Archives for July 2012

From San Sebastian to Southern Spain

Finishing study abroad in Spain with lots of fun travel

The week in San Sebastian went by so fast, and everyone seems sad to say goodbye, both students and especially host families. I definitely saw some tears. On our bus ride to the Bilbao airport I heard some stories from their immersion week.

Monique told me that the first day she found out that last year her family hosted a friend of hers from California, so she had an immediate connection with her host sister.

Diana told me that she heard a lot of Euksara, the language from the Basque Country. Her host sister was very involved in basque dancing, so Diana saw a lot of traditional dance.

Nora tried snails, which she didn’t think weren’t too bad. While she was eating them her host father jokingly took a snail from the garden and let it slide along the table. Jordan’s brother, who apparently thought that Jordan was sleeping in too late, woke him up one morning with a megaphone. Jordan got up earlier after that.

On Eena’s birthday, she woke up to a birthday cake with candles and “Cumpleanos Feliz” sung to her. They also gave her a bracelet. Anais normally goes to France for family summer vacations. She told her host mother this, and the mother took her to France for a day, since San Sebastian is right near the French border.

Zoe’s sister woke up to fresh squeezed orange juice courtesy of her host sister. They also went to the beach and played cards for hours. When I ran into her during the week she had got some sun. She told me, “I was just on the beach for 7 hours!”

James played soccer with his host brother and his friends. He told me, “I was showed up!” I think that means the host brothers were better than him.
Pearl’s host dad showed her how to make a Spanish tortilla because he knew it was her favorite food in Spain. Sarah’s family took her out on a sailboat one day. Sarah got a little seasick and after 15 minutes the boat trip was over. But Sarah says it was still a lot of fun!

The Basque Country is very matrilineal  and traditionally men would usually give the paycheck directly to the wife to use as she pleased. Therefore men created societies, sort of like clubs where they could cook, and women weren’t allowed. Now women are allowed but they still can’t cook or even go into the kitchen. Both Maxes and Colton, whose families are friends went to the club one night for a big party. Max H said, “It was a feast and everyone at the party was expected to pitch in.”

Ned really wanted peanut butter and jelly sandwich and his family had no idea what peanut butter was. So they all went to the foreign isle of the grocery store to find it. Patrick had a bruise on his face when I saw him. He told me that he had been body surfing and hit the sand, but he’s healing fine. He also went kayaking, quite the adventurous family.

Amanda’s host grandma always “called her out” when she said “Si” to things she didn’t understand. Annie G has found her new favorite candy – a spicy gummy in the shape of a chili. Joe’s family bought him some traditional Basque shoes. They are cloth shoes that look like Tom’s. Joe is still wondering when he is going to wear them.

Tara went to Bilbao with her sister and saw the Guggenheim. She also bought a very cute 5 euro H&M dress the day I ran into her. Charlotte went to an island with her host sister and her friends. There was a platform that you could jump off into the ocean. When I asked, “wasn’t the water cold?” she said “not compared to San Francisco!”

We were all together again when we spent our first night reunited in Sevilla. We have to enjoy each moment because the end is coming!

We Have Been Everywhere Man

After Cordoba, it was a 2 hour bus ride to Granada to see the Alhambra!
Once a fortified city, the Alhambra is considered the best representation of Muslim influence. It is an incredible work of architecture. We also had these very cool headphones so we could hear our guide in a crowded place. However the tour was in Spanish, so probably the students still didn’t get everything. After their immersion week, everyone’s comprehension should have improved.

Granada was beautiful! After dinner we took a walk up to a viewpoint in the Sacromonte neighborhood, which is home to many gypsies. It’s also where we saw a flamenco show. In a cave filled with 40 some odd tourists we watched the locals dance, sing, and play the guitar. The best part was when an older woman performed. She would stop in the middle to tell someone “no video” and as James said “her stare pierced you in your soul”. Luckily we got a bus back to the hotel because we were all exhausted.

The next day we arrived in Nerja around 12:30 and had a visit to the famous Nerja Cave. Zoe and Patrick walked by me and said “this looks like a cathedral!” it was impressive with the largest stalagmite in the world, created with a trillion drops.

Today is our last day and everyone is feeling a little sad and a little stressed, especially about making weight limit on the flight home. On the last flight, Bilbao to Sevilla people in the line literally clapped for Heather when she made weight limit.

Kayaking was incredible though the waves were choppy and a couple of the students flipped over. I think we can blame Felix and Joe for one of those flips.
As everyone is packing, I’m thinking of what a great trip this has been and how many wonderful memories the students will have. They have improved their Spanish, stepped out of their comfort zones, and matured a lot. I imagine that they will all want to return to Spain someday or continue traveling and exploring. 

On a personal note I have really enjoyed getting to know all of your students on this trip. I know that both Marya and I think that they are hilarious and fun and each has such a unique personality. We are really going to miss them!

– Kerry Tiedeman, Assistant US Leader

After Salamanca, Time to Travel

Exploring Southern Spain after a great stay in Salamanca

The last week in Salamanca was filled with lots of fun, activities, and celebrations. On Monday we joined the other Mester students to take a tour of the city followed by a tapa route. After eating lots of tasty tapas we celebrated the beginning of the week at Camelot, a discoteca.

On Tuesday, we took a Salsa class and then went on a nice relaxing walk to the river to listen to some live jazz music.

On Wednesday we went to see Spiderman in Spanish. The students seemed to really enjoy the movie night as well as lots of movie snacks. On Thursday we celebrated Kate’s 18th Birthday… congratulations Kate! We had cute cupcakes and sang happy birthday in Spanish. That evening we had an art class and the students made impressive creations out of fimo clay. Later the students met up with their language partners to practice their Spanish skills, followed by a night tour of the city. On Friday we explored the city via bike, visited the cathedral at night, and we went out for ice cream. This was an amazing last week in Sweet Salamanca. 

Traveling Time

On Saturday the Super Seven went to Segovia to visit the famous aqueduct built by the Romans. Afterwards touring the city, taking photos of the aqueduct and visiting the castle we left to visit Avilia. In Avilia we viewed the famous wall that surrounds the city. On Sunday we said goodbye to Salamanca and headed to Cordoba. After a long day of travel the students were excited to go the Arab baths to relax and rejuvenate. After the Arab baths we headed to an Arab restaurant for a delicious dinner.

On Monday we left Cordoba and headed to Granada. In Granada we went to visit the amazing Alhambra and the beautiful gardens of the Generalife. Afterwards we had a delicious dinner followed by an impressive flamenco show. On Tuesday we left Granada and headed to the beaches of Nerja. Upon arrival in Nerja the students had free time to take a dip in the sea and grab a bite to eat. In the afternoon we went to visit the Nerja caves, a truly impressive place filled with huge stalagmites and stalactites. Today we took an adventurous tour of the Maro Cliffs via Kayak followed by a free afternoon for rest, relaxation, and preparation for the next adventure. Tomorrow we will say goodbye to Nerja and head to Seville for a week of Immersion.

– Kelli McGiven, US Leader

Traveling home from Paris

After the Immersion Week, the students loved visiting Paris

Bonjour de Paris! After a wonderful week in our host families, the group departed Hyeres and arrived in Paris Sunday afternoon. There were lots of hugs and a few tears shed when we said goodbye to the families, and students were sad to leave their new host siblings. We arrived to beautiful sunny weather in Paris, and settled into our hotel a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower.

The students explored the Musee d’Orsay and the Musee Pompidou, and then Monday visited Notre Dame and the Louvre. We also enjoyed delicious treats from one of the best bakeries here in Paris, Eric Kayser. We enjoyed the bateaux mouches on the Seine, as well as our visit to Versailles.

It has been wonderful to be the Aix trip leader this year, and I know the students are traveling home with lots of good memories of the city of light.

– Marion Phillips, US Leader

Hola desde España!

Ready for the weekend after a great first week in Salamanca

This week students moved in with their Salamanca host families and have starting learning more about Spanish culture. This also includes important time to practice their Spanish skills with them.

According to roommates Delaney & Stephanie, “Spain is an adventure! We really love the tapas. They’re great for sharing with a big group of friends!”

Activities this week included:

– Touring the towering cathedral (construction was completed in the 14th century) and walking up its narrow winding staircase to the top, which overlooks the best of Salamanca.

– Taking a flamenco dance class and learning when to stomp and clap to the traditional music from the south of Spain.

– A salsa dance class was great, too. There was a very different beat, but we all learned some great dance steps!

– Meeting up with our Language Partners to further practice Spanish and learn more about the fantastic city of Salamanca.

– Visiting the bull ring to learn more about the world of bullfighting from a local matador. He then showed us then ins & outs of using his cape in the ring.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we head to the city of Segovia to visit the very old Roman aqueduct. A local guide will tour this charming city with us. We can also visit the Alcazar castle, which has been attributed with the inspiration for the Disneyland castle!

As you can see, we are having a great time. Included are some photos of us touring around Madrid and Avila. I will write again soon!

Hasta pronto,

– Jennifer Brown, U.S. Chaperone, Salamanca 3

Immersion in Hyères

Getting to know Hyères through Total Immersion

The students were greeted by enthusiastic families on Saturday morning when we arrived in Hyères. The teenagers from the French families were especially excited to welcome their new American friends. I’ve spoken with each of the host families and with each of the students, and everyone is having an amazing time. The host families are impressed with our students’ French and the students are loving the food and activities they’re taking part in.

Activities in Hyères have ranged from watching the fireworks for Bastille Day, visiting neighboring towns (Cassis, Nice, and Toulon), visiting local landmarks, going to the movies with host siblings and their friends, and attending family parties. Students have also spent afternoons with their families and friends on the beach and enjoying boat rides. I can’t wait to hear more about the students’ experiences when we leaves Hyeres for Paris next Sunday!

– Marion Phillips, US Leader