Sunday, June 15, 2014

Week 1

¡Hola Parents! 

After a couple of plane rides and a long bus ride the instructors and students all made it safely to what will be their home away from home for the next 6 weeks in Ciudad Real, Spain! It is hard to believe all that has happened in the past week, but we have all had a blast thus far. We arrived to Ciudad Real on Tuesday afternoon to be greeted by the warm welcoming arms of the students’ host families as well as the even warmer climate! The sun has been beating down strong all week with  temperatures in the 90s. However on Wednesday, we did get some showers which made for a bit cooler day. Most nights have been very pleasant with temperatures in the low 70s. Ciudad Real is a fabulous city, not too big, not too small, welcoming faces to greet you, filled with restaurants serving delicious Spanish traditional plates and most importantly, there are heladerías (icecream shops, which many students have chosen as their preferred hang out spot) on almost every corner. All in all, a perfect city in which the students can live life like a Spaniard!

A view of Madrid from the skies...just about to land at the Barajas Airport

Bags claimed, and we're ready to begin our adventure in Spain!

One more, just for fun..
 After arriving in Ciudad Real, students departed from the bus station with their host family to get settled in. Some students took walking tours with their families around the city through various plazas and parks. A few students elected to get over the jet lag by staying up all day whereas others took their first “siesta” (a time in which families retire to their homes during the hottest hours of the day to eat and rest, around 2-5 p.m. before returning to their jobs in the evening between 5-9 p.m.).

On Wednesday morning, host families accompanied students the Colegio Salesiano Hermano Gárate, the school in which classes will be held all summer. Happy faces lit up the classroom as students could not stop talking about how much they love their host families and how excited they are to be in Spain. Students spent the morning taking the first section of a standardized test, whose counter part at the summer´s end will measure individual student progress.
Giddy faces as the exam has finally ended!

After the exam, students ate their first lunch at the Colegio where we all ate rice, chicken, salad, and bread. Many students even tried the gazpacho, a traditional Spanish soup served cold and while recipe details can vary, it usually contains olive oil, vinegar and raw cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic. Others students are still training their taste buds to like it :). For dessert, students enjoyed large fresh pieces of scrumptious watermelon. After lunch, students returned to their classroom where we did various activities such as  introductions and discussions  of each student's program goals, the Honor Code, host family life, a bit of Spanish culture, and details about upcoming coursework. Students then worked in groups to explain aspects of the Honor Code to the class, and finally the support groups convened to give students a chance to ask any more questions about adjusting to life in Spain, classes, the Spanish language, etc.
Minds at work in the classroom and nothing but Spanish coming out of the mouths!

After group work ended, students had free time for a couple hours before the final event of the day, where the families, students and instructors met in the Salón de Actos, or a large auditorium to review the Honor Code, host family responsibilities, purchasing and activating the students’ local cellular phones, etc.   The Salón de Actors will later be the location of the summer farewell performance, in which students will exhibit their talents as a thank you to their host families and a fun way to wrap up the entire program.
A Wednesday evening  break with host families

Thursday morning, students had Gymkana for 2.5 hours, which is a scavenger hunt competition for places, objects and people in the city. Instead of gathering items however, students took pictures of the certain places, objects or people they were able to locate. There were 25 items on the list that students had to locate. Students were divided into their support groups which served as teams for the hunt. Scores were very close, two groups tied at 17, one group at 18, and Moses’s group was able to locate 19 of the items! Each student in this victorious group received a “Kinder Sorpresa” as a prize, which is a chocolate egg with a small toy inside.
One team paused from their dedicated search to take a group photo with their support group leader, Rosa, when the instructors spotted them in the city.
After Gymkana, students had a fun-filled afternoon of sports on the court right outside of the Colegio cafeteria. For a couple hours, students played soccer, volleyball and frisbee. It was very hot, but all students stayed well hydrated and were covered in sunblock so as to beat the heat,  which they did very well.

Soccer pros pose for a quick pic.
Gotta include the little ones in the game too!

Resting in the shade!
Gettin’ a little volley goin’…

Taking a break…

Friday we embarked upon our first journey outside of Ciudad Real, visiting the historic, gorgeous, and hilly city of Toledo. Early Friday morning, our bus departed from Ciudad Real at 8am, and an hour and a half later, we arrived at our first stop: a vantage point at the Toledo's apex, overlooking the Tajo river and  all the lands we were about to explore. 

From there, the bus dropped us off outside of the city, and we crossed the San Martin bridge

After crossing the bridge, we headed to  the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes.  Built in 1476, this Franciscan monastery represents a mix of gothic and mudejar architecture. It is perhaps best known for its beautiful cloister.

Snack break and some role playing :)

From the monastery, we made a trip to the Sinagoga del Tránsito, also known as the Sephardic Museum.  Sephardic Jews are those descendants of the Jews expulsed from Spain in 1492 by the Reyes Católicos (Fernando and Isabel). After the synagogue, we headed to the Museo del Ejército, or the Armed Forces Museum. Here we are on our way, walking through the dynamic and colorful streets of Toledo

At the Museo del Ejército, students were able to learn about different swords, rifles, and armor, as well as see vestiges of the old Alcázar, or an old fortress that dates back in part to the Roman empire. Here we are in front of the Alcázar.

After visiting the Museo del Ejército, students had a lunch break and time to shop for souvenirs. Afterwards,  we headed to one of the most breathtaking locations in the city, the Toledo Cathedral. Here is a view from inside. 

After our last stop at the Iglesia de Santo Tomé, we  made our final trek to the bus waiting to take us  back to Ciudad Real

Students endured the long walks up and down many hills as well as the heat to be able to take advantage of the amazing site seeing we were able to do of Toledo.  Such troopers! ¡Adiós Toledo!

We arrived back in Ciudad Read around 7pm, with tired bodies but enriched minds! Since then, students have enjoyed time with host families. This week we look forward to students beginning their academic classes as well as their theater classes along with a visit to the local library of Ciudad Real as well as optional trips to the movies and a guided tour of Ciudad Real. Until next weekend!

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