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Xela Maya

Hola Amigos

Hola amigos. Como esta? Bien? Muy bien! Nostros tenamos un incredible tiempo en Xela, en Espanol escuela para una semana donde nostros entiudamos Espanol. Nosotros vivamos con un familia en Xela, todo Espanol imercion.

Or to English among you …. Hey friends. How are you? Good? Very good! We are having an incredible time in Xela, a Spanish school for one week where we are studying Spanish. We are staying with a family in Xela, total immersion (and without a dictionary or any sort of checking, that’s probably all wrong).

Unfortunately after a weeks Spanish my verbs only touched on the present tense, so although this all happened 2 weeks ago, you’ll have to excuse the context and turn the verbs into their past counterparts and take things from there ……. Cue wobbly flashback sequence …..

Monday morning arrived and Han and I headed off to Ceya Maya Spanish school for the week. Like all new kids to a new school, we were nervous and entered looking sheepishly around at the older cooler kids who knew more and frowned upon us as freshmen to the system. We had enrolled on a weeks worth of Spanish lessons in Guatemala’s second largest city, and also opted for the homestay option which would find us housed and looked after by a local family for the week.

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We were quickly greeted by Jenya, the schools administration assistant, who showed us around the school and explained the intricacies and routine that the homestay-school combo would follow. We were to have 5 hours of one-on-one lessons from 8am until 1pm at the school, from where we would then have lunch at our hosts families home, before having the afternoon to ourselves to explore, do our homework and relax. Later on we would have an evening dinner with the family again and chat away with them into the night, before collapsing mentally tired into our beds at the house. Total immersion, as it’s coined. No English at the home, and very little at the school; only the necessary amounts to explain a noun or verb.

We had opted for this route for two main reasons, the main obvious reason is that it’s the quickest and sure fire way to learn a little Spanish to help and aid us on the trip, but also secondly we were taking it as a wonderful opportunity to live and learn what living in Guatemala is more about than hostel hopping and western food eating, getting to know a local family and being looked after at their home and being partly integrated into their lives. We ate at the table with them for 3 meals a day, conversed with them about what we had been up to in the day over meals and drinks, and got to know the wonderful family who were looking after us.

We were quickly shown to our respective teachers for the week, mine a lovely middle aged woman who seemed an old hand at the job, and Han’s a younger male counterpart who seemed lively and a little fresher behind the ears. We said our good lucks and dived into our first lesson. My limited Spanish had me conversing a little but mostly looking blank and wondering what was being said. The teachers were used to this though and quickly adapt and organise a teaching regime to fit in with your current level; by the mid session interval I had got to grips with how the lessons were to work and sipped on some tea whilst chatting away to some other students about the courses, their plans, whilst peppering the conversations with the usual backpacker chat.

The 1pm dinner bell rang and Han and I re-joined and met our host families mother, Shirley. She was with her middle child, a daughter of 9, Abigail, and whilst we got in their car to be taken home we tried to converse slightly about who we were, what we were up to and what our plans were. Spanglish it may have been, but I could tell that we would get on well and would have a wonderful experience over the week. Both were absolutely wonderfully welcoming, and later on when we met her other son and her youngest daughter of 1, the two other lodgers (Guatemalan’s who were enrolled in College or University there), along with the father we both felt comfortable and ready for the week.

The next 4 days ran roughly in the same routine; 7am wake up, 7:30 breakfast of either eggs, tortillas, fruit, pancakes, refried beans or a combination, 8am arrive at school, grab a cup of tea and have lessons till 10:30. 10:30 till 11 was break time where you got to chat to other students, before 11 – 1 was back to lessons. 1:30 lunch at the house, and then 7:00 dinner.

Over the course of the week we used our free time well, stopping off a chocolate museum then tasting some of the wonderful drinks while carrying out our revision and homework; walking around the town looking at the architecture and nature; walking up to the Baul, a hill over looking the town with some other students before diving down a highly dangerous slide using old plastic bottles as mats, and getting in a game of footy late one night against some locals.

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As every day passed our Spanglish became more Span- and less -lish, which allowed us to open up our conversations with our family more, that in turn made them feel more comfortable around us. Hannah had progressed beyond telling her teacher that she was dating a 5 year old boy and her brother was hot, to more complete and accurate sentences and I was starting to get to grips with a variety of irregular verbs and the exceptions of exceptions.

We watched films, drank tea and chatted away about what life is like in England and Canada, bought presents, played with the kids, carried out impromptu magic and juggling routines (resulting in some bruised oranges and apples), ate a variety of food and courses all cooked by the family, and started to feel like we were progressing beyond the bounds of memorised one liners.

After one week however it was time to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts and friends that we had met along the way. We both felt as though we hadn’t quite learnt enough in the week to satisfy our Spanish needs, both wanting to take on another weeks worth of Spanish further down the line, but we had definitely come away with a host of verbs, adjectives and nouns that we could throw together to be half understood in most contexts.

Our family had been extraordinary, the kids were magical and amazing to play with, the parents both so welcoming, understanding and helpful, and Han and I had gained a little insight into the life and routines of a Guatemalan family.