Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vaughan Town Volunteer

'What do you mean, you'd forgotten you'd applied?' said R. I'd just I told him I'd been accepted on a ten week  volunteer teaching programme in Spain., beginning in September

Sangria was a welcome refreshment at the Camino Bar, King's Cross when I went to share the news with J, my ex-colleague. I hadn't intended to go to the last Vaughan Town Meetup of 2009- most of the volunteer slots have been taken up for the rest of the year, so they don't need extra support from 'veterans' as Ian the organiser calls us.

Every month or so there's a Meetup and it's a chance to catch up with friends made on the programme - in my case a week in the Extramadura last September. It was too hot to venture out after 11am, unless to sit with my feet dangling in the swimming pool or in the air-conditioned hotel as I chatted to Spanish business people on an 'immersion' English language course. Over five days they had one-to-ones with all 14 of us 'Anglos' - Americans, Australians and British.

I learned quite a lot about local customs - for one thing that Spanish business people depend a lot on their families and and are reluctant to work abroad. They were all friendly and sociable.

I didn't get to speak much Spanish, except on the two short stays in Madrid before and after the course. Did I really do 80 hours? 'What can't speak can't lie', my late mother-in-law used to say, and it's there in black and white on the certificate. Maybe that includes the hilarious meal-times and the lovely long siestas, which I spent lying on my bed watching Spanish TV. It was one of the most enjoyable weeks I've ever had; no wonder people go back again and again.

For me, though, a week's too short. Vaughan Systems run a whole raft of English Language teaching activities in Spain.

'I'd have preferred a whole year, but my sense of wifely duty persuaded me to go for a shorter period'. R gave me a sceptical look and said, 'Wifely duty! That phrase doesn't exactly trip lightly off your tongue'. He did smile, though.

In March I'd applied for the Castile-Leon schools project, run jointly with the local Spanish education authorities to intoduce English speakers as classroom assistants into junior schools. Within a week I had an email to say the funding would only be settled much later. I promptly forgot about it. So it was a surprise when I received an email inviting me to join the programme on October 13th. I still can't quite believe it.

'It's not as if I'm off to climb Everest or paddle round the world in a canoe'. After a while he softened and began to enquire about the weather in Castile-Leon in October. I suppose it occcurred to him that besides basking in sympathy at the bridge club, there's always Easyjet for long weekends. As I said, it's not as far as China. And it's only for two months.

I wonder if it'll be warm enough for Sangria.

Vaughan Town:

Camino Bar:

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