On learning Spanish
It’s Sunday night and I should be doing my homework but instead I am lying on my bed watching the final episode of the Sherlock (BBC) series on my iPad as my curtains blow in the wind, signalling the day has finally cooled down.
I have completed my third week of Spanish classes and I am stuck constructing sentences in Spanish containing both definite and indefinite articles. Bizarrely enough, learning Spanish, I am introducing myself to more English grammar now than I ever did at school, when I did learn English!
This coming week I have decided to take a (well deserved?) week from Spanish classes and instead I have planned to visit different pueblos (villages) around Oaxaca. I think my volunteering tasks will start to ramp up in the next couple of weeks as other volunteers finish up and head home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it’s actually a perfect time for me now to be a tourist for a bit.
So with no Spanish school to attend, I can head off after breakfast (as some of the towns I want to see are 90 minutes away), wander around visiting artisans and markets and still get back to Oaxaca mid-afternoon. Then depending on how enthused/guilty I feel at my Spanish progress, sequester myself away in a cafe and revise all the Spanish I have done so far. I like the idea of a break at the moment – and to have the week to come and go as I please.
Learning Spanish is definitely a roller coaster journey. Some days I think I am really getting there, and when I manage to convey exactly what I mean using a full sentence and multiple conjugated words, as opposed to a few easy words and some miming, it’s very rewarding. However there are a lot of situations where I just punt a word into the conversation and hope I have chosen the right one, and in the right tense. It’s definitely frustrating and each day I feel differently about my abilities. Still, I am definitely better than when I arrived and so long as I keep that trajectory, it’s OK.
Sundays in Oaxaca are completely different atmosphere to the rest of the week. Most of the businesses are closed, and instead of the central city area being a hive of activities and people and noise, as it is during the other days of the week, it is relaxed and calm. Around you are people just out walking, other people dressed up and going to church, boys playing soccer and practicing their skateboard flips and parents eating ice cream while their children drive around the fountain in Lleno Park in the motorised toy cars for rent.
Sunday is also a good day to travel to local markets and stand and wonder in the middle of the hustle and bustle of people doing their most important buying and selling of the week. And it’s not a real market unless you have to dodge people carrying home (by the feet, not in cages) newly purchased live turkeys.
Oaxaca has a fantastic coffee culture and I am spoiled for choice as to where I settle with my books – my favourite luckily also being open on Sundays. I have a couple of regular haunts now, and the staff know my order before I sit down which makes me feel like a bit of a local.
So, all in all, 3 weeks in I am still definitely settling in, but I am starting to understand the rhythms and routines of Oaxaca. There is still so very much to see and know but at least I have the time in which to do that.
And I am also looking forward to understanding more of the conversations around me as I get better in Spanish. Sigh. Back to my homework I think…