#2 Spain/Italy, June 24, 2005

Dear Everybody,

The week at ¨camp¨was exactly what I expected except that the food was even better than I thought it might be. Each day was similar, starting with breakfast at 9:00, followed by four hours of one on one sessions, or group activity. Lunch with good red Spanish wine, was served at 2:00 followed by free time (often a nap) until 5:00. From 5 to 9 we had four more hours of one on one talking sessions or a group activity. One day my assignment was to spend three hours with five others, composing and rehersing a skit which we presented to the whole group that evening.

Dinner, with more good wine, was at 9:00 except for a special dinner on Monday night which was at 10:00 with a party following. The idea was ¨bonding¨I would say, but the outcome was more like ¨fatigue.”

The stone village where we lived was called Valdelavilla. It was abandoned in the ´60s and revitalized by the local government for tourism in the 90´s. One day we walked a couple of miles to another town that had not been revitalized—a ruin.

The weather was perfect—sunny highs of about 82 degrees, I would say.  We had a couple of rain showers but they were late in the day and didn’t interfere with any activities. We spent most of the time outdoors in the shade.

About a hundred vultures circled near or above us most of the time. This setting was at 3000 feet above sea level, in lowish mountains, which had been replanted with pine trees. The town was about 150 miles northeast of Madrid.

Thursday night we were taken to San Pedro, the village that you may have seen on TV where once a year individuals walk barefoot through a bed of live coals. We arrived at 9:00 P.M. to get good seats, and watch (and feel) the red hot fire burn down to a bed of coals. Two bands and important people marched in along with a queen and two attendants.

At midnight the trumpets sounded and the men started walking across the live glowing coals. They would also walk carrying their girlfriends on their backs. There was much cheering and all (a dozen or more) accomplished this successfully—actually there were two women who did it as well. A man in our group opined that he thought women would have had more sense! Afterward I did see a couple of young men limping so I don´t think they got off scot free. I suppose it beats invading Iraq to demonstrate one´s macho-ness. The night ended about 2:00 A.M. after we did some dancing in the plaza.

The week was a great experience and if anyone is looking for a volunteer activity and likes to talk (a lot!) this is for you.

I have now arrived in Bilbao which is the main city of Basque country. I didn´t fly from Madrid after all as one of the Spanish participants was driving home to Bilbao so I got a ride with him. Basque country looks like Switzerland, and not at all like the rest of Spain. This man feels strongly that the Basque should have their own country. He said that they expect to have a referendum within the next couple of years to decide this.

I will spend a couple of days in Bilbao and then go on to Barcelona. I hope you are all well and happy.

Carol

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