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The International Writers Magazine: Spain

Free Stay in the Mountains of Spain
Beverly Rorem

There is a small village in the mountains west of Madrid that has been transformed into an English speaking enclave called Vaughan Town. Each week, twenty English-speaking volunteers are imported and given rooms and meals at a four-star hotel in exchange for conversing in English many hours a day with twenty Spanish guests. Everyone speaks only English, no Spanish allowed, even at mealtime. The volunteers pay their own transportation and for any other extra expenses.

These questions are posted at the Vaughan Town website: See link below
Are you naturally inquisitive?
Do you enjoy nature and the outdoors?
Are you patient and helpful?
Can you talk about many different subjects?
Do you enjoy learning new things?
Do you enjoy socializing and meeting new people?
Are you outgoing, open and friendly? Do you enjoy helping people learn something new?
Are you brimming with enthusiasm and zest?
Are you adaptable to new and different food?
Are you creative and fun?
Are you totally clueless about the Spanish language?
Have you had no previous English teaching experience?
Are you interested in learning about Spanish culture and people?

Call me delusional, but I was certain they were speaking directly to me! So I responded, sending an online application, more or less forgot about it, and yesterday, less than two weeks later, I was accepted to go to Spain and converse with strangers all day long for five full days. 

The session will begin on April 6 (after a tapas party the evening before in Madrid) and finish on April 11. That was yesterday, March 7, less than a month from when I must leave, if I accept. My first response was panic, and although I had given this as one of several possible dates, it suddenly seemed impossible.

At the moment I do not have a passport. Two weeks ago I sent it off for renewal, and how do I know whether it will be replaced by then?

What about my class? I am committed to teaching a weekly writing class beginning April 16. Is that enough time to prepare if I do not return until April 12?

I am in the midst of final edits on a book close to publication, and would the trip cause any appreciable delay?
How much is air fare from Oklahoma City to Madrid, and will stopovers be long and tiring? I remind myself that I am no longer thirty years old and cannot plop myself on an airport bench to catch a nap; passersby would surely think I was suffering a heart attack and call medics. Too embarrassing!

I do the smart thing. I call my sister Kay, the traveler, and she encourages me to go. She finds a phone number for me to learn about the status of my passport. She tells me of a website,, where I can find all the cheap air fares. She says this program sounds perfect for me.

To my surprise, the U.S. Department of Passports immediately answers and a polite gentleman informs me that my replacement passport was mailed yesterday and I will receive it in a few days. 

I check and learn that Delta Airlines flies out of Oklahoma City to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Madrid. In only fifteen hours, I will be in Spain, and it will cost $747, far less than summertime fares.
As for teaching, it may be better to wait until after the first session to plan a detailed syllabus since I need to know who is in the class and what their needs are.

It is probably my Viking heritage that makes me an adventurer. I can easily go for a year or so without a major trip, but then an immense necessity for a change of scenery grows inside me, which is always a challenge to my limited budget.
Since moving from San Francisco to Oklahoma City nearly four years ago, I have journeyed to New York City to view the opening of Christo’s The Gates in Central Park, traveled to the Italian lakes via train through the Swiss Alps, and last October I flew alone to London to celebrate my birthday because Virgin Airlines offered ridiculously low fares. 

I was not thinking of another trip for at least a year until that darned basal cell carcinoma insidiously appeared on my left cheek. I recognize it, because I’ve seen it before. Three months ago I endured three surgeries to remove it. Results of the first surgery did not allow me to close my left eye, and so they removed those stitches, made a few new slices in my face, and re-did it the same day. After that, I did not heal properly, and so they performed a scar excision several weeks later. The scars are fading, but the bump is back, like a pesky ragweed. I try not to think about it and delay calling for a new appointment. Eventually the way I choose to deal with this is to plan a trip now and worry about my face later.

Where might I go for less than a thousand dollars? Somewhere exotic, interesting, and bursting with culture so there will be no time to fret.

I moved from San Francisco to Oklahoma City nearly four years ago, and I like living near my daughters and grandchildren. I like it here in spite of the fact that it’s tediously flat countryside and the wind never stops blowing. The weather is not horrible if I wake at the crack of dawn and walk the dogs before the wind begins. In the empty fields near my house, I unsnap the leashes and Ginger and Max run free and chase rabbits while I study the ground for wildflowers and mull over paragraph structure. It’s a pleasant life.

But last month when I spotted that familiar little pimple on my cheek I was filled with a strong urge to run away, preferably to an idyllic destination with mountains and gentle breezes, before undergoing the dreaded knife again. I Googled for cheap trips but found nothing enticing until I spotted a news story about a week-long program giving English speakers free room and board at a four-star hotel located in a beautiful area of Spain in return for conversation, and I am always on a quest for good conversation.

Vikings live fearlessly, trust their instincts, and go with the flow. I cannot think of a persuasive reason to ignore this opportunity, so I accept the invitation from Vaughan Town, make my reservations, and add three additional days to my itinerary in order to explore Madrid, as I have never been there.
Will write more later
BEVERLY ROREM March 13th 2008

Vaughn Town link
Vaughan Systems Edificio Master's 1- Avda. General Perón 38 - 2ª Planta, 28020 Madrid, Spain Madrid office: +34917485950 Madrid Fax: +914445836 London representative: +447931131208

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