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Spain Language & Leadership

June 30, 2018

Once we landed in Madrid after the long flight, we dropped off our luggage at the hostel. We ambled around the city for a little bit and found ourselves at San Gines where we ate delicious ‘churros con chocolate’. However, the churros did not have cinnamon and sugar dusted on the outside like most of the American ones and the chocolate was served in a coffee cup with its semisweet deliciousness. Subsequently, the group gathered around in a circle and enjoyed a few ice-breaking games. Once we all got comfortable with each others’ names and got to know a little about each person we went to lunch. This is when many, including myself, started to feel the exhaustion of jet lag. However, we pressed on and went back to the hostel for a short hour to change out of the clothes we had been in for the flight. After that at about 4:30 we strolled toward the Parque Buen Retiró. The park boasted beautiful trees and flowers, commemorated statues and a very large pool where our team waited in line to ride in rowboats and interview each other in Spanish. After that, we walked toward dinner and trudged back after we ate. The plaza, however, was just getting lively at about 9:30 pm with many people gathered around for street performances such as roller skaters. Finally we went to a floor plaque where it is said that if you step on it, we will return to Madrid. Then we went back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

– Will D.

July 1, 2018

Today was our first full day in Madrid. We started off our day with a light breakfast at our hostel before a walking tour of the city. The tour started in Plaza Mayor and ended at the Royal Palace and Queen’s gardens. All along the way, our tour guide described many of Spain’s defining moments of history. After the tour, we enjoyed lunch at Ginger. After a short siesta, we made our way to the Prado. While we were there we saw many famous paintings including works by Goya. We walked around there for a few hours and some of us bought souvenirs at the gift shop. From there, we walked to Parque Retiro where we ate some ice cream and played team bonding games. We all got to know each other a lot more. Finally we enjoyed our last dinner in Madrid at Meson de la tortilla, a traditional family style tapas selection. We tried delicious foods such as jamón, tortilla, chorizo, manchego cheese, mushrooms and peppers. After dinner we walked back through the city to go to our hostel for our final sleep in Madrid.

-Phoebe S.

July 2, 2018

I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say today was such an enjoyable and interesting day. We got up, packed our bags, and headed down to breakfast. Everyone enjoyed the ‘desayuno’ which was delicious and simple and consisted of croissants, cheese, jamón, toast, and of course seeping hot cups of coffee. After breakfast, we walked to catch our ride to Segovia. When we got there we were all amazed by the beautiful red-tile roofs so characteristic of Spanish architecture and more importantly by the impressive Roman Aqueduct. We were able to take some professional-grade photographs and were so excited to explore the rest of the city. We started at the Cathedral which was absolutely amazing. It was one of the most incredible historical sites I have ever been to. The amount of detail and precision that it has is spectacular. I also knew it was a pretty impressive building because it was on the cover of my 2018 AP world history study book. After the cathedral, we enjoyed a delicious outdoor lunch which included ox tail stew, gazpacho, and bacalao, among other things. After lunch we went to the fortress or ‘alcazar’ and we were actually able to go inside and see the rooms as well as climb the never-ending spiral staircase to the top of the highest road. We were all so impressed by the castle that we even talked about pooling our money and trying to buy it. After the castle, we walked back go our van and enjoyed a nice ice cream pit stop. We were sad to leave such an amazing place like Segovia, but we made our way to Sebulcor, which is completely different than the cities like Madrid. It’s small and so isolated but it is so charming and cool. We did our weather checks with our awesome group leaders, played some catch and board games and then had dinner. We are staying in this really cool bed and breakfast and the family who runs it is very kind. I think everyone was tired by the end of the day but we are all looking forward to kayaking tomorrow!

-Noam D.

July 3, 2018

Before breakfast today, Carlos (one of our group leaders) and around half the group went out for a quick run, which in my opinion is a great way to start the day. After a short breakfast back at the hotel, we drove through the countryside to Las Hoces del Rio Duraton to go kayaking. The countryside here around Sebulcor is really beautiful: the flat plains of yellow grass interspersed with farmland and forests, and on the horizon in virtually every direction rise rocky mountains. Arriving at the nature reserve with our guide Alberto, we got canoes (not kayaks because they have an open top, as Alberto explained) and set off down the river. The scenery as we camped down the river was really incredible. We observed the ruins of an old cathedral, and looked up at the awesome, tremendous cliffs of the river canyon, at some places up to 100 meters tall! Uniquely, the cliffs are home to a large number of a rare breed of vulture, which we saw several of while learning about them. Eventually we landed at a small beach where we swam and played games before lunch. Lunch consisted of salad, bread, and a gargantuan pan of paella which is a Spanish dish of fried rice, vegetables and various bits of seafood from mussels, to shrimp and even squid. Of course. It was all incredibly tasty. For most of the rest of the afternoon we hung out on the beach, playing volleyball and ping pong, testing our balance on the slack line, eating ice cream, napping, reading, swimming, and playing games. Even practicing our Spanish with some Spanish kids at the beach as well. However, despite how much fun it was, it eventually came time to canoe back up he river and return to the hotel. We had a delicious dinner of green beans, salad and tortilla which, unlike the tortillas in America, is more like a large egg omelette. Overall, today was a great day, and tomorrow we are going hiking, which I am quite excited about.

-Colin S.

July 4, 2018

Happy fourth! After breakfast this morning we went on a 4-5 mile “hike” and stopped at the river halfway in between. The river part was very pretty and we played a Spanish game and mafia which was a lot of fun. We went back to the little bed and breakfast in Sebulcor for a great lunch. We had a nice salad and then steak and french fries. The desert was also really good with a chocolate mousse. After lunch we had a little siesta and made our way to Amayuelas. We stopped at a grocery store on the way and we were excited to see chocolate milk! When we got to Amayuelas after a 2 1/2 hour ride through the beautiful countryside of Spain, we found out only 20 people live in this town. It is a small cute town with a lot of history and importance behind it. We went to this building with seeds in it today that they use for genetic things. It was a cool thing to see. We then went to a farm and played with all the animals – the dogs were adorable! Dinner was a DELICIOUS potatoes squash soup – so good! Then the tortla de patata was very good as well. After dinner we talked with some kids volunteering with us from a different program. Today was a good day and we can’t wait to work on the farm tomorrow!
– Quincy B.

July 5, 2018

Our first full day in Amayuelas was kick started by my favorite part of Spanish breakfasts: the ludicrously strong coffee. For breakfast, we had the choice between local artisan toast with French marmalade and frosted mini wheats with lukewarm milk. It was an easy choice. After breakfast we wasted no time splitting into groups and getting assigned tasks for our first day of community service. My group was tasked with working in the sustainable greenhouses on the farm just 10 minutes away from the community. We walked through corrals filled with horses, sheep, geese, and chickens (to eat, not for eggs, as our guide made a point to mention) before settling down in the endless tunnels of the greenhouses. We worked up until el almuerzo, picking peas off the vines, stopping from time to time to have a quick, fresh snack straight off the vine. After a morning of strenuous work, out three corse lunch of vegetable soup, a salad and lamb was much appreciated. After our riveting after lunch discussion or sobremesa, we all broke for our favorite part of the day: siesta. Feeling rested, we broke off into our workshop groups. Half of us went off to bake bread while my group would learn the ins and outs of adobe brick making. We were on Dirty Jobs, we stomped through the mud barefoot, just as you walk on grapes to make wine. We shoveled the mud and straw mix into the molds, crafted bricks into perfect rectangles and some even made face masks out of the mud. To cap off the day, we embarked on a comprehensive and exhaustive tour of the town’s adobe buildings. We went to bed as veritable adobe experts, ready to bring the lost art home with us.
Ben I.

July 6, 2018

Today was another day in Amayuelas full of community service work and fun. We began our morning bright and early with a delicious breakfast of pastries and coffee and got right to work. For the first section of work some of us were in the kitchen, some picked lettuce, and some cleaned a chicken coop. The work was hard and long but we were able to switch up our jobs for the early afternoon. Some of us got to pick weeds from a carrot planter which was very relaxing. We were able to cool off before lunch at the house with a fun Spanish skit activity. Lunch was a delicious lentil soup, salad, and chicken. Compared to all of the starch we have been eating, this lunch was very fresh and healthy. After we had a long siesta and a chance to relax before our afternoon talleres, or workshops. Because some of us made bricks yesterday, we got to make toys today. We used nails and hammers to build wooden toy dolls. Those of us that made bread yesterday made bricks today. Before dinner some of us enjoyed a nice walk outside while others played cards. It is so nice here in Amayuelas, the weather is nice and chilly in the morning and at night but very warm during the day. We are looking forward to another day tomorrow! Buenas noches!
– Addie B.

July 7, 2018

Waking up another day in the Amayuelas bodes another day of rewarding labor! After we finished eating desayuno we split into our groups and began our work. Some assisted in the kitchen, preparing the table and helping with ingredients for farm fresh meals. Some went to the garden and some worked on the farm in the scorching heat of the morning sun. At about midday, we gathered and stacked wood for the oven and landscapes the house, shearing all the bushes to look pristine. At lunch, many people were giddy to see eggs which is something we have not eaten yet on the trip. The meal consisted of rice, eggs and a tomato sauce which is apparently a part of Spanish cuisine. We then took our daily siesta playing games reading and relaxing before the latter part of our day.

Today instead of doing afternoon workshops we took a walk to another nearby town and competed with a group of Spanish kids our age. Needless to say, they had a lot more skill than ya. On our way back, the gray sky started to rain and we had to get picked up back to the hostel. At dinner, we had delicious lamb burgers with their homemade bread as buns. After our sobremesa, the time talking after dinner, we played a fun group bonding activity- Taboo in Spanish before we closed a busy but fun day.

– Will D.

July 8, 2018

Today was our last day in the Amayuelas! It was a generally normal day of service work; we started off at the farm. Some of us helped load and unload hay, while others worked in the green house. Today was one of the most taxing service days and certainly never boring. Then we headed back for lunch and a much needed siesta. After food, showers and sleep, we split up into workshop groups and made toys, others went to the kitchen to learn the unique bread of Amayuelas as well as make cookies and pizza for dinner. In the other workshop they made wooden toys and paper boxes (both remarkably interesting). We ended the day with dinner and a few group activities to prepare for homestay.
Amelia B.

July 9, 2018

Today was definitely one of the most exciting days! Well… kinda. It started with waking up early and deep cleaning our room and finishing packing. After our last stray socks had been shoved into our suitcase and the beds were stripped we went downstairs with our bags for breakfast. We ate cereal and warm toast with butter and jam. Some people drank coffee while others refreshed themselves with water. After breakfast we had an emotional goodbye with our hosts which had turned to friends. We loaded ourselves into the sick Mercedes sprinter van and began the 8 hour trek to Valencia. We passed the time with games like 20 questions and contact. We listened to music and read books as well. We stopped at a small market for lunch. Our friends back at Amayuelas had made us two sandwiches each and so we chowed down. Then we got back in the ‘Benz and drove all the way to Valencia. We marveled at the beautiful city as we entered. There were cobblestone streets and ancient buildings. When we arrived at our stop and then there sat our homestay moms! We all clambered to the window to get a better look. After introducing ourselves to them we hopped in cabs and saw our homes for the upcoming week. All the families were so outgoing and engaging. We ate dinner with them and after a successful day of speaking Spanish we headed off to bed.
Hana Z.

July 10, 2018

Waking up in a new place can be confusing but when you’re well rested it only takes a few seconds to realize where you are. It was our first night with our host families. After eating breakfast and getting to the bus we told many stories about our first night.  We rode the bus all the way to the wetlands of Albufera. We got a long interesting talk from our Voluns community service guides. We picked up some trash on the land, met three other volunteers from England, Scotland, and Australia, and then headed to the boats where we spent most of our day picking up trash from the water and watching some amazing entertainment singing performances. Mid song the boat halted and we got to go to the visitors center where we learned about natural and foreign fish and plants. We talked for a while and then walked up to the roof where we watched birds and other wildlife through a telescope. They were some spectacular views. We got some water and headed back to the boat. Once we got off the boat and on the bus the biggest moth flew into view and we had to sit with it on the bus the whole ride back. We had lunch with our host families and then took a tour of the city, led by Carlos, where we saw cathedrals, a statue of a man pooping and a man peeing into a bottle (these were to poke fun at the rich people long ago), and three of Valencia’s most important plazas. We stopped at some shops and then walked home to enjoy dinner with our host families.
– Aurora C.

July 11, 2018

It was a beautiful morning in Valencia, a hot beautiful morning. We ate breakfast and were out the door of our homestay. We got to the bus stop at 8:00 am ready to start the day working to help save Valencia’s wetlands. We got to the bus stop and headed north of Valencia. We did various projects in the Casa Penya, a visitor center for the wetlands. We split into three groups. One went into the water to cut invasive reeds, another group went to help build a safe environment for bugs (“the insect hotel”), and the last group helped build a new birdwatching post. Some people even got to mix cement with a power tool which was so much fun! After completing the service, while we were waiting for the traditional paella (with rabbit) for lunch, some of us elected to go to this beautiful beach. We swam for about 20 minutes before heading back for paella. We ate paella which was so good and hopped back on the bus back to our homestays where we took a quick rest and then headed to a flamenco class. Flamenco was a whole lot of fun. We learned a little bit about the history of flamenco and how the songs were used to share the sad stories of the people. We then learned how to sing, stomp, and clap like real flamenco dancers and dancing from our hearts. After the class we went back to our homestays for dinner, some sobremesa (after meal chat time), and then to bed.

-Eugenie F.

July 12, 2018
We ate breakfast with our homestays and hit the streets a bit later today. We caught our bus after easily navigating the city to our bus stops without our host parents. Everyone seems to be getting more into the groove of Spanish homestay lives in all aspects. We all got on the bus and went to an organic rice field. Then then community service leaders told us about the crop and gave us instructions to pull weeds that were growing and interfering with the crops. We got snazzy straw hats and got down and dirty in the mud and the plants. Coincidentally there was a German reality TV show being filmed, which followed the lives of 5 German teenage girls who are without their parents living in Valencia. We got to interact with the girls and came to the realization that how fake reality TV is as the German girls weren’t even pulling up weeds. Anyways, we ended the difficult labor. After, we went to the beach and enjoyed swimming in the beautiful Mediterranean. After lunch and siesta we climbed 207 steps up the Miguelette to the observation deck with breathtaking views of Valencia. We had gelato and shopped and headed home for dinner.
– Lauren B.

July 13, 2018
Today was our last day of service in Valencia! We went to the beach and picked up trash and pulled weeds. After service we went in the ocean for about an hour; it was amazing! Then we went on a catamaran ride and even got to jump into the water and swim! We spent a leisurely few hours on the boat laying in the sun and drinking Fanta. We finally headed home very tired and hungry.
– Amelia B.

July 14, 2018
Our day began later than usual so we got to sleep in! At 10am we met up and prepared to go to the mercat central, a popular and antique marketplace in Valencia. Our trip leaders prepared a scavenger hunt for us so we had to find interesting things like pig feet and expensive cheese. We also had to conduct interviews with vendors to test our Spanish skills. It was a close call, but the trip leaders determined a winning team and awarded them with cookies! Afterwards we went to an old cafe to formally try horchata, a drink special to Valencia. Some of us loved it while others not so much. The horchata was made from tiger nuts. We went home to our host moms for lunch and a siesta. In the afternoon, some host moms took us out shopping while others went to a super cool science museum. We returned home for dinner. Our host mom even took us out! We then went to sleep in preparation for our final day in Valencia 🙁
– Addie B.

July 15, 2018

Today was a very busy day. The morning started with a wake-up call from our homestay mother at 8:45. We then got ready and ate a delicious breakfast which consisted of various fruits, yogurt, and cereal. After eating our desayuno (breakfast), we headed to the Plaza de Toros to meet the rest of the group. We took a short stroll to a bike rental shop where the group all got situated and prepared for a bike ride to the beach. Unfortunately, some of our parents never taught us how to ride a bike (thanks Mom and Dad!), so a few of us headed off to ride the metro in stead of bikes. Upon arriving quickly before the rest of the group, those of us that took the metro waited a little and admired the crystal blue water. When the rest of the group arrived from the bike ride, we ran across the smoking hot sand and through the jam-packed beach to an open spot by the ocean. We immediately sprinted to the refreshing water. After about 45 minutes of tanning and enjoying the sea, we headed back to our homestay families for lunch and a siesta.

At around 6, we all walked to a famous paella restaurant, Paellas Velarte, known for holding the record of the world’s biggest paella (it served 100,000 people!). At Paellas Velarte we made a traditional Valencian paella with chicken, green beans, and snails! After a tiring yet rewarding experience of making the paella, we were all ready to eat. When we sat down, our host families came to join us for our last dinner in Valencia. Once our sobremesa was over, we left the restaurant and took some really neat pictures. Finally, we headed home for our last night in our homestays. This was truly something I will never forget!

– Veronica P.

July 16, 2018
We got up bright and early to catch the train to Barcelona. We said goodbye to our homestay families and we got on the train. The train was three and a half hours. While on the train we watched The Greatest Showman. The words were in Spanish but the songs were in English. We also saw some of the jewels of Barcelona. It was a beautiful train ride with seasides and towns. We got off and took a bus to the hotel. We got settled. We got lunch off of the menu del día. After lunch check, we headed to Parc Güell designed by the famous architect Gaudí. We went to see the longest park bench in the world with amazing  views of Barcelona. You can even see the Sagrada Familia. We went to dinner and then bed!
– Eugenie F.

July 17, 2018

We started our first day in Barcelona with a breakfast of croissant and café con leche at the hotel. After, we started our long trek to the Sagrada Familia. We were all so excited to see the world renowned church, designed by Spanish architect Gaudí, who we were very familiar with after our visit to Parque Guell the day before. When we arrived, it was evident that we were not the only people with these plans; the church was swarmed with other tourists. We didn’t mind though, because the building was breathtaking. Unlike the ancient churches and cathedrals we have been seeing during the trip, the Sagrada Família is a new church (relatively). It is actually still under construction today after over 100 years of construction. After a super eventful morning, we were all begging for lunch. We devoured our picks from the typical Spanish menu del dia and we were then told we would have an extended siesta time with shopping built in! We split up, a few of us wanting to shop at the tiny Spanish boutiques in the narrow roads of the city, while others wanted to explore Corte Ingles, a Spanish mall. After we had food at a typical fast food chain called 100 Montaditos. The whole group enjoyed ordering from a list of 100 sandwiches. This experience was very reminiscent of the pinxos we had for dinner before. After we finished we hustled to get to the flamenco performance. The dancers and music were beautiful, but were unimpressive compared to the moves we busted out in our own flamenco class in Valencia. We all enjoyed our day in a new city.

-Phoebe S.