My One-Week Spanish Lesson

I had my first lección de español yesterday. Too much stuff to memorise. The grammar structure was really different from the English grammar. The teacher remembered the couple I met in Mongolia. One of my teachers was the couple’s teacher. In fact, it was the couple who gave me the name of this escuela.

After the class, I went to the museum, Santuarios Andinos UCSM Museum, opposite to the school. It displayed Juanita, a frozen girl that was 550 years old. According to the researchers, the girl was selected carefully. It was perfect, no bad teeth, very healthy. She was chosen when she was born. Before she was sacrificed, she was given sedative – a drink and then they hit her head very hard so that she could die instantly. That sounded very cruel but the researchers believed she probably felt honoured to die for her people. She was a princess according to the clothes she wore and other things that were buried with her. She was around 12 when she died.

Her DNA shows that she had some Korean and Panamanian DNA. That showed the migration process. It was a very interesting finding.

Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside so I could only document all these details. But now, when I Google it, I can find the website of the museum. That’s really convenient. Maybe the website existed back then but I didn’t Google it. The girl was in a box made in Japan specifically for her. If there was no electricity, the box itself would generate electricity so that the mummy could still be frozen.  The research was sponsored by national geographic. 

The girl Juanita was actually a frozen girl not a mummy. She wasn’t mummified. Because of the cold weather in the high mountains in Andes, she was well preserved for a long time. Her body was buried on top of a volcano but her body slipped down when the volcano erupted (I still remember the picture depicting this scene in the museum now). That was how the researchers found it. Another interesting finding that the researches found was that people in the past only wore simple sandals to climb up the mountains. Amazing.

The things buried with her included figurines that were made of gold, silver and copper. People believed the life after death must continue like the way when they were still alive. The position of Juanita was like a baby. The same explanation was given in the Inca museum in Cuzco because they believed the dead would be reborn. That sounds like the wheel of life in Buddhism.

After I finished touring around the museum, I went to a little restaurant to have very late lunch. It was cheap. Only 8.5 soles and I had a 3-course meal. Great. I wrote my journal there and then left. After that, I walked past a church – St Anna church. It was actually a monastery. St. Anna’s relic – her skull – was displayed in the church. I attended the week day mass there and then went to another restaurant close to my host family’s home for dinner. Pollo y papas frites. It was just like any other day at home except that I was on a foreign land. The other backpackers told me, ‘you can’t travel every day.’ That’s true. I couldn’t do trekking every day without taking a rest. I was glad. I was enjoying life.

I attended weekday mass at St. Anna church
The interior of the church

Second Spanish lesson:

I didn’t do revision yesterday because I was too tired after exploring the town.

My goodness. There was more to memorise today. Rosario was good. She asked me to make up phrases instantaneously. But the other tutor didn’t. I understood his good intentions. He wanted me to learn the basic grammar first then practise conversations but without letting me make up any sentences, it was hard for me to remember. Well, at least, this was (and still is) how I learn a language. That’s how I train my own students too.

Anyway, I decided to do revision today otherwise things would accumulate and I wouldn’t be able to remember all that then it would be harder and harder for me.

The tutors at the escuela recommended two restaurants to me: one was in Alliance Francaise and the other is Capriccio which is a chain restaurant. I was in Alliance Francaise when I wrote this journal. It was very relaxing. Food was not too great. The price was a bit high. (French food.) I will try the other restaurant later.

A restaurant in Alliance Francaise

I planned to spend my Christmas in Argentina. Before I started this journey, I contacted members of WCCM in different countries in South America. Apart from the coordinator from Ecuador, a member from Argentina also replied to my email. What surprised me was she invited me to stay with her family. Now that I knew someone there, I didn’t want to spend Christmas alone. To get to Argentina before Christmas, I needed to fly so while I was writing this journal, I checked the price of the ticket.

Two ladies were smoking here. They were working.

Everywhere is like this – the local people work and the travellers relax. The locals may not find their own home that relaxing because they are too busy working. But what’s the point of being so busy? You’re earning money that you don’t have the time to spend. As a backpacker, I spent money every day. The only thing that worried me was my bank account balance. But I didn’t want to think about it now. I just enjoyed.

After my late lunch, I strolled to the riverside. I thought I could get there but I got lost again… Well, I wasn’t in a hurry. I could wait.

I went back to Mamut to have dinner. It was very busy at dinner time. Good that I got a table. I had a big chicken burger and juice! I loved the juice there. It was so sweet and fresh. I wondered if they had added sugar.

Then I went back home and just happened that my host parents were about to go out to do some shopping. We saw each other at the stairs. They asked me ‘como estas?’ I answered ‘bien’ and then asked ‘y tu?’ My host mother was very happy when she heard me ask my first question in Spanish. I was proud of myself too. 🙂

I went back. A lot of homework. I did some and then fell asleep. 😀

I walked past a church
Inside a college (Instituto Confucio)
I really love the churches there.

Third Spanish lesson:

I was learning a lot more now. My brain was exploding. Too much information. Each day, I spent 4 hours at school to learn Spanish. I stayed in the school until 3 pm and planned to go to the park today so I took some snacks with me.

The weather was so nice! It was a perfect day to go to Selve Alegre park. But, guess what, I couldn’t find it. I went uphill and saw some snowy mountains. That was lovely. It was getting late so I decided to go downhill.

The snowy mountain as I went uphill.

I went past a church so I went in and joined the mass. The choir was excellent. They used guitars and ukulele. I loved the sound of it. I wanted to record it but I thought it may not be that appropriate so I didn’t. Sometimes you can’t record everything. You can only keep it in your memory.

At the end of the mass, we were each given a rose and then a band wearing Mexican clothes came into the church and started to sing. They played trumpets. I didn’t know what happened. I think that was for mother Mary. A lady was holding the statue of Mary and then walked outside the church. I took a few pictures and the left.

The rose

I went into an alpaca shop which had a museum at the backyard and I saw some llamas, alpaca etc.  At first I thought they were fake but then they started to move! OMG! I reached out my hands and touched them. They were so cute!! So nice. They looked as if they were smiling.

The museum in the alpaca shop
They did look fake.
So cute!!! 🙂

I continued to walk back to town. On the way, I finally saw the park. So, it wasn’t really that far at all. I just missed it when I walked up. It closed at 4:30pm so I decided to go back there later.

I went to Capriccio for dunner which was recommended by my Spanish tutor. Filling and delicious but it was a bit expensive. It was ok to pamper myself sometimes. Also I didn’t eat lunch today so it was fine. 🙂

As for the rose? I gave it to my host mother. I said, ‘por ti.’ (I later realised it should be ‘para ti’.) When she saw it, she was so surprised. 🙂 I was happy. 🙂

Forth Spanish lesson today:

Getting more and more stuff from the teachers now. OMG! But I could converse in Spanish a bit and could understand a bit more than before when people talked. Definitely not fluent.

I had two tutors. For the first two hours, I had speaking lesson with Rosario. For the next two hours, I was with another tutor who taught me grammar. He taught me quite a lot for the first few lessons but later on, he didn’t teach much Spanish. Instead, he talked about Peruvian history and the argument between Peru and Chile. Territory. The sea. What else? A Japanese who claimed to be Peruvian became the president of Peru many years ago. During his time, Peru was good. He made Peru a better place to live in. But like any other dynasties, he became corrupted. He went to the Philippines for a conference and there he resigned and fled to Japan. There he claimed his citizenship. So Peru could not arrest him. It was interesting to hear the history of this country. I learnt a lot.

After the lesson, three other students and I went to the other side of the bridge to have lunch. The restaurant was recommended by our teachers but it was a bit expensive. Anyway, we ate there. Then we went to Recoleta church. One of them left. The others went to the monastery museum. And I stayed in the church as there was a special mass.

The bridge
This was the signature dish of the restaurant.

Like yesterday, some kids wearing clothes like the Mexican clothes danced in the aisle when they brought the offering to the the altar. It was quite interesting. I had no idea what the occasion was.

I ran into my classmates right in front of the church. We then walked back together. I went back home and told my host family that I would go to the school principal’s house for a movie. (no time for homework that night). The movie was called Madeinusa. The principal and his wife made Pisco Sour for us before he played the movie. I think it was a bit too strong for me. It was a mixture of Pisco, ice, egg white, sugar and lime. Pisco was the original ingredient for making cognac. We then watched the movie. A heavy one. Definitely not for entertainment. I really didn’t like it. It won a few awards though.

Sunset

Friday. The fifth lesson:

I requested to have one more Spanish lesson tomorrow.

The principal lent me a DVD called Un Cuento Chino yesterday. This morning I invited my host family to watch it with me at around 8 pm.

I had lunch with my ‘classmates’. We all had one-on-one lessons but we went to the same school so we were still ‘classmates’.

I took them to the museum and airline to check their flights. (Wow! I could lead them without getting lost! Amazing!) Then I went back to the school. The travel agent at the school was always absent. I went there a few times. No one was there. So my classmate and I went to look for Arequipa archaeological museum. We were told that the museum didn’t exist (huh?!) so we decided to go back home. As usual, I didn’t really want to go back so early so I stayed at the school to finish my homework and then checked the travel agent. Finally! There it was. I paid for the Colca Canyon tour, had dinner at the juice restaurant and then headed back home.

I watched the movie with my host father. It was a comedy. I liked this one more than Madeinusa (Made in USA). My host father felt the same. The subtitles didn’t work properly so he translated Spanish to English for me.

After that, he showed me some photos he took with other students whom they hosted previously. My host mother came back from her party and showed me some more photos before we went to bed. She looked very pretty as usual.

Last Spanish lesson:

I didn’t tour around the city today. I was planning to go to the park after class but the weather changed and it was very cloudy. It drizzled too. It became very dark when I was having my lesson.

Rosario took up the entire four hours. She gave me a passage to translate from English to Spanish. At first, when I looked at it, I was like, ‘Gosh! There are many words that I don’t know.’ She said with assurance, ‘I can help you with that.’ So I started. I asked her from time to time. While I was translating, she looked at me. After I finished translating the entire passage to Spanish, she said, ‘I thought you asked your host family to help you with your homework but when I looked at you just now, I believed you didn’t. You did a great job. You should be proud of yourself that you could do it within one week.’ but I still couldn’t converse. I still couldn’t achieve my objective. :_( I still switched to German when I wanted to speak Spanish. Spanish still didn’t come to me naturally or instinctively. Maybe I pushed myself too much.

I didn’t want my Spanish class to finish but life had to go on and I had to move on. Everything would eventually end. Spanish class, my trip, our lives. But when one finished, another would begin. Tomorrow would be definitely better.

I learnt from my class today that in Peru if your ear suddenly turned red, that meant someone bad-mouthed you. I told her in Asia, that would be sneezing and if she sneezed three times, that meant she had a cold.  😀 Another amazing thing she told me was in Peru, there was a maximum (yes, max, not min) number of working hours by law. That was so good!

I went back home after talking to the travel agency and did some administrative work like backing up my photos etc. The wifi in the host family’s home didn’t work so I went back to school and worked on my computer until dinner time.

I decided to go to Capriccio to have another nice dinner before my trekking trip to Colca Canyon. It would be a tough trip as I was told by the tour company.

10 – 15 December 2012

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