One of our goals (well, more Steve's goal than Kay's) when we returned to Mexico for the 2006-2007 season was to improve our ability to speak and understand Spanish. From among a handful of alternatives we selected the Spanish Experience Center based on our own internet research plus that of one of our fellow ex-pats who had attended other schools and was looking for something better.
This is the central open-air court of the three-story school building. Kay speaks with one of the other students at the foot of the stairs during a 5-minute break between classes.
Gaila, one of the two resident Labrador Retrievers, lounges on the cool tile floor near the entrance to one of the classrooms.
Here's one of Steve's instructors, Daniela. The classes are small, usually just two to four students per class, sometimes only one. There are six levels for the Basic Spanish program and at times there may be only one student at a given level.
There are also classes at the Intermediate and Advanced level as well as one-on-one conversation workshops.
Like many of the instructors, Daniela does not speak English, or at least not fluently (she does speak French, however). The classes are taught, with few exceptions, in 100% Spanish. Thus, when you sit down for class, your concentration has to be totally focused on understanding where the instructor is going.
Jaime was one of Kay's instructors. He and his wife Janeta have become personal friends. Jaime moonlights as singing guitar player at restaurants in Bucerias where he lives. I guess you could say he's a "moonlight serenader." He has a university degree, like Daniela, for teaching Spanish as a second language.
Steve helps Jaime learn the English lyrics to songs popular with the tourists he entertains. Jaime has tried to teach Steve some songs in Spanish without a great deal of success. The problem is not Jaime's teaching ability.
Lorena, the Receptionist (capital R signifying that she is more than just the receptionist) is often the first contact for new students. Consequently, she speaks fluent English.
We soon discovered that she not only had lived in the States but that we had almost been neighbors. She spent a few years living on a farm near Enumclaw, Washington, which is only an hour's drive from our home in Gig Harbor.
Lorena recently left the school to start her own business, a new bed and breakfast called Casa de Los Monos (House of the Monkeys) in the small village of Nogalito on the south shore of Banderas Bay. We wish her success and will miss her at the school.
The school also offers cooking classes every Friday, giving students the opportunity to add some traditional Mexican recipes to their repertoire. Sarai (in foreground) doubles as an instructor and as the head chef. Here, with the aid of Adriana, they teach a group of us how to make Chile Rellenos, one of the more difficult and time-consuming, yet very popular Mexican dishes.
Below on the left is the finished product, a nice big Poblano Chile Relleno with rice. One of the benefits of the cooking class is getting to eat the final result!
On the right are some of the students, including Kay and to her left, our friend Gail Learned, who while not being a regular language student, occasionally comes for the cooking classes, and to Gail's left is Daniel, one of the school's senior instructors and one of the few fluent in English. Daniel is currently in Switzerland on a scholarship grant studying German. If you're coming to PV and would like to learn or improve your Spanish, check out the Spanish Experience Center.