May Wright

May is a choir director in east Texas taking a summer to explore a new place, continue to work on her Spanish, explore a new profession, and dance a lot of salsa!

Picking up Speed

 Posted by May Wright at 11:27 am  Guatemala  Comments Off on Picking up Speed
Jun 282015
 

Today I felt much more comfortable with the city and my work. This morning I awoke again at 5: 45 as sunlight entered in and a rooster somewhere started squawking. Ugh. I am figuring out how to best work my shower: more hot water at low pressure as it is heated by electricity right at the shower head. Breakfast was French toast coated with oatmeal with apples on the side. I liked the idea of rolling it in oatmeal and will have to try that again sometime. I hurried to the maximo nivel to take my Spanish language placement test. I was placed in the advanced level (very proud!). Sarah then took me to meet my tutor. His name, funny enough, is Nery – the same as my guatamalan-venezualan friend in Tyler. Easy to remember! I wasn’t sure what to expect of a private lesson, but by the time we finished I felt it was very productive. I thought it was interesting how the lesson began with him asking me some fairly simple questions… but incredibly fast. At first, I thought, “man, he is difficult to understand for some reason. I wish he would slow down.” Turns out he did it on purpose to test my comprehension level. We continued on with some other exercises until the hour was up. I then did some walking around town, continuing to try to get to know Antigua – especially around Yellow House. I took some photos that I am putting on the yellow house Antigua facebook page – a responsibility of mine in my internship. Having that to work on at work made me feel a lot more productive. Plus I checked several people in today! I feel like I really have picked up speed.  Also on my walk, I passed by a salsa studio, door open blaring salsa music. I passed, went back to read the sign, and this little latino man pops up at the door asking me if I dance salsa. He sold me. I am going to take a lesson with him tomorrow J I hope he is not like the dance instructor I met this evening… at Maximo Nivel, they held a “guacamole and salsa” event. The dance class was held in a tiny room basically on the rooftop of the building and we packed it with like 30 people (it was so hot!). The guy was a total player and showoff in my opinion, but I didn’t notice anyone else with the same sentiment as me. It seemed like the other girls were enjoying it. I do wonder if I’m somewhat of an old fart here…  He would start dancing all this crazy stuff to show off, give non-comprehensive instructions, and try to flirt with the girls (including being overly touchy)… ugh. I won’t go back. Going to have to find some other place to dance salsa because that is what I’m here for after all, right?

Hit the Ground Running

 Posted by May Wright at 11:26 am  Guatemala  Comments Off on Hit the Ground Running
Jun 282015
 

Woke up 5:45 and went up to the rooftop patio to read through my lonely planet guidebook. It’s just lovely up there. I had pancakes for breakfast and then walked around the city, first looking for the central park. I got a little confused, but managed to find it (with a bit of sheer luck). I really wish they had good street signs. Some corners have absolutely no signs. I guess the idea is that you can just count. All the streets are numbered with avenues being north/south, and streets being east/west. Central park is really beautiful, abuzz with locals. I wandered north and passed through Cathedral  de nuestra senora de La Merced, strung with yellow and orange banners and bright flowers for some occasion I don’t know. The adjacent monastery ruins had some decent views although the volcanoes are all clouded over.

My 10:30 orientation lasted for much longer than expected. In fact, today’s events were not quite expected. It was so full! Sarah from Maximo Nivel gave Luisa and me our orientation spiel. Luisa is Panamanian American and working with speech therapy here.

In the afternoon, I went to Casa Amarilla, or yellow house, and met Sofi and Prizila. Sofi bought me a notebook, took me on a tour of the rooms and then soon after had me give a tour! She’s very good about pushing me to get involved. A phone call came in, and she offered to hand the phone to me, but I declined. I don’t like people asking me questions and being unable to answer. I feel so powerless and unhelpful. Reminds me of being on a new job… At the end of my shift, I got to meet Ceci, the bubbly curly haired Panamanian proprietor who talks very fast, but definitely has a free spirit and jovial aura. When I finished, I rode home in a tuk-tuk. Wow. That was an experience. They sound like lawnmowers racing by on 3 wheels on a cobblestone street. It is loud, and it is bouncy. But very economical! A ride costs 10 Quetzales – a little more than a dollar.

Learning a language

 Posted by May Wright at 5:17 am  Guatemala  Comments Off on Learning a language
Jun 252015
 

Today started with breakfast with another Guatamalan family – that of my friend that’s living in the states, Nery. We had a nice visit over a great breakfast at a beautiful little restaurant in town. It’s funny to me how different people have different speech habits that make them more or less difficult for me to understand. Sijan, almost 15, speaks very quickly, and I had to ask her to repeat herself several times. After breakfast I went to my Spanish lesson with my teacher, Nery. By some amazing coincidence, we had parked right in front of the place where my lesson was to take place. Nery was waiting out front for me because our classroom had been changed (again). He told me as we walked to our new classroom that he was listening to me as I spoke with Señora and Sijan. He tells me, “your spanish is very good” [deep inhalation, shrugging shoulders, exasperated look on his face] “but some errors…” and he commenced talking about my mistakes. I laughed. I know I make a lot of mistakes. It’s apparent that he really wants for me to improve – not just speak the language – but speak it well and without many mistakes. So many of my mistakes are things that I know, but for some reason still miss. Having Nery as a teacher is so valuable because not only does he catch my mistakes, but he has such an in depth understanding of Spanish grammar that he can explain and help me not only to correct my one mistake, but apply it to a greater context. I’m really glad I have the opportunity to study with him.

My First Day

 Posted by May Wright at 2:54 am  Guatemala  Comments Off on My First Day
Jun 242015
 

All good first impressions: The flight here was easy – just 3 hours from Houston and the weather was good. Guatemala greeted me with absolutely lovely weather (although some have commented on the heat). The sun is bright and hot, but when you’re out where the wind can cool you down, it’s wonderful. Every person I have met so far has been lovely. A man saw me wandering around at the exit and helped me find my ride. I met two other volunteers: a middle aged woman and her son who come to volunteer at an afterschool program every summer. They’re returning to do it again. (What a wonderful thing to do with your kid!). Pholomo is a South African woman who works at Maximo Nivel – the business that is hooking me up with my internship. She is bubbly and helpful. Anna Maria is my host mom, kind, and informative. And there’s Jonathan, her son. He was very kind to walk me to the Maximo Nivel office, being very clear about directions and pointing out landmarks. He is 26, like me, and works for a tourism operator. Funny coincidence!

The sights and sounds are almost magical when you arrive in a new place for the first time. I seem to always get this happy feeling because I remember it from other trips.  Flying in, you could see some skyscrapers, development over lots of hills along with lots of green. I also noticed some areas that were definitely poor parts of town.  The busy city with all its cars, busses (they have some pretty colorful ones here… they look like school buses gone wild), colorful business signs, pedestrians, and flowers makes for an exciting ride through town. Antigua itself seems very nice although I have only gotten just a tiny glimpse so far: there are impressive volcanoes for its backdrop, narrow stone streets that remind me of Cuzco, lots of cars and motor bikes pushing their way through the traffic, concrete structures built with no space between (I take it the concrete is thanks to earthquakes), bells chiming, and streets full of people that seem to be waiting to see if I greet them, so they can return a joyful “buenas tardes!” That happened several times. The house I’m staying in has a façade that blends in with the adjoining facades on either side and all down the street. You enter through a sturdy wooden double door and come into a large open area where the dining table is on your right. To your left is a staircase that goes up 2 more floors – one to the floor with bedrooms, and the second to a rooftop patio. The walls are concrete I believe and the floors have decorative tile. Most of the place is not overly decorated although there are a few things here and there. I have a bedroom to myself as well as a private bathroom. Plenty sufficient.

I joined Ana Maria as she prepared dinner for the household tonight, chatting with her. I take it she is not a huge talker, but everything she says is full of warmth. Dinner was a large flour tortilla filled with egg, quesillo (a soft cheese), and plantain served with a side of mashed avocado and a cucumber salad. I wasn’t sure about the plantain part, but it was actually really good.  I got to eat dinner with Nichole and Jake, a couple from Canada (although she is Columbian), because we’re all staying in Ana Maria’s house. Nichole identified me as a Texan pretty fast – “y’all” is what made her ask. I enjoyed being able to speak some English with them because I can tell that as I get sleepier, the work of understanding Spanish gets harder and I tend to smile and nod more than try. Fresh start tomorrow!

Leaving Soon

 Posted by May Wright at 1:22 am  Guatemala  Comments Off on Leaving Soon
Jun 042015
 

I will be headed to Guatemala on June 21st. Visit this blog page to see what I’m up to. Thanks for following!

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