Last year, when Jeff and I decided to become Mexicans, we agreed that we would have to do more than just pay our money, prove our worth and spend a sizable amount of time standing in lines. No, that was all necesita, but there was one muy importante task needed to complete the picture. We were going to have to learn Spanish.
Sure, I could make myself understood about 60% of the time by using my limited Spanish vocabulary-albeit combined with a hillbilly accent-supplemented with my skillful ability to incorporate charades into the conversation, but that just wasn’t serving us all that well.
So I began taking Spanish classes at various marinas when we docked El Gato. These were often very cheap or free, lacked any continuity due to the rapid turnover of cruisers, and were, overall, a BWOT. (Big Waste of Time).
Then one day this winter, while docked in the ever-so-lovely marina at Barra De Navidad, we were chatting with Cindy and Rick, our boat-neighbors on Cool Change. The subject of language school came up, and we learned that they were considering enrolling in Spanish classes over the summer. To my mounting excitement, Cindy described the awesome experience she had while attending the CEPE-Taxco school 30 years ago in the ancient silver-mining town of Taxco, Mexico. Well, this sounded just too perfect. Jeff and I were trying to figure out where we were going to go to escape the heat of coastal Mexico over the summer, and Taxco is located in the highlands just south of Mexico City at a cool elevation of over 6000 feet. After a few weeks of discussion and researching housing, we sealed the deal, rented a house for a month and a half and enrolled in a six-week course.
I guess that I should be truthful here and admit that I sort-of cajoled Jeff into enrolling in Spanish classes. While I have been taking the occasional lessons when available, Jeff has opted-out, citing his inability to learn foreign words using a different accent. He assumed (ha!) that I would be proficient by now, and he would have no need to learn as long as I was around. Finally, after much persuading, and promising him he would not have to perform in a pre-graduation skit, he agreed. (We soon learned that all students are expected to participate in said skit. Stay tuned for that!)
Fast-forward to July, and here we are, settling in to “Villa Sonrisa”, a typical casa here in this hillside town of Taxco, Mexico. Nancy, a mutual friend and fellow cruiser on her boat Aldabra, joined us, as the casa we rented has three bedrooms, each with separate bath. The house also comes with a swimming pool, housekeeper and is laid out perfectly for individual or group study sessions.
The school we are attending is called CEPE-Taxco, and is part of the The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The setting is an ex-hacienda that was once owned by Hernando Cortez in the 16th century. The grounds are beautiful. Have a look-see…
We are each taking 6-week intensive courses, based on our ability when we tested for proficiency. Rick and I are in the same class, Basico 2, meaning we already have the basic foundation from which to start. I won’t speak for Rick, but for me, that foundation is built on pretty shaky ground. Quicksand is more like it. Since the classes are conducted exclusively in Spanish, much of my time in class is spent cluelessly trying to grasp what the profesora is asking me. Repita, por favor and No comprendo are now my favorite phrases. Occasionally, against her better judgement, and possibly the rules of the school, the teacher breaks down and gives me the gift of an explanation in English. I hope I don’t get her fired.
Cindy and Nancy are in Intermediate 2, but they are far advanced of yours truly. Jeff is the lone student in Basico 1, and gets all the individual attention he needs. ( I think his profesora has a crush on him, to boot).
We get up pretty early and walk 20-30 minutes to the school. There are no sidewalks here, and we compete for space on the narrow, cobble stone streets with the multitudes of Volkswagens that populate this city. Classes begin at 9:00 and we are in class until early afternoon every day of the week. We also all take dance classes two days a week. Ha Ha!!! I’ve never learned to dance in an organized fashion, with rhythmic steps. I’ve always just jumped on the dance floor and “Shook My Groove Thang, Yeah Yeah”! It’s pretty funny, and I’m glad I can’t see myself.
After a week of classes, I now remember why I loved Fridays and dreaded Mondays. School, and getting into the mindset to retain a lot of new information, is hard. Especially when you have to come home and crack open the books for homework instead of exploring a fascinating new city. And Double-Especially when you’re old!!!
So that’s how I’m spending my summer vacation. Please check back for a progress report and some insight into this lovely little city I for now call home. Oh, and Jeff’s skit. Ha Ha!
Gotta go now, I have homework to do.