Sunday, July 13, 2014

La Semana Final y Valencia

Hola chicos!

We’re getting down to the final days in Barcelona L On Monday night we hosted a farewell dinner for Gee’s best friend Krystal. She was with us in Barcelona for a long time and became an honorary BOB roommate. That night I cooked for everyone. I made fettuccine Alfredo with bacon and chicken, garlic roasted asparagus and of course pan con tomate.
We were also celebrating her 21st birthday for next month

On Tuesday I decided to use one of my personal days and take the day off. I got to sleep in and then headed down to the beach. It was so relaxing! Afterwards, I explored a mall I’d never been to before, and then headed home. That night I had a tapas dinner planned with my mentees. I have about 9 mentees that I meet with to hear about their experiences, answer any questions and provide them with recommendations. The dinner was delicious and a lot of them showed up! We had tortilla patata, croquetas, pan con tomate, patatas bravas and ice cream.

Wednesday, we had an all-day staff workshop. It was awesome because our entire staff was there, which is rare since we’re all so busy and we work in two separate offices. The meeting was held behind the University of Barcelona in a beautiful church’s office building. We had to laugh because while we were working we noticed there were pictures of the popes along the wall. We spent the day brainstorming ideas to improve the company and creating solutions to existing problems. We had a delicious lunch at a fancy restaurant on the company. My first course was peas, egg and pork and my second dish was a juicy steak with roasted green peppers and potatoes and for dessert we had vanilla gelato with peaches. Needless to say we were stuffed and our stomachs were very satisfied. It was awesome because we spent about 45 minutes getting breakfast and coffee before the meeting, worked for about 2 hours, and then had a two hour lunch. So we literally spent half the day eating –why can’t every day be like this?! And the working wasn’t bad either since I was in such good company.

On Thursday I trekked outside of the city center a bit to take pictures of one of our interns at her placement. She was working at for an architectural company. I had to take the train to get there, but it didn’t take too long. The area was beautiful and was very close the the famous labyrinth park Raquel took me to last time I was here. Afterwards, I found a beautiful park and decided to check it out for a couple minutes. At one point I was literally hiking through the woods, off the path in my dress and flip-flops because I wanted to see the cactuses –they were really cool. The view from the top was incredible! It was situated right next to Tibidabo –one of Barcelona’s two mountains.


This weekend I had a lot of options to choose from. Originally, my roommates and I were all planning on renting a car and heading to Pamplona to see the running of the bulls. Our friend Mònica invited us to her village just North of Barcelona and very close to Andorra. Our third option was to go with some of the staff to Valencia on a weekend excursion with our students. Gee and I chose option 3 since it was the most cost effective –seeing as it was free! Although I was really excited to go to the running of the bulls, part of me was happy since I don’t really agree with the tradition because I see it more from an animal rights perspective –I’m quite the catalan ;)

On Friday morning we woke up bright and early and headed to the office to meet the students. We had just about 60 students and 5 staff members. Gee, Claire and I were assigned to group 2. It took us about 5 hours to arrive in Valencia by bus but the drive was beautiful since we drove along the coast the whole way. Once we arrived at the hotel, we checked in and hung out for a bit before taking the bus to the gardens and the Fillas museum.

Valencia used to have a large river than ran through it but due to large floods, they decided to drain the river. In it’s place, they created a beautiful garden park complete with jogging paths, picnic areas, playgrounds and much more. It’s very beautiful since the bridges that once crossed over the river are still in place. It would take over 2 hours to walk the entire length of the garden/ river route! There was also this awesome playground modeled after Gulliver’s Travels with an actual GIANT where kids, and adults could feel like the tiny people from the story. There were slides off his legs and you could climb his hair etc.

The Opera
After the garden tour we headed over to the Fillas museum. Valencia is known for it’s Fillas festivals that take place in March. Basically, for centuries, the people of Valencia have been holding these festivals where they burn large statues on a specific day of the year. The statues were very satirical responses to scandals within the community, the government and even celebrities. Every year artists come in and create these gigantic statues to be burned. The statues are extravagant and truly a sight to see. They are constructed from cardboard, wax and styrofoam. Each year, one Fillas is “saved” from the flames and placed in the Fillas museum. The figures within the museum date back to the turn of the century. It was fascinating to walk through and see how the artistic styles emerged due to equipment, engineering and technology.
My favorite Filla

Each year a girl is selected to represent the Filla -similar to a beauty pageant 

The oldest filla from 1934

Afterwards, we had free time. We ate a delicious dinner and shared a big jar of Valencian water –which is not water. It was orange juice, gin, cava and vodka. Valencia is known for their oranges which are considered to be some of the best in Spain. They make delicious marmalade and orange juice.
The wonderful oranges of Valencia
Agua de Valencia
The next day we took a guided tour around the city. Valencia is quite small but has a lot of history. We explored the cathedral and learned that their saint in Valencia is the Saint of the handicapped and helpless –as a special education teacher, this made me happy. We also learned that Valencia is home to what some suspect is the holy grail! It has not been proven, but under the Aragon crown, the holy grail ended up in Spain. Two of the Popes have held masses here in Valencia and have drank from the grail. I couldn’t rap my head around this, how crazy!

If you follow this path, you can see all of the historical sites

Orxata, a refreshing and sweet milk-like drink that is very typical of Valencia
tiger nuts are crushed and made into orxata
Afterwards, we took the busses down to the beach for a paella lunch. It was probably the best paella I’ve ever had! Valencia is also known for their paella, and specifically for their rice. After lunch we spent the rest of the day at the beach. The sand was so fine and soft that I almost didn’t like it! It sort of felt like I was walking in dirt and the dust kept sticking to everything. The waves were a lot bigger than in Barcelona and we had a blast jumping in them. That night, I had a delicious tapas dinner with the staff complete with Valencian hard cider.

Our strange room we had dinner in
We stumbled upon a street party with swing dancers. It felt like I was in the 1940's and I was so okay with it.
Today we checked out of the hotel and headed over to the Hemisferic and Museo de Ciencias. We started off by watching a fascinating IMAX movie on the last coral reef. We grabbed the wrong headsets so I listened to the movie in Spanish, but I understood the majority of the movie. Afterwards we had some free time to explore the beautiful buildings before our guided tour.

Gee and I had to try the hamster balls even though we were wearing dresses. They were a lot harder than you would expect! Every time I would try to stand up, I would fall on my face! It was also strange because nobody could hear me so I was literally laughing to myself inside of a gigantic bubble. All of our students were amused by us, and I’m pretty sure they got a great view of my undies. Towards the end, we got so tired and so hot. Since our bodies were heating up, the ball got steamy and slippery inside. We only stayed inside for about 15 minutes but that was plenty of time. The guide said that 5 minutes inside of the ball was equivalent to an hour of intense workout! The balls were designed by NASA for the astronauts to practice controlling their movements. Best 5€ I’ve ever spent!

We then went on a guided tour of the Museo de las Ciencias. We all had a blast! Many of the exhibits were interactive such as the electric shock ones. We got to create clouds, touch a tornado, try a candy that triggered different nerves and much more. The students loved it and were so pleased! After that we had a picnic lunch and made our way back to Barcelona.

A tornado!
The left globe felt like how the earth should feel, and the right felt like how the earth feels with greenhouse gases

I’m so glad I chose Valencia this weekend. I had an incredible hotel room with the best view ever. Gee and I were given the matrimonial suite :P and after two months of showering in a shower equivalent to a shoebox, I was happy to shower in a normal sized shower! I got to know the staff a lot better and even some of the students. Plus I think I spent a total of 20€ for the entire weekend!
The view from our window

I have one more personal day tomorrow to spend back in Barcelona. We’re getting down to the wire here folks, but unlike last time, I’m more content about leaving. I think because I have a lot more to look forward to at home this time. My sister is getting married right when I get home! I’m also just excited to get home so I can start my life. I want to get back so I can finish school and then get out into the world again!
I'm featured on the staff page on the Barcelona SAE website!

I'm very happy to be back in Barcelona, I always get "homesick"when I'm away for a bit.

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