Category Archives: Pueblo Ingles

Back in the U.S.

I arrived back in the U.S.A. without any significant travel incidents.  My mom and her husband were sweet enough to pick me up from the airport and some dinner, so I didn’t need to think about it or go out last night.  Thank you!!  They also brought the Two Cutes home.  Izzy and Maise were happy to see me.

Neither my body nor my mind knows what time it is, but I think Daylight Savings in the U.S.A.  on Saturday night may help.  I was wide awake this morning at 4 AM and finally arose at 5 AM.  Coffee, laundry, and uploading photos were on the agenda this morning.  Back to real work tomorrow.  My productivity may be questionable.

Pueblo Ingles photos are uploaded to my personal photo gallery.  They are secured.  Send me email and I’ll provide the photo gallery password.

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Walking, Shopping, and Those Plazas

We arrived back in Madrid from the mountains near Cazorla on Friday evening about 8 PM.  Thursday evening’s social activities went late and everyone was dragging on Friday morning….and SO looking forward to the 5+ hour bus ride back to Madrid.  All the evenings at Pueblo Ingles ended later than my normal bed time, which is 10 PM.  Dinner didn’t start until 9 PM (always 2 courses + coffee and dessert) and then we were encouraged to socialize (=meeting in the bar).  My nights normally ended at 12:30 or so and I was never one of the last people to leave.  A few of the group made it until 5 AM on the last Friday morning.  Mind you, most people weren’t drinking that entire time.  It’s different here than in the U.S.  Wine is served each day for both lunch (2 PM) and dinner (9 PM), but people rarely overindulge.

 Two of the regular Pueblo Ingles participants celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary on Thursday evening and it was a group fiesta for the anniversary and our last day as a group.  The couple, Graham and Tana, have a very interesting life.  They live on a boat in the Greece most of the year and travel the world the rest of the time.  They are originally from England.  They have participated in many Pueblo Ingles immersion weeks as a couple.  I enjoyed meeting them and the rest of the Anglos and the Spainards.   There were a few Spanish women near my age and we had a really good time.  I was surprised and pleased at the culture and position change for Spanish women, as compared to my time in Spain in 1986.  One of my new Spanish girlfriends explained that she thought the gap between her generation and her mother’s was much wider than her mother and her grandmother.  From what I saw, it’s very true.  Spanish women have an important place in the business culture and it appears to be very similar to the U.S, with some women choosing to stay at home and raise their children and some choosing (or forced by economic conditions) to work outside the home.

I think I mentioned in an earlier post how impressed I was with the Spaniards’ committment to learning English and only speaking it during the week.  There were very few slips into Spanish that I heard, with the exception of Thursday night, when they all relaxed and reverted to their native language.  Most of the Spanish participants were business professionals sent by their companies and all represented their country well.  Everyone was polite, respectful, and courteous.  I wonder if most Americans would act the same way.

Now to walking and shopping in Madrid —
Thanks to 4 or 5 of my new Spanish girlfriends, I was armed with a handwritten map of the best places to shop in Madrid.  I think I got to every one, except the bookstores.  I did manage to make some purchases, but the U.S. dollar as compared to the Euro is not in our favor.  Also, clothing sizes here are generally smaller than in the U.S., so I’ll just leave it at that.  I had what is now funny experience – falling down the stairs in one of the shops.  I lost my footing on the last couple of marble stairs and tumbled.  The four concerned Spanish women that came to my aid were worried that I smacked my head on the marble.  Fortunately, my landing caused minimal damage – bruised wrist and ankle bone and another cushioned area of my body.  My camera also seemed to survive the fall, as it hit the marble floor.

For those of you not familiar with the structure of Spanish cities (and many in Europe and the rest of the world), most towns and cities are developed around various plazas.  People gather at Spanish plazas, just like they used to do in U.S. squares.  The design creates a wheel and spoke arrangement, with most streets ending or starting at a plaza or acting as a connector street.  This creates some challenges for anyone accustomed to a grid design.  I really like the plaza arrangement, it encourages community and gathering.  However, if you don’t keep track of where you are walking, you end up lost and searching the map for a street or plaza to regain your center.  This was a frequent occurrence today and last Friday, when I got lost walking back to the hotel after a long day travelling.  The root cause of the issue is that I somehow got misoriented with East and West the first day I was in Madrid.  This has caused me to constantly reorient myself.  I think I may have it now.  I walked from 10 AM to 7:30 PM today, with shopping and map stops.

I’m amazed at the sheer number of people out and about in Madrid during the afternoon.  I’m certain my photos won’t properly express it.  People are out walking, talking, shopping, having coffee and cerveza, all afternoon.  As a person of leprechaun-like stature, the combination of people numbers and a culture that is known for a minimal awareness of other people walking, was stimulating and I’m hoping the dodging and weaving increased my aerobic activity for the day.

This week, I discovered that my memories and command of the Spanish language are limited in the area of understanding and non-existent for conversation.  I seem to be unable to construct a simple sentence to order food.  This is somewhat embarrassing, but I’ve managed.  I did have 2 people approach me today with questions and I could only meet their eyes with a very blank look.  I even thought about a few phrases I would use, but my brain was too slow in delivering them to my mouth.  I can only imagine what is was like for the Pueblo Ingles Spaniards to endure and participate in 13+ hours of English each day for 8 days.

I enjoyed my day in Madrid.  When I next return, I will have better language skills.  I’ve heard a rumour that there may be a Pueblo Espanol in the works.

Now that it’s 9:30, I think I’ll start getting back to my normal bed time…

I Went to Spain for Snow.

It started snowing here in the mountains last night and this morning we have a couple of wet inches.  Reminds me of home…

Trabajando Mucho (I am working hard.)

Sorry, all, for the lack of posts, but I have been working very hard.  Just in case you are wondering if I’m being sarcastic, I am not. 
In addition, the internet signal is weak and only works in the reception area of the hotel. 

When I read the daily Pueblo Ingles schedule on the internet, I didn’t really think about the fact that participants are scheduled 13 hours/day. I tell you,  THIS IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION. 
Breakfast at 9 AM, which involves active discussion
Sessions through until lunch at 2 PM
After lunch, siesta until 5 PM
More sessions until dinner at 9 PM
Social hour after dinner

The schedule includes constant English conversation or discussion, with 10 minute breaks every hour.  I was hoarse after the first half day.  That hasn’t happened to me since Girl Scout camp.

It is rewarding and I am amazed and impressed with the committment level of the Spaniards.  Most people here have been sent by their companies.  There are a number of people that have come from the regional government of Madrid.  Only English is allowed to be spoken or written.  Native English speakers (like me) are called Anglos.  For most sessions, there is an equal number of Spaniards and Anglos.

To go back in time (all times are Central + 7 hours) –

We left Madrid at 8:45 AM on Friday for a 5 hour bus ride.  The Anglos (we native English speakers) were instructed to immediately begin speaking to the Spaniards in English to get them accustomed to the following few days.  Once we arrived at the hotel near Cazorla, Coto del Valle, we immediately began sessions.

Thanks to everyone for their comments and emails, especially Mom, who is providing daily updates on the Two Cutes.  I need to end this now, as I had a status report due to Ingenix on Friday, which I’m still trying to get completed…

Technology

I made it to Madrid on time, with no issues.  Like I expected, I got about 30 minutes of sleep.  It’s now 10:10 PM on Thursday and I’m still awake.  It probably has something to do with getting lost on the way back to the hotel and walking in a big circle in uncomfortable shoes and then, again, being challenged by technology.

Most people agree that technology is a great thing, as long as it works.  It can siphon the life right out of a person when it doesn’t.  I had issues today with both the wireless internet connection in the hotel and BlackBerry personal email.  Fortunately, I resolved the wireless internet problem with some Internet Explorer adjustments.  Verizon Wireless has the best customer service and they were able to resolve the BlackBerry issues.  One might ask, how much time did I spend today working on technology while in Madrid?  I estimate about 2 hours total.

Today, the Pueblo Ingles program held an orientation luncheon at a local flamenco restaurant.  The lunch was less than desirable, but the flamenco demonstration was fantastic.  With 2 groups totalling about 30 people, the place was pretty loud.  It’s clear one of the criteria for being selected as a Pueblo Ingles participant is the gift of conversation.  I have not often been in a setting where I looked around the room and no one, I mean no one, was sitting and observing.  Whew – that was even a bit much for me.

The Coto del Valle group is off on a bus to Cazorla at 8:30 AM on Friday morning.  We learned this afternoon that it’s approximately a 5 hour drive, with the last hour winding up and into the mountains.  I’ll be sure to make some photos.  Some Spanish participants will be on the bus, so Pueblo Ingles work starts immediately.  We were given the basic guidelines –

All English, all the time, even if you know Spanish
Socialize (again, in English) at least once with every Spaniard throughout the week.
If we heard Spaniards talking amongst themselves in Spanish, politely intervene.

After lunch, two women and I did some shopping around the area.  I did not purchase a single thing.  I did observe people out and about everywhere.

One last thing about technology — I learned today that Coto del Valle hotel has internet through a satellite connection.  Those of you geeks will know that means it’s usually less than stable and slow.  If I go dark, you’ll know why.

Packing

Wednesday —–

It’s been a long time since I had to pack for 12 days of travelling. I tell you, I went well beyond my time estimate on that one. I discovered Tuesday evening that the bag I had planned to use was not nearly the right size. Good news is that I took it in for repair and now that’s done. Quite a feat for one that consistently delays tasks like shoe and luggage repair, dry cleaning, filling the Jeep with fuel and those types of chores. Better news is that I had another, larger bag, in my luggage inventory. Believe me, I was efficient, but shoes take up so much space and I need all three pair. I did mention the other day that one of my electric devices was not a blow dryer. It’s in there, along with an umbrella. Forecast for Cazorla, Spain, the final destination, is rain and 40-50 degrees F.

Does anyone besides me have categories of socks? I don’t mean colors or styles or fabrics. I mean (1) really like (2) sort of like (3) really don’t like. I discovered that I have just enough socks in category (1) to take this trip.

It’s now 4 AM on Thursday Madrid time, which is 9 PM Central Standard Time on Wednesday. This will not be posted real time, alas, as there is no WiFi on this American Airlines Boeing 767. Fortunately, this flight is not full and there is a bit of room between the passengers. I was surprised to discover that the flight time from Dallas/Fort Worth to Madrid is 9 hours 15 minutes. According to the flight map, we are somewhere over the ocean, about halfway to Bermuda from the East Coast of the U.S. No travel mishaps today so far, even got a free airline meal of chicken and pasta, which I semi-enjoyed with a plastic mini-bottle of merlot. It wasn’t at all bad. Unlike my sister, who can sleep anywhere and any time, I don’t sleep well on airplanes. I may put the music I spent hours loading on my BlackBerry to good use and give it a try. Planned arrival time in Madrid is 10 AM local time on Thursday.

Why Spain?

For those that read the About section, you know that I will be travelling to Spain this week to participate in an English immersion program for Spaniards.  I learned about the Pueblo Ingles program on a news program in early 2009.  It sounded like an interesting way to combine the concepts of vacation and my desire to educate and teach.  I spent time in a study abroad program in Spain as a University of Minnesota student, so I had fond memories and some basic familiarity with the country.  Of course, that was 24 years ago, so how much can I truly remember??  Earlier this year, I remembered the program again and decided to apply.  I was accepted less than two weeks later for an early March 2010 program.

The same day I was accepted, I went looking for my passport, to make sure I wasn’t scrambling to find its hiding place at the last minute.  I found it and was instantly surprised to find it expired – October 2009.  Two days later, I was at the post office with a Next Day Air package and a couple of personal checks to expedite the passport renewal.  I was very pleased at the results.  The passport arrived within two weeks.

As a chronic procrastinator, I have not yet packed, but did spend most of this past weekend loading music on my BlackBerry Tour and software on my Lenovo IdeaPad (ordered last Wednesday, delivered last Friday).  When I lived in Spain for 5 months in 1986, the only device I carried that required electricity was a travel blow dryer.  Now, I will have three devices, none of which are a blow dryer – BlackBerry, IdeaPad, and camera.