Living in La Villa is undeniably proving to be a learning curve. From attempting to communicate in a new language to discovering that Primark flip-flops WILL NOT withstand uneven terrain, each day brings with it new tasks and difficulties. Armed with Spanish dictionaries and open minds (plus a handy tube of nail glue for sandal related catastrophes), we march through the school gates every morning ready to conquer the challenges we are faced with. However, it isn't only the UK volunteers who are learning a new way of life; the nationals are also keen for us to share our language and customs in a much welcomed cultural exchange.
The aptly named learning sessions commence each Friday afternoon, a refreshing end to a busy week. The workshops were kick started with us Brits sharing our love of all things edible. Feelings of nostalgia rumbled in our stomachs as we were reminded that without a roast there is no real Sunday and without tea there is no real afternoon. The traditional method of haggis production caused widespread disgust among volunteers of both nationalities, but a swig of tea with a freshly baked scone and dollop of jam sweetened even the sourest face. Everyone knows that food is a great bonding tool and coffee and pastries similarly went down a treat at last week’s session, where the tables were turned and we were given an insight into the delicacies of Honduras. In the coming weeks we plan to share the Scottish ceilidh, classic British music culture, sports and even a traditional Christmas in a bid to prove to the nationals that while we just can't shake our booties like they can, our culture isn't as bland as a limp sausage roll.
As you would imagine, it’s no easy task planning lessons and choreographing dance routines in fragmented Spanglish. It’s probably fair to say that most of us have misconstrued a sentence or five at one point or another, but all the volunteers are willing to learn as much about language as about culture. Despite most not being brilliant enough to regurgitate the entirety of our pocket dictionaries just yet (as we had naïvely hoped), slowly but surely our vocabularies are expanding. Each morning is opened with a ‘frase del día’ in each language - some kind of helpful expression or strange idiom, which is often relevant and applicable throughout the day. Two hours of each week are spent teaching English to our enthusiastic national partners, where we learn as much by giving the lesson as they learn from receiving it. Our own Spanish lessons are due to start soon and I'm sure that when they do we will gain language skills which will be invaluable to both the project and us as individuals.
We all knew that in taking part in ICS we would learn a whole host of new things and we certainly haven’t been disappointed. From culture and communication to working well as a team and accepting life without the pub, we are overcoming obstacles every day and as a result we’re ploughing through the project. Time is flying by - we come home next month - and perhaps the most difficult thing we will learn is how to leave this amazing place behind!
Written by ICS volunteer Abigail McGowan