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Jabel Tinamit; Panajachel, Guatemala

In the Highlands of Guatemala lays Lake Atitlan.; one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.  Surrounded by villages steeped in Mayan history and cultural where the indigenous population still wear traditional dress. If you listen closely you can hear the language of the Mayans still being spoken in the open markets and streets.  Each town is unique to each other and accessible by water taxis that shuffle people back and forth on this beautiful lake. As you cross the lake, the towering volcanoes are reflected on the rippling waves. Talk about a blissful place! I just loved to ride the water taxis back and forth for the experience and enjoyment of the moment!

One of the towns on the edge of the lake is Panajachel and home to Jabel Tinamit; the only Mayan run Spanish school in the city. Run by Gregorio and his wife Candelaria, the school is like coming to a family that embraces you into their home. They make it a point to make your stay in Panajachel a wonderful experience. Not only do they offer Spanish classes, but teach you about the Mayan people and their culture; from cooking classes to field trips. At the end of your stay you will leave with a deeper appreciation and understanding of this vibrant culture.

In the summer of 2011, I decided to study Spanish in Guatemala. As I looked over the many Spanish schools, I kept on coming back to Jabel Tinamit. Something excited me about both the school and the town. So, I signed up, packed my backs and headed south. This was my first Spanish program I ever had taken and was excited. My Spanish teachers name was Patricia and she was very patient with me. She created an environment where I was comfortable to learn and take risks as I learned Spanish.  I could tell she really enjoyed to teach me Spanish; even with my struggles, confusion and sometimes lack of understating. As a beginner, I found that the structure, scope and sequence and text book were perfect for a newbie Spanish learner. Sitting in the most beautiful garden, I was able to relax and enjoy the experience of learning. Six hours a day flew by in no time.  My week there went by so quickly, and during that time I developed the confidence and foundation in Spanish to speak with my host family and explore the city on my own. I remember the first time I really tried to use my Spanish to buy “corn on the cob” covered in mayonnaise, lemon juice, chili powder and cheese; the best!  Like a warrior going into battle, I jumped right in and started to use the Spanish I learned. And by the end, I had a new friend, exactly what I wanted and the biggest smile ever. I won! I got my point across in Spanish and was on my way to mixing with the locals.

One of my favorite memories when I was at the school was when I participated in a cooking class making a traditional dish of chicken wrapped in a banana leaf. One of the best meals I had during my visit! Everybody studying Spanish joined in and the teachers guided us through the process filling and wrapping those culinary delights.  Afterwards, we got to taste what we created and share a meal; both students and teachers as one family! If you choose to study at Jabel Tinamit, I recommend staying with a host family. It can be a very amazing experience, as well an opportunity to continue working on you Spanish after classes. My family welcomed me into their home and made sure that I was taken care of and add to that the food was amazing!! So many great memories….

And my Spanish language journey did not end there; I still study Spanish weekly via the internet with my teacher Luis who is equally patient and supportive!

Visit Jabel Tinamit and experience Lake Atitlan here…