By the end of the first week our brains were fried. Stick a fork in us, we were done. Four hours per day of one on one instruction is exhausting. It’s been a while since our brains had to work this hard. We haven’t felt TGIF in a while, as our weekends are usually indistinguishable from the weekdays. But we couldn’t wait for the weekend because we had a 2-day break from our classes. Still, we decided to stay on for an additional week. Learning a second language is like getting in shape. The process is painful but the outcome is great.
Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a fantastic place to take Spanish classes. It’s a beautiful colonial city, teeming with history, cobbled streets, grand Baroque-style buildings and ruins of old churches. Antigua was actually the third capital of Guatemala from 1543-1773.
Arch of Santa Catalina with Agua Volcano towering in the distance at 12,340 feet.
Cathedral of San José, consecrated in 1541.
Risqué central fountain, its water jets from the nipples of breast-squeezing mermaids.
Ruins of Church & Convent of Capuchins, consecrated in 1736.
La Merced Church, completed in 1767.
Stations of the Cross, ready for Semana Santa.
A visit to the market. In an attempt to be unobtrusive with the camera, photos were shot from the hip as we walked through.
Antigua viewed from the hillside of Cerro de la Cruz.
We hiked up Pacaya Volcano, which had its last major eruption in 2010. From atop we had a good view of Volcanos Agua, Fuego (last eruption 2012, still active at a low level) and Acatenango (last eruption 1972).
There are tons of Spanish schools to choose from in Antigua. Arriving without a reservation was not a problem for us. We are very satisfied with the Antigüeña Spanish Academy. We had 1-on-1 instruction, 4 hours/day, Monday-Friday. Classes were held in a garden. The price is hard to beat. We paid $170/person/week. This included 20 hours of lessons with a home-stay where we had 3 meals/day (except on Sunday when we were responsible for our own food). We were expecting a lot of beans and tortillas, but the food was delicious and plentiful.
We stayed with Silvia and her family. They are lovely and very hospitable. Hosting students is a bit of a cottage industry here. Most Guatemalans who own property in the city and have an extra room host students at some point. Silvia has students in her house about 50 weeks of the year. Antigua is a mecca for Spanish language schools. Each morning our neighborhood would barf out a herd of gringos all heading to their respective Spanish schools.
Before taking Spanish classes, I spoke entirely in the present tense. If it happened in the past I would have to preface the sentence with yesterday, last week, a month ago, etc. After two weeks of classes I have a working knowledge of the past tense, as well as the future tense, direct and indirect pronouns. So, for example, instead of saying something like, “Yesterday, I give the gift to Scott”, I can say “I gave it to him”. This may seem insignificant, but it’s actually quite complicated as the order of the words in Spanish translates to “I to him it gave”. Understanding this does a lot for comprehension and communication efficiency.
And of course, between studying, there was time for relaxing and enjoying a few cervezas courtesy of our readers.
I’m glad to report my computer and front wheel are fixed. Not wanting to return to Guatemala City, we entrusted the laptop to a courier service to deliver it to us in Antigua. I was a little skeptical, but it arrived sure enough. And on the very day that I got my laptop, the charger for Scott’s laptop gave up the ghost. Thus continues our love/hate relationship with bringing electronics on a bike tour. To replace it here in Guatemala would cost $100+. So the next person to visit us from the States will be muling a charger.
Thanks again to Brian and everyone at Antigua Bicycle Co-Op. Turned out the bearings in my wheel were worn to the point it required a new hub. Before setting off for El Salvador we’re heading to Lake Atitlán by bus for a few days.