My Life In Antigua

by Brenna Holeman
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Antigua, Guatemala

I’ve spent the last week living completely differently than I have in years – I’m focused on school, and on studying. Surrounding me now on this table in this little coffeeshop off the main square of Antigua are multi-coloured flashcards, notebooks, textbooks, and a Spanish dictionary; it feels good to once again throw myself into learning, to want to push myself and want to improve.

Every morning I spend four hours talking with my teacher, learning new verbs and vocabulary, but mostly just chatting. We speak only in Spanish, though I had never studied the language before this Monday; a knowledge of French, some late nights watching Mexican novelas, and a bit of travelling in Spanish-speaking regions seem to be helping more than I thought they would. After class, I eat lunch with my homestay family: green beans and rice, spicy chicken soup with limes, cold potatoes and fried eggs. “Si, a mi me gustan las cebollas.” “Mas jugo, por favor.” “Mi hermano es alto y chistoso.” Our conversations are stilted and amateur, but they are all in Spanish, and I couldn’t have done that a mere few days ago. When we have finished lunch and the dishes are done, I spend my afternoons doing homework, teaching myself new words, and attempting to get some online writing done; around 4pm every day I meet up with Meera, a fellow student, for coffee, and we laugh about our mistakes in Spanish and plan our upcoming trip to Honduras. We scour the local market, testing each other on whatever we can: fruits and vegetables, clothing, toys, animals.

Four days ago I felt uncertain about my future in Antigua, and yet here I sit, feeling content, feeling fulfilled – proof that, as I predicted, one never knows what’s around the corner. It’s also proof that one should never blog hungry, sick, tired, hungover, or heartbroken (and especially if one is all of these things at once…ahem.)  In four days time I have made a wonderful new friend, learned more Spanish than I thought possible, and fallen in love with Antigua all over again (or perhaps for the first time). And so for all of the hardships of travel, for all the times when I feel alone or confused or just simply, inexplicably bad, this is why I keep on going, year after year, country after country. I will never give up, I will never stop travelling.

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kay* May 25, 2012 - 3:07 am

brenna you have such a way with words. i absolutely adore you posts…your insights and you way of seeing things.

yours is one of the few blogs that, even if there were no pictures, i’d still visit and read along. your words are that good.

you are so talented.

Ruthie May 25, 2012 - 5:55 am

Isn’t it amazing how quickly things can turn around? Although I still think it’s important to show that things aren’t always brilliant all the time. We all have those ups and downs and being able to share those vulnerable moments is important to be able to identify when things start getting better.

Katie @ May 25, 2012 - 12:43 pm

I blame it on the rain. It rained for 7 straight days in Costa Rica and I thought I’d never be happy (or dry) again. But then the sun comes out — it always does — and life resumes as it should.

I’m so glad yours is back on track. 🙂

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 25, 2012 - 1:58 pm

Cheers to falling back in love!!!!! Gorgeous pics!

Curious Kinks May 25, 2012 - 4:27 pm

We are rooting for you! Please don’t stop. Being able to speak the local language sure makes things easier and more fun. Though it might seem amateur, but it makes locals warm up to you and you make more friends that way 🙂
Enjoy your travels

Curious Kinks May 25, 2012 - 4:27 pm

We are rooting for you! Please don’t stop. Being able to speak the local language sure makes things easier and more fun. Though it might seem amateur, but it makes locals warm up to you and you make more friends that way 🙂
Enjoy your travels

Chinye May 25, 2012 - 7:26 pm

Tus palabras son honestas y las crear una imagen hermosa de la vida. (Figured you can also practice your spanish here on your blog too!)

Lovely post Brenna!

This Battered Suitcase May 25, 2012 - 11:26 pm

Kisha – Wow; thank you so much for that. I love to write but I worry that I don’t do nearly enough of it, so your words encourage me to keep going and keep writing. xx

Ruthie – Totally! Travel is not just about having fun; it’s also about learning how to take bad situations and making the most of them…

Katie – The rain certainly didn’t help! I also blame too much alcohol…

Andi – Thank you so much!!

Curious Kinks – I totally agree! I’m trying to use Spanish every day, in any way I can..

Chinye – Muchas gracias! Yo comprendo, pero…um…I don’t think I can respond in Spanish, ha ha. I’ll definitely try my hand at a Spanish post one day!

liveletlive May 26, 2012 - 5:04 am

what a lovely post. the writing was amazing.

This Battered Suitcase May 26, 2012 - 4:13 pm

Liveletlive – Thank you so much!

Emily Housden December 28, 2015 - 3:04 am

I saw you did a homestay in Guatemala! I’m heading to Antigua in a week for a homestay and I don’t know any Spanish! Is there anything you would recommend? Did you buy a gift to say thank you to your host family? Love your blog by the way! x

Jennifer June 28, 2018 - 6:13 pm

I’m currently in Antigua studying Spanish. I’m looking through your Central America stories for inspiration.
I’m amazed by how much I enjoy learning Spanish!
A beautiful city to heal a broken heart.


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