanish exchange with us. Even though I left for Spain on Friday, and it is Tuesday, ironically enough, it has been rather hard to come by wi-fi in Spain, or the time to get on the internet, if it was available. I spent Saturday through Monday in Madrid, with the group, Profe Jorge, and Profe Remy from the Aula School, who is actually from Paris. Profe Remy gave the group a personal, complete tour of all of Madrid, from the historical aspects, to the tourist aspects, to the ones that only a resident would know. We did so much walking, and the first day was very rough, after combining our exhaustion from walking all over Madrid with jet lag. By Monday however, we were used to Spanish time. Our days were long and packed, and we visited three musems: El Prado on Saturday, El Thyssen on Sunday, and La Reina Sofia on Monday. La Reina Sofia was definitely my favorite, because it had the largest variety of works, and they were all extremely interesting, and way more colorful and diverse than in the other two museums. Some works were made as recently as 2010, and I even saw Picasso´s Guernica. I have pictures from the Reina Sofia of some of my favorite works. We saw the Royal Palace, the Congress building, cathedrals, parks, and more. We saw the famous Plaza Mayor, and el Plaza del Sol. We ate chocolate con churros, which was delicious, and a few times we had different kinds of tapas, which are basically little appetizers, and I noticed that eggs and ham are two very common ingredients in the cuisine of Madrid. There was one mishap during these first few days: Natalie´s luggage did not come! We found out it had been sent to Paris with her sister, and once we tracked it down there, it had to be sent back to Philadelphia, and then finally, to Madrid. It got to our hotel in Madrid just in time for our departure for Barcelona, on the high-speed Ave train. One thing about Madrid, is that it is very clean. All the streets are almost spotless. Also, everything, like the roads, streets, and even elevators, are very narrow, and it seems like cars can go anywhere and there is hardly any distinction between sidewalk and road!

While in Madrid, we also went to multiple markets, like El Rastro, where pick-pocketing is a big concern, and el mercado de San Miguel, where we were allowed to roam free and try everything. One thing I liked about our time in Madrid, is that we had a lot of time to navigate ourselves through the city. We got to find our own ways to meeting points that we established, go by ourselves to find meals, shop alone, etc. The freedom is great, and I think it is really good practice for me, since I´ll be in college in the city next year. I had a very good time in Madrid, all things considered, but it was nothing like what I expected.

Today was my first day in Barcelona, since we arrived at around 11:30 last night. I was so tired, by the time I arrived at my host sister´s house, I went almost straight to bed. Today however, we met up with four of the other hosts, and their American counterparts, and had a full day of shopping, eating, and bonding. The mall here is very different from in America! We ate a pasta lunch at my host sister´s apartment, then threw a mini surprise party for one of her friends, who is the host sister of Sophie, and then we, along with Lauren and her host sister, Liz and her host sister, and Rachel and hers, went to a very cute little shop that sells crepes, ice cream and waffles, and ate. I got a waffle with nutella and chocolate ice cream and it was amazing. After that we shopped a little more, then my host sister and I went to the apartment of Lauren´s host sister, and we watched the Barcelona vs Aresenal soccer game with the two girls’ parents, and ate Spanish tortillas and bread with tomato which was also very good. I am definitely getting good exposure to authentic Catalan cuisine. One thing about Barcelona however, is that everything is in Catalan, and everyone speaks Catalan. Catalan is like a mixture of French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and I don´t understand it at all, so that is very difficult, especially when Maria and her friends speak in it. But the girls try to speak in Castelleno (Spanish), or English to us, so that is good, even though their Spanish is very fast. I´m pretty excited to get a good look at Barcelona this week while our girls are on break, and we have time to do whatever we want. I want to see the city from the eyes of teenage girls, because I know I´ll be able to relate.

Nos vemos, ¡ciao!