Here is some insight into a Servas member’s trip to Spain:
“As always, the Servas welcome mat made my transition to life in a new country a seamless one. Maria, my host in Barcelona, is a senior physician in charge of an Alzheimer’s unit in a large community health center. Maria, who’s English, is very fluent, is preparing to take the TOEFL exam – a test of English language proficiency for foreigners seeking university entry or employment in the English-speaking world…”just in case”…
The day after my delayed arrival, I made a one hour Power Point presentation about Elder Rehab, the Alzheimer treatment research program I created and directed at the University of Arizona from 1997-2001. The explanatory slides were all in Spanish, as were the captions on the many photos illustrating the elderly participants with Alzheimer’s doing a variety of physical exercises, recreational activities, and volunteer work in the company of their respective student partners. After the presentation, we headed for the beach, where we had a late lunch at Maria’s favorite seaside restaurant. We shared a great salad, a bucket of steamed mussels, and a platter of fried shrimp so tender you ate the shells and all! Barcelona’s vast and inviting beachfront, created with imported sand, for the 1992 Olympics, is maintained by the municipality at all cost of 2 million Euros per year. With its attractive promenade, open air eateries, and paddle wielding ball players, it could have been Tel Aviv, except for the topless sunbathers!
I spent two evenings with Maria and her friends – one at a meeting and potluck supper with a Christian prayer group she belongs to, the other on a spooky tour of Barcelona’s wax museum
in the company a married couple and their two young teenage sons. I spent one day on one of those “hop on, hop off” narrated tour buses, which gave me a good overview of the city. I got off to tour the inside of Gaudi’s famous residence La Pedrera, the Catalan Museum of Contemporary Art, and a magnificent botanical garden on Montjuic (Mountain of the Jews) so named because of the reputed presence of an ancient Jewish cemetery (whereabouts unknown., as far as I could tell!) The garden had incredible stands of cactus plants from all over the world, including some from Texas, Mexico, and Arizona.
Happily, I was in Barcelona on a Sunday where groups of friends gather on the plaza in front of Gaudi’s spectacular Familia Sagrada church to dance the Sardonas, a traditional Catalonian circle dance to the rhythm of several different bands which take turns playing. Disappointingly, I was NOT in Barcelona on a Thursday, when a half-day cooking class at the famous Boqueria Market takes place.
On Tuesday, the 18th, I bid goodbye to Maria and boarded a bus for the 7 1/2 hour trip to Madrid. The ride was a relaxing segue to the next part of my adventure – a brief visit with my Servas host, Pilar – and the start of my week long gig as an “Anglo” conversation partner to a series of Spaniards eager to improve their English.”
Sharon, Servas Traveler