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Published: August 25th 2007
I've decided to stay here for only two weeks. I'm enjoying my host family, even though our communication is mostly done through Charades, but I'm not enjoying my Spanish lessons and the creepy local men are giving me the shits.
Today my teacher, Clara, barked at me for repeating the question out loud in English so I could translate it in my head. I still had no idea what it said. But when Paula and Amelia talk between themselves in Swedish, it's fine. Some people may be able to learn through total immersion, but I'm obviously not one of them. I need to ask questions in English to understand what I'm trying to say in Spanish. These lessons are like the ones Libby and I took in 2002 where the teacher spoke no English so we had no idea what she was trying to teach us. The same is happening here. She sprouts off some Spanish then looks at me for an answer. How can I do that when I don't know what she's saying to begin with? I told Ramon of my issue with Clara not allowing me to talk out loud in English and he said he'd say something to her but she mustn't have understood. At the end of today's lesson she told us to study then looked at me and said it three times. Last night I didn't go to Carnival because I was studying so she can bite my arse.
I'm starting to realise the course I booked was overpriced. I paid $2,500 for four weeks of Spanish and dance lessons. I have since found out that dance lessons only cost $5 per lesson and I paid $300 for lessons that should have cost me $100. The language company I booked the course through is UK based so I'd be curious to know how much of my money is going to their 'admin fees'. Had I known I could book the dance lessons directly through the teachers once I got here, I would've given the money directly to the dance teacher. God knows how much of my money is actually going to my host family and to my Spanish teacher. The UK company also didn't tell me what to bring for my course. It turns out we need a Spanish-English dictionary but I didn't bring one because I wasn't told to and also because of the price of the course, I thought they'd have the things we needed here, especially since they told me the lessons would be held at a Spanish college (instead we're in someone's lounge room). So if I leave after two weeks I will have lost $1300 but I'm really not enjoying it so I don't see the point in staying here.
So that leaves two weekends to see the things I want to see such as Sierra Maestra so I can swim in the river and a tour of Santiago de Cuba's main sites. I'll do those on the following two Saturday's and then I'll spend the Sunday's at the Hotel Santiago swimming pool. Non-hotel guests can use it for CUC10 and considering there are no beaches around here to cool off, this is the next best thing. I've since learned that scuba diving is a distance from Santiago de Cuba so it looks like my plans of diving wrecks off Cuba is no more. A few of us students made the same mistake of thinking that because Santiago is on the coast that it must have beaches close by. Disappointing.
Tonight I met up with Amelia, Paula and Katrin at 9pm to attend Carnival. Like any Carnival, it was too crowded, running late and too bloody hot to be standing around. We were standing at the end of the parade route and after standing in the crowd for two hours, we left after seeing four floats pass by. The Cuban guy Amelia picked up the night before met up with us and brought a mate. The guys spoke no English and Amelia and Paula were a little reserved and didn't talk much so I attempted my limited Spanish on the guys. They appreciated it and laughed at my simple and silly questions. Of course we got stuck paying for the guy's drinks. This appears to be the accepted norm. Glad I'm not straight if that's the case, this trip has cost me enough already. Katrin and I left the others at Palamares Bar around the corner from my place at 2am. Katrin is my age and from Austria. She has studied Spanish for a few years and has enroled in this course to practice her speaking. She's normal (ie. not on heat like the other girls) and we get along really well.
We were warned not to buy beer from the street markets during Carnival because it's poured from large tubs and there is a chance of getting sick from bacteria. The locals walk around with 1/2L plastic cups and drink beer all day. You can buy the 1/2L plastic cups but I'm yet to see a foreigner with one. 1L bottles of vodka only costs CUC2.70. It's a brand I don' t know but I'll give it a try.
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