I'm here in Valdelavilla, a very remote village in Soría about five hours north of Madrid. There are 19 Spaniards and 19 Anglos (native English speakers) in this intense week-long program called Pueblo Inglés where only English is spoken and allowed.
It's been only three days, and having met quite a number of people from various geographical regions, stories, passions and dreams, it's been unexpectedly inspiring, and not to mention, exhausting. (I think that just happens when you are talking nonstop, having one-on-one conversations, getting to know people on a much deeper level.) I can only imagine that it's much more exhausting for the Spaniards, having to translate their thoughts from Spanish to English. (Soon enough they will be thinking in English!) Many are here to improve their English conversational skills for work, and they come from quite a diverse field ranging in chemical engineering and public health to journalism. There's even a firefighter! And many are here just because they love the language, love to travel and communicate with others. Many of the Anglos are here for a new experience, an excuse to escape their lives back home, and what better excuse than to come to Spain? There are retired school principals, financial accountants, acrobats and other travelers like me. A fellow HelpXer recommended I apply for the program saying only positive things, and not having anything planned at the time, I decided, why not?
At first, I thought I was going into the program to "teach" English to old Spanish business men. So typical, right? But I have been shocked and very thankful to be engaging with many women in multiple professions. In fact, there are more women learning English here than men. It has certainly challenged my perceptions of Spain and its people, especially the women. I've found it very encouraging to know that even in such a traditional country, with very traditional values and families, much like my own, there are women running families, the household and the workforce.
While learning about others, I've been reflecting, learning more about myself and the kind of life I want to lead and continue leading. The various experiences I've been privileged to partake in while traveling, and while doing so alone, it's tough sometimes, like the time I got lost and somehow out of nowhere it started to rain, and frustrated and nearly in tears, it's the moment when I arrive at my destination that I know I wouldn't trade the sense of satisfaction, sweat and relief for anything. There are times when I wish I was traveling with someone, you know, to share those precious unexpected moments and the savory and sweet meals. There's nothing like sharing good food with good people. Luckily, I've been surprised to meet travelers along the way--like Susie who happened to take the same flight from London to Granada as me. On the bus, we found out we were headed to the same hostel. After a long night's travel we got us some tasty sangria and of course, free tapas.
And now, I think I can use a siesta.