|Guanajuato at Sunset|
|With visiting cousins|
Yes, I've been deep into studying Spanish while living in Guanajuato, Mexico for the last 4 months. This has truly been an exceptional experience and, to be honest, I'm a little sad to be leaving. Guanajuato is a lovely town and very easy to live in. I've met so many people by now, I think I know more people here than in Portland. Every time I go walking I run into people I know.
Aside from the history and being a very beautiful place, the city has a lot to offer culturally. There is a very famous festival called Cervantino for 3 weeks every October and that's when I arrived. The festival was started in the 1970's by students at the University of Guanjuato with productions of plays by Miguel Cervantes who also wrote Don Quixote. The festival grew and the city is now called the Cervantino Capital of the Americas. The festival is world class. Each year, the culture from a state in Mexico and from another country in the world is highlighted. This year was France and Mexico City. The creme de la creme of culture from both places take part. Plays, art, technology, film, food and, of course, musical performances take place all over the city, all day and night. It was fascinating to experience the very best from all over France in this very small city. There was always something interesting to see and I went to many performances. Some needed tickets but many were free.
|San Miguel de Allende plaza|
|With teachers from Escuela Falcon|
The real reason I was in Guanajuato was to study Spanish. I got signed up at Escuela Falcon for 4 months of classes. The teachers here are so sweet and make learning fun. Doing home stays, living with a family, is very popular but I chose to have more privacy and rented a room in a house the language school owns. For me, living with a family for 4 months would be too much. Usually, the family provides meals as well and I didn't want to be tied to an eating schedule. I probably would have learned more Spanish quicker staying with a family but the idea of living with other people for so long was more than I could handle.
For the 1st 8 weeks, I took 3 hours of classes 5 days a week. I asked for 1 private and 2 classes but every week I had 3 private classes. It was difficult to be the focus of attention for 3 hours everyday. I learned a ton but after 8 weeks I was exhausted and switched to 2 private classes per day. This has felt more comfortable. The biggest issue with taking private classes is I haven't met as many students as I would have taking classes. The administrators said they couldn't find other students at my level. Apparently, I'm just above beginner but not really intermediate where most students fall. Probably by now, I'm at the intermediate level but I love my teachers and decided to stay with the private lessons for the remainder of my time here.
|Plaza de la Paz and the University of Guanajuato|
|Ex-hacienda San Gabriel de Berera|
Learning Spanish has been super fun but much more difficult than I expected. I came to this school at the beginning of last year for 2 months to prepare for walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. While walking, I realized I actually learned more than I thought. I found this so encouraging I decided to return. Maybe because I am taking private lessons it's harder for me to gauge my progress but I feel like I'm as slow at learning Spanish as I am at riding my trike. Maybe I'm just a slow person, haha! For sure, I know much more than I did 4 months ago but where I'm struggling is with speaking. It still take me a long time to think of what to say and then translate it in my head with the correct word order, verb conjugation, gender and corresponding number. It is a lot to keep track of. I've also heard that speaking is the last part of learning a language to come together. I do feel like I have a really good foundation on which to build. I will continue studying, practicing and, poco a poco, I expect to get more comfortable and faster with the speaking part.
2nd Biggest Hot Air Balloon Show in the World, Leon
One of the benefits of studying at a language school while traveling is they usually offer excursions. Escuela Falcon has activities many times a week and sometimes offer trips to neighboring pueblos. I went to San Miguel de Allende a few times, the Corralejo tequila factory, La Gruta hot springs, El Santuario de Atoltonilco, a hot air balloon show in Leon, Delores Hidalgo, Cristo Rey, Santa Rosa and Valenciana. Every Sunday there are also chamber music concerts in the small town of Marfil at an ex-hacienda that are just lovely. I've also enjoyed the symphony concerts in Guanajuato almost every Friday night. I feel like I am busier here in Guanajuato than anywhere else I've ever been.
Afternoon of Chamber Music in Marfil, Mexico
Day trip to San Miguel de Allende
|My 1st drone practice park|
And, of course, I've been taking a ton of photos and adding videos to my new YouTube channel Travels By Trike. I brought a new DJI Spark drone with me to Guanajuato and have really enjoyed learning how to use it as well. This town is so photogenic it is a perfect place for photography buffs. Figuring out how to tell a story through video was something else I wanted to get comfortable with while I was here in Guanajuato. Taking video is the easy part. Processing, editing and then picking out the music are the tricky parts. My idea is to make very short videos that give a taste of my experiences and I feel like I have a good idea of what and how I want to do that now. I think making videos is going to be fun for my next tours through Latin America.
|Music and flowers|
|Graffiti in a callejon|
On my next few tours, I'll have lots of opportunity to practice speaking and learn more Spanish. My main reason for studying Spanish is that I want to spend the next few years traveling and triking through Mexico, Central and South America. Knowing Spanish will make for a much richer and safer experience. I've traveled through many, many countries where I didn't know the language and it certainly can be done. But, unless you are in the cultural centers of a country, it is also a very lonely way to travel. More and more, English is becoming the world's language but being able to converse with locals in the local language will mean meeting more people and experiencing the local culture in a more meaningful way. Spanish is a language I've talked about learning for many, many years and I think this 6 month investment in studying will pay off big time while I'm traveling through Latin America.
Guanajuato, crazy fun town!
|Plaza de la Paz|
|My neighborhood, I'm in the picture on my terraza.|
I have a ticket for my flight with Myrtle the Turtle for March 5th to start my next trike tour. I had a few ideas bouncing around for where I wanted to go and have decided to make this a tour of Mayan ruins. It will begin and end in Cancun, Mexico. I'll ride for about 3 months covering something like 2,000 miles. It will be a clockwise circle 1st going to Tulum and then Belize before crossing into Guatemala to visit Tikal. Then I'll cross the border back into Mexico to visit Palenque, Chitzen itza and smaller ruins outside Campeche and Merida.
Between my walking tours on the Camino de Santiago in Spain and then studying Spanish in Mexico for many months, I'm excited to get back on my trike and start pedaling. Let the adventure begin!! (Once I actually start touring, I'll be updating the blog regularly with photos, videos and Garmin GPS route maps, like usual.)