Guanajuato is known for its language schools. Being a smaller city somewhat removed from the heavier touristed locations where English is more widely spoken, it offers more opportunity for immersion without the crutch of English speakers on every corner. The renown University of Guanajuato with its over 34,000 students also makes for a higher concentration of foreign students than one would typically see in a town the size of Guanajuato, many of them seeking accelerated Spanish immersion. The town manages to support five different Spanish schools in addition to the University’s language curriculum.
Classes all start on Mondays, the day I arrive in Guanajuato. Since I don’t arrive in time to start on a Monday morning, I take a few days to acclimate before starting, particularly since I am a beginner. I use this time to visit the schools in person. Though they all have prices and options offered on their websites, there is no substitute for getting a feel for the atmosphere. I want this to be a positive experience where I won’t be tempted to bail.
I visit each school to tour the facilities and the classrooms. Initially, I lean toward the University, as their curriculum seems more serious, while other schools offer a lot of “fluff” in the form of cooking classes, salsa dancing, etc. I vow I am here to learn SPANISH, not how to cook!
But the University takes a one month break in April…Mexico schools have a two week Spring Break, and since their classes are in month-long increments, I don’t want to wait until May to start. So eventually I settle for La Hacienda Spanish School. I make this decision for two reasons, one because the school location is beautiful. It’s located in an “Ex-hacienda,” ergo the name. Classes are either held outdoors, or in huge classrooms with high ceilings and lots of turn of the century architectural accents. But the other reason I choose La Hacienda is because it is the furthest school away from where I am staying. I want the “enforced exercise.”
Although I am excited about the prospect of learning Spanish, I don’t relish in the thought of starting a “9-5” routine again. Once I retired in 2014, it took me a year to get over that knot in the pit of my stomach on Sunday nights that signaled the start of the work week looming again on Monday morning. For twenty-four years with American Express, it was “Weekdays bad, Weekends good!” But once I retired, just the opposite was true. It took lots of deprogramming to learn that Monday mornings meant time to breathe a sigh of relief that the masses were back to work…and I was no longer one of them. So waking up for class on the first day feels a bit exciting, reminiscent of that “first day of school.” But it goes rapidly downhill from there.
Soon, the long early morning commute to La Hacienda makes my classes start to feel like an obligation. I start having dreams about my work days at American Express. I feel resentment in having to once again begin my day with something called an “ALARM!” I find that I don’t enjoy the one mile walk across the Centro in rush hour traffic, crossing a congested area where several of the tunnels converge bringing belching buses, hurried taxis, and a mish-mash of pedestrians to a crescendo. My morning commute takes me up along some extremely crowded elevated sidewalks, past stores selling carne and chicken feet. Between the smells of offal, the exposed sewer drain, and the heavily perfumed women on their way to work, it’s not a pleasant commute at 8:30am. But more importantly, I realize I am taking this way too seriously. I’m not having any fun.
Consequently, I make the difficult decision to change schools, knowing it is going to cause me a bit of a set-back in starting over in the beginning class. This will make the fourth time in my life that I’ve sat through learning the days of the week and numbers one through a thousand. But the most painful part of all is having to go through the “De donde eres?” question again…“Where are you from?” Even though I have learned a wonderful Spanish term, “Casa Rodante” (motor home) it still doesn’t make the explanation easy in English, let alone Spanish. But I soldier through it once again as review in exchange for starting anew.
After poo-pooing Escuela Falcon’s “fluff” (cooking, painting, and Salsa classes) I decide maybe I could use a little levity after all. So I make the transfer to Escuela Falcon where I sign up for three classes per day…. Grammar, Conversation/Vocabulary, and…that thing I said I wouldn’t do…La Clase de Cocina!