With long-term travel, we felt it was important to establish our goals. One of our major goals of this trip is to become fluent in Spanish. I’ve taken Spanish in the US on and off sporadically all my life, not getting past the basics, but I was determined to change that on this trip. The Foreign Service Institute (US federal government’s training institute for language instruction) reports that it takes 575 – 600 hours of study to become proficient in Spanish (yikes!). Knowing this, we made the decision early on to not wait to enroll in classes.
So why Guanajuato for 3 weeks of language school?
- A Great City. Guanajuato has been on the top of my list in terms of cities to visit in Mexico.
- A Great Language Program. We found a great school, Escuela Falcon, that worked so well after one week, we decided to enroll for 2 more. We found on this trip, and I think these are words to live by, “If it’s is working well, don’t change it.”
- Volunteering Opportunities. A volunteer organization for travelers, Do Good As You Go, has an office in Guanajuato, along with volunteering opportunities, and we planned to make a visit.
So with the decision to stay in Guanajuato, we cozied up in the only trailer park in town (a parking lot with a bathroom that is infamous for the serenade of dogs barking at night).
A Great City- Guanajuato
Guanajuato is such a cool old mining town that has turned into a thriving Mexican city / college town. The Guanajuato university is so beautiful, and pretty famous for its law program. When we weren’t in school, we had a great time exploring (and getting lost in) the winding streets and callejones (small alley ways). And I have to admit that their street performers far surpass the San Francisco street performers. They are more creative and artistic with their costumes and performances.
And then began our love affair with the puestos (food carts) of Guanajuato. We ate many varieties of tacos, fresh squeezed jugo (juice), and a variety of dulces and pans (sweets and breads). One of our favorite puestos was San Jose Carniceria which served a whole baby grilled onion beside your tacos that was so sweet and delicious it could be dessert! There were definitely some restaurants we loved as well though, including Los Campos and Taula’s Pollo el Carbon place (the best deal in town for dinner at 100 pesos for a whole grilled chicken, salad, and pasta for 2 AND the mexican wine de la casa was delicious!).
We even managed to take a day trip to a neighboring large city, Leon, to see the state fair with our friends Ben and Emma (Flightlesskiwis). The highlight of the trip was definitely the leather goods (Leon is known for their leather goods). I think George may have bought the hide of a whole cow by the time we were done…
A Great Language Program
For 4 hours each day we were in class at Escuela Falcon taking a variety of courses that we hand-picked to fit our needs. I can’t say enough about the staff and program. They were so flexible in how you could design your day. For example, we chose to do a mixture of group and private classes. We also selected to do an hour of grammar, two hours of conversation, and an hour of auditory comprehension which worked great for us. They have all different levels of classes going on throughout the day, and even give you an assessment to help you find your fit.
A Day in the Life at Escuela Falcon (beginning with our walk to school):
We had about an hour of homework each night, and were mentally drained by the end of each day (exactly how we knew we should feel if we were making progress). Luckily we found the perfect place to spend our afternoons.
So did we feel like our Spanish skills progressed in our 3 weeks (60 hours of study) at Escuela Falcon? Absolutely. Its so comforting to be able to understand conversations now. I feel like our ears really opened up to Spanish. Our speaking is progressing more slowly, but its coming along.
Are we done taking Spanish classes? Absolutely not! These three weeks confirmed just how much work we are going to have to put in to become fluent. I always knew it would be tough to progress, but it goes without saying that the more you learn, the more you realize you still have to learn. But we are excited, and more importantly, motivated to get to the point of fluency. Our next Spanish classes will hopefully be for another two weeks in Puerto Escondido.
We also managed to fit in time to do some volunteering with Do Good As You Go (also known as Muskoka Foundation). We met up with Katie Clancy and had the pleasure of accompanying her to a community program on Fridays in La Venada II that helps expose kids to various activities and people with occupations that they may not encounter in their everyday life.
We learned about the neighborhood, and got to interact with the kids who live there. On one particular day, there was a dance class, followed by kung fu, and a little pottery! It was so interesting to see the kids gravitate towards the activities they had interest in.
We really enjoyed our experience and hope to do more volunteering along the road!
All in, we had such a great experience in Guanajuato. We did a lot in three weeks, so please do check out all of the photos below (and George’s funny comments).