Where the streets have no name

20 01 2008

Posted by: Laura 

If you´ve never played the board game Taboo, the rules go like this: a player draws a card with a word written at the top.  The object is to try to get the people on your team to guess the word.  The trick is there is a list of words that you´re not allowed to say.  For example, the word to guess might be “baseball,” but you can´t say “sport,” “game,” “pastime,” “hitter,” “pitcher,” or “baseball.” I played this game over Thanksgiving break with Alissa, John Michael, Katherine, Jody, and Andrew. People got extremely frustrated when their teammates couldn´t guess the correct word. This resulted in my brother and Chris´sister yelling at each other and asking if the person was an idiot.

Learning another language is a lot like this game. The object is to try and get your team (other people who speak Spanish) to guess what you´re trying to say. The trick is that most of the time you don´t know how to translate the exact word you want to say so you have to use a lot of other descriptive words.  For example if you don´t know how to tell someone that “We often make fun of each other” when you´re making fun of your boyfriend for being obsessed with football, you say “I laugh at the silly things he does and he laughs at me sometimes.” The other person generally understands what you´re trying to say. In that case, you win. However, if you want to ask the store clerk where to “try on” some pants and you use the same word that you use to ask the ice cream store if you can ¨try¨ a sample of ice cream, you get a blank look from the clothes store. That´s when you lose.  Overall, I´m batting about .500 right now, but it gets better every day. 

Numerous restaurants, bars, shops with local textiles, and cafes (with amazing Guatemalan coffee) make Antigua the perfect place to learn a language.  The locals we have talked to have patiently waited for us to construct sentences in Spanish and even helped by correcting our grammar.  The town used to be the capitol of Guatemala until an earthquake in the late 1700´s.  The government decided to move the capitol to a safer location (about an hour away) to present day Guatemala City.  Some of the churches are still in ruins. A massive volcano sits beside the city.  We have felt three tremors since we have been staying here. The cobblestone streets add a colonial element to the town, but are desperately in need of repair.  (I have almost twisted my ankle on more than one occasion).  My Spanish teacher informed me that the government gave the city money to repair the streets, but it ended up in the pockets of city officials.

It has been very comfortable staying in the same place for the past three weeks. I don´t have to walk around the city with a map anymore (which is impressive for me as many of you know).  The city of Antigua is laid out in a grid. Calles (streets) run east-west and aviendas (avenues) run north-south. All of the streets are named 1st, 2nd, 3rd… However, this is where it gets tricky. None of the streets actually have street names. I´m not joking.  Very few of the streets are actually marked. So you have to find some landmark like a park or cathedral and actually count the streets as you walk so you know where you are.  We have one more week of classes until we head off to check out the rest of Central America.



4 responses

22 01 2008
mary and lance

Glad you are doing so well.
Wait till you get to China where the street numbers are not in
the order we are used to but are in accordance with which
building was built first, second third etc. I think the streets did
have names though.
Thanks for keeping us up on your adventure.

24 01 2008

wo! taboo is interesting, I didn’t know about it .
It must be rather difficult to find streets in “the city of Antigua” Id get lost immediately jjajajaj im used to living in Santiago, and in here that is so different!
I like the way you write! OK im leaving, bye!!!!!!!!!!!

26 01 2008
Ana Lucia

Hi there, my name is Ana Lucia, I am a Legal Translator from Guatemala City and I am just amazed at everything you’ve gone through, I don’t know if you’re still in Antigua, but if you are I would love to meet you guys, and kudos to you for this amazing experience!!!

23 02 2008
Sarah Rivlin

Yowser! You guys are becoming celebrities! Hooray!

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