Europe 2005-2006 travel blog

View of the Pena Mountains from the Englishtown site.

A field trip to La Alberca for the group of Anglos and...

Dinner in a Medieval cavern on our last night together

New American friends at Englishtown: Maryann & Debbie

Pablo performing the Queimada ceremony

Music transcends borders: Terry (Irish) playing Hey Jude while we all danced


Talk about an extraordinary experience! After being almost entirely alone for six months we were suddenly thrown into the company 44 other people for at least 15 hours a day for a week. It was exhilarating, rewarding, stimulating and totally exhausting.

The concept of Englishtown is to provide total English immersion to Spaniards wanting to improve their speaking and listening skills. There were 23 Spaniards and 23 "Anglos" who came from Canada (6 of us), USA, Australia, the UK and Ireland - ranging in age from 23 to 80. In exchange for our volunteering to speak English non-stop for a week, we were housed in 2-bedroom cottages in a beautiful setting in the Peña Mountains near Salamanca and provided with three excellent meals (and lots of wine) a day.

Our typical day started at 9:00am for breakfast (an equal mix of Spaniards and Anglos at each table) followed by 1-hour one-on-one sessions with the Spaniards until lunch time (2:00). During this one-on-one time, you could meet in the common area in one of our cottages, walk in the woods, sit in the bar or whatever the two of you agreed upon. The weather was "brisk" given our location high in the Pena Mountains (elevation of about 1,000 m) - so we had many refreshing walks. After lunch, we all met for a group session that usually involved getting into small groups to debate a subject and then make a presentation on the results. If we thought for a minute this would be a serious exercise, we soon learned better! The presentations bordered on the ridiculous and were always hilarious (for example, Jorge was to make a presentation on his job. He began by saying "I work in drywall. That is boring so I will talk about ladies' underwear instead" - and did! Before dinner which was at 9:00 p.m. (yes, that took some getting used to as that has been our bedtime until now), we all met for Happy Hour -the time to participate in or be entertained by a number of skits involving both the Anglos and the Spaniards. One evening after dinner, we were treated to a Queimada ceremony, an ancient tradition dating back to the time of the Celts in the region. It involves mixing aguardiente (very strong, cheap brandy) with sugar and coffee beans, setting it alight and brewing it accompanied by a pagan chant spoken in the ancient Galacian tongue. Very MacBeth!

The best part? The opportunity to spend a full week with bright, charming Spaniards and Anglos, learning about their jobs, their home life, their interests and culture was beyond anything we expected. We learned so much about Spanish cuisine, recommendations on places to travel - and had a lot of myths dispelled about the laid back Spanish life.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer, check out their website: www.vaughanvillage.com



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