Talking With Guiris

Trip Start Mar 23, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  ,
Sunday, April 20, 2008

     Pueblo Ingles is a week long intensive conversational course for Spanish people.  The Anglos volunteer for accommodation, Spanish cuisine, Spanish wine, and a unique way to met the locals.  Gina found the website about three years ago and suggested we try it out while passing through Spain.  I was somewhat reluctant to take part.  I just have this vision in my head of people starring at me, expecting me to keep this amazing conversation going all day long, thinking ¨I paid for this.¨ 
     We walk into a sea of gray hairs.  A weeks conversation of crafts and prescriptions awaits.  We sit down for the standard 2pm Spanish lunch and meet the Anglo people.  The guy next to me is Richard, a retired man from Boston with a handlebar mustache who is into old military vehicles.  He tells us at least ten times that he speaks American not English.  Richard has a gift for horrible punch lines that make everyone uncomfortable.  Gina listens to Bob talk about himself for an hour while pounding glass after glass of wine.  We get a little Flamenco performance and plan to meet tomorrow for the bus to La Alberca. 
     We stand around waiting for the bus while other Anglos begin to mistake Gina for a Spaniard.  Four hours later we are in La Alberca for a quick lunch then the traditional siesta.  We meet up later for icebreaker games and introductions.  After the intros the Spaniards get together and discuss the Anglos and it tuns out Americans have the most difficult accent to understand, especially Americans who talk like me. 
     The days of Pueblo Ingles consist of 1 on 1´s, group activities, discussions, theater, and conference calls.  My first 1 on 1 is Carlos.  Carlos doesn´t want to be here.  Carlos hates Madrid and is taking a job in Stockholm so he needs to learn English.  I can see the pain in his eyes at first but the conversation flows easily and I think he soon has a change of heart.  I´m suprised how fast the days go by.  The master of ceremonies, Jez, keeps things amusing and laid-back.  The theater hour is brilliant thanks to all the eccentric people including a mental woman from Oz (in a good way) who use to be on a show called ¨Neighbors,¨ which no American has every heard of.  I soon realized that if you want to keep the conversation flowing all you have to do is ask if Spanish wine is better than French or if Italian olive oil is the best, then sit back while they talk passionately for the rest of the hour. 
     Most people were more than willing to talk about themselves and some amazing stories came out.  Javier is a Spanish man in his late 50´s who was a political prisoner during the rule of Franco.  Chip, an American who has a hook for a right hand thanks to a drag line accident in his 20´s, raises money to provide prosthetics and wheelchairs to India´s poor.  Liam was a good man from Scotland who educated us on all things Scot and blessed the place with his charm.  Everyone talked about past struggles in their life from Eve´s dad committing suicide to Eileen´s terminal breast cancer.  Many people had tears in their eyes while saying goodbye with a traditional two kisses.  I will miss them.
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