Hosting the students who range in age from 14 to 19, are volunteer families in the Paynesville area. Jeanne Virant, Paynesville, is coordinating the program which runs through July 24. Virant and Kathleen Sogge are the teachers for the students. Together they plan and provide activities to help the students understand culture and tradition in our area. The cultural exchange company which provides the administrative structure of the program is called Pacific American Institute and is
The program includes four major excursions and two afternoon activities each week in addition to daily class sessions.
During their time here, the students will be visiting the Capitol, Omni Theater, Fort Snelling, a Twins game, Valleyfair and the Mall of America. They have already enjoyed a tour of the Paynesville Historical Museum, Dan and Linda Meyer's dairy farm, Veteranŕs Park, Spicer parade, ShaBooms, Spicer Water Park and the Big Kahuna attractions.
Upcoming events in Paynesville include bowling at Koronis Lanes, playing baseball with some willing Americans, swimming at Mari and Cecil Louis' and riding horses at Dale and Sue Spaniers.
The group speaks fairly good English and can communicate well. They are fun loving and enjoyable to work with, Virant and Sogge state.
Escorting the students from Spain is Beatriz Gonzalez. Her job is to provide translation, and act as a chaperone for the students. She is staying with Dr. Allan and Pat Solum. Beatriz is a college senior and this is her fourth trip to the United States as an escort. "Paynesville is better, the people are nicer and the view is great,"she said.
Host families include Joe and Barb Hanson, Dan and Linda Meyer, Cecil and Mari Louis, Sue and Dale Spanier, Dan and Janet Binsfeld, Oluf and Debbie Johnson, Larry and Joyce Roberg, Dan and Becky Hoey, Fern and Gary Roberg, Dale and Karen Bachman, Dr. Randy and Molly Zimmerman, Larry and Diane Kalas, Jeff and Becky Thompson and Jeanne and Bill Virant.
Upon asking the students to compare Paynesville with their homes in Spain, several felt Paynesville was better. "I like Paynesville very much, I think it is a very beautiful town, everything is green and clean. The people are very friendly. There are many differences between USA and Spain, we cannot drive until 19 years old but we can drink alcohol at 16. In Spain we often drive at 100 or 120 km/per hour and our food is very, very different," Maria Tejedor said.
Gregorio Martin-Montalvo likes the small town atmosphere of Paynesville. He lives in Madrid and there the way of life is very different.
Gorka Fernandez says the people here are very friendly, but he thinks Spanish food is better. Many of the students said Americans eat too much junk food in comparison to what they eat at home. Their food is healthier and tastier.
The students explained in Spain they eat more fresh vegetables and seafood, not so much fast food. Also, they felt the foods here were sweeter.
Beatriz Canadas added, "Everything (food) is already prepared, you can buy everything you want and don't have to make it at home."
Beatriz said another different thing is the times we have our meals. In America, we have breakfast at the same time as they do at home, but their lunch is served at 2:30 p.m. and supper is at 10 or 11 p.m.
Beatriz added she liked the idea of being able to leave your car in Paynesville without locking it...nobody steals it. She also likes the trees and lakes here.
Alejendro is staying with a farm family and commented that in Spain he doesn't feed cows.
Victor Lera Burgos likes Paynesville because it is a quiet town. "There are many differences in our culture and people," he added. "In Spain we have better and fewer mosquitoes."
Another student felt they had less mosquitoes in Spain. Javier Martin-Montalvao added, "The life in Paynesville is very calm. The people don't smoke, always wear the seat belt when in the car and they have more responsibility."
Jose del Moline said Spain is very different than Paynesville because old people are less active than Spanish people. Also in Spain there are discos and here there aren't discos.
Alejandro Artime says he likes this village (Paynesville) because people are very friendly and because our food is better than the other villages they have stayed in.
Sara Garcia said American way of life is very different from her Spanish one.... the weather and the food. "The town where I live in Spain is a small one, but it's not as quiet as Paynesville. There are so many differences to be explained with words. You must go to visit our country to see what we are talking about," she added.
Eduardo Holgueras likes Paynesville as it has no pollution compared to Madrid. On July 6 he had the opportunity to ride a horse in a parade in Melrose.
Carmen Lopez LaSerna agreed the mosquitoes here are the worst. She also said there aren't any buildings here, only houses. In addition, the kids here play different sports..baseball and softball compared to rugby and soccer in Spain.
Bill Virant, activities director, has also volunteered time to teach about American baseball, Molly and Randy Zimmerman conducted a presentation on outdoor skills, including a tent set-up and survival information.
Several American students have taken time to interact and get to know the Spanish students which has added to the richness of their experience, Virant said.
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