Cafe Lessons, Sunny Days, and Stevie Wonder at Ixchel Spanish School, Antigua Guatemala

Mick, Enjoying a laugh with Mariza, the greatest cook in Guatemala.

It was a Tuesday morning and Carmen and I had decided that today, the hard wooden seats of the Ixchel Spanish School just wouldn’t do for our delicate derrieres.  I had been studying hard all week and we decided that we deserved a treat, and what better way to indulge than by visiting one of Antigua’s famous cafes on a beautiful April day.

We headed to Cafe Condessa, sat down in the courtyard, and started playing an entertaining card-based memory game that took me back to my primary school days. As I munched down on my huevos, frijoles and tortillas I realized that I had been in Antigua for a couple of weeks and it was starting to feel more and more like somewhere I could live.  It’s very different from most cities in Guatemala or most of Central America. The town is full of expats: people who came to visit, never left because of the easy vibe, sunshine, cafe culture and countless other reasons.

Carmen is my Spanish teacher and she’s a feisty 5’3’’ Guatemalteca who is impossible not to adore because she’s friendly, loud, extroverted and loves to travel. She’s the first Guatemalan I met who has been all over Europe and this helped our conversation flow naturally.  We sat in the sun discussing Spanish public transport, French pastries, and coffee shops in Amsterdam.  We spent the previous two weeks getting to know one another as well and she improved my Spanish greatly.

Among the 80-odd Spanish schools in Antigua, Ixchel is well known, medium-sized, and has a good history of accreditation.  They have flexible classes that are open to be adapted to the student’s needs and desires.  During your lessons you can wander around Antigua, discover one of the famous landmarks around the city, or simply talk to your profesora while sitting in one of Antigua’s famous coffee shops. There is plenty to do.  School stops being a boring hard task and becomes a fun way to spend your morning.

The school itself is located centrally, 3 blocks from the central park and dangerously close to some of the best bars in Antigua.  It’s far too easy to finish school and wander around the cobblestone streets of Antigua before retiring to any of the local terrace bars to watch the sunset. You tell stories with classmates, you laugh, and before you know it, it’s midnight and you have to be up in 7 hours for school.  Such is life in Antigua.

Every Spanish school is only as good as its teachers and I’m glad to say, after getting to know most of the teachers at Ixhel, they are a very friendly bunch. One evening I cooked my famous (now, world famous!) Spaghetti Bolognese and thought it would be a week’s worth of dinners for myself.  But then all of the teachers arrived and, before I knew it, I was hosting an impromptu dinner party.  There was wine, beer, Spanish conversation, plenty of laughter and everyone made me feel very much at home. I provided Spag Bol and music, and they brought the family atmosphere.

When I found out that most of the people at the table had never listened to Stevie Wonder I remembered what it was like the first time I heard the album, Songs in the key of Life. I play a couple tracks for them and it was a magical moment.  If you go to Antigua, I highly recommend studying Spanish at Ixchel. Hopefully you will get to know Maria, Alvaro, Mariza and all the other wonderful teachers.  They will all do their best to make you feel at home.  You can stay on-site at one of the 2 rooms at the school. Both are extremely comfortable and the school provides everything you will need.

I’d recommend Ixchel Spanish School to anyone who wants to visit Antigua and have a friendly, close knit family atmosphere while learning Spanish.  You can get more information by checking out their website or emailing at  info@ixchelschool.com.

 

Mick Burton

About Mick Burton

Mick is an Aussie raconteur, a potato faced urchin who travels the world, getting himself into dangerous situations and making bad decisions whenever possible.