Beginning at Valdelavilla…..

Today is my first FULL day at Valdelavilla. Approximately four hours outside of Madrid, this quaint “abondoned”  village is the perfect place to isolate 15 Spanish people from their native language! Since there is no one else here but 15 Anglos, Marisa and Pete from Vaughan Systems, and the caretakers and cooks at this village, there is no way for the spanish speakers  to even HEAR their language! During this week, their only form of communication is English.


Yesterday we all met up and took the bus ride out here from Madrid. Of course, we were asked to sit one Spanish to one Anglo! I sat with Celia, a very nice woman from Alicante, Spain which is on the southern eastern coast of Spain. She teaches troubled teenagers who have come from all over Europe. For Celia, it’s necessary to learn English as the common language for communication with all her students. A very educated woman, Celia is like many of the Spaniards… worried about how she will listen and talk only English for a week. But in the two hours from Madrid to our lunch stop, I had no trouble understanding her and what little bit of trouble she had understanding me, I explained. One thing I found interesting is that she’s read several novels written in English. She expressed that although she can read and understand them, because she is not reading the words outloud, she really doesn’t know if she could pronounce all the words she reads. I admire her….there’s no way I could read even one page of a novel in ANY other language besides English.


On that note, I have to tell you I’m so impressed with all of the spanish people here. They are working so hard to express themselves in English. It’s good that we share breakfast, lunch, and dinner together because so much comes up in conversation that we take for granted  others will understand. For instance, when I said I don’t care for wine, they needed clarification of what “care for” means in that context. It’s exciting to watch them as they learn!


So how this works is that we start our day with breakfast together at nine in the morning and as usual, it’s two spanish and two anglos at each table. We talk about whatever….how did you sleep, how is your room, are you ready for a new day, etc. It’s the same conversation we would have with anyone over breakfast! Then the anglos check the board to see who they will be having one on one time with for the next 50 minutes. After each session, there is a 10 minute break. After the break, it’s on to another one on one. During one on ones, we can play cards, other games, walk, whatever….as long as the talking continues! The main thing is to move away from the normal conversation of personal life such as marriage, children, jobs, etc. The talking should gravitate to hobbies, sports, politics, interests, travel, etc. This is to help the spanish speakers feel more comfortable with subjects they’ve never talked about instead of discussing the same things they are familiar with saying in English!


The one on ones go from 10:00 to 2:00pm and then it’s time for lunch. Again, the seating must accommodate the learning process! After lunch is SIESTA!!! YAY!!! From about 3:30 until 5:00 we can do whatever we want including retiring to our separate houses and rooms, playing games, having drinks, using the Internet, whatever.


At five, it’s time for group activities such as word games, etc. Tonight’s activity was hysterical. We got into groups of four (our group ended up with five). We each had to write down two truths and a lie about ourselves and not tell the others. Once we did this, we each took turns expressing our three comments. Then, the others had to try and figure out which one of the three statements was a lie. The only thing you could lie about was well, your lie! My truths: I’ve been to Sturgis before on my Harley and I studied theatre arts in college. My lie: That I was in an off Broadway play for a year! They all guessed wrong! They thought I had never been to Sturgis on my Harley! It was great fun and it was helpful for the spanish speakers to hear different things like off Broadway and Sturgis. Others talked about cool things that brought up conversation such as one guy who said he was in court last week charged with a crime. The spanish folks didn’t understand what “charged” meant. This is was a great opportunity to talk about things that have nothing to do with jobs, etc. and all of us had a fantastic time laughing and sharing a little about ourselves! (And of course, finding out who the good liars are!)


After the group activity, the one on ones start up again for the next two 50 minute timeframes of 6:00pm and 7:00pm. After that, we went to the meeting room for singing, skits, and just a general gathering of fun. Everyone had a blast and us anglos can already see the spanish speakers coming out of their shells and not feeling so shy when forced to just have fun in English.  Because all of us anglos let them laugh at us, they can see we are really there to help them. Everyone will eventually participate and that’s a great thing! It’s wonderful to see all of us bonding. I’m sure I’ve already made some great friends here! And on to dinner!


The food here has been out of this world. They make traditional Spanish dishes from all over Spain and not just this region. Every day is something different and there are several choices. We choose our meal each day for the next day – it’s a very organized program! Tonight’s dinner….I chose roasted chicken and potatoes (which was out of the world) and cream of zucchini soup as the starter. Again, absolutely delicious. Dessert is always selected for us and we all have the same dessert. There’s always wine and water for dinner. Like I said, all of the meals have been outstanding. Breakfast is usually a buffet with a nice selection of meats, cheeses, pastries, cereals, breads, and yogurts which is very typical for most of Europe.


After dinner, the option was open for us to gather in the bar, make teams, and do a pub quiz which is basically trivia questions that our Master of Ceremonies, Pete, hosts! Many of us played and had a great time. All in all, it’s easy to say these days are going to be very busy! It’s now well after midnight! Tomorrow the wake up call will come at about 8:15 for our our 9:00am breakfast and back to work.


I’ll post when I can…the Internet connection here is very spotty to say the least as we’re up in the mountains in the middle of Spain! Internet connection or not, I LOVE it! I’m making so many friends and learning so much! For anyone planning a trip to Spain, you simply must use a week of your time to do this…you won’t regret it!


More to come soon…..I have so many interesting things to tell you about the people I’m meeting!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Becky V.
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 12:19:56

    Sounds like you’re having a great time. Miss you much. John and Kelly say Hi


    • cheriarnold
      Sep 14, 2011 @ 04:51:23

      Oh I miss you much too! Madrid was terribly hot – I can see why there are so many fans sold there! I thought of you and how you would be suffering there! 😦 However, here in the mountains it is warm but pleasant. During the evening it cools down – it’s very much like Colorado! The minute the sun goes down so does the temperature.

      Please tell Kelly and John I said hi right back at them! I’m loving this Becky….i”m learning so much!

      Love you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: