Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cultural Field Trip to Hospitalet de l'Infant

Every October, all secondary students in Spain go on a three-day "Cultural Field Trip" where they are to engage in some aspect of their country's culture, be it museums, the outdoors, or the history.  

At our high school, we split our middle and high school students into three separate groups, and each headed off to a different part of Spain. I chaperoned the middle school field trip to Hospitalet de l'Infant along the Costa Dorada, a beach resort town 140km south of Barcelona. As the name translates to Baby Hospital, an eerie name for a town, I researched its origin and learned that in 1346, Peter IV ("infant Pere") and his mother Blanca d'Anjou instituted an old hospital here which bore this name. It was built to shelter wayfarers and pilgrims.  

We saw no hospital. Only a deserted beach resort town that was probably thronged with people all summer long.

The whole concept of the cultural field trip reminded me of outdoor education in the States.  In Spain, there are government-owned facilities set up solely for such trips which consist of student dorms, a cafeteria, and a full-time staff to lead the activities. The activity leaders are called Monitor/as. They are in their early 20s and during the summer are exuberant experiential educators. In the winter, they work different seasonal jobs.  Sounds like my four years doing seasonal outdoor education in Montana, and then piecing together various odd jobs to get me through each winter... supermarket cake decorator, substitute teacher, violin shop assistant, climbing gym instructor. 

Anyway, now that I am no longer the 20-year-old dripping with enthusiasm for my campers, I am that 30-something-year-old teacher who drops her students off, and enjoys sitting back and watching them have fun.  These kids spent three days bodyboarding, sailing, playing beach volleyball and soccer, and sea-kayaking. The weather was stellar for October.

While the students were in their activities, my fellow teachers and I enjoyed the outdoor cafes along the beach, and walks through town. I got lots of work done, took some photos, got a little sketching in, swam some, and bonded with staff lots. This was by far the most chill chaperone experience I have ever had. Middle schoolers are great at exhausting themselves during the day so that the entire dorm is quiet by midnight.  The worst we had to worry about were kids sneaking candy into their rooms. I even got to watch a middle school dance, which is always a plus.




Weeks said...

I am totally loving your blog and laughed out loud at the middle school dance comment. Watching a middle school dance (at least in my experience) is painful. So awkward ;)
Your pictures are great! As a teacher of Spanish as a foreign language, I'm so fascinated by Catalán. How is that going? Easy to learn? When will you be back in the states?

Ms. Simpson said...

I am fascinated by Catalan, too, but all the people I have met in my different circles speak Castillian. So I find myself getting totally confused, and now I answer in a weird mixture of the two languages. I think I need to learn to shop and order food in Catalan, and socialize in Castillian. Everyone says Catalan is much more difficult than Catalan, but learning ANY romance language is way easier than learning Turkish. It's a really cool sounding language. You can really hear the French influence.