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Chit chatting in Alberca, nr. Salamanca in Spain.
Home is where my heart is.
but try telling that to my feet which are getting itchy. ‘ITCHY FEET’ an idiom that means you are eager to go somewhere.
It has been a while since I last traveled, so when an opportunity recently was presented to me to spend a week helping Spanish students improve their English conversational skills, I pulled out my suitcase faster than you can say ‘Hola Amigos.’ This will be my sixth program, but this time with a different company, Diverbo Pueblo Ingles.
The course was taking place on the outskirts of the village Alberca, 75k from Salamanca, which is in a region of Spain I know very little about. However, I have been reading up on some Spanish history lately and I feel there is a calling Castilla y Lyon is an autonomous community in North Western Spain. Eager for a mini-adventure, I looked at my diary.
Can I squeeze this in? I questioned, I have so much to cope with at home. I am about to have my swimming pool grouted and I have a ton of jobs to do on my house. ‘Of course, you can’ said the happy voice in my head which is used to fighting with the negative one and undoubtedly always wins. Every participant had to do a Covid test the day prior to leaving. Happy to say mine was negative. I boarded my train from Alicante to Madrid and booked myself into a hostel for one night.
The four-minute walk to the meeting place the next morning was more like twenty. I must tell their office to amend that piece of information. Diverbo provided a coach to take the participants to our venue in Alberca. Everyone seemed jolly enough. I struck up a conversation with a young volunteer who had traveled over from the UK. It was her first time on a language exchange. The best thing about these courses is the interesting people you meet. Volunteers are usually made up of retired teachers, people between jobs, and travelers like me who just like to talk a lot.
Students are professional Spanish people often paid for by their companies to improve their confidence in speaking English.
The hotel complex is awesome, small villas which we get to share with a student. My roomie is Elena and I knew instantly we were going to get along fine.
I have written about these courses before but to remind you, the purpose is to instill some confidence into our Spanish students. This is achieved by one-to-one conversations, group activities, and preparing presentations. It is hard but very rewarding work. I always leave a course full of inspiration and new ideas. To explain:- As a volunteer participating in an English immersion program, I want to stress to anyone that is interested in what you receive in return for your efforts. Apart from the free accommodation and food in a nice hotel. There is so much more. I will explain at the end.
Day 4, we arrange to walk with the whole group into the local village of Alberca. We wander back in time amongst the timber-framed medieval houses. Nothing has changed here for centuries and I am half expecting the Spanish Inquisition to burst out of one of the wooden doors. Our program coordinator Amelia who was acting as our tour guide points out a house opposite the church. “Bones have been discovered in the walls of that house” she grimaced. “It is thought the house was used for torture” Mmm, lovely I think wistfully. She later points out two unhappy-looking skulls behind an iron grill in a wall. “Bodies were thrown over the wall here,” she says, smiling in the midday sun. There is something about Spanish history that conjures up gruesome imagery in my head, so unlike our regal English history where we gloss over the horrible bits for the sake of Rule Britannia. Nothing like the tales of the Kings of Castille and marauding Knights, plundering and pillaging. Anyhow, I later found out about how, in around 1465, the women of this village managed to steal the flag off the invading Portuguese. Loved to have been a fly on the wall for that bit of history.
Amelia needed to explain about the pig and why there was a small statue of one outside the church. She explains about the tradition, still happening today when a pig is let loose in the town and townsfolk are expected to feed it and fatten it up. Of course, it gets killed and we all go ‘Ah!’ and all the vegetarians go ‘AHHH!’ again. The tradition started way back when the Christians were in charge and it was no fun being a Jew or a Muslim in town. So as they did not eat pig anyhow they gave it as a gift to the town. Legend also states that if you fondled the rear of the pig, (the stone one) you may get pregnant. None of our group went near it, understandably.
By the end of the week, my brain is now so fired up and stimulated I can’t wait to go home and start writing. The so much more, I mentioned in a previous paragraph is the number of subjects you get to talk about. These are some of the subjects I have listened to, discussed, learned, and absorbed this week in one-to-one conversations. My brain aches but I am so grateful to everyone for their contribution. One of the best groups I have been with.
Electrical engineering – Moving to China – Brighton -The fashion Industry -Global warming – Families – The History and geography of Spain -Galicia, – Asturias – Andalucia plus other places – Design and technology – Food Psychology -Human Resources -Coping with teenagers -Dining in Madrid – Alberca traditions – Retirement -Learning languages – The construction industry -Finding a millionaire – The Austrian man who jumped off the Eiffel Tower – And so much more. We gather up new information every day, and after this week I will probably need to sleep or just watch Netflix. Well done to all the other volunteers, you have been so Inspiring. I hope we meet again somewhere – somehow.
It has been a blast xxx. Lauren.