Her name was Lili de Leon. Lili was one of the most experienced Spanish teachers at Casa Xelaju, having taught there since its opening over twenty five years ago. She was assigned to be my individual teacher for my entire week at Casa Xelaju, all for the meager cost of $190 (which also included room and board at my home stay).
When I first met her, I was a little taken aback. She did not at all look like what I had envisioned her in my head the night before. Instead of dark, thick black hair Lili’s hair was almost as blond as mine which was a rarity in Guatemala. Her shoulder-length hair was neatly combed back in complete perfection despite the windy conditions, and her wonderfully tailored coat and slacks made me feel like a total slob in my $5 Target t-shirt, washed out jeans and sneakers. She greeted me with a warm, enthusiastic smile and I instantly knew that I’d like her. Usually I have a good intuition on people and normally I am proved right.
We headed up to the third floor of Casa Xelaju, a beautiful, spacious building that not only hosts several individual teaching rooms but also offers fully furnished, clean apartments for rent at insanely cheap deals (a fully furnished, two bedroom apartment with kitchen and bathroom ran about $150 for two weeks). It was a quite week at the school as there were only about four students at the moment. At the height of high season, they can have dozens or more.
We entered Lili’s classroom on the third floor and I was very pleased to see it was beautifully decorated, full of lively colors and pictures, and best of all, had an enormous window looking out over the next door neighbor’s chicken coop one direction and a fantastic view of the city in the other direction. It was facing east which meant the morning sun would rise and light up the room with brilliant sunshine each day. I knew it would be the perfect place for me to crack open the books and start learning Spanish.
Photo above of Lili’s classroom which screamed happiness.
View outside the window overlooking the neighbors backyard and chickens. I could hear them cock-a-doo-dle-doo all day long!