Spain Language & Leadership 2017
June 12, 2017
¡Saludos a todos!
Our names are Serena and Carlos and we will be your trip leaders for your trip to Spain this summer. We hope you are all as excited as we are to spend the summer in ancient Europe learning about the Spanish lifestyle, culture, history and language and working under the warm sun along the Mediterranean. Looking forward to meeting all of you soon!
June 26-27, 2017
We met at JFK airport and were very excited. We greeted each other and immediately becomes friends. WHen we landed in Madrid, we took a bus to the hostel. On the way we saw grand fountains splendiferous buildings and shining statues. When we arrived at the hostel we were greeted by a sweet aroma of flowers. We checked into our rooms and went to lunch. We were the first one’s at the restaurant and the waiters met us with smiles. We ate salmorejo, pollo y arroz, Espaguetis and Ensalada. Then we headed back to the hostel for the most amazing Spanish tradition of siesta. After that we headed back out to the park. We rowed boats and played games to practice our Spanish. We got to know each other better and then walked back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. We walked down the narrow streets to eat Gazpacho, Lamb, Pudin and fruit. After the exquisite meals, we left to go back to the hostel. First day in Spain in the books. – Ben K.
June 28, 2017
Today, we learned about Spain’s history and art. After eating breakfast, our group toured la Plaza Mayor to el Palacio Real. Our tour guide showed us the history behind the statues, roads, and the royal cathedral of Madrid. We even got to order almond cookies from a bakery run by nuns! Once we finished lunch and a short siesta, we went to the Prado Museum. Here we paid special attention to the paintings by Velazquez and Goya, two of the most famous artists in Spain. After a tapas-like dinner, we purchased desserts at a nearby market before heading back to the hostel. – Tommy K.
June 29, 2017
What a day! We started with a charming breakfast at our hostel in Madrid and then shortly after we were off on our adventure. The bus ride to Segovia was long but our card games and Spanish radio kept us engaged. A few of us even took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep as we were still recovering from jet lag. The ancient Roman aqueduct of Segovia could be spotted from miles away and welcomed us to the beautiful city of Segovia. We were mystified, immediately in awe of the physics and preservation of it. Our first stop was the impressive Cathedral in the Plaza Mayor, we spent the morning wandering around it and exploring its grandeur. We then enjoyed a lovely meal in the city center while the town filled the plaza with music and a parade celebrating their Patron Saint. Next up was a tour of a fantastic castle, El Alcazar. We could imagine what like might have been like for the royalty who lived there. The views from the top of the Spanish countryside were almost surreal. Now that’s what I call a trip to Segovia!
June 30, 2017
Today we began our first full day in Sebulcór with a breakfast of croissants, toast and hot chocolate, prepared by Roberto (the owner of La Charca, the hotel we are staying in) and his wife. After breakfast we walked to the end of the city and explored the town which was very different from the fast pace of Madrid and its dense population. We then walked to a park with a basketball/soccer court and played games for a while. Some played an intense game of basketball while others played on the swings and enjoyed the exercise machines of the Parque Geriatrico. Some of us wondered what could be on the other side of the hill on which the park was situated. We walked through some trees to the other side to reveal a beautiful patch of sunflowers with a breathtaking view of the mountains. After the park, we went back to the hotel to enjoy a lunch made of homemade paella, a Spanish specialty. We then hopped in vans that took us to the river Duratón, the river of Sebulcór. We went kayaking with an amazing view of the canyon, large vultures and caves filled with paintings of the Neolithic period! Our guide Eduardo (“Edu”) informed us about the history of the area and the biology and species. Overall, kayaking was a great way to exercise in a serene environment while also learning about the history of the area. After kayaking, we drove back to La Charca to eat dinner: a Spanish tortilla and green beans with jamón. In short, the day was filled with many unforgettable sights and experiences and we got to see the city from a local’s perspective.
July 1, 2017
Today was an adventure! We enjoyed quite a nutritious breakfast of café con leche and chocolate croissants at our bed and breakfast, La Charca. We then headed out for a beautiful hike through the woods in Sebúlcor. The landscape was vast, gorgeous and silent. We could see fields for miles and the only sounds we heard were each other’s laughter and foot steps. We stopped at a river where a few of us took a dip, even though it was cold. We played some games and did some language activities together and enjoyed some tasty sandwiches. Afterwards we headed back to La Charca and then hopped on the bus that took us to Amayuelas. On the way we stopped at a gas station for some refreshments and European snacks! And, just like last time, we played card games on our comfy private bus. We are 100% living it up here in Spain. Amayuelas is an adorable little town and the locals welcomed us with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts. We are currently jamming out to music in the living room after a delicious feast. Tomorrow is our first day of work here in Amayuelas!
July 2, 2017
Today was a day full of firsts! Not only was it our first full day in Amayuelas but it was also our first day of community service! After a delicious breakfast, Melitón, a prominent member of this quaint pueblo showed us around his farm. We were introduced to the many plants and animals raised here, some include: chard, eggplant, pigs and chickens. (Yes, I know how to say all those in Spanish now!) Also, there are two dogs on that farm that made great company throughout the morning. Then we began our work! Together we mixed cement and reinforced the bottom of a fence to keep critters from entering the farm and causing damage. The second half of the morning we worked clearing over-grown weeds from along the streets to make the town look better. Afterwards we had an incredible lunch and had our siestas. Next, we had the opportunity to make fresh bread and cookies. It got messy, but we had a blast! We also made fantastic pizzas that we got to later enjoy at dinner. Today was a great day filled with teamwork, Spanish practice and fresh food.
July 3, 2017
Today was deemed “tank-day”. “Da boys” (as we like to refer to ourselves) began our day putting on our tanks, some of the girls did the same. We ate our usual grub for breakfast: cereal, pan y café o cacao. Then we headed to the farm. We spent hours continuing to lay cement and then moved on to the fields to pull weeds from many of the crops. By the time the clock struck two we were ready to eat our daily rations (a typical 4 course Spanish lunch). After siesta (one of our favorite parts of Spanish life), our leaders prepared a treasure hunt around Amayuelas which required us to explore the town a bit more and practice our Spanish. It ended with cookies in a field of sunflowers! After that a woman came to teach us about medicinal plants. We picked a local yellow flower, hipérico, and infused it in sunflower oil, in a month we will be able to use it to help with pain, burns, cuts and scratches. After that “da boys” and our leader Carlos went back to the farm to grab the crawdads that had been caught in the pond to cook up for a pre-dinner snack. With the help of the cooks here we cooked them up with a homemade tomato sauce. It was delicious! In addition to this special treat we had a typical family style dinner with the rest of the Amayuelas crew. Now that’s what I call a day in Amayuelas de Abajo.
July 4, 2017
While Americans were eating hot dogs and watching fireworks we were on our 3rd day of manual labor in Amayuelas de Abajo. We woke up at a reasonable time and we got some breakfast before walking to the farm. Once again we laid cement for a fence and got the satisfaction of finishing the fence we’d been working on. After a quick break for some snacks, we got to participate in the ancient practice of adobe brick making. We filled molds and got a close up look at what the people of Amayuelas have used to build their houses and other buildings. We left the farm and Melitón, a prominent community member, showed us the seed bank where they store many variations of seeds to plant at different times. This is an effort to keep the biodiversity of crops alive. This is also a project that former Global Works groups have helped with. It’s inspiring to hear about the impact other students have had on this village and know that we are part of something so much bigger than what it may seem. He also took us into an old bodega underground where they used to store wine. After another nutritious lunch and some siesta time we discussed our upcoming home stay experience. All of us are looking forward to meeting our families. In the afternoon we made traditional Spanish toys out of wood with the help of Melitón. They were so simple yet so fun and entertaining, we loved playing with them. Afterwards, Bruno, a youngin’ of the community taught us how to make origami shrimp or “gambas” as they call them here. Even though we couldn’t eat these crawdads like we did last night, they were still fantastic! After a satisfying dinner we walked around town observing the dazzling “nightlife” of this town of 25 people. Overall, we had a great 4th of July in Spain.
July 5, 2017
Today was our final day in Amayuelas. After our breakfast and walking to the farm we began a new project upon the completion of the concrete barrier. The newest “conquest” was to excavate an old well in the town. After hours of shoveling and hoeing, and avoiding the wasps, we hit water. The satisfaction was instant but there was still one problem to deal with: the rock. It was massive and suctioned into the mud. It took a combination of tools, teamwork, strength and varying ideas until success was ours (well mainly Tommy’s). After another delicious lunch and a relaxing siesta it was time for the Vernon activity. We ventured a short distance in a car to a local park in a neighboring town called San Cebrían. There we played the local kids in volleyball, soccer and handball. After several wins and losses and new friends we returned Amayuelas tired, hungry and read for our last supper. The day ended wonderfully with warm laughter and goodbyes as our night completed and we repacked to set out on the next leg of our exploration and service in Spain.
July 6, 2017
What a day it was! It all began in a dark room in Amayuelas de Abajo. We packed up but this time, it wasn’t off to the fields for we were being relocated to Valencia. We ate a splendid breakfast, said our teary-eyed goodbyes and hit the road to Valencia. The journey was long, from intense downpours to sweltering heat, we continued the adventure across Spain. We stopped for lunch and ravenously devoured our tortilla sandwiches. We kept going marching onward admits beautiful castles, majestic horses and fields upon fields of sunflowers. Finally, we arrived in Valencia where we were welcomed by our host mothers into our new homes. They fed us well, took us shopping and then to a jazz show in the park. It was a lot of fun!
July 7, 2017
Shabbat shalom everybody. I know how excited you all must be to read this. The day has finally arrived: my first blog entry. I’ll just hop right into it then. After a fun night of tossing and turning in the non-air conditioned apartment our host mother, Mar, Sam and I enjoyed a lovely meal of croissants, orange juice and assorted breads. After breakfast, Mar took Sam and I on a lovely scenic walk around Valencia, on our way to the bus stop around the corner. Following a short bus ride outside the city limits the group arrived at a lagoon. We learned a lot about the ecosystem and fields of agriculture surrounding the lagoon, and then we went into the lagoon on a boat. We were nice and comfortable on on the “lagoon cruiser” and were handed nets and garbage bags to dispose of any trash we found in the lagoon on our way through the lagoon. We picked up an impressive amount of trash out of the lagoon. Then learned about the environmental restoration work taking place at Tancat de la Pipa. Excited for our plans to ride bikes to the beach we got back on the bus and headed back to our new homes. Following a delicious lunch of beef stew, courtesy of Mar, Sam and I enjoyed our siesta time very much, but woke up to find out that the beach plans had been rescheduled due to the rain. However, instead we got to spend the afternoon with Mar, she took us to meet up with some of the other kids and together we went shopping in the biggest clothing retail store I had ever seen. So big that Sam I got separated from the group and spent the next fifty minutes trying to locate them. Eventually we did and met up with the moms again and headed back to Mar’s lovely home. On the way back however a local kebab eatery caught our eyes and we ordered some to go. After getting back, setting the table and reciting the Shabbats prayers, we enjoyed our local Spanish Greek food. Now that’s what I call a pretty fun day in Valencia.
July 8, 2017
Today was another adventure! We started off with a walking tour of old Valencia, filled with old buildings, plazas, churches and a climb up a church tower to a 360 view of the city. We then tried the local horchata and fartones (the pastry that comes with it), the horchata had a bit of a strange flavor but I was a fan! We also tried the traditional churros y chocolate. We then headed to the mercado central for a scavenger hunt. We came upon some good eats such as lots of ham, cheese and orange juice and also some more strange things. We then headed home for lunch and siesta. In the afternoon we met up again for our rescheduled scenic bike ride to the beach. It was the perfect day for cruising through the city and taking a dip in the Mediterranean. We were blown away by the sights. The beach was packed with people, Spaniards definitely know how to have a good time. We hung out in the ocean and relaxed in the sand and then headed back by bike and finished the evening with delicious gelato from a gelateria which is famous for being the second best ice cream in the world. It was a great day!
July 9, 2017
Today was very… I can’t think of the appropriate word… But very, very fun! We woke up and took a bus outside of Valencia to Alborache. We were all very tired on the bus, so we slept. After the drive we arrived at a summer camp called Actio. First we learned to make bird food and set it in trees. Then we took a scenic hike to a waterfall/cave/swimming hole. It was very crowded as it was a hot day and Sunday. We then hiked back and had a picnic. After lunch we did a language activity and then some of us played basketball while others jumped in the pool. We joined them in the pool afterwards to cool off. Remember the bird food we made? After the pool we taught the campers how to make the bird feed which was cool. Some of them spoke good English and wanted to practice so we spent the afternoon laughing and conversing in Spanglish. Some of us even rapped. We then played basketball and soccer and other games with the campers. It was then time to head home, so we said our good byes and boarded the bus. Now that’s what I call a great day at camp.
July 10, 2017
Alas, ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to describe the events of July 10th, 2017. I shall begin with breakfast: a meal of delightful pastries and juice from oranges, the fruit Valencia is known for. Subsequently my dear companion Benjamin and I walked with our homestay mother Pilar to our bus stop. Once again we exchanged greetings with our fellow travelers and the bus transported us to a wetlands area outside of the city. After a brief explanation, we donned some waders and sank into the buddy waters to check turtle traps. Why are we catching turtles you ask? Well they are not native and are quite invasive taking all the food from the more timid local turtles. However, we only succeeded in capturing over 100 crawdads and a fish. While some of us worked with the wildlife, others worked out cleaning up their habitat by removing a disgusting amount of trash from the canal areas nearby. The beach was our next destination. We frolicked in the Mediterranean Sea for a bit before eating ice cream and then heading back to our home stays. Dinner was a tortilla española and pan-fried chicken. What an extraordinary day in España!
July 11, 2017
The day began with the usual collection of kids at each of our designated bus stops. We then travelled to la Casa de Penya to assist with more wetland restoration projects. For example, a few of us world on digging a channel to open up the fresh water canal to the salty sea, while others worked together to build various bird houses to bring native birds back to the region. After community service, we drove to the community nearby, which was quite off the tourist beaten path to learn about some local geology. We learned about the mountains and how they act as sponges to retain water which then slowly releases to create the wetlands we’ve been working in. This is important in this region of Spain as the annual rainfall is low and the region is quite arid. We then took a short hike to get an overview of the area we’ve been working on and got a little Roman history along the way. We then returned down the mountain to enjoy a typical Valencian meal of paella and watermelon for dessert. After our time spent outdoors, we drove back to Valencia, relaxed for a bit, then walked to our Flamenco class where we got to learn and practice the form of dance traditional in Spain that originated in Andalucia and is very popular throughout España. It was definitely an experience and not easy! After that, we returned home to our homestay families to enjoy a nice home cooked meal. I can’t believe we only have two days left here!
July 12, 2017
Our last full day in Valencia began with our daily stroll to our bus stops. We then travelled to a nature preserve where sand dunes meet the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Four our final community service project, we helped remove invasive plants from the sand dunes. Despite the oppressive heat and prickly plants we all worked together to successfully fill up bags upon bags with the plants. After our hard work, we were rewarded with a refreshing dip in the sea. Later, we said our goodbyes to the wonderful volunteers that we’ve worked with the last few days and spent the afternoon with our homestay families. Next, we had the opportunity to help cook paella at Velartes. Fun fact: Velartes holds the world record for the largest paella ever made!!! It fed about 100,000 people. Our homestay families arrived at the restaurant after we finished cooking, and together we enjoyed an absolutely incredible final diner in Valencia. Tomorrow we are going to Barcelona! We are sure going to miss living in Valencia with our homestay families.
July 13, 2017
Today was an early start as we depart from Valencia. After many sad goodbyes we part from our host families and enter the train station to embark on our journey to Barcelona. After a few hours on the train we arrive at the station, and attempt to get off, and I stress attempt, because we were not successful. Encumbered by our suitcases and the sleepiness we tried to shake off as many of us napped on the train we missed the opportunity to exit before the train doors closed not to open again until the next station. Panic set in as the train began to move again, they told us we could get off at the next station, “Francia”. “El país?” Asked Serena our leader frantically, and suddenly we believed we were headed to France. Luckily the following station was still in Barcelona, and actually closer to our hotel. After dropping our belongings off we began to explore the famous city by trekking to Gaudi’s famed Park Güell. The architecture is unlike anything else in the world. Filled with vibrantly colored tiles construction patterns of whirls creating a feeling of whimsy and wonder. The unorthodox structures, with their swooping arcs were a prominent eye catcher along with the breath taking views of the city and all the way to the Mediterranean as the park rests elevated above the city. On the way towards dinner we began to empty wallets in the various souvenir shops we entered. At dinner we tried the traditional Spanish food of pinxos, which is a small portion of delicious food on a piece of bread. You save your tooth picks and count them up to total the bill. The night ended with the sweet taste of gelato as we stopped at an heladeria for dessert. Our first day in Barcelona was a success and we were all content as we fell asleep to the sounds of the city.
July 14, 2017
Today was our first full day in Barcelona. After a croissant filled breakfast, we headed to explore more of this beautiful city. After a quick stop at the Arc d’Triomf, we stopped in a park to reflect on our trip. It’s hard to believe that our three weeks are nearly over! After that, we walked around the city and were able to see pot some of Gaudi’s famous buildings. We filled up at lunch and then went to see his most famous building of all: La Sagrada Familia. All of us were blown away by the non-traditional style, indicate carvings and phenomenal stained class. The cathedral took our breath away. Afterwards we blew our cash in the gift shop looking for memories of the beauty we had just seen. We had a quick siesta and then went to “100 Montaditos” for dinner, a Spanish chain that has 100 different options for sandwiches. We all had a great time picking out our food. We took a short walk to a theatre to attend a flamenco show. We were all mesmerized by the dancing. It was definitely much more complicated then what we learned in our Flamenco class. We had a great full day in Barcelona and none of us are ready for the trip to end.
July 15, 2017
Our last day as a travel family began with a tearful goodbye as we wished our buddy Noah a safe trip back to the states. Still, the rest of the family kept it together throughout the day. We took a nice walk through a beautiful park, and we admired a majestic castle on a hill. We enjoyed the scenic view from the top and engaged in some reflection and appreciation for our time together and all that Spain has offered and taught us. For lunch we went to a local open -air market “La Boqueria” where we bough fresh Spanish foods. We then did some shopping as typical tourists and walked over to El Museo de Picasso. His art left quite an impression on us, and it was cool to see his transformation as an artist. After a thorough walk through we went back to the hotel for our farewell dinner. The food was amazing and the view was even better as we dined on the top of an old plaza de toros converted to a mall, however we were missing Noah. It was great to share a meal with the gang one last time. We decorated fans for each other reminiscing on all the good times. Then we went to the Magic Fountain Show. At the end of the day we got our phones back!!! And for me it was one of the happiest moments of my adolescent years. Tomorrow we head home, Gracias España!