Hiking La Majada de La Pedriza

Written by Jordan Blackwell ’18 to recount Thursday, March 16, 2017:

Today we went on a hiking excursion ​to La Majada de La Pedriza. ​The view was amazing. The long and exhausting hike had great rewards at​ ​​the top where we were able to see streams from the ice caps, different rocks, and even mountain goats! Our guide presented many obstacles on our trail and helped make our last excursion very enjoyable.

Today capped off what​ has​ been a remarkable two weeks for our group!

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Puzzles, Fencing, and Soccer: A Day at CEM

Written by Zach Minor ’18 to recount Tuesday, March 14, 2017:

We started the day off as usual as we all caught each other up on the events from the previous afternoon and night. After that we accompanied our hosts to their first class of the day. We found ourselves understanding Spanish a little better as we could relate the words to those of English when we went to math class with our hosts. After math class we all went to a Spanish class and had a little lesson about greetings. Next, we went back to our hosts classes which for everyone was technical drawing. It was interesting to be in the class as we all watched them learn how to draw cubes with pictures of sides that they had to put together. It was like a little puzzle that they had to solve and created some great conversations as we all worked with our hosts to continue developing our bond.

A “friendly” game of basketball ensued at the school’s 30 break. More classes followed until lunch where we further assimilated into their culture by eating more Spanish cuisine. Following lunch we had the privilege to learn fencing from a teacher. We all had fun with the sport and had a little tournament with teams of 5 which resulted in Jordan, Alex, Griffith, Xander, and Zach’s winning. The fencing lesson resulted in everyone having fun and enjoying the time with each other after spending time in the classroom.

Our time after school was fun as everyone came together to watch Josh practice with the Spanish soccer team and to cheer him on while talking and enjoying the time with each other. Days like this will last in all of our minds as we got to hang out and have fun with the sunset in the background.

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Visiting Toledo

Written by Mila Colizza ’18 to recount Monday, March 13, 2017:

Although temperatures were predicted to hit 60° F in Toledo today, the wind chill combined with an overcast sky and occasional bursts of rain made for cold weather. Hiking boots and a winter jacket turned out to be good wardrobe choices for this journey, especially as the streets grew steeper. That said, no amount of biting weather could detract from the beauty of the historic city as our bus pulled up for a panoramic view. We drove down the left bank of the Río Tajo where it curves around red-roofed homes and stretches out to meet the remains of the Toledo’s walls.

We entered on foot at one of the city’s two remaining historic gates, where we learned about how the puertas were strategically built for defense from foreign invaders. As we walked through the narrow cobblestone streets, we absorbed the layers of nearly two thousand years of culture. We saw Roman stones that had been repurposed in Visigoth structures and overlaid by Arabic architecture or Catholic imagery. We saw cathedrals built by Muslims with distinctive keyhole openings and our guide pointed out ceramic tiles marking the streets of the Jewish quarter. In America, there exists no such amalgam of cultures and religions. We have no historical sites that reach quite so deeply over so many centuries and so many people. The magnitude of it is awe-inspiring to say the least.

What interested me the most, however, is the juxtaposition of the ancient with the modern. As we stood admiring the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, which the Muslims built in 999 BCE, several motorcycles and cars zipped by. The plastic signs outside of touristy stores clattered in the breeze. Dogs barked at us from behind a grate. Everywhere I found harsh reminders that no matter how constant, how solid, how ancient Toledo seems, it is still susceptible to the interminable progress of human civilization; and, although the current public restrooms, for example, are an unfavorable and ­– I think we all agreed – unpleasant addition to Toledo’s living history, there is something about the city, the frilly shops selling plastic fans and mazapán and the vans winding their way through too-narrow alleyways, that draws me in. As humans of the twenty-first century, we are accustomed to only being semi-aware of our surroundings. We put our headphones in and keep an eye on our phone or we read a book for the hour-long bus ride, but Toledo commanded our full attention with all of its beauty and all of its imperfections.

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A Weekend in Madrid

The students enjoyed a weekend of various activities with their host families. Here are a few snippets to recount their weekend:

As a group we explored el parque del retiro and went boating. After we went to TGIFridays and enjoyed a meal watching Real Madrid’s rival FC Barcelona lose. (Zach Minor ’18)

It seems like I have gone shopping every day since I got to Madrid, and this weekend was no exception. When I asked Valeria, my exchange student, why there are so many malls here, she replied simply, “Because we like to shop.” (Mila Colizza ’18)


Over the weekend Leire, Valeria, Mila and I had two sleep overs. We went to the discoteca on Saturday, and on Sunday we celebrated Valeria’s birthday by going boat riding, going shopping, and having dinner at Friday’s. (Erica Washington ’18)

​We began our weekend with a Friday night slumber party where we ate cookies, lounged in our pajamas, and bonded with our Spanish hosts. The following morning we went our separate ways and got ready to head to Madrid for a Spanish discoteca. The discoteca is a common Saturday night activity for teenagers to gather and dance to popular songs. We had a blast listening to new songs and learning dance moves from our friends! (Aven Parker and Anna Mirovski ’18)

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A Day of Classes at CEM: Judo, Spanish lit, Dissection, and Flamenco

Written by Bascombe Traywick ’18 to recount Friday, March 10, 2017:

We realized this morning that today was our second to last day ​in classes ​at Colegio Europeo. We ​knew it was important to enjoy our time at the school and we did. When we first came to school this morning, we split up into Judo and Spanish literature classes.​ I​n Judo, Señor Daniel taught the class pins, submission holds, and throws​, and he used me as his partner​. ​As we learned more moves, ​JB tried to tackle me​, but he ​blocked his shot, got a front headlock and hit a standing gable to pin JB easily​ (or perhaps not so easily)​. ​Using his skills as a linebacker, ​JB exacted r​evenge​.​ Xander learned he need​ed​ to stick to soccer.

The other class watched and discussed a Spanish movie. After a study hall and a break, all the Americans went to a lab class taught by Mr. Jose Bañales. We dissected a fresh pig’s heart. Some classmates had to overcome their squeamishness, but everyone participated and learned more about the heart. ​After a brief introduction, we cut open the ventricles and found the valves, cardiac muscles, and all the chambers of the heart. Reagan even learned the true meaning of tugging on the heart strings, as the heart really does have some bands in it that look like strings. ​From ​12-2pm the group attended classes with our ​Spaniard hosts​.

Heart strings.

After lunch and recess, we began flamenco class, the highlight of the school day. It was taught by a student, Anatalia. The dance was difficult to learn, but once we got the hang of it, we had a great time.​ Anatalia also performed a dance for us, and we clapped wildly with appreciation at the end. It was so special of her to share her love of her country’s traditional dance. ​

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A Zipline Adventure

Written by Braden McMahon ’18 to recount Thursday, March 9, 2017:

Hola amigos!!! ​We spent our fifth day ​in Spain ​at the adventure park with our Spaniard host students! ​W​e began our day by meeting at the school dressed and ready to go for a day of fun! Our Spaniards out​-​shined us in a quick game of knockout and soccer in ​Colegio’s courtyard before the bus arrived. Our bus ride was filled with amazing views of the beautiful mountains and different parts of the c​ountryside​. We arrived at the park and took advantage of the view b​y ​taking lots of pictures! Once in the park, everyone put on their harnesses and ​received ​a briefing from one of the instructors. ​W​e all practiced unhooking and clipping to make sure we were well-prepared before we started our journey. We climbed and zipped our way through the trees and across a shimmering lake. After all five rope courses, we finished our excursion with a picnic ​of​ delicious sandwiches and pineapple juice provided by ​C​olegio. The bus arrived to picked us up and take us back to school. After our thrilling adventure, we ended our day outside enjoying the beautiful weather!

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A Day of Classes: Spanish History, Language, Judo, Cooking, and Art!

Written by Josh Gould ’18 to recount Wednesday, March 8, 2017:

We spent the day today at CEM. In the morning we went to a Spanish history class and learned about the mid-1900’s to current Spanish political history. We were shocked to see a picture of President Eisenhower with the Spanish dictator, Franco. ​Our teacher also explained how the country transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy under Alfonso Suarez. They have a king, but it’s a constitutional monarchy.​ To test our new knowledge we played KAHOOT!, a game which we also play in the US.

Our group then split up to attend either a Judo class, where many of us learned self-defense techniques, or a Spanish language class. In the language class we divided into groups to participate in a “What Am I? Game” where students tried to guess what other students were using only antonyms, synonyms, and homophones. While trying to play the game in Spanish was hard, we enjoyed the company of our fellow students.
Afterwards, we went to a Spanish cooking class where we learned how to make ‘Tortillas De Patatas’. It’s a mix of eggs, potatoes, and onions, with salt and olive oil. ​We hope to make some for our parents when we return as a thank you for this wonderful trip!​

After the cooking class, we split off into two groups to go to classes with our host students. Some students went to an English class while others attended a French class. Then we went to lunch, which was delicious. We had options of chicken, pizza, French fries and bread. After lunch we attended an art class with Señora Ruth. We made stamps out of recycled materials and paint. It was awesome. After the class we went and spent more time with our exchange students in class.

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First day at CEM

Today’s post, written by Reagan Richardson ’18, recounts Tuesday, March 7, 2017:

Today was our first day at Colegio Europeo de Madrid! To start off the day, we all went to the kitchen and the cafeteria served us churros with hot chocolate for breakfast. The churros came fresh out of the fryer and the hot chocolate is a lot thicker and richer than American hot chocolate. After breakfast we took a tour of the school. All of the classrooms have windows so we could see the teachers giving their lessons, which I thought was really cool. Afterwards, we had a 30 minute break outside at the basketball courts. Since the entire school has a break then, a lot of younger kids came up to us and asked us so many questions about America. We tried our best to answer them in Spanish, but we finally had to speak in English because they could not understand us. Next, we had a technology class with Señor Calvo. Since the school has ipads instead of computers, he showed us interactive apps that the school uses, including an app where you can see the human body by hovering a camera over a t-shirt. We also got to use virtual reality glasses, which are very disorienting. After his class, we went to lunch which consisted of chicken, deep-fried eggs, and a salad. I loved how we had an hour to eat. Since I am used to eating quickly at Norfolk Academy, a lot of Spanish students had to tell me to slow down. After lunch we played a game of futbol. Even though I wasn’t really that good at it, I still had fun trying to play. We had such a great time playing on the courts that before we knew it, it was the end of the day. I had so much fun at Colegio and I can’t wait for another day there tomorrow!

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First Day in Spain: Touring Madrid

This post, written by Alex Twelves ’18, recounts the group’s first full day in Spain, Monday, March 6, 2017:

On Monday​, March 6,​ the ​Spanish Exchange group ​met at Colegio ​Europeo ​de Madrid before going into the city. In Madrid, we ​started at the Royal Palace and its Cathedral, built in the 19th century, and walked to the Basilica Pontificia de San Niguel, built in the 13th century. The history of Spain is incredible. We continued to walk through the city, passing by Town Hall, Plaza del Sol​, and the Parliament. We had an early lunch, thanks to CEM, of pepperoni sandwiches, tortillas patatas, fruit, and water, before we entered the ​Museo Nacional del Prado, The Prado Museum. As we walked around the museum, we saw famous works by El Greco, Goya, and Velazquez. ​Some of us remembered a particular painting from Mr. O’s MEH class, Las Meninas, by Velazquez. ​We could appreciate the perspective of the artist’s work as we also were reminded of the different meanings: political, artistic, and reflective. ​Surprisingly, we ran into another Norfolk Academy family not on the Spanish Exchange, reminding us that our world is so small. After walking around the museum, we took to the streets again. Señor Bunn and Señora Hopkins gave us an opportunity to shop freely in small groups on Gran Via. We jumped into stores such as Adidas ​and Ale-Hop and peeked into a “futuristic​”​ McDonalds. After heading back to the schoo​​l​,​ part of the group played basketball while waiting for their host students. The group continued to go to the main mall in Madrid, where many American students were questioned by the Spaniards for being hungry at 7 o’clock. We shopped, ate, and hung out in the mall for a few hours before getting home at around 9 pm for a late dinner to conclude the day.

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Group heads to Madrid!

On Saturday afternoon, March 4, 2017, 19 students and 2 faculty leaders hopped on a plane and headed to Madrid. Please follow along on their adventure these next two weeks!

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