November the 13th 2017 (according to Carmela and Carmen, Pontedera – Italy)
We had arrived to Granada the evening before by coach from Seville, where our flight from Pise had landed. At the coach station information point they suggested taking a taxi from the Cathedral to go up to the Residencia Carmen de la Victoria, since it was in the steep slopes of the Albaicín, but we were not in a hurry and preferred the little electric bus that climbed to the residence fence. The place surprised us with its gardens and views to the Alhambra, totally enlightened as soon as darkness fell. We had dinner quite late, looking around for any sign of the rest of the group, but no one appeared, so we had to wait until the next day to calm down our curiosity.
In the morning we had a glimpse of some people arriving with big suitcases while we were trying to solve a problem with the Wi-Fi at the reception. Then, at the meeting room, we met efficient-looking Charo, already at work (soon we’d discovered her efficiency was not just a look)!, and welcoming sweet Ana. Soon the rest of the colleagues showed up, just arrived from different andalusian airports: Rosina and Maja, Gulsah and Mete (how difficult for all of us to pronounce their names!), Alexis and Pavlos, Dina and Kostas with Onassis, our best guide and photographer.
The atmosphere became immediately friendly, thanks to our guests from Órgiva, who gave us all the information we needed about the program and the accommodation. Soon we could start discussing the different points of the diary schedule. One of the most difficult decisions was the choice of the new comic lab software, since we became aware that the one we had been thinking of was not good enough for our purpose. We worked hard, without even a pause, and at lunch time we suddenly realised how we were tired and hungry!
In the early afternoon, with no time for a nap or a little rest, our guide Antonio was waiting for us in the hall of the Residencia and we started our visit along the popular quarter called El Albaicin, a sort of “labyrinth”. Its many corners, narrow streets and little squares offered plenty of surprises: a church, a mosque, “gitanos” playing and singing. Besides, all the places had our name: Carmen!
While we were walking, Antonio charmed us with his tales and wisdom and arabic words. When we arrived to the teashops street, we chose one of them in order to drink a tee. The place was so cozy we started to take selfies of the group from different perspectives and to share them: at once we became “The Ody revisited group”! That was the very first moment when we all felt already a friendly link among all of us.
Tuesday 14th November 2017 ( GREECE)
After getting a first taste of the rich history and culture of Granada through the ascending cobblestone streets of Albaicin and the passionate, feisty dance of the flamenco dancers, it was time to set out for Orgiva, the location of the coordinating school, IES Alpujarra.
Despite the winding road that took its toll on Alexis from Cyprus and Gülşah from Turkey, the breathtaking view of the mountain, the stop for a sip of medicinal mineral water at one of the many natural springs and the distinctive architecture of the villages on the way more than compensated us for the long drive.
Upon arriving in Orgiva, the largest town of the western Alpujarras, we really did feel the relaxed, bohemian pace of life that Ana, the kind congenial Spanish coordinator, had talked about. Before long, it was time to visit the school.
We were a given a warm, cordial welcome by the school headmaster, Mr Antonio Rodrigues, who, himself a classics scholar, expressed his enthusiasm for the topic of our project and its link to Homer’s the Odyssey as the medium to convey universal truths about identity and culture to Europe.
A most interesting experience was the chance to meet the class of immigrant students and talk to them about their life in Spain. Given the common misconceptions across Europe over the integration of immigrants and refugees and the challenges of teaching students of different ethnic and social backgrounds, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that Spain has really embraced the notions of multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence of different people. Despite the students’ diverse profiles- each carrying a personal story of family problems or persecution from their homeland in diametrically different countries such as Mali and Holland, all agreed that they felt welcome and accepted by their Spanish hosts. (Intensive tuition in the Spanish language enhanced the positive attitude of the local students)
Next, we were given the opportunity to attend a class which we hesitantly accepted for fear of appearing as intrusive observers. It was a relief for the Greek teachers to find out that the lesson was conducted in a relaxed atmosphere with an emphasis on project, collaborative learning rather than traditional fact memorization, which made us rethink our role as teachers and how we can redefine ourselves in the dynamics of the learning process.
After lunch and a brief rest, it was time to brace ourselves for an unusual experience, a concert of Tibetan Quartz bowls. Overcoming our initial embarrassment at having to take off our shoes and lie down on a yoga mat, we surrendered to the peaceful resonant sounds of the bowls while trying to tune our body and spirit to a state of inner peace, well-being and chakra balancing. For some of us, it was a first attempt at meditation and an interesting experience but far from making us find our Zen, which should take years of meditation to cultivate. One thing is certain, though: our mixed reactions gave good reason for a lot of laughs and teasing.
Spain is definitely full of surprises!
Wednesday 15th November 2017 ( Cyprus)
On the third day of our coordination meeting we again found ourselves in the small but charming village of Orgiva. The day begun with a breakfast at the hotel, followed by our 3rd coordination meeting where all partners discussed important aspects of the project and engaged in a constructive dialogue about all things ODY. After our meeting was over, we had an appointment with the Mayor of Orgiva in the village’s town-hall where members of the local council greeted us and welcomed us in such a beautiful way that they truly made us feel special. After the nice welcome, we headed to the church nearby where we got the chance to enter and observe the beauty of the church inside.
Our day was far from over, as our hosts organized a tour of small villages located up in the mountains surrounding Orgiva. We all boarded our mini Van and begun our small adventure. While on our way to the villages, we were amazed by the extraordinary views and overall scenery. Of course we had to stop a couple of times to take some pictures as we all wanted to capture the stunning nature that was unfolding before our eyes. As we continued our way to the villages, our hosts had the great idea to take us close by to a waterfall so we could experience another piece of Alpujarra natural beauty. There, we also met some locals who were selling their handmade art and vegetables by the side of the road, and of course we had to buy some souvenirs from them.
We arrived at the first village where we took a stroll, took our usual pictures and visited the many souvenirs shops. Truly remarkable to see and experience mountain village life in the Alpujarra. On to the next village we went, and it was time for lunch. Our hosts had made reservation for us at a restaurant in the village, where we all got to experience some traditional local delicacies. After we some relaxing time, we headed for the remainder of our trip at the next village. Among The things that standout, was a visit a “traditional” house where one could see the rich tradition of the village through utensils and tools that were used in the area for many decades. Our tour ended with a sweet stop: A visit to a local chocolate factory in which they create and sell their custom chocolate bars. They had a never-ending array of chocolate flavors and mixings which of course all the partners had the opportunity to sample and taste. It truly felt like the icing on the cake!
After this amazing tour was completed, it was time for us to head back to Granada for the last day of our coordination meeting. It was finally time for us to get some rest after a wonderful but long day. We had a fantastic time on the mountains and we have our gracious hosts to thank for that.
Friday 17 Nov 2017 – The Alhambra of Granada ( SWEDEN)
Friday 17 November was our last day together. Unfortunately, our Cypriot friends Alexis and Pavlos had to leave early in the morning and missed out on the day’s main event which was a visit to the Alhambra palaces. We went to the main entrance and was about to enter when Ana came to us and explained that there was something wrong with the computer system at the Alhambra admission and therefore we had to wait for quite some time. We browsed the shop outside for some souvenirs and there were lots of nice presents in that place. While waiting we listened to some Turkish music together with Gülsah and Mete. Gülsah played Tarkan for us on her phone. Finally we could go in and walk through the beautiful gardens and look at many wild cats before arriving at the Nasrid palaces. Our Turkish friends had to leave before entering the palaces, which was a pity.
Inside the palaces we took numerous photos of the beautiful architecture and astonishing views and details of the many patterns that you see everywhere in the Alhambra. You could say that every single space is covered with decoration and there are fantastic structured arches and window frames all over the place. Amazing! It was mind blowing – both the abundance of details but also the magnitude of the place. We climbed up the highest tower to look at the incredible view of Granada and the mountains surrounding us with the snow covered Sierra Nevada in the distance. As we stood there “on top of the world” we could also see the hotel where we stayed the first night in Granada, on the other side of the river up on the hill in the old town – the Albaicín. It was truly a memory for life!
After this we ate lunch together in the city and Kostas let us see a slideshow on his computer with pictures and movies from Volos and other places in Greece which made us all really look forward to our next meeting – the mobility with students in April next year. Later in the evening of Friday 17 a few of us went out for a coffee. Rosina and Maja then left for Málaga and therefore it was a rather diminished group that ate dinner together as the final event of an awesome week in Spain.