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language school

a new year
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journey's end


Guatemala Journal


 language school

4 octubre
I attended language school last weekend in Antigua at the charming Escuela de Español San Jose de Viejo. Stacy and I started out early - class began at 8am. This was my first time driving out of the city. I paid careful attention to the route on my last trip to Pana (by way of Antigua), so it was familiar. With very little traffic going out of the city that early, we arrived in Antigua in less than an hour and had time to find the school. Stacy had attended there before so I wasn't as lost as I might have been if I were alone.

Antigua is known for it's Spanish schools, and for good reason. I had one-on-one instruction for 4 hours Saturday and 4 hours Sunday with Gladys, a Guatemalan (Guatemalteca, as they say here), an excellent teacher and nice person who customized the instruction to my level. I've had 2 years of Spanish way back when in high school, and frequent brush-ups for traveling. The past two months I've certainly improved, interacting with Spanish speakers in stores and restaurants, but have not been terribly successful at more in-depth conversation. I'm hopeless speaking over the phone in Spanish. Gladys and I reviewed present tense verbs on Saturday and talked about ourselves, our jobs, families, and so on. You can't just listen and take notes when you are the only student in class!

We stayed in a lovely room at the school and walked around the lush gardens. By the time we came back from lunch at a place recommended by Gladys, and did a little shopping, everyone seemed to be gone at the school. We had keys to our room, but, having been repeated warned about "robos" (robberies), I wanted to make sure I found a guarded or locked place to leave my car, and it suddenly didn't seem an option at the school. A nearby hotel had a guarded lot, and for a small parking fee I arranged to park there for the night. We walked to a delicious Italian restaurant near the arch in the evening and started class again early in the morning.

The second day of class was exhausting - we covered every irregular verb in Gladys' repertoire, and discussed the preterite (past) tense endings. My head was spinning by the time class was over. Stacy was equally stretched. We decided to get some lunch on the way out of town and just head home.

Driving out of Antigua, we passed a pizza place near some interesting looking shops. There was no place to park on the main street, so I pulled off onto a side street and we enjoyed a relaxing lunch and poked around the shops for about an hour. Returning to the car, we found a back window broken out, and our overnight bags gone. Of course no one was around, and the police wouldn't do anything anyway. Stacy was angry and upset, probably more at herself for leaving her purse, cell phone, keys and some important papers in her luggage, she had just taken a change purse to lunch. I lost some clothes and personal hygiene items, but nothing of great value that couldn't be easily replaced. And of course my camera was strapped around me - I never leave it anywhere except a locked hotel room. The biggest headache would be getting the window fixed.

I bought a chair on the way back from one of the roadside vendors - one of the goals of my trip. After the theft I was thinking I wouldn't feel like looking at the furniture along the road, but then realized I didn't particularly want to drive to Antigua again very soon, so this was the opportune time. While Stacy made calls on my cell phone to various people about getting into her apartment and replacing certified passport copies, I bargained with the furniture craftsman. It was a great effort to fit the chair in my teeny little car, but we got it to work (the back seat folds down) and were on our way.


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