A Bus Ride into the Past, Madrid and La Alberca – 9-15, June 2022

Excuse me while I count my lucky stars as well as ignore the unfortunate ones.

Okay I’m done, for now. Thursday was a relatively simple one. I ate my 11 euro breakfast in the hotel Meninas basement cafe. The buffet spread was vast, the pastries assorted, pork aplenty, eggs, cheeses, cereals with condiments, juices, fresh fruit, and on. I dabbled but did not overindulge.

I slept okay last night, more or less, taking into account my naps yesterday. Fellow Pueblo Ingles volunteer teacher, Laura, contacted me that she had landed and when would I like to meet up; soon after we did. I walked from my hotel near the Opera to hers at Puerta del Sol.

Watching her succumb to jetlag was, for me, like watching a movie on the internet when the connection is piss poor. We’d be walking or talking (or both) and the she would slow down and kind of wander. At first I thought it might be her regular M.O. but then it hit me that she was probably mid time zones. Nevertheless we continued to semi sightsee- heading into El Corte Ingles (because she appeared to be a shopper and wanted a hat). We browsed until the thought of having late morning churros and chocolate (a must do in Madrid). I led her like an adept tour guide out of the Puerta del Sol down Calle de Arenal to the tiny side street where I introduced her to Churros on San Gines. Thanks to Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil I am addicted to these caloric timebombs.

Once filled with fried chocolate goodness and I had purchased a leather belt from a street vendor to hold up my jeans which have a habit of falling down, I led her back toward her hotel then went to mine for a brief nap. Did I mention it had become ridiculously hot by noon?

The hotel lobby – I run into (figuratively) a very tall guy (everywhere, the men I meet are taller than I, not that it really matters) who seemed forlorn. Being a relatively generous person, that I think I am, I asked what was up (or rather down in his case). He said the atm machine nearby ate his credit card and it put him in a very precarious position since he didn’t bring another card. The Caixa office refused to extricate said card, telling him to call his bank to send another since they were going to shred his! It was Thursday. His bank is in Germany, We are in Spain. Nothing happens with any speed except the trains. Did he have PayPal? Yes. “Okay. I’ll give you a couple hundred euro after you send me the funds via PayPal and it is received.” I offered. “You would do that?” I said sure. By this time Laura had miraculously found her way to my hotel. I got the confirmation the money was in my account. The three of us trekked to the other atm, I got some euros and handed them over. As I did, he remarked, “watch out for the black people who will rob you.” Jaw drop.

Laura and I just shook our heads, turned around and immediately went in the opposite direction. Had he said this before it is doubtful I would’ve been so kind. Fucking racists!

We meandered the streets in search for tapas, unfortunately settling on a very touristy restaurant. I was too tired to suggest a real place. We shared a mediocre salad and a grilled, could’ve been a lunchable ham and cheese sandwich. Blech! Laura had a sangria (on her list of must haves when in Spain). We parted ways, agreeing to meet in the morning to head to the puebloingles.com meeting site.

Morning. We arrived in a taxi at the bus stop to meet some of the Spanish students and our fellow English volunteer teachers for our 4 hour ride to La Alberca, four hours from Madrid, just one hour from Salamanca. Each teacher was asked to sit with a Spanish student. I was lucky to have Sara as my seatmate. We chatted nearly the entire time.

The topography from Madrid reminds me of the rolling hills of Northern California. We drove for an hour and a half then stopped at a roadside restaurant, ate mediocre sandwiches. I was beginning to feel as if I were heading off to summer camp. And I was semi correct in my comparison.

We are staying in chalet type dwellings located in the Spanish Sierras. My Spanish roommate lives on the second floor of our abode. Each of us has our own little patio where we can sit, dry our hand washed laundry (when we have free time which is rare except for siesta) outside in/on rattan chairs to listen to the birds who chirp melodically throughout the day.

Speaking of days. With the exception of said siesta and occasional free time, we are talking, actively listening and correcting our Spanish students, pretty much every moment…Many speak English at the same “faster than the speed of light” clip as they do their own language, minus the necessary enunciation to make what they are saying comprehensible. I work on this with them without being too critical. Within our student population are various levels of English language ability and within our volunteer teachers there are equally all types of English speakers -UK, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Canada, USA. Our Spaniards hail from all over the country, many of whom are from Madrid and nearly all have been sent here by their jobs. A few are from Segovia, Seville, Barcelona and Cadiz.

Yesterday we visited the medieval town of La Alberca. I was not in fine fettle. I have been both mentally/physically exhausted and way too busy to write, plus I came down with a nasty stomach bug and have been down now for two days making my participation less than ideal. And rnow I’m going to stop and take a nap. Hopefully I will be able to take part in tomorrow’s activities. On Friday we head back to Madrid.


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