Friday morning, after an odd night in a hostel, I opted to take a taxi to the bus meeting point. I saw a group of people chatting away on the corner and approached slowly, unsure of myself. When I heard them speaking English vibrantly, I knew I'd found my companions for the next 8 days. More people joined us, both English and Spanish speaking and we boarded a bus bound for La Alberca, a picturesque village west of Salamanca.
Upon arrival at our destination, we gingerly stepped off the bus into the almost-brisk air. It took several days for me to learn not only we were in a hilly region, but that the altitude here was quite a bit higher than Madrid. People kept telling me it was unseasonably chilly for late April, and I believed them at first. It was somewhere around the third consecutive day of cold gray rain that I decided they were the same type of people who tell me Austin isn't always hot in the summertime. That is, they are good people and well-intentioned, but clearly delusional. ;-)
For our first activity, we made “body part” partners, which isn't as risque as that might sound to my American family and friends. We were to connect with another person whose native language wasn't our own. We were told to touch elbows and learn this was our elbow partner for the next week. In 30 seconds, we were to tell our life story.
People. I can't even write a blog post about an 8-day adventure in less than 3 hours, in my native language! These Spaniards were already impressing me.After our 30 seconds was up, we were told to find another partner to touch knees with and repeat the process. After one more round with foot partners, we were all about ready for a nap. Giggling, we followed our Master of Ceremonies (MC) upstairs to the meeting room.
Our next task was to reconnect briefly with our elbow partner and prepare to introduce that person to the group. We've all done this in corporate settings, and in a blog post she's already published (because she's quicker than me!), one of my new friends likened the enjoyment of this to chewing glass, especially when doing so in a foreign tongue. (Go read her story. She's amazing!)
I think I confused my elbow partner with my knee partner when I made introductions (lo siento!), but he did a much better job with me. I knew his girlfriend is from Peru and made a bit of a connection there with my previous travel. We all laughed when a Miami lawyer was introduced as a “liar” because of the pronunciation challenge. The lawyer relieved the mistake by saying “eh, same thing” to his partner.
The next 8 days were truly a blur. The MC had “warned” us at the beginning that our time together would be intense and emotional. He said we would bond with each other and tell each other things we'd never told anyone else. He said we'd do things in the name of group participation that we never thought we'd do in public. Again, to quote the blog post already published by one of my new friends What the hell have I gotten myself into?
I have new friends in Spain (hola, amigos!), Canada (eh!), in Australia and the UK (when I'm not faffing about), and all over the USA (Miami, Virginia, New York City (get a rope), Indianapolis, Oregon, Michigan, and even nearby in San Antonio!). I'm already tentatively planning trips to visit, if these world travelers ever settle down long enough to host a visit. :-)
Spanish friends: I hope to see you on your excursions to the US, but realize that traveling long distances isn't as easy as in Europe. I hope you will still let me know when you'll be in the US, as I would love to meet somewhere, even if it's not my home city. How much fun could we have meeting up together in NYC or Chicago? I would love it!
Note: I'm writing this while sitting comfortably on a train between Sevilla and Barcelona. We're traveling almost 600 miles in 5 ½ hours, and I don't have to stop to fill -or empty- my tank. This just might be luxury travel. Why couldn't we keep up an effective rail system in the US?I also have the tentative idea of furthering my own Spanish-speaking abilities and attending their Pueblo Español program, where I would be immersed in Spanish for a week. My Spanish isn't as good as it should be, so that will be a goal I can work toward. Thoughts?