Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
It feels like just last week that we were all sitting around that dinner table at the home base picking olives and tomatoes out of Teresa’s wonderful salads. It’s strange to think that it’s been this long since we were all together in Valencia, but I haven’t forgotten it! Every now and then something will remind me of a conversation I had with you (a discussion about who has the best fast food, or what the Illuminati is up to, or whether or not there’s an end to the universe, maybe) or an experience we all shared (like seeing the Alhambra), and I’ll catch myself thinking back to those three weeks. I know I’m not alone in this.
Looking even further back, I read over the letter I wrote to myself on our first night, and I hope you have as well. I had no idea at the time how much fun was in store for our entire group! But we didn’t just enjoy ourselves in Valencia, Barcelona, or Granada, or while rafting (I assume) or biking or drinking horchata, or learning flamenco or playing signs… we also laid the foundation for the future English language education of dozens of those wonderful young students! We can all be proud of the difference we made with these students and the enormous service our hands, heads, and hearts could provide. As the famous quote goes: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I think that last day with the kids proves just how much our presence meant to them.
Each one of you was an incredibly important part of a group that I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to mentor. Know that. For those of you heading to college shortly, good luck! Your comfort zone will be expanded in the most wonderful way. For those of you with a little longer to go, work hard and enjoy the end of your high school career! I’m excited to see what incredible things you each accomplish. Chances you go out there and crush it? (Do it, you won’t)
Summer Blog Posts
The GLA Spain program has officially begun! Everyone has arrived and is in great spirits. We are very excited about the adventures that are ahead and are looking forward to sharing with everyone!
Here is the group outside of our beautiful home base in Valencia
This morning we started our day at a substantial time of around 7:45. I had enough time to shower, get ready, and be downstairs with an espresso in my hand by 8:30 . Everyone came down one by one. By the time Lisette, David, and Noelia came downstairs, we were fairly awake and ready for the day. After breakfast we started for the museum. This was the first time we met the kids. We walked into the museum and then proceeded to the courtyard for the children to eat their snacks . After they had finished their snacks they were ready for the game. Since I was the group laser I had to round everyone up and form a circle. Since this was our first day I had a lot of support from the school coordinators. We played a name game and then went for a tour of the museum. After, we played duck, duck, goose. Prior to the game I had to communicate to one of the coordinators that we were ready for the game and tried to round up all the kids. This is very difficult especially when the children do not speak English and also when the other coordinators do not know too much English.We managed to complete the first day with the children fairly easily but with lots of support. After the museum we walked around town to exchange money. This is where my leadership role comes in, but by accident. When we went to exchange money I was the only one who could because I was the only person who was not a minor that had a passport readily available. I felt like a leader even if it was only for a few moments. When we got back to the house we ate lunch and then left for Barcelona. It was my duty to round everyone up and make sure we had all 7 of us. All in all, being the leader of the day comes down to being responsible and alert. Today was easy due to the support, but as this trip moves forward I can see the leaders becoming a bigger part of the overall trip!
So, today began painfully early with a blaogne and cheese sandwich breakfast at 6:30, but at least for me it was worth it. Barcelona is a city full of rich culture, beautiful architecture, fascinating people, and a seemingly endless number historic and spectacular monuments; all of which became imminent to me on just the 8 minute cab ride over to our first activity of the day. Park Güell, epitomizes the beauty of the city and sets the tone for the incredibly unique art, sculpture, and architecture that the Spanish culture embodies (This is coming from someone who has next to no appreciation for art, so you know that it must have been impactful). Next up was a shopping trip in central Barcelona, an area that defiantly rivals NYC in terms of great stores and cool shops. Most notably we passed a store literally named “Barcelona Duck Store”, a store entirely devoted to selling rubber ducks.
One of the many highlights of the day was definitely our trip to Basilica de la Sagrada Família, which is the infamous giant cathedral designed by the notorious Gaudī. Not only is this massive building a work of art, but it’s also nowhere close to being finished which somehow makes it all the more awesome.
Our final event of the day was a tour of El Raval, a neighborhood in Spain, presented through the eyes of a man who experienced first hand what it’s like to be homeless. Through his heartfelt story and vivid descriptions of the hardships that the large homeless community in Barca have to endure on a daily basis, I couldn’t help but empathize with the struggling people. The appreciation for the life that I have has defiantly increased as a result of the experience.
Although our group is relatively small I can honestly say that every person has their own unique qualities that somehow come together and make us a great team. I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip.
July 17, 2016
Today was our last day in Barcelona, so we slept in a bit and headed to Camp Nou (The FCBarcelona stadium). We walked around, looking at trophies and jerseys. The touring experience was amazing, but it didn’t come close to walking out into the stadium seats(it was insane!). After taking pictures and watching the game that was going on down below, we continued to see the press conference area and others before shopping around in a huge gift shop for jerseys, hats, etc. We ate lunch and boarded the bus back to Valencia. We had a delicious dinner at the hostel, and went to bed prepared for our first official day of service.
July 18th 2016:
After our wonderful weekend adventure In Barcelona, we began our first week of service at the local school. Although we had previously gotten aquatinted with most of the children, today we had the chance to form more personal connections with them.
The day began with a quick breakfast of toast, coffee, and cereal in our hostel before the short drive to the school. After a greeting circle, the children were divided into three groups by age. I taught the 5-8 age group and was surprised by how eager the children were to learn English. After reviewing their ABC, body parts, numbers and animals, the kids quickly began picking up simple phrases such as “how are you doing today” and “I am fine”, as well as playing Hangman and Simon Says in English.
When the lessons were finished, a short snack was followed with playtime. The kids, who all caught on to our names quite quickly, wanted us to play a variety of games ranging from crafts to hopscotch. After a few rounds of hide and seek with some of the younger kids, I joined the pickup soccer game that was going on and was immediately surprised with the soccer skills the kids had.
Although the Language barrier did provide some challenges, as the day progressed I realized that as long as you are interested in what the kid is saying and doing, they begin to trust you and language becomes less of an issue.
After saying goodbye to the children, we headed back to the hostel for lunch and a siesta. In the evening we did a two and a half hour long bike tour around the city of Valencia. It was amazing to see the unique combination of modern and historic architecture that makes the the city so special . Our day ended with a light dinner (that included brownies for Marley’s 18th birthday).
July 19, 2016
Today we started our normal service schedule, with breakfast at 8 and leaving to get on the bus at 8:30. Once we arrived at the school, the kids were a lot more open to play with us and came up to us on their own. We played a very intense game of a version of hot potato (I am proud to say I was the last American standing). Teaching the kids English went a lot more smoothly today for all of the age groups, and to see the kids so excited to learn and communicate so well with us is really awesome. Hangman is a huge hit with a lot of the kids! Then our activity was making a chocolate cake, and after we all had free time. Popular activities were making friendship bracelets, fútbol, pato pato gonzo (duck duck goose), and using a monitors phone to play music to sing and dance to. A lot of the music they played was in English so it was really fun to be able to sing along with them, but being introduced to popular Spanish songs was great as well. After lunch and siesta, we had a walking tour of historic Valencia. It was really interesting to hear the stories and legends of the city and see all the beautiful architecture in the churches and old city buildings. Finally, we had some hard earned gelato at an amazing place Noellia recommended, and we all went home happy and ready to rest before dinner.
July 20, 2016
Today, was an exhausting and superb day. We all took the school children we work with to a small park where we partook in a great game of “catch the bad guys” in which most of us were the bad guys. After our excursion in the park, we returned to the school to help the children plant their lechuga or lettuce, in their makeshift pots, which were beautifully decorated with splashes of rosy red and alluring amber, just like the the sunset we see. Surprisingly, as we were planting, it began to precipitate, cooling the hot day that it was. After we returned home, we had an amazing lunch that consisted of salad, bread, a pork-rice-bacon, and finally some sweet peaches and oranges. After our rest time, also known as siesta, we went to an old plantation where a famous Spanish drink is cultivated. The drink is called Horxata and it is made using almond like seeds called Chufa, water, and sugar. After the tour of the plantation and the taste test, we went to a small carnival with the time we had left. We road the Farris wheel to see all of Valencia, and another ride that swung us around high in the air. Finally we returned home to dine on an amazing pasta dish and fantastic flan for desert. Today we all shared a new experience that we’ll never forget.
July 21, 2016
Our day started out with a casual breakfast at 8 am. We then made the bus ride to the kids’ school, where we proceeded to have teaching time for thirty minutes. In my own group we played hangman in order to practice English vocabulary. Later in the morning, we started and finished the hanging garden, a project which we had been preparing for a day before. The children had painted egg cartons to hold lentils and plastic bottles to hold lettuce. A complete picture of this is shown below, the whole group included.
All of us went back to the hostel and ate a type of potato salad including but not limited to corn, lettuce, and shredded carrots. Some people also added mayo to the mix. Finally came siesta. This is quickly becoming an enjoyable part of the day, and we have all come to the consensus that the U.S. should incorporate this into everyday living.
An example of how this extra rest might be useful throughout the day was our attentiveness during a lesson in cooking paella, taught by Teresa. While I may not be inclined to try at home, I will certainly retain the information.
During the time that we were waiting for the paella to complete one of its steps, we learned the single beat of every song that plays during the flamingo dance. The man teaching us explained that this music was learned through community gatherings or going to places such as bars. Some of us even practiced making rhythms on a drum. When the paella was ready for the next step, we all gathered back around the stove. After a short wait we all sat around the table. I think I can speak for the whole group when I say that the best part of learning how to make paella was eating the paella.
At the very end of the day our group meeting commenced. During this meeting, we used a test to find out what “type” of leader we all were. We also spoke in depth about the children at the school and how much our communication skills with them were improving. After this it was time for lights out.
July 22, 2016
Today was the last day of our first week of service, and we took the kids out on a boat tour, which proved to be difficult with keeping certain troublemaker kids actually on the boat, but we returned safe and sound. Afterwards we went with them to a zoo, and the kids had a lot of fun looking at all the different animals. We even saw two baby pigs that had just been born today(they were so tiny!). We headed back to the hostel for a lunch of pasta, the usual amazing salad, and melon slices for dessert. We took a shorter siesta today, but it was worth it for our afternoon trip to la playa(beach). We spent a little time in the water, but most of the time was spent taking siesta number 2 on the beach. After we got back from the beach, we had dinner (chicken and french fries) and then we went out to go see a dance festival in one of Valencia’s main squares. It was a lot of traditional Valencian dance, and we joined in at the end(even though most of us had no idea what we were doing). Max even found some Italian girls to dance with!
While on our white water rafting adventure we hit a rock and managed to get a flat on the back left side of our raft. When we were stopped, two dogs came out of no where and hopped into the river. The guys who were working took immediate action and grab the dogs from floating more downstream. Stephen lifted the dog to me and I sat with him in the raft while one of the workers pushed us to the other side to return him to his owner. After about 10 minutes of trying to get the dogs back to shore, the yellow lab ran back down and jumped into the water again.
Other than that our day was very relaxing. After rafting we walked from the end point to a huge natural pool. We ate our sandwiches made by the one and only, mother Teresa and hung out by the pool. It was awesome. When we came back to Valencia, we had the opportunity to get wifi for an hour, costa coffee blessed us. After wifi we ate dinner and went out on the town for a little bit. Concerts were happening all over the city and luckily they were close enough to us that we could easily walk to and join in on the Valencian crowd. Today was a good day…
Today began pretty routinely with a typical hostel breakfast and a quick bus ride over to our service site (the school). We then proceeded to wait for the kids to arrive and play/sing with them until it was time for us to divide the kids up for English lessons. I find it astonishing how close we have gotten to some of the kids in such a short amount of time, and am already dreading our last day with them, which seems to be rapidly approaching.
As far as the English lessons go, I think that each group has developed a method in dealing with their respective age groups, and although I can only speak for my group I defiantly feel like our teaching style has grown substantially and our lessons flow a lot smoother than they did before. As a team we decided to approach this week with a slightly different approach with the intention of establishing a stronger basis with the kids, and I’m defiantly exited to see the result.
A Flamenco dancing lesson was our group activity for the day and it was certainly an experience. Flamenco is a beautiful dance that is a huge part of the Spanish culture and it is defiantly something that I’m exited to have added to my array of skills. Although it was challenging for some, and easier for others I think overall it was a positive experience for the entire group.
Living together has been an adventure in itself, but I’m happy to say that we are all getting along very well I am defiantly exited for the final 8 days of this trip.
July 27, 2016
After unloading ourselves from the bus, we entered the school once more and played the usual morning games with the children, the variations being Twister and Ninja. We then all spread out from the circle and walked around the school with the kids as they played. In a little while all of us either went into the kitchen or a classroom. In the kitchen we prepared the food for a later event in the day, a party and concert that the kids have been preparing for recently with play rehearsals. In the classroom we worked to make props such as cardboard crowns, for the play, and friendship bracelets to be auctioned off. Around 1 we went back to the hostel. Then we had lunch and siesta. A couple hours of relaxing went by and it was time to go back to the school at 5 for the party. We first watched a wonderful play put on my the children, full of dancing. Here are the stages used:
Then the auction commenced. Wooden contraptions, clay items, and bracelets all crafted by the kids were given away at random to the parents, faculty, and our group. The rest of the time we spent eating the food we had made earlier.
Back at the hostel we watched a very interesting Ted talk called “the danger of a single story”. We talked in depth about this afterward. I would definitely recommend the video to all parents reading this.
July 28, 2016
Today started out with our usual breakfast and a quick drive to the school. Because it was our second to last day with the kids, our usual English lessons were replaced with a all inclusive game of dodge ball and a water balloon fight. By the end of the day, almost everyone at the school was soaked. In addition to the games, we also began to clean the various classrooms and kitchen.
After lunch and siesta, we headed out to the museum of “Valencia Fallas”; a museum dedicated to preserving the traditional art pieces from the annual festival of “Fallas” in Valencia. The festival consists of lighting handmade floats on fire, fireworks, and tradition dress and music . Each year, one art piece is saved from the fires and put into the museum.
Towards the end of the day, we went a Internet cafe and then headed back to the hostel for dinner.
July 24, 2016
This morning breakfast was at 10, so we all got some much needed extra sleep. The first thing we did was climb the Valencia Cathedral stairs, which left us all gasping for breath by the time we got to the top, but the view was worth it. You could see the whole city! We then walked to the Valencia Ceramics museum, which is in an old palace in a historical part of the city. The preserved parts of the building and the many years of ceramics history were equally beautiful and interesting to see. After some of us went to the oldest place to get horchata in Valencia, and then we all walked around and shopped until lunch(Sunday’s are for paella!!) and then siesta. Post siesta, we all loaded on the bus and went on our was to Albufera Natural Park for a boas ride. The ride was relaxing for all of us and the Spanish hot chocolate and fartones our captain brought for us were delicious! Home again we went with some delicious tapas for dinner and a groups meeting beginning our planning for our final couple of days of teaching the kids.
July 26, 2016
Although it doesn’t feel like it at all, our group has been in Spain for almost two weeks, about 12 days. Throughout this journey that all of us have taken, we have had fun, formed bonds, learned about other cultural norms, and seen how life in Valencia is different from life in the United States. Today was one of our last days with the children that we provide service for, and it’s clear that every single one of us have come to love, adore and enjoy their company. Today we played English games with the youngest kids, played hangman and worked on syllables with the medium aged group, and finally worked on past, future, and present tense with the oldest students. They all seem to be learning a gargantuan amount of English in the small amount of time that we have been with them. After their English lessons, we enjoyed watching them preform the play that their parents will see as their school program comes to an end. Our GLA group practiced the song “Lean on Me” that we will be preforming for the students, as a way of saying we will miss them.
After our service at the school, we returned to our hostel to eat lunch which consisted of delicious baked rice and some portions of chicken and vegetables. After lunch, we took a bus ride to an old chocolate producing building, that had been converted into a shop and a museum. There, we saw how chocolate was created from cacao seeds and how they used machines and tools to create chocolate. As it turns out, cacao is quite heathy for you by itself, but when you add all the sugar, milk, and other substances that creates the chocolate that most of us know, it loses its nutritional value. But the chocolate in Valencia is healthier because they only use cacao, natural sugar, and a rice flour. After our tour, we returned to the hostel to have dinner, which was an amazing pizza topped with olives, pepperoni, peppers and cheese. After dinner, we engaged in our usual group discussion to discuss the events during our day and plan for tomorrow. Today was certainly a fun and interesting day, one that we will remember forever.
June 29, 2016
Today was our last day with the kids, and we spent it cleaning up the school and teaching our last English class. We did a round of introductions in English, sang the Hokey Pokey, played Duck Duck Goose, and ended with a few games of Simon Says. The kids seemed a lot more comfortable with English than they were at the beginning of our first week, and they’re a lot more confident in coming up to us and trying to speak English with us. We eventually had to say goodbye, but we exchanged emails and since today was the day we could take pictures, we left with a lot of good memories from today and the past two weeks.
We went back to the hostel to eat tapas for lunch and have an extra long siesta, then headed to Gulliver Park, which is essentially a playground in the shape of Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels. There are slides and ropes and stairs, and Kamron climbed up every single slide except for one! We found a mini Davíd Bruce Harshbarger Jr. at the park as well, but Davíd refused to take a picture with his mini doppelganger so there’s no proof. We came back tired and had some delicious pasta from Mother Theresa herself. We had our daily meeting before bed and then proceeded to stay up until 2:30 because we wanted to feel tired and sleep on the 7 hour bus ride to Granada tomorrow. Things got a little crazy around 2 am when Kinka decided to play hairstylist and do Max’s hair. Stephen also (pretty successfully, actually) attempted a Scottish accent at around 2:15 am. It was quite the interesting night.
July 30, 3016
Today we traveled to Granada by bus, and the road trip took us about 7 hours to complete. We will be staying in Granada for about 2 nights, and 2 days. The word Granada actually translates into the word Pomegranate, and everywhere you go, you’ll see pomegranates everywhere. Granada is a very beautiful city, full of ancient architecture and wonderful shops. The shops that we went to were full of trinkets and held a wide expanse of handmade Granada souvenirs. The stores themselves were all connected and formed a giant network that anyone could get lost in, almost like an Ikea. While we were shopping, a wedding was taking place in a church next to the shopping center. We were able to see the guests throw rice and flower petals at the newly wed couple, and it’s surprising how many tourists were using selfie sticks during the wedding. The heat here is much more intense than in Valencia, but every restaurant and shore have mist machines to cool off their customers. Like in Valencia, there are public dances at random times during the day, and our group took part in one. At night, the party begins and more people flock out on to the streets than ever before, probably because it is so much cooler at night. Tonight our group was able to see a small part of AlHambra, an amazing building in Granada that people of Royalty lived in during the past. All of us cannot wait to see more of Granada, its architecture, and it’s people.
July 31, 2016
To start our long day in Granada, we had breakfast at 7:30 and rushed to grab taxis to get to Alhambra. When we arrived we all did a little shopping in the gift shop and then walked around the gardens until our scheduled time to go into the palace. When we finally got to go in, it was so worth it. The detail was incredibly intricate and the views that showed the historical center of the city below were breathtaking. None of us could believe that this work was done by hand hundreds of years ago. After lots of walking and lots of picture taking, we headed out of the Alhambra for a quick stop at the hostel and then a great lunch before siesta.
Right after siesta, we all stopped for some gelato because why not. After that amazing experience, we went to another shopping area in the city full of home made Arabic goods. Almost all of the girls and even Kameron got beautiful henna from people in the streets, and everyone continued a lot of shopping for gifts for everyone back home. Post shopping excursion, we had another excellent dinner and then proceeded to get on a bus to head to a flamenco show in the historical part of the city. The bus ride was crazy going up all the small winding roads up the mountain. The show was an amazing show of the Spanish culture and their love for dance and music. It took place in a little home that looked almost like a cave and was covered in copper pots and pans and pictures. It was an amazing place to be in! Finally, once the show was done we headed back to the hostel and slept in preparation for our long ride home tomorrow and our last day in Valencia on Tuesday 🙁
August 1, 2016
Our day mainly consisted of a seven hour bus ride. We did stop for ice cream on the way. When we got home, there was a bit of time before dinner during which we relaxed. Downstairs, we were all greeted with two nice surprises: paella and the founder of GLA, Andrew. He told us a bit how GLA was started and some of his experiences going to visit the other trips currently happening. After this it was time for a group meeting during which we discussed the differences between Barcelona and Granada, among other things.
August 2, 2016
Today was the final day of our Spain trip. The day started out with our usually quick breakfast made by the wonderful “Mother Teresa”, then we headed out for a last beach trip. The previous night, we had all gotten the opportunity to meet the CEO and founder of GLA, Andrew. Today Andrew and kids two daughters joined us at the beach. Unlike last time we went, today the beach was sunny and the perfect weather for swimming and suntanning. After a final lunch of chicken wings, (a favorite among the group) we went into Valencia to just walk around and experience everything for a last time, wondering around shops and drinking iced horchata. As usual, our dinner conversations were very energetic and loud, and ended with David laughing at one of Max’s stories so hard he started crying.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say this trip has truly been life changing. Not only in the service work that we have done together, but in the way our group has grown into a family. It is so hard to say goodbye to everyone but I know we will always remember this trip and the impact it will have on the rest of our lives.