Editor’s Note: Hy Daley, a retired English, journalism and media teacher at Corry Area Middle-High School, recently traveled to Spain to help Spanish professionals master the English language. This is his reflection of the trip.
What do a Spanish doctor, a Spanish lawyer and a Spanish nuclear inspector have in common? They all treasure English. They need to speak English because it is the international language of commerce, law and medicine.
An organization known as Pueblo Ingles is trying to aid Spanish professionals to the tune of nearly $3,000 each to speak better English. For the most part, the student’s business burdens the $3,000 charge.
I attended a weeklong session in the Sugara Mountains of southern Spain, 20 miles east of Granada in a remote isolated resort, where English would be the only language allowed during the stay. There were 25 Anglos and 25 Spaniards.
Among the 25 Anglos were Americans, Brits, Irish, South Africans, New Zealanders, an Australian and a Trinidadian. It was interesting just to relate with folks from across the globe.
Our daily schedule was followed rigorously. Breakfast was at 9 a.m. and consisted of fruit and pastries. Spain is six hours ahead of the United State, by the way, so my eating schedule was mixed up.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., we were one on one, which put one Anglo and one Spaniard together for one hour to talk about whatever they desired — but only in English. During each hour I was assigned a different Spaniard until 2 p.m., which was lunchtime.
Lunch consisted of two rather large portions of whatever the chef cooked up. Weight loss was not a top priority among the Spaniards.
From 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. was siesta time, which I appreciated immensely.
From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. was another four hours of one on ones, phone conferences and presentations. During the week, each Spaniard had to do two presentations to the total group, usually about their profession or Spanish history. Dinnertime was at 9 p.m., which was a bit late for me to eat, but the food was delicious — lots of rice, fish, fruits and vegetables.
We did take an excursion one morning but, being so isolated, we simply hiked as a group to the top of one of the mountains and visited a fire station manned by two rangers. The temperatures always hovered around 100 degrees, so the area was very dry. We were a mile high, like Denver, and without much rain, there was always the danger of a forest fire.
When I first landed at Madrid Airport, I took the Metro to my hotel in the dead center of the capitol of Spain, an area called Del Sol. There was a large emblem in the sidewalk at Del Sol telling tourists they are standing at ground zero of Spain, the exact center. The Metro in Madrid was very clean and modern and would put our Metro in Washington, D.C., to shame. Several years ago, al-Qaida bombed a train in Madrid, forcing Spain to pull its NATO troops out of Iraq.
Pueblo Ingles provided a dinner for us in Madrid and a flamenco dance troupe entertained us. The next morning we rode a bus for six hours due south to our resort high in the Sugara Mountains. Our group were the only ones housed at the resort.
The ride through the Spanish countryside was spectacular. Although I saw nary a cow in the fields, I did see miles and miles of sunflower fields, a sea of yellow. As we drove farther south, the yellow fields turned into huge olive orchards that went on for miles. I did see many crumbled and destroyed buildings far up on the hillsides and was told by one Spaniard on the bus that these buildings had been destroyed in the ’30s during the Spanish Civil War, which Gen. Franco won. As we climbed the mountains, on all sides were long lines of windmills, no doubt awaiting Don Quixote to come along.
Once reaching the resort, El Pinar del La Vidriera, which was a renovated glass factory way out in the middle of nowhere, we settled down for a week of English. Our directors were two Brits, Allan and Eli. Allan was an ex-Royal Navy officer who ran the program in somewhat of a military style, while Eli was a young lady who tempered Allan’s style.
Each day the Spaniards seemed to get better at English. Some had a good grasp of the language already. Eduardo, a young airline pilot, had been to many U.S. cities but remembered Columbus, Ohio, best. Many others had visited either New York City or Los Angeles, but I pointed out to them they should visit the real United States, the small towns in the interior of the country — like Corry!
At the end of the week, there were tears of farewell, as the Spaniards are a very passionate people and promises to keep in contact were made. As a matter of fact, I have received many e-mails from them. Bruce Snow from Lafayette, La., was to be our Photobucket person who would assemble all the photos taken by the group.
The ride home was almost as exciting as the week there. I flew KLM from Madrid to Amsterdam, where I sat from midnight to 8 a.m. in an uncomfortable airport lounge chair. While I sat there half asleep, a brokenhearted Turk and a young drunken Swede sat on either side of me and spilled out their life stories.
The Turk said he learned his English from working at coastal hotels, where cruise-line tourists from England and the United States docked. The Swede learned his English from cable TV and U.S. movies, which were shown in English in Sweden. I guess there are many ways to learn English.
On the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, I sat beside a Iraqi and his family. He had fled Iraq right after the Gulf War and settled in Dearborn, Mich., where there is large enclave of Iraqis. He’d returned to Iraq to visit his mother and brother but found the cities still very dangerous and was glad to be returning to the U.S., as I was, too.
Finally, after 22 hours of travel, I arrived back in Pittsburgh, where my wife, Judy, picked me up at the airport.
But I am ready to take her to Spain anytime soon should Pueblo Ingles ask us to return.
For information how you, too, can travel to Spain as an Anglo volunteer, visit online at puebloingles.com.