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español vs portuñol

With two weeks to fill in before my last rabies shot and already heartily sick of Flores, I decide to make the most of my enforced stay in Peten and enroll in a Spanish school in a small Mayan community on the other side of the lake. I’ve already been travelling in Spanish speaking countries for a year and getting by quite well – generally people compliment me on my Spanish – but in reality what I’ve been speaking is an ugly bastardised version of Portuguese. I am pretty excited by the prospect of starting to actually speak Spanish.

The school is part of a community development project in the village of San Jose that was founded originally in order to preserve Maya Itza, the local indigenous language. A secondary project grew out of the first and the organisation established a jungle reserve and a community garden with the intention of maintaining knowledge of medicinal plants.

The Spanish school exists to raise funds for these other programmes and also provide various employment opportunities in the local community. Foreign students who come to learn Spanish can visit the jungle reserve to learn about the plants and wildlife and also, if they wish study Maya Itza. I opt to concentrate on Spanish.

Getting those verbs down pat.

Michaela, my Spanish teacher. For the price of merely $160, I receive not only 20 hours of one-to-one instruction but accommodation with a local family and three meals a day for the week. While this is considerably more than my average weekly budget I don't begrudge the expenditure here.

As part of the philosophy of total immersion, I spend the week staying with a local family. The household consists of sixteen people which provides ample opportunity for constant practice.

The kitchen is the heart of the household.

Merlina, the matriarch, making rice cakes.

Rising dough.

Kitchen work is generally a pretty communal affair although as a rule the men are only observers.

View to the lake far below. Although only a couple hundred of steep metres distant the majority of the household can't swim.

Cooking takes place over a wood fire.

The space is shared by all sorts.

Merlina takes a short break from running a sixteen person household.

The hammock gets pretty constant use.

Merlina's youngest daughter also takes a break during a rare moment of silence in the house.

Washing constantly adorns the yard...

...adding a little colour to the scene.

Two of the younger household members discover technology.

Yessica playing.

Hana on her way to visit her grandparents on Sunday.

Women in the village sporting their traditional threads.

The tranquil shores of Lake Itza.

After a week of family chaos, I retreat for a the weekend to the relative peace and solitude of a hammock in the Spanish school classroom...

...where I can read and study in peace and quiet.

More evidence that my life is becoming ridiculously themed.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Lindsay Badenoch | January 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I need that school. More than ever now.

  2. anna | January 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I can highly recommend it. Lovely teachers – really super people.

  3. Marie | January 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Nice post like always Anna. Your photos are really incredible. :)

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