Friday, May 26, 2017

Eric Conway: On this past Monday, May 22, 2017, the Morgan State University Choir left for our tour of Spain and Portugal

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Hello Morgan State University Choir followers,

On this past Monday, May 22, 2017, the Morgan State University Choir left for our 2017 international tour.  This year we will tour the countries of Spain and Portugal. As is usual, the choir typically leaves a few days after the end of the semester and commencement.

On Saturday May 20th, Morgan held its sesquicentennial commencement exercises. As many as eleven choir members managed to complete their degrees this year! Congratulations to those graduates of which six are on this year's tour!  This year was especially exciting due to former Vice-President Joe Biden serving as the commencement speaker!  If commencement were not enough excitement for the day, the choir was asked to sing the national anthem at Maryland Day at the ballpark at Camden Yards!  Rather than have my choir members come back out after a long commencement ceremony, I arranged for one choir member to represent the choir - Cameron Potts - who represented well - see link below of his rendition!v

On Monday at 9AM, we left via Reagan National, and Boston Logan airports for Madrid, Spain.  For the first time in some time, all persons were accounted for and departed relatively on time, with no airline delays, or anyone losing their luggage.  It appears that every time we fly to a new destination, we fly on a new airline - this time on Iberia airlines, a Spanish airline.  Service was fine and we enthusiastically arrived to the Madrid airport.  After retrieving all of our bags, our coach bus was outside waiting for us.  Our adventure was about to begin!

After a long day of travel, we arrived in Madrid around 6:25 AM on Tuesday morning.  Given that we were not able to check into our hotel until 3PM, we had several hours to begin our exploration of the capital city of Spain.  Our local guide Kike Mantecon gave us a great overview of the city.  He dropped the group off at a local park for us to explore the beauty of Madrid. He then dropped us off at another point to eat lunch and explore by foot for several hours.

At 3PM we checked in to the local hotel, the Florida Norte Hotel.  Most immediately saw that this was a typical standard European hotel - with bidet and all!  Many were surprised to find that Europeans typically do not place washcloths in hotels. The beds were not stellar but we were hoping that we would be so tired as to care.  The major event of this first day was to attend a Spanish bull-fight! At 5:30 PM we left for the bull-fight arena.

Many were ambivalent about attending this iconic Spanish event.  Of course the major issue is that of animal cruelty! Given that most knew so very little about the Spanish bullfight, we believed that it would be instructive to actually see and understand Spanish culture first-hand, and have an informed position about this spectacle event. All but three attended the bullfight.  What did we learn?

We learned that thousands of Spaniards attend even on a week-night!  We believed that bullfights were an almost common everyday events, but that was not true.  Bull fights only occur a few months out of the year and then only a few times a month.  We were fortunate in a way to see a bullfight while we were in Madrid!

At best, the bullfight was a showing of courage, given that the bull could fatally gore the matador.  The Spanish crowd cheered as though it were a “fair" sporting event.  The entrance of the matadors and bulls were almost choreographed initially.  At times, we found ourselves connected to the matador as he managed to manipulate the bull.

At worst, given that this exercise was done purely for sport, our hearts were saddened as the assistants would spear the bull to slow him down, to somewhat even the odds & ultimately tip the scales in favor of the human being. Four out of the five bulls that we witnessed in this spectacle were killed in front of the crowd!  We were saddened seeing an animal killed like this purely for sport in front of our very eyes!

Afterwards, we learned that the bull is fed like a “king” for several months up to this fight.  After he is killed, his remains are sent to top restaurants because the bull is only range-fed for this entire life - which is more desirable for meat-eaters.  The other reality is most of the meat eaten around the world - animals are killed in slaughtered houses, living in conditions that are abominable.  At the end of the day - we were appalled because we were witness to what is done millions times over daily because we are at the top of the food chain!  Having said that, having experienced Spanish culture first-hand, I do not believe that any of us will ever attend a bullfight again!  See YouTube link below to the rated “G” portions of the bull fight - intriguing to say the least.

After the bullfight we had a Welcome group meal beginning at 9PM.  The meal was appropriately not too heavy at the end of the long day.  We ate typical Spanish food, which was quite tasty in my opinion. We all ran to our rooms for bed. What a full first day in Madrid Spain. See several photos of this first day attached.


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