Sunday, July 3rd
Students had breakfast at the hotel and were in the lobby ready to head out of Madrid by 9:30, although it was a little later due to some delayed flights and students arriving later than scheduled. Once we were on the road, we (Month 2) had a nice bus to ourselves! Students entertained themselves the entire way — either by listening to music, reading, playing card games, and lots of chatting! It was a hot and sunny day in Segovia, and we toured the Aqueduct as well as the Gothic-style, Roman Catholic cathedral in Segovia. There, near the cathedral and Plaza Mayor, students had free time for lunch. After lunch, we sang happy birthday (again) to Carson who turned 16! We made our way to the bus, loaded up and headed north through beautiful northern Spain. We arrived to San Sebastian and our homestay families were there and waiting for us outside the Renfe train station. Students matched up with their homestay families and went off to settle into their homes for the next month!
Monday, July 4th
This morning was our first day at Lacunza, the language school where Month 2 students are taking Spanish classes. We began at 8:30 this morning (which is earlier than usual) because they needed to take a placement test. After the placement tests, students began class! They have class from 9:30-11:00, and then have a 30-minute break. After that, they have their second session from 11:30-2:00. At 2:00, we meet each day to go over announcements for the evening’s activities before students break in different directions. After they leave school, students have time for lunch (either with their homestays, or some of their families send them with a sack lunch in the mornings) and free time. Our activity for today was a walking tour of the city center of San Sebastian. We met at Kursaal near Boulevard Gelateria, and Casey led a wonderful walking tour down the river to point out the 3 main bridges (helpful landmarks), Catedral Buen Pastor, some main shopping streets, Boulevard, Playa Concha, Ayuntamiento, Parte Vieja and we ended at Plaza Gipuzkoa. After that, students were either picked up by their homestays or made their way home for dinner and rest!
Tuesday, July 5th
Students had class from 9:30-2:00, and then the afternoon activities were a visit to Museo San Telmo (free on Tuesdays!) and a pintxo tour in Parte Vieja – yum!
Wednesday, July 6th
Students were in class from 9:30-2:00, and then had a choice between going to the cinema to see Buscando a Dory or going kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. The group was split almost evenly and both groups enjoyed their activities. The movie was in Spanish (no subtitles) which was really good listening comprehension practice!
Thursday, July 7th
Students were in class from 9:30-2:00 and then had a choice of taking a surf class or a dance lesson. Students who chose dance met earlier and danced for 2 hours! Students who chose to surf met at 6 and surfed until 8. Both groups seemed to learn a lot and were tired after each activity. Curfew was earlier tonight since we have such an early morning tomorrow!
Friday, July 8th
Excursion to Pamplona for Fiestas de San Fermin! We met at the Renfe train station at 5:15 AM, and were loaded onto the bus and got on our way to Pamplona at 5:35. It was an early morning and a busy day, but it was packed with all sorts of interesting Spanish culture, fiestas and beautiful countryside! We were with Month 1 the entire day so we were quite a large group. We arrived to the bus station in Pamplona where we unloaded and started walking to the Plaza de Toros. It was quite a task to all stay together but we managed! Most everyone was in the spirit, dressed in white and red for San Fermin. We walked to the Plaza de Toros and were seated by 7:40. The encierro (running of the bulls) begins promptly at 8am and they (the bulls and the crazy people who run with them) enter the Plaza de Toros just a few minutes later. San Fermin begins every year with the chupinazo on July 6th and noon. The first encierro is always at 8am on July 7th and it took the bulls 2 minutes to arrive to the Plaza de Toros. The second encierro was one of the longest ones – and that all depends on whether the bulls make circles, go backwards, get sidetracked, etc. It lasted 6 minutes! After they all entered and passed through the Plaza de Toros, we then watched the “mock bullfights” with vaquillas – I believe there were 6 in total (which is how many bulls fight in the evening) and they came out one by one. There were lots of mixed feelings and emotions watching humans taunting animals and seeing people get injured — definitely not for the weak stomachs. We left the Plaza de Toros after that ended and walked to a little cafe for breakfast — a delicious, not-so-nutritious, breakfast of churros y chocolate! After that, we walked back to the Plaza de Toros and walked the route of the encierro in reverse order. Bars and cafes were starting to crank up but the streets weren’t too packed at that time (9:30/10:00) so it was a good time to take a big group of foreign teenagers through the streets of Pamplona during San Fermin! We ended at where the encierro begins (bull pens) and students had a little bit of free time to shop and buy some souvenirs. By chance, we got to see the children’s encierro which was so nice to see after watching the real one earlier this morning. Children (many with their parents and holding hands) ran while “bulls” charged the streets…the bulls were simply the head of a bull on a wheel barrel. Very easy to watch that kind of light-hearted encierro!
After we finished in Pamplona, we walked back to the bus station and loaded up on our bus and headed to a small little town (like, tiny…only between 100-150 people) in the mountains for lunch. The town was called Guerendiain, and we had a typical lunch at a local restaurant (maybe the only restaurant there?). After our 3 course lunch, we walked a little bit through the town, observed what small town mountain living might be like, enjoyed the beautiful green scenery & flowers in the balconies of homes, and enjoyed seeing the ponies and horses! After that, we were all ready for a siesta, so we loaded up on the bus and headed back to San Sebastian, which was only about an hour away. After we arrived back to SS, students were free for the rest of the afternoon/evening…they could go home, take a real siesta, have dinner with their home stays, and enjoy a Friday evening in San Sebastian!
Saturday, July 9th
After such a busy day yesterday, today we had a pretty low-key day. We met at 11:00 am at Plaza Gipuzkoa — both Month 1 and 2. We did an activity where students were in pairs or groups of 3 and had different tasks to complete — anywhere between 6-9 tasks. All the tasks were geared to helping students dig deep to learn firsthand about Spanish/Basque culture, language, food through interactions with locals on the streets, in plazas, etc. Students used lots of Spanish and seemed to enjoy the activity! We finished by 2, and after that, we had free time.
Sunday, July 10th
Free time in San Sebastian – que suerte tienen estos chicos!