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Where they went

Omar in Spain

Email|Print| Text size + By Diane Daniel
December 5, 2004

WHO: Omar Muneeruddin, 19, of Lynnfield (now attending New York University)

WHERE: Spain

WHEN: Two weeks in April

WHY: In October 2003, Muneeruddin's family participated in a student exchange between his school in Danvers, St. John's Preparatory School, and the public school in Valladolid, Spain, about 2 hours northwest of Madrid. They hosted Felix Alonso Gonzalez for three weeks, sharing customs and cuisine from America and India, the Muneeruddin's homeland. Last spring, Omar visited Felix.

OFF TO SPAIN: The trip was Muneeruddin's first to Europe. ''There were about 20 of us, with two teachers chaperoning." They spent the first week touring Andalusia, seeing Granada, Cordoba, and Seville.

LIKE A HOMECOMING: ''When we go to Valladolid, it was like coming off a tour bus where all the fans were standing outside," he said. ''The people who had participated in the exchange were there. A lot of them were going crazy."

THE CITY: ''Everything is like all these little plazas and rotaries with plants in them. It kind of reminded me of Boston. There were a lot of trees and it was very nice to walk around in, and clean."

FELIX AND FAMILY: ''He's a couple years younger. . . . He lived with his mother and younger brother, and his grandfather lived on the same floor of the apartment building. [Felix's father passed away.] I noticed how much smaller everything is. They have a table that pulls out from the wall."

WORK AND PLAY: "We attended one full day of their classes," Muneeruddin said. ''In Felix's Latin class, they decided to just ask me questions about America. I'd never talked in Spanish that long." On day trips, he and his fellow Americans saw ''a lot of castles and museums," he said. ''One day we went to Madrid. It was really cool but we really didn't spend enough time there. Even the Prado [Museum] we were rushed through."

REAL FTBOL: "We went to see soccer, which was cool because I'm a huge soccer fan. Valladolid has a team, and they're playing in the premier league, the first division. We saw their stadium, Real Madrid. I got a team jersey and a couple scarves." He ''kicked the ball around" with Gonzalez's team one day when their opponents didn't show up. ''I thought because it was Europe, there would be nice fields and grass, but we were playing on, like, tar. But it was still really cool."

NIGHTS OUT: "Saturday night is the big night to go out, even for really young teenagers. We went to some nightclubs with the kids in the school. There are so many people out on the streets because they're going in and out of clubs. I wish we had been there more weekends."

FOOD AND DRINK: "I ate a lot of tortillas, which is like an omelet. People drink wine at home, and at the clubs everyone drinks, but I don't drink."

CHURCH AND STATE: "I noticed there were so many churches and so many depictions of Jesus," he said. ''I'm Muslim, and I realized how much I appreciate the diversity here. Most of the Spanish people there had white skin. I definitely stood out in that regard."

To see other reader vacation snapshots, visit www.boston.com/wheretheywent. Send story suggestions to ddaniel@globe.com.

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