Friday, September 19, 2008

Casa Xalteva

In class with Bismark

We are nearing the end of our second week of Spanish language classes. It seems that we know infinitely more than we did two weeks ago and this would be true as we started with no Spanish at all. We are now able to order in a restaurant, move around the city, play some games and make conversation with patient people. There is still so much more to learn and practice and studying seems endless. It has been fun so far and we are looking forward to two more weeks here.

Casa Xalteva is a school and non-profit organization. The school has about 6 teachers, the directors and people who help with logistics and organizing events. Our experience has been great. Pam and I are in a class together with Bismark. He has tailored the class to our speed and had laid on the homework and the words to memorize. He keeps things light and has endless patience for our mis-conjugated verbs, our mispronounced words and the constant use of French words. Our class is next to the kitchen so we can smell the great lunch near the end of the morning’s class.

The non-profit part of the school is a tutoring and lunch program for various kids in the neighbourhood. There are always other kids around and this makes for a fun environment. The school is about 3 blocks from our home and we have enjoyed the walking and the location on the edge of the center of town.

Learning a new language requires a significant amount of trust and vulernability. On the first day of class we learned the usual introductory questions/responses. What is your name? Where are you from? Bismark said that he was from Germany. Makes sense, it’s a german sounding name. Sort of odd for a guy who looks Nicaraguan, but maybe his dad or mom is a diplomat and he was born overseas. He certainly had John and I fooled. Early the following week we were talking about travel and he said he’d never been to Europe. We get this quizzical look on our faces and ask, “but weren’t you born in Germany?” NO! He laughed and laughed. Maybe that’s why he taught us the word for “trickster” during one of our first classes. He has a great sense of humour, and loves joking back and forth with John. “Broma” (joke) is another vocabulary word we learned early on.

Who wouldn't be motivated by such a beautiful smile?

We’ve also learned that you can’t rely on a 4 year old to be accurate in what he teaches you either. One afternoon there was a woman walking by the house selling various local treats from a basket on her head. Edgar asked for a “pilota”, and his mom bought two. One for Edgar and one for us. We assumed it was the name of the treat – a ball of popcorn with sweet molasses on top. We got talking about food in class and mentioned this thing called a pilota. Bismark called it something else, which I can’t remember now. Turns out “pilota” is the word for ball. Edgar is helpful when it comes to learning from the tv. He adores Barney and Mickey Mouse, and can watch the same videos over and over again.

As for Danielle and Simon’s time at Casa Xalteva, they say ….

At school we are learning a lot of Spanish. Our teacher, Marie Amanada, is teaching us verbs and nouns.

Marie Amanada is a great teacher!

We play games such as Sorry (in Spanish it is lo siento). We practice our numbers when we are playing Sorry.

We’ve learned some colours. The only colour we haven’t learned is purple. Orange is a strange sounding word – orarangado. Dad likes to sing “ oranaga-do a deer” like in the Sound of Music.

At school there are lots of kids who speak Spanish. We play ball and run around with some of them, but if they talk to us we don’t know what they are saying.

You wouldn’t think it was a school if you saw it. It looks like a big house. It has lots of rooms. There are computers that have internet. We like to play games. There are also couches and rocking chairs. Some of the chairs only have one arm. We talk to our friends with Skype on the computers.

There is a courtyard in the house, and we have seen two turtles living in the courtyard.

Juan Carlos is a guy at the school. He is lots of fun to play with. He helps out at the school and sometimes comes into our classroom. He has two children that also go to the school.

There is a small unicycle at school. Sometimes during the breaks or in the afternoon our dad is teaching us how to ride the unicycle.

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