About 6 weeks earlier we’d ceased our Spanish studies back in Puerto Escondido, Mexico and it was whilst back there that we had made the decision to cease further studies until Guatemala after seeing how much cheaper the costs could be.
There are many school options in Antigua, as well as further afield in Xela (Quetzaltenango), but somehow it ended up that we found our way here to San Pedro la Laguna, and it was here we resolved to further our Spanish education.
We spent the morning of our first proper day scouting around to assess the options (of which there were many), eventually settling on a school right on the lake’s waterfront, Casa Rosario.
Being overly sensitive on this particular day regarding my pretty average level of Spanish, I was keen on a little privacy in our classroom options, and this place certainly fit the bill.
Its proximity to the stunning Lago de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan) was also an incredible asset, if at times a distraction and we eventually committed to a week of study, including home-stay with a local family.
Unlike our time studying back in Puerto Escondido, this time all of our schooling was one on one, different true, but I think it worked to both of our advantage as Sarah wasn’t forced to learn at a level beneath her, whilst I was able to benefit from a pace that better suited my elementary proficiency.
Another major difference this time, was the teachers didn’t speak any English, forcing us to engage in the very language we were trying to learn. Challenging at times, as often much of the class would be conversation, however it really was a key tool in aiding rapid Spanish comprehension and application.
A completely random fact was that our two respective teachers were actually sisters, which meant I often had the inside scoop on how good a student they thought Sarah was!
At least I got commended for my jovial nature…
We felt we were getting such good benefit out of our week there (and enjoying our teachers), that we extended our stay and studies for an additional week!
Now the other important facet of our Spanish education in San Pedro la Laguna came outside of our school hours (which were only 4 hours each morning, from 8-12), when we spent time at our home-stay.
Normally they’d encourage students to home-stay separately, but as a couple I guess we were a slightly different case and we had the great fortune to be lodging in a home that we fondly dubbed, ‘Casa Magdalena.’
This meant that our Spanish lessons continued into the afternoons and evenings, as the family with the exception of one daughter (who worked on the other side of the lake and was rarely home), spoke no English.
Magdalena, who was never schooled for the simple fact that her family could never afford it, was the most lovely pseudo mother we could have wanted.
As well as two daughters, Marta and Zulima, Magdalena’s home is completed by Dayanna, her sisters daughter who has lived with the family for 10 of her 12 tender years, and her husband, known only as ‘El Capitan’ (seriously, we never actually got his name, however he is a captain of one of the launches that ply the lakes waters).
One final addition is the semi-permanent ‘Tio Richard’ (Uncle Richard), an American who has spent roughly 6 months of each year of the past 3, studying Spanish and spending time with the family.
Richard, or Ricardo as he was often called, was a great help to us in those times where our grasp of Spanish was just not quite good enough, and his presence also ensured that there was plenty of conversation we could both participate in as well as learn from.
We’ve participated in home-stay’s before, and felt more like mere guests, sleeping and living completely separately from the family. Here, it was different, and we had great interaction with them all, both aiding our growth in Spanish (as well as a few words in the local Mayan dialect, Sutohil) as well as making us feel a part of the family.
We were both ‘Muy triste’ (very sad) when we finally did depart, but we truly hope we can stay in touch with this lovely family, even when we are back on the opposite side of the Pacific…
For the record, Magdalena also makes the best tortillas in Guatemala, and the best Tamales we’ve had anywhere during our travels!
* Our 2nd Spanish school experience cost us an incredible $140.00 US per week, for 20 hours of classes (4 hours a day) and a Homestay which included all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), except on Sundays!