Wednesday, March 22, 2017

China - Day 5

The China Trip is still having difficulty with the Great Chinese Firewall, so they only have pictures to offer for now.  I will update these entries when I receive the text.

Eastern Europe, Day 6: Krakow

   Our second day in Krakow began early at 7AM sharp. Following a quick breakfast at the hotel, we left promptly at 8 and got on the bus to go to the salt mines. Our journey into the mines covered 3 km of walking and 135 m of vertical change. Following another bus ride and a quick lunch at a local cafe, we went on a self-guided tour of Oskar Schindler's factory. On the tour we learned all about the history of Krakow during the time of Nazi occupation. After a tram ride and walk we arrived at the Wawel Castle and Cathedral. At the castle we went on a tour and then took a look around the cathedral. Following some free time we enjoyed an excellent dinner then returned to the hotel very tired. This concluded a busy and very exhausting day in Krakow. ~Turner Gray

Heading down, down into the old salt mine at Wieliczka
In Oskar Schindler's office

Admiring Oskar

Strolling into Wawel Palace

Eastern Europe, Day 5: Overnight Train & Krakow

   So, we boarded our overnight train around 11 PM, piled into our compartments, three berths each, and woke up in Krakow after an interesting night of track noises and train rocking. Some of us slept like babes, while others tossed restlessly, but I guess that goes without saying.
Julia in concert at the train station, Prague
Then, we introduced ourselves to old Krakow, shopped for souvenirs, and enjoyed Polish dishes like pierogi and kielbasa. Yum!
Portraits in the Old Town Market Square, Rynek Glowny

   After we checked into our hotel and took showers, we took the tram to the Jewish quarter. We walked around for a little bit and learned about the history. Then, we took the tram to the central square and had dinner. After dinner we took the tram back to the hotel. Today was nice because we got to relax and explore Krakow at our own pace. ~Maddie Koch

Romania: Hold On To Your Garlic

This morning we all headed down for a breakfast filled with sweet sugary donuts and hot coffee. After admiring the beauty of the Romanian hills and valleys that surrounded us, we packed our bags and made our way toward the bus. It took about 25 minutes of driving down the twisty pavement before we reached the castle of Vlad the Impaler. We quickly toured the streets leading to the castle and walked up the steep hill. Inside, were gold crowns, old armory, and creepy torture devices. It was fascinating to see Bram Stohker's story come to life. 

After looking through the gift shop, we continued to buy little trinkets from the market vendors. Father Cavanaugh introduced us to a traditional Romanian dessert called, kurtos. A parked car quickly sped off into the distance and startled us all as we devoured our delicious snack. The group moved toward the bus and drove for what seemed like hours to a Serbian restaurant. Even though some felt car sick on the bumpy ride, we all enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. 

After lunch, we made a short 10 minute trip down the road to our next destination, Peles castle. It was the lavish summer palace for the former Romanian king and queen. It was beautiful but extremely hot inside. We all had to wear shoe covers to keep the tile floors clean. The tour was quick but eventful. Each room mixed different European styles. 

We then walked down a hill which was lined with venders selling various handmade nick-nacks. Everyone loved playing with an energetic german shepherd puppy that roamed the sidewalk to kill time. We drove the bus to Carrefour, which is similar to Costco to spend the rest of our lei. We bought candies and other Romanian sweets along with some toys to give back to the community. We enjoyed our ice cream as we completed our trip back to Pro Vita where we were greeted with hugs and kisses from the kids. We washed up, ate dinner, and played outside with the children with some of the new soccer balls we had purchased at Carrefour. After reviewing our adventurous and fun filled day, we headed off to bed only to see what the next day had in store for us!

Rae Parsons, Annabeth Howton & Andrew Kiama

Spanish Exchange- Toledo

Today was the day we went to Toledo with all of the Spaniards. I started off my day without a bloody nose (which I've had 3 days in a row), so I hope the series of nose bleeds have stopped (knock on wood). To start off our visit in Toledo, we walked in a big circle around the beautiful city. Although I almost got hit by a car multiple times, I really enjoyed looking around all of the city. I loved seeing the mountains and the cathedral. Then we finally got to split up and get a few hours of free time. I got to meet a bunch of other Spaniards from the school and spend the day exploring Toledo with them. Even though we wanted authentic Spanish cuisine, we ended up eating at a Burger King, but I ate the packed lunch from school. After our journey around the many shops in the city, we (the Americans) went inside of a synagogue. We were only there for 10 or so minutes, but I got a lot of good pictures. Speaking of pictures, we took a ton of group pictures. It was hard to gather 40 people to fit into a picture, especially because there were a lot of cars driving by and when Jared, being so tall, walked in front of you, and would block you from the cameras. We all came prepared for rain, but fortunately we missed the rain while we were in the city. We ended our trip by driving to a spot where we were able to take a panoramic of the city Toledo, and of course, we took one last group photo. I thought the view of the city was breath taking because of all of the mountains, water, buildings, and arches. My favorite part of our trip to Toledo was being able to spend time with the new friends I have made and trying red velvet ice cream (it was sooooo good).

Jenna Lindsey :)

Spanish Exchange- First Day of School

Some games with the 5th graders

Sam cheated!

Yesterday, we got to accompany our Spanish students to their school. Despite being on spring break, going to school always seems inevitable. I'm joking of course! The Colegio Villa de Griñón, despite being very different than SSSAS, is a charming school filled with delightful students and rigorous academics (from what I understood in class). After a speeding, heart clenching car ride to get to the school, my host family and I were running a little late, our group left our exchange students and went off on our own tour. Colegio Villa de Griñón has the equivalent of American grades K-12 and also a daycare center for young babies and toddlers similar to that of St. Stephen's. Our first stop on the tour was to the nursery to visit all the small children. Let's just say there was a lot of squealing and awing over the cuties that were there. We continued touring their facilities from the gymnasium, to their swimming pool, to their science classrooms, their jujitsu and dance rooms, and their tech lab. After our tour, we joined our Spanish students in their classroom. Unlike SSSAS they do not switch classrooms, only their teachers do. Anyways, I sat through physics class, history class, and English class that day. My favorite class out of the three was definitely history. Despite speaking a different language than I did, their teacher was very charismatic and passionate about the topic he was teaching. They were reviewing notes about the Spanish War of Independence in the late 1800's. It was quite interesting for I got to learn history of the world from a different perspective. I didn't pick up everything that he said, but I am proud to say that I am more knowledgable about the history of Spain than I was before this trip. Before lunch we got to participate in their foreign physical education class: swimming. While the Spanish students swam some swim test, Mede, Jared, Aron, Helen, and I got to mess around in the water with water polos balls in our, dare I say, attractive swim caps. We also had free time with the Spaniards in the pool which was spent laughing, tossing around the water polo ball, and splashing. Overall, the day we spent at Colegio Villa de Griñón was a fun experience that's am very glad I got to have.

Sam Kadlec

China - Day 4

The group in China is having trouble sending blog posts, but here is a picture of them at the summer palace!  Blog post on the way.