Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.
Finding the right program abroad can prove to be a daunting task. I searched countless hours on the Internet but after the trip to Honduras I realized my mistake. I was searching for volunteer opportunities not spanish language schools. Little did I know that almost every language school offers volunteer opportunities alongside their program. Had I searched under spanish schools, I would have found lots of options. In retrospect, everything worked out more than fine. It just took me a roundabout way to find my school, Centro Internacional de Idiomas. Next time, I’ll know the back way in and do it differently.
Centro Internacional de Idiomas (CII) is a Spanish Language Immersion School located in the beautiful upscale Toronjal barrio of La Ceiba, in which students are taught one-on-one by a certified Spanish Language teacher for four hours per day. The school began in 1992 and is located in a lovely single-family home with a wonderful outdoor courtyard full of tropical flowers and plants. The teachers are all college graduates and are friendly, bilingual and excellent instructors.
The first morning of class, I arose at half past six, had two large glasses of “mi gasolina” (Honduran coffee) and a delightful home-cooked breakfast of baleadas from Gloria, at my host family. I was happy that the coffee was strong. I needed it!
Here is Gloria preparing the tortillas from scratch to make the baleadas. The baleada is one of the most common street foods in Honduras. The basic style is made of a flour tortilla which is folded and filled with refried beans, quesillo or cheese and sour cream. I adored them, especially with hot sauce!
After breakfast, it was time for school. Centro Internacional de Idiomas is located in the center of town about a ten minute drive from Gloria’s house. Every morning Gloria drove me to school and picked me up in the afternoons. Along the way, we passed buses, old cars and families on motorcycles on their morning crawl to work.
Classes started promptly at 8, however, since I’d be volunteering at a local daycare center I did my coursework after lunch from 1-5 and spent the mornings with the children. I would have preferred doing my classes in the morning when I’m fresh and it is cooler outside as I had a hard time staying awake some afternoons. But it was best to do my volunteer work in the morning so it didn’t interfere with the children’s afternoon nap.
The school is located in the beautiful Toronjal neighborhood which is one of the nicest barrios in La Ceiba. It is where the 1% live, the few that have managed to climb above the rest of most Hondurans in a country in which 80% live in poverty.
We pulled up to the school and I was pleasantly surprised. The school was built inside a beautiful home surrounded by a delightful garden filled with tropical plants. The best part of all was the outdoor terrace where I preferred to have my classes each day (unless it was raining making the notorious blood-sucking mosquitos appear and bite the heck out of my legs).
I was amazed at how challenging the classes were and how much I learned. Four hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons can be grueling. After awhile my head simply began to hurt as it was getting too mixed up with information. I was thinking in three languages half the time given my years of French and I often found myself throwing French words and verbs into my sentences. But fortunately I had a very patient teacher who laughed along with my mistakes and moved me forward.
By the end of the week, I could already see my improvement. I had moved up the language scale and was actually able to communicate. However, the more I learned the more I realized I didn’t know which can be quite frustrating. As I discovered with French, language learning takes a very long time and it is best to learn immersion-style inside a native speaking country. In the case of Spanish, I’ll just have to go back to another Spanish speaking country! (Shhh…Don’t tell my husband yet!