Day 4 (Monday, January 30)

A rooster awakes from a bad dream crows at an early 3:30 am. After a 55 minute snooze, he or another one calls out again. I am wide awake and decide to prepare a few espanol phrases with help from the amigo fono. I doze off for a couple of hours and and then greeted by the always cheerful Alejandra and a beautiful 7:30 am pancake breakfast with pina fresca (fresh pineapple). I decided to ground myself with a home made chai spiced with ginger I bought the previous day.

I was excited about going to school. The neurons usually occupied with geothermal, affordable housing, chamber, circle dance, Infinity and including the ones that would have been drowning in the sea of Netflix were getting restless.

My interest in language was kindled 6 years ago when Dad became sick and moved to his home town. Having to spend 6 to 8 weeks each year in Kerala meant I had to learn a new language, one different from the ones I grew up with. But immersion and movies can make it easier even when you are an older student. With fewer trips to India the last couple of years, I only began thinking of another language when I started walking with Jenna and her dog last year. Having lived in Israel for 7 years or so, she decided to communicate to her puppy in Hebrew. The different sounds in Hebrew made me aware how each language is so unique. Some of the Indian languages I know have 12 vowels and 28 consonants plus an extra 3 depending on the language. And then there’s the words and non-verbal gestures that do not translate to other languages or cultures. The words I am picking up in Hebrew is limited. It will only be useful only if I am born as dog in Israel in my next life. I am hoping espanol will fare me better.

The first day in school was everything I wanted but didn’t know was possible. I was amazed my ADHD-leaning mind managed to stay the course of a four-hour class with my maestro (teacher) Antonio. Halfway through my clase primero (first class), all the students and teachers gathered in circle and introduced themselves. We had to share our names, where we came from and what we do for work. I simplified my work interests to two because I just didn’t have the idioma (language) for it. The school served some warm minimally sweet banana bread. Both Laurel and I decided that we weren’t going to restrict to gluten-free food when served by our hosts. So far, we feel ok. It might be all the extra love packed into the comida (food).

The escuela ambience is amazing. It was a similar setting to a school called Shantiniketan established in early 1900s by Rabindra Nath Tagore, an Indian poet, teacher and philosopher. Our classes for one-on-one Spanish lessons are set up outdoors in a somewhat open classroom with a thatched roof and access to fresh air. It was something I dreamt about sitting in after reading about Tagore’s vision for teaching children.

The school’s natural setting

The first class, thanks to a creative program, was centred around a conversation of my interest – what I like, my work and so on. We talked about cooperatives, tourism, values, sustainability, mindfulness and I was tired at the end of four hours with all the new words I was learning. But thrilled that I was learning exactly what I needed for talking to locals and writing about my experiences. Laurel got to test her teacher’s ingles vocabulary on local fruits, vegetables and some Mayan culture.

Nuevo frases en clase (new phrases in class) include ‘Si Si, comprendo’ (Yes, Yes, I understand) and ‘No comprendo’

After another almuerzo fantastico, Laurel took off for a weaving class with our host’s madre down the street. I went to our room for more writing. Then used my resourcefulness to line up a warm bath. I wasn’t into stepping under a cold shower for 10 straight days! I also got to find the ATM close by. San Pedro is like Valemount with everything a hop, step and skip away! I feel at home.

Laurel weaving with Maria

Laurel came back early from class because her head was full after 4 hours of Spanish and 2.5 hours of weaving class with little Spanish to help her. Apparently, her weaving teacher was mucho patient.

We went for a walk before dinner. We were trying out new streets as we had exhausted our downtown walks. We ran into a foreigner who asked if we were lost. We tried to explain that we were only exploring. She wanted to help and by her friendly nature confirmed that she was Canadian. She had moved from Calgary 4 years ago and is happily managing a B&B and running her salon part-time. It can be a small world.

After texts to family and some reading, I retire to bed at dies y media (10:30).