I have just spent a week as a volunteer with Diverbo – pueblo ingles in Coto del Valle set within the stunning scenery of the Sierra de Cazorla in Andalucía.
Just over 100km from my home in the Granada province, I was able to drive to the location within 2 hours. Most of the English-speaking volunteers fly into Madrid, are met by the organisers and brought to the location by coach. The students are bussed in from various locations, this time from Valencia.
So, what is Diverbo? I first heard about Diverbo whilst browsing Facebook. They are an English language school based in Madrid. But a school with a difference. The difference is ‘total immersion with native English speakers’, hence the volunteers.
I arrived at the hotel around 1300 hours to find that the previous week’s course had yet to finish, but the scenery was beautiful, the sun was shining, so I took my camera and went off for a walk to explore the grounds.
When allocated my room I found I was sharing with another lady, neither of us were particularly happy with this situation but the documentation does say ‘be prepared to share a room’. However, when we voiced our concerns, Marcos (the event organiser) went out of his way to resolve the situation and Sandy and I ended up with our own rooms (until the day before we leave at least).
It was 1700 hours before I could access my room, but this had given me the opportunity to chat with volunteers and students (who on this particular course were teachers from Valencia) and start to get to know people. The rooms were clean and tidy, albeit basic, but they had all the facilities needed. With less than an hour to unpack, I was off to join the welcome meeting at 1800 hours.
The meeting was fun, with games to get people introducing themselves and chatting, this lead to short presentations by each of the group and by 2100 hours everyone was ready for dinner. The food was warm and well-cooked, with a vegetarian option, and considering the numbers they were catering for it was served with great efficiency. It was also another opportunity to speak with the students. Another quick ‘welcome chat’ at 2230 and then your time was your own (although they do encourage you to stay and socialise in the bar). And, so it began!!.
The days start with breakfast at 0900 and, after a quick look at the schedule, 4 hours of one to ones, lunch at 14.00 and about an hour’s break before starting again at 17.00. More talking, meetings and group exercises until dinner at 21.00. Dinner finishes around 2230 followed by an activity in the bar (which is voluntary)
This is an intense week and hard work for the volunteers (although it is even harder for the students, who have the added task of speaking in English)
Whilst it is tiring and intense, it is also great fun and the people are delightful.
One to ones were like surfing the internet!! I came away with stories of trips to turkey, travels around the world, sailing across the Atlantic, nutritional advice on how enzymes break down certain categories of food and new authors to read. i learned how to identify lichen and its use as an indicator on the health of the environment, the difference between fungi and algae and I learned more about ‘the real Spain’, its politics, history and culture. I even had a demonstration on how to use my walking poles properly!!
To say the week was hard work and fun would be an understatement. I laughed so hard at times that tears ran down my face. I walked miles in beautiful scenery, saw wild deer and griffon vultures as well as saying hello to the hotel dogs every morning. I made new friends and listened to stories of people’s children and family life and found myself sharing some of my own life experiences which I had not talked about in years.
A surprising thing was realising how much I speak using idioms!!! But, then, that’s another story.
You spend a lot of time moving around, often from indoors to out and back again and of course you talk, talk, talk. They recommend that you take any daily medications needed but, in addition, my advice would be to take a good moisturiser, lip salve (lips gets surprisingly dry when talking so much) and throat lozenges (60% were suffering with a sore throat by the middle of the week). For some of the ladies, you may want to take a product that helps disguise the dark shadows under your eyes, if you didn’t have them at the start of the week there is a good chance you will have them by the end!!
What do you get out of it? Well don’t expect fine dining (although the meals are good and there is always a selection) or 5 star accommodation, do expect a very intense week with the opportunity to meet some wonderful people from Spain and all over the world and to make friendships which may last a lifetime.
Would I go again? In an instant!!!