Ready for a true vacation or break from your regular routine? We loved our month of Spanish lessons, in conjunction with a home stay, in Guatemala. Consider this sample day to get a taste of the experience:
6 a.m.: Wake up to the sound of roosters and wander up to the third-story cement rooftop of your host family’s house to do some exercises. You’ll have to duck under a line of laundry hung out to dry by your host mother who still washes clothes in the lake, but even then the view is spectacular: sparkling Lake Atitlan just in front of you, and the verdant slopes of San Pedro volcano at your back.
7 a.m.: Breakfast with your Tz’utujil Maya host mother down on the first floor of the house, just inside the small courtyard planted with rosebushes and a fruiting lime tree. Today’s menu: tamales and coffee for the adults, and because your host mother has astutely figured out that your kids aren’t wild about tamales, chocolate-flavored cereal and milk for the children. Your kids inhale their breakfast, and enthusiastically thank your host mom in Spanish!
8 a.m.-noon: One-on-one Spanish lessons at your school. As usual, you and your teacher start out with conversation in Spanish, por supuesto (of course). Yesterday evening you attended a school-sponsored lecture about the Maya calendar and astrological signs, all in Spanish (much of which you understood, to your delight!). As a result, today you have all sorts of questions for your teacher. She explains the role of midwives in interpreting a child’s calendar sign. An hour later your conversation has evolved into a discussion of U.S. immigration and your teachers’ many friends who have emigrated north looking for work. Over the course of your four-hour Spanish lesson, your teacher expertly weaves in more formal grammar instruction. Today’s topic: the different uses of the two “to be” verbs in Spanish–ser and estar. During the language school’s mid-morning coffee break, the two of you join the other teachers and students for a snack of crispy empanadas. Your kids and husband report, with excitement, that tomorrow they will be teaming up to make tissue-paper kites with their teachers during their lessons.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch back at your home stay. Today your host mother has made delicious broccoli cutlets, rice, and guacamole. As with all meals, there are steaming corn tortillas on offer. “Buen probecho!” Your host siblings chime the Spanish equivalent to “bon apetit” as they rush in and out of the kitchen, coming and going from work and school. After lunch, your family helps your host mother out by washing dishes in basins in the courtyard. You would like to go kayaking on the lake this afternoon, but your youngest child already looks tired–he has nearly fallen asleep at the dinner table for the last week as he adjusts to Spanish and his new environment. When he asks if he can go watch cartoons with his host sister, you agree, putting the kayaking plans on hold for another day. The whole family spends a lazy afternoon at home, lounging in the hammock, playing card games, and doing Spanish homework.
4 p.m.: You walk down to the lake with the kids to get fruit smoothies–your favorite is papaya, and they choose pineapple and banana. Along the way, the kids stop to play pick-up street soccer with other children. Later that evening, your whole family goes to a salsa dance class put on by your language school.
7 p.m.: Dinner back at home. Your family of four joins your host family of six, plus their grandmother who only speaks the Maya language, Tz’utujil. The kitchen is crowded, but full of animated conversation. The meal: black beans, eggs, fresh white cheese, and corn tortillas. Somehow your hosts have learned that today is your birthday, and before you know it, your host mother has placed a cake in the middle of the table and everyone is singing and clapping. You look over, and even your youngest son, who is usually slumped over in your lap at this hour, is grinning ear to ear.
Sound like an experience you might enjoy? In two weeks, I’ll share a post explaining the logistics of Spanish-language school in Guatemala: what to budget in terms of time and money, how to choose a region and school, and special considerations if you plan to bring children along.