March 31, 2017
After a long day of traveling we arrived in sunny Madrid ready and excited for the trip ahead of us! After settling into the hotel we went for gelato on the plaza and a stroll through the streets of Madrid enjoying the beautiful scenery, fresh air and European vibe. We spent the afternoon getting to know each other playing some ice breaker games in Parque Retiro, a huge park filled with flowers, trees, fountains and people enjoying the beautiful weather. On our walk home we visited a vertical garden that scales the side of a building which was really cool to see an alternative use of city space that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also purifies the air and demonstrates sustainable urban living. We finished the evening with a delicious dinner (and another dessert!) and are headed off to bed before the long day ahead of us full of hiking and traveling to the pueblo Sebúlcor. Hasta Luego!
April 1, 2017
After eating breakfast this morning in our hotel in Madrid, we left with our bags to head towards our next location, Sebúlcor. On the way, we stopped at the Sierra de las Guadarrama National Park for a brief hike. As we walked, we were surrounded by majestic pine trees, winding streams, and rocky mountains. It was quite cold in the forest- most of us were bundled up in many layers, hats, and gloves! After the hike, we went to a local restaurant for a late lunch. We ate Spanish chorizo and other meats, as well as soup and garbanzo beans. Many of us were very excited to see some snow on the ground (and to throw it at friends) outside! After the lunch, we took a short bus ride to our small hotel in Sebúlcor. Sebúlcor is a very quiet, rural town of about 200 people, and covered in grassy fields and farmland. We ate dinner in the hotel and had some time to relax (or explore the town, for those that wanted to). I especially enjoyed participating in our first group journaling and discussion session. During this time, we reflected on the day and what we learned about sustainability, the core theme of our trip. I hope throughout the rest of the trip, we continue to interact with nature and reflect upon our experiences with it in order to better understand the importance of environmental sustainability.
April 2, 2017
We started off with a simple breakfast before heading off for our adventure of the day. It was pretty cold when we arrived at the site where we were going to kayak so many of us were a bit worried we might freeze, but luckily the sun warmed us up quite a bit. We all took a life jacket, a paddle and a partner and headed down the canyon to where all the kayaks were stacked into piles of various colors. With our partners we took a kayak and set it onto the water to begin. The moment we got to the middle of the river we could see the canyon tops on each side and a long river flowing in the direction we were about to go. It was amazing, I don’t know what other word to use for it. Even though the canyon sides were mostly stone there were still many green areas that looked like little fields and trees of all sizes. More than once we got to see a huge vulture fly over us and get so close we could see how enormous it really was; we found out it’s wings could reach up to 3 meters in diameter which was amazing. At the end we saw the ruins of a church that were hundreds of years old on the top of the side of the canyon with a couple of people standing at the edge. We tried waving but they either didn’t notice or didn’t pay any attention to us. The trip back was much quicker but no less mesmerizing. Everything around us just came together to form a scene that I can only describe as “came out of a movie”, Lord of the Rings popped into my head more than once. One of the hardest parts of the trip was getting back up the hill; it was uphill with sand and nothing to grab on to. After an arm workout we got a pretty intense leg workout as well, needless to say we all just sat in the sun at the top for a while to rest up before heading back to our hotel. We worked together on the set up and on the paddling, we had fun doing so and I hope we keep going strong like we did today.
April 3, 2017
Waking up at La Charca in Sebúlcor we headed out after dinner to Amayuelas de Abajo to learn about sustainable living. We spent the afternoon exploring the town (that has only 20 people living in it!) and learning how to make homemade bread, pizza and toys. Our sustainability lesson tonight was based on a simulation, we were split into four families who all had to fish from the same pond of 16 fish. In our first round, the first family took all the fish without thinking of the other families which later lead to no fish being able to reproduce; after discussing with the rest of the families we decided to each take two fish for each family which would leave eight fish in the pond to later reproduce and reach its maximum carrying capacity of 16 fish again. Each family would need to take two fish each because if not the fish would reproduce until there were more than 16 fish in the pond, this is a problem as the resources available would not be enough to sustain more than the carrying capacity of 16 fish. What the group learned from this activity can be related back to the Tragedy of the Commons where they, as well, learnt that the carrying capacity must be kept into consideration as open, free land should not be abused. Tomorrow we begin our service work in the sustainable garden!
April 4, 2017
Today we went to the sustainable farm, where we learned about organic gardening techniques. We helped recover a greenhouse that will help the community grow food even in the colder weather. We tied rocks and ropes to a giant tarp and threw the rocks over the greenhouse structure. We then all helped pull the giant tarp up and over the frame and pull it until it rested tightly on the frame. Finally we covered the remaining pieces of tarp with dirt to hold the plastic tightly to the frame. We will finish covering the base of the tarp with dirt tomorrow when we continue service. In the afternoon we traveled to Las Cuevas del Franceces where we walked deep into a cave. The cave has a whole that leads to the ground above that at one point many years ago French soldiers were thrown into it. It was really neat to walk through the cave, even though it was cold and wet!
April 5, 2017
Having settled into the tranquil life of the countryside in Amayuelas de Abajo, we continued with our second day of service. We finished the greenhouse that we were covering the day before, which included filling the trench that held the plastic roof down with dirt. This was exhausting work (and it was pretty cold!) but we did it! It was neat to see the finished product and the community was very happy with the work that we did. We then were given a tour of a natural water filtration system that uses plants and bacteria to purify the water that comes from the town. This was really cool to see such an ancient form of technology that still exists today. In the afternoon we switched to our workshops (bread and toymaking) and finished the long day enjoying the homemade pizzas that we made.
April 6, 2017
On our final morning of service work we worked on two new projects. The first was helping to stack an enormous pile of wood that they use for their wood stoves under a covered area to prevent the wood from getting wet. We formed an assembly line for this task and it was amazing how many stacks we got done in just a couple hours! The second project we worked on was to help excavate an old well that was used over 50 years ago but has since been covered by earth during town construction. This was a neat project because it felt somewhat like an archeological dig. While we only uncovered the tops of three sides of the well, we got a great start to this project and our local helper Meltión said this will hopefully be finished and utilized by the end of the summer. After working for a few hours we loaded the bus and headed to Madrid where we had a little time to explore the main plaza, Puerta del Sol and then had our “despedida” dinner with the group. The trip flew by but we all learned so much in our week here in Spain!