School…there and back

In this post I’ll show some photos of our daily trip to and from the Spanish language school, Pop Wuj, we attend in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala and a few photos of the school itself. The town of Quetzaltenango is referred to throughout Guatemala as Xela (pronounced Shay-la). So you’ll see it referred to as Xela in the blog from now on. Xela is short for Xelawuj, which is the Mayan name of the city.

Our walk in each direction takes about 15 minutes, sometimes a few minutes more depending on how congested the streets and sidewalks are. The streets are less crowded in the morning so the walk is a little faster. Here are some photos of our walk to school.

Leaving our home in Xela

Sarah walking past a local middle school on her right and police station on her left.

Sarah passing a Xela woman on her way to the local market

Sarah at the entrance of Pop Wuj

Below are a handful of images of the interior of the school. There are a few common areas (e.g. kitchen, meeting room, and lounge), some of which encompass “classrooms” used for the one-on-one Spanish lessons. About half of the “classrooms” are in common areas and the other half are in private rooms. Luckily, Sarah and I have private rooms. This allows for fewer distractions, which is extremely helpful for me.

Lounge area for students to hang out in before and after class. Just out of the picture are a couple “classrooms” situated in this room.

The community kitchen. Throughout the day there is coffee, hot water and clean water to drink. We’re also allowed to cook in there if we choose to. You can see Carmelina, the school cleaning woman and master stove builder (more on that later), peeking through a window in the background.

La oficina (the office) and stairwell to the roof (on the left).

The largest common area at the school, used for Monday morning meetings as well as housing several “classrooms” for one-on-one lessons.

Example of one of the private classrooms. This is where I (Dave) have my lessons. The window provides great people watching opportunities throughout the day.

Our lessons start around 8am and end around 1pm. At which point we head home and eat the daily lunch prepared by our home-stay host Marina. Lunch, it turns out, is the biggest, and usually most delicious, meal of the day. The streets at this time of the day are a bit more congested. As with Guatemala City, vehicles own the roads in Xela. And so we have to devote our full attention to navigating the streets. Sarah likes to practice conjugating verbs during our walks, but I finally had to admit that I couldn’t do both. I didn’t realize conjugating verbs could be so dangerous.

Bustling street we walk on the way home after school.

One of the busier intersections we walk through. Xela vendors sell veggies throughout the day at this intersection.

Many of the sidewalks are very narrow, sometimes only providing enough room for one person. When passing someone you have to take a quick, yet careful, step out into the street. Fun.

The sign translates to “Slow, School”, but I don’t think much attention is paid to it.

The last leg of our trip home is a short walk up a steep hill. There’s less traffic back here so walking in the streets isn’t so bad.

The rest of our day is spent studying, walking around the city and partaking in after school activities. Monday evening we watched the movie “El Norte” (The North) and Tuesday evening we listened to a lecture given by one of the Pop Wuj teachers–in Spanish–on medicinal plants . In his free time he studies the history of medicinal plants, especially those in Guatemala and the rest of Central America. Lucky for us, some of the students in the lecture knew a bit of Spanish and could translate for us. Suffice to say, we have no problem staying busy.

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