Well, here we are in the final full day in our host city, León. It's almost unbelievable that the past few weeks have flown by as quickly as they have. Tomorrow at 6:00am we will be bidding farewell to León and to the host families that have made us feel welcome here all summer, and while students have some mixed feelings about leaving their new homes, they are all excited to be back home in the US.
Despite the heavy and mixed feelings characterizing this final full week on-site, we managed to fill it with quite a lot. Monday morning brought our group to León's City Hall to meet with a representative of the City Education Councilor's office. We were brought into the City Council's Chambers where policy-based deliberations and debates take place and had an (appropriately) educational conversation about education, international exchange, and the history of León.
|Maya delivering a statement of gratitude for the City Education Council representative|
|Team León looking elegant on the steps of City Hall|
After a conversation in City Hall and a brief photo op, the City Council representative took us on a walking tour of some of the oldest and most well-preserved parts of León's Roman quarter, some of the walls of which date back to the 5th Century. After bidding our guide farewell, we headed over toward the academia to begin what would be a week of preparations for the Farewell Show, an event that we organize every year to show gratitude to our host families and to show off how talented our students are.
|Rehearsing for the big night, sharing a quick solidarity hug|
While the week also included the final class meetings for the summer, a night of tapas, and ample time wandering around downtown León, much of the week's attention was focused on rehearsing for the Farewell Show. This included not only learning and polishing dance choreography, blocking and finalizing theater performances, and practicing comedic timing, but also putting all of those pieces together to deliver a seamless show for host families.
Thursday evening brought with it a great deal of anticipation, the students having worked hard to prepare what they hoped would be a memorable series of performances. We were not disappointed.
|Madison, Reagan, Leah, and David delivering some home-crafted stand-up comedy|
|Gabby, Emma, and Leah in the midst of an originally written satirical comedy sketch|
|Nate, Auggie, Maya, and Nick in "The Man Who Became a Dog" (Nate was playing the dog in case it wasn't clear)|
|Katey, Mikhail, Helen, Jade, Chyan, Nicole, Trey, and Mikahla showing off dance moves|
|Ivy, Lauren, Julia, Sam, Chyan, Ellie, Grace, and Anthony in perfect synch|
|Gabby playing a clarinet solo (featuring Nick and Emma as "improvised music stand")|
|Tessa and Paige star in "Who's Next?" - a fast-paced and sassy two-woman show|
Toward the end of the Farewell Show, each student took the stage to deliver a heartwarming message of thanks to their host family for the food, time, affection, and fun they'd enjoyed all summer. The evening closed with a group performance of the song "No me voy" ("I'm not leaving"), which brought tears of mixed joy and sadness from the adoring crowd of host families. There was hardly a dry eye in the room.
|The group hug they were practicing for in rehearsal|
After the Farewell Show concluded, many students headed out with their host families to celebrate a beautiful and touching evening with tapas and desserts. A much-deserved night out for a group of 30 exceptional students who have accomplished truly remarkable things these past few weeks.
Friday was a somewhat melancholic day - it meant our final day of lunch at Casa Blanca (they made paella for us!) as well as our last day in the academy building where we had become so accustomed to having classes. At the end of the day, students bid a quiet farewell to the academy and headed off for their last afternoon of free time in downtown León (which, we have to assume, included a lot of ice cream). Today, Saturday, marks the students' final full day in León, which they'll all be spending with their host families. Hopefully they'll also spend part of the day packing, because we depart from León at 6:00am tomorrow morning. There, in front of the León University Library as is tradition, we'll say a sleepy and teary goodbye to these Spanish families who have welcomed us into their lives with such openness and kindness. From there, we head toward Segovia for an excursion, and then later that same day we'll arrive in Madrid, Spain's capital.
I'll look forward to including one more post before we leave the country to return home, but for now, I thank you again for allowing us to spend a couple months with these wonderful students. I know that I speak on behalf of my fellow instructors when I say that it's been an honor and a pleasure - renewed each day - to teach and learn from these 30 extraordinary individuals.
Hasta la próxima
~Mark (and Sarah T, Sarah G, and Isra)