When I was a little girl, my mom bought me those little workbooks, you know, the ones where you practice your letters, or the ones where you do math problems to practice addition or multiplication. She also bought me workbooks where I could learn basic words in Spanish. Gato=Cat. Perro=Dog. Good Morning=Buenos Dias. After many fiestas with her Puerto Rican and Cuban friends, I remember being excited to take my first Spanish language class in middle school. I took Spanish Classes throughout middle school, high school, and college. When I graduated, I even took recreational classes to continue building my proficiency. My first job in Los Angeles was working as a mentor for a youth program, and I remember leading some sessions with parents, which provided me an opportunity to communicate in Spanish.
But that job was 15 years ago, and while I still have some competency is Spanish, I am not fully bilingual, though I wish I was after nearly20 (YES. TWENTY!) years of studying Spanish.
In September 2015, a group of residents I work with encouraged me to take a Spanish class, which I did. And, over the last 15 months, I’ve felt those skills grow. I’m facilitating more meetings for work in Spanish, but, I’m just not where I want to be in terms of my proficiency.
I decided that my next adventure would be to study Spanish. And, do it outside of the United States. Immediately, I knew that I would study in Mexico. I work with a predominantly Mexican-American and Central American population, and my friends speak Mexican and Central American Spanish. So, going to Spain or Puerto Rico really made no sense for me, practically.
In reviewing the various places in Mexico I could stay, I didn’t want to be on the coasts because I felt the temptation to speak English would be to great. I decided to look into the center of the Country. I have close friends from the State of Guanajuato in Mexico. And, over the last 15 years, I’ve heard about how lovely it is.
After some research, I came to find the City of Guanajuato in the state of the same name. Part of the reason I selected Guanajuato City to study Spanish was that, as a history buff, I love that Guanajuato has maintained its 16th century look and feel. Additionally, I was intrigued that Guanajuato is one of the birthplaces of the indigenous revolution and battle for Mexican Independence from Spain. I loved that it was a small city, nestled in a narrow valley between many large hills. And lastly, the region where Guanajuato is located in known as “The Bajió”, and it is repeatedly recognized as of the safest regions in Mexico with the best quality of life.
In October I booked all of my plans to study in Guanajuato City. And, about 10-11 weeks later, I was being dropped of at LAX to board a flight bound for Mexico and a 5-week adventure.
On Monday, I arrived to the León Airport at 6:30am, got out of the airport around 7:30am, and by 9:00am, I was taking my Spanish Language equivalency exams at Escuela Mexicana Spanish Language School. By 10:00am, I was in my first class, Conversational Spanish.
4 hours and 4 classes later, my brain was spinning from speaking solamente en español. Pero, it was exactly what I wanted to be doing. Exhausted from the day, the owner (La Dueña) of my apartment met me at school to escort me to my apartment. And, afterwards, she and her sister decided to take me for a little walk (ended up being 4 miles round trip).
I already knew, in these short hours in Guanajuato City, that I was home.
5 weeks to go.