Our Journey Begins


lamanchSo, just when we were floundering in a scary sea of the great unknown, Spain popped into the picture, and just like that we had a true heading.  A beautiful strong and steady wind has filled our sails for the last 6 weeks that will take us on what I believe will be a truly unforgettable adventure.  We are almost 1/3 of the way through Don Quixote!  Tackling this masterpiece is taking a large portion of our time, but every day fills us with such a sense of accomplishment. We typically read one chapter per day. Ava and I take turns reading the text aloud and stop frequently to make sure we both understand what we are reading.  Cervantes likes to write in rambling sentences that can be as long as 25 lines each!  Reading this text aloud is a great way to improve ones reading skills. We keep a notebook nearby to write down any tricky vocabulary words as well as notes about themes and observations.  We also write down the names of towns, mountain ranges and cities to add to our Spain itinerary. The story takes place, of course, in La Mancha Spain, famous for it’s windmills, saffron and Manchego cheese.  When we travel to Spain in the spring as the grand finale to our yearlong studies, we plan to rent a car in Toledo and spend the day exploring La Mancha as we make our way south to Granada, visiting landmarks from Don Quixote along the way!   After we finish our daily reading we compliment it by watching a lecture from an open course we are taking at Yale: Spanish 300 Cervantes’ Don Quixote taught by Sterling Professor, Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria.  It is fantastic to hear his detailed interpretation of each chapter and to understand better the historical and artistic setting of Renaissance Spain.  It is wonderful when our interpretation of the text is validated but it is also amazing to receive new insight about the story.  A recent lecture focused entirely on the 1656 painting  Las Meninas  by Diego Velasquez and examined similarities between the two masterpieces.  Both make us think about the nature of reality and illusion.  Alonso Quixano is a  man obsessed with stories of knights and chivalry. He decides to re-invent himself as a knight, renames himself Don Quixote de La Mancha and strikes out on horseback in full armor to single-handedly save the world.  He enjoys a completely unique view of the world around him. He sees windmills as giants, inns as castles and herds of sheep as armies in battle.  This absurd adventure seems familiar to me.  I can’t help thinking of the voices inside and outside my head saying that my ideas were absurd. That the straight and narrow path was better, safer, more comfortable for everyone.  What is the nature of our reality? Can we chose it? Alter it? Redefine it?  Whose permission do we require? What is there to be lost? What might be gained? Have you ever taken a chance or diverged from the well-worn path? What did you learn? We would love to hear your story or your thoughts on the matter.

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