Try to imagine 700 teenagers traveling back and forth over the Atlantic Ocean to open their eyes to another world. For 28 years Scituate and Getxo have enjoyed a cultural exchange unlike any other. Our two high schools have transformed the lives of countless people as we have shared our homes for four amazing weeks. All of our lessons, excursions, meals and adventures have created a memorable experience to be cherished.
All of us from Getxo and Scituate are similar in many ways. Our connection to the sea and our unique historical place make us all feel proud. We are happy to call Bilbao and Boston "home"as well. Our distinct cultural curiosities enliven our fascination with each other and the world beyond. Any differences we notice only make our friendships stronger. Now we are left with everlasting memories and real possibilities to see each other again!
It may seem that our American friends spend all their time in cultural activities. That's not completely true. There are lots of things we have not written about. They have had and enjoyed another amazing life with their counter partners after the official activities. They have lived their free time in the things and places they love (beach, shopping, discos, sports...). They have even had new experiences (surfing, rafting...) with their Basque friends and their families. But those are the personal things they will share with their parents and friends when they get back home.
Last Saturday they went surfing. Lucas Rincón, our American Language Assitant at J.C.Baroja High School, was there teaching them how to surf. They enjoyed time and sea and had a great time together.
Yesterday marked the twelfth day of our adventures in Spain, and as always
we ended up with memories that are sure to last a lifetime. We began the day by
observing a class at Julio Caro Baroja, the high school that the majority of
our Spanish friends attend. After an hour or so, we were off to "el Museo
deBellas Artes," or the Fine Arts Museum.
With the help of a
Spanish-speaking guide we learned about a wide variety of art, from sculptures
to oil paints, including the history behind their existence and the person that
From there, we began the ten minute walk to the boat that
took us for a ride around Bilbao. In addition to being a great way to spend
tome with friends and chaperones, we were presented with a plethora of
historical knowledge about famous landmarks as we drifted lazily by.
After that, we were given a few hours of free time during which we explored one of the main streets of Bilbao, La Gran Via.
Between the shopping,
sightseeing, and cafés con leche, we were definitely happy campers. As our time
together came to a close, we headed back to the meeting spot where we took the
metro back to our Spanish friends. After a long day we were excited for
"la cena," or dinner, with our host families.
Today was a pasaporte day
because we were off to France in the small town of San Juan de Luz! I'm sure if
the weather wasn't rainy and cloudy the town would have been very beautiful!
Lots of people bought baguettes and croissants that were absolutely delicious!
The town consisted of many quaint little streets filled with boutiques that had
very nice shop owners, some of whom even spoke English!
As the rain continued to fall,
we hopped back into the bus and across the border to visit Ondarreta, a beach
in San Sebastián.
It was wicked gorgeous! Even though it was raining and darkout, the beach was amazingly pretty with two big islands across the way. At the
end of a long walk we saw three cool iron statues, called El peine de los
vientos by Eduardo Chillida, that were spread out on a cliff overlooking the
In my opinion, the rain and rough waters made them look even better!
Our final stop before
returning back to Getxo was the city of San Sebastián that was right on the
water. When we arrived it was still raining so all anyone wanted to do was find
a cafe and have a nice cafe con leche! There were many shops along the main
street, and at the end there was an outdoor concert that I could not understand
because it was all in Euskera. However, at the edge of the town there was a
very pretty beach in front of a long street, and at the end of that street was
a beautiful church.
Personally, my favorite part
of today was the bus ride. I love looking out the window at the luscious
greenery that surrounds the small towns by the highway. The mountains are
ginormous and absolutely tower over everything. They are especially cool when
the low clouds cover then so that you can't see their peaks, and they appear as
mysterious figures in the distance. I have taken many photos over the course of
this trip, but not so much of the mountains because I feel their majestic
qualities are too great to be seen on film. Definately something to be seen
with your own eyes when they are right in front of you in person. These are
something Scituate certainly does not have, along with many other things we
have come across on this adventure!
The day began
with a long metro ride into the city of Bilbao. We got off the train at Abando
and took a short walk over to the City Hall of Bilbao. We entered the building
and began our short tour. The first thing we got to see was the Coat of Arms
hanging at the top of the stairs. There was one for the City of Bilbo, one for
the Mechants Guild and one for the House of Austria. These coats of arms were
moved here from the old city hall buildings. We then walked up the stairs to
see the Arabic Hall. This hall was built with an Arabic style, similar to halls
built in southern Spain. After taking a look outside from the balcony, we
continued to walk through he halls and see paintings of former mayors. We then
saw the mayor´s office. Finally, and most importantly, we saw the Plenary hall.
After our trip
to the city hall, we walked along the River of Bilbao until we could see the
Guggenheim Museum. Along the walk we had to guess what the museum looked like.
Most guesses were way off, until we actually saw the museum. Everyone knew
right away that it looked like a boat on the river. We walked around front to
see the giant puppy statue. We all took pictures around the puppy and had the
opportunity to walk around for lunch. After lunch, we all entered the museum
and saw many pieces of art. I think the most interesting part was all of the
optical illusions on the first floor. They all made us feel like we were
walking around in circles for a long time, when we really only moved about five
feet. After this, we continued to walk around the museum until we were ready to
leave. We took the metro home and arrived to an amazing lunch.
Yesterday, (Wednesday) our day trip was to the Ayuntamiento, or town hall, of
Bilbao, and to the Guggenheim museum. The difference between the Ayuntamiento of Bilbao, and the Diputación of Bilbao that we saw earlier in the
week, and which is also a kind of town hall, is that the ayuntamiento is
specifically to govern over the city of Bilbao, as opposed to the entire
province. The building itself was very beautiful, with enormous marble
staircases, bronze chandeliers, and stained glass on the inside, and tons of
intricate architecture on the outside. After a brief tour of the
building, we walked up the street to see a panoramic view of the Guggenheim
from across the river.
The building itself is a huge structure of titanium,
steel, and glass that is made to mimic the shape of a ship. Since it was
about noon, we dispersed for a quick lunch, and then met by the ¨puppy¨,a
giant flowered statue of a dog, for our tour.
I personally very much
appreciated the architecture and design of the building itself, but the modern
art inside didn't really do it for me: some I found interesting, but in general
I much prefer a museum of fine arts like we will see on Friday over the type of
art we saw in the Guggenheim, but that is just my opinion. After our successful
excursion, and a very hot day besides, we all piled immediately onto the air
conditioned bus and journeyed back to our homes, and to the beaches, in Getxo.
Today we, among other adventures,
climbed 308 steps up a mountain in the Basque countryside.
Santimamine archeological site, we trekked our way up the path in order to see
one of the most well preserved homes of our own species from the Paleolithic
era. Before seeing the caves for ourselves, we experienced a virtual tour. With
the help of amplified recordings and 3D glasses,we were able to see the very
cave paintings that have provided anthropologists with clues into not just the
beginnings of the Basque people, but of our civilization as a whole.
visited the beach town of Mundaka. The sleepy atmosphere and sunny beaches made
for an incredible place to stop and eat lunch.
The cliffs and waves were
like nothing we have back home. Soon there after, we traveled to the town of
Guernica. There we spent time at the Assembly House and the Museum of Peace. We
visited the Tree of Guernica, a symbol of strength for the Biscay region.
the Museum of Peace we learned about the horrific bombings that took place at
the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. The stories hit close to home as
our minds wandered to family and friends in Boston.
It was a great reminder of
the incredible safety and good fortune we've experienced while in Spain. After
today, we were all a little bit prouder of ourselves and of our Basque
counterparts, and of what this exchange promotes: discovery,
communication, and understanding. Bringing together two cultures that have an
entire ocean between them.
Monday April 15: A Day in Bilbao Greetings from
Bilbao everyone! No, I mean literally greetings from Bilbao because the Spanish
exchange group visited there today. Altogether, the trip to Bilbao was very
culturally enhancing, which was the main goal of the excursion I would imagine.
So our daily experience goes as follows: after gathering at the school Julio
Caro Baroja we caught the Metro at Algorta station (the station closest to the
school) and headed out of Getxo. We got off the Metro Moyua station in Bilbao
and saw the brand new library there with many different languages.
Later we made
our way to the Diputación; meaning the regional government building and had a
tour of that fabulous building. We learned many fun facts about the building
itself and the way government was run in Pais Vasco. For example the money from
the Basque Country goes to Madrid each year but only a small amount because the
Basque people would like to be as independent as possible from Madrid.We also
learned that the representation for Vizcaya/Bizkaia which is part of the Basque country
will always be shown as a lady. After this tour we had a short break in which
most of us went to eat our lunches.
After lunch we
reconvened for the second of the tours this one being a two hour long tour of Old Bilbao on the other side of the river. This tour was in English so that we
could understand more of what was being said and therefore get more out of the
tour itself. We learned a lot about Old Bilbao such as the town's two main
occupants were either fishermen or miners. The fisherman lived on one side of
the river and the miners on the other.
We also learned that Saint Nicholas is
the saint of the Sailors which we all found interesting considering that we are
the Scituate Sailors so it was something that we could relate to.
After the tour
and two hours of free time which most used to shop for gifts in Bilbao we headed
back to Getxo via the Metro some of the group having to disembark at different
stops depending on where their host families lived, but we all made it home
safely which is the most important part.
Welcome Partieshave a special value. But if the weather is good, then it helps a lot. On this occasion we had lovely sunny spring weather. Parents, students and teachers prepared the party and we had a great group of Basque people who played and danced typical Basque music.
It was such a beautiful day that we were able to use the garden at school for the picnic.
Today, 12th April 2013, our American friends have been welcome by the Principal of Julio Caro Baroja High school.
Then have been walking along the city as far as the Town Hall, where they have had an official reception.
Not so early as in the previous days did we go to Museo Reina Sofía.
We took the underground to go from Gran Via to Atocha Renfe. We watched the modern station and saw the AVE, the fastest train in Spain (300 km per hour); then we visited the old station with its beautiful garden and lots of stands.
Once in Reina Sofía, we observed the different tendencies of modern Spanish paintings, but we especially spent our time watching "Gernika" by Piccaso, and other paintings by Miró, Dalí...
At 14:00 p.m. we took the coach to Burgos, the Spanish teacher's birth city, a very beautiful city on our way to Bilbao where, as everybody should know, there is one of the most beautiful cathedrals of Spain, if not the most.
And at 20:30 sharp, we arrived at IES Julio Caro Baroja, after watching Bilbao from the highway for the first time, where our Spanish/Basque families were impatiently waiting for us.
"After a much needed 8 hour sleep, we awoke to eat a buffet style breakfast in the Tryp Hotel. Spanish breakfasts seem to be a lot more meat-based than carbohydrate-based like in the US. Our first destination in the morning was the renowned Prado Museum. Everywhere we looked the architecture was breathtaking.Carlos, patiently, explained the history of democracy in Spain as we passed
El Congreso de los Diputados on our left.
Before entering El Prado, we took a group picture with the statue of one of our favourite Spanish artists, Velázquez. In El Prado, we had a lovely tour guide who explained to us the significance of a lot of famous works, such as Las Meninas. We learned about Velázquez last year in school. It was cool to see the real painting. It was much bigger than we imagined!
Just when we thought our feet could not hurt any more, we took a walk in a park. The gardens were so well pruned, without a leaf out of place. One of the highlights of the park were the trees that looked like broccoli.
As we reached the lake in the center of the park we decided to rent a row boat in the pound. The sky was cloudy, but the water was clear enough to see the enormous fish beneath the surface. Other Spaniards on row boats were really friendly.
Then, we took a two hour break for lunch.
Carlos claimed that every Spanish person is a little crazy, so we had to stop by the statue of their literary embodiment, Don Quixote.Wherever we go with Carlos, other tourists stop to listen to his stories. Our next stop was the Egyptian ruins, which were moved to Spain to preserve them from a flood. We didn´t expect to experience two distinct cultures in one city.
One of the most culturally enriching experiences we have had thus far was a Flamenco spectacular we saw at night in Tablao Cardamomo.
The loud music and stomping kept everyone on their toes. It looked like the dancers were in pain, but that is just part of the expression of the dance. As we headed back to the hotel, our instinctual caution was confirmed. Our innocent group fled when they saw a car of masked thieves break into a building. Even though we saw something that made us question our safety, we feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity to visit such a beautiful and historic city.
We want to thank Carlos for showing us all that we love about Madrid and staying patient with us along the way. Mrs. Lima, Mrs. Cuilla and Mr. Roberts made the day just as unforgettable.
It is so difficult to leave a city that we just got to know, but we are excited for our next adventure!"