It really has been an great adventure & huge learning experience for your children -- & for us. The fact that several of your children really wanted to stay longer speaks for how much they enjoyed themselves. And, of course, we worked hard to help make every day great.
As we said from our first meeting, our objectives were to keep your child safe & well the entire trip, and to provide an immersive Spanish language & culture learning experience that he or she couldn't get anywhere else. While it was a fantastic, fun, often exhiliarating, and tiring 2 weeks, we look at how things went and understand that not everything was perfect. A lot of time was spent trouble shooting (minor concerns with family or house, upset stomachs & headaches, classes they didn't like, visiting many churches & cathedrals, and more). Our first goal was always to help make something better. Beyond that we hoped to demonstrate how a group of 19 individuals can problem-solve & adapt on the fly.
Our daily meetings were the usual reminders about schedules and advice about being careful, being punctual, being aware of cultural differences & customs, & anything else we could think of that would help them appreciate & navigate their way through a city in Spain & living with a family they'd met only days ago. Pretty heady stuff, and we have to say that your children were fantastic. We received compliments from many people, from their families here to the school director to the excursion guides, from their teachers to leaders of other groups. We called every parent on the second day here, and they were delighted at how willing the kids were to speak Spanish & participate!
Of course, as well as we did as a group, none of us was 100% on our game every moment either. A few spoke Spanish 95-100% of the time here, and others got lazy with it at times. Some were where they needed to be when they needed to be there, and others had a real challenge with that. But to live in a new city, to travel to 5 different cities & towns, hundreds of kilometers on a bus, packing essential carry around items & a picnic lunch; to live with a Spanish family; to walk MANY miles every day; to attend Spanish classes every day; to negotiate purchases & go on tours & listen to lectures, & much more -- & and to never have a serious issue or concern speaks volumes about how they did very well when it was most important. Was it perfect? No, and if you have traveled before, you know that perfection isn't the point -- it's more how to assess each situation & make the best of it, right? It was awfully good most of the time, and when it wasn't, we worked together to do what we could to make it better.
At our pre-trip meetings, we often spoke of the other intangible life skills we hoped to develop as we traveled -- like adaptability, handling unexpected delays & disappointing realities, staying healthy & dealing with feeling tired or sick, building confidence, developing appreciation of another culture & its people, growing in both independence and responsibility, & working together as a group, among others -- and that is where you may see subtle & maybe not so subtle changes in your child. These are the skills that we believe will help them feel confident & capable in challenging situations in their future lives.
This is the inaugural trip, and we have learned a lot. For the seniors, we know that the experience will put them in a better position to adapt & succeed when they go to college and when they continue their travels to new lands. For the sophomores & juniors, we hope this has sparked their curiousity & appreciation of other cultures as well as their own and will feel appreciative of the many opportunities they have here in Region 18 and LOLHS!
It will be good to be back! We will bring home a little bit of Salamanca with us and certainly leave a little bit of the Wildcat spirit there
Today was our last day in beautiful in Salamanca. We started the day off by eating breakfast with our host family and walked to school. After school, we explored the book sale which took place in the Plaza Mayor, where people were lining up to purchase famous books. Here in Salamanca, it is considered a very special day celebrating the importance of literature. During our free time after lunch, we went to go take pictures at the Barrio Oeste where graffiti decorated the walls. After, we met with our group and teachers to take our last picture with the Lyme Old Lyme flag at the Plaza Mayor. We there saw our teacher Paqui to give her our last goodbyes. We later went to our favorite ice cream store "Smooy" and bought ice cream to eat at the Plaza Mayor. With our ice cream, we walked to the bridge that overlooked the water and a skating park, and listened to the calming sounds of nature and
enjoyed our last walk around the city. Coming home, we bought more ice cream (to make up for all of the walking) and sat on the stairs next to the Casa de Conchas thinking about the next day. Greeted by our friends from our house, we walked home. For dinner, we ate a typical Spanish dish, fish and salad with our host mom and talked about our plans for the future.
After this trip, we've realized how big the world is, and to be grateful for the things we have, while knowing the importance of exploring other parts of the world. We are sad to be leaving, but are so happy to have had this experience with wonderful people. With everyone's help, this trip was better than we could have imagined. Gracias por todo, hasta luego
Zamora, probably the most medieval city we have visited in the whole trip.
The predominant architecture style is romanic with a lot of small little churches around the city. The most relevant visit was the cathedral with a Byzantine section. Students were tired but the attitude and behavior was great.
Today we went to Zamora, a region of Castilla y León, a one-hour bus ride from Salamanca. This city was influenced by the Romans which can be seen in the buildings and churches. When we arrived, our guide pointed out the characteristics of Roman churches, and we got to go inside a few. In one of them there was a First Communion ceremony. Next we went to the Museo Semana Santa which had a display of biblical scenes that were used to teach the illiterate the bible stories, and warn them of the punishment they would receive if they were not good Catholics. We then saw the remains of a castle made out of stone and took pictures of the amazing view from the top. From there we went inside a museum of a cathedral, and next the cathedral which had incredible displays with detailed artwork. After viewing that, we had an hour of free time, which was when it began to rain. When we met up again, we walked through the streets where the craftsmen work to see their businesses and that concluded our excursion to Zamora.
Today we went on an excursion to Ávila and Segovia, two cities in the same region (Castilla-León) as Salamanca. We left from the Plaza Gabriel at 9 and arrived in Ávila at 10, where we visited a large wall/fortress. Although the day was a bit chilly, we got to take in the amazing view from above and grab a bite to eat (cute and yummy pastries that were surprisingly very cheap!). Then we left for Segovia, where we ate our lunches (tortillas con patata, anyone?) and got to see a Roman aqueduct and later Alcázar, a beautiful castle where the Catholic monarchs resided (fun fact: this structure inspired Disney's castle!). Afterwards, we shared delicious torrejas, a dessert similar to mini bread pudding. We arrived back in Salamanca at 8 and rushed back home to watch the soccer match between Sevilla and Barcelona. Though extremely sad to be leaving this country soon, we are making the most of the time we have left!!!
This is our guide, Andrea. She works at our school, Colegio Delibes, and she taught us a lot about the history of different cities.
Sarah: If you could choose a Spanish food to represent your personality, what food would you choose?
Andrea: My personality or the personality of Spanish food?
A: So difficult. Probably one from my home, Segovia. In Segovia, the typical food is Cordero Asado or Cochinillo Asado. Cochinillo is a small pig roasted in a wood stove.
S: What is the personality of this dish?
A: It's a little strong. It's a food that's normally eaten with family on the weekends or in restaurants and it's a little heavy. Yeah, afterwards you have to go for a nice walk.
Hannah: And is there a funny or weird expression that wouldn't make sense if it were translated to English?
A: Well, I don't know if you have this expression, but to me it seems a bit strange because sometimes when we don't feel well, something hurts, or we're really tired, we use the expression "Today, I'm not very Catholic!" With the verb "estar" not with the verb "ser." [Both "ser" and "estar" mean "to be," but generally, "estar is for more temporary conditions and "ser" is used to describe permanent traits] With the verb "ser" it refers to religion, to be Catholic. But when I don't feel well, when my head hurts, I'm tired, "today I don't want to go out. I'm not very Catholic." It's a little bit dated, this expression, but it exists.
.We started off our typical school day at Colegio Delibes from 9:00 – 1:00. We then transitioned into a relaxing siesta and delicious home cooked meal by our host families. After, we learned about the 17 autonomous communities – similar to states. We are currently in Castilla y Leon and have been to 3 of the 17 including Madrid, where we flew into, and Castilla-La Mancha, when we visited Toledo. Among others, some include Andalucía and Cataluña. After this geography lesson, we had free time to look for gifts and we rented bikes to travel around Salamanca. Again, concluded the day with a meal from our host family
Day 9 had to have been our longest, fullest day from start to finish. Almost everyone was up an hour earlier than usual to meet for an authentic Spanish breakfast of churros & chocolate. Review of the day's schedule & classes followed. Students dispersed to their Salamanca homes for comida, while the teachers joined teachers from Italy, France, Lebanon, & Spain for tapas & conversation. We would like to share with you that during our conversation, the Colegio Delibes director, Miguel, made a point to tell the group about how wonderful he thinks our kids are. He is very impressed with their ability & willingness to speak Spanish, their respectfulness & punctuality, and their overall attitude to fun & challenging days. This school has become so popular that they have had to turn down many groups, but Miguel told us privately that he will always make room for a group from Lyme-Old Lyme!
Our social & cultural activity of the day was a very cool outing to a neighborhood on the west side of the city where art & graffiti are integrated into the environment & architecture. Our guide had us do an interactive photography scavenger hunt using a map & asking locals for directions to find specific murals & graffiti & create innovative poses with them. See the results & some of the art below.
A one-hour break allowed us to get ready & catch our breath for the next social event, 2-hours of music & dancing with kids from all groups at Colegio Delibes who come from France, Italy, Lebanon, USA. & other parts of Spain. A very fun & popular event!
We ended the day with a group walk to an area of the city famous for tapas. We ate delicious samples of chicken, tuna, goat cheese, and various special creations for vegetarians & those with special diets. 4 days left & lots of fun still ahead!