Monday, September 21, 2009

pueblo ingles and thoughts on travel

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.


liberianarthouse said...

Girl- I know how you feel. I found your blog because I am going to Ann's place in Nov. I am heading to portugal and another HelpX host on saturday and I sure wish I had someone to travel with. Wondering how is was for you going through customs? I will be in the two countries for almost 3 months and not sure you can tell them if you going to HelpX hosts.Come to Portugal.

conbon said...

funny because I am in Portugal now!

I hope you enjoy ann's, it's a great place. tell her i say hi. :)

Andrea said...

Connie, Amazing coincidence. I just applied to PI and think it's fascinating. And I'm also strict vegetarian. How is that working for you there? Any problems? Also, I'm curious, everyone talks about how great it is, but no one mentions the expense of getting to Madrid; in my case from the US. What do you think? Worth paying the airfare to be in the village for a week?

conbon said...

Hey Andrea,

I'm glad you found my blog as PI is an amazing experience, no doubt. I am traveling around Europe for four months, and while I was volunteering at a B&B, I heard about PI and decided not having anything planned, why not apply? And I am so happy I did. I was surprised to meet quite a many Americans who were in Valdelavilla just for PI. I think it's worth a ticket to Madrid, and I would highly suggest saving some time before or after to experience the big city because it is worth being in for a few days and other European cities if you have the time to do so. Granada is one of my favorites, with their sangria and free tapas! Being a vegetarian was no problem, the kitchen staff were super friendly and accommodating. And you will have a fabulous if not intense experience!

Andrea said...

Thanks SOOO much for finding me to let me see yr response. I'd be buying a ticket just for this, so it's a little different. Although I'd most definitely travel a bit after, especially to see friends in So. of France not too far away.
Sounds like since you just jumped into it pretty quickly, it's not that hard to find a spot in the programs. Maybe it's just timing. Please email me again if you have any other info to share. Have FUN!

autor said...

Hi Connie! I´m Monica, Gloria´s sister from Barcelona. It was great to meet you :-D I hope you come back soon to Barcelona and I can show you around a bit if you want. Thanks for being so nice to Lucas and the rest of the family, we all loved to have you around, many hugs from all of us!!! MNK

conbon said...

Monica, you found my blog! I'm going to practice my Spanish so I can read yours more fluently. :)

Thanks to your family, I had the best time in Barcelona. I loved hanging out with Lucas--playing futbol, baking brownies, going to the markets. And I miss Marcel and Albert too! Maybe you all can come visit me in California one day!

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