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Entry # 31A – Arriving in Spain and Pueblo Ingles
31A – Arriving in Spain and Pueblo Ingles
Wednesday, November 22
I did my typical procedure when I arrive in a new country early in the morning - customs, immigration completed, I found a free map from the tourist information desk, exchanged money and went off to find breakfast.
I decided that I would most likely get a better deal exchanging my money in Spain as they would need Rand, so I waited until I got to Madrid. During breakfast of yoghurt and coffee, I consulted my map and found the three locations I would need in the next two days; my lodging, the welcome lunch and the bus pick up location. Luckily, I was within walking distance for my lunch and a quick taxi ride for the bus pick up.
I don’t remember the Madrid airport from the last time, but it appears very new, very clean and full of the color green. We walked for miles as we exited the plane through vast walls of pale green glass.
As I exited to find my taxi, I was met with a line of at least 200 people all queuing for a cab. I timed myself and within 10 minutes, I was in my cab a heading into Madrid
PHOTO – taxi queue
Madrid is very clean, spread out and has lovely balconies on most of the buildings. It really reminds me of Paris, except it is missing the tower and the river through the middle of it.
My lodging at the Hostal Lido is basic and clean and on a side street. As I got out of the cab and into the lobby, after I confirmed that this was the correct location, I approached the elevator. It was tiny and would not fit my bags and me at the same time. I proceeded up the stairs, when I nice Spanish Man stopped me and helped me with my bags. My Spanish is coming back quickly and I feel much more confidant about speaking it now.
I took a wee nap as I was bushed after two days of late nights and not much sleep and went out at 3pm to see what I could. I opted for the double-decker bus and took both routes to get the lay of the city. The city is currently getting ready for Christmas and every plaza (and there are lots of them) and main street has people hanging lights or decorations. I decided after my bus ride to see the Palace Real (Royal) tomorrow and go back to the Plaza Mayor where I had visited last time.
I was cold after the ride on the top of the bus and found a Starbucks. I mainly went in to see if they had WiFI, which they have had in other counties. No Wifi, but I did get a latte. On the way back home, I located an internet café just around the corner from my place and went in to check in with my mailbox. The café also has business supplies and DHL, so I will use them when I return for one night to clean out my luggage before I move on to Romania. I also bought a pencil as I have had difficulties with my suduku when using a pen. After the fact, I realized that I had bought a pencil and a sharper, but my pencil has no eraser. ????
Thursday, November 23 – Happy Thanksgiving
As I began walking to the Palace and the Plaza, I was keeping a lookout for a store that I spotted from the bus yesterday. It had lots of purses and luggage and I was hoping that it would have a little leather wallet similar to the one that I am carrying that is falling apart. The Plaza Major is not as large as I remember it, (Ah, youth and your eyes) and the center was loaded with trucks unloading decorations. Not the picture I remembered. I walked the perimeter and found an incongruous Ben and Jerry’s store at one of the corners. I also found breakfast of coffee, juice and the mandatory churros. Fried bread in little sticks that had my stomach rolling within 3 hours. Oh, well, it is tradition, so I had to try them.
I found a wonderful music store on the way to the Palace that had a marvelous display of all types of instruments in their windows. Did you know that a form of the bagpipe is traditional in some Spanish music? Neither did I.
The Palace Real is large, white and the official residence of the King and Queen of Spain, but they don’t live there. They only use it for state functions. I rented the audio phone and wandered through the rooms. Beautiful and brightly decorated, I bought post cards instead of trying to capture them on my camera. In addition to the official apartments, there was a temporary art display (not that interesting) and a wonderful display of old jousting equipment and suits of armor. I left the Palace in drizzle and began walking to lunch.
Casa Patas is where we would meet for lunch and a flamenco show. The group is made up of Canadians (8 from the same book club), Brits, Aussies, Welsh, and the US. There will be 25 Anglos and 24 Spaniards. The staff is Scottish, British, and Canadian and they are all former volunteers that so loved the project after their week, they decided to stay and work in Spain. Lunch was Paella, the national dish, and it was wonderful. I told someone that the last time I was in Spain, all I ate was arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) because that is all I knew how to order. I was determined to eat more widely this time. Our Flamenco show turned out to be a guitarist who was amazing. I sat close enough so that I could watch his hands as he played. It was lovely. I will definitely try to find a CD with flamenco music before I go.
After lunch and the show, a group of us went out to a bar and I got a chance to spend more time with some of the participants and staff. Trudi, her brother Phil and Phil’s son, Shannon are originally from Texas. Trudi and I found out that we have the 1300’s of Logan Street in Denver in common in that she is a consultant for Starkey International, the butler school right next to PERA. Small world. She is lovely, vivacious and will be good fun. Phil is a card and has done Pueblo Ingles (PI) 5 times before. I think he likes it. Shannon, who is living in Alaska and was a former rock band artist, fire fighter and currently is a university guitar teacher and works during the summer for Alaska fish and wildlife counting salmon. Others around the table were Luke and Jez (both staff from England), Richard (former volunteer and currently a makeup artist for the Lion King in Germany), Christine (staff from Canada), Enya (staff from Scotland) and two other people that I can’t remember. Very smoky as Spain still had lots of smokers and most of the staff also indulge, but good fun and lots of lively conversations.
I got back to my room by 8 and turned in early, as I need to be up, showered, packed, checked out and breakfasted by 9:00 am tomorrow.
Friday, November 24
Check out and found that my wonderful sister had paid for my hotel room. Do I have the best sister or what? Found a taxi to the Plaza Chamberi where we were to meet the bus and I appeared to be the first one there. Finally located other PI volunteers and left my luggage with them to find coffee for Sally and myself who is from London. Found a local café for coffee and located the rest of the herd swilling coffee. It was overcast and a little drizzly.
We loaded on the bus and found that we had 6 Spaniards who were also coming with us. My seat partner was Jose Santos, a young man with beard and long hair that sort of looked like Christ. His English comprehension was very good, but he was shy about speaking and a little slow to begin. I found out that he is a computer programmer and a Madrid Rat, meaning he likes the city over the country. Our bus stopped at 11:30 in Avilla for our only rest stop and a light lunch. Jose bought me a coffee and I bought him my new favorite candy, Kinderjoy (the chocolate egg with a toy surprise). From our stop, you could see a small monument with 4 columns, which is where St. Teresa of Avilla had her visions. The wind was fierce so most of us huddled inside until it was time to get back on the bus.
After our break, the Spaniards were encouraged to talk to someone new, so I was by myself for the rest of the trip. LOTS OF RAIN as we approached Salamanca and lots of standing water in the low-lying areas. The countryside was lovely and rolling with lots of trees and farms that mainly seem to be free-range pigs and bulls. I learned later that they are called Iberica Pigs, they are predominantly black and are fed on acorns. The pork from these pigs is considered a delicacy and is more expensive that the Serrano pork, which is usually commercially fed.
2pm we arrived in La Aberca to lots of RAIN RAIN RAIN. We all took our luggage and waited outside on the porch trying not to get wet until they called us to go to our rooms. As I watched the pairs of people going off to the different cottages, I asked the universe for a room next to the main meeting area and a room to myself, as I could tell that my cold was progressing. I was the last one to be given my key and I was placed in cottage number 24, right across from the meeting room with my housemate, Fermin (50’s business man), who had been on the bus with us and who would be living upstairs from me. I did not know until I got into our house that everyone has his or her own room. Thank you universe!
There are 25 cottages in the hotel complex. Each little house has two floors. The Spaniards are upstairs and the Anglos are down stairs. Each of the bedrooms has its own bathroom with showers and lovely hand made bedspreads on the beds. There is a common living room and little kitchenette, tv and phone. We will be called at 8:15 on the phone every morning for a wake up call and again at 4:30 in the afternoon to bring us back after our siesta.
Next came lunch and based on the room arrangements and the quality of our food, I could tell that this will be my most luxurious of all my placements. We had a welcome siesta session until 6pm. When the phone rang to call us to dinner, I was a little disoriented. We found that the phone rings about 6 times, not quite enough time for either Fermin or I to get to the phone to listen to the automated recording. If you don’t answer in time, the phone system waits about 2 minutes and tries again. If you don’t catch it, it rings louder the next time it calls. We plan to try and get to it at the first ring from now on.
We met back at 6pm and had a session of human bingo, where we had to find someone in the room who fulfilled the question in each of the squares. Some of the people we had to find included someone with a tattoo, had bungee jumped, was a Libra, did not own a cell phone, played a musical instrument, or spoke more than two languages. It was a fun 30 minutes getting to talk to most of the people in the room. We had several people with the same first name (i.e. we have 3 Jesus, so they are labeled Jesus F., Jesus L., and Jesus S. We also have a Susan, Sue and a Susie. During this time, we were all given a Pueblo Ingles fleece jacket which most of us donned immediately as it was still raining and cold. We also received the blue Pueblo Ingles exploding pen. When you go to write with it, the spring is so strong it rockets the top off the pen and all the contents fly through the air. If you are lucky, you can find all the little pieces that are required to make the pen work.
The one challenge to some of us will be our meal timings - Breakfast 9am, not bad, lunch 2pm, okay and dinner at 9pm. They claim we will be so busy that the time will just fly by. We will see.
My stomach was rumbling most of the day and I had my second-for-the-year case of diarrhea. Not as catastrophic as the one in Peru, I had several trips during the night to the little room, but managed to sleep in between. I was also on the way to developing my first real cold for the year. Probably a combination of exhaustion, 4 nights with poor sleep and the change of temperature and from summer to winter within 2 days.
Saturday, November 25 – Rice, I will have Rice, Thank you.
Runny stomach and cold in full glory today. Carried Kleenex wherever I went and felt ookey. We received our general normal schedule for the next few days.
9 – Breakfast – first conversation of the day – tables of 4 with two Anglos and 2 Spaniards
10, 11, 12, 1 – One-on-one with a Spaniard, with some hours of free time depending on the day. Some of the sessions might be a telephone conversation or a conference call with three Spaniards and one Anglo.
2 - 3:30 - Lunch – more conversation – tables for 4
3:30-5 – Siesta – YAAH!!!!!!
5 - Group activity
6,7 – One-on-one sessions
8 – Group activity or evening presentations
9 -10:30- Dinner – more conversation – table of 4
10:30-1:30 - Liquid English – social time, party or off to bed
During each of the one-on-one sessions, we were asked to explain and use in a sentence an assigned phrasal verb and idiom. Formal English lessons were a very distant memory for me, and I honestly did not remember ever being taught phrasal verbs. In the blog to come, after the Spaniards name, there will be the phrasal verb and idiom that we worked one.
My specific schedule for today was -
10 – Jesus S. – Read between the lines and Ask for - Very vivacious and funny guy.
11 – Free time - rested
12 – Maite – Blow Out and On Edge – Worked for the truck division of Volvo now owned by Ford – discussed the loss of her husband and her child.
1 – Gerardo – (sorry can’t remember the phrasal verb or idiom) - Auditor for Deloitte – discussed our mutual admiration for the LOTR Movies
5 - Group activity – 2 truths and a lie – 4 Anglos, 3 Spaniards – we had to come up with 2 statements about ourselves that were true and one that was a lie. My three statements were I had one brother and one sister, I had lived in Thailand and that my father was in the Navy. The others in our group would ask us questions to see if they could tell which one was not true. When the other Anglos were talking, I totally missed guessing on all the other Anglos and every one missed my lie. We never even got to the three Spaniards.
6 – Fermin (my roommate)– Think Ahead and Think on your Feet – We discussed the history of Salamanca
7 – FerNANDO - Blow up and Crack a Joke – Guardia Civil, Environmental issues
8 – Entertainment - Car problems in Spain, Shared Birthdays, Rain Storm
The entertainment was a humorous play acted out by several of the participants about the dangers of pickpockets in Spain. As they moved so quickly, we could not see the true action, so they kept rewinding and redoing it in slow motion. The actors were fabulous. (We would see a lot of the actions, costumes used, and key phrases and words over the next week).
The rainstorm was another group activity and was amazing. Jez lead us through four different movements done in unison and if you could close your eyes and listen, it very much sounded like a rainstorm approaching, in full bloom, and then moving away.
Due to my head cold, I have been asking that the one-on-one sessions be at my house in the living room. It is much quieter and I don’t have to shout to be heard. The group rooms can become very noisy with 24 couples trying to talk. Many groups opt to take walks in the neighboring countryside. Until I feel better, I will remain inside.
I ate rice all day and tea, which was fine and all I wanted.
Sunday, November 26
Stomach settled and I decided to eat the meals today. During the breakfast hour, the menus for lunch and dinner are posted. There are two options for both starters and mains and you indicated the letter of your selections next to your name. Then, at the meal, you pick up the colored tags for your selections and put them at your place setting.
10 – Telephone Session – Cuti – Guardia Civil – Put Away and Raining Cats and Dogs – We each had a little script and he phoned me from his house. Our topic that we selected was that I was calling about finding a place for my daughter, Felicity in the summer Spanish language course. He was excellent and would volunteer information and expand on the topic without nudging. Very fun.
11 – Jose Santos – we walked and talked – Put off and In the Dog House – A self proclaimed computer nerd, we discussed his culinary abilities, dating and family logistics. It is fall in Spain and when the sun comes out, it is beautiful with lots of orange and brown hues. We walked down a back lane along stonewalls that separated the pastures to a small waterfall. The water was not too cold.
12 – FREE time - took some medication and rested. Felt much better
1 – Lourdes – Put on and Shake a Leg – Fire Station Administrator – Evolution of Spanish Language and English slang for going to the bathroom. I.e., when is it appropriate to use the word pee?
5 - Group activity – Book Club – The Hockey Sweater – Lead by Sandy, we went through questions about the Hockey Sweater Book, and then the group moved into a political discussion about Quebec in Canada (and its hopes for independence) and the similarities to the Basque region of Spain in relationship to the rest of Spain.
6 – Dani – Call on/off and Down the Drain – Accountant – Continuation of the political discussion, he recommended the book, Cathedral of the Sea, a novel about Barcelona
7 – Rafael – Call up/back and Jump the Gun – Security Royal Family and Bomb Squad – This man had not spoken English in over 3 years and was amazing. He has had the most incredible serious of jobs as the chief of security for the Spanish Royal Family, international business man in South America for multiple years and chief of the bomb squad in Madrid. Rafa, as we all began to call him, is a HOOT, very lively, always ready with a smile and a joke and an absolute pleasure.
8 – Entertainment
Group 1’s presentation was a news program about Pueblo Ingles, very good. Thinking back, I wished I had been in group one, if only to get the presentation over with early.
Bob, a returning PI Anglo lives in London and is a balloon artist and talked about his work and passed around photos of his more elaborate works of art.
I had told Christine, our Master of Ceremonies, that if she was stuck for entertainment, I would be happy to do a monologue. I did Annie from Quilter’s, and I am sure most of the Spaniards found it very difficult to follow, but the Anglos enjoyed it.
Jez lead us in another group activity that had us on our feet doing weird movements and chanting a rhythmic nonsense verse - A Tea Ta Too
After dinner – the Quemada Ceremony – Grain alcohol, sugar, coffee beans, lemon rind and incantations from two Spaniards and one Canadian (dressed up and reciting poetry) to drive off the witches. The lights were turned off as the stuff boiled in an open skillet with a blue flame. Very strong stuff, I took 3 sips and went to bed. Apparently I missed the dancing that happened before they closed the bar at 1:30 am.
Monday, November 27
Stomach fine – cold has progressed and is now a dry cough
10 – David – Boil it down to and Hard Pressed - Guardia Civil
11 – Enrique – Break Down, Come in Handy - Banker
12 – Free Time !!! – catch up on the blog and tea
1 – Free Time but I went to the presentation of some of the Spaniards. Jose Santos (Mafia Game), Jose (Shopping Center development), Fermin (Toledo) and Jesus S. Jesus did a fabulous PowerPoint that incorporated the book, the Hockey Sweater and one of our idioms Read Between the Lines. Brilliant. I hope to get a copy of it.
3:30 – Short meeting during our siesta time for Group 4 to discuss our presentation for Wednesday night – rough start but we ended up with the plan to develop a jeopardy game parody using idioms and phrasal verbs.
5 – Group Project – Each group had to Invent a new product and then present it to the group complete with product, slogan, jingle, poster, and 30 second advertisement. Our group developed the magical PIG Hat – Pueblo Ingles Gorro – Gorro is another name for pig that is the emblem for the region. A fun project
7 – Luis – Take Care of, Spread Like Wildfire - Chemical Engineer – Formerly from the Basque region, he is very hard on himself and is rather a perfectionist and kept consulting his Spanish/English dictionary. He has a heart of gold and once he lightened up, his conversation really flowed.
8 – Free time to get ready for Miguels Birthday party
Dinner – sat in our group and Tracy and I roughed out our sketch for Wednesday night - Idiomepardy
Miguel’s birthday celebration – Miguel from the Guardian Civil turned 29 today and we had a small party for him. He received some presents, including a dancing partner made totally of balloons from Bob. I danced until 12:30 including line dancing, pasa double, disco and group boogey. Fun, loud and highly entertaining. Some of the group did not make it to bed until very early!