Back to school

Trip Start Jan 16, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

After six weeks of snoozing in hammocks, sight-seeing and late nights it was time to knuckle down and do some serious work brushing up my Spanish at one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of Spanish schools dotted around the pretty cobbled streets of Antigua. Although there seem to be almost as many gringos (what the locals call us foreigners) in the town, it's much nicer than the other towns in Guatemala with plenty going on to keep me busy when I'm not in the classroom, including lots of fascinating religious parades in the run up to Semana Santa.
I'd taken a detour before going back to school, visiting Lago Atitlan (a picture-postcard lake formed from a collapsed volcano crater and overshadowed by several other volcanos), as well as the market town of Chichicastenango and the second city of Quezeltenango, or Xela.
After painstakingly researching language schools, I ended up choosing the only one that was open on Sunday as I was keen to get started and I arrived back in town on the weekend. Luckily I was pretty sure it was a good school anyway.
Gringos wanting to learn the lingo flock to Antigua to take advantage of the high-quality, cheap one-on-one lessons. It's also an opportunity to experience Guatemalan life up close by staying with a local family.
Not long after signing up with the school, my surrogate mother to be for the next few weeks - Iris - came hurrying round the corner to take me back to my new abode, a one-story house near the school which Iris and her two sons, Jose and Jorge, share with a steady flow of language students, several of which stay at the house at any one time.
I soon settled into a routine of a few hours of hard graft at school brushing up my verbs, vocabulary and chatting to my teacher, Amanda, before returning home for lunch, followed by a quick siesta and then my daily salsa lesson, which I'd signed up for under the illusion that my dancing skills might improve as quickly as my Spanish.
I don't know if it was the four hours of Spanish every day, the countless spins on the dance floor during my salsa lesson, or the many late nights out with my fellow students, but life here has proved surprisingly energy-sapping.
I've learnt a lot of Spanish and although I'll never match John Travolta on the dance floor, I've certainly come a long way since my first class, when I couldn't dance salsa for tuppence.
And after three weeks, my head no longer feels like it's going to explode with all the new Spanish words, though I think my salsa teacher's feet might take a bit longer to recover.
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