Thursday, March 28, 2013

Last night in Madrid...last dinner

Well, all good things must come to an end. Here is a picture of our final picture with our incredible tour guide, Kiko.

See you all stateside!

Last night in Madrid

Here we are, enjoying our last night in Madrid. Some of the kids want to stay, so I am not sure we will be coming back. (Just kidding!) The weather here is great, this afternoon we enjoyed visiting downtown Madrid. We did some shopping, enjoyed paellas, chocolate con churros and other iberic delicacies (so parents, do not worry, nobody is starving). Tomorrow, we will see you at 5pm at Reagan national. Please, check flight status just in case.
Mrs. Olatunji

Romania: Day 8

Our last day at Pro Vita was busy and fun filled. After breakfast, we finished up packing and prepared for our hike. The hike was actually more of scaling an 80 degree slope! The climb was worth it as the view was beautiful!

We enjoyed a hearty lunch and then explored the village one more time. Once the children were home from school, we played soccer in the snow, helped with homework and played with them.

Our last dinner together was delicious chicken, mashed potatoes and oranges. We are now preparing for a dance party with our new Romanian friends. And perhaps even a few hours of sleep before our 2 am airport departure!

See you all at the baggage claim tomorrow afternoon! As of now, our flights are on time!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In Granada

We are in Granada till tomorrow. Today, we walked around downtown and we visited the Catherdral where the Catholic kings, Ferdinand and Isabel are buried. Then, we walked around the amazing Alhambra with a tour guide. Sudents are all well and excited. Tomorrow we will depart to Madrid in the morning.

Pointe du Hoc

Our most knowledgeable guide, Karinne, described the exploits of the U.S. Army Rangers who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc to take out the large German guns.

Omaha Beach

At Omaha Beach, we braved the frigid wind and stepped back into histoire!

Romania: Day 7

Today we woke up and started to organize our bags for the trip home. After breakfast, we collected some firewood for the furnace and mopped the floors in the house.

After the chores were completed some of us had a snowball fight with a few of the young boys from the village who have really strong throwing arms! We had soup and potatoes for lunch and then played some card games. Just when we thought there was no more work to be done, Alex, our volunteer coordinator and, Melanie, the CEO came through with a job for the whole group. There was a house width 30 large crates filled with books that needed to be carried to the house that we had been painting for the last week. Our group eagerly began working on the daunting task with help from one of the residents. Alex told us that we did not need to finish today, but the Saints persevered as we finished trekking all 30 boxes and countless books through the cold snow and wet mud. When the work was done we went for a victory run up the steep 200 yard hill next to our house to catch a spectacular late afternoon view of the village, rolling hills and mountains from the church as snow began to fall over "Snow Vita" as we have come to call it.

We are resting up for dinner, bedtime and our last day in Valea Screzii.

In Granada

¡Hola! We're in the final stretch of our trip and everyone is having a great time. We started the day by singing Happy Birthday to Tyler (our third consecutive birthday this week...the other two were Joshua Briscoe and myself) and heading to downtown Granada for some free time/shopping. After lunch on our own, we headed to Grenada's main attraction: El Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. When the Christians reconquered this region Queen Isabel decided not to tear down this Arabic palace/fortress because it was so beautiful, as we were able to witness today. From El Alhambra you can see the city of Granada and the surrounding mountains in which the gypsies have excavated caves in which they still inhabit today. Some of us got to see a live flamenco show in one of the caves last night which was quite an experience!

Tonight we will enjoy dinner in a local restaurant and relax as we prepare to head back to Madrid tomorrow. I think I speak for all when I say that this has been an incredible experience.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The streets of Bayeux are quiet tonight in preparation for a huge World Cup qualifier in Paris between the previous World Cup champion Spain and a young French squad seeking redemption from a poor showing in the last Cup. I expected to see throngs of fans in the restaurants and bars in town but it is a veritable ghost town in this quiet burg in the Normandy region of France. In class today Mirza predicted a comfortable win by our neighbors to the west, which drew peals of derisive mocking laughter from the french "corresponants" in the room. No need to worry about Mirza hurting US-Franco relations, though, as he has built up a reservoir of good will by carrying around his correspondant,Anatole, on his back throughout the campus. Don't worry Mom we are encouraging him to lift with his knees!

Normandy Exchange 2013

Our ten Normandy exchange students arrived safe and sound in Bayeux, France, on Friday, and spent a fun-filled weekend immersed in the French language and culture of Normandy!  On Monday, they spent the morning attending classes with their French "correspondants."  Later in the day, they viewed the spectacular Bayeux Tapestry as well as the magnificent cathedral!

Romania: Day 6

We awoke to more falling snow and a beautiful layer covering Pro Vita (see picture below). Our breakfast consisted of Romania style French toast and cereal.

After breakfast, we bundled up and headed outside for snowball fights and snowman making. Afterwards, some students finished painting while others helped take pictures of all the Pro Vita residents. After a lunch of bean soup, tomatoes and bread, we napped and fully thawed out!

Our afternoon was spent playing games such as Apples to Apples, rummy and Settlers of Catan.

Currently, some students are milking cows, hiking or helping prepare dinner. We are excited to enjoy the special Romania apple cake that are students helped prepare for desert.

To Córdoba

After 3 days in scenic Sevilla we are headed to Córdoba this morning. Below are some pictures of some of the things we did while in Sevilla. They include: more Flamenco pictures, pictures from a bull fighting ring, a picture from one of the many Holy Week processions and pictures of students enjoying typical Spanish food.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Romania: Day 5

Another day touring the province of Transylvania. Everyone gathered in the hotel dining room for a filling breakfast complete with Romanian spreads, which a few ventured to try. Our hearty breakfast prepared us for a trek up to medieval fortress built on a much older Dacian site. The students really enjoyed the view from above as well as the shops selling toy weapons and souvenirs.

Stop number two brought us to the town of Bran, home of Dracula's castle. As we wound through the rooms and secret staircases, we learned that Bram Stoker's Dracula was actually something of a Robin Hood/ national hero to the Romanian people repelling the Turks. The museum did not feature too much about the impaling part, but apparently ghost hunters sometimes sleep there overnight! We wound up our time in Bran with some souvenir shopping and lunch at an Armenian restaurant.

To conclude the trip, we drove to the beautiful town of Brasnov, home to the Black Church and a classic European town square complete with a clock tower. Everyone explored the pedestrian streets and picked up a little snack- some chose local pastries, others chose KFC and/ or McDonalds. Finally we dropped by Carrefour (akin to a Walmart or a Target) to check out the scene and pick up snacks for a party with all the children at the end of our stay. Since some individuals had extra lei to spend, the group had the idea to purchase some school supplies to bring back to Pro Vita. Our bus driver brought us home safely over the mountain pass and even through a little snow at the end. Marian, our Pro Vita watch guard, told us upon our return that Romania is in a "code yellow snow situation", but he explained that Pro Vita is tucked into a valley that won't really receive any accumulation to speak about because the clouds hang around the surrounding mountaintops.

Until tomorrow!

Semana Santa processions

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Saints enjoy Semana Santa in Sevilla

Today we had a long and beautiful Domingo de Ramos (palm Sunday) in Sevilla. We started with a guided tour at the Alcazar, a beautiful palace where Muslim and Catholic influences interact. Our tour guide was very impressed by our students desire to speak Spanish!She said that in her 35 years of being a guide, she never met a group that having the possibility to hear the tour in English had asked her to do it in Spanish. After that, we enjoyed a boat ride along the Guadalquivir, a flamenco museum with a lesson and show, and a delicious dinner. Coming back to the hotel we encountered the Semana Santa processions, something very unique. Now, I am in the hotel lobby blogging and everybody else is in their rooms gathering energy for tomorrow. All I can say is that Mr. Gilbert, our guide, and I are really proud of these 20 young folks. So far, they have been very respectful of schedules and rules and they are super flexible. AMAZING GROUP! Hasta mañana!

Romania: Day 4

Sunday morning in Romania meant church time! After breakfast we walked up the road into the town area of Valea Screzii. This week church was in the smaller of the two buildings, which measured approximately 10 rows by 6 seats. Since we were only attending the last quarter of the 4+ hour service, we watched from the back. This proved interesting as we could watch the other latecomers light an offering and tracking their family prayer list.

After church we walked to the end of town to view the entire village from above and take a group photo. The walk home was quick and we grabbed a quick bowl of soup before jumping into the bus for our travel portion of the trip.

As we wound into the hills of Transylvania, everyone grew excited to watch the landscape turn snowy and castles appeared. Today we visited Peles, which was home to the first royal family of the kingdom of Romania. We had an excellent tour guide!

Tonight we are staying at Vlahia Inn near Brasov. We had a delicious dinner with traditional fare, dessert and even musical accompaniment from a local!

While we are having fun touring, the group is very eager to return to Pro Vita and play!

Signing out...


Just finished a Flamenco lesson...about to watch a show. More pix to come!

Day 2: Saints in Spain

Today we toured a beautiful cathedral and learned about the great influence left here by the Arabs. We quickly rushed to a boat tour where we were able to enjoy another view of Sevilla. Everyone was hungry after the boat tour so we ate a lunch that consisted of a wide variety of delicious tapas.

This evening's activities include a flamenco class and watching parts of the Palm Sunday procession taking place here in Sevilla.

More pictures coming soon!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Romania: Day 3

After a quiet night's rest, we ate breakfast and went out for a tour of the village. During our walk, a truck filled with 15 pallets of cement bags was being unloaded, which we eagerly lent a helpful hand. After unloading 36,000 lbs of dry cement with great teamwork and a little help from a fork lift, we walked back to our house for lunch. When our bellies were filled, we went back to work. Some students spent time with the orphans while another crew walked to a newly constructed home where they painted two bedrooms. After that it was time for some fun, so a group of students played in a muddy pickup soccer game with the young boys from the village. When everyone was tired and the sun began to go down, we ate dinner and then settled down with a movie from Marion and surprise crepes made by Veureka. It was a proud day to be a Saint.

In Spain!

We arrived at 8 AM but are just now getting wifi. All is good and we're headed to Sevilla in an hour!

Friday, March 22, 2013

We're Here!

After a fairly turbulent flight that led to an hour or so delay of dinner, we dined on fine airplane food and promptly fell asleep a few minutes afterwards. Our layover and flight from Frankfurt to Bucharest allowed us to stretch our legs (i.e. terminals at opposite ends of airport) but was otherwise uneventful. At the arrival gate, we were greeted by a smiling Mihail, who had hired a bus for us to travel to Valea Screzii. The bus driver made a pit stop to pick up some bread sticks in the shape of rings all tied together on a piece of twine.

When we arrived at the orphanage, it was a reunion with old friends for Ms. Stone and Ms. English and a meeting of new friends for the Romania newbies. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner together featuring pizza, salad and soup prepared by Melanie and Veureka. Students and chaperones are now settling in and unpacking. We are definitely going to bed early tonight and will be sleeping in tomorrow.

Talk to you then!

Saints in Spain

At BWI before connecting at JFK. We will arrive in Madrid at about 7:30 am Spain time. Stay tuned!

Hasty luego :-)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Romania, Here We Come!

We checked in and made it through security without a problem. The students have settled into the terminal and most elected to have one last "American" meal of chipotle or five guys.

Our flight is delayed 30 minutes, which has allowed for a few more runs to get candy and water.

Just a few more minutes to boarding!

Signing off for now,
Ms. Stone