I got the chance to talk with Senor Gilberto Castreje about his life and career as a Spanish teacher and wanted to know, "Of all the places why teach here in small town Mount Ayr?"
Senor Gilberto Castreje was born in a place called Galicia, located in the Northwest corner of Spain. In Europe, the town is considered a big city populated with 5,000 people. Galicia is visited many times
during the year. One of the most famous events of Spain ends in his town. This event is known as "El Camino" which translates to The Walk. The event is a type of pilgrimage for Christians in
Europe which starts in France and goes through Spain. It ends in Galicia by a lighthouse known as "Fisterra."
Senor Castreje has a brother and a sister. He also has a mother in Spain but his
father passed away some time ago. Gilberto Castreje can remember when he was a child, he remembers everyone in his town walked all day long every day. There were tons of places to walk to
and meet new people. There were always visitors from other countries visiting his town. Gilberto recalls that the food is amazing and to die for, that all foods are home cooked and freshly made.
There was an incident in his town that he remembers very well. It was a year after the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine, when a Panamanian ship filled with toxic chemicals caught fire off the shore of
Galicia. There was no school at the time until the ship exploded. Senor remembers that all houses in Galicia were evacuated immediately. All animal in his town were released because the people didn't want
them to be trapped inside their cages. The streets were a mess filled with people wanting to get out. People left things behind. It was chaos, but scary as it was it only lasted one day. After the ship
exploded, the government found there were no toxic chemicals so everyone went back to their homes and order was restored.
Ironically, Senor Castreje did not major in teaching Spanish. He
majored in teaching English. He was to teach English as a foreign language.
"English is easier to teach than Spanish," stated Castreje. "It is also easier to write than Spanish."
Spanish has many
more verbs and adjectives than English does.
He then joined a visiting exchange program where the Spanish government sends teachers to teach Spanish and vice versa with the American Government
sending English teachers.
There are many similaries and differences between Spain and the United States according to Senor Castreje. He believs America is a great country but does not have
as good of health care as it should be for a big country. The Aministrations are good and don't take long to process things (Visa, Green Cards, etc.). In Spain, there are no processed foods.
Everything is made from scratch and handmade. Nothing is pre-made. They use less plastic than Americans do. Using plastic is a rude thing in Spain and is rarely seen. Honking is also not a rude
thing like it is here. Chewing gum while talking is a very rude thing there, like in America.
The money, Senor recalls, is run almost similar. A Euro equals $1.60 Amercian dollars however. Europe
uses nore coins than the U.S. does and Senor Castreje prefers using coins.
He thinks the cars are considerably larger in America than in Spain or even Europe in general. The amount of diesel used
in Spain is higher than in America because of the prices in Europe.
One thing Senor thinks is different is the weather. Weather in Spain is complete polar opposite of the weather in American or
even Iowa. Where his house is in Spain, it rains 185 days a year and it's never under 48 or over 85. Galicia is not humid in the summer and has no bugs so people can have dinner outside at
Nowadays, Senor Castreje enjoys where he lives and where he works. The neighborhood is quiet and the school is a good place to work. He loves teaching Spanish to students
in Mount Ayr and hopes to do so for a long time.
When he retires, he hopes to spend retirement back in his hometown in Spain where he wants to own a small fishing boat to go sailing, fishing, or
even sport fishing (since he lives only 100 feet from the ocean).
Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2016