Guatemala 2020 - Days 3 to 5 (Antigua)
Updated: Feb 20
Spanish and salsa lessons have started!
Gloria at Salsa Con Gloria never replied to my email but I got a prompt reply from Nancy at New Sensation and had my first salsa class on Sunday with Victor Hugo (!). I was interested in learning Cuban style salsa specifically since I like the grounded posture and chest isolations and was lucky that this was a style that Victor is familiar with since it's not as commonly taught as LA Style and New York style. We covered so much in that first class that I couldn't keep it all together when we started dancing together, in my defense at a much higher speed. It's all good - I'm in no rush to get on a dance floor. Poco a poco.
I passed La Merced on my way back to my AirBnB and decided to stop for some street food. For less than $1, I got a large tostada covered in guacamole and sprinkled with onion and cheese. It was surprisingly delicious for something so simple - I don't think I'll ever set foot in a restaurant again!
Up bright and early for my first Spanish class Monday morning. I'm not normally a breakfast person but the breakfasts here at Casa de Stela are included in the price of the room and they're all so good I've been trying a new one every day:
Sunday morning's breakfast smoothie bowl.
Monday morning's avocado toast.
Tuesday morning's green eggs and (onion) jam.
I then headed off to the Spanish school, Don Pedro de Alvarado, where I met my teacher for the week, Angela. We immediately launched into conversation and chatted for 2 hours, me butchering the language in my haste to get the words out. Brain and mouth operate on different speeds. When in doubt, say a French word or phrase with a Spanish accent - it works 90% of the time! Although private classes would be a fantastic way to build up a base from nothing, I'm glad I already have a good foundation because I would find it far too frustrating spending 4 hours/day with someone and not being able to have proper conversations. Angela is so much fun and so easy to chat with, the time I spend with her flies by.
As I mentioned in my previous post, every day I spend 2 hours at the school and then my maestra and I go out on an excursion. For my first excursion, we went to the market to buy fruits and vegetables. I wanted to be able to pick up food for myself but knew the market experience would be intimidating so I figured Angela could guide me the first time and then I'd have the confidence to go on my own.
Sure enough, the market was extremely busy and waaaaaaaay bigger than I expected. It was the coolest place ever though and I can't wait to go back, at which point I really need to take pictures. We picked up a bunch of fruit, most of which I'd never heard of, for less than $8 CAD, and I also got two bunches of radishes (my favorite snack!) and some broccoli. I was excited to see broccoli, which I really missed in Ecuador, it didn't matter that I had no idea what I would do with it.
We then went back to the school to wash and cut the fruit and so Angela could teach me their names (in Spanish, of course) and how to eat them!
The mangoes were more "thready" than the ones I've eaten on the street, but the blackberries were huge and juicy. My favorite new fruit was the sapote (soapapple in the Caribbean) which is like a melon but with the texture of an avocado.
At 2:00, the school was having an excursion to Las Ruinas de la Recolección, a church and monastery that were destroyed in an earthquake shortly after they were built. The ruins were quite impressive, and much more extensive than I'd expected from the entrance. During the excursion, I got to chat with many of the other students at the school. One student is from England and is spending several weeks at the school before going on a 9-month volunteer placement to work with women and girls who have been victims of sexual violence. Another woman accompanying her is a midwife and also here as a volunteer.
I returned to the Spanish school for a free Zumba class but it wasn't so much a Latin dance workout class as a 1980's aerobics class, complete with the constant jumping, flailing arms, and a bootcamp style maestro who kept stopping to yell at us to jump higher, go faster, etc., from the very first song. It takes a lot for me to walk out of a class but after several songs with no actual dance moves or change in intensity, walk out I did: I'm on vacation dammit! I made it as far as the park in front of La Merced around the corner where I collapsed in front of the fountain and read a book for an hour. Best. Decision. Ever. I was also in the perfect place to pick up my supper for the night - a slightly more expensive tostada ($1.67, ha!) topped with a large mound of vegetables. I really need to take a picture of the street food but once it's in my hands, the last thing on my mind is photography. I headed back to my AirBnB where I was able to put in a whole hour of work before my brain went on strike - I'm getting soft in my old age!
More of the same today: an excellent breakfast, 2 hours of Spanish conversation (I learned a Spanish tongue twister!), followed by a walk up Cerro de la Cruz near the school. It wasn't as high as I thought it would be so the walk wasn't bad at all. It took us an hour in total to walk from the school to the top and back.
Back to the school for a free lunch followed by another private salsa lesson with Victor - starting to get a hang of salsa thing! Not ready for the pista de baile yet, but getting there. Once again, by the time I got back to my AirBnB at around 4:00, I didn't have the energy to head out for another dance class in the evening so I decided to stay in to get some work done. And I didn't even grab a tostada before heading back, dammit. So.... remember those radishes and that broccoli I bought at the market yesterday? Supper! A whole head of broccoli. That may not have been the wisest decision (tune in tomorrow to find out, I guess?).