The following is a report on Day Two of my Pueblo Español experience, brought to you today (on what's actually Day 4) by my good friend, Jet Lag. As I said in a previous post, I'm in Spain for an 8-day language immersion in Spain, offered by a great company called Diverbo. Let me begin by reminding you of the instructions the Master of Ceremonies (Raquel) gave my fellow students and me on our first day of the immersion. The message was simple - to get the most out of Pueblo Español, we Anglos (English speakers) were to: hablar (talk), escuchar (listen), and most important.ly, disfrutar(enjoy). With this in mind, let's review the day.
Day Two, Unplugged:
6:40 a.m. Wake up and get ready to run. I’m meeting a fellow Anglo to hit a nearby trail. A friend of mine from a previous Diverbo program had been here the week before and kindly left me a trail map. (Watch for a future post demonstrating that said map was actually not necessary and why perhaps I need a map reading immersion, not a language immersion.) However, the map represents one of the secrets of Diverbo… once you participate, you're kind of hooked- you'll come back again and again. And thanks to the wonders of our good friend WhatsApp, you'll always know when your friends are back too.
7:00 a.m. I meet my friend in the lobby. On the second day it still feels strange speaking Spanish to a fellow American, so I throw in a few English words. But I immediately feel guilty, as if I’m breaking some rules (which I completely am). So, Spanish it is, as we head towards the trail for a run. An hour and 15 minutes later, I’m back to the hotel to get ready for my 9:00 breakfast. All meals here are treated as part of the language experience and are some of the most important parts of our day. Not that any of our sessions are formal or school-like, but meals are especially low-key, and meant to be used for chillin' with our new amigos, not fretting over verbs.
9:00-9:45 Breakfast. I’m definitely following the rules of talking, listening, and enjoying as I drink my café con leche and enjoy my Manchego cheese (because when you're in Spain, who doesn't eat Manchego for breakfast, right?) with gluten free bread that the staff is bending over backwards to provide for me. Another perk of Diverbo is that everyone is just plain NICE and accommodating to Diverbo students. The waiters are like the extended family you see at family reunions and weddings- they are always there. I recognize many of the waiters from my first two stays in La Alberca.
10:00-1:00 Morning Activities. We start the day with a series of “tú a tús” - sessions when the Anglos are paired up with Spaniards. Instead of sitting inside, we walk through the village and talk briefly about the Spanish expressions of the day that were assigned to us. Usually, the conversation just spills over into life in general. The 50 minutes go fast, and I love how easy it is to talk with these Spaniards and have them graciously help me with their language while I make some of the same mistakes over and over. (i.e. Will I ever "get" the use of Por and Para and let's not even talk about my verb usage in the past tense... ) As we walk, I think to myself that Pueblo Español is like hanging out with a group of friends, only they happen to not speak your native language. But that doesn't matter one bit. As we talk, the topic of work naturally comes up, and interestingly each Spaniard (in one way or another) communicates the same message – work is important to them, but it’s by no means the most important thing in their lives. “We must enjoy life” comes up again and again. I’m starting to sense a theme…
1:00-2:00 The Spaniards are given free time while the Anglos gather to get details from Raquel on the presentations we'll give later in the week. She must see me freaking out, because she reassures us that the presentations are nothing to worry about. They are an opportunity to practice speaking in Spanish, and communicate in a different way. Whatever topic we choose, Raquel wants us it to be a topic that helps us. This exercise should be helpful for us, not something that keeps us up at night. She reminds us that the Spaniards are there to help us in any way they can with grammar as we prepare.
2:00- 3:00 Lunch. As always, we’re seated two Anglos and two Spaniards at a table. Even so early in the program, I feel we're all getting very comfortable with one another. Conversations are easy, probably helped just a bit by the wine that comes with lunch. (Reason #582 why I love Spain.)
3:00-5:00 Free time. Can I hear a big AMEN? Thinking and speaking in another language is difficult for a short amount of time. I’ve now been doing it since 9:00 a.m. Friday. I’ve heard the first few days of an immersion can be brutal… but in a good way. This is true. My brain feels like it's expanding out of my head with all of the activity. I go to the village during my free time. It's like going back in time to a classic Spain village, only there are modern touches in the cafes and stores. The village does a great job of trying to blend the past and present in a way that preserves La Alberca’s unmistakable charm.
5:00-6:00 Group activities. This is our chance to take the “tu a tu’s” to the next level and add another pair. We are divided in groups of four and are given the assignment to create a tourism ad promoting one of our respective countries. Again, we’re reminded that this isn’t meant to be stressful- it’s yet another way to communicate in Spanish and use it in another sense.
6:00- 8:00 More tu a tus, and another chance to walk through the village with my new Spanish friends. There are 9 Spaniards and 9 Anglos, which means by the end of the week, we will all know each other very well through these 50 minute conversations.
8:00-8:45- It’s entertainment/presentation time. Tonight we have a theater performance by some Anglos and Spaniards, which serves as another icebreaker and a chance for the actors to practice their Spanish, and the Anglos to listen. Two Spaniards then give presentations, one on the history of Spain, the other on wine. Two great topics and again, chances for us to hear the language and slowly change our brains from English to Spanish.
9:00 – 10:00 Dinner. More Spanish food. More Spanish wine. More great conversations in Spanish, of course. It’s all good, very good. But, as I look around the room at my fellow Anglos, I see that they look as tired as I feel. I’m told this is normal, and that in a day or two, something powerful will happen and we will regain our footing.
10:30-11:45A concert in the village. The walk to the village is enough to make Rick Steves wet his pants- the sky is lit with stars as we follow a cobblestone street past buildings that are hundreds of years old. Our destination is the steps of a classic church, where a Galician band is playing. Here, children run around the square while adults gather, enjoying “copas” from the nearby bars. It’s a perfect Spanish night, but I choose to turn in early (11:45) by Spanish standards as I’m simply exhausted.
Back in my room, I reflect on my progress. Was I listening? (yes) Speaking? (yes) Enjoying? Definitely. The last one I thought about as I considered the messages from all of my new Spaniard friends. I believe that part of the true magic of this program and Spain in general is that the Spaniards mean business when they say they are going to disfrutar (enjoy) life. Now, I’m not talking about partying (though they do that too), I’m talking about the general attitude and disposition I’ve noted in every Spaniard I’ve met. They take life with the attitude of it needing to be enjoyed. Meaning- don’t take anything too seriously. They work hard, but they also don’t get so wrapped up in their work that work is everything to them.
With this in mind, I hit the sack so I can have energy to enjoy the next days of the program.