La Alberca, Spain
Have I ever told you I’m not a friendly person?
I’m not. I’m open here in the Bacon World but if you meet me sober I have a terrible shyness that I don’t even understand. I hate meeting people and somehow my insecurity with people not liking me manifests into a bitchy exterior.
I like to blame it on my favourite author, Hemingway – observer to all, close to none. I like to get a feel for people before I decide I want to open up to them. I just don’t want to end up like him…gun to the head and all.
I have improved the last 17 months because I no longer have the luxury traveling but it is agonizing to go into a situation where I don’t know people.
But I decided it is exactly what I need to do.
I didn’t ask much about it, all I knew was that I would head to some resort and hang out with Spaniards all day. I imagined some kind of Cancun resort that happened to be in English.
Well it wasn’t quite lke that at all.
It was so much better.
Twenty-two Spaniards and 25 Anglos work together, 12 hours a day for one week simply by choosing to only speak English. As soon as the Spaniards arrive they cannot speak Spanish.
In the beginning it is like a prepubescent school dance. The Spaniards are on one side feeling awkward and the Anglos have no idea what to say. As a group we are this bizarre mix of ages, backgrounds, interests. In no other situation would we come together.
Most of them have the same level of English as I have in Spanish – enough to get around and communicate but also to be completely aware and insecurity of all of the mistakes.
It’s language hell.
I was skeptical, I really didn’t think the Spaniards would only speak English and I wasn’t sure they would improve that much. Sure Benny from Fluent in 3 Months swears by this method, but really?
Within a few days I saw two things happen:
1) People breaking through a language barrier, starting to think in English rather than translate
2) People losing all insecurities and inhibitions about speaking in English and sharinng intimate details about their lives
I would not call this a vacation but an opportunity for an amazing experience. In a series of 1-on-1, 2-on-2 or group activities I started to learn about people, their secrets, regrets, advice on having kids. There was no time for small talk, people asked big questions and shared deep answers.
No one blinked at asking my age, why I hadn’t married, why I felt like I was so closed. They shared they didn’t necessary want their children but were glad they had them, or maybe they shouldn’t have had the last one or they felt alone in the world.
This is a universal feeling.
I can never explain how incredible this week was, being surrounded by amazing people who I would not have had the chance to meet. In any of circumstance language, gender or age would have prevented us.
It really inspired me to push through my own insecurities in speaking Spanish and more personal aspects.
The last day I held it together until one of the Spaniards who struggled the most and touched my heart the first day was the one chosen to thank the Anglos. I don’t even cry in front of people I know, it’s just not my thing. But as soon as he stepped forward my eyes welled with tears.
In some ways I wish I could have been that open the entire week. But everyone has their own progression and let’s face it, I’ve learned a lot in the last 17 months, I probably would never have done this. Plus I’m a bit behind from being emotionally stunted for so many years.
Maybe I could have given more. I don’t know. I do know I feel really lucky to have met them and also feel low that it’s all over.
It is difficult to explain Pueblo Ingles because so much emotion is wrapped up in people learning a language and I cannot tell the story without sharing my own vulnerability. It was long and tiring and completely worth it and they’ll have me back I’d love to do it again.