Proctor en Segovia has returned for the 2021-2022 school year under new directors Ellie and Luis Mendoza. After their first three weeks abroad, students have settled into a routine with their host families, in their Spanish, literature, and history classes, and recently completed an excursion to Basque Country. Read student essays from their first few weeks living and learning abroad below.
Cam '22, Annika '22, Sophie '23, Lagan '23 | Appreciating the History of Proctor en Segovia
We could smell the incense from a block away, it only intensified as we entered the workshop. We were welcomed with a big hug, loving words, and the beautiful metal work that lined the walls. Our newfound mentor Jesus and his wife, Loli, proudly showed us around their little shop, explaining the history the best they could in English, despite persistent reminders that we could piece it together in Spanish. The shelves were piled high with work from artists from all over Spain, all using different techniques. Loli had an endearing warming presence that could only compare to one of an abuela. We felt at home.
We were beckoned down past the DO NOT ENTER sign, taking a further step into Jesus’s life. We were surrounded by tools that lined the walls, the ones that have made magic happen for hundreds of years. We could see the history lining the walls through the stories in the art, only made by Jesus, his ancestors and Proctor students. Our attention was quickly pulled to a wall full of photos which we soon found out were Proctor students. It was like a memorial to Jesus’s connection to Proctor, all the photos, handwritten notes, and old work, left as a memory and a story preserved in time.
Upon returning the next day, we were welcomed again by the same smiling faces and got right to work. Jesus handed us an apron, “the most important part,” he said, explaining that it represents history and the act of going to work. It was our uniform, a way to enter the world of metalworking. We began to draw on the metal with little tools that just fit in our hands, it was a game of patience, and relaxation. He danced along with our music, giving us tips and tricks on how to better press on the metal. His laughter and encouragement were the biggest thing in the room. When the time was up, we reluctantly took off our aprons and stepped out of the shop. Our mellow mood and the smell of incense following us around, reminding us of Jesus’ enclave.
Scarlet '23, Louisa '22, France '23 | Madrid
Early on Saturday, as we waited for our buses, we watched as hot air balloons floated above our heads. We all took the bus to the train station where we met with the rest of the group and saw another hot air balloon. We then took a surprisingly fast 25 minute train ride to Madrid.
When the train pulled into the station, we quickly got off and continued our travels onto the metro. We got off the metro right in front of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The entire group was excited to see the art and especially the Guernica. The Guernica is a massive anti-war piece by Picasso, which we have been talking about in classes for days. The painting depicts innocent Basque civilians being bombed by a German army, under Franco's command, who were practicing their new and high tech weapons. We took fifteen minutes to just watch, and take in every detail of the painting. We then took some time to look at the rest of the exhibits, and were all enamored with the Picassos and the Dalís. Most of the art in the museum was contemporary from the early 1900s which was at that very avant-garde and revolutionary for the art world. We quickly grew hungry and started making our way to the Mercado de San Miguel, which is a massive market with tons of different food to choose from. The smell of the fresh cookies and sandwiches wafted around us as we tried to figure out what to get. After we grabbed some tapas, we broke off into groups and started to wander around the city. We peeked into many little stores and explored the Plaza Mayor.
It was surprising to be in a new, big, liberal city like Madrid after spending so much time in the small city of Segovia. Despite only being a 25 minute train ride away the difference between Madrid and Segovia is shocking. Madrid is full of interesting characters walking around and cool modern street art. You don’t feel nearly as judged walking the streets of Segovia as an American in brightly colored clothes as you do in Madrid. Maybe that is because Madrid is just a bigger city or maybe the culture in the two cities are so different. One thing that the two cities have in common are the big and long hills. To get to the shops and interesting areas of both places you have to get up and down some big hills. One small group of students were caught at the bottom of one giant hill with 10 minutes to get back to their meeting spot. With the 80 degree weather and many shopping bags the girls ran up those four blocks, getting to the group on time.
Andrew ‘23 | The Dance of Bull Fighting
The more striking a piece of art is, the more vivid. As students hailing from American culture, a ceremonial slaughter against a life that we value for merely being alive is both intense and emotional. Bull number four truly enlightened the way I viewed the rest of the fight. Number four’s individuality presented itself in its quick surrender and resistance to anger. This was when the skill of the Matador truly shined. While remaining unflinching and in control, he created a striking contrast between the unwilling and the determined. The bull tired quickly and stumbled repeatedly, yet the Matador coerced it to charge and give in to its anger, thus re-injecting the animal with life and ever remaining the seasoned manipulator. It was at this moment that the true skill of the matador and his team presented itself and the ceremony transitioned from brutal to artful. After having recognized this theme I experienced a paradigm shift, giving way to the rest of the event turning into a beautiful dance between two complementing forces. The clothing, live music and other elements of the event worked together to create a livable piece of culture.
Jess ‘22 | Appreciating the Depth of a Culture
On a rainy and windy Tuesday afternoon Luis, Katie and I went on a walk up and around the Castle of Segovia, and the Jewish cemetery. As we navigated and hiked up the hillside of Segovia in the cold rain, we started talking about an upcoming bull fight that we could possibly attend. I got really excited. I had seen the posters and had asked if it was a possibility to go. Near the end of our walk, Luis asked both Katie and me what we knew about bullfighting. I paused for a second, and thought. All I could formulate was the movie "The Book of Life," which is an animated movie about more of the beliefs of Mexico and the Day of the Dead. While telling Luis, I could tell how naive I had been. So I asked, “Luis, could you tell us more about bull fighting?”. Luis took a deep breath, and started.
The rain started to pick up, the rain seeped through my raincoat, and I could feel the goose bumps starting to rise. Maybe the goose bumps were from the cold bitter wind, or maybe it was from the description of bullfighting from Luis. As Katie and I were listening, my imagination slipped into picturing the elaborate outfits, the gore, and graphic actions Luis was explaining to us. I became anxious, and disgusted with myself. Why was I so excited? Why did I want to see this fight to the death? After the walk Katie and I walked home, we talked about our feelings about going, and even though both of us were scared and a little horrified about what we would see, we agreed to go.
The days counted down until Sunday evening, the night of the bull fight. In those days I did some research. I watched videos, I read articles, I read blogs and browsed through pictures on Google. I was trying to calm the anxiety that was growing inside of me. During my research, I came across history that fascinated me. I read that the first documented bullfight was held in honor of the coronation of King Alfonso VIII in 711 A.D. After a while kings, queens, and royals thought that the messy killings of bulls was too violent for them to watch. So the rules changed, the quicker, cleaner and swifter the killing of the bull, the more honor the Matador would receive. Still too gory, it quickly switched to a civilian audience as a form of entertainment and traditional sacrifice. In learning this, it calmed me knowing it was not to just kill a bull to eat it, but it was a sacrifice, and tradition that formed to be elegant in a way.
Katie and I only stayed for three bulls. We thought that it was a respectable amount of time to embrace the culture and engrain the dance of the bull and matador into our brain for our whole lives. Katie and I left the colosseum processing the violence, beauty, and history that we just witnessed. Flashes of memories of the picadors on their giant draft horses, taking on the force of the bulls' angry charge, of the banderilleros bravely running towards the bull with the flower covered spears, and then the final moments of the bulls life, and the respect and passion that followed after raced through my mind. As I waved goodbye to Katie, and put my key into my door, I knew I left with a new appreciation of Spain’s culture.