Our 3rd week in Spain had us voulenteering as native English speakers at an isolated resort that became a Pueblo Inglés (English Village) for native Spanish speakers. We stumbled across this program via the recommendation of Ricardo, Ben’s cousin, who had participated in the program as a Spaniard. Our journey began early Friday morning aboard a bus with roughly 20 Spaniards, 20 Anglos (including us) and 2 program directors. The six hour bus ride lived up to it’s promise of taking us to a remote location where our ‘english village for a week’ would have absolutely no contact with anyone that spoke in Spanish for roughly a week. The resort was located about 30 minutes outside the small town of Cazorla in the National Park of the Sierras.
As soon as we got to the location and checked-in the program started in full swing with long days full of group activities and one-on-one English conversations. By day three we were both exhausted from speaking for 12+ hours a day. I am sure all the Spainards were ten times more exhausted than we were but they all continued on with the programs cheerfully and managed to not to show any frustrations they had. Maybe the laughs were from exhaustion, but it seemed to be working. The program directors planned a couple of cultural experiences for us Anglos during the week. One evening we enjoyed a demonistration of the making of Queimada, a famous drink from the north in Galicia. They prepared the drink in traditional fashion, stirring the fiery liquid with long pours that formed columns of fire as three voulenteers chanted the song (in English, Spanish, and Galician) that adds purification powers to the drink. Although a spirit made from old crushed wine grapes and herbs and coffee, the Queimada tasted like jetfuel. Despite this, we both sipped on it slowly and managed to finish about half of each of our servings.
About half-way through the week (after the big ‘party’ night) the group had an excursion to the closest village, Cazorla. The most interesting thing about the town is the fact that the main church was built on top of the river that runs through town. We took the oppurtunity to walk along the river (on the parts that don’t run under the town and old church) and enjoy a bit of time to practice Amanda’s Spanish.
The final main event of the trip was the unexpected heavy snow fall we had a couple days before the end of the program. The snow was welcomed as a change from the constant downpour of rain that we confined us all to the indoors of the small resort for the first five days. Since most the Spainards didn’t come from area with much snowfall they all found it just as much fun as the many Anglos (who must now think that the idea of a sunny Spain is a total myth). No, it is not supposed to snow in Andalucía in mid-March. We did finally get about a day and a half of sunshine before the program ended. It was still fairly cold but people took the opurtunity to get outdoors for conversations and bask in the sunshine when they could.
Spaniards enjoying some fun in the snow
While the week was an intense and exhausting experience (especially being confined to the indoors with so many people for a few days), it was a very rewarding one. There was a wide variety of both interesting Spaniards and Anglos. We were amazed and inspired by many of the people we met. In the group of Anglos: one girl had traveled all the way from India to volunteer for the program; a couple (in their 50’s) had been traveling and sleeping in a VW Van from England all across Europe for the past seven months; another girl from England was now living in Italy and had started her own trekking company (check our her company here!). The Spainards were just as interesting to meet, some working as professionals from a variety of companies/profession and others on a personal journey to master English and see where it takes them in the world (many seeking to leave Spain and “el crisis económico”).
The week ended well with many new friends added to our contacts (whom we have already been in touch with since departing the program). While we had originally planned on taking the free bus back to Madrid, we soon discovered that one of our new Spainard friends was headed just north of Valencia – our next stop. We did a traditional Spanish goodbye with everyone (meaning it lasted about an hour) and headed northeast for a four hour drive through the country of Spain with our new friend, Andrés.