Sunday, September 28, 2008


Note: English translation follows. I just figured that, since this post is all about Spanish school, I should write it in Spanish... :)

El viernes pasado me "gradué" de Celas Maya, la escuela de español donde he estado estudiando por las seis semanas pasadas. Ahora (en teoría), tengo en mi mente toda la gramática de español -- sólo tengo que usarla! :)

Celas Maya (Centro de Estudios Linguisticos, Antropológicos y Sociales Maya) es una de las mejores escuelas de español en Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala, y la recomiendo a quienquiera que quiera aprender español. Cada estudiante tiene su propio maestro/a, y las parejas de maestros y estudiantes trabajan en mesas individuales (cubiertas de manteles tejidos de colores brillantes) alrededor de un patio al aire libre con rosas y árboles de durazno.

La primera semana, estudié con Martha, una mujer bien inteligente, y aprendí mucho sobre la historia política y social de Guatemala, los derechos de las mujeres, y la identidad cultural en Guatemala y en Xela. Ella me presentó a un sacerdote Maya (un carpintero), y recibí una consulta para averiguar mis Nawales (símbolos espirituales de la religión Maya). Quiero escribir una nota separada sobre esto pero, en cortas palabras, el sacerdote me dijo que yo tengo "buenos Nawales" y que, si yo quiera, podría ser una sacerdotisa Maya también (por supuesto, después de muchos años de estudiar).

La segunda semana yo cambié de maestro y empecé a estudiar con Francisco, y me caía tan bien que no cambié otra vez por el resto de mi tiempo en la escuela. De alguna manera, Francisco siempre sabía exactamente lo que yo necesitaba aprender, y en el momento exacto en que necesité aprenderla. También sabía cuando pudía presionarme o desafiarme, y cuando yo necesitaba más tiempo para procesar lo que había aprendido. Él es uno de los mejores maestros que he tenido en todo mi carrera escolar.

Probablemente podría quedarme seis semanas más en Celas Maya, porque todavía hay mucho más que necesito aprender. Pero, por el otro lado, necesito salir del ambiente controlado de la escuela para poner en práctica lo que he aprendido. Con este propósito, teminé mis estudios (por ahora), y el miércoles me voy a El Salvador para continuar mi gran aventura en Centroamerica. :)


Last Friday I "graduated" from Celas Maya, the Spanish school where I've been studying for the last six weeks. In theory, I now have in my mind all of the Spanish grammar -- all I have to do now is use it! :)

Celas Maya (Centro de Estudios Linguisticos, Antropológicos y Sociales Maya) is one of the best Spanish schools in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala, and I would recommend it to anybody who wants to learn Spanish. Every student has his/her own teacher, and the teacher-student pairs work at individual tables (covered with brightly-colored woven tablecloths) around an open-air patio with roses and peach trees.

The first week I studied with Martha, an extremely intelligent woman, and I learned a lot about Guatemalan political and social history, women's rights, and cultural identity in Guatemala and in Xela. Martha introduced me to a Mayan priest (a carpenter), and I had a consultation to determine my Nawals (Mayan spiritual symbols). I want to write a separate blog post about that experience but, in short, the priest told me that I have "good Nawals" and that, if I wanted to, I could be a Mayan priestess as well (after years of study, of course).

The second week I changed teachers and started studying with Francisco, and I got along so well with him that I didn't change teachers again for the rest of my time at the school. Somehow, Francisco always knew exactly what I needed to learn and the exact moment in which I needed to learn it. He also knew when he could push or challenge me, and when I needed more time to process what I had learned. He's one of the best teachers I've had in my entire school career.

I could probably stay at Celas Maya another six weeks, because there's still a lot that I need to learn. On the other hand, though, I also need to leave the controlled environment of the school and put into practice what I've learned. With that goal, I finished my studies (for now), and on Wednesday I'm leaving for El Salvador to continue my great Central American adventure. :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Two Months

Journal excerpt, September 19, 2008

Today marks my second month in Guatemala. On the one hand, it doesn't feel like I've been here nearly that long; my vacation with Cristie seems like it was another trip that took place ages ago, and I feel like I've only been in Xela a couple of weeks. On the other hand, I feel as if I've really settled in pretty well here and gotten comfortable in Xela and Guatemala, which makes it feel like I've been here forever. According to Boris, that means it's time -- past time -- to leave, but I'm not entirely convinced that being comfortable is such a bad thing. Sure, it's bad if I let the familiarity and comfort factor take over and get stuck here, but as long as I have "legitimate" things I want to do*, goals to accomplish and a determination to leave when I have accomplished them, then being comfortable makes life all the more pleasant -- especially when I know that, once I start moving again, the next stage of my travels will once again be more hectic and less relaxed. So I'm enjoying being comfortable while I can, without getting complacent.

*Legitimate things such as solidifying my understanding of various subjunctive tenses in Spanish, taking private salsa lessons, and getting help with the start of my next weaving project. :)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lessons from Guatemala, Part III

Click here for Part I and Part II.

21. Guatemalan falafel tastes better if you pretend it's something -- just about anything -- else.

22. Getting lost is much more fun with a companion, and much more interesting if you have different understandings about where you're trying to end up.

23. Dancing with "the best salsa dancer in Guatemala" is not as fun as dancing with friends.

24. The two basic rules of salsa dancing are:
1. The man's job is to make the woman feel good.
2. The woman's job is to make the man look good.

Unfortunately, most Guatemalan men seem to be unaware of the first rule.

25. If you get pounded by a giant wave in the sea and hit the sand, be thankful that at least you know which way is up and that you have something to push off of to get back to the surface after the wave passes.

26. To avoid #25 in the first place, dive early and dive deep.

27. You know the chicken bus is going around corners too fast when the driver leans into the curves.

28. Lemon-salted peanuts make one of the best hiking snacks ever.

29. When you know you're going to be climbing a volcano starting at midnight on Saturday, it is probably best not to dance for several hours in heels on Friday night and go for a 5-mile hill hike on Saturday morning. Oh, and bring lots of warm clothes -- it's freezing at the top before sunrise!

30. Salsa dancing really is better in heels.