Anyway, knowing Spanish is essential to surviving and navigating any type of communication here. Upon entering this beautiful land of Guatemala (which is amazing, full of mountains and volcanoes and lush landscapes, all of which elicit an audible “Wow!” from everyone the first time they lay their eyes on Lake Atitlan), I spoke a very, very minimal amount of Spanish. From living in the great state of Texas, I knew how to say a few words – hola, como estas, and how to count from uno to diez. That is it. So, I bought a book that would supposedly teach me Spanish in thirty days. Though I was skeptical, my enthusiasm for my summer trip got the best of me, and I got really excited about my new Spanish lessons, until it got really hard. So I was supposed to have allegedly finished my mastery of the Spanish language upon my arrival. But, on the day I left for Guatemala, I was stuck on day 8 of 30. Then, I was given hope when, as I landed in Guatemala City, a nice, older Guatemalan man on my flight wished me luck on my Spanish after watching me frantically study on the plane. He also pointed to a beautiful volcano and said, with a smile on his face, “Welcome to Guatemala!” At that moment, I felt a lot better entering this unknown place.
Now, twelve days after my arrival in Sololá, I am slowly but surely getting a mild grasp on the language. I can talk with my students in Cooperativa, a neighborhood in Chaquijyá. Though our conversations are not grammatically correct on my part, it is fun and makes me hopeful that I can learn more. I am learning new words by not only talking to my students, but teaching them. I have helped teach a few lessons so far, and I am proud to say that my kids know the vocabulary of clothing and accessories and directions in English, and I now know them in Spanish. With the help of all my supportive friends in the Manna house, I am also progressing. Every ten minutes, they answer my questions. “What does this mean? What about that?” Their support means a lot. Also, I began taking classes at Spanish school, and my teacher has also been very helpful.
So I guess I’m writing to say that though it is difficult, I am really enjoying this adventure. The journey of speaking a new language is and will be a long one, but I am eager and excited to continue down this road. One important thing I have learned about language that I have seen over and over again already is the ability to communicate with just a smile. Even if we have not had incredibly long or intelligent conversations, I already feel close to some of my students already.
I saw this the second day I was teaching one of my classes. The previous class, the younger girls and I had barely said hola, albeit with some great, happy smiles. I walked in the second class, and all the little girls started grinning and shouting my name. They remembered me, and it made me so happy. Though it is hard, it is definitely worth it, and I cannot wait to learn even more.
Adios for now!