Friday, July 22, 2011

Final preparations

We have spent the week wrapping up classes and practicing for the Farewell program tomorrow evening.  The show is coming along quite nicely.  They will show their appreciation to their host families and spend the rest of the weekend with them.  The tears begin tomorrow and continue until we get on the bus early Monday morning to head to the airport.  The instructors refer to it as the "Autobús de las lágrimas" (the bus of tears).  They will be sad for a bit, but it won't last long. 

They will return to Indiana with a new perspective and a sense of satisfaction.  They will have spent 6 1/2 weeks in Ciudad Real and they should be proud of their successes.  There is no doubt that some of them will return to Spain.  I have been returning for 24 years now.  It doesn't seem possible.  I have traversed the country north to south, east to west.  It is truly a land of beauty and history.  I can't stay away for long - it is always calling my name, pulling me back. 

The photos below are from our rehearsal today.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The end is in sight

With one week left, the students are both excited to go home and sad to leave Ciudad Real.  Some are starting to think about the things at home that they have missed.  Some will be happy to get home to their normal time schedule.  Others will be glad to sleep in their own bed.  I, personally, belong to this camp.  There is really nothing like being home in your own space.

 Many of them will miss the food. While it is possible to make Spanish food in the states, there are simply some ingredients that you cannot substitute.  It is also quite difficult to duplicate the atmosphere that one experiences at a typical cafe here in Spain.  Going out for tapas is part of daily life - meeting with friends and family, enjoying food and drink together. Another custom that many students were able to enjoy on at least one occasion is spending a Sunday afternoon at a country home with the extended family.   This may be to celebrate a birthday or baptism or just because.  It is one of the only things to do on a Sunday since virtually all the stores are closed. 

I have included various photos this time.  Many were taken in the cafeteria.  We are fortunate to have an hour for lunch.  This has been a great social hour for everyone.  They have played many games of euchre after each meal. 

The Despedida (Goodbye) program is Saturday evening.  The choir will be performing several songs and the theater will perform two short plays.  We are preparing daily and looking forward to a successful event.

At Atocha train station in Madrid.

The cafeteria.



Castillo Calatrava el Nuevo

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Semana 4

It was a busy week with excursions to Almagro and Madrid.  Almagro is a lovely town dating back to the 13th century.  It is known for its annual International Festival of Classical Theater.  We saw "El perro del hortelano", a comedia by Lope de Vega published in 1618.  It was entertaining and very well performed.  It was a perfect evening to enjoy an outdoor performance.  We returned to Ciudad Real late and adjusted our schedule the following day.

La Plaza Mayor - Madrid

On Friday we spent the day in Madrid.  We took the AVE, high speed train, and arrived at 9:30.  We immediately headed to the Prado to see some of Spain's best works of art.  The highlights are the paintings by Velázquez and Goya.  There is nothing like seeing a work of art in person.  One cannot appreciate the size and perspective of a painting when viewing it in a book or on the internet.  We took a short walk afterward to visit the Congreso de los Diputados.  This is where the Congress holds sessions.  Upon leaving the Congreso, we took a short break before heading to the Gran Vía.  We made our way to the Opera house, the Palacio Real and the Almudena Catedral.  We then went to the Plaza Mayor and had a bit a free time.  The last visit of the day was to the Museo de arte Reina Sofía.  This is where Picasso´s ¨Guernica¨ is housed.  It was painted in May-June 1937 as a reaction to the attack on the town of the same name during the civil war.
The weather was perfect for our visit.  I only wish we could have spent more time because it is difficult to fully appreciate Madrid in one day.  

Group in front of the Palacio de Comunicaciones - Madrid

Group in the park next to the Palacio Real

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fourth of July

We celebrated on Friday evening with the host families.  They brought food: tortilla española(Spanish omelette), bizcocho(sponge cake), pisto manchego(roasted vegetables), jamón y melón (Spanish ham with melon) among other things.  The party took place on the patio of the school.  We sang the National Anthem, as best we could.  The host families seemed to enjoy our efforts.  It certainly does not feel like the 4th of July - no family cookouts, no fireworks, no hamburgers or hot dogs, no corn on the cob.  The only common denominator is the heat.  Actually, I think it's worse in Indiana.  The lack of humidity makes it somewhat more tolerable.  It also appears that we have a bit of a break from the heat this coming week - highs are predicted to be in the low to mid- nineties. 
We've reached the half-way point.  The kids want time to stand still.  Many of them would like to stay longer.  I know that they will have other opportunities to return in the future.  This summer will pave the way for many other experiences.  They will return home with a new perspective and independence.  They will have a greater self-confidence.  They will never forget this summer in Ciudad Real.  

Singing the National Anthem.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Excursión a Córdoba y Granada

Hillsides quilted with olive trees as far as the eye can see, a whitewashed town flanked by the ruins of a medieval structure perched upon a craggy rock, fields full of sunflowers, modern windmills, scorched earth, snow atop the Sierra Nevada, a land full of contrasts.  As I ride the bus through Castilla-LaMancha and Andulucía these are the images I behold. 

The students were enamored with both Córdoba and Granada.  Both places are inherently beautiful.  The Mezquita and the Alhambra are both works of art.  The gardens at the Alcazar in Córdoba and at the Alhambra are magnificent.  The cathedral in Granada is an enormous structure built largely during the 16th Century.  La Capilla Real, also in Granada, is where Ferdinand and Isabella are buried.  These are the many sights we visited. This is an amazing way to see history.

We returned Saturday evening, exhausted.  I am posting several photos from our visit.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Semana 2

This week has been super busy.  My post on food will have to wait.  The kids are finally adapting to the new routine.  We had to adjust our schedule last week because the Ciudad Real students were finishing their school year.  Our routine for the rest of the summer will be four classes in the morning, lunch at 1:30 and afternoon theater/choir activities until 4 pm.  This does not apply on the days we have excursions out of town. 

We leave for Córdoba first thing tomorrow morning.  We will spend several hours there and then head to Granada to spend the night.  Saturday morning we will go early to visit the Alhambra.  This one of the most beautiful places in Spain.  I will update with photos from the trip upon our return.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

First week

First day of class at the Colegio Salesianos.

On Tuesday (June 14) the students took their preliminary exam.  They will take another exam at the end to mark their progress.  Wednesday was the first day of class.  The class rooms are not fancy, but they are functional and have air conditioning which is a big bonus.  It has not been terribly hot so far, but the heat will come without a doubt.  Generally it seems that everyone is adapting to their new environment and schedule.  Classes begin at 9:30 which is late compared to our normal start times.  Of course, this is necessary because it's virtually impossible to go to bed before midnight here.  Dinner is often at 10 or 11 pm.  This has certainly been a
First day of class.
topic of conversation among the students.  Some like it, some do not.
We had our first excursion to Toledo yesterday.  Everything went without a hitch.  We visited several monuments including: the Sinagoga del Tránsito, Monasterio San Juan de los Reyes, el Museo Santa Cruz, la Catedral Santa María and la Iglesia de Santo Tomé which houses the famous painting by el Greco - The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.  The students also had free time to shop and explore.  Several of them bought knives and a few bought small swords.  Toledo is famous for its cutlery. 

Next week I will post a longer discussion about food.  I love to ask what new foods they have tried and I am always pleased when they are willing to try just about anything.  I personally love Spanish food.

Excursion to Toledo

Toledo  (or "Boy with a sandwich")


Monday, June 13, 2011

Getting to know Ciudad Real

In front of the school.
Today we met in front of the colegio (school) and took a brief walk to the Parque Gasset. From there the students set out on a Gymkhana. They were divided into groups and given instructions to go to various places around the city and take photos of themselves with places, statues, stores, people, etc.  They had two hours to make their way around and then meet with the instructors in the Plaza Mayor.  The goal was to take pictures of all 22 items on the list.  The first group returned having photographed all 22 items in about 1 1/2 hours.  The prize - an ice cream at the infamous Helados Moran in the Plaza Real.  This was a great way for the students to work together and make their way around the city. 

There were no classes today because it is a holiday - the Romeria de la Virgen de Alarcos.  It is a local holiday which is celebrated 50 days after Easter.  The Romeria is when the statue of the Virgen de Alarcos is returned to a chapel of the same name about 8 km away.  She was brought to the church of San Pedro on May 1 and returned yesterday where she will stay until next year.  Some of the kids have gotten to see parts of the celebration. 

Classes begin tomorrow. 

Tambien contentas.

In Parque Gasset, listening to directions for the group activity.

Finding their way.

In Parque Gasset,

Ready, set, go!           

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Settling In

Our travel day went without a hitch. We had a few delays due to inclement weather, but everyone arrived to O'Hare for our international flight. Most of the students were much too excited to sleep. There were two IU groups on the flight, about 60 students. And there was another student group of about 3o. This made for a lot of young people on the flight! There were quite well-behaved. I hope this is indicative of things to come. The weather is perfect yesterday and today. I intend to to enjoy the week of so of cool evenings because I know what lies ahead..... el calor! Even though it's dry, it's still really hot. At least there is little humidity, unlike Indiana. We will have an orientation session with the students on Monday to show them around Ciudad Real a bit. I will post photos then.