Monday, May 27, 2013

The final AFS Orientation

May 11 and 12th we had our last AFS orientation with all of the students in Castilla y León. For this one, we were joined by Spanairds that also live in Castilla y León that will be going on exchange this year. There were about 20-25 of usin all, and we were pretty equally split up, too. However, the two groups were separated for the majority of the weekend.  

I didn´t really get much out of this orientation, it was just an opportunity to see my friends for the weekend. It is funny because I feel like at every orientation we do fewer activities and have more free time (which I am totally for). I also think the majority of the things we did were for the “sending” students and to help them prepare to leave. 

On Saturday, we did this activity that I think was really interesting for us “Hosting” to watch, although we definitely had a lot of fun doing it. First thing the volunteer did was explain that we will be playing a tribe with strange signals for communicating, a special sound to indicate we were speaking to one another, and we would be putting on a welcoming ceremony for the Sending students. We picked Emils as King, Paige as Queen, and Esther as the queen´s assistant. We created our signal for yes, our signal for no, and our speaking noise. Then they explained to us how the “Welcoming Ceremony” would go and we learned the different customs we have as a tribe with the different rituals we do. So, we practiced and practiced to make sure everyone understood what they had to do. They had fabric and face painting crayons so we could get all dressed up, and then we were ready. The Sending students walked into the rooms and were shocked at how we were set up: all in a circle with candles and dimmed lights, the men sitting on chairs, the women sitting on the floor without shoes, and of course our clothes and makeup. Before we could begin our ceremony, they had to observe how we were and adapt to it. That basically consisted in how we were seated because the girls all went straight for the chairs when they saw them. Let´s just say it took a long for everyone to figure it out and then there was this one girl left who was sitting on the chair for a solid 5 more minutes before she understood what was happening. We did the ceremony, which the sending had participated in. They thought it was ridiculous and weird, but I think they learned a good lesson about what they will be faced with when they go on exchange: can´t judge or make assumptions, must observe, must respect the other culture, and most importantly, that they are the ones that have to adapt and conform to the new culture and customs.

On Sunday, we Hosting students didn’t really feel like doing the assigned activities so we ended just sitting outside in a circle and going one by one sharing about our experiences. I think that is better, anyways, becuase we have been with eachother since the beginning, so it´s fascinating to hear how other students have changed, grown, and their overall expierence

After that, they told us that the parents of the Sending students were there and we needed to put ourselves into groups, make a poster and give a presentation. We had to imagine that we were going to give it at a school about AFS in general and why a family (whether they were in sending their child or hosting a student) should choose AFS. I´m sure it was also a way to make us feel more confident with our Spanish because it can be nerve-wracking speaking in another language to a big group of adults.

All in all, it was a pretty fun weekend, although equally sad because we all know that all we have left together is the night in Madrid before we have to take our plane home to our respective countries. 

In other news: Not this weekend, but the weekend after, I will be traveling to Logroño (located in the top center of Spain) to visit my friend Marianne (who I talked quite a bit about in my Camino de Santiago blog post) for the weekend!! I am seriously just so excited to see her, and of course it will be fun to visit another city and travel some more! I get back on Monday night and then Thursday at 3am I will be traveling with my class to Berlin and Prague for the week, which I am also so incredibly excited about!!

I have one month left, it is such a sad reality...but I am making the most of it and enjoying the rest of my time here.

Now here are some pictures from the orientation

basically half the pictures taken at the AFS functions are similar to this, it´s just how it is 

the whole group (with sending kids)

These people have become like a big family

Monday, May 13, 2013

What I´ve been up to!

Hello All!

I´ve been doing some super fun things lately, and with school I haven´t been able to write as much about my adventures recently.

This post will just be me talking about the different things I´ve done over the past few weeks (minus my "typical stereotypical Spanish weekend" and the last AFS orientation, which will get their own blog post).

Starting with what I´m pretty sure was almost about a month ago, I went to my friend Zuzana´s birthday party where I met some really cool new friends. Then, the next weekend, with some of the girls that I had met from the birthday party, Zuzana, Carolin, and I went to the fiestas of Cuatro Vientos (a small town right outside Ponferrada).
 Starting in about May (when the weather starts to warm up) all the way through September (right before school starts again) each town has their own weekend of fiestas. There are always lots of people (teenagers and adults) and the fiestas take place in the streets, all the bars of open and full with street venders. At times, there will be some type of fair rides set up or discotecas set up outside (basically just a huge tent with a DJ and a small bar set up).

I went to my friend Cristina´s birthday party, which was super fun, and I sang karaoke, too!! 

The past three weeks, I have had a day off of school. First it was because it was the day of Castilla y León, which is one of Spain´s seventeen “Comunidades Autónomas” (I guess they are similar to states, kind of). Each comunidad autónoma has 1 day of the year as a holiday, and because I live in Castilla y León, I had the day off. I didn´t do anything special, just went into Ponferrada to hang out.

The week after I had Wednesday off because it was the international holiday “Day of Work,” which the Spaniards here loved making fun of the irony because the unemployment rate is so high (27% to be exact). That day, I had Carolin and Zuzana come to Bembibre since they had never been here before so I could show them around my town.

This past week, we had Thursday off…well kind of. It was a day of strike for students and professors, although I didn´t go to the strike in Ponferrada, I stayed home and studied for my Literature test. I´m glad I did study though, because I think I did well on the test!

Then of course, the past two weekends I had my Typical Spanish weekend and the AFS orientation.

All in all, everything is great, school is getting really busy because of all the tests I have had lately, but I am happy because I am always busy and doing things. That is something I have missed, always being busy, although don’t get me wrong, I have really enjoyed my relaxed lifestyle here.

I´m always hanging out with friends, enjoying the time left I have with them. Actually, this past Friday, I hung out with this super awesome girl, Ainhoa, who I had met way back in October and who goes to the same school as Derin and Lani. I had seen her around Ponferrada a few times throughout the year and we always said hi to each other. Well, with Lani´s suggestion, I texted Ainhoa and asked her if she wanted to hang out sometime, she said of course, and so we did! We had so much fun and I met a ton of other great people throughout the evening. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming (because I only knew Ainhoa) to me. We all definitely plan on hanging out again. I´m sharing this because I´m pretty proud of myself for reaching out, taking the first step, and making things happen.

My volleyball team is great. They are so crazy, energetic, and hilarious; I love them. The majority are in the grade below me (with a few others from my class), and they have been some of the most welcoming people I´ve met here. We aren´t super great (we have lost basically all our games), but we have improved so incredibly much since the beginning that I don´t even care that we are losing. Also, I´m still having fun although we are losing, so I am happy.  

I am also really looking forward to my class trip to Berlin and Prague!!! I´ll be going the third week in June, and I cannot adequately express how I excited I am.

I only have about 1.5 months left, which is incredibly sad for me. It´s coming to the point where I just don´t even think about it.  

That´s about all the updating for now!

¡Hasta Luego!

Now some photos:

at the Fiestas of Cuatro Vientos 

In Bembire

At Zuza´s birthday

All of us girls
there is no photo from Cristina´s birthday party because I didn´t find a photo I liked enough to post...sorry :)