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Spain: Life in Andalucia 2016


Hola from your trip leaders! It’s almost time for flamenco, tapas, and that brilliant Spanish sun! This two-week trip to Andalucía  is going to be action packed with adventure, new friends, and lots of meaningful service too!

Nicki and Jake are veterans traveling and exploring España and we are very excited to take you to get to know the beautiful culture and fascinating history. We might even learn a bit of Spanish along the way 🙂

Highlights will include the massive cathedral in Sevilla and the intricate and awe-inspiring Alhambra fortress in Granada. Our stay in Granada will include the opportunity to work and stay in an amazing community called La Fundacíon where we will complete our service work. It should be an incredible opportunity for personal growth, and a lot of fun too!

Hopefully, you all will start the process of packing and reading up on Spain in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a holler! You will also each be getting a phone call from one of us in the next couple weeks to discuss the amazing journey ahead. ¡Hasta Pronto!

– Jake & Nicki

July 16-17, 2016

Meeting at JFK airport, nine of us had time to bond as we waited expectantly for the airplane to be ready to take us to Madrid. While hour after hour, we heard announcements telling us that our plane would be delayed yet again. However, we eventually boarded our flight, ready to be rid of being in an airport all day. Finally after 5 long hours of delays at JFK, we flew out to meet the five other members of our group who were already in Madrid. Meanwhile in Madrid, the five students bonded over lunch and then returned to the hostel to meet the rest of the group arriving wearily from New York. Following some much needed showers from those that came from JFK and some siesta time, we went to the famous Parque de Retiro for some group bonding and icebreakers. After some silly games such as “evolution”, we all went to fantastic dinner at Catedral restaurant where some of us had our first delicious taste of Spanish food. After a long day of travel for all of us, we got ready for bed and waited anxiously for the next day ahead of us.

-Jack & Emily C.

July 18, 2016

The first full day in Madrid was absolutely fantastic: we got to see the city, learn Spanish history and enrich our knowledge of modern art. In fact, not only we had a tour of the city, encountering many of the famous monuments and buildings, including statues, churches and palaces. We learnt the city motto (fui sobre agua edificada, mis muros de fuego son) and about the invasions from the moors. We then came back to lunch in the hotel’s restaurant, and the food was terrific. We then had a fairly short siesta before going to the Reina Sofia, the museum of modern art in Madrid. We had time to see Picasso, Kandinsky and Dalí. It was great, as we saw important paintings, including Guernica, and we later had time to discuss the museums and our favorite works in Parque de Retiro. We then went to the market called Mercado de San Miguél and got to try great food, including paella and pinxtos. We enjoyed a little free time to explore on our own too! In the end, we came back to the hotel, for a good night’s sleep for the stadium trip tomorrow.


July 19, 2016

The group’s last full day in Madrid was one to remember. We all woke up early and headed underground to the metro. After a few stops, we all exited the train and took a short walk to the Santiago Bernabeau, the legendary stadium of F.C. Real Madrid. Everyone toured the inside of the stadium, learning about the club’s trophy filled past and additionally walking through the locker rooms, press room and also got to walk on the pitch! After this we took a short metro ride to Parilla de la Alhambra, a classic Spanish restaurant, for a bite to eat and fun filled conversations with friends. After a delicious meal, we took a quick siesta to recoup energy for the rest of the day ahead. We then walked to El Prado, the most acclaimed and famous art museum in Spain viewing the masterpieces of Rembrandt, Velasquez, El Greco, and many other famous European artists. After, we reflected upon the beautiful works we had just viewed and then soon after, walked to Puerta del Sol (The Gate/Door of the Sun), for some free time and shopping. Next, we discussed plans for our upcoming service in Granada within groups to best understand what we would be doing, as well as the skills necessary for the upcoming week. Following this, we walked out for a nice traditional meal of Spanish Tapas, eating foods such as Spanish tortilla, jamon serrano, chorizo and manchego. In the end, we came back to the hotel to rest up and pack for our upcoming adventure in Granada!


July 20, 2016

Today we were welcomed at the foundation with open arms. We took a four hour bus ride, saying goodbye to Madrid for the rest of our trip. We relaxed and bonded on the bus playing cards and sleeping a bit. When we got to the foundation, the entire community welcomed us and treated us like their equals. We met the leader of La Fundacion Escuela de Solidaridad, his name is Ignacio. Ignacio gave us a tour of the grounds and introduced us to some of the people here. After taking a tour of the foundation, we played games in order to integrate ourselves among the community and with the other volunteers from different parts of Spain. It was a lot of fun! We had a chance to learn some artisan crafts in the workshop including glass mosaics, sewing, and candle making. After a refreshing swim in the pool and having a great time assimilating ourselves within the community, we had paella for a delicious dinner. Each of us had an amazing opportunity to meet new people and practice having conversations in Spanish, while our Spanish counterparts practiced their English too. The entire day was a wonderful welcome to the foundation, and a fantastic beginning to our week. Tomorrow we begin our service work! (More photos coming tomorrow too!)


July 21, 2016

Today was our first day of service, we were put into groups of three or four and were off to separate projects. We worked diligently on our projects from 9 till 11:30. At 11:30 we had a 20 or so minute break with some tasty snacks. After the break we went back to work until 1:30 and given the heat we jumped in the pool to cool off. When we finished lunch that was very tasty chickpeas, rice, and fish, and then we had a siesta and free time. During our free time we played soccer and went swimming again. We have been making friends with the Spaniards here and enjoyed playing games with them the whole time. At about nine we went to dinner, we finished dinner of tortilla española and chorizo and had about 45 minutes of free time before we went to las aguas termales de Santa Fe, which is a natural hot spring that we had all to ourselves! When at the hot springs we went swimming and had group pictures. The stars overhead made the experience really amazing. Finally, we headed home after a great day, showered and fell asleep very quickly.

July 22, 2016

 Today, we woke up and ate breakfast in the comedor as we had yesterday, a light meal of salami or pepperoni, tomatoes, and olive oil on sliced bread. Spanish breakfasts are typically lighter than the American breakfasts, which is quite contrary to the popular belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After breakfast, we embarked on our service rotations; The Kindergarten, The Bakery, The Garden, and the Mosaic. The outlines of the mosaic had been completed that morning, so we were able to begin tiling the words shortly after. It was interesting to see how each service rotation would blend with another, hard-working tilers could replenish their strength by eating bread freshly baked at the bakery, and those working at the Kindergarten could bring the children to view the mosaics or the garden as a field-trip activity. All throughout the rotations speaking Spanish was a necessity, so we were able to practice and improve our Spanish whilst assisting other Spaniards learning English. After the rotations, we ate lunch and suited up for our journey into Granada for a Flamenco lesson. Before, however, we stopped at an old Moorish site called the Albaicin, which provided a spectacular view of the city as far as the eye could see. After some photos there, we snaked through the winding alleys of upper Granada stopping for ice cream, admiring the elaborate blue tiles marking each street, and encountering little chunks of history after every turn. We arrived at the restaurant and participated in an excellently demonstrated Flamenco lesson, which provided an explanation on the history of Flamenco and its blend of North African and Spanish culture, as well as a tutorial on keeping the beat by clapping, stomping, and incorporating them into a challenging yet beautiful choreography. After a pleasant dinner of tapas, we watched an actual Flamenco show, complete with a guitarist, singer, percussionist, and two flamenco dancers. The display of talent, concentration, and passion was unrivaled by anything we had seen yet. Afterwards, we arrived at a perch overlooking the city and the Alhambra, both bathing in the sunset’s dwindling light.  After the sun had descended beneath the horizon, we visited a variety of shops along a Moorish Marketplace which spanned four or five alleyways in total. After shopping and exploring the market, we returned to the Fundación and shortly went to bed.
– Blake

July 23, 2016

A little tired, our group headed to a blurry eyed breakfast with the community, but after a couple minutes of talking with friends, both from our group and the Fundacion, we were awake and ready for the day’s work. The work, although some of it seemingly monotonous, was completed with enthusiasm for helping the community. The mosaic group made significant progress, nearly completing our phrase: “We all came on different ships, but now we are in the same boat.” The bread group cooked bread to be eaten by the community for dinner that night. After lunch everyone went to the pool in an effort to escape the heat for an hour. The younger kids from the foundation splashed around in the shallow end while our group and the other teenage members of the community had fun in the deep end. After swimming, we went to the talleres (workshops) and learned to sew wallets from one of the members of the Fundacion. By the time we finished sowing our wallets, it was nine o’clock and time for dinner. During dinner we ate and talked with the other service groups. Tired again from a great day, we relaxed in the evening before heading to bed.

 – Brett

July 24, 2016

Feeling well-rested and ready for another day of service, our group started the day off with a lengthy discussion about the meaning of community inside the Casa Africana. We were joined by the other volunteer groups from Spain, while Ignacio provided discussion questions regarding the advantages and disadvantages of having a place like La Fundación. During the discourse, some of the Spanish teenagers pointed out that community takes many different forms. Some of them debated that the best way to form a community is by getting to know a little bit about each person by shifting service rotations every day, while others argued that a community would be much stronger if we got to know only a handful of people really well by doing the same service rotation for the whole week. The debate took place in Spanish, giving our group the opportunity to improve our Spanish listening skills. Upon completing the discussion, we were told that instead of doing service work for the day, we would instead walk to an abandoned factory that La Fundación was attempting to purchase for more land. For several hours we toured the factory and came across some incredible views of rural Granada. Feeling quite exhausted, we walked back to La Fundación for some extended siesta/pool time, relaxing as much as possible for our small hike up a mountain to see the sunset upon the city of Granada. We got our first taste of Spanish hiking and ended the day by saying good night to the Spanish teenagers.

– Drew
July 25, 2016

Today the group woke up, had breakfast, and then left FES to go for a long hike with Ignacio.  The hike was a little difficult, but definitely worth every second.  We walked through caves, crawled under rocks, and jumped over them too.  Our group eventually came across a nice rest stop where some of us ate and hung out for a little while, but the break was cut short so we could climb a mountain and get a better view of what was around us.  When we got close to the top everyone was already amazed, there was a nice, cool breeze and an amazing view.  After that, we came down the mountain, went back to where we started our hike, and returned to La Fundacion.  At La Fundacion we had free time and after we had dinner.  Dinner was a little different tonight because each person got paired up with another and then that pair would get partnered with two Spanish teens; these four people then got assigned to a house so we could eat with people currently living at FES.  It was amazing to socialize with people outside of the group, but a little overwhelming for some people because the conversations were mostly in Spanish.  One house started playing music, danced, and invited other people to come over to dance.  The dance party started to slow down and it was time for lights out.

– Jenna


July 26, 2016

Today the group worked for the last time. We had to cut the work an hour so that we were able to visit the Alhambra. Before we went to the Alhambra, we had lunch at a place near it that provided a nice menu del dia. The Alhambra is extremely beautiful and the grounds are very well maintained. The former Moorish fortress was intricate and massive at the same time. All of the grounds are filled with flowers and fruit trees. In almost every room of the palace there were fountains that used gravity as a pump. When we got back to FES we had to immediately start packing. After we packed we had a farewell party. At the beginning of the party we had each written a speech in Spanish which we read. As each person went up to speak, the leader of FES (Ignacio) gave us each a candle with our name on it. Our time at the Fundacion has been amazing and it was great to spend time with everyone one final night. The rest of the party was extremely fun and we danced to all Spanish music until late.
 – Olivia

July 27, 2016

Sadly, this was the day we had to leave FES for Sevilla. We all woke up a little early to finish packing all our stuff, and had our final meal at FES with the whole community, and after our meal, it was finally time to say goodbye to the community that had welcomed us so warmly for the past week. While waiting for the bus, the entire community, including the other volunteer group from Madrid, waited with us to say goodbye and see us off. We were able to see Patricio, Ignacio and Dora’s new baby, one last time, and a couple lucky ones got to hold him or some of the other young kids. After a long heartfelt goodbye to everyone in the community, we finally boarded the bus to Sevilla. Halfway through our bus ride, we made a stop in Ronda, a small but historic town along our route. We first stopped at some miradores, or viewing points, where we could see the terrific views of the Spanish countryside. Then, we broke off into smaller groups, tasked with finding a menu del dia for 10 euros or less that suited our fancy. Luckily, Ronda has many fantastic restaurants steps from the Punto Nuevo, the bridge we designated as our meeting spot which separated the older, more historic part of Ronda from the newer area. We were able to sit outside with friends, and pop in to a few quaint shops in the area, along with a quick stop into the old town to see the fantastic architecture. Afterwards, many of us got ice cream, or even a granizado, which is like a Spanish version of a slushy, but with more fantastic natural flavors like lemon or strawberry. After our short stop in Ronda, we got back on the bus for another two hours until we arrived in Sevilla, where we met our newest group leader, Sarah, who will be joining us for our last days in Spain. We were able to take a short break to relax in the hotel with some air conditioning before we had our final recap discussion about our time at FES and what FES has inspired us to try and do in the future. We took another short break after that, and then we made the walk to dinner. Before dinner, we took a little loop to see the ayuntamiento, which means city hall in Spanish, of Sevilla, as well as a few major plazas before we finally settled in at our restaurant. At the restaurant, we were treated to a tapas meal, where we were each able to pick out a few dishes to try and share with our neighbors around us. The meal was fantastic, and afterwards we headed to the Metropol Parasol, which was a large white structure that provided a good 360 view of Sevilla, but not before stopping for ice cream! The view from the top was fantastic, and we all had a great time atop the interesting structure, before finally going back to our hotel and settling in to sleep after our jam-packed day.

– Gaby