Erica will be studying abroad at Alcala de Heneres, Spain for the next 4 months. Her blog can originally be found here:

[Originally posted March 5, 2014]

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I can not believe it. My program is already half way over and I feel like I just got here!!!! This past week of Carnival, there has been many parades and parties. Earlier this week, I saw a smaller carnival parade and costume contest followed by a live band. Some of the outfits were…well awkward, but hilarious.

Today, I went to the plaza where the parade started, and it was probably the smallest parade line up I have seen. The first float to go through was a large paper fish (a sardine) what was being carried by people, followed by another sardine (just smaller), followed by roller skaters wearing red, black and white, then the final float being a large horse with people and dances on it. I am pretty sure all of Alcala was there to watch the festivities! So there is a story behind this fish.

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“The Burial of the Sardine”

Every year, in various Spanish towns and cities, the people celebrate Ash Wednesday (the day before lent begins) by holding a mock funeral and burying a sardine in his coffin as a way of saying goodbye to the festivities. Here are some theories for this strange event:

Many years ago Charles III, the King of Spain, ordered sardines to be served at his carnival party. However, by the time they were to be eaten the small fish were rotten and it was decided that they must be buried to get rid of the smell. His guests mourned the thought of burying their free food and starting the restrictive Lenten period.

Another theory is that the people used to bury a pork rib to signify the giving up of meat during lent. Supposedly, at this time the colloquial name for the pork rib was sardina and at some point people started burying a sardine instead of meat.

Others claim that the sardine is buried to bring luck to all of the fishermen who will be responsible for feeding everyone throughout the 40 days of meatless lent.” –

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Fun with languages

Erica Saltzgeber will be spending the next four months in Alcala de Heneres, Spain. Her blog can be found at

[Originally posted January 12, 2014]

Today was the first day I walked to school with my mom and Megan since she lives right down the street from me. It is about 1.6 miles to walk to school in the morning, and supposed to be a 30 min walk. This morning the walk took 45 minutes because my mom was pointing out the best places to visit/ have tapas y cervesas in Alcala. However the walk back took over one and a half hours because my mom was not with us and we took so many wrong turns! And it was proven that we cannot read physical maps….in a different language.

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This leads me to my next entry-the language block. When flying to London from Denver I was very nervous and thought, “It’s going to be okay, you have taken Spanish for many years!” Well that quickly proved me wrong very quickly when I boarded the plane from London to Madrid Spain. “The language barrier has just begun….” I thought to myself. I was terrified to meet my family because they do not speak any English and I can speak very basically. When I met my mom, I think I understood at most 20% of what she was saying, and as the days pass, she is talking faster and faster, and it’s harder and harder to understand her, but from the full immersion in just a few days, I am already responding quicker, and able to get my point across more clearly.

It is a great feeling to be able to actually have a successful interaction with the locals. When I went out to the bars (yes I am legal here Dad J) I met some students that also study at the Universidad de Alcala de Heneres, and this was the first time I was able to have a successful conversation. For me this feeling will be unforgettable because I actually spoke in a different language with someone I did not know for a few hours! From this experience, I am ready to take on the challenges of Spanish and become fluent!!

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