Family, friends matter most in Spain |

Family, friends matter most in Spain

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyEagle Valley High School students Nicole Wells, Kelsey Elwood, Hilary Henry, Maddy Green, Chad Strakbein, from left, and Becca Hanen, front, were among 23 Spanish students who spent 11 days in Spain last month soaking up the culture and trying their hardest to not be a tourist.

GYPSUM ” You’re never alone in Spain.

You eat constantly, and you eat well. You go out every night with family to play pool and dance. You take naps after school. All around, from morning to evening, you feel more relaxed.

Several students from Eagle Valley High School Spanish classes spent 11 days in Spain last month soaking up the culture and trying their hardest to not be a tourist. What they discovered was a culture that they’d like to incorporate into their own lifestyles in the states.

“It definitely gave us some perspective,” junior Caitlin Yarger said.

What exactly the students hope to bring back is hard to say. It was the way Spanish families spent more time together. It was how Spanish people made strangers feel welcome. It was how food was an event, something to be savored and not wolfed down in a McDonalds. It was how socializing seemed to take center stage during a day.

“They’re not so uptight,” junior Chad Strakbein said. “There’s no awkwardness when you talk to them. No ice breakers are needed.”

Feeling welcome was definitely important to the students, who each spent four days living with a Spanish family without any of their school friends from home. For those four days, they ate with the families, went to school with the kids and spoke a lot of Spanish, which was a big point of the trip. Students received a trimester of Spanish credit for participating.

“We learned so much Spanish, and the families really helped us,” junior Teresa Peterson said. “They were excited about learning English too, so we helped them with that.”

After a few days with their host families, the observations piled up:

Phones are seldom used. If you want to see what your friends are doing, it’s common just to take a walk to their house and find out.

The Simpsons in Spanish is still funny, and junior Lauren Schmidt bonded with one girl over the hit show “Prison Break.”

Gasoline is expensive, and the cars are tiny. The students maybe saw two SUVs the entire trip. House lights are used only when the sun is completely down. Students would feel guilty if they accidentally left a light on.

“If it’s not needed, they don’t use it,” Strakbein said.

People like to talk in Spain, and there are rarely lulls in conversation. Families go out together every evening for a few hours to eat a little, drink a little and see friends. Regular bedtimes are between 1 and 2 a.m.

“It’s a social culture,” Schmidt said. “I’d want to bring that back, be more social here.”

School is still school, but the buildings seem very old, the walls are bare, all the students learn English and snacking is common between classes. You can expect to take a nap and have a gigantic lunch when you get home around 3 p.m.

Students at the schools seemed very interested in their American visitors, asking them several questions and often asking them just to start speaking in English so they could hear how the language works.

The food in Spain was much more colorful and flavorful than back home ” something the students could get used to.

Students noticed an abundance of meat, among over things. It was quite common to see large hams hanging in the windows of most restaurants and even in homes. Lunch was the largest meal.

Then of course there were the tapas, or small plates of food that are eaten in the evenings. They tried things like meat balls, calamari, marinated anchovies, raw seafood salads, and the famous Spanish tortillas, which are kind of like big, flat omelets with potatoes and cheese.

They became familiar with paella, a famous dish made of rice and seafood.

“Everything seemed healthier, everything was fresh,” Strakbein said.

Even name brand snack foods are different. They noticed Lays potato chips, but they had odd flavors like bell pepper, onion and ham. They had Fanta soda there, but it was made with real juices.

Much of the trip was spent seeing the sights in different cities, both known and unknown, Spanish teacher Gretchen Gerleman said.

The students visited Madrid, Seville, Granada, and Murcia. They saw ancient palaces and castles, art museums filled with Picasso and Salvador Dali paintings, old churches, an Easter procession and a rollicking falmenco show.

The kids also participated in a scavenger hunt of sorts, where they had to find street performers, certain tapas and statues off the beaten path.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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