Pueblo Inglés Blog

My Pueblo Ingles experience: Fun was always around the corner

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My Pueblo Ingles experience . August 7-15, 2014

volunteering spainBy Marcia Lewis

“Fun was always around the corner”

When the activity schedule calls for dinner at 21:00 pm (9:00) and social time starting at 22:30 pm (10:30), one had better take Spanish lifestyle seriously.   We did, and we thrived.  For eight days this summer my sister and I joined volunteers from England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Australia and the US for Diverbo’s Pueblo Ingles, an English language immersion program in Spain.

Diverbo structures Pueblo Ingles so that Anglos (that’s what they called us English-speaking volunteers) help Spaniards perfect their English.  It works like this:  ours was an adult program where volunteers speak with Spaniards—only in English—all day long.  One-on-one sessions, conference calls, discussion groups and mealtimes are designed for Spaniards to perfect their English.  In return, the volunteers are housed—in spacious rooms—and fed—generously—at lovely resorts in Spain and have the opportunity to establish friendships not only with each other, but also with the Spaniards.

And those friendships do evolve.  Group projects such as designing a perfect day or a new prototype of car led to appreciating others’ ideas, and deep conversations emanated from discussion topics such as:  What is the riskiest decision you’ve ever made?  What is the closest thing to a miracle you’ve witnessed?  What makes you unusual?   “Women need a reason to have sex.  Men just need a place.”—Billy Crystal.  How can a participant not get to know others well with that stimulation?

Our job was to correct Spaniards’ grammar, verb agreement and help with sentence structure.  So we noted that subjects before verbs were a good idea, commented that the wine was young, not jung, and taught them idioms—and swear words.   What I wasn’t inclined to correct was their charming habit of putting an e in front of s words:  “I am e-Spanish” or “You are e-special.”  Who would correct that?

volunteeering spainThey needed and appreciated the help, as was evidenced by their asking us to dance (we had three parties) and taking us on excursions.  Our program was at La Alberca, a lovely resort in the mountains near Salamanca, and there was a monastery, Pena de Francia, nearby.  A few Spaniards with cars rounded up a diverse group of Anglos and took us to this historic site with expansive views.

Those parties—every Spaniard went/every Spaniard stayed until the wee hours.  Nobody had a name for the party thrown on August 15th for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in to heaven, but no name was necessary.

Many of the volunteers were teachers, often retired, and at least half had returned numerous times.  Most of the Spaniards were up-and-comers who needed English in their careers.  There were approximately 40 of us altogether.  Every Spaniard commented on how the economic downturn in Spain has made jobs precious and English essential.

Food was abundant and delicious.  Breakfast featured torta espanola (potato/egg dish) with sofrito (fresh garlic/tomato sauce) and membrillo (quince paste) for spreading on toast.  Lunch was full-on dinner, and dinner was dinner again.   Desserts were my favorite:  vienetta ice cream cake with curls of chocolate or borrachos (drunk cake), but the Spaniards melted when torrija was presented.  It is similar to French toast and is served on Easter.

Fun was always around the corner.  There were ice breakers, skits, songs, line dancing and lots of laughter.   One night when it was pitch dark out, there was a quimada ceremony.  Orujo, an alcoholic drink, was flamed to send away the costumed witches that “haunted” us.

My favorite part was the Spaniards’ presentations.  Through them we got to know how perfect paella is made, where to find the best seafood and most importantly–where to locate the best tapas (Basque country, called pinchos there and accompanied by cider).  We felt like we got an inside track on the culture and the country—what a rare opportunity!

When one of the Spaniards told me that she couldn’t remember anything in Spanish, I knew my job was well done.  A few days before we left, one of my Spanish friends placed her cheek within kissing distance.  I loved that she assumed I would want to peck her on the cheek.  Of course I did.  As we departed there were promises to keep in touch, and as I checked my email a few hours later in Madrid, there was a picture Rosa sent of her and me.   We will keep in touch, and we will return—definitely.

pueblo ingles

If you go:

  • Room and board are provided for volunteers.
  • There are various locations for the program in Spain.
  • Dates are available year-round.
  • There are also programs in Germany.

Wanna join us? More information at www.diverbo.com

 

 

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