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Ten days in Spain

“Ten Days in Spain” was the theme of Spring Break 2009 and the opportunity of a lifetime for the Charles Henderson High School students, as well as the teachers, parents and people of the community who joined them.

The 10-day trip to Spain was organized by Pam Merkel, Spanish teacher, and included Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Costa del Sol.

“We went as tourists and also as ambassadors for Charles Henderson High School, Troy, Ala. and all of the United States,” Merkel said.

“I believed that all of those who had contact with us came away with a very positive feeling and I know that the trip was one that made memories for a lifetime. I know that it did for me.”

And not only was the trip a memory maker for all it was also a life-changing experience for some, including CHHS teacher Karla Johnson.

“Spain a land where their buildings are older than our entire nation,” Johnson said. “I was impressed by the beautiful architecture of Barcelona and Madrid was well as the paintings of the Prado and the majestic cathedrals.

“The food in Spain was amazing – very different from ours but very natural and flavorful. Several of the students commented that the pizza was the best they had ever had, probably because of the real cheeses and vegetables.”

Johnson loved visiting a land where beauty and excellence are held in such high esteem.

“Every restaurant had cloth tablecloths, cloth napkins and stemmed glasses,” she said. “They use every day what we only use on special occasions and it makes ever day seem special.”

For Caitlin Sexton, going to Spain was the “experience of a lifetime.”

“Going to Spain and seeing how the people live there was amazing to me,” Sexton said. “Everyone walks. They eat healthy and are very friendly. The best part is you don’t have to worry about anything being stolen from you.”

Other than the people, it was the beauty of the country that impressed Sexton.

“Spain is a beautiful place,” she said. “My favorite city was Barcelona. There you have Las Rhamblas, a long strip that goes to the Mediterranean Sea but, along the way, there are a lot of vendors selling things and people who imitate statues. It’s very different from what I’ve seen before.

“ Spain has many historical places and monuments that are a must see while you are there. I especially liked the La Sagrada Familia, which is a beautiful church that Gaudi started building but was unable to finish because he died. But today, they are planning to have it finished by the year 2020.”

Sexton summed up her experience in Spain with a couple of words, “a blast.”

“I did have a blast,” she said.

“Being with my classmates made it even better for me. We became a family when we went to Spain. If I have a chance to go back, I would go back in a heartbeat.”

Johnathan Hubbard found a “new life” in Spain.

“I really enjoyed Spain a lot,” he said. “There were new people and cultures awaiting me as soon as I stepped on Spanish soil. Visiting Spain opened up new opportunities for my life and education. I feel that my Spanish has been even more enriched by visiting this country.

“The people are friendly and are willing to help the people who aren’t familiar with the routines of Spanish life. Spain’s routines are totally different from ours. They wake up and eat breakfast and then either go to work or to school. Lunch is usually served in the late afternoon. After lunch people have a siesta or a nap. Dinner is usually eaten late at night and lasts very long.

Hubbard enjoyed the many varieties of food Spain has to offer.

“The food was better than anything America can produce,” he said. “All of the fruits and vegetables are grown without any chemicals.”

Hubbard said the people of Spain enjoy their free time and spend it wisely with friends and family, not worrying about bad things.

“Maybe we can all learn a lesson from Spain by not worrying so much on the things we don’t have but the things we do have and enjoy life as they do,” he said.

“I really fell in love with Spain and the people there. I have to admit that leaving Spain was like leaving my home for good but I know one day I will return. I hope to be given the opportunity to study biology in Barcelona.”

Alex Graham came back with memories that will last a lifetime.

“I enjoyed getting closer to those who traveled along with us,” Graham said.

“It was like having a whole new family — several mothers, two dads, and even grandparents. I also enjoyed getting to meet new people. If I ever get the chance to go back, I will. The country was so nice. From the weather to the buildings to all the different sites, it was wonderful. I am definitely glad I took the opportunity to go on this trip! It was a lifetime experience.”

Tonita Bentley said she and her son, Andrew, had a wonderful trip to Spain.

“I can literally say that I walked, ate and shopped my way across Spain form Barcelona to the Costa del Sol,” Bentley said.

“The cathedrals that we toured were absolutely beautiful. The landscapes were so different as we went from north to south. The ride on the AVE, which is one of the fastest trains in the world, was very comfortable. We went from Madrid to Cordoba in only one hour and 30 minutes. It would have been a five- hour ride by bus.”

“Our tour guide was very informative about every one of the cities and all of the local guides that we had were great as well. After we had been in Barcelona about a day and a half, Andrew said that he could see himself living in Spain. Spain really has a magical effect on the first-time visitor. To see all the sights and to tour places that I have only seen in pictures was a surreal experience.

“The food in Spain was incredible. Several of the adults tried snails for the first time. We has lots of tapas and several versions of paella.”

Bentley bought a flamenco skirt with all the accessories to wear for her Spanish classes at Zion Chapel on Wednesday.

“Mrs. Merkel took her Spanish III and IV class to the Access Lab at Charles Henderson High School and they called my Spanish II class in the Access Lab at ZC so the students could see the costume,” Bentley said.

“Our students introduced themselves to each other and we shared songs with each other via IVC. Overall this was a wonderful travel experience and one that has really helped me further my language skills. It was truly a trip with memories to last a lifetime.”

Earl and Martha Ellis called the opportunity to travel with such a “well mannered bright and educationally prepared group of Charles Henderson High School students” an honor.

‘Troy should be very proud of them,” they said. “Our school system is very fortunate to have such dedicated, hard working teachers as Pam Merkel and Karla Johnson who lead our students through such an enriching experience.”

Earl Ellis said he and his wife especially enjoyed the Moorish palaces huge cathedrals and quaint towns with unique restaurants shops and beautiful gardens.

“Spain is very rich in art and we were excited to see many of the world’s most famous galleries, which we had only read about in the past,” Ellis said.

“This was one of the most interesting and fun trips that we have ever made.”