First day of Spanish School in San Pedro. Martina got us each a traditional German 1st day of school gift. A brown paper bag of sweets. Sweet!
Upon arrival to school (which was literally next door to our accommodation) we are introduced to our teachers (maestros) who seem set on only conversing with us in Spanish, and fair enough I suppose! Our 1:1 Spanish training begins with us each being taken aside to individual shady spots on the bank of Lake ‘Lago’ Atitlan.
We regroup for morning tea and Allison and I soon realise it will take a bit more than 5 days to get fluent in Spanish. We have barely covered the whole masculine/feminine concept and basic verbs. Many students go fully immersive and get buddied up with a family for 4 weeks. Us on the other hand are taking a more balanced approach and go for lunch when classes end at 1pm. Then go for a movie later on, tonights screening is Oceans 12.
Then we get some shut eye, it is a school night after all!
For the first time in a long while we have a routine! Up at 7:30am, breakfast on the balcony overlooking the fishermen on the lake. Leave for Spanish school at 8:59am and arrive at 9am next door. Meet our teacher and try to recall what we learnt the previous day. Morning tea at 10am and back for more schooling till 1pm.
From there we have the rest of the day to check out San Pedro. San Pedro has a reputation as a place people come intending to stay a little while and stay the rest of their lives. It is a bit hippie, or at least alternative, yet remote. Situated on the edge of the lake.
Coffee beans are constantly being dried in the endless sun meaning there is that bitter smell of coffee in the air. A few tour operators and locals about but mostly dreadlocked travellers trying to find themselves which usually finds them knocking up cheap bracelets to sell from blankets on the footpath. It is a pleasant enough town though and an easy place to chill out while we challenge our brains linguistically.
We meet some other students up for lunch at a restaurant named Barrio. We then walked up a steep hill to the town centre as the main area for visitors is down near the lake. We changed some money and got an ice cream to test our Spanish on the locals.
In the evening Allison and Martina salsa’d with fellow students and I played some pool with a cheating Frenchman. We grabbed some dinner and went to bed.
Allison had an early start, no doubt determined to beat me in the final exam. Although my homework last night paid off as I nailed verbs, days of the week, months of the year and telling time!
Chores to do in the afternoon so got our clothes washed before grabbing a quite filling lunch. So much so we don’t need dinner and we opt to study into the evening being the dedicated students we are.
Back to school but my teacher of the past few days has done a no show. The ‘maestros’ had a Christmas party the night before and apparently he was a little worse for wear. So my lesson was postponed till 1pm.
I instead go and pickup the laundry from yesterday which was really just the back door of a lady’s house. Today however when I wander in there is a small girl sitting alone on the floor. I am essentially in her house. My arrival not surprisingly seems to startle her and her reaction is to scream loudly ‘mama, tourista’. I get the washing and quickly leave.
My postponed lesson kicks off at 1pm with a new teacher, seemingly my teacher had a very big night. I actually spend the day conversing and playing games with some 9 year olds from the local school which is quite a fun way to apply it. And a gentle reminder that my Spanish is not even equal to that of a 9 year old
Go for dinner with a fellow student Luke before preparing for our presentation at tomorrow’s final day in school.
My teacher is a no show again. I’m beginning to feel like the special kid that no one wants to teach! Anyway my new teacher is good and we just chat, in Spanish of course and the conversation for once begins to flow a little easier that I can actually say I had my first decent conversation totally in Spanish!
We do our presentations and receive our certificates confirming our newly founded bilingualism. Allison and her teacher Rosalia had bonded (surprise, surprise) so she heads off shopping with her at the market for some extra language lessons.
We meet back at the guest house with Martina and pack our gear and head for the boat to take us to Panachel and onwards to a return to Antigua. A lengthy wait in Panachel for departure as the driver waits for the bus to fill. At 4pm we finally depart and while there is a direct road to Antigua our bus is headed back via Chichicastenengo
We get caught up in an almighty traffic jam. Worried that our accommodation back at the Yellow House will be given away if we arrive too late, we chance it to leave the bus while it is trapped to call ahead. We have a slow onwards journey and a minor traffic accident with a car but we arrive safe and sound and most importantly with a bed for the night as things are getting a little crazy with xmas just around the corner. And the Guatemalans we discovered take ‘Feliz Navidad’ very seriously or they like an excuse to let off fireworks.