If you are a new reader and are expecting to read all about our life in Ecuador, please read our previous 15 posts. And stay tuned because we will get back to our life here in Cuenca in a couple more posts. Our plan is to devote this post to our Diverbo Pueblo Inglés experience. The next post, which we hope will be within the week, will be about what we did in and around Madrid. After that, back to the southern hemisphere and life in the jewel of the Andes – Cuenca!
You must be asking yourself: What is Diverbo and why would you call a town English? (Pueblo=Town; Inglés=English) Let us enlighten you. Diverbo is a language instruction company that teaches English to Spanish speaking children, teens and adults in Spain and to Germans in Germany. Pueblo Inglés is an eight day English immersion program for Spaniards who wish to improve their English. The students pay many, many Euros in order to spend many, many hours in English conversation with native English speakers like us. We received free room and board in a lovely rural resort for more than a week as compensation for our “expertise” and ability to converse in English. We paid for our airfare to Spain and for lodging and food before and after the program. For more information about Pueblo Inglés and their volunteer program, go to http://www.diverbo.com.
We originally heard about this program five years ago while listening to a Rick Steve’s travel podcast. The caller described an intense week of conversation and getting to know a couple dozen Spanish people, their culture, and making life long friends – for free! Even back then, with retirement still a faint glimmer in the future, we really thought we’d like to have this experience.
Fast forward to the rather quiet week between last Christmas and New Year’s, at which time we explored the idea further, applied for a spaces, were accepted, bought airline tickets to Madrid, and wondered whether a) Glenn would be able to spend that much time talking with people and b) Mara would be able to eat dinner at 9 pm. You’ll be glad to know that we were successful on both counts!
Diverbo holds Pueblo Inglés events at various venues throughout Spain all year long. Our week took place in the Hotel Abadia de los Templarios, which is a four-star modern rural complex at the edge of a little village called La Alberca. We stayed in two story chalets (Spaniard upstairs, Anglos downstairs) that circle around the main dining and meeting room. Even though it was February and Spain’s version of winter, we thought it was a very beautiful spot.
Okay, Glenn and Mara, you went to La Alberca, it’s in Spain, it’s pretty, but what did you DO? What is Pueblo Inglés really about? Well, our day began with mandatory buffet breakfast at 9 am. I know, sounds rough, right? We made sure that we always had two English speakers and two Spaniards at our tables of four. We were instructed to always speak English and to make sure the Spaniards always spoke English. The morning and early afternoon were mostly spent in one to one conversations with each other. Every hour we were assigned a different Spaniard. By the end of the week, we had met individually with 22 different people, each with unique stories, backgrounds, and language skills. But also by the end of the week, we had 22 new Spanish friends, as well as 22 new native English speaking friends.
In addition to one on one time, we had diverse discussions in our “two on two” time, had telephone conversations, and were a part of several staged conference calls. Each Spanish participant had to give two five minute presentations (in English of course) during the week. Sometimes our schedule allowed us to be a part of that audience. Lunch was at two and like all the meals, was a mandatory event. Conversing with each other at meal time was especially challenging because of all the ambient noise. After lunch (around 3:30), we were rewarded for our hard work with a 90 minute siesta. If we were smart, we took naps. But as it was our only free time, we had to make choices. A couple of times we just hung out chatting with the other participants and Mara took a little hike into La Alberca.
Okay, siesta over! Back to work. Our evenings were a combination of small group community building or problem solving activities, entertainment (and boy was there some good entertainment – can’t post most of those pictures, though!), and more one on one conversations. Everything was extremely well planned and implemented by our program director, Sergio. No time was wasted and every activity had a specific purpose. Our master of ceremonies, Allan, was not only dynamic and fun, but an amazing motivator and encourager to the Spaniards and Anglos alike.
Dinner was at 9 pm, usually followed by social time that for the Spaniards continued way into the wee hours. The middle-aged expats from Ecuador tried to make it to midnight! There were a couple of “party nights” and Mara made it to 1 am but rumor has it many didn’t make it to bed until three or four. We don’t know how they do it!
So who goes to Pueblo Inglés? As we mentioned earlier, the Spaniards that do the program are mainly there to make themselves more employable or to advance in their careers. Some of their employers actually foot the bill. There were IT and logistics professionals, executives from multinational corporations, managers, personal assistants, architects, a brand new flight attendant, a pilot, a dentist, etc. and a few were looking for jobs. Their ages ranged from mid 20s to mid 50s.
The native English speakers came from the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, and the Netherlands. Quite a few were expats living in Spain, Italy and Ecuador (us!) Some were traveling through Europe for extended periods of time. The youngest Anglo was just 19 and the oldest was “somewhat older”! Most of us were middle aged. Quite a few participants had been part of previous Pueblos Inglés programs.
Of course, this post has been just a tiny snapshot of the our Pueblo Inglés experience. Meeting and becoming friends with 44 people in a week that was dedicated to communication was an extremely significant event in our lives. Would we do it again? YOU BET! Is it something you might consider? If so, be sure to go to http://www.diverbo.com and read more about it and check out their schedule of Pueblo Inglés and Englischhausen (Germany) events. Maybe a trip to Spain or Germany is in your future.
What have we learned: How to say “Grathiath”, “Adioth”, and “Ethpaña”.
What do we need to learn: How to say “Gracias, Adios, and España!
Next post: Pictures and experiences from the rest of our time in Spain – more from La Alberca, Madrid, Toledo and CUENCA, Spain!
Thanks for reading to the end. Here are your bonus pictures for being tenacious!