One of the planned activities that we have to do, and was considered at length in the visit to Poland, was the creation of the exchange boxes. These boxes had to be filled with objects that were considered to be typical in our local area. They then had to be sent to each of the participating countries before Christmas. At the time of writing this I have already received five boxes and have not sent mine!! So I can only hope that you all get our boxes before Christmas.

Here you can see both the things we prepared for our boxes plus a report on my students opening the ones sent to us.

Planning the contents of our boxes

Deciding what to include in the exchange boxes has not been an easy task. Within the group we brainstormed all the sort of things that we could include and in the end came up with a list that we think gives people a good idea of the sorts of things that are typically local here. Everything has been chosen by the students. We appreciate that we haven't sent boxes whose contents can necessarily be shared out among the students of each country but nevertheless everyone can handle and look at the things we have sent and, hopefully, get more of an idea of what it is like to be here.

In our boxes you will find the following things:

- A Catalan flag, la Senyera. Originally Laia brought me one flag which we were going to cut up into seven pieces. When I saw the flag I decided that this wouldn't do and went out and bought six more of the same size, so you all have one large Catalan flag.

- A bag of mandarins. These mandarins were collected by Iris from the trees out the back of her parents house a couple of weeks ago, they are the real thing and grow everywhere here.

- There is a small bottle of locally produced olive oil that is a sample given to us from the local cooperative which bottles most of the oil from local producers.

- There is a small white bag of rice. This again is locally produced rice. The Delta de l'Ebre (The Ebro river delta) is the place in Spain where the best rice is farmed. The delta is very flat and famous for its countryside and the spectacular sights of the rice paddies. This small bag is very special as it was handmade by Jessica's mum especially for the exchange boxes.

- There are various pamphlets and brochures about the local area which we got from the local tourist office and the local council in Roquetes. Along with these there is a pin from the local council and various stickers.

- Among the stickers there is one very important one. This is the sticker of the Catalan donkey.

Here is the sticker and the real thing

A few years ago a group decided to defend the Catalan donkey as a breed in danger. They produced these distinctive stickers to represent their campaign. The idea was soon taken by goups defending Catalan independence and adopted as the sticker that represented that Catalunya was also in danger from attacks from Madrid. So if you are a rebel, wear your sticker with Catalan pride!

- There are two different types of Coquettes, these come from Xerta and were supplies by Marcel and Norbert. They are a speciality in the village and very famous.

- There is a rather cheap and nasty orange handkerchief or scarf. This is in fact a very important thing. These scarves are worn by the "penyes" during the "festes" in Roquetes. Festes are the traditional city celebrations held once a year at a special time in Roquetes. The Penyes are groups of friends who get together to celebrate the Festes, wearing these scarves is very traditional and marks someone who is participating in the Festes. Gemma got these ones from the council and here you can see her and some of the others modelling them in the approved styles.

- You have all received a traditional Spanish deck of cards, very different from normal cards they have the same foundation but are visually very different.

- Finally we have included for everyone two very traditional Spanish, and Catalan, Christmas things. One is the bar of torró, or turrón in Spanish. This is a traditional delicacy at Christmas and is eaten everywhere here. The shops are full at the moment. If you would like to know more just go here.

The other things are polvorons. These are also highly traditional but they are also very very dry. For fun, if someone is brave enough, take the polvoron and squash it in your fist so it is compacted. Then your volunteer has to eat it whole and try to sing a Christmas carol whilst doing so. This is practically impossible... it is not traditional either but you will have a good laugh watching the person trying.

Boxes we have received

This last Thursday, the 9th, I asked my students not to miss the Comenius meeting if they could possibly avoid it. The surprise for them was that we were there to open the boxes we had received from Sweden, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany and Poland. I have to confess that I had opened them all beforehand to remove CDs with photos and things like that, better safe than sorry.

The opening as you can see here started out in an orderly and responsible manner.

But then when the chocolate was discovered degenerated into a free for all, in fact we were careful that we opened them all one at a time and everyone saw the whole contents, not just the edible parts.

We had a lot of fun as you can see.

I did the opening and things were passed round, Guillema was there taking pictures and Salomè also dropped in briefly, normally she has class at this time.

Looking at the pictures that were taken I can see that Mayte hogged the camera for most of the time. She is in practically all of the pictures.

She especially loved the car. Some of the boys also quickly discovered the topless girls in the German newspapers.

I already knew this was there and showed it to Guillem, if you look carefully it says "only for teachers" and clinked promisingly.

Mariona was initially not too sure about the Polish sweets, but she soon changed her mind.

Guillem faithfully took pictures of most things.

Many thanks for all the Christmas cards, something which is not traditional here and my students didn't think of doing. Perhaps I should mention this, the contents of our boxes are what the students thought of on their own. I gave them a couple of ideas but mostly left them to decide.

When we had finished opening the boxes I got them to prepare the contents of the ones we sent. Which some of them did, the rest had found a German music CD and were already listening to it.

All in all it was a fun couple of hours. I have some students coming tomorrow who couldn't be there on the Thursday, but that's ok as I have kept some stuff for them.

We look forward to the remaining boxes.

The day after

On the Friday I had the students who hadn't been able to come to the Thursday meeting.

Of course this was in the middle of my normal first year class in the lang lab.

Marcel and Abraham

Laia "loves" me taking photos of her so I thought I would put this one specially here just to annoy her.