San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala
This morning, I opened up the new Spanish-English dictionary I downloaded on my phone last night and took a gander at the “Phrase of Day” feature. I figured the phrase might be something I could use to break the long awkward pauses at meals with my host family (that I do my best to smile and nod through) or something I could drop into the one-on-one sessions with my Spanish instructor (that I also do my best to smile and nod through). Instead, the phrase offered a perfect reflection of how I feel about my first two days of Spanish immersion:
I closed this mind-reading app and headed to class, short one clever phrase to drop into a Spanish conversation today.
My first two days in San Pedro have been dominated by Spanish classes at San Pedro Spanish School. Classes run from 8 am to 1 pm everyday, with optional conversation practice from 5:15 – 6 pm. The classes are conducted in lakeside cabanas with a personal Spanish instructor (Chusita is mine) and include both grammar practice and conversation. (I say “conversation” but it’s more accurately described as me staring at Chusita with a furrowed brow as she speaks in a language I don’t understand about a country that is still largely unfamiliar to me. Occasionally, she stops and stares at me because she has asked me a question, unbeknownst to me. Once I realize that a question has been asked, I nod knowingly and say “Es diferente en Estados Unidos.” Surprisingly, this answer usually works). Conversation classes are with several other students at a similar level and include an instructor to guide the direction of the conversation. For now, I consider these sessions a victory if at least one other person understands at least one thing I say. I may actually be 2 for 2. (I keep “Cómo te llamas” in my backpocket).
Given my schedule, there has been some free time over the last few days, but, after a 6 hour onslaught of Spanish, I’ve found myself spending most of the rest of my time siesta’ing, reading (in English), and surfing the Internet (the English version of it). However, I did discover the local gym, Nufos, only a 3 minute walk from my casa, and squeezed in a workout this afternoon. The music blasting in the place was surprisingly solid (a mash-up of 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s rock) and the equipment consisted of some basic free weights and workable but somewhat rickety machines. I joined for one week (for 75Q or ~$10) and am thinking I might become a regular. (I was the only gringo in the place today, so I’m hoping “becoming a regular” will give me some more legitimacy amongst the locals).
Also of note is that this Friday is Independence Day in Guatemala, aka Quince de Septiembre! (Interestingly enough, when Guatemala gained its independence from Spain in 1821, the country consisted of present-day Chiapas (the southernmost state Mexico), Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras; those countries together formed the “Captaincy General of Guatemala”. This federation was dissolved two years later.) In celebration of independence, fiestas will be going on all week throughout the country, including in my pueblo of San Pedro. We got things kicked off this morning with a parade of little kids (niños màs pequeña, ages ~4-8) that walked through town, hilariously playing musical instruments, and, in some cases, dressed up as grown-ups. The little girl in my homestay family, Elsita, was an integral part of this parade and really gave it her all (as proven by the fact that she required an afternoon nap…but please keep this to yourself, she would be embarrassed if you knew).
Over the next few days, I’ll hopefully be doing a bit more bonding with my classmates (I have plans to get beers with a few tonight) and taking part in the Guatemalan independence day fiestas (I’m rooting for it to become my new favorite holiday). Hasta luego, amigos!