Monday, grammar quiz at 9 a.m. Tuesday, third composition due. Wednesday, no classes but excursion to local businesses. Thursday, presentation at 11 a.m. Friday, Mayan language quiz. Saturday, excursion to Chichen Itza. Sunday, siesta!
While skimming through my planner for this week’s assignments and activities, it is easy to remember that I’m not on a 10-week vacation in the tropics. Nearly every night there are worksheets to complete, book passages to read and notes to study, and all of that is after four hours of classes. The work is more draining than difficult, though. A person would absolutely have to love the Spanish language in order to be thinking and speaking it constantly. Good thing I do.
I’m not trying to sound negative. I knew what I signed up for when I accepted the offer to study abroad – cultural immersion is necessary when learning a different language. Although, if it were not for the occasional free weekends and downtime, I would probably feel completely overwhelmed. And I like to think that our Ohio University group down here is one of a kind. Most of us are eager to practice our Spanish on friends and strangers who are usually eager to listen (cab drivers, especially).
Fortunately, this past weekend a group of 15 of us decided to take a break from school and vacation in one of the most popular and beautiful cities in the Yucatan Peninsula – no, not Cancun. Playa del Carmen is a five-hour and 300-peso bus ride from Merida. Its famous Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) has more than enough to offer in terms of shopping and eating, and one can’t ignore the nightlife scene hosted on Calle 12 (12th Street) on the weekends.
My favorite feature of our brief vacation was the ocean. I consider myself to be somewhat of an ocean enthusiast after traveling to many beaches in the U.S. and Mexico, but never had I seen water that clear or sand so white. The most enjoyable part was that you could walk into the ocean for yards while the water never passed your hipbones because it was so shallow. It was incredible.
And I’m sure we were a sight to see, all 15 of us, Americans, lined up along the water’s edge enjoying the ridiculously hot sun and cool breeze. Considering it was the last weekend in January, there were a good number of people there but it was far from crowded. I then had to consider myself lucky for being able to take advantage of such a random and relaxing weekend.
During the bus ride home, however, it was back to studying and preparing for next week’s assignments. As I mentioned before, we are learning a bit of the Mayan language in my Yucatan culture course and will have our first exam soon. We have covered just the basics – I know how to count to 10 and match colors with a few animals. For example, one black dog is “juntúul boox peek.” As far as pronunciation goes, I won’t doubt that YouTube has a Mayan tutorial somewhere in its archives.
My ultimate learning experience from this past weekend is that life’s little pleasures always outweigh the pressures. School and work are necessary but just as necessary as spending free time with friends or making sporadic and spontaneous trips to the beach. Although, some things are easier said than done.