To prepare for a year in Mexico, and to combat my Spanish deficiency, the YAGM program generously decided to support 6 weeks of Spanish school in Guatemala. I arrived the capital, Guatemala City, on Sunday afternoon and found my way to the Galgos bus terminal. Galgos literally translates to Greyhound, so the buses were pretty good, not the “chicken” buses you can find pictures of. Luckily, there were other students headed for Quetzaltenango, or as the locals say, Xela (pronounced Shay-la).
The ride was 4.5 hours, almost twice the length of the flight. The west of Guatemala is very mountainous, so most of that was spent on winding roads. But otherwise the trip was fairly uneventful. This past week has been amazing so far! I’ve learned a ton of Spanish (which wasn’t that hard starting from zero), and been able to have some interesting conversations with my teachers and with my host family. My host family is really big! My official parents are Philippe and Flory de Catalan. Also in the house are are a son, his wife and child, a son-in-law, and his son. It’s pretty busy! Also, a daughter and her children, and a son and son come by to visit often! The bustle of the house is very different than my home in the States, but not at all in a bad way.
My teacher is Fredy (yes, that is spelled correctly), who also serves as the business side of Pop-Wuj. His teaching style is very laid back and focuses (right now) on what is important and useful. We’ve also had interesting conversations, mostly in Spanish with some English clarifications, about some random topics like old movies, classic books, philosophy, motorcycles, and other things. But that is all stuff I might want to talk about with people, so it has all been extremely useful. Also, I get to hear about so these topics from a non-American perspective, which is refreshing!
Classes take place in the morning, from about 10 AM to 1 PM, with a half hour break at 10:30 AM. Schedules and plans are very relaxed here, the joke is that things run on “Guatemala time”. Lunch is eaten around 1:30 PM and is the main meal of the day. In the afternoons I have been hanging out with my family, attending lectures about society in Guatemala, and working at La Guarderia. La Guarderia is a day care center, which are very rare, and those that the government does support are swamped with children. It serves the small community of Llano de Pinal outside Xela. Usually, about twenty to thirty kids are present and the volunteers role is to help with homework and when they finish, keep them entertained with games and activities. La Guarderia is run by Pop-Wuj, which has several social programs.
The first, and largest, is the indigenous student scholarship program. This allows children of both sexes from the poor country side to attend the better schools in Xela. Money from tuition goes to directly support this program. The second is La Guarderia, which is mainly supported by donations from former students. The third program, a stove building project that supplies families in the country side with clean burning, ventilated wood stoves. Otherwise, families use open fires in the house with either no ventilation, which leads to many health problems, or a hole in the roof, which again produces many health problems. Again, this project is mainly supported by former Pop-Wuj students.
Hopefully soon I will be uploading pictures, once I figure out how to make a gallery. Thanks for reading and let me know if there is anything specific you want to know about Xela or Guatemala! And I will ask someone who actually knows…