Saturday, June 30, 2012

Luck follows us to Santiago de Compostela

Thursday and Friday we took our longest excursion (except the one to Madrid) to Santiago de Compostela.  We left on time and an hour later ran into a stop on the interstate.  The miners are protesting and were burning tires on the highway.  The police told us we would be stopped for an hour, but it took a little longer than that.  Nonetheless, we had fun dancing on the side of the highway!  

We got to Santiago and checked into our hotel.  We walked straight to the older part of town to see the cathedral.  Marivi explained the history of the camino and the cathedral to the students then she led us into the cathedral to see the remains of St. James and the statue that the pilgrims hug after their pilgrimage.  The students had some free time to try Galician food.  Robert gave them a challenge. 20 had to try the ´vieira´ (type of shellfish) and 2 had to try the orella (pig´s ear).  The students went above and beyond the requirements!  According to Robert, 
The number of people that actually ate the Vieira (10 required): 22
The number of people that ate orella (2 required): 13

Proof of having tried the ´vieira´

Trying the ´pimientos de Padrón´   
Emma Vreeke gets a hot one!
Add caption

We then went to eat dinner where the students were able to try the ´pimientos de Padrón´ which are small, green peppers.  Some of them are spicy and some aren´t.  Of the two plates we ordered, we had about 7 spicy peppers.  Robert has some great photos of students (Emma V. and Nathan especially) reacting to the surprise of eating a spicy one.  There is no way to tell if a pepper is spicy.  You just have to eat it.  They also tried ´Tarta de Santiago´which is an almond cake that is a specialty in Santiago.

After dinner, we took the students to karaoke!  

The following day, we went to a museum about the Galician people and then to the Pilgrim´s mass.  Everyday at noon a mass is held for the pilgrims that have completed the trek.  And here is where our luck came in.  The largest incensory is in the cathedral in Santiago.  The church only uses it 2-3 times per year.  Otherwise, someone has to pay for it to be used.  The day we were there, a group of Japanese pilgrims paid for it to be used!  Robert has a video of it on his site.  What you can´t see in his video are the eight men swinging the botafumeiro and the power that it takes.  Here is another video that shows that.  We took more time to eat and shop and then we headed home.

Robert has posted some photos and videos already on his site.  He will create folder and collect photos from this trip that the students took since he was sick and spent most of the first day in the hotel.  That link is here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday - to the beach!

We decided to celebrate Monday afternoon by taking a trip to the beach with the students!  It was finally very sunny in Oviedo, so we took the afternoon off to go back to Gijon.  The students were able to enjoy the water a bit more this time since it was a bit sunnier.  We spent a couple of hours there and then returned home.  Tuesday was a normal day except the students at their first evaluations.  They evaluated us, we evaluated them and we had individual meetings to go over how things have gone with them thus far.  Most of them were terrified at first, but they calmed down once they realized we weren't going to send them back the U.S.!

Tomorrow we have regular classes and sports.  It is supposed to be 34 here tomorrow.  In 'English' that means 93 degrees! Yikes!  Then it cools back off to normal.

Thursday and Friday we are headed to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia which is the end of the Camino de Santiago.  The history of this pilgrimage is fascinating.  Legend says that St. James' remains were brought by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain.  In 813 the remains of Apostle St. James the Greater were found by a peasant named Pelayo (not the same guy that lead the first battles against the Moors) in a chapel in an old roman cemetery in what is now Santiago de Compostela.  This helped ignite the Christian troops in the area and Alfonso II (king of the region at that time) made was is known to be the first religious pilgrimage from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela.  Today, the routes can start anywhere but the most popular route starts in France.  One route comes directly through Oviedo.  The routes are marked with shells and yellow arrows either on the ground or on trees.  Thousands make the trek every year.  If you are interested in learning more about this, Charlie & Martin Sheen recently made a movie about it called 'The Way'.  I am sure it can be found on Netflix.

We will go to a museum that shows the history of the Galician people, a museum about the pilgrimage, the church where the remains of St. James the Greater remain (ha ha), and we will be able to catch the pilgrim's mass that they hold every Sunday for the pilgrims.  We will get to eat some traditional Galician food.  It amazes me that we can travel for just a few hours and find completely different dishes to eat!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Our trip to Gijón was a blast!  We went to the roman baths, the aquarium, a small hill overlooking the city that was once used for battle where a giant, 500 ton sculpture sits and the beach.  The students sat watching sharks being fed for 30 minutes in silence.  I had forgotten how relaxing it can be to stare at fish.  The weather cooperated for the most part.  It was cloudy at the end of the day.  The water was freezing, but most students entered for a bit anyway!

Robert has added the pictures from Santa Maria del Naranco (under the Oviedo folder), Tango dancing (apologies, I took the pictures with my camera because Robert was instructing the dances), and some videos from the trip to Gijón.

Below are some pictures from the trip to Santa Maria del Naranco.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sta. María del Naranco & Tango

Hello!  We had a wonderful time at Santa Maria del Naranco on Wednesday.  The rain let up a bit at first so we were able to take some great pictures which will post soon.  Today we had sports at the end of the day and almost everyone decided to learn a type of Tango. I took lots of pictures and some video of the tango dancing and of us horsing around at the end of the afternoon!  I am posting a couple of those pictures here.  Robert will post the others on his site.  He has some new pictures loaded under 'Oviedo' and a new folder of optional activities.

Tomorrow we are off to Gijón for the day!  We will take the train there which is only about a 35 minute ride.  Saturday is the Noche de San Juan fiestas all over Spain (and many other places around the world).  A bonfire will be lit at exactly midnight (and yes, there will be tons of people there and even small children at that hour!).  It is said that you can put a paper with bad things that happened to you this year in the fire (before it is lit) to burn them so that you have a good year this coming year.  To see a video of 2010, go to this link.

One of our students, Aamina, is writing for the IUHPFL blog in Spanish which is a separate link.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rainy Monday

Today it has been cloudy and rainy all day.  We have a full week coming up.  Wednesday, we go to Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo.  Both are 9th century buildings important architecturally and historically to Asturias and the entire Peninsula.   On Friday, we travel north to Gijón.  Gijon is a port city located just a 35 minute train ride north of Oviedo.  This weekend, all of Spain will celebrate the festival of Saint John (Noche de San Juan). It is a combination of what is thought to be an old pagan celebration (Beltane, celebrated May 1st) but celebrated on what is thought to be St. John the Baptist's birthday.  The bonfire tradition came from the pagan festival.  I will post more about these things as they happen.

We divided into groups today for afternoon activities to start to write skits and make some decisions about songs for the final program.  We also started discussing the t-shirt we will design and have printed here in Oviedo.  We had support groups today.  Students wrote 3 goals for the summer and then wrote anonymously a difficulty he/she is having.  Most students in my group said the hardest thing was communication with the family, both understanding them and starting conversations.  This is a normal reaction for the students at this point in the program.  They did agree that things had gotten easier over the first week.

Don't forget to check out Robert's photos if you haven't yet.  Here is the link again.  A big thank you to Robert for taking such lovely pictures.  Photography is one of Robert's passions.We instructors love to get in front of the camera as much as possible as do some of the students! We are lucky to have someone who is willing to put so much effort into something that isn't part of his job description.  Thanks, Robert!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012


Just a note to say we made it back to Oviedo and the students are with their families now.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  Best I have seen on this excursion yet!  I am sure Robert will be posting photos this weekend sometime but here are a couple of mine to tide you over.  

Misc stories

I forgot a couple of things yesterday!  First is a funny story about Nick!  Before we let the students off the bus in Oviedo to meet the host families we were going through a few things with them.  We asked if they had any more questions and Nick raised his hand and very seriously said:  ¿Qué día es hoy?  which means 'What day is it today?'.  Giselle and I were laughing about this again last night.  First, we had to think about the answer.  Second, it is a simple example of how difficult that much travel and lack of sleep can be.  I found it funny, too, because it is such a common phrase that is used in a first-year Spanish class.  It sounded so elementary but we knew he was dead-serious!

Secondly, the students had sports on Wednesday.  Many kids played soccer out in front of the school on a soccer field.  And some stayed in the gym to do Zumba!  One of the school custodians watched the soccer for a bit and was very complimentary on how good the students are at the game.  He couldn't believe their level of play.  Yesterday, a professor from the school came to the instructor's table at lunch to say the same thing only he was specifically complimenting the girls!  He wanted to sign them up for a team in Spain!  He pointed out Shelby, Anna S. and one other girl (I don't know which one!).  Hopefully Robert has some photos of this that might get posted sometime this weekend!

Lucky us (extremely lucky) that today is perfectly sunny for our trip to the mountains because Saturday it is supposed to rain all day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

First week of classes

Today we finished with our first week of classes.  It seems like the students are getting accustomed to the pace of the classes and what is expected of them!  They have been asking tons of questions.  Today we continued working on a mix of talents the students will do in front of the parents for the farewell program.  We have been begging them to be patient with the creative process of trying to decide what is best!  We also began practicing the Hymn of Asturias which the students will perform for the final program.  It always brings the host mothers to tears!  We also started the phonetics class today!  This is a new topic for the students.  Some were a bit overwhelmed at first, but I know they want to learn the correct pronunciation to not sound so 'American'.

Tomorrow we have our first excursion to the Picos de Europa to see beautiful lakes left by glaciers if the weather permits, Covadonga (the site considered the origin of the Reconquista), and Cangas de Onis (the town where the Battle of Covadonga was planned).  I told the students today that there is a fountain in Covadonga with a legend that says if someone who is single drinks out of all 7 spigots with out breathing, they will be married with in a year!  None of them seemed to interested in that.

Don't forget to check Robert's site (link is both above and below!).  He has uploaded more pictures and at least one video that I saw.

Here is a picture of everyone from our rainy tour around Oviedo earlier in the week.  We are in front of the main cathedral in Oviedo.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First day of actual classes!

Today was the first of a somewhat normal day.  We took a tour of the 'Casco Antiguo' in Oviedo with the students.  The casco antiguo just means the old part of town. It began to rain while we were walking!  I think the students are becoming accustomed to the weather.  Rain, sun, rain, sun, clouds, sun, fog, rain, sun, humidity.  We have our fingers crossed for our first excursion to the mountains on Friday.      We had short classes to introduce our classes and give some homework :).  In the afternoon, we began preparations for the farewell show for the host families.  Below are two photos.  The first is of the host family orientation.  To see more photos, go to Robert's photo site:  I will put this site up on the page blog site somehow so it is easier to access.  Unfortunately, we don't have photos of each student with his or her family.  We won't see the families again for a while so we won't be able get photos for you!  In this photo, the students are sitting with their host families!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Today was a long day!  The students were troopers, though.  We met at school around 10:30.  They took an exam so that we can mark their progress over the course of the summer.  Then we played a team-building game outside.  It started to rain, we almost gave up and then the sun came out so we finished.  We ate lunch together in the 'comedor' and we have new cooks this year.  At first, the instructors were disappointed because we liked the ones we had last year but the new ones are just at nice and the food is 10 times better!!!!!!

We had a small orientation with the students which was similar to what they heard in Bloomington.  We did some other administrative things like make sure they have the names and addresses of the school, their families, our cells, even the Bloomington office on a card that they carry with them at all times.  We gave them some free time to explore Oviedo and then we met back at the school at 7 for an orientation with the host families!  It was great to see the host families again since we didn't get to have much time to talk to them when they picked up the students.  They seem to be enchanted with your kiddos!

Robert took several photos today but I will have to post them sometime tomorrow!

I plan to post as often as I can, but sometimes the day gets away from me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

In Oviedo!!

Our travel went very smoothly yesterday.  Our bus was waiting for us when we arrived to Madrid.  We had a 5-hour bus ride with a stop for lunch (it will be interesting for you to hear about your student´s very first impression of Spain.  Imagine road-side truck-stop restaurants in the US and you will have an idea. Of course, the bread is still delicious even at such a place!).  We passed through the Cantabrian Mountains and right by the Picos de Europa which we will visit on a later excursion!  The host families met us and Marivi (on-site coordinator) matched the families with the students.  

In the third picture, you can see the mountains we have the fortune of seeing every single day!  In the last couple of photos, you can see some of the host families.  The second-to-last is the Maria, host mother of the students living with the two families on the organic farm, (Anna Schilling, Emily Warshauer, Conrad Ault).

Students have the weekend with their host families and we will see them bright and early (10:30!) Monday morning.  Their host families will bring them to school the first morning.  They will take an exam for which they are NOT to study that they will retake at the end of the summer to show their progress.  Then we will eat lunch and take a tour of the city.  They will have some free time around the city and then their families will come to the school for their orientation where we will review the Honor Code and the expectations of the students and the parents.  Tuesday begins the regular class schedule!