After our one day layover in Madrid, it was time to take a 3 hour bus trip west to VaughanTown. You won’t find VaughanTown on a map because it’s not actually a town. In fact, it’s in 5 different towns. Our VaughanTown was outside the village of El Barco de Ávila.
VaughanTown is an English immersion program for Spaniards. As native English speakers, our job was to help the Spaniards gain confidence in their ability to communicate in English by exposing them to a wealth of speech and accents (including American, British, Indian, and Australian in our group). The Spaniards pay for the program individually or through their companies, and the Anglos, like us, are volunteers who are compensated with free meals and a free stay at a 4-star luxury hotel.
Before we could start our little English haven in the middle of Spain, we had to get out of the city and away from all the Spanish speakers. Most of the participants took the chartered bus from Madrid with us to the middle of nowhere. But along the way, we made one stop outside the town of my namesake.
Before our 30/40 World Tour, I didn’t even know why my parents picked my name. But when my mom heard that we would be in Ávila, she shared this with me:
Ending the 30/40 World Tour in Spain is more than just a wonderful place to visit before heading home, but it is also a symbol of being on the edge between the east and the west. The Greeks called Italy Hesperia or “land of the setting sun” and referred to Spain, still further west, as Hesperia ultima.
Spain is the place from where Columbus changed the understanding of where the world does not end, going from the known world to discover the new world. It is a place where Miguel de Cervantes created a fascinating hero with Don Quixote, the dreamer chasing the windmills. It is a place where you can hear amazing guitar tunes (La Tuna, Segovia, Sarasate, and Albeniz) and see flamenco dancing. While each region in Spain is unique in food, scenery and history, all Spaniards share a love for living life to its fullest with time for siesta and time for work, keeping soul and body well balanced.
More amazing, is that the last landing of the heroine’s journeyis not only in Spain but also in Ávila, the city of the famous Teresa of Ávila. While it is a coincidence and not a pre-meditated plan of Ms. HalfEmpty and Mr. HalfFull, it is a potential revelation for the couple, but especially for Ms. Half Empty.
In fact, there is a strong resemblance between our heroine and the famous saint of Spain who was constantly in search of perfection, while at the same time she challenged many of the existing social norms for women in the 16th Century. One of her most famous books, The Way of Perfection, describes her experiences in prayer which ultimately culminates in rapture.
The secret as Teresa explained in prayer is that it does not matter as much to think as to love. Loving in the first place is allowing oneself to be loved. “Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift…” Hopefully, our heroine will discover this on her quest. It is not about righteousness in perfection, but about letting go to find oneself.
St. Teresa was a trailblazer, a reformer, a Doctor of the Church, and a very smart woman. She was a fascinating señora like our heroine. She liked adventure at an early age; she even ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. She was beautiful and atypical of women of her time by making the most of her intellect and challenging the men of her time. She had a mind of her own, which she manifested as a mystic, writer, teacher of meditation, and founder of the Carmelites. Her work became classic text in Christian spirituality, mysticism, and Spanish Renaissance literature.
Our heroine’s last landing is truly fitting before crossing the Atlantic Ocean and coming home to hit the road running and engage in a life of love.
Woah, no pressure Mom! Those are some big expectations. But I do still love Mr. HalfFull (even after spending 24 hours a day with him for 10 weeks), so maybe that’s a good start on the life of love.
At the end of our bus journey, we reached Hotel Izán Puerta de Gredos, which sits on 15 acres of land in view of the Gredos mountain range. The location was beautiful and secluded — a 30-minute walk from town. This would be our home for the next 5 days, during which we would spend 16 hours a day speaking English to Spaniards.
- Who is your namesake?
- Have you found a life of love?
- Have you ever participated in a program like VaughanTown?