Pueblo Inglés: Welcome to the Hotel La Alberca!
Chit-chat & shenanigans in the deepest depths of Spain...
A review of a program I took part in long before gatherings of people were frowned upon ;)
Firstly – the concept. Take around 20 Spaniards and 20 ‘Anglos’ (English speaking people of various nationalities), put them in a village in Spain for 8 days speaking nothing but English in a variety of ways and you have the scenario. Add a little secret sauce and you have the experience that is Pueblo Inglés ('English Village').
I've taken part in several of these and here is my account of that crazy first time...
Well, what a fascinating, eye opening and extremely profound experience that was. What happens at PI stays at PI to a large degree but that said some thoughts and insights are very much worthy of sharing and discussing here.
As I was about to embark on this particular quirky little adventure I received what I believed to be a rather curious email from the program co-ordinators. Ok, not the overall email as that was essentially pre-program info, what to expect and general housekeeping… logistics and such like. No, what I found curious was a line in the email that read:
“Once on the Pueblo Inglés program, you will be performing a collective miracle and you will see it happening as each day progresses”
Interesting I thought… not your regular wording in a mail, electronic or otherwise. When words like ‘magic’ and ‘miracle’ are bounded around, my intrigue is aroused… that or alarm bells are set off as to what sort of set-up I’m walking into.
A ‘collective miracle’ I thought… an exaggeration possibly, perhaps a hopeful mantra… we shall see was my thinking. But I liked this sentence. It scored well on my quirk-ometer so I figured they and I could get along just nicely.
The tagline of this enterprise is ‘More than English’. Personally I just thought it was one of those standard lines to describe such a program as it is made out to be more than what it is and can sometimes be true or not to varying degrees. I’m glad to say that I 100% back up that tagline, hugely appropriate, and re-enforce every word.
All 3 of them.
It was about teaching, or rather assisting (most weren’t qualified teachers, other than being a native speaker and an unwitting student of the language over their lifetimes), Spanish people with their conversational English but in reality it was about so much more… oh so much more, I can’t even begin.
The reality is you spend a lot of time with one another both formally and, er, rather less formally shall we say. Friendships are formed and nourished, some truly magical moments experienced and a lot of laughter enjoyed. I would say that the majority of people on that program probably laughed more in a week than in the rest of their lives.
Hopefully that doesn’t cast aspersions over the rest of their lives but more about what was contained within the week that was and the humour, charisma, personality and energy that each individual brought with them… and of course, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I met some truly amazing people… all with a story to tell, a history, a future, and blessed with endearing personalities. I got along with everyone as did everyone else as far as I know and some people I will never forget and hopefully beat the bounds of geography and lifestyle and stay in contact properly.
One of the girls on completion of the program said something that stuck with me. She’s a fascinating character herself living an interesting life and involving herself in exciting adventures. She said:
“I came here looking to learn something from each person…and I’ve done that”
What a great attitude to have… she could quite well add that she has also taught something to each person in the process - certainly the writer of this blog.
What struck me was how talented people are. Without going into too much detail we did various activities and some theatre. This showcased much talent, talent that may be lying dormant in people. Huge potential. Talent that people are reluctant to show, partly as they are unaware they possess it and are embarrassed to show it publicly.
This says a lot about the 36 or so individuals on my program but I feel it may also say a lot more about the world at large. Out of any given 36 people there is somewhere in them something that needs to be drawn out of them to entertain or educate us. With a little bit of encouragement, a little training in a particular ‘thing’ and a bit of confidence… then wonders will never cease.
So, what I like about PI most isn’t simply ‘teaching English’ or basic similar statement. It’s more about what it stands for, what it represents and the underlying ethos it promotes. Karma. What goes around comes around. Paying it forward. Seeking potential and drawing out talent. Increasing confidence in its participants. There was an underlying attitude and actual specific points that espoused this thinking.
Another thing that hit me like a ton of bricks and forced me to sit up and take notice a little: prejudices. We all have them. We may think that we are free thinking and take things and people as they come but a lot of us still pre judge to a large extent…partly down to a our little lifestyles in the ‘real’ world. You have a certain idea about certain people just by looking at them. You may jump to conclusions about not wanting to speak with them and assuming you have nothing in common.
Well, this program smashes those boundaries.
You are forced (not literally, but it is part of the program) to interact with all sorts of people, different nationalities, races, ages, backgrounds, views etc. Some of which you wouldn’t interact with in ‘regular’ life but you do so here. And that is such a shame, you would have missed so much.
A lesson to be learned perhaps. A lesson we already know I’m sure but is re-taught in such emphatic fashion when put in this scenario. You are pushed out of your cosy little comfort zone (the degree of this of course varies from person to person)…which is always a good thing…it has to be, it’s how you grow.
So, overall an enriching experience for those involved and a knock on effect, I’m sure, that is hard to imagine but must be quietly taking place… the butterfly effect indeed. A boost in confidence, self esteem… an absorption of personalities and cultures and those aforementioned intangible magic moments that make all the difference.
A special mention for our Program Director and Master of Ceremonies who made it all go with a swing and made it a resounding success. Pueblo Inglés have taken a fairly simple concept and, quite frankly, nailed it. But ultimately it’s the 36 people (and not forgetting the staff at the hotel, bless ‘em) and of course the delightful co-ordinators that made it what it was.
A part of me wants to keep this experience unique. But having said that, a larger part wants to do it all again… and soon.
I will be back.
I think each program would be unique and offer its very own marvels and delights…and offer further insights and revelations. But I’ll never forget my first time…
It’s something I would highly recommend. Although, it’s not for the faint-hearted and for those not willing to keep an open mind and perhaps get involved in situations they would never have previously considered. Did I also mention it is sometimes hard work? No, but that only makes it more worth it.
See you at the bodega bar…
Here’s to collective miracles!
The quote to finish was actually a poem passed on from another participant of this program who signed off a group email with it as a parting gift which I’ll pass on to you:
AN IRISH BLESSING
May love and laughter light your days and warm your Heart and home,
May good and faithful friends be yours wherever you may roam,
May peace and plenty bless your days with joy that long endures,
May all life´s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours.
* Images my own