Volunteer exchange blog archiveThe GIVE (Grundtvig Initiative on Volunteering in Europe for Seniors) programme, has given six people from Belfast the chance to take part in a volunteer exchange with older people living in Madrid.
During the exchange our volunteers wrote a weekly blog. You can read about their experiences below.
Ana and Carmen's blogRead Ana and Carmen's blog about their stay in Belfast (March to April 2012).
Barney and Mary's blogRead Barney and Mary's blog about their stay in Madrid (October to November 2011).
Benito and Santiago's blogRead Benito and Santiago's blog about their stay in Belfast (September to October 2011).
Barbara and Irene's blogRead Barbara and Irene's blog about their stay in Madrid (May to June 2011).
Ana and Maria's blogRead Ana and Maria's blog about their stay in Belfast (March to April 2011).
Highlights and best bits of the weekOur tutor, Adele Faulkner, invited us to the Value Ageing Seminar held in the Pavilion in Stormont. It was very interesting because in addition to speakers from Northern Ireland, including academics from Queen's University, there were experts from different countries of the European Union and United States. All of them provided very interesting research and practice on how to live a long and healthy life .
As the event took place at Stormont, Adele Faulkner accompanied us to the door of Parliament. We took the guided tour and witnessed some of the plenary sessions. It was very curious to see a live debate in the House.
The rest of the week we completed our volunteering activities and on Friday we visited Dublin. On Sunday we travelled to Londonderry. We really liked this city. It is small, with a medieval wall where narrow streets are hidden keeping lots of history inside. The river and the bridge are fantastic.
What have I learnt?The Ageing seminar gave us the opportunity to learn about different views and opinions. We thought Professor Emilio Mordini, director of Society and Citizenship Science Centre in Rome was very interesting. He spoke about the values that should govern the European Union in the treatment and consideration of older people. Doctor Maeve Rea from Queen's University Belfast presented a creative investigation in which they have asked older people in various countries about their life and their suggestions for improving older peoples' living conditions.
What opportunities are planned for next weekThis week is our last week in Belfast. We cannot believe how fast it has gone by and how much we have learnt. We will have a farewell meeting with our colleagues and our tutor at City Hall. And as a final gift, Adele Faulkner has given us two tickets to the Havelock Nelso nconcert in the Ulster Hall for Saturday night. We also have to say goodbye to the different people who have helped us so much in our volunteering placements. It will be an emotional and exciting week.
Highlights and best bits of the weekThis week we have gone to a new project for the first time. It's the headquarters of the organisation War on Want, which has more than twenty charity shops all around Northern Ireland.
It is an organisation that has interesting projects in several African countries: Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, and Somalia. They have years of experience and are one of the best in Northern Ireland. With the money they get from the charity shop, organising events and from the money they get from aid agencies, private companies and individuals, they develop many projects in Africa. It has been very interesting to work in its head office in Belfast.
David Gould, one of the volunteers, invited us to the cinema. We went to the Queen's Film Theatre. It is in the university district. We love this neighbourhood, it has a wonderful atmosphere and there are many cultural activities around the university.
On Wednesday we went back to Tools for Solidarity. We love volunteering. The people are fantastic and very enthusiastic. Marta, our tutor, gave us a broken sewing machine. It was at least fifty years old and we had to fix it. Marta guided us and miraculously, after two hours of hard work, we fixed it and it was sent to Uganda. We couldn't believe it. It has an official certificate and is ready for someone to use it.
In the afternoon we had our party at home. We invited our great friends from the Grundtvig Program. Ana prepared a couple of big tortillas de patatas and we bought some chorizo, and our Irish friends, Barbara, Barney, Mary, Patricia, Irene, Isobel and David came along with wonderful desserts.
On Thursday, Ana returned to the EBM Café where she helps prepare meals and delivers food. Carmen returned with the 'little ducks', the adorable children at Carew Family Centre. The kids were preparing gifts for Mother's Day. In the afternoon, Patricia Irvine invited us to the opening of an exhibition of Alan Graham, a painter friend of hers. His paintings are beautiful, colourful and very interesting. For us it was an excellent opportunity to learn about social and cultural life in Belfast. Patricia took us to have tapas to a bar close to the Ulster Hall.
On Friday, we went to the Carew Family Centre to celebrate Mother's Day. They had free indian massages and manicures. We stayed all morning with the mothers and their wonderful children.
What have I learnt?We had a brilliant week with lots of activities. We surprised ourselves by fixing the sewing machine. We never thought we could but with the patience of our mentor, we did it!
This week we also went to English classes at the Reformed Presbyterian Church on the Dublin Road. Two enthusiastic pastors taught classes every Thursday for two hours. They really helped us improve our English. We loved going to War on Want
We were looking forward to being in Belfast on St Patrick's Day. It was fantastic! We enjoyed the parade and the Tea Dance at the Ulster Hall with Barbara and Isobel.
What opportunities are planned for next week?On Tuesday Adele Faulkner has invited us to assist in Stormont Castle at a seminar Ageing Creatively. It will enable us to learn more about the problems and solutions for seniors in Belfast. We then have a tour of the Stormont Building. We want to visit Dublin on Friday. Our landlord has invited us to spend two days in Ballycastle, a beautiful town on the north coast.
- Read Ana and Carmen's week four blog in Spanish (Word - 18KB)
Highlights and best bits of the weekOur life in Belfast is becoming more and more interesting. The better we know the city the better we enjoy it. We are meeting very nice people and through them we meet new ones. Everyone helps us and gives us much useful new information.
On Monday, our mentor, Adele Faulkner invited us to a meeting in Belfast about Belfast, an age-friendly city? It was really very interesting for us to identify problems and solutions for this city. They also asked us our opinion and how things were done in Spain. The castle is wonderful.
Then we went to our English class with our teacher Kiren. She's really good. We are confident that each of the issues that we learn with her, we are not going to forget. She invited us to a meeting that take place every Thursday, at a cafe near the university, where people of different nationalities come to meet and exchange conversation in their respective languages. We went and had a great time.
On Wednesday we went to a tea dance at the Ulster Hall. It was great. We reallly enjoyed it. This week we continued our volunteer activities. In Tools for Solidarity, the leader, Stephen Wood, prepared for us a slideshow explaining the whole process of project that sends tools and sewing machines to Uganda and Tanzania.
On Wednesday, David Gould, one of the volunteers who will travel to Madrid in April, invited us to enjoy a pint in a very old pub.
At the weekend, Lola, Ana's daughter, came to visit her. We very much enjoyed taking her to see the highligths of the city. She was very impressed and we had lots of fun together.
What have I learned?Each week we learn new things. We are delighted with the people of Belfast. They have an extraordinary kindness. For example, on Thursday visiting Queen's University, which we considerer an architectural gem, a person who we did not know asked us "are you on holidays? So please come along and visit the Central Hall which is one of the most emblematic places at the University." Later we visited the library with a spanish teacher who works there. It is a marvel.
On our volunteer program Carmen is impressed by the way educators teach children at the Carew Family Centre. The children are very nice everyday with new things to learn.
Anna is very happy in EBM Café. She loves the way the leader Mike Wilson works. Everyday they prepare a lot of meals, all of which are delicious. And the project makes an outstanding job for disabled and older people so they can eat everyday.
We have been impressed with the vitality and enthusiasm of older people in this city. Both the meeting at Belfast Castle and the tea dance were extraordinary. Everyone danced beautifully and did not miss not one piece of music. We also admire and learn from the enthusiasm of volunteers and mentors of Tools for Solidarity project. They work with their hearts.
What opportunities are planned for next week?Next week we are organising a party in our apartment with all the volunteers from the European project. We love being with them and exchanging views and laughter. Also David Gould, one of the volunteers, is inviting us to see an movie from Argentina on Tuesday. And we are looking forward to enjoy the celebration of St Patrick's Day. How lucky we are to be here that day. For us it will be a great opportunity to share more with our Irish friends.
- Read Ana and Carmen's week three blog in Spanish (Word - 40KB)
This week we started our English class with great enthusiasm. They are very useful for us. First, on Monday, we had a meeting with Adele, our supervisor, who gave us new information in order to make our stay in Belfast very pleasant.
We also began volunteering at a charity shop, Tools for Solidarity and a council park. They are very interesting for us because each of them is a new experience. We have never worked in a council park, what an experience! The person in charge for each of the projects taught us so much we cannot believe it! It's great!
What have we learned?This week has been amazing. We learned a lot. We could never imagine that we were able to disassemble and then reassemble a sewing machine. We are not sure if we could do it again without the help of our teacher, Marta. She was in charge of the project. Stephen Wood told us that if we knew how to cook we could do anything with our hands. We are not sure yet.
The next surprise was in the council park. We had never planted a seed before. Can you imagine that we filled three trays of onion seeds? They are so tiny - it seems incredible that from this they can grow into huge onions.
On Saturday, Patricia Irvine invited us to visit Newcastle and the surrounding area. It was very interesting because she took us to places that only a person who lived here would know about. We had the opportunity to practice English with her. On Sunday we went to a tourist trip to the Giants Causeway, it was wonderful and it was brilliant weather!
Irene Cauley offered to exchange English - Spanish classes with Ana on Thursday afternoon. The meeting was very rewarding and positive for learning English.
What opportunities are planned for next week?On Monday morning, Barbara Gowdy will pick us up to go to Belfast Castle. The rest of the week we will return to the volunteering projects. We are planning to go to the swimming pool, gym and English classes.
- Read Ana and Carmen's week two blog in Spanish (Word - 30KB)
Since our arrival in Belfast we have been very pleasantly surprised by wonderful welcome given by the Programme Coordinator, Adele Faulkner and the rest of the volunteers, especially, Barbara Gowdy and Irene Cauley.
Adele picked us up at the station and gave us all kinds of information and facilities for our stay and use the programme to be perfect.
We love Belfast. People are very welcoming and friendly. Our first volunteer work day was extraordinary. Ana works at a soup kitchen. She has been received very well and is very happy. Carmen works in a nursery. Both children and monitors are great.
What have I learned?Ana is pleasantly surprised at the great help that can be given in the soup kitchen to the people who need help. The products are high quality and the menus are very well balanced. They have a brilliant organisation.
Carmen loved the good education that the children receive. Working in the nursery is constant work and the children learn through educational games and respect one another.
We are learning from the warmth of the Irish and their extraordinary sense of humour. Last Tuesday we were invited to a gathering of people studying Spanish. It was an exchange of language, ideas and points of views, it was very interesting. They told us many things about Ulster and it was very useful for us.
This week we return to meet some Spanish students and we were thinking of going to a gym and swimming pool. As well as English classes, we are planning a visit to the Giants Causeway over the weekend.
- Read Ana and Carmen's week one blog in Spanish (Word - 30KB)
Monday 21 NovemberMary was unwell today so she stayed in bed. Barney taught English to an adult class in the Asociacion Tercio de Terol. He enjoyed his last class and finished off with a singsong.
Tuesday 22 NovemberMary had a Spanish lesson today with Alfredo while Barney went to the airport to meet his wife who was flying in from Belfast to spend four days in Madrid. We had lunch together in El Museo de Jamon.
Wednesday 23 NovemberMary had an enjoyable last day in the clothes section of San Vincente del Paul at Batan. There was an international feel to the workforce with Mark from England and two Amercian students chatting away with the Spanish volunteers.
Barney worked in the kitchen at San Vincente de Paul today. His nickname is 'Kentucky' in reference to his resemblance to Colonel Saunders in the advertisement! Lots of hugs and kisses again!
Barney's wife took the Madrid sightseeing bus and later both of them then strolled round the streets of Madrid.
Mary finally went to visit the Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) and was very glad she had not missed it. What spendour and craftsmanship throughout the centuries! Not to be missed if you're visiting Madrid.
In the evening, she helped the boarders in the homework club at the Santa March school.
Friday 25 NovemberMary did her last run in the Rotary van and then had an enjoyable lunch with other Rotary volunteers in a local tapas bar. Perhaps there should have been more of this social interaction.
Barney said his goodbyes to all the staff in the volunteering office and he flew home with his wife to Belfast.
Mary met up with Carmen, one of the next volunteers, who is coming to Belfast in February. Carmen also had a chance to talk to Benito, Santiago and Anna about their experiences in Belfast.
Mary also said her goodbyes to her two social mentors, Javier and Jose Luis. They were more than kind and gracious to us each weekend.
Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 NovemberMary completed the last blog and the evaluation forms. Then she took a last walk around the familiar areas of Madrid.
She went to the El Rio Manazares on Sunday afternoon and sat in the lovely sunshine to finish off her time in Madrid. She hopes to return in the near future!
Monday 14 NovemberMary was back at La Cruce Roja and was involved in working in the garden. The weather is even becoming a little chilly for Mary, up on the roof top!
Barney taught English to an adult class in the Asociacion Tercio de Terol. He had a great time teaching his class Irish songs - 'I've been a Wild Rover' and 'When You Were Sweet Sixteen'.
Tuesday 15 NovemberWe had our Spanish lesson today with Alfreda and this time Begona joined our conversation class in the local café - maybe we are having too much fun!
Begona and Yasmina then brought us to the Department of Family and Social Affairs in Manuel Becerra. Here, we met the head of this government department, Conception Dancousa and the co-director, Juan Manuel Camacho.
We had photographs taken for their publications and chatted to them both about our volunteering in Belfast. We expressed our feelings about the work we are doing in the organisations in Madrid and that all our experiences have been very positive.
We were both then presented with a box containing beautiful 'His and Hers' Spanish fans. Barney is not sure when to use his in Belfast!
Wednesday 16 NovemberMary started new work in the clothes section of San Vincente del Paul at Batan.
She spent the morning working with a group of women, hanging up and folding donated clothes in preparation for distribution tomorrow.
Two young Amercian girls arrived also as volunteers and joined the conversation group. One of the girls had been involved in an exchange programme between the USA and the Ulster project in Belfast and Mary knows the family she stayed with! What a small world! Barney helped children in the after school club.
Thursday 17 NovemberBarney worked in the kitchen at San Vincente de Paul today. They were very busy, serving 202 meals! Mary had another new assignment in the Santa Marca foundation at Concina Espina with MarieVi. During the week, there are about 50 primary school girls who board. They are from immigrant families. Volunteers come to the school in the evening to help the girls with their homework. Mary worked with Sandra, an 11 year old girl from Kenya, who can speak quite good English. Her ambition is to go to Art College in New York.
Friday 18 NovemberMary had a new date for working in the Rotary. The driver was Pedro and they did 2 routes - one to collect food in a hospital and deliver it to Santa Marca and the next one, to collect food from a catering company and deliver to Saint Martin de Porres Centre, which is a hostel for people with alcohol addiction.
Barney was sorting clothes in Adelita with a new volunteer, Rosemary, from Germany. A woman from a small film company was sourcing clothes for the wardrobe department.
Saturday 19 NovemberOverall, we had a quiet weekend. We popped into a farewell event at Batan, for Pilar, the director for volunteers in San Vicente de Paul, who is leaving. There were some drinks and food for everyone.
Sunday 20 NovemberA very wet day in Madrid and an election day – not sure if that is a good sign for the winning party!
Barney took it easy as he felt a little unwell and Mary went to Palacio de Deportes to watch a basketball game, Real Madrid versus Lagun Aro. It was a good game with plenty of action. Another day for the shopping mall!
Monday 7 NovemberMary was back at La Cruz Roja and involved in working in the rooftop garden. Barney taught English adult class in the Asociación Tercio de Terol, which he really enjoyed.
Tuesday 8 NovemberWe had our Spanish lesson today with Alfredo and a practical class in a local café chatting in Spanish. Then we headed off to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium to go on a tour, which was very enjoyable.
Wednesday 9 November
Thursday 10 NovemberBoth Barney and Mary worked in the kitchen at San Vincente de Paul today. It was another day of cutting nabos - nightmares tonight again! The water supply in the area was cut off so we couldn't wash up before we left. Mary then headed to the swimming pool to relax and Barney did his shopping.
Friday 11 NovemberMary had a second day in the kitchen and learned how to make albondigas - not sure she'll be making them in Belfast! Barney sorted out clothes - trousers this time! He is now an expert on designer jeans!
Saturday 12 NovemberLuckily, Barney and Mary picked a sunny, warm, autumnal day to go out to Casa de Campo and ride on the teleferico (cable car). We saw this vast park as its best, with a bird's eye view of Madrid.
We strolled down to the Temple de Debod and Mary spent a few peaceful hours in the sun, reading. Then she finished off the day with a swim. Barney took his stroll along Grand Via into Sol and was amazed at the queues of people waiting to buy lottery tickets!
Sunday 13 NovemberWe were invited by Javier and Benito to join them, and then Anna, on the banks of El Rio Manzanares, near Puerto del Angel. There we joined with a group involved in an environmental awareness programme on all aspects of river life. We took part in group work showing us the interconnections of life around the river.
We had a snack of caldo de jamon, tortilla and jamon in a local café. We returned and took water samples from the river and tested them. We found that the water quality is good.
Recreation paths have been built on both sides of the river, where people were walking, jogging, cycling and rollerblading. It was a very pleasant picture.
After, we returned on the metro to Manuel Becerra, to the popular restaurant, Caceres y Badajoz, where we had a very satisfying lunch, in good company with Benito, Javier, Anna and her friend.
Tuesday 1 NovemberAs we now consider ourselves almost Madrileños and not tourists, we stayed away from the tourist places today, which were busy due to the holiday. Most of the shops and commercial areas closed down. We both went walking to explore and Mary also went swimming.
Wednesday 2 NovemberMary was 'the navigator' today with a new driver, Salvador Perez, at the Rotary, collecting food from a local hotel and delivering it to a local college – Santa Marta. Barney attended the after-school club at Pinardi and had an enjoyable time helping, with two boys called Kevin, one from Argentina and the other from Bolivia, with their homework. He also taught English in a class of seven with the local teacher Christina. It was a wet end to the day!
Thursday 3 NovemberBarney helped again in San Vicente de Paul kitchen, he was chopping nabos which are small turnips, with Mark from Oxford. He served 172 people today in the kitchen! Mary was hoping to work in the clothes section of SVP but will have to wait until next week. She spent the afternoon in El Museo del Prado (Prado museum) with thousands of paintings! What a collection! Well worth the visit!
Friday 4 NovemberMary had another busy day in San Vicente de Paul kitchen – chopping up more of the small nabos and a South American fruit called kakis. She will remember them very well as she cut up 2 large boxes of them! Maria Angela, one of the volunteers, kindly baked a cake for all the volunteers to eat with our coffee. Barney was back in the clothes exchange in Adelita where he hung over a hundred skirts! He is becoming a real fashionista!
Saturday 5 NovemberMary booked a visit to the city of Toledo which was absolutely beautiful. It is a city built on a hillside with lots of narrow, winding streets, a panoramic view over the River Tagus and the towering Alcazar sitting at the top and the whole area steeped in history. We hope to return one day!
Barney used his metro pass today, bobbing up and down like a little rabbit at many metro stations to see what each area was like. He found a small café that serves plain roasted chicken!
Sunday 6 NovemberWe were invited by Javier and Jose to join them in a visit to the Reina Sophia Art Museum beside Atocha station. We were particularly interested in the photos, video, newspapers and posters relating to the Spanish Civil War, with the spectacular Picasso's Guernica, his depiction of the destruction of the town, as the centre piece. We then crossed over to Atocha station to see the memorial for the 191 people killed in the terrorist bomb on 11 March 2004 – simple but impressive!
We were also impressed with the winter garden set in a regulated climate zone inside the station. The four of us then chilled out over a glass of beer at an outdoor café and chatted for an hour. We then sampled the roast chicken dinner in the nearby café which Barney had found and this finished off our day.
Tuesday 25 OctoberWe met Alfredo, our teacher for Spanish lessons. He is from Columbia. We had a very enjoyable two hours, with chat and discussion - but then, he went and gave us homework for next week!
Barney went on the hunt for our biggest craving - porridge! He bought two boxes in a Carrefour but unfortunately on his journey back he lost his 'Fighting Irish' jacket which he has had for 25 years!
Wednesday 26 OctoberBarney had his first day in the kitchen at San Vicente de Paul, and his time flew by as it was very busy. Lunch was served to 160 people. On his way home he found the best bargain so far, in Baton - a glass of beer, tapas and bread for 1 euro 20!
Mary went to the Rotary in Alto Extramadura. This organisation was founded in 2005 and it distributes meals to homeless people in the Cataline Laboure Social Centre, in San Matin de Porres hostel and to students in social need in the Santamarca Foundation School. Mary went out with another volunteer in a van to deliver the food to pupils in a college.
Thursday 27 OctoberBarney had his first day at Pinardi, a Salesian community run organisation that supports children, teenagers and their families at risk of social exclusion. He helped the groups with craftwork and English lessons in the after school club.
Mary set off, in her sports gear and having learnt a new vocabulary of relevant words, to run a fitness class for women, in the Asociation Tercio de Terol but sadly, nobody arrived to take part in the session!
It rained heavily during the day so there was nothing to do except clean the apartment! Oh what fun!
Friday 28 OctoberMary had another busy day in the San Vincente de Paul kitchen - always lots to do!
Barney was sorting clothes in the Asociation Adelita. He worked with Susana and her sister from Paraguay. Barney has many ideas to help make this project more profitable, based on his experiences in the St Vincent de Paul charity shops in Belfast and he hopes to chat to the organisers.
Javier and Marivi had arranged to meet us in a café later in the evening. We expected a few drinks and tapas but were pleasantly surprised to find out there were 14 of us altogether (all volunteers), Benito and Anna included. They had reserved a table in Caceres y Badajoz, where we were treated to a great Spanish evening. We were served many dishes, all with a seafood theme, followed by wine and liqueurs. Barney, Anna and Benito also sang for the group! Then Barney and Mary had to move fast to catch the last metro home!
Saturday 29 October and Sunday 30 OctoberMary took the opportunity to buy a two day bus pass and explore Madrid. The weather was glorious from the top deck of the bus (she was wearing a t-shirt but the locals were wearing jumpers and boots!) Mary spent two days above ground enjoying the beautiful weather and the sights of Madrid - no metro.
Barney chilled out and wandered around the city and was surprised by the large crowds in the city for this holiday weekend. There was a great buzz in all the plazas in and around Puerto del Sol.
Mary and Barney arrived in Madrid where they met Yasmina at the airport and travelled by taxi to the apartments in Calle Lagasca, in the Salamanca area.
On Wednesday, Yasmina met us and took the metro to Sol, el centro de la cuidad (the city centre), and we walked to the Voluntarios por Madrid Foundation where we met the other staff.
We visited the Plaza Mayor and saw the ceremonial arrival of a new ambassador to Madrid, with beautiful black and white horses leading the parade. We ate lunch in the Plaza Mayor and watched the world go by. We bought sim cards for the mobile phone and the laptop. We successfully navigated our way back on the metro to the apartments, buying our groceries on the way in our local mercado (market). We returned to the Foundation to meet our social mentors, Javier and Marie.
Not having lived in a city with a metro before, we quickly realised how much walking there is up and down the metro stations - our legs needed a rest! Both of us met Yasmina on Thursday and went to Urigel, to the Asociacion Tercio de Terol where we meet Lara. This is a neighbourhood centre which offers intercultural activities for young people and adults.
Barney will take English classes and Mary will run some fitness and stretching activities. Not everything runs smoothly - first Mary loses her bus ticket and then her Spanish phone! Un dia bueno!
On Friday, Barney went with Sonsoles to Asociacion Adelita Madrid - an urban barter network. This is a non-profit association where clothes and household items are sourced and can be exchanged with other items.
Mary went to the San Vicente de Paul Society in the Santiago Masarnau Centre in Balan and worked with other volunteers in the kitchen, preparing food for 120-150 immigrants and homeless people and then serving the meal and cleaning up. Here, a good balanced meal is prepared by committed, hardworking volunteers every day. A seasoned volunteer, called Marie Teresa speaks English and took another Mary Teresa from Belfast under her wing! Lots of Spanish and English was practiced over the chopping boards!
On Saturday, Barney met up with some Irish contacts in Montcloa and attended the 75th anniversary of the International Brigade at the Universitaria de Madrid. Mary found the local swimming pool and went to it twice in the same day. The first time she brought everything - except her swimsuit! Mary also attended a professional basketball game in the Palacio de Los Deportes and the local team, Estudantes, won! Great buzz in the streets on a Saturday evening as Spanish families stroll around - we could do with more of that in Belfast!
We met Maria and Javier on Sunday at the world famous bakery, Mallorquin at Sol. We also stood in the centre of Spanih! Then we strolled through Plaza Mayor to La Latina to the Sunday market - la Rastro. This is very popular mercado for locals and tourists.
Eating lunch with Spaniards gave us a chance to try new dishes - la sopa austurias es muy rico! We were not so keen on escalopes de carbales!
We used the opportunity to use a locutoria to phone back to Belfast for a reasonable charge.
Mary checked out the park at Retiro. It's a good place to sit and read and in walking distance from the apartment.
This Monday we had our meeting with lovely Michelle to discuss the last week and next week. Our language class was cancelled so we spent the afternoon walking in the city which was lovely. We will have two hours of class next week!
We are continuing working in the council parks and with the food distribution - these are both very worthwhile jobs. On the Tuesday evening we met local Spanish people learning Spanish at a local tapas restaurant. We had a beer and talked in English and Spanish.
This week the homework club was outside at a sports field. It was a nice change from inside and to see the children playing.
On Thursday Benito assisted at Belmont nursing home with some older people. He chatted about the old life in Belfast and 'the Troubles'.
On Friday we finished our weekly work at Tools for Solidarity and then had a lovely dinner with David at his house - he is a local volunteer. He had invited a friend who is a singer and flamenco dancer. We ate paella and talked a lot, it was a nice Spanish evening.
This weekend we went to the Mournes - the biggest mountains in Ulster. We were expecting dark and rainy weather from the forecast but it was very beautiful and we could see wonderful views. Thanks to our kind friends Irene, David and June for taking us.
On Sunday we relaxed and did some photography around the city including the 'peace wall'. We don't understand this very well so we must get an explanation before we go next week.
On Monday we had mostly a free day. We met with our mentors in order to plan for the week. One of our mentors Adele, had been on honeymoon but she has returned. We will continue with both mentors Michelle and Adele, until we return to Madrid.
At the food distribution Benito had a hard working day. In the evening we went to the Spanish conversational meeting with one of the volunteers at a local hotel. There were many questions around children and everyone was very interested to learn more.
Santiago had to return to Madrid for a University meeting so he had to go to Dublin airport to fly home. Benito got to know a very kind Turkish girl called Zara. The weather on Wednesday and Thursday was hot!
On Thursday Benito didn't have to go to volunteer as the manager was on holidays so instead he went for a walk around Belfast. That evening Santiago returned from Madrid!
On Friday it was Volunteer Action Day. It was arranged for us to visit 'Habitat for Humanity', which is an organisation that builds homes for poor people. The building we visited was already built so we took equipment needed for the house to the second floor. It was really interesting but also hard work! Alas, the weather was bad and we finished up wet.
At the weekend we spent Saturday morning at St George's Market. We looked at the variety of food on sale, the fish was particularly interesting. We ate some paella for lunch – it was good! It had been prepared by a Spanish cook.
On Sunday we met two of the local volunteers and we went to visit an exhibition about the Spanish army at the Ulster Museum. In the afternoon we then visited the Folk Museum where there was an exhibition about the Titanic and the people's history. This exhibition was in an open area which contained rebuilt houses from different parts of Ulster. For us this was really interesting to see how local people lived in the 19th and 20th century.
At this time we are settled in Belfast! On Mondays's we continue to plan for the week and attend English language class, but in general we had a quiet day.
On Tuesday we continue with the volunteer programme and attend the organisation that distributes food and the local park. If the weather is ok, we plan to take a walk along the river! That evening we go to the 'Spanish meeting' where locals meet to speak in both Spanish and English. In the War and Want shop on Wednesday the people are very nice to us but the work is not so interesting.
On Thursday Benito visited the Elmgrove Manor Centre where older people come to visit. Benito is impressed that the centre is really well organised for people. At 'Tools for Solidary' on Friday, Santiago finishes off the containers that will be sent to Africa. The young people at this organisation are awaiting a new programme to work on. A new visitor arrived from Uganda to discuss with the manager the situation in Africa. That evening, it is Culture Night in Belfast where we listened to an Irish Choir in concert, which we found really interesting!
This weekend we visited Dublin, tha capital of Ireland. We visited some monuments, the amazing St Patrick's Cathedral, St Augustine Church, Dublin City exhibition about the Vikings and medieval living in Dublin, the National Gallery, and Trinity College. The city was really busy and full of people.
On Sunday morning we visited St George's Market, which is the most significant market in Belfast and is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday! After that, we walked around Queen Mary's Green and the impressive Waterworks. It was really interesting but we wanted to learn more about the works of the park.
At the beginning of the week we met with Michelle to talk about the week ahead and some problems with the apartment and computer and we attended our first English lesson. David, our teacher, seems friendly. We went for dinner to an American-Italian restaurant which was good!
On Tuesday when Santiago went to the community park, he was given clothes and boots to wear – that was new and interesting! Benito had a hard day's work distributing food around eight charities in the city.
At the War on Want bookshop on Wednesday, there was not much work for Santiago. So he spent his time ordering some books and talking with the local volunteers, they are nice. The children at the Homework Club were different from those attending last week. But Benito met two Spanish girls and this made him happy!
Santiago had a hard day working with gardeners, cutting ivy on Thursday. Benito went with Lorenzo to the North Road day centre where he met the manager who explained all about the organisation.
On Friday, Santiago went to Tools for Solidarity for the first time, which is an organisation that works with young volunteers, who work there for six months of the year. The young people here work hard to package sowing machines that are transported to Africa. Benito went to the bookshop for the first time, where he read some books, took some orders and spoke in English.
We arrived in Dublin Airport and took the bus to Belfast where we met Michelle who brought us to our apartment. Our first two days in Belfast were mainly being introduced to people and the type of volunteering work we would be doing. We attended a Welcome Lunch at Belfast City Hall, met the Mayor of Belfast and many local volunteers. The first day of volunteering for Benito was at a Homework Club with children and Santiago worked at a charity book shop "War on Want".
Thursday was more of an interesting day for us. Santiago went to a community garden at Ormeau Park which he found very interesting. And Lorenzo, a worker at Engage with Age looked after Benito and took him around the city as an introduction.
On Friday we went to the Colin Glen Trust, which is a nice forest just outside of Belfast. We went for a walk with the head gardener along the river. He explained to us the history of the park which we found really interesting. In the afternoon we had a drink with the other volunteers and Michelle, where we talked in English and visited a few pubs!
It was the Heritage Open day in Belfast, so we walked around the city and visited the Central Library and many other buildings and we took a river tour by the river Lagan at the Titanic harbour. The Sinclair Seaman's Presbyterian Church, which has lots of ship detail, was very surprising! That evening we were invited to dinner by one of the volunteers, David. David is a chef!
On Sunday we visited Queens' University in the morning as part of a visitor's tour. In the afternoon, two other volunteers, Barbara and Isobel, took us for a walk to Belfast Castle, which is a 19th Century house. The castle is on a hillside with beautiful views over the city.
Wednesday 8 JuneAt the Red Cross, Tina made a structure to support the tomato plants which had grown so well – there are small green tomatoes and plenty of flowers. This was our last day in the gardens and we were sad saying our goodbyes.
In the afternoon there was a recycling workshop and Fernando, one of the volunteers, explained the 3 R's – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Afterwards the young adults made purses out of empty cartons. Barbara kindly donated her spare coins just to prove the purses worked.
Thursday 9 JuneWe had our last formal meeting in the Foundation and discussed the arrangements for our farewell and departure as well as writing our blogs.
In the afternoon we were both at Pinardi. Irene helped in the homework and English class where they played cards and word games which were both effective means of extending the kids vocabulary. Meanwhile Barbara spent time at the new beauty and manicure course and the students got their nails manicured and polished – bright red and black were the popular choices.
Later we both met up with Maria (who had been in Belfast) and her husband and went to an exhibition of photographs taken by the American Paparazzi photographer Ron Galella – wonderful photos of the rich and famous such as Jackie Onassis, Mick Jagger, Marlon Brando. It was very pleasant chatting over a drink in the Art Deco restaurant afterwards.
Friday 10 JuneBarbara spent her last day at the Rotary and was sad saying goodbye to all the people she had met. Irene got a text to say that Jesusa in the Monserrat Residency was unwell and they were unable to have our farewell walk. However it meant she had some time to check her emails in the Juan March Foundation and to start typing the final week's blog.
Irene also managed to visit the Royal Palace for the temporary exhibition of the artwork of Poland, which included the Da Vinci portrait of a Woman with Ermine that had been lost. The exhibition moves to London after Madrid so she was glad she caught it. She also took a guided tour of the Royal Opera House with its wonderful crystal chandelier, luxurious auditorium and beautiful restaurant with its star studded ceiling.
Both of us decided to eat out that night and we ended up at our favourite restaurant for light snacks.
Saturday 11 JuneAt Dan Zass, several of the children were missing for the final rehearsal which made it difficult to do a complete run through of the show. Some improvisation was required and you could feel the pressure the coordinators were under.
In the afternoon we took a train to Alcala de Henares, a wonderful old town where we visited the old university, the house where Cervantes was born and a museum which has early editions of Don Quixote. A rather enjoyable excursion even if some of the places closed just as we got there.
Sunday 12 JuneThis morning we had a rather informative tour of old Madrid with Benito and Javier (both volunteers), where they pointed out places often overlooked by tourists – for example, the oldest restaurant in the world (according to the Guinness Book of Records) and the pharmacy where Queen Isabella got her medicines. We also went to the Rastro – the Sunday flea market - which was packed with people and stalls, and later we went for tapas, drinks and lots of chat.
In the evening we met up with Marie, one of the volunteers from Dan Zass. It was an interesting evening as we got a lot of information about Spanish society. We will keep in touch with her as she may be a useful contact for other volunteers coming from Belfast.
Monday 13 JuneBarbara spent her last day in Caritas where she continued with the beauty treatment course and afterwards Ana the tutor had a tea party for her farewell which was rather nice. She had been invited to a party at Santiago Mersanu for all the volunteers for the Monday afternoon, and it was really unfortunate that she was going to miss it as it clashed with the meeting that had been arranged in the Foundation.
Irene had her final Rotary run with Pepe and they were under pressure to get the food delivered on time. She had to forego her swim as she had a Spanish class early in the afternoon and this was followed by the farewell meeting in the Foundation.
At the Farewell meeting we met Carmen who had just returned from three months volunteering in Ethiopia and she be will be coming to Belfast in January. We said our goodbyes to the staff and the other volunteers and then we had individual interviews to record our views and experiences of the "You Can Do It" project. A really busy day.
Tuesday 14 JuneAt Santiago Mersanu everyone wished Barbara well on her departure and she was given a box of chocolates as a present. They obviously missed her at the party the day before and told her she would really have enjoyed it as it was a great success. What a shame.
Irene was back at Tercio de Terol where she was asked to work on translating sections of their documents and forms from Spanish into English. It was quite intensive, she felt she was doing my Spanish homework once again and even although she had a dictionary with her many of the words were not there. Irene was given a T-shirt as a present. It had a picture of dancers in costume (Chulapa and Chulapo) normally worn during the San Isidro Festival – a nice souvenir as we had seen such dancers doing the "Chotis" on our second week in Madrid.
Wednesday 15 JuneAnd now we are back in Belfast after a smooth flight and bus journey. Many thanks to all the people who helped make our visit to Madrid such a worthy and enjoyable experience. We are looking forward to meeting up with the Belfast volunteers once again on the 24 June to renew friendships and share our news.
- Download Barbara and Irene's week six blog in Spanish (PDF - 60KB)
Wednesday 1 JuneAs usual we spent the morning at the Red Cross garden. Tina was quite angry because someone had cut the leaves off the garlic plants and now the bulbs won't develop. They decided to put up a sign which says "Education Project: do not handle or cut any of the plants". However other plants such as the strawberries and the pumpkin seeds are growing well.
In the afternoon we both had our Spanish lesson and afterwards we went to the Heriones exhibition in the Thyssen Museum - it wasn't too big which meant we were able to see it all. We both loved the painting of Joan of Arc by the French painter Jean Jacques Sherrar.
Thursday 2 JuneIn the Foundation in the morning we had our usual meeting where we discussed the recent changes to our projects and then typed up our blogs. We both spent the afternoon in the Pinardi Centre. Barbara helped Jose order equipment and products as he plans to open up a beauty treatment room and provide courses. Meanwhile Irene helped the kids with their English conversation and homework and then they all relaxed by being creative with modelling clay.
Friday 3 JuneBarbara went to the Rotary and collected the food as usual from the hotels and delivered it to the different locations and colleges.
Unfortunately Jesusa was not available to join Irene on an excursion from the Monserrat Residency as her daughter had taken her out. So Irene explored the area on her own.
In the evening we went into the centre of town to hear jazz in the Central Bar in Plaza del Angel - a well known spot where quite famous musicians play. It was very enjoyable.
Saturday 4 JuneThe Dan Zass rehearsals continued as usual and afterwards a photographer took photos which will eventually be viewed on the Dan Zass website. In the afternoon Irene went to the nearby Caso de Campo and took the Teleferoque into the centre of town - tremendous views over the city and a reasonable commentary. Barbara went to the Real Madrid football stadium to take a tour of the stadium (got some great photos) and buy a ticket for the match between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich on Sunday.
Sunday 5 JuneIrene went to Toledo to visit the Alzacar (old Moorish fortification) where she spent three hours learning more about Spanish history. When she returned to Madrid there was an outside broadcast of the Marriage of Figaro in the Plaza de Oriente but during the performance it rained heavily – what a pity.
Barbara made a return visit to the Prada Museum as there was just so much to see and in the evening she went to the match between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich which was for "Charity Africa". The match was great and she watched many great stars play football. Barbara was so glad she had gone.
Monday 6 JuneBarbara spent some time at Caritas where ten new students started their manicure course which will end on 24 June.
Irene helped Pepe with the Rotary collections and deliveries of food and again he was very chatty and corrected her Spanish as they drove along. Afterwards she went for a swim - in the indoor pool this time.
Later we both had a Spanish lesson. There was a change of instructor for Irene which didn't work quite so well.
Tuesday 7 JuneAfter the usual preparation of food at the Santiago Marsanau kitchen Barbara took photos of all the people who were involved in the preparation and serving.
Irene had a new project in the Association of Neighbours Tercio Terol, a centre for adults and children which provides language courses, parks where they can play football and volleyball, and facilities for cultural activities such as art work and hip hop. In this way they are promoting and encouraging integration and helping to avoid conflict. Today Irene was observing and helping adults from Morocco in a basic Spanish course – much easier than working with children.
In the evening we both went to a wonderful dance spectacular – flamenco, ballet, modern – in the Theatre at Colon. Two tickets for the price of one!
- Download Barbara and Irene's week five blog in Spanish (PDF - 45KB)
Wednesday 25 MayOn Wednesday morning we went to the Red Cross where Montse gave us details about the recycling day in the Plaza 2 de Mayo and she explained to us what we would be doing that day. Then we sprayed the plants with a solution of garlic and water. This is a very effective treatment for removing green fly from plants. In the afternoon we went to our new Spanish classes which were a great improvement.
Thursday 26 MayIn the morning we wrote our blog and we had our weekly meeting. Later we met up with the Red Cross volunteers and joined in the activities celebrating World Recycling Day. There were lots of different activities to teach people about how to re–use waste materials and the event was well supported by parents and children. We both started off making badges and we were inundated with masses of children so it was a great success. We also helped make necklaces and bracelets from magazine cut-outs as well as beautiful purses from cartons. A great day, but exhausting.
Friday 27 MayToday Barbara went with Benito and Pablo on the Rotary food delivery. It was good to see Benito again and he is very enthusiastic to be going to Belfast as a volunteer later in the year. He asked lots of questions about Belfast and its people. After completing the deliveries we met up with Irene and other Rotary volunteers in a nice Tapas bar for lunch. Lunch was a great opportunity for us to practice our Spanish.
While Barbara was busy with the deliveries, Irene visited Jesusa even though it was raining cats and dogs. We went to recycle her used her batteries, then to the pharmacy to buy something and afterwards we had a coffee in her favourite café. She liked the photo I had taken of her in the rose garden the previous week so I'll have to get her a copy.
In the evening we went to the Caixa Forum to see a dance performance. The dancer, Ana Morales studied dance and flamenco in Barcelona and she combines the traditional and the love of liberty in her dancing. We really enjoyed it and it was all free.
Saturday 28 MayBoth of us went to the dancing session this morning with the children. Each week we've seen more work and effort being put in to these rehearsals by the staff and children. Today a new scene was added and worked on. It was amazing to watch the interaction between the adults, the children and a child in a wheelchair.
Sunday 29 MayWe drove to the El Escorial with Santiago and Benito and it was lovely to see the open countryside. We though the exterior of the monastery was disappointing and quite dull but the architecture of the interior was very interesting. We especially liked the paintings and the tombs of the kings, their wives and their children. Later we went to see the chair of King Phillip II (a big rock) and the panoramic view of the Guadarrama mountains and the monastery. Afterwards we went to a nearby restaurant and had our lunch in the open air - a nice ending to the day.
Monday 30 MayToday Barbara was at Caritas where the class was working on the terminology of beauty care, make-up and care of the skin as well as the intense treatments required for different tones and textures. We also discussed the importance of hygiene in keeping the skin clean and also the hygiene of the therapist's instruments to be used on the clients.
Meanwhile, Irene met Pepe at the Rotary van and went to pick up food from two hotels. They delivered food to the Dominican-run hostel Carpetana for 70 unemployed people. It definitely needs two people to manage the whole process. Irene met two of the friars and it was very interesting listening to them talking with Pepe about how the centre is funded. Later Irene was dropped off at the Casa de Campo swimming pool where she swam in the outdoor pool and was the only one there. Maybe the Spaniards don't like swimming in cold water!
In the evening we went with Maria and her husband to visit the Madrid artistic and literary society who provided music, flamenco and a discussion of the paintings and poetry. Later we went for Tapas and it was a very enjoyable outing.
Tuesday 31 MayThe volunteers were pleased to see Barbara back at the centre today and there was plenty of preparation of all the different salads, vegetables and meats. Usually at least 200 people who come for lunch but today only 150 came so there was extra food for everyone. Barbara met a new volunteer from Rome called Maria Elena and she will be working with Barbara each Tuesday. The chef said Barbara was his chocolate and orange lady which was nice.
Irene – It was the end of the course in Casa Senegal and there was a group of five volunteers who normally visit schools and residencies for elderly people in order to stimulate and entertain. Today they told stories about animals and involved the children by wearing masks, making animal sounds and reading stories aloud. It was much more exciting than English conversation. Afterwards there was a party and we all ate cakes and drank lemonade and then said our goodbyes.
- Download Barbara and Irene's week four blog in Spanish (PDF - 45KB)
Wednesday 18 MayWe both went to the Spanish Red Cross where Tina gave some very good advice on when to transplant tomato seedlings and how to treat white and green fly. Everyone was very attentive. We even got a tomato plant and onions to take home. Later we both went to our Spanish classes.
Thursday 19 MayToday we went to the Voluntary Foundations for our meeting with Yasmina, and to write our blogs for the week. We've changed our Spanish classes to a new location and some changes have been made be to our projects. In the afternoon we went back to Pinardi where Irene continued English conversation with four students. For Barbara, this was her first day at Pinardi where she will help with the hairdressing. However, she was the client and had to have her hair washed and blow dried by a nervous young student, and it was lovely. We took some photos of the finished hairdo.
Friday 20 MayIrene met up with Jesusa. She was very keen to go out and they got the bus to the rose gardens. Jesusa enjoyed chatting to people on the bus and her walk around the garden, but Irene was worried about all the steps. We also took some photos, possibly for the blog.
As usual Barbara went to the Rotary to collect and deliver food for the Monasterio. At the homeless centre we were treated to some lovely food and a cold drink after the deliveries were finished.
Saturday 21 MayThe Dan Zass centre was not open today so we both had a free day. Irene went to Segovia while Barbara visited Toledo. We both had friends visiting that weekend which all worked out very well. David and Irene stayed overnight in a lovely hotel in Segovia.
Barbara and Benoit explored the lovely city of Toledo. First they went to the cathedral and then to a war museum. Then they walked along the walls of the city and looked at the lovely views from there.
Sunday 22 MayDavid and Irene explored Segovia including the aqua duct, the Alcazar and the Casa de Hidalgo. Barbara and her friend Benoit went to the naval museum and also a photographic display. We also visited the army headquarters which were having an open day. It was very interesting.
Monday 23 MayBarbara went to her beauty class where she supervised the girls doing an exam. They were obviously nervous but glad when they had finished. Due to a change to some of the projects Irene went off to the Rotary to meet up with Salvador. They explained the Rotary has four vans and that the hotels that provide the food get tax relief.
Tuesday 24 MayBarbara continued work at Caritas and she received an invitation to the end of term certificate presentation. Everyone enjoyed the party and the girls were delighted that they had gained their certificates.
Irene went back to Casa Senegal where the English lessons were progressing well - that is in between the impromptu football match where some of the students let off steam.
- Download Barbara and Irene's week three blog in Spanish (PDF - 32KB)
Wednesday 11 MayBarbara was still unwell. So I (Irene) went off to the Spanish Red Cross to help with a project called "Gardening the City". They have gardens on the roof where they grow a variety of vegetables and herbs. Through the project they are educating the people from the area who may never have seen vegetables growing. Today we planted up a new garden with lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, onions, aubergines and strawberries. Meanwhile, other volunteers pruned and tidied the other gardens. In the evening I did a short written paper to evaluate my level of Spanish and I will start classes next week.
Thursday 12 MayWe had a tour of the facilities in Pinardi, where they provide training and short courses to help people find work. Irene helped Leticia with her English conversation. She has very strong views for one so young. Babs had a tour of the hairdressing classroom and will be involved in beauty and hairdressing next week.
Friday 13 MayIrene returned to Montserrat and had a very interesting conversation with Jesusa (91 years old). We walked around the area. She is quite mobile, has a good sense of humour and loves to go out walking. Bab´s went back to the Rotary with Pedro and Ana. They made the usual collections and delivered the food. Later we were invited to join other volunteers at a Tapas bar. We had a great time and the food was delicious.
As it was the San Isidro Festival we were very keen to check it out. On Friday night we went down to the gardens to listen to the music. There was a great community atmosphere as everyone joined in.
Saturday 14 MayThere were only a few students there when we arrived at the Dan Zass centre. This was a good opportunity for them to do an improvised dance in relative quietness until the other students arrived. There was then a full rehearsal for the forthcoming event and we were kept pretty busy looking after the children. After Dan Zass we went to Casa de Campo, wonderful extensive parkland and after lunch we strolled around.
As part of the festival we went to the Sabatini Gardens where hundreds of dancers were taking part but we especially enjoyed the demonstrations of the Tango and the Pasodoble.
Sunday 15 MayIrene went off to explore Aranjuez, about 50 kms from Madrid. She had a wonderful day, especially the tour of the Royal Palace and the gardens. Barbara explored the Puerta del Sol and had a good day. Sadly, both of us were too tired for the fireworks later that night.
Monday 16 MayWe were both back at Caritas, Irene in the IT Suite and Barbara had a short Spanish lesson before classes began. This was the first makeup practical class for the students and it was more enjoyable for her as the students have accepted her being there to observe. They also gave permission to have their photos taken while they were working. Irene had her first Spanish lesson - it was OK, even if they were unable to find the right notes.
Tuesday 17 MayBarbara went to the Santiago Marsanau kitchen where she helped prepare meals for 200 hundred homeless people. She was also in charge of handing out the fruit and chocolate. It was non-stop from the time the people arrived. Irene went back to Casa de Senegal where she had six very lively students. She was better prepared this week with some suitable objects to encourage English conversation. In the evening we went for a relaxing drink.
- Download Barbara and Irene's week two blog in Spanish (PDF - 32KB)
Wednesday 4 MayWe arrived at Madrid airport, and it was good to finally be here after all the preparations, doubts and uncertainties. We were met by Yasmina and her sister and we went by metro to the studio in the Salamanca area. The studio is pretty good, very well located and we even have a washing machine. We were very tired after the journey specially after dragging 30kg of luggage from the metro station.
Thursday 5 MayOn our first full day in Madrid we met Yasmina to buy metro tickets and go to the supermarket. Later we met up with the staff at the Foundation, Sonsoles, Begoña, Pablo and Marta, had lunch with Yasmina and wandered around the Plaza Mayor area to get our bearings. Later the two of us explored the area, visited many of the beautiful sights. We were not back to the studio until 9pm – what a full, enjoyable, interesting day.
Friday 6 MayBarbara’s first project is in the Rotary Organisation. She met Pedro and Jesus and they went to collect food from the college kitchens. The first food delivery was to Monastaria School for multi-cultural infants and then to a shelter for the homeless.
Irene´s first project is with Nuesta Senora Residencia de Montserrat, a centre which caters for elderly, homeless people with a range of difficulties including dementia.
Saturday 7 MayToday we woke to the sound of rain. We both went off to DAN ZASS which is a music, dance and theatre association for young people with various disabilities. Our role was to supervise the children during the time they were not performing and this was quite demanding. It was amazing to watch these same children dancing.
In the evening we went to the Teatro Fernan Gomez, within walking distance of the studios, to hear Mine Kawakame, a concert pianist from Japan. This is a wonderful venue with excellent acoustics and her performance was interspersed with humorous tales in Spanish.
Sunday 8 MayWe had no work today so we went off exploring the Parque Retiro and then we came across the festival “Ninos de Mayo”. The narrow streets were festooned with banners and people were dressed in ancient traditional costumes.
Later we met up with Maria (who had been in Belfast as a volunteer) and Ana who will be going to Belfast in September. We were delighted that Maria had a car and we were able to sit back and relax as she took us on a tour. Later we went for a chat and a drink at one of the outdoor cafes.
Monday 9 MayWe both went off to the San Felipe Neri Centre, part of Caritas which provides excellent facilities for people of the area who are looking for work. Barbara sat in on a beauty theory lesson and later in a practical session she supervised the students and made corrections. Irene sat in with Manuel in the IT suite and helped Alina (from Romania) who was submitting an application for work to about eight firms looking for a job as a domestic helper.
In the afternoon we met up with Ana who had been in Belfast. It was great to see her again. We also met Santiago and Benito who will be the next two volunteers coming to Belfast in September. We were interviewed by a journalist about the “You Can Do It Project” and she was quite impressed with what we had been doing.
Tuesday 10 MayBarbara was unable to work today as she was feeling unwell. Irene went to Casa Senegal, a summer school for immigrant children which provides homework support and encourages integration. All the children there were very keen to talk and share their experiences. Later Irene explored the Juan Martin Foundation – an art gallery close to the studio which has free internet access and good cheap coffee.
- Download Barbara and Irene's week one blog in Spanish (Word - 35KB)
Hi dear friends
It is nice to send you our last news from Belfast before we leave on Tuesday 12 April. This week has been full up with things to do before we leave lovely Northern Ireland. By now you know our beginning of every week starts with meeting Adele which is always nice, she gives us some new things for our time table and we go through any questions. Then we do our English class where we write this blog, we will miss it!
Next day, Tuesday, was our day with Paula the young lady from Belfast City Council in Parks. She took us to Falls Park which is lovely. We worked with young school children. When all the children arrived, the two gardeners explained to the children about animals in springtime, and went with them round the park trying to collect the things needed to make a nest. When we came indoors Ana and I helped them to plant sunflower seeds. It was really fantastic getting to do different gardening activities. That evening we had our Spanish/Irish interchange class where we now have many friends where we can talk in both Spanish and English.
The next day we went to Musgrave Park to have some photographs taken for the Belfast City Council by a professional photographer. Of course Paula came to fetch us to take us to Musgrave Park. This was lovely and we got beautiful photographs taken. We again had to say bye to these nice group of people.
In the evening David our mentor invited the entire volunteers group in Belfast and Adele to his home. It was a lovely dinner party. Irish people are so easy going and great cooks. This is something I've learnt from them. Barney, one of the men going to Spain next October made two tarts and one of them had the names Ana and Maria written on it. We had pictures with it. We had a lot of fun because Barbara, one of the girls going in May to Madrid, took some outfits from her belly dance class, so we all did a bit of dancing.
And I haven't told you yet about the lovely weather in Belfast, it's unbelievable, it’s been warm and sunny every day for the last few days.
Next Thursday morning I went on my own to a nice old book shop I like very much. I think I told you before I was very much interested to do some work in charity shops, so I asked Adele about it and she arranged for us to work in War on Want. The book shop is so well organised that I loved working there and of course I bought some books. These kind of shops are all helped by volunteers and they get money for their charities which is so important. We had great fun trying some party dresses on and trying to sell them. We both got some nice things.
Yes, Friday we went to be with Volunteer Now and the volunteers. We did little that day as Fridays finish early and also two ladies from this Volunteer group interviewed us and took more photographs but we had lovely time.
That afternoon I went on a boat trip around the harbour, all the Titanic area, it was very interesting and very well explained but I didn't take my camera, I’m very forgetful. There are lots of celebrations for one hundred years of he Titanic which as they say here "she was alright when she left here".
And for the weekend we had plenty of offers from our friends in Belfast. We went to a flamenco show near to our apartment. There were a group of two guitar players, they did some singing, clapping and there was a girl dancing with "un poco de duende." It was very nice.
For Sunday we were was so very much interested in going to the Giants Causeway. We went all the way up to the northern part along the coast and the Glens, really beautiful. Barney came to fetch us with his lovely wife. We stopped in a little village by the sea to have an ice cream in the little port then we stopped in one of these beautiful Glens to have a picnic and some Irish music. It was lovely, they made it look so very easy and of course I forgot my camera again. As you can imagine the weather is still lovely. Then we followed up on our route to the Giants Causeway. Once there we were able to see these marvellous basalt stones. You can never imagine what it's going to be like. But it was fantastic. And back to Belfast we thought but in Ballymena Barney sopped the car in front of a nice hotel. Anyway we had a lovely big dinner, the food was delicious. It was a fantastic day.
On Monday we had a very nice lunch party at Adele's office. There were all the volunteers going to Madrid who are by now very excited, a councillor was also there, who gave us a short lovely words thanking all of us for the project and hoping everything went all right for the two of us. We were loaded with presents. Well I told them I have no words to say how thankful I was for making us feel so welcome.
Thanks again. I think this experience will be unforgettable and, at this age of life meeting different people, and experiencing different ways of living well you know is splendid.
From Madrid - The weather when we left you was nice and sunny and the trip back was really very good. The weather here was rather warm as we had been told but nice. Our hosts phoned us to check all was ok and we will meet then for details of our trip.
Love and kisses, Ana and Maria.
- Download Ana and Maria's week six blog in Spanish (PDF - 22KB)
This is our fifth week in Belfast. We have just been to see our supervisor Adele. Each Monday we reflect on the previous week and talk about the plan for the next one. We also do an English class each Monday where we write this blog.
Around the University quarter we have discovered some very good second hand bookshops which is great for us as we like reading English biographies, and the prices are very reasonable. Our favourite bookshop is called "War on Want". We're quite impressed about the many charity shops here with a great variety of items that are sold at very low prices and the money they get is for developing countries. We would like to spend some time volunteering in a charity shop so Adele will try to work something out for us.
On Tuesday we went on our botanical day to the city council community garden in Musgrave Park which is very big. We were provided with a pair of gardening boots each and we didn't’t know what to expect next! Anyway, we put them on very happily and off to work we went. Well, we worked hard in making a pergola with the help of Paula and a gardener. They had already built up different types of pergolas like huts, long ones and round ones. They are made with the branches of willow trees which were rather hard to plant and to bend, but in the end we managed. Paula said the one we did was the best. Paula said many times at the end, “my hand’s while sore” – now we know what that means – it was very funny. We think the parks in Belfast are spectacular. We think the city council is taking great steps to improve them.
On Tuesday evening, David, one of our friends in Belfast invited us to a jazz concert in an old bookshop which was really fantastic. The band was really fantastic, if you have the opportunity to see them they will be playing in the Cathedral quarter festival in May and we would recommend it.
Next day it was toddler’s day. The little ones by now recognise us and come to play with us which is lovely. The lady in charge of this nursery is very nice. This day was painting day so we all painted a candle holder and a card because 3 April it is mother's day here. When we finished we all had some paint on our clothes and hair, but we all enjoyed very much. We also sang some children's songs.
In the afternoons if we can, we go along the Lagan River. We think we'll miss our nice path along the river when back at home. Now it's really lovely full of flowers especially daffodils.
Thursday was our last day at Fleming Fulton School for children. Remember we told you about this super school last week? We were received by Mr Taylor the head teacher and after a nice chat with him he gave us the timetable for the day - some computer classes, nursery, Spanish lesson, gym, and drama - as you can see very well organised. We've had a great opportunity to visit this school.
That afternoon dear David invited us to go to Londonderry, as his volunteer organisation was giving a performance there. Ana wasn't feeling well so I (Maria) went with him up top on a double deck bus, so I could see quite well the so changing scenery to Derry. The performance was brilliant. It was a group of teenage girls talking about the identity of being a woman nowadays. It was prepared all by themselves. It was excellent.
On Friday, we had our final day at Sandy Row kitchen. The girls in the kitchen Lorraine, Angela and the rest prepared a tea party for us. We had a nice long chat with them and lots of laughing. And we took some photographs. We enjoyed it very much. We will miss our club at Sandy Row.
In the afternoon I went to get some tickets for the Belfast Film Festival at the Queen's Film Theatre and take a walk around Queen's University.
On Saturday, we had already been invited by Patricia and David to go to Salsa. Patricia danced quite well as she had attended classes some time ago but for David was his first Salsa class and he did it very well. I watched them. When the Salsa class finished we went to Tango lessons in the same club. David was very keen on showing me the first steps of Tango and he got it, but as I am not very good at it I left David free to dance with some other girls who were better than me! Nevertheless it was a great experience for me to be able to appreciate different kind of people and Belfast evenings. I have become very curious about Belfast and go to many different places to get to know Belfast on my own.
Oh I forgot to tell you that we have become a bit famous in Belfast as we were on BBC Radio Ulster on Saturday morning but I didn't’t hear but Adele and many others told us it was quite good and we will try to get a copy of it as a souvenir.
On Sunday, we had lunch at very well known fish restaurant that was recommended here. And in the afternoon I went to see White Lies a French film at Queens Film Theatre.
See you next week - our last week in Belfast!
Hello friends - What about you? We now understand this local greeting when it's written down as some people from Belfast greet us like this! We are becoming Northern Irish girls day by day and we love it.
It is now our 4th week in Belfast. This week started with the English course and writing which was a nice start and we are getting better – we hope!
On Tuesday we were invited by Adele and Belfast City Council to a seminar on community gardens and allotments in the City hall. The speakers invited were from England, Republic of Ireland and of course Belfast and some more Northern Irish people. The purpose of this seminar was to explore the benefits, opportunities and challenges of community gardens and to encourage volunteers from community gardens on this kind of work by using allotments. This is a wise way to show people to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
We spent the evening at Divis Community Centre in West Belfast. We were with Therese and a group of volunteers helping with adults with difficulties. It's like a social club, they play billiards, draw pictures, puzzles etc. Therese and the volunteers here make it very warm and lively. Therese was very kind and gave us a present that so we can remember our time in Belfast – Thank you Therese.
Our next day was spent with toddlers at East Belfast Mission, and as the days have been nice and sunny we went with the toddlers to a nearby park which was good fun.
Another day we went to the Fleming Fulton School. This school is incredibly well equipped for children from 2-18 for all kind of needs they may have. They offer many subjects and have a swimming pool as well. We were taken around the school by James in his specialised wheelchair. James is leaving the school this year to study computer science. He’s been here since he was 2 years old. We were quite impressed about the equipment as I said before as they had different wheelchairs different physical disabilities were excellent. We were invited to talk with the students in their classes which was lovely.
We were asked to cook a paella at Sandy Row Community Centre so we went to St George's Market to buy the ingredients we needed. This market is great, you can buy fish, sea food, vegetables and fruit. Everything is so fresh and looks delicious that we wanted to buy so much! But we only bought what we needed, and off we went walking straight to Sandy Row. It was a busy morning, Ana started very efficiently cleaning the squids and preparing the things for the paella. Maria was the kitchen helper for Ana and for Angela the cook in Sandy Row Kitchen. When Ana finished cooking the paella which looked delicious Adele came in with a radio journalist who after interviewing Adele interviewed Ana and myself. He wanted to know all about the volunteer exchange and he also tasted the paella which he said was delicious.
We also had a lovely sunny weekend. On Saturday morning we went on a walk along the Lagan river, passing the rowing clubs. On our way back we stopped at a nice beer garden to rest, have a cold beer and a snack. We were met there by our mentor David. We came back all together along the river to the city centre and fortunately there was rowing race which we watched with delight. We also saw a seal coming up and down the surface of the river - weren't we lucky! David invited us for supper at his home with June his wife and one of their children. He cooked delicious sea bass for us and June made an lovely dessert.
On Sunday, again it was nice and sunny, Ana went to the Botanic Gardens and Maria went with a friend by train to Helen's Bay, which is by the sea. How nice to go walking along the different paths in the forest, by the sea and in the sand. We took plenty of pictures of course.
In the evening, we went to have dinner at a restaurant. The food was excellent. We are having a brilliant time here in Belfast and very happy to have been able to come.
- Download Ana and Maria's Paella Recipe (Word - 6KB)
- Download Ana and Maria's week four blog in Spanish (PDF - 70KB)
We cannot believe this is our third week already gone for us here in Belfast. My dear friends time flies in Belfast. One thing that has surprised us from the very beginning of our stay is that local people don't feel cold as we do.
Although the weather was wet at times this week with snow, drizzle and wind, we went to visit the Queens' University, the Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum. They were very interesting and nice. And they were free, a surprise for us.
We have been visiting some of the pubs in Belfast. They are the best we have ever seen. The decoration is very warm and also the atmosphere which is so inviting, they have live music, most Irish but also jazz, you can have nice meals in them with this delicious Irish Guinness or whatever, very enjoyable.
This week, we have started a new volunteer issue, Mums and toddlers in East Belfast Mission group. We were there with some other volunteers attending the toddlers. The mums or dads remain there while their children are trying to get into contact one another by playing, which is really lovely, the little ones learn to play with other children while their mums and dads are there having a chat and a cup of tea. We thought it was very good for all.
Another new issue for us this week was the Divis Community Centre Children and Adults with Learning Difficulties. This community is doing great work. We were with some children who have different disabilities and they are mixed together learning with specialised volunteers. We were with them singing and playing some sort of instruments for little ones. It was very well organized. We had a very successful time with them.
And of course St Patrick's Day a real holiday for Irish people. Belfast was all in green. The day was quite sunny but cold and still local people enjoyed it very much in t-shirts and slippers, well it's rather amazing for us. St Patrick's Day was a lovely holiday. The parade was very entertaining. In the afternoon we were invited to see the tea dance at the City Hall. It was lovely, we took plenty of pictures. And in the evening we were also invited to a concert at the Waterfront Auditorium. The concert was gorgeous, The Horslips, who were the singers, singing and playing together with the Ulster Chamber Orchestra. We enjoyed it very much and the other people at the concert enjoyed it much more as they knew all their songs very well and could sing along.
The following day we had a special day at the community kitchen in Sandy Row. We were asked to prepare a paella for next Friday and as Ana is good at cooking the paella, she will cook it and I will help. We'll tell you how it goes, we think it's going to be delicious.
On Saturday, one of our lovely mentors Patricia arranged a trip with us to Newcastle. As the day was quite good we were able to see the Mourne Mountains falling down to the Irish Sea, it was really fantastic. We had some nice food in a pub - what else could we have asked for? Thank you very much for your nice hospitality Patricia.
Well this is it for this week,we have had a great time.
- Download Ana and Maria's week three blog in Spanish (PDF - 76KB)
Our second week in Belfast has been very challenging. We had our English classes for the first time in Belfast which have been individual and rather good.
We are impressed by the community gardens and bowling greens run by the council. They try very hard to involve different groups of people like children and adults with disabilities, planting vegetables for homeless people and planting flowers.
We understand that the recovery of small gardens which have been a bit neglected is very important to the community. Paula, our guide, gave us a tour through some of the gardens and bowling greens, so we had quite a good idea of the things they do to encourage people to keep their area green.
As planned in our timetable, we had another different gardening issue, for the Practical Services, Volunteer Now Association. The person in charge for our volunteer gardening was Robert and two other volunteers. This group work voluntarily to keep gardens for older people and playgrounds for children, as well as clearing litter from some gardens and greens after a holiday or doing house decoration for older people.
This week, we will also take part in two different Spanish speaking groups for an English exchange. We will participate every Tuesday, which is lovely.
During International Women's Day, we were invited by our mentor Adele to take part in a bus walking tour so we are aware of the work that women from Belfast have done during the past century. It was very interesting for us as we could understand the English, and the lady explaining the tour had very good English. It was really lovely.
We want to add that all the people who have met us during the different issues we have written about have been extremely nice. Thank you very much.
- Download Ana and Maria's week two blog in Spanish (PDF - 22KB)
Tuesday 1 March 2011As soon as we landed in Belfast , a bright sunny day welcomed us. At the bus station, Adele, our mentor was waiting for us to take us to our new home.
The flat we are staying in is very spacious and bright and is in a central location, near to McHugh's Bar and the Albert Clock tower. We will be able to walk everywhere in Belfast and we are looking forward to taking walks by the Lagan River .
Adele left us to settle in and we agreed to meet at her office the following morning to go through our timetable for the exchange. Adele is a helpful and friendly young lady and really made us feel at home on our first day in Belfast.
Wednesday 2 March 2011Our day today started with meeting Adele at her office. She gave us some welcome presents and showed us our timetable for our stay in Belfast.
We walked to the City Hall, and there we met two councillors, Bernie Kelly and Jim Rodgers as well as the volunteers from Belfast who are connected to the project. Councillor Kelly made a welcome speech and we had lunch in the Banqueting Hall.
After lunch, we took a tour of City Hall which was very interesting. At 5pm we were received by the Lord Mayor Councillor Pat Convery who offered us coffee and tea in his parlour. We were delighted that he made us feel so important and so very welcome.
Thursday 3 March 2011Today Adele took us to two of the places where we will be volunteering, Grosvenor Community Centre and Sandy Row Community Centre. We very much enjoyed meeting the staff there and it made us excited about working there later in the week.
We also went on the city sightseeing tour bus and got to see the landmarks of the troubles and the murals and to learn more about the history of Belfast.
Friday 4 March 2011Today, we went to Sandy Row Community Centre at 10am to start our volunteering. We met the three people who work in the kitchen and we started to help to prepare the food with their instruction. We also met with some of the older people who came along to have the lunch.
It was so interesting for us to see the differences with the kitchen where we work in Spain. We enjoyed it a lot and at the end we were invited to have some lunch which was very nice.
In the evening we met with our social mentors for dinner and it was very enjoyable to see around some bars and restaurants around the Cathedral quarter.
Saturday 5 MarchThis morning we went to Grosvenor Community Centre, where we met with Christina Black and she explained the events that were happening that day.
We met Philippine migrants who were playing basketball and children from both local communities playing football. We also talked to some of the fathers of the children about the benefits of their children attending the centre.
In the afternoon we walked around the city centre and did some shopping. We also visited some of the cheerful Belfast pubs and we were delighted with the atmosphere. They are not at all like the Irish bars that we have in Madrid!
Sunday 6 MarchToday, our social mentor Patricia arranged to take us to St George's Market which was a lot of fun. In the evening we went to another mentor's home, David, and had dinner with him and his wife.
We are really enjoying our time here in Belfast and we are excited about the next week ahead.
- Download Ana and Maria's week one blog in Spanish (PDF - 33KB)