(written 29th July)
The last month has been spent living in the region of Cazorla, working at a summer camp in the tiny area of Hortizuela. Upon arrival it was slightly difficult to hide our disappointment as we pulled up to a rather small hotel that was to be our home for the next four weeks. Our colleagues had spoken of grand four star hotels with rooms that had balconies and living rooms, fireplaces and double beds. Ours seemed a far cry from such luxury. Nevertheless we put on our smiles, got our 38 teens settled in their rooms and then sorted ourselves out. We each had our own room- that in itself was a blessing. Most of the rooms looked out onto a beautiful courtyard, adorned with flowers in every available space with a beautiful trickling fountain as the centre piece. Plus there was a pool. With a spectacular view. It didn’t take long to forget our initial doubts and begin to think of the place as a temporary home. Over the last month we have had groups of kids coming and going weekly- half Anglos (English speakers) and half Spaniards. Their days were based around conversational 1-1 sessions and activities. With a box of arts and crafts resources,a small grassy area and a couple of footballs we let our imaginations run wild in creating activities for the kids to do. Some of my favourites were:
making a music video
‘carnivore’ (a game that essentially meant us throwing water balloons at kids for an hour in order to “kill” them)
portraits led by a counsellor who I am certain has never had an art class in her life
water volleyball which provided the perfect excuse to go in the pool again
body pump class in which the kids died trying to do push-ups and squats
poi spinning in which one girl hit herself in the head causing her to faint.
Just as well the nurse had arrived at this point as we went half the time without one, and the whole time without a lifeguard – only in Spain!
So after all this hard work what did we do on our time off I hear you ask… Well, the closest “pueblo” (translated here as the tiniest village ever) was Coto Rios, 5km away- although it’s quaint chiringuito by the river and slightly out-of-place Australian bar made it worth the visit. At 3am we found ourselves sharing a dance floor with some young adults, middle aged parents and 4 year old kids…. And at the end of the night a random man at the bar gave us a lift home for free- only in an obscure town in Spain! We also visited the more popular town, Arroyo Frio, 15km away, with its large population of 200 making it the liveliest place we visited that month. The local haunt for all residents was the ‘club/bar/cocteleria/kebap’ place which apparently couldn’t afford spotify premium and so played music and sporadic adverts until 6am.
The kids were well behaved (not that we would know otherwise-our night duty only lasted until about ten minutes after the kids went to their rooms). The points system which rewarded speaking good English, behaviour and being a general good sport (GGS) became the centre of our lives with each of us trying to lead our team to victory weekly. Pink Killer Unicorns- you did me proud! Excitement came in the form of good menu choices for that day and guessing the desert correctly. And ‘counsellor privileges’ in the shape of sun loungers by the pool and sofas in the ‘meeting room’.It goes without saying that life for the month was quite simple, timetabled and remote.
It wasn’t long before we were counting down the days to return to cultivation. The month spent in Os Peares in November now seemed like luxury with its bar and one shop so close! An eight hour bus journey with a driver who I am sure had a beer with his lunch at the stop mid journey brought us back to Madrid. And my last day working for the company was spend (or should I say wasted) sitting in the hotel lobby doing ‘wake-up call’ from 9.30-4…. Needless to say no one needed waking up expect two girls who had gotten wasted the night before and we slacked off two hours early to save dying of boredom.
Our last few days in Madrid were incredibly hot, stuffy and quiet. All the locals with sense have headed to the coast, leaving confused and dehydrated ‘guiris’ wondering why they thought it was a good idea to visit Madrid in peak summertime.
And now the time has come for me to return home for a while to spend some time with my family and friends (with a few holidays in between) before the school hear starts again.
Hasta pronto España!