Learning Spanish in Guatemala

By Aaron Rockwell, Staff Writer

My winter break = 8 hours a day learning Spanish in a one-on-one setting. Here’re my big take-aways:

Chicken Busses (great business model):

Courtesy Google image search: "Chicken Busses"
Courtesy Google image search: “Chicken Busses”

Busses run on point A to point B systems. They pretty much fill up to the brim before leaving. Once the bus is halfway to its destination, a bus worker walks from front to back collecting money from all the passengers. This prevents the extra time it usually takes on American busses for people to pay and sit down. The reason they are called chicken busses is because every once in a while someone brings a bag of live chickens on the bus while transporting.

Learning a New Language:

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) produces categories of difficulty and times (in hours) for native English speakers to learn other languages.

Courtesy: http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty
Courtesy: http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty

600 boxesSpanish Learning Goal Method:

After finding out about this, my entire goal was to achieve the 600 mark in Spanish; my method was to create a 600 boxed sheet that I fill in a box every time I study for an hour (regulated with a ticking kitchen timer). Filling in a square feels so good, so far it’s been a very motivating method.

Interesting Travelers Encountered:


He captains sailboats across the major oceans for the owners who want to, for example, sail off the coast of France in the summer then the Caribbean for the winter.

     Sailing Take-aways:

  • Someone always needs to be above deck to watch the weather (generally 3-hour shifts with 3 people sailing)
  • Dock walkers exist (people who walk the docks asking boat captains where they are going in hopes of getting a free (plus labor, e.g., cooking or taking shifts) ride to another country.

Better Mark:

Had a conversation with this guy at a restaurant (post meet-up ironically coined him as ‘better Mark’). He was in Guatemala teaching English as a second language in the city I was studying (Antigua). He said his monthly salary was $500 a month, and that he had a Master’s in history.

Other Folks:

During my stay at the school I also met:

  • A lady who was a BP executive
  • A guy who travels the world doing oil discovery
  • Two Canadian teachers, one that teaches ESL in Canada and the other who teaches ESL in Guatemala City
  • A South Korean young man with an undergrad in sports science
  • A divorce lawyer with a passion for bird watching
  • An Indiana University international student recruiter
  • A guy who owned a large painting company in Denver
  • An Austrian girl who was perfect in every way until the Christmas party where she double dipped a chip in the guacamole

Time Travel:

If I were to do it again, I would have lived off campus with a Guatemalan family.


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