Archives for July 2012

STEP 1 in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard St, and Cable Cars

Touring San Francisco with the STEP 1 group was a fun adventure. We hopped off the cable car at the top of Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the city. In the distance you can see Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. Here we are at the foot of Lombard Street, off on foot to explore.
Naia, Eukene, Maitane, and our wonderful chaperone Ainara hold on tight as we ride up and down the hills of San Francisco on a cable car ride to Fisherman’s Wharf.

All of the students were together for our Friday bus tour, which culminated in the Golden Gate Bridge hike. Nick and Lacey, host family siblings joined us that day too. The weather can change quickly in San Francisco. When we began our journey across the bridge, the fog obscured the tops of the towers, and the wind blew coldly. Jakes and Edu resting after the hike. Maitane and Itziar take in the grandeur of the bay. By the time we reached the south end of the bridge, the fog had cleared and the sun shone warmly.

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden

Friday morning began with a stroll through the beautifully manicured gardens of the Japanese Tea Garden. A visit to the de Young Art Museum included an incredible view from their observation tower. Marta notices the various neighborhoods and land features of this beautiful region.

Dancing in the Pacific Ocean

Our Friday tour continued along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, where we rolled up our trousers and tip-toed into the frigid surf. The chilly water temperature and grand vastness of the ocean inspire Maitane and Itziar to dance.

– Gerry Weiner, Local Leader, STEP 1 2012

Fun abroad in San Francisco and L.A.

Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and touring San Francisco

We had a great time doing a San Francisco tour. The highlight was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. I hope you enjoy the photos of students!

Great America, baseball lesson, and Native American workshop

Students went to one of our best amusement parks, Great America. Shown are some of our girls lounging after going on a water ride.

We will be going to a professional baseball game but before, we had host families help us teach the students how to play the game. America has a rich history and diverse people. We had the opportunity to attend a Native American Craft workshop and learn about native culture.

Exploring LA and Universal Studios

Los Angeles was the trip the students were looking forward to the most. It was a 3 day, super fun trip filled wit excursions to Universal Studios, Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, Sana Monica and Disneyland. Everyone had an amazing time!

– Sarah Pederson, Local Leader, STEP 2 2012

Diving into American Culture

Touring San Francisco and enjoying California

STEP 3 students started off their week with a bus tour of San Francisco, which included stops at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, Haight/Ashbury, Alamo Park, and Golden Gate Bridge, but they were most excited when we pulled up at Ocean Beach. Despite the fact that it was a chilly, overcast day and that you rarely find anyone swimming in San Francisco beaches, all of the students were willing to put their feet into the waves. Two brave young men, Paul and Ignacio, decided to dive right in… in their underwear!

The following day, we got some sun at the beach in Santa Cruz and spent the evening riding the roller coasters overlooking the beautiful beach.

Fun exploring Fisherman’s Wharf

The students went on a wonderful tour of the TCHO chocolate factory that included tastings of their delicious treats. We also had some good laughs as we all had to walk around the factory in hairnets (take a look at Ander and Josu below!). After our tour, we headed out to the Musee Mechanique to explore the historical and functional arcade machines. The girls enjoyed learning what their future had in store for them according to the old Fortune Teller machines. We walked through Fisherman’s wharf and saw giant alligator-shaped bread being made a Boudin, bought souvenirs, and saw many interesting street performers.

– Ashley Falke, Local Leader, STEP 3 2012

Language Learning in Salamanca

Riding horses, cooking class, and local museums

On Monday, The Super Seven attended their first class at Mester. The first half of the Spanish class covers grammar and the second half is conversation, which gives them an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned as well as cover cultural topics. They always leave their conversation class with new colloquial words and terms that impress me. After class on Monday we joined the Salamanca 1 group and went to a Ranch to ride horses. Nikki’s ridding skills were truly outstanding. As we relaxed on the grass Bull showed his true comprehension of the Spanish “siesta” as he took a nice long nap.

Learning to prepare a traditional Spanish meal

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had a cooking class in the afternoon. Half of the group attended class on Tuesday and the other half on Wednesday. On the day the students didn’t cook they had free time to explore Salamanca on their own. During free time the girls quickly found the street that is bursting with fashionable clothing stores and they managed to indulge in some shopping. On the day the students cooked they learned how to make sangria (don’t worry it was non-alcoholic), gazpacho, tortilla Española, and traditional paella. Perhaps you can test them on their cooking skills when they return and ask them to make a Spanish meal. They have the recipes!

Exploring Salamanca

On Thursday the students had a nice relaxing afternoon at the pool and on Friday they visited the car museum and an art deco museum called Casa Lis. Friday evening they met up with language partners to practice their Spanish and take a tour of the city. On Saturday they had free time during the day. During the afternoon we joined the Salamanca One group to have a goodbye ice cream and wish them luck as they head off into their immersion week. We will see them again at the end of this week for travel in Southern Spain. We also went out with them at night to have some fun and sing Karaoke. Gabe showed us his hidden skills as he joined another student from Salamanca One to serenade us with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. “Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Figaro – magnifico.”

– Kelli McGiven, US Leader

Last Days before Immersion Week

Busy in Salamanca before leaving for San Sebastian

With Salamanca 2 in Spain, the students enjoyed haveing some fresh new faces and the new students are a nice group. It also gave the group an opportunity to show off all the things they have learned this past week about Salamanca: best places to eat, useful Spanish slang, etc.

We had a Spanish cooking class, but since are group is too big for everyone to go at one time, we split the group in half. Patricia and I went with the first half to the cooking class and the other had a free time. The next day, we switched.

Making Paella, Gazpacho, and Spanish “Tortilla”

The cooking class was in a restaurant owned by recently graduated culinary students. Marcos was our teacher for the day. He told us that we would be making Paella, Gazpacho, Spanish “Tortilla” and Sangria, virgin (sin alcohol) of course! There were three stations, so the students chose a small group to work with. John, Max, Ned, and James were on the Paella station, Anais, Sarah, Anne, Amanda, and Annie were on the Gazpacho station and Heather, Charlotte, Diana, and Tara were on the “Tortilla” station. The students cooked everything on their own! Though it was apparent some had more experience cooking than others, they all contributed.

At the paella station, no one looked too excited about the shrimp, which of course in Spain they just cook whole, eyes and all. Gazpacho was the least complicated dish. Anais, Anne, Annie, and Sarah finished the Gazpacho first and began licking the bowl, the blender, everything. I was impressed because at 16, I hated Gazpacho. At that time, the rice was cooking in the Paella, and of course poor Charlotte, Diana, Amanda, and Heather were just waiting around while the potatoes cooked. Definitely the longest assignment. The Gazpacho and Paella teams had time to switch and make the second serving as well as the Sangria before Tortilla was finished. While we were putting the food on the table, it was finally time to flip the tortilla. 3 tortillas meant 3 student flippers and there was only one deflated tortilla. Good job ladies!

We sat down to eat and since by chance we had all the vegetarians in our group, the kitchen brought up another vegetarian paella. All the food was delicious, and the students cooked on their own! The best part is they have a list of the recipes so the can go home and cook for their parents!

Time to learn to Flamenco!

We left the restaurant a little messy and went back to the dorm to change for Flamenco dance class. The idea was to wear any sort of shoes that would make noise when stamped. In a little dance studio we began learning the basic steps, which were quite difficult when you added the arm movements. Then we paired up. I did my best to get Ned to dance. After doing the steps to the more traditional music, the instructor put on more pop music like Ricky Martin’s “Here we go…” and we followed her less traditional dance style (more shaking). It was a lot of fun! Sweaty and tired we went back to the dorm.

Salamanca scavenger hunt

Later, we split up into 3 groups and had a scavenger hunt. The students ran around town getting the answers from people on the streets or from what they remembered from the tour. Pearl and Monique said it was much easier to ask questions to the men and boys as the women didn’t want to give them the time of day. One of the best questions was a trick question: How many windows are in the Plaza Mayor (the large plaza where we meet nightly at the center of town.) The plaza is surrounded by windows but they are actually not windows, they are all doors with glass panes. No one got the answer to that one so maybe we will rephrase for next year. Another fun day.
Also some other fun notes: Charlotte, Heather, and Diana have adopted some of the Spanish way of life and instead of getting up and leaving the dining area after a meal, they sit and relax and talk for a while before leaving. We have another haircut to report. Sara got a haircut and it looks great.

Celebrating birthday’s abroad!

We celebrated Charlotte´s birthday, and since we won’t be able to celebrate Eena’s birthday because she’ll be with her host family in San Sebastian, we had one big celebration for both girls. We secretly had everyone sign giant birthday cards and bought them oversized birthday cake sunglasses eariler this week. We told everyone at our daily briefing that they would have to stay after lunch for special announcements, hinting that they might be in trouble. But, the surprise for everyone was that we had cakes so the group could sing ¨Happy Birthday¨ and the girls could blow out their 17 candles. What’s a good birthday without surprises? The type of cakes we had are called “Brazo de Gitano,” which translates to Gypsy Arm. Interesting name, but a delicious cake

Things Are Going Swimmingly

Everyone was really excited to visit the neighborhood pool, since we have not had an opportunity to wear our swimsuits once this trip, and we thought we would be able to on the day of horseback riding. We reminded them, “Don´t forget your suncreen, water and hat!” We took over another city bus to get to the pool, which was actually very close to the soccer field. It was nice and sunny with grass. There were two giant pools, one inside and one indoors, a snack stand, and a lot of Spaniards. I guess when you don´t have the beach and July is quite hot, the pool is your best option. Everyone laid their towels out in the grass. Some brought cards and a lot of the girls had magazines. The students were enjoying the relaxed afternoon so much that we decided to stay for a half an hour later than our scheduled time. It worked out perfectly, because by the time we took the bus back and arrived at the dorms, it was time for dinner. After dinner, we gave the students some free time. Charlotte wore a birthday tiara to celebrate. I think it was a very memmorable day for her and Eena!

Last Days in Salamanca

We gave the students quite a bit of free time these last couple of days in Salamanca. That way they had time to buy souvenirs, take photos, and enjoy time with their friends before the immersion week. Classes ended on Friday, and while a lot of students were sad leaving their teachers, they weren’t too terribly broken up about not having 4 hours of class a day. On Friday, we took a small group to check out the Art Nouveau Museum and the Automobile Museum in Salamanca. The Art Museum was incredible just for the building, originally a home, with its stained glass roof and windows. Monique, Pearl, Marya, and I all thought these trinkets, vases, and dolls look a lot like something our grandmother’s would own or give to us.

The automobile museum was also popular, especially with boys. There were old cars, sports cars, and new cars. Unfortunately, as you can see, I know nothing about cars. But, Tara was very excited. She told me that as a child she preferred toy cars to barbies. She bought a very cute pin that looks great with her new Zara vest!

Friday was the last night with language partners. I know that Heather, Diana, and Charlotte went to Karaoke with their language partner, Javi and they told me that they were very sad about saying goodbye to him.

Before we left, we had our goodbye ice cream. At the plaza we went to our favorite ice cream place, which has “the best ice cream ever” with the worst customer service. There are 2 sides of ice creams, one with multiple flavors and the other with different types of chocolate. We have been told since day 1, “No se mescla” – you can’t order an ice cream with 2 flavors from different sides. When Marya asked for strawberry and dulce de leche chocolate, she got “No se mescla”. Then she did, what I think of as the unthinkable here in Spain. She asked “porque” or why. The woman responded with the equivalent of because I said so, and told her do I go to your house and tell you what to do? Ouch! Only in Spain. Imagine that happening at Starbucks.

Talented singers in the Salamanaca group

Later on, we discovered the secret talents of Colton, Ned, and Tara, singing and playing a ukulele that Ned had bought here. Colton has an incredible voice! Who knew? They could play Jumper by Third Eye Blind, American Pie, and Somewhere Over The Rainbow by that Hawaiian guy. We all got into it, singing along. Heather and Amanda came in the common room to join in as well.
This was all great practice, because later that night we took both groups, ours and Salamanca 2, to Karaoke. Karaoke was amazing! Marya has taken some great photos. Everybody was singing along. It was a great way to end our time in Salamanca.

New Experiences with Host Families In San Sebastian

We left for San Sebastian at 9 in the morning and I’m sure that out of the 6 hours on the bus, everyone slept for 5. The last hour we gave them a pep talk. The transition from being with friends and the group 24/7 to staying on their own with host families is really difficult. Personally I had a really hard time when I was 16. It’s important that we try to prepare them for that and let them know it’s normal to feel unsure and sad in the beginning. They have to value it as a chance to improve their Spanish, really experience the culture, and hopefully make a meaningful connection with people they normally wouldn’t meet.

It is a great opportunity, and when they are finished it will represent a moment of personal growth and empowerment. That said we are here all week and we check in with them. Also when they met their host families getting off the bus, Eva, the host family coordinator, told me that many of the host brothers and sisters are from the same class. Therefore  it’s very likely that our group will see each other a couple times this week. We just ran into Monique at the beach with her host sister. Overall, Eva did a great job choosing the families. All the kids are either 15, 16, or 17 perfect ages for our group and after meeting some families ourselves, they seem really nice and welcoming.

So, we are signing off for now, but I’m sure we will have lots of stories for you when we come back from immersion week! Enjoy the photos, and make sure to click the 2 or the right arrow at the bottom of the page to see the rest of the image collection.

– Marya Kahan & Kerry Tiedeman, US Leader