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 one of you (an argument over an obscure fast food restaurant, maybe) or an experience we all shared (like the boat ride through La Albufera), 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 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 group hug proves just how much our presence meant to some of these young kids.
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. And finally, just because I know it’ll be stuck in your heads for days:
“En la selva me encontré…
Un animal particular”
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!
June 22, 2016
Today we woke up and we had our service orientation at Jarit. At the service site we learned about the goals of the project and what we are going to be doing over the next 2 weeks. We worked with the project coordinator Andrea and met her colleagues that we will be working with. After our orientation we walked back to our hostel and ate lunch. Next we took our siesta then went to the beach!! At the beach we swam and layed out in the sun for a few hours before heading back to home base for dinner and our nightly journaling session. Overall today was such an amazing day and we are all so excited to start service tomorrow!!
Favorite Things of the Day
June 23, 2016
Isa- I love paella and seeing as my Abuela always made paella growing up, I loved learning about the importance of the culture behind it and how fun it is!
Penny- I loved meeting all of the kids
Ellie- I enjoyed making bonds with the kids and eating the delicious paella
Megan- all the games and seeing the excitement on the kids faces!
Blythe- I enjoyed watching the paella being made and then eating it for dinner. It was delicious!
Nina- I loved meeting the kids, getting wifi and walking around Valencia today!:)
Andrew- I enjoyed playing futbol with the kids despite the language barriers!
Hamza- I really enjoyed playing football with the kids, although we barely understood each other it was nice.
Steven- I really enjoyed working with the kids. We played games, draw something we like, and learn language. That’s a great day!
VIDEO – Watch the video here
Today we woke up and took a 7 hour bus ride to Granada. Once we got to the hostel we had a chance to unpack our bags and get a snack before our city tour. We got to walk around the city a little and do some shopping then after that we went and ate some tapas for dinner. Once we finished our meal we got to tour some more before going home and going to bed.
Today was our one full day in Grenada. We started off with some breakfast at a local café. The outdoor seating was perfect during the cooler morning time before the weather reached its usual sweltering temperature. We then took some taxis to see the beautiful Alhambra, an UNESCO world heritage site. We took many photos of the intricate Islamic architecture and the gardens. Although, the Alhambra was very hot we powered through and were served refreshing and delicious gazpacho at the lunch following the excursion. After a relaxing siesta, we went to explore some shops. While we were there, the girls got henna tattoos. According to the lady who did them, we got a “special student rate.” She also wrote our names in Arabic which Hamza confirmed were correct. In addition to the body art, we bought some more permanent souvenirs for home. We ended the day with an exciting flamenco show. The dancers had energy and passion as they danced to the loud and rhythmic musical accompaniment. This fun-filled day will definitely leave us missing Grenada when we leave tomorrow, but we will have plenty of wonderful memories to bring home!
June 27, 2016
Today, we went back to our service site after our short, wonderful trip to Granada. We were nervous going back after missing time with them on Friday, but they welcomed us back with open arms and lots of love! Once again, the language barrier and culture differences make no impact on the increasingly strong bonds we are forming with the kids. All the volunteers got a chance to grow closer with the kids and learn about their culture and their ‘barrio’ (the Spanish word for neighborhood), as the activity of the day was to craft a song about their barrio. We also got the chance to begin our English workshops with them, introducing them to the English words for colors. Although some were already familiar with most colors, we played games and exercises to strengthen their knowledge.
“This was my favorite day in Spain yet.” – Ellie Spier.
Two of our volunteers, Megan and Penelope holding drawings from Sergio and Hugo after a fun day of service!
After our lunch and siesta, the group went on a shopping outing, surprised by the many great European shops. Beginning with a climb of 207 steps, up a local cathedral tower to an amazing view! After that, we spent a few hours on the streets with our local director, Noelia. After a great dinner and group discussion about the future lesson plans for our English workshops, we hit the hay, excited for our next service day!
Tuesday the 28th of June.
First thing in morning we had breakfast then went to the school. We taught the kids a bunch of new words that most of them didnt know. Yesterday they were tought body parts which was hard for some yet some older kids knew it. We played a bunch of games likes “simon says” to teach them the parts since the kids are facinated with games. We were all engaged in this activity. It had ups and downs since some kids refuse to participate but in general its a fun and challenging experience. We came back from a tiring day to have lunch then have our wonderful afternoon break. After the break we started walking towards the museum of ceramics which was very nice.
After the museum we went to have internet to whom needs to call his parents etc. then we came back to rest a bit then go have our dinner. After dinner we had our meeting to discuss about the day and what other things we intend to do.
-Hamza Al Samarah
June 29, 2016
Today we went to the park with the kids. We watched a video. It tells that the old train station will turn to a school for the local students. And we played in the park for a while. Everyone had a really good time with the kids. In the afternoon, we went to the national park. We traveled by the boat. That is awesome. The captain offer us the hot chocolate and some delicious breads. We took a group photo with the captain. It is an amazing tour.
June 30, 2016
Today, we had breakfast at 8 AM before heading off to another day of service with the kids of the school. We taught them about los articulos of clothing in English. Some words we taught them were shirt, t-shirt, pants, shorts, etc. The kids were very responsive and we had lots of fun! Next after saying our goodbyes for the day, we proceeded to enjoy a great pasta lunch from Juan, the hostal’s amazing chef. We then enjoyed a well-deserved siesta (two hours of rest). Then, we went 4 km out of Valencia to go to a machistre (a type of house in Valencia) where a tour guide gave us a tour of the old living space of their house.
July 1, 2016
Today, we started the day a little bit later, seeing as our partner, Jarit’s summer camp had an excursion to the Valencia Etymologia Museo, the Musuem of Etymology. We arrived at around ten to the museum, which was close to our hostel. We walked through a few exhibits with the kids and listened as they learned about their ancestors and culture. After about two hours of that, we put the kids on the bus and stopped by the supermarket and the ATM to get ready for our commute to Barcelona. We had a good five hour bus ride, without any issues and arrived to our hostel, InOut Hostel, about four kilometers from the city. The hostel is NGO, and is known for offering employment opportunities to mentally disabled people and boasts a beautiful setting, higher in the mountains than we have been on this trip. After a good dinner and exploring the hostel, we headed to bed and got ready for a busy day in Barcelona.
July 4, 2016
Today, we started our final week with the children. In our English classes, we taught them the words for a variety of animals. We have really enjoyed connecting with the children and look forward to building even closer bonds over the next week. Unfortunately, this afternoon, our original plan to go to the Fallas Museum had to be cancelled because the museum was closed. Instead we went to the aquarium in Valencia where we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Some of the girls even made a makeshift Fourth of July celebration with purchases of hot dogs and slushies. A definite highlight of the excursion for everyone was the exciting dolphin show. We watched them perform some adorable routines and even learned a bit about dolphin rescue. Before we left, we stopped by the penguins and beluga whales. Some of us saw this as the perfect opportunity to sing “Baby Beluga” to the whales; however, an aquarium employee was not quite as fond of our serenade. The day’s change in plans failed to put a damper on any amusement and we returned to the hostel happy and fulfilled, ready to rest up for another exciting day tomorrow.
July 2, 2016
Today was one of the best days of our trip so far. We started it off with a nice early 6am breakfast and a local cafe in Barcelona. After that we headed to park Güell, where we learned about Mr. Güell and Gaudi. Next, we headed off to the Sagrada Familia, arguably the most famous basilica in Spain. After our tour of the basilica, we shopped around the streets of Barcelona before stopping to eat lunch at a salad buffet place. We took our siesta back at the hostel and then headed out again for a “hidden city” tour. We all experienced a little culture shock and broadening of horizons as we toured the streets of Barcelona from the viewpoint of a previously homeless man. Seeing Spain through his eyes helped us see how sheltered our lives can be and also helped expose us different life styles that we don’t typically get to see. After our tour we ate dinner together and went to bed after a very long and exhausting day.
July 3, 2016
Today we ate a later breakfast than normal. After our late breakfast we got on the bus and headed to the Camp Nou stadium. This is the biggest stadium in all of Spain, as well as where the Barcelona soccer team plays. We all had time to walk around and take the tour at our own pace. We spent about two and a half hours walking around and learning about the history of the stadium. We got back on the bus at around 1:10 and headed back to Valencia, making a few bathroom stops along the way. When we got back to our home base in Valencia, we had discussion and answered questions that I had prepared. We talked about our experience in Barcelona pertaining to our hidden city tour. We got in depth about the problem of homelessness and how to know when to help considering some may not want the helped.
July 6, 2016
Today is Wednesday. We had breakfast this morning at 8am. Today we were going to the park. Before we went to the park, we had some activities as we usually do. When we get the park, we ate the snacks and had a break time. Then all the older kids stayed in the room played some activities which is really interesting. The younger kids played in park.
In the afternoon, all the boys had different activity from the girls. The girls went to the beach. And we went to the football stadium. It is a special day. We had two different activities in our group. And both of them had a good time. 🙂 All the boys had a free time after the football stadium. And we went to the garden. And played the football for a while. We really had a great time.
July 7, 2016
Today is Thursday July 7, 2016 and our trip is sadly starting to come to a close. With only a few days left, we are all having a spectacular time with the kids at the school in Rusafa. Today was our last day teaching the kids English vocabulary. We went over fruits and vegetables with the older group of kids while the younger group went to the library to read and listen to childrens’ stories. After English class and a snack break, the mentors and older kids put together a dance video to the song “Madre Tierra” by Chayanne for the younger kids to preform which was really fun. Along with the dance video there was also a big game of ninja going on with most of the kids and GLA students which was fantastic and was a hit with everyone! In the late afternoon we visited the Comes Family Chocolate Museum and Factory. The chocolate-making process was so interesting to learn about. The process starts with the cocoa nut and after they grind it, they put it in a machine that turns the chocolate, then lastly the chocolatiers form the chocolate into shapes or designs making the final product to sell. After we went through the museum we bought some chocolate and souvenirs for home which was awesome. Finally the day came to an end with a yummy dinner of paella and salad with a band playing the drums which was beautiful and amazing to hear.
July 8, 2016
Today, we had our final day of service with the kids of the camp we were serving at. We enjoyed a relaxing day at a park and our last moments with the kids. Then, things got messy as we said our final, emotional goodbyes.
Then after a siesta we took a flamenco class where we learned about the origins of the flamenco as well as the basics of the flamenco.
Lastly, we are all excited for our whitewater rafting trip which is tomorrow!
July 9, 2016
We started our last day of this trip. We woke up early in the morning to have breakfast and leave the hostel to catch our bus to the river site that is an hour and a half. Some of us were excited and some were nervous, even when we arrived at the location. The ride was amazing as we got washed by the current. We had 2 series of jumps one was 2 meters high (6.6 feet) then our next one was 6 meters high. We left the site and got our stuff and went to An amazing picnic place where we swam and some tanned.
We had a bus ride back to the hostal where we showered and rested before we head towards the gorgeous gulliver park that is near our “home”. We had fun and sat down to eat ice cream. We went back to our home where we had an amazing dinner from the famous cooks, juan and teresa, a nice good-bye meal. Then we had 5 minutes to get money and everything to grab some frozen yogurt. We head back to the hostel again to sleep and pack so we could have energy and some time in the morning. This was an amazing trip. All our hard work paid off into smiles on little kids faces and the feel of happiness from inside that we actually made it and that we managed to give the kids memories to remember us with. That is the true success.