Nomadland

by Claudia Molina López

According to some experts’ opinions, the films that have been nominated for best movie, intend to raise awareness about social problems and to contribute to a higher acceptance of several forms of social exclusion that they deal with.

The plot of the majority of these nominated movies is about social activism, health disease or representative events in history. In my humble opinion, only one of these films invites the audience to dream and escape from reality: and it is Nomadland.

To start with, this amazing film presents the life of a nomad woman who lives in a van as she decides to travel and to live experiences in order to create fascinating memories. Furthermore, she defines herself as ‘houseless’ and she explains that she adopted this way of living from her father.

This story reminds us of the hippie movement that took place in the 1960s, when people travelled all around the country and, moreover, enjoyed of landscapes, met different people and went through different adventures.

The actress and the spectacular setting attracted the reviewers apart from the millions of viewers that have seen the film. I highly recommend Nomadland because not only is it one of the judges’ favourites, but it also encourages us to experience unique feelings and places. I strongly believe that watching Nomadland is a must.

Berlin, The City of Memory

By Yolanda Torrijos López

Those who attended the “30 years of Germany reunification. Berlin: History and Cinema” talk by Celia Martínez García, Doctor in History of Cinema, could witness how it is possible to know the history of a town through cinema. On this occasion, the leading character was played by the German city of Berlin.

       On September 2nd, 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally, which meant the end of World War II. Nevertheless, it also meant tremendous material, human and emotional destruction.

       Shortly after, the whole territory was divided into four zones of occupation: Soviet, American, English and French. The capital, the city of Berlin, though technically part of the Soviet zone, was also split, with Soviets taking the eastern side of the city and The United States, England and France sharing the western side. The relationship between both parts would dramatically end up with the construction of the wall, which will be crucial for the city economic and social development. English historian Tony Judt in his work “Post-war” recalls a sentence that Germans exchanged days before the end of the war: “Enjoy the war because peace will be terrible”.

       In 1948, Italian director Roberto Rossellini, in Germania, Anno Zero, makes visible a city sunk in misery and despair. However, German citizens took that situation as a starting point to start from scratch.

       On August 18th, 1961, after years of disagreements with two currencies and two politic ideals, the wall is built, keeping families and friends separated for 28 years. That new tragedy for Berlin inhabitants will be the main topic in films as Escape from East Berlin (by Robert Slodmak, 1962), produced from Eastern Germany’s point of view and Funeral in Berlin (by Guy Hamilton, 1966), with a westerner’s viewpoint.

       Later, in the ‘70s, the differences between the two Berlins regarding Architecture and, above all, ideology will be clearer as it is reflected in Die Legende von Paul und Paula (The legend of Paul and Paula, by Heiner Carow, 1973).

       During the next decade appears a new model of German cinema which searches for its own identity, making it clear that what best defines Germany are its ruins, perfectly exhibited in Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of desire, by Win Wenders, 1987).

       On November 11th, 1989, the wall is knocked down so it is time for eastern citizens to rebuild the country from inside. At once, the appearance of certain “order” disappears when this side is, literally, swallowed by the western side. The film Good Bye, Lenin! by Wolfgang Becker, 2003, sets out some critics to the German Democratic Republic State’s Socialism just as Capitalism established after the wall’s fall.

       The film-documentary Der Duft des Westpakets (The Scent of the Western Package, by Brit-J. Grundel and Maja Stieghorst, 2019) is one of the latest manifestations of its longing for the old Democratic Republic. On it, we are the eyewitness of a new narrative that faces this topic. This film has a specific purpose: “to build bridges”, because it transmits more positive than negative thoughts toward the past.

       I would like to finish with the same sentence with which Celia concluded her speech:” Despite all the things lived during those years in the eastern side, a lot of people were happy”.

Sofia City

By Alfonso J. DÍAZ

Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria. The city is located in the West of the country, at the foot of Vitosha Mountain. The city’s landmarks reflect more than 2000 years of history, including Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Soviet occupation…

In the city center, near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the most visited monuments in Sofia it is possible to visit for free open archeological sites located close to the underground stations. Furthermore, there are countless references of urban architecture of its recent Soviet past, including an open museum dedicated to Socialism. The different neighborhoods surrounding the city center, are still an example of the so-called social architecture, common in communist countries during the sixties and seventies, with grey concrete warrens that tend to be old and dilapidated.

In contrast, among the old buildings, stand up international firms and corporations, malls, supermarket and fast-food restaurant chains. In Sofia, at a traffic light stop, it is usual to see the latest sportive Mercedes model next to an old ‘Gaz’ Russian truck model. It is remarkable to mention the peaceful and non-violent Bulgarian transition and transformation from a communist regime to a democratic political system.

Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union but Sofia is a vibrant and dynamic city. People are friendly and always ready to help foreigners. Sofia is full of restaurants, bars and cafes, though due to the pandemic (Sofians are not only very respectful and polite in public, but very committed to safety COVID measures), nowadays they can only cater take away food, which is very diverse, cheap and tasty. There are crowded big parks and pedestrian boulevards where you can feel the pulse of the city.

Furthermore, one of the undoubted signs of developed societies and welfare ratios is the possession of a pet, statically considered as a luxury item. Nowadays, Sofia is full of people walking dogs in the street. My first business trip to this Balkan capital took place in 2000. I strongly recall nobody walking dogs. All the contrary, all you could see was packs of stray dogs wandering around.

Reflecting on what I have seen and said above, Sofia (Bulgaria as a whole) entrusts its future to the European Union with the same commitment as they once did to the Soviet Union as part of the Iron Curtain countries.

Reading club: “Poems at five” by Teresa Juan López

By Cristina Sampedro Villena

Despite the fact that I am not a big fan of poetry, I thought that this meeting could be a great opportunity to learn something new and different. Before the session, I read the poems we were sent by email in order to feel prepared. I didn´t understand anything, though.

Thus, there I was, in front of the computer, waiting for the connection while thinking: I have no idea what I am going to talk about with the rest of my reading club-mates. The meeting started as usual. Greetings between the attendants and an interesting introduction by the host of the session (AKA Fernando) about the expression “Flatten the curve”.

After that, Fernando introduced us to our especial guest: Teresa Juan López, a poet who lives in Valdemoro and who has just published “Poems at Five”, which is a bilingual poetry book (English-Spanish). From the very first moment she started to talk, I realised there was something magical about her voice and her way to express herself. Not to mention that her English was incredibly beautiful. She briefly related to us how she began to write poetry and how the title of her book was linked with that fact.

In addition to that, she commented us on her intentions regarding her poems, what feelings she would like to transmit to people when they read her poetry. I would like to point out a sentence she said: “in my poems, there is no pain, no fear and no needs. This is something we should be grateful for since we are surrounded by unpleasant situations due to the current pandemic.

Furthermore, we read aloud a selection of her work and expressed our opinion about it. My curiosity rose as she spoke about the connotation of each poem. She remarked that depending of your own mood, even the moment in which you were, the same poem could mean something totally different. And I found this statement most fascinating.

At the end of the session, we had the opportunity of listening to the author interpreting one of her poems. She performed it in an amazing way, accompanied by a beautiful music and I have to admit that was absolutely wonderful. In my view, the session couldn´t have finished better.

In a nutshell, we had a fantastic time and learnt about a different vision to understand life: from a poetess’ point of view.

If any of you are interested in visiting her website, you can go to https://mareas2.webnode.es/

The Great Snowfall

by Ismael Moreno Serrano

      I have little doubt that we have lived one of the most important meteorological phenomena in recent decades. This time, I would like to take advantage of my experience and write from the point of view of someone who had to work during those days.

      During the first week of January, according to experts, a great snowfall was coming and by following a few steps the aftermaths of this phenomenon would be less damaging than it really were. On Thursday, January 7th, when I started my shift, I knew that the week would be more hectic than a regular week, but for Goodness sake, I could not imagine how difficult work would be under such odd circumstances.

      In the beginning, everything seemed to be going well, people went out in order to play with their children and their pets, whole families shared the time making snowmen, and even there were people who went snowboarding and skiing. Can you believe it? How idyllic! What is more, for some time, people forgot the pandemic that we are suffering. However, in one way or another, everything has its bad side.

      Despite the warnings given, the vast majority of people went out, and with this, problems came up. We received an avalanche of requirements ranging from people falling down and getting hurt, cars trapped, snow accumulated on roofs, to trees that were beginning to fall… A chaos engulfed the city and it was on the verge of collapse. What made matters worse was that, besides the chaos, the low temperatures helped the snow turn to ice, for longer. It was even necessary to enable a place to put up people that could not go back home due to the snow.

      Nevertheless, underneath this horror, I was shocked by the solidarity of society again, as happened in the beginning of the pandemic. The same people who went out to play before, went out to help us and clean the streets during those days, alleviating the lack of foresight and means given by the authorities. I must confess as well, that it has been the most physically demanding week that I have never had. As the roads were completely covered with snow, we had to go from one side to the other carefully.

      During a couple of days we were transporting people who belonged to essential services, people who needed help to go to the hospital and stuff like this. I would like to point out that when our shift was over, the boss congratulated us for doing so well during the whole week, remembering that sometimes our job is worth it.

      Fortunately, the complex situation is returning to normal right now but we should bear in mind that the climate change is a fact. I am not an expert but, pandemics, floods, snowfalls, heat waves… are proof that something is happening. Authorities have to lead the challenge of alleviating this traumatic situation, taking measures promoting energy saving and efficiency and reinforcing the public system because society is going to face more complex problems than ever before.

Filomena, another Face of Climate Change

by Yolanda Torrijos López

After 2020, which we could fairly name annus horribilis, we had pinned our hopes on the New Year. Nevertheless, all of a sudden, Nature, more alive than ever, has shaken the bases of these desires, bringing to our mind that sentence constantly repeated: “Nature never ceases to amaze us”. Unfortunately, it has done it by using a violence never seen before in this land, leaving unusual images which will always remain in our memory.

Every little thing was completely buried under the snow by Storm Filomena, drastically interrupting our lives, freezing also the time. Unexpectedly all stopped. For sure, in that moment, all of us had a déjà vu, because we felt that we were living something already lived.

Once I read: “What kills is not Nature, it is Vulnerability” and regrettably, we are becoming more and more defenceless in front of environmental threats. Last year, because of Covid-19, we found out how vulnerable we were, not only individually, but also, and in a sharp way, collectively; Filomena has, simply, confirmed it.

As Aristotle once said: “Nature does nothing incomplete or in vain”, and behind this impressive blizzard, a cold snap was hot on its heels. After living such extreme weather’s phenomenon, who dare to say that Climate Change does not exist? Nature is talking to us, please, let us stop and listen to it.

Flipgrid: Meeting Mates under the Covid Shadow

by Benito García Rodríguez

What could an American University and the Language School of Valdemoro have in common? That’s a good question. Fortunately, we don’t have to seek the answer in the wind; we only need to turn our eyes to the Flipgrid project organised by our Language school.

Under the sign of the insidious coronavirus, the academic year apparently began surrounded by the threat of a new lockdown; so, as soon as our classes started, our teacher revealed us the Flipgrid Project: a nice e-program with Brigham Young University (BYU), in Utah, where, every week, the American pupils of Mrs Nieves Knapp and the selfless Fernando’s students exchanged their experience and points of views, in a few minutes of video podcast. Along the first third of the academic year, we met a bunch of smart and nice guys and girls, American students from different states who are studying and sharing their love for Hispanic culture, and our mother tongue.

We had the privilege of knowing and comparing how Spanish and Americans face daily quotidian questions as the mass media, and their evolution last years since the 20th century, the Welfare state and their differences and similarities in both countries. We have the chance to compare how the role models around our countries seem to be the same effect and come from similar social groups. The last exchanges were focused on the education model, especially higher education: University and Trade Schools. We talked about our experiences and learned about the American model.

We have finished that awesome and emotive experience few days before Christmas, wishing it could be a “see you later” rather than a goodbye. After these three months, we have realized that the similarities of American and Spanish way of life, our worries, are more than we used to believe. Reasons of that? Maybe globalization or the cultural common source are on the background of that. Our advice for everyone is: try to join the next Flipgrid.

Scene 1, Take 1 (clap!), ACTION!

by José Antonio Sánchez

For most of us, recording a video can be an exciting challenge to undertake. The sound, the light, the dressing, the script and even more difficult: what if we talk in English? Last year, the school of languages came up with a peculiar activity where people from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean could meet by recording videos. I don’t know how it ended up. Nevertheless, I can suppose that it went quite well considering that Angel, a veteran in the challenge, has tried this year again.

First task: Introduce yourself. Some classmates talk about their hobbies, others squeeze their lives into a three-minute-long biography. We’re supposed to be at an advantage because we’re older, but it’s far for being so: these American college students have a great deal of life to tell. Once the pairs are made, it’s time for the second task: Answering your partner. From that moment on, we have a different topic every week.

Making a good speech is an arduous task to accomplish. First, collecting information about the topic; second, organizing and selecting the appropriate words; third, learning the script by heart; and finally, recording the video. Not until you reach your expectations, can you stop repeating the take. As time goes by, you get the hang of it and the preparation time decreases.

I would like to finish by saying that sometimes having a different perspective helps us to understand things better. Listening to our American fellows speaking in Spanish is food for thought. How beautiful and, at the same time, complicated is Spanish where it is necessary to adapt almost every word to the gender of the subject. Moreover, we realize they make the same mistakes as us when they sometimes translate literally from their mother tongue. Anyway, we are learning.

Flipgrid: An open window at COVID times.

by Alfonso J. Díaz

Nowadays, any effort from the academic community to make students be on board, motivated and involved in their academic courses is welcome and worth it.

Flipgrid is basically a platform that facilitates the interaction of different groups of students with common goals and objectives, all over the world. Although it offers unlimited uses and possibilities, not only in the academic field, my experience turns around the study of English language. To do so, a topic is submitted to the discussing student groups. Previously, all students have been designated a partner from the other group. Both students provide each other with their feedbacks and different approaches in those foreign languages that they are studying. So, you must record yourself a speech with your arguments and upload it, waiting for your partner’s reply.

Would you like to try? Would you dare to challenge yourself to speak in a foreign language, be recorded and watched by your colleagues and teachers? First, the activity makes you work hard, drafting the speech you are going to deliver, always taking into account some cultural awareness such as political or religious beliefs. It is a great exercise to develop your skills as a speaker, to control your facial gestures, intonation and message. Details like your physical appearance or background shouldn’t be forgotten either. Due to my job, I am used to talking in public. However, this task took me out of my comfort zone and made me think out of the box.

Should you be interested in working with this tech tool, don´t hesitate to ask your teacher to launch some discussion topics with your classmates. It will help you to develop your self-confidence in a foreign language while you get familiar with these new technological environments.

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