“Oh you’re going to Spain – you should look up Diverbo.”
Advertised as a free holiday for English speakers, Diverbo is a language program for Spaniards. The general idea is that an equal number of Spaniards and Anglos attend the retreat, which takes place at a semi remote location designed to create a natural separation between the Spaniards and their language. The Spaniards (or their employers) pay a large amount of money for this experience. The English speakers volunteer for the experience and in return for their time, energy, and the words that flow very easily and naturally out of their mouths receive food, drink, and shelter.
Lunch and dinner are 3 course affairs with all the wine you can drink. The seating arrangement isn’t set with the one exception being each table must have 2 Spaniards at it. There are plenty of choices for food, and I definitely over-ate at every meal. The venue for our program was the Villas at Abadia De Los Templarios. The villas are designed for 2-3 people (maybe more if you were close friends) and generally housed a Spaniard and an Anglo together. We had absolutely terrible weather our week, but if anything that helped to cement our friendships as we were forced to spend so much time in close quarters!
To say the programming is intense is a bit of an understatement. The day starts at 9 am (which, at first, kind of feels like sleeping in), and the non stop day includes one to one sessions, group conversations, games, theater, and presentations by both Anglos and Spaniards. Dinner is served at the staggeringly late hour of 9 pm – and the Spaniards wonder how anyone could possibly eat this early. After dinner usually some (or a lot of) drinks are had at the bar.This continues in some fashion for a week. English is spoken exclusively.
Even though we are granted a 2 hour siesta from 3 – 5, I found myself wanting to spend more time with the Spaniards and help them with their presentations, etc.
The entire event is facilitated by two people – the master of ceremonies and the program director. These two have the job of orchestrating and scheduling the entire week. It’s so much more than that though, as the MC seems to (intentionally) ignore everyone’s inhibitions and fears until we do as well and the shyest people are up on stage performing a theatre piece, speaking about their country, and sharing their lives. We all play games without holding back, running around like 12 year old kids at a summer camp.
In addition to this programming we experience a few trips into the Village of La Alberca. This includes a cultural experience at a traditional Bodega, where we eat jamon carved by a master carver (yes that is a thing in Spain!) and also drink wine from a “boot.”
Oh yes, and also the Queimada – a tradition from the Galician area of Spain. Jen dressed up as one of 3 witches, and danced around while a giant bowl of liquor was lit on fire and then we all drank it.
If I could choose one word to sum this up it would be: lifechanger. (Maybe that’s two words..)
The program is amazing in itself, but more than that the opportunity to meet Spanish people from across the country is one in a million and something you could never purchase. The friendships we formed in one short week will last for years, and already we are altering our travel plans to include another visit to Spain.
Thank you to Diverbo for this amazing experience, and also to the Spaniards – a beautiful group of people from a beautiful country. We can’t wait to return.
Full disclosure: I stole the cover photo from the Diverbo website.. please don’t sue me.