Posts Tagged ‘Language Learning’

So It’s Been A Year

Author: Kyle

A year ago today I left Canada hoping to escape my old life and start new. To get away from the constant work of my job and try to build a business I could run from the road. In my mind I know what criteria would make it work and I have a good idea of what it would look like when it is done, but actually getting it going, well that has been another story.

It is true the dollar goes further here, and that really does help, but it is also harder to work with no fixed address. And with debts back home and obligations to others my year of working abroad has been a very difficult and grueling challenge. I have been gone from living a dream to living in a constant challenge waiting or hoping money will arrive so I can pay my bills and then myself.

Certainly this experience has come with its ups and downs. I have been to several countries I have never been to before, I have started learning Spanish and had fun going on long hikes, white water rafting, exercising in ancient military playgrounds and scuba diving. I have eaten more variety of Mexican food then I even thought existed. I have met wonderful people from all over the world and right next door. My girlfriend, Soraya, is showing me a side of Mexico I never would have otherwise seen, I am truly grateful for her.

I have also been to the point of eating just rice and beans for weeks while working 10+ hour days. I have been cast back into the role I tried so hard to get away from. Routine is the order of the day and there often feels like no escape. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as there always has been, but for now it feels like my hard work, sweat and tears are going to be required to get me out of my shackles back home. I just want something, anything, that would help me build residual income. I suppose many people are looking for that, and few people actually find it. In the meantime I owe, I owe, so its off to work I go.

Central Park XelaTwo hours a day of private Spanish lessons, an hour of homework and total immersion.  I wish I could say it was easy learning a third language, but it’s not.  With new words, false cognates and conjugation that removes the need for pronouns I find myself making many many silly mistakes.  A common example is “¿Cómo estás?”(How are you?) to which I should reply “Estoy bien, gracias.”(I’m well, thank you) but instead I find myself saying “Estás bien, gracias.”(You’re fine, thanks.)

One story that my teacher told me about was a girl who was learning Spanish in a home-stay and said something that the family didn’t understand to which she tried to reply that she was embarrassed by telling the family “Estoy embarazada”(I’m pregnant) and the family got all excited and asked “¿Quién es el padre?”(Who is the father?) to which she got confused and pointed at the father of the home-stay.  Note to women who stay at home-stays to learn Spanish: don’t go around telling people that you are embarazada.

True to it’s reputation, alcohol is a great little addition to the language learning mix.  With drinks costing about $9 for a half liter bottle of rum or vodka at the bar, plus a dollar for enough mixer to serve an entire table it is easy to engage some strangers in broken conversation.  I’m not sure the extent to which it helps, but I do find I am able to follow better and quicker the more times I try this and saying things that are foolish is certainly not a problem.  That said, I rarely seem to be able to remember new words from these nights out.

If you have any good language learning tips for me, please do share, I want to make the most of my time here.

You have a schedule?  Aren’t you on vacation?  You are a gringo in Guatemala after all.

As I arrived in Xela, Guatemala, I knew I was going to be the odd one out.  I had a plan after all.  First vacation, then rebuild my life from the ground up.  I sat down in a coffee shop  with a pad of paper and wrote down these words from memory by Annie Dillard:

A schedule defends from chaos and whim.”

Followed by:


Physical – Exercise 4+ times per week

Business – Work for 2 hours a day on income producing ventures

Learning – Study Spanish for 2 hours a day

Social – Go out for at least 3 hours a day to meet local people

Personal – Write in personal blog for 1 hour twice a week, and business blog at least 1 hour per week

Financial – Check finances 1 hour per week

Planning – Plan for tomorrow for 1 hour every day

Eat – 3 square meals per day

Sleep – 8 hours every night

Reward – 1 exciting or interesting trip or experience per week

Interesting, eh?  Then I went into Google Calendar and built a plan around these priorities.  At times it has been hard to stick to the plan, but it has generally been quite rewarding.  I have gotten quite a bit done, and have had time to enjoy the local culture.  One area that caught me off guard was the local custom of setting off firecrackers at 6:30 am to wake up their loved ones who are celebrating a birthday. In a city this size that is every day.  Naturally this is followed up by loud music for a couple hours, ensuring that no one around can possibly get back to sleep.  It has taken a while, but I have adjusted my schedule for earlier nights and earlier mornings because of this.

An upside about spending an hour every day planning for tomorrow means that I get more done in the day or hours provided and that the quality of that work is superior.  The Pareto Principle and Parkinson’s Law working so well together 🙂