Time Capsule Letter
Some time has passed since the mid-summer mornings in Toledo, during which we would arrive to schools where Spanish estudiantes would be waiting for us with open arms, soccer balls, and even water balloons. Our service with the niños stands out in the lasting connections we made with them through games and English classes. We always strove to to overcome the language barrier between us by utilizing the Spanish skills which we improved each day during our classes with Ricardo and Lucía.
Looking back on our two weeks in Toledo, many memories come to mind from within its scenic walls. Our walks along the shady, cobble-stone alleyways that led us to and from the family-owned restaurants where we spent each meal choosing our pick of delicious Spanish dishes such as paella, gazpacho, croquetas, and even desert. Amidst the rustic buildings, we presented to one another (after preparation in Spanish class), the timeless legends of Toledo in which statues came to life and ghosts went dancing at fiestas.
We also explored the impressive cathedral, visited a sword and silver shop, and danced away an afternoon flamenco-style. The paradise of the Arab baths stand out in particular as an experience in which we all relaxed with steaming, soaking, and sweet tea, as we hopped between the different temperature pools.
One memorable day sent us rafting through the rapids of the Spanish wilderness after an unexpected flat tire on the way in during our journey to Alto Tagus. We pulled our rafts to shore after hours in the water at a local river-side beach spot beside an old brick bridge before making it to Madrid at last.
A weekend in the big city showed us another side of the Europe with its endless art in El Prado Museum and the legacy of Real Madrid at the Bernabéu football stadium. We lived it up Spaniard-style, moving between tapas restaurants and enjoying El Retiro park via lounging, boating around, or cruising it on bikes. #wolverines. We learned all about the city during a walking tour and enjoyed some free time spent shopping, relaxing, and eating gelato. Lots of gelato.
After Madrid, the return to Toledo felt like a return home. Our kiddos would be waiting for us for the final mornings of service. More excursions of scenic windmills and soaring over the river on the zipline were also ahead.
At the end of the session, we came together to form our own One Meaningful Goals (OMG) in order to actively apply our experience into our lives back home. As a group we came up with a collective OMG: to continue volunteering, to practice patience, and to approach what lies ahead with a positive mindset.
Even now though time has passed, we can all remember back to the long sunsets on the terrace of our home base, where we could see all the red rooftops of the city which for two weeks in the summer of 2019, we had the fortune of calling home. Muchas gracias Toledo!
Saturday June 29, 2019
We are excited to share that the entire group who will be kicking off Toledo 2019 is officially here! Everyone arrived safe and is resting up for our first full day in this beautiful city tomorrow.
The Team: Steph, Sophia, Sergio & Maria
Sunday June 30, 2019
Our first full day in Toledo was a nice and easy transition into Spain. We met for breakfast then after we gathered our things to go begin the introduction to Spanish class. After that we used our free time and explored different lookout scenes around Toledo. These landscapes were breathtaking and we saw the ancient gates to Toledo. After wandering the city, we arrived for lunch around 2:30.
After that we rested in the hostel for an hour and then we took back to the streets and walked to a nearby park where we held a group leadership discussion. Everyone contributed to a debate about education/language policies in Malaysia we were given different view points to defend. We also got to see common controversies that are discussed between politicians which gave us a platform to discuss issues. This was a group involved discussion and got people to take a stance in the argument.
Monday July 1, 2019
Today half of our group had their first day of service at Carmelitas (the local school). We got to meet the children and start to teach them english, focusing on different foods. Then everyone had their first Spanish class, meeting the teachers that will be helping us with our Spanish for next two weeks. After having lunch, we visited a sword and silver shop. We were given a short tour of the shop, getting to see how metal is shaped into iconic swords and how damascene (a type of spanish jewelry) is made. The gift shop had beautiful handmade pieces! We got to know each other better in the evening by playing games in a park with a senic outlook of the city. And after reflecting on the day, we headed to dinner and finished the day with a tasty meal.
Tuesday July 2, 2019
This morning both groups headed off to service! The group at Carmelitas went on a field trip with their students to the traffic park. When we heard about this place yesterday, we had no idea what to expect. Traffic park had a small road that surrounded a typical park. On the road, kids could follow the road signs and drive go-carts and bikes while police officers directed traffic and interacted with all of the kids. On the playground, we played basketball, helped kids down the slides, and pushed them on the swings, but their favorite thing was when we were “caballitos” and gave them piggy back rides! The group at Mayol got to know their students today, played some games and taught English before the kids had their pool time.
We had Spanish class for two hours today and ate at el Mercado de San Agustín for lunch. After lunch we walked to our dance class where Ricardo, one of our Spanish teachers and tour guide, led a flamenco class. No one quite knew what we were doing but it was a lot of fun laughing around together! After dinner, we went out for gelato to cool down after a long day.
Wednesday July 3, 2019
Today we started the day with volunteering at our usual schools: Las Carmelitas and Mayol. We spent the morning doing plenty of fun activities and teaching English to all of the young students. We then participated in our separate Spanish classes for two hours, learning about music and the history of Toledo.
After lunch, we visited a huge cathedral with Ricardo (one of our Spanish teachers) as our guide, teaching us about all of its beautiful aspects. In the evening, we had some free time, which some used to rest up while others went strolling and shopping in Toledo’s main square. We ended the day with dinner and a breathtaking view of the sunset.
-by Anaïs & Margaux
Thursday July 4, 2019
Today we continued our community service at the two schools that we have been attending for the last week. At Las Carmelitas, half of the group gave a brief Fourth of July presentation to the older students, while the younger students played different games such as freeze dance in the school’s gym. The group assigned to the Mayol school had a fun game and sports day with the kids, where they broke up into groups having to fulfill various tasks to complete a puzzle. The kids then played in the water and on a slip and slide. Afterwards, we all enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at the Arabic Baths to unwind from the last week. There were three different pools with various temperatures and a steam room, and we enjoyed some tea and cookies as we relaxed. Following this we had some free time to pack for Madrid before dinner.
Sunday July 7, 2019
We started off our day by going to a very fun paella cooking class. The paella made for a delicious lunch. We then split into 2 groups and one group went to the Real Madrid stadium and the other group went to the El Pardo museum. After that adventure, we split off even more and went biking, took the boats out onto the pond, and explored the park. Lastly, GLA surprised us with a pizza, sunset picnic to end the day.
-by Savannah and Sophia
Monday July 8, 2019
Today we started the day with a walking tour, where we learned about the history of Madrid and the Spanish Inquisition. We walked around the Royal Palace, saw the Cathedral of Madrid and experienced the “Plaza Mayor.” We also saw the world’s oldest restaurant, which was established in the twelfth century. We then ate lunch, which consisted of different tapas from three different restaurants.
After a delicious cultural Spanish meal, we had three hours of free time. Some chose to go souvenir shopping while others browsed stores such as Zara looking for clothes. Other just wanted to relax and went to the park. Then, everyone met up back at the hostel and we took the bus back to Toledo. We are all very excited to be back in Toledo and can’t wait to see the kids from service tomorrow!
-by Michael and Conner
Now back from Madrid, we continued our community service at the two schools in Toledo. Many of us taught more English classes, while others participated in fun activities with the kids. After service, we continued with our daily Spanish classes. We then had a picnic lunch in a nearby park. After lunch, we drove to a town called Consuegra.
There, we explored the castle and each of its different rooms such as the armory, jail, garden, and church. With the help of our tour guide, we learned many interesting facts about the castle and about the Middle Ages. We also visited the famous Don Quijote windmills and learned how people made flour from grain. When driving back, we stopped at the Mirador del Valle for a nice viewpoint of the whole city. Afterwards, we ended our day with dinner.