Image: In my happy T-shirt, extra happy around international foods

sete dia (el jueves, el dos de febrero)

I now know that I can delete my phone alarm. I can rely on church bells (5 am), fireworks (5:15 am today), distant roosters (anytime after 3:30 am) and my neighbouring rooster (between 5:15 and 5:30 am). I refresh some of nuevo (new) espanol palabras (words) and enjoy the morning sky cast its light on the lake.

We have papaya and avena (oats) for breakfast. I am consuming more fruta in a semana (week) than I do in an ano (year)! We take a diversion through a two-feet wide back alley as they are fixing our stone staircase.

When my teacher asks about the previous day was, I am ready to ask about the movie and whether the mining stopped. He shakes his head and I am crushed. “What’s the point of the movie? Antonio shared that multinational companies have been extracting resources since 1950 in Guatemala. However it is only since 2005 when communities rallied together and made their voices heard, the government has been more transparent before making new agreements and taking their input into consideration. I share our similarities with the proposed Transmountain pipeline expansion and my frustration about community participation and consultation about important issues even in Canada. I notice it is quite cool and stand up to slip on my jacket. Antonio asks, “es frio? (are you cold?)” “poco, pero conversaccion es caliente (A little, but the conversation is heated.)” My teacher is tickled I can manage to find some language to lighten the situation. Later he pulls out a bag of peanuts and tells me it’s from his jardin (garden). “En un bolsa plastica?” He shakes his head and tries to find the word and I say, “recycled” in english. “Desde luego! (of course),” he says. I wasn’t going to let him off easy, so I continue, “Por que plastica?” Mi maestro gestures with his hand for me to hang on and slides his hand into his bagpack’s side pocket and retrieves a couple of crumpled bags – one paper and the other plastic. He picks the paper one and empties the peanuts into it and states,”This is what you want, isn’t it?”

I am pleased to learn Spanish but even more thrilled to have deeper conversations. I remember my Taiwanese ESL roommate when I was at the University of Alberta tell me how frustrated she was to be limited to kindergarten level conversations with her English when she desired deeper conversations. She was a journalist.

If you’re wondering whether mi maestro and I are only conversing in Spanish, yes we are. For my part, I am constantly retrieving words from phone’s Spanish dictionary. When I am impatient to find a word, I fake the spanish word by adding an -o to the english word or softening the c with -s sounds and stretching words with -es or some other similar strategy. You will be surprised to know the faking strategy works 80% of the time. All my teacher does is help me fix the emphasis or lengthen the word appropriately.

I am grateful my teacher is indulging my political and social interests. We even discover that San Pedro and Valemount could be twin sisters when it came to affordable housing.

Laurel and I run into our young German classmate during our late afternoon walk. Mareille is into her sixth language at age 24 with such a level head on her shoulders. She has a background in urban planning and researches ozone layer depletion for the European Union.

Another classmate that Laurel and I have taken to is an older student from Saskatchewan named Penny. She is a nurse and this is her third trip to Guatemala. She has decided to spend a whole month honing her conversational Spanish. When I ask her why she’s choosing to master Spanish, she explains she will likely try to help new Spanish speaking immigrants and foreign workers to Canada.