Oviedo and Mari Carmen

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My study abroad program took place in Oviedo. Oviedo is a small city located in the north-central providence of Asturias. Some words I would use to describe this historical city are quaint, tranquil, and relaxed. Embraced by the Europa mountains, Oviedo is the heart of Asturias. Oviedo boasts a rich history as well. Once a capital of the kingdom of Asturias, the remnants of the ancient kingdom are scattered all throughout the city. For example, the cathedral was founded by a King Fruela in 781 AD. This gothic and baroque cathedral is located in “El Antiguo”, or the old town of the city along with many other historical sites. Oviedo is an extremely walkable city, and exploring its windy streets and narrow alleyways had become one of my favorite hobbies here.

When talking about Oviedo, one thing that cannot be forgotten is the city’s love for sidra, a cider that is unique to Asturias. Mildly alcoholic at 6%, it is smooth with a tang. The closest thing I had to sidra in the US is kombucha. Calle de Gascona by “El Antiguo” is the famous sidra street in Oviedo (first picture). The entire length of the street is lined with sidrerias. One caveat about sidra is that it has to be poured a certain way, with vertically outstretched arms with a bottle in one hand and the cup in the other. The outrageous pouring method is supposed to create maximum aeriation, which makes it more flavorful. Sidra is served in small amounts, and should be drank in one gulp. During my time here, I became quiet skilled at pouring sidra. I was even featured on the Spanish News “La Nueva España” at the “El Carmín” Festival! (slide 10,11) https://www.lne.es/siero/2022/07/18/imagenes-arranca-carmin-2022-esperado-68470312.html#foto=10

The people of Oviedo and Asturias are called “Asturianos”. They are tough, but kind people. This is no exception for my host mother, Mari Carmen (second picture). As my host mother, she provided me with a room, food and laundry service for the four week duration of the program. At 74 years young, Mari Carmen still wields total control over her life. She lives alone in a quaint apartment in “El Antiguo”. She mainly hosts students from abroad like myself and works at the city’s judiciary branch a few days a week. Despite her age, Mari Carmen boasts remarkable health and rigor for life. Mari Carmen keeps her house and herself at the tip top condition. Her house is beautifully kept without a single speck as she sweeps and mops the house daily. With herself, every day she puts on a different dress and makeup before going on her daily walk around the town.

Two things about Mari Carmen are that she is a woman of punctuality, and a huge lover of film. Our typical day would go like this. Every morning at 8:45 am, (my classes start at 9:30 am) I was greeted a fresh cup of coffee and chocolate croissant or toast with butter and marmalade. I would return from school around 2:30 pm, and we would luncheon, watch the news, and have a passionate discourse about the politics, environment and current events in Spain and the US. To my surprise, she harbored a very liberal world view despite her upbringings. Around 9:30 pm, we would eat dinner and watch whichever American movie that was on cable TV that night (in Spanish of course). I had the pleasure of showing her how to use Netflix (she had access to her daughters account, but did not know how to use it!), and queued some of my favorite recent films for her.

Goodbyes are always hard, but this one was particularly difficult because I knew that I most likely will never see her again. However, the memories I made with Mari Carmen and in Oviedo are some that I will always treasure.