Sunday, January 30, 2011

The next move

Ok folks, here is an update, I know you have been dying to read one. Im not so sure how exciting this update is going to be, or how long, but here we go.

In the past few weeks I have been taking Spanish classes, teaching English at the hotel, and selling wine at Tobacos y Vinos. It hasn’t been a very lucrative time in my life, but I have vastly improved on my Spanish since I started taking lessons from a teacher I originally worked with at a Spanish school, and then hired him privately. Hiring him privately was great because I was able to make my own lesson hours, and he came to my house to tutor me. Literally, all I had to do was roll out of bed and go downstairs to the garden where I took my lessons in the early morning sun. Each day we tackled a different tense or set of grammatical rules, and then had an hour or so of conversation using it. Normally our conversations consisted of talking about Guatemala, my travels, cultural differences between the US and Central/Latin America, and of course the ever present ‘what did you do yesterday?’.

Working at the hotel was interesting—and I’d probably say it was exactly the same as it would have been to have been tutoring the service staff at any hotel in the states. That is, I was teaching a group of adults with little-to-no experience in English, and less in formal education. That being said, they were a nice group of people, ages ranging from 18 to the late 50s. Each day was essentially a matter of reviewing the material of the previous day and hopefully building on that to teach some new material. This proved to be a bit more of a challenge than expected because there was no accountability for my students. No grades or exams meant that nobody was checking on their progress. Any homework that I assigned was usually disregarded and forgotten about before the next class. As such, each day required a re-teaching of the last class. Had I more time or a plan to remain at that job in the long term, I would have written my own tests/quizzes and created a grading scheme of my own—if only to establish routine and build procedures for comparing the performance of the individual students over time. Alas, by the time I had acclimated to the class environment, I was already leaving. But more on that later…

My job at the wine shop has proven to be a rather disappointing investment (strictly monetarily speaking). After working here full-time for the past two weeks (and now that I am moving on) I have earned less than the equivalent of two hundred bucks. It’s good that I saved my earnings from working at the school last semester, that’s been enough to keep me afloat through my time in Antigua, and should easily get me through the next month or so I plan to be spending traveling. However, working here has been a positive experience—I learned a bit about cigars, even more about wine, and I now have a better understanding of the ins and outs of a business (well, a cash business). Tambien, working here was mad fun. Otherwise I would have just been sitting around at home all day with nothing to do. Unlike I had previously imagined, the shop is much busier here in the new location (that’s the reason I haven’t posted more—I anticipated more down time in the shop)—people stop in for single (or double, or triple) glasses of wine constantly, and when I’m not serving them I usually need to be washing the glasses, labeling bottles, reorganizing the shelves, taking inventory, counting cigars, or disposing of bottles—not to mention the occasional glass of wine I am forced to enjoy with a customer for far longer than I should. [the photo above is me in the entrance to the wine shop]

Anyway, all that is over now and I am on my way. A few days ago I quit my jobs, and informed my tutor and landlord that I would be leaving (good thing I only took a 2 week lease!). It’s a bit funny that I quit a job for the first time just three weeks ago, and now I have done it again, and again…I hope I’m not developing a taste for quitting! Toda via, everyone was fairly to extremely understanding, and I had no troubles squaring away my last hours and making my plans to move on.

So here’s the plan (or lack thereof): My friend who was my roommate here in Antigua last semester is flying down to Guate (today, actually) and joining me on one more epic adventure. We are not quite sure what the plan is. Originally, we were going to rent a car and drive it to Nicaragua through Salvador and back through Honduras, but upon further investigation, it seems as if I can only drive out of the country as far as one border away, and Nicaragua is one border too far. Furthermore, the rental prices are about the same as in the states, and that’s pretty high when paying in Quetzales. Regardless, we are going to sally onward, probably bussing or thumbing it down to Nica—I really want to see the volcanoes there which are said to be an entirely different breed of awesome than the ones we have here in Guate. I’m thinking that maybe we can rent a car in Honduras and drive only for the southern leg of our trip, that will cut down on rental and gas costs (esp. cause everything is a bit cheaper in Honduras) as well as ameliorate the one-border issue. It makes sense in my head.

This whole debacle should take no more than the next three and a half weeks—we need to be back in Guate by the 22nd for my friend to fly home to return to work. After that, I may fly home later that week, or stay until my planned fly-home-date in mid-March. If I stayed, those few extra weeks, it would give me the chance to go to Lake Atitlan and take more Spanish lessons in San Pedro—a town I have always wanted to plant myself for more than a few days—and consolidate what I have learned here since the beginning of January (or August, really). I haven’t decided this yet, and I have a feeling that it will be more of a last minute decision.

Anyway, once I get home in March (or whatever) I will hopefully be able to start teaching in the states (in NY, back in Rochacha). I heard that there may be an opening in the ESOL department in the Rochester City Schools and I have submitted my application to them. If I have any luck, I will be able to work the rest of the year in Rochester (spring up there is beautiful), and either continue working in NY or choose another international destination in which to teach for the following year. Everyone tells me that now is the time, and I couldn’t agree more—I just wish that deciding to keep traveling was more of an easy decision for me. Well, regardless of all that, I will probably be returning to Italy to teach around the boot for the summer again—that’s always a blast, and it’ll be good to have some Euros in my pocket again.

Well I think that about wraps it up for this post, keep reading and please comment!


  1. Looking forward to your epic return.

  2. woooo adventures sound exciting!! live in nyc with me next year. ok thanks :)

  3. Hola he leido algo de tus aventuras en Guate, yo soy de alla, y ahora vivo aqui en USA, me alegra que te guste vivir todas esas aventuras por mi bello pais, si todavia no has ido a Atitlan... se que te va a encantar, your uncle Ken me envio tu blog, pues el sabe que soy de alla, trabajamos en la misma empresa. saludos... oooppsss!!! sorry, my name is Miriam