After abusing the Spanish language across Mexico and half of Guatemala for the past few months, I decided it was time to get some professional help. And this is just the place to find it. Lago Atitlan is home to Panajachel, Santa Cruz and several other communities. And most of the larger villages have Spanish schools to assist travelers with all levels of Spanish study. I’d had a semester of Spanish in 7th grade, which was about 30 light years ago…and studied what I could on line and via Duo Lingo to get by in my travels.
Since we were staying with our friend in Jaibalito it worked out great for me to take lessons at the Santa Cruz Spanish School and hike 35 minutes each day to Santa Cruz for class. Exercise and Spanish classes…two birds, one stone, if you will. So on a Tuesday morning I set off with Tammy and Brian for the hike to Santa Cruz and for my first day of Spanish lessons. 20 hours in one week for $80 USD total. We headed through trees and narrow trails, up a large staircase and then to a trail that winds along the edge of a steep hill on Lago Atitlan.
Around the edge of the hill, high above the water’s edge and then down the other side until we came back to the water and to a boardwalk that took us the last half mile or so into Santa Cruz. The walk was beautiful.
The lake has been high for the past several years, and I think perhaps this boardwalk was built after the level went up.
The water is crystal clear and flowers bloom along the pathways. It’s a paradise.
And at last I arrive for my 8am-noon class with Lidia, who has ridden a boat for nearly 45 minutes from another village on the lake to come to teach me. Our classroom is set up in the garden of a small hotel on the lake. Did I say paradise?
At first I’m a sponge. I appreciate her ability to answer all my questions about conjugating verbs, using the right prepositions, etc. But by the end of the third day (4 hours each day) I’m exhausted. Tammy considered taking classes and came along on the first day, but it didn’t work out with her schedule. She and Lidia and I had chatted about Lidia and her family doing weaving in their home and how beautiful Tammy and I think the local textiles are. Lidia graciously invited me to visit her home to see her family at work. So on Day 4 I caught a boat bound for San Juan de Laguna to have my Spanish lesson there and to see the weaving. Lidia’s mother-in-law is working on a scarf (bufanda) when we arrive.
Although she has had some health problems slow her down, she moves quickly at the weaving. It’s become as easy as breathing to her after all these years. Lidia asks if I would like to try and I’m afraid to mess up the work her mother-in-law has already done. But I’m excited to have the chance and am grateful they are willing to show me. Lidia wraps the belt around my back and secures it at the wooden rod at the base of the loom. The other end is tied to a post on the patio. They coach me through every move and make it seem so easy. It’s a beautiful skill and reminds me of my grandmother’s knitting at home. Lidia’s family’s home is filled with women cooking and children being cared for by their mothers. It’s warm and filled with love. I’m grateful for having shared part of the day with them and for them welcoming me into their home.
The week flies by. I’ve enjoyed every moment of my time with Lidia. She’s been an incredible teacher and I appreciate her hospitality and friendship as well. Perhaps someday I can come back and brush up on my Spanish even more and hopefully visit Lidia and her family again.