On our trip to Asia we experienced four different languages, all of which are vastly different from western languages. One syllable can mean three to five different things depending on whether you say it with a rising, falling, or neutral tone. We did our best to learn how to say hello, goodbye, thank you, and beer, and how to count to ten in every language. We managed to get by with this and plenty of sign language, but we definitely weren't having many in depth conversations.
So one of the things we were most excited about on this trip was learning Spanish. One language would work for all the countries we planned to go to, and compared to Asian languages, it's not that much different than English.
Before we left we used Duolingo and Rosetta Stone a little bit, so we had some of the very basic stuff, but not really enough to prepare us for total immersion in a Spanish speaking world. We struggled quite a bit at first, but gradually picked up more and more words, but still, after nearly a year on the road, I have to say that our Spanish pretty much sucked.
It had been our plan all along to stop for at least a month in Guatemala to take Spanish lessons, as it is well known for the quality if its Spanish schools. It just took us way longer to get there than we thought it would. We had finally reached Lake Atitlan, so it was time to settle down and get studying.
We found an incredible spot outside the town of San Marcos called Pasaj Cap where we rented an apartment for a month. Well, several really. Because the place is so popular, and we booked very last minute, we ended up moving a few times. Which was fine with us, though, because we got to try out several of them. It's a well known spot with overlanders because you can also camp there. The owner, Pierre, has put so much thought into every aspect of the property. It's built on a steep hillside above the lake, so every apartment has an unobstructed view, while still having complete privacy from the buildings above and below you.
We spoke to several people who had taken classes, and they all talked about how intense and mentally taxing it can be. Our original one month of classes got whittled down to three weeks, then two. I believe that was the right decision for us, because it turned out it was a very intense experience speaking only Spanish for three hours a day, five days a week; cramming so much new information into your head, and trying to process it all. Overall it definitely improved our Spanish, but we still have a lot of learning and practice to do.
Getting our certificates for completing the course.
A huge thanks to the friendly, knowledgable, professional, helpful staff at San Marcos Spanish School. You guys were great!!!
The rest of our time at the lake was spent relaxing, swimming, exploring the small towns around the shore by water taxi, taking in the stunning views from our apartment, and watching the numerous storms roll in over the lake. Quite a few other overlanders were all staying there at the same time, so we'd have the occasional dinner party with our neighbors Mark and Saskia, Benjy and Jim and Rhonda and the weekly Sunday-funday/overlander meet-up at Smokin' Joes BBQ where we caught back up with John and Mandi. All in all, a pretty decent way to spend a month off the road.