I wish I could find the scientific study that I read once, that stated that time seems to pass more slowly if you are doing the same thing all of the time. Which is why, when we’re at home and in a proper routine, the term seems to go in a flash, and yet we’ve travelled round ten countries in the same space of time and seem to have been away for ages.
That same study probably explains why the last three weeks have gone so quickly. We’ve made our home in San Cristobal at Casa Berta – the sweet house we’re renting on the hilly side of town. The children now go to school every day (well, they’ve just broken up for Christmas, but up until the 18th they were there Monday to Friday), while Paul goes in with them to help with the translation. I stay at home, work and have Spanish lessons.
With a routine back in place, time has really flown, but within all of the routine there have been some things to report.
1) An earthquake
At 6.6 on the Richter Scale, Wikipedia informs me that “everyone” should have felt this week’s earthquake in Chiapas. Everyone, that is, except Clover, who informs me she didn’t notice a thing. Readers, I am ashamed to admit that I was asleep when it happened (had just finished a feature and had got up early to do so, in my meagre defence for napping at 1pm) – and was in enough of a stupor to blame the builders next door for the rattling glass windows and the fact that the tiled floor was moving around like a snake. By the time Paul and I had worked out what was going on, the ‘temblor’ (as they call them here), was pretty much finished.
Daisy’s account, from school, is that she was planting things in the soil and then it started shaking and everything fell off the soil and they all had to sit on the floor. Then everyone was screaming “un temblor”. Clearly that’s a word she’s not going to forget in a hurry. All a bit too exciting, but nothing damaged except the local post office (St Cristobal is very low rise and fairly earthquake proof), and it’s a good story to tell. Wouldn’t want to be in a stronger one though.
2) Settling in at school
Perhaps it is unsurprising that life at the Semillas de Luz Colectivo, San Cristobal, is very different to life at Dalmain Primary School SE23. There’s a lot more sitting round a candle and talking about your feelings, to the accompaniment of music that would be more at home in a patchouli-scented massage parlour for a start.
Then there’s the aerial dance rope – can’t see British health and safety allowing that, especially when it’s hung over a foam mat only a couple of centimetres thick. All the children like to do crazy somersaults from this, having twisted themselves up to near the ceiling before spinning down. Clover has made herself feel sick several times by spinning too much. Such is the commitment to aerial gymnastics that the girls are insisting on taking classes twice a week, and can already hang upside down with the rest of them.
Then there’s the yoga, which Daisy says is ‘just waving your legs about Mum,’ even though the teacher says she has a ‘natural gift’. She likes the lion pose because you get to roar a lot. Other classes include permaculture (a grand name for watering the plants) and English (doing OK with that one…) while Clover spends most of her time stroking school cat Bigotes – whose name means whiskers, or moustache or croissant, depending on your point of view.
But are they learning anything, I hear you ask? Yes, Spanish in the main. They’re already putting together words and starting to try sentences (though the verbs are mostly missing at this point). I’m awed by this – I think they’ll be better than me very soon. Also so impressed that they are willing to get out and about with their new friends – going to lots of parties just as they would in the UK. Unfortunately they then have to come home and keep up with the UK curriculum – but you can’t have everything.
3) Seeing old friends and making new ones
It’s been great to catch up with the friends we’ve made in San Cristobal, so we’ve already been to birthday parties, and had people round for dinner and tea. The girls have enjoyed hanging out with Itamar and Pablo – our godson and his sister. Although they struggle to communicate in words, they still play beautifully. The international language of Lego and rough and tumble seem to work just fine.
San Cristobal always seems to welcome wanderers home with open arms so it is easy to slot back in to life here. Even my old Spanish teacher has been willing to have me back (and has been very polite about how much I’ve forgotten) so I’m working hard on convincing him I do know what I’m doing. Reggie remains a hard taskmaster, with his interest in international economics ensuring that my mind works hard on both language AND content (we moved swiftly in the first lesson from the typical ‘describe your daily routine’ to ‘what will happen now China has joined the IMF’).
New things we’re trying include a particularly crazy form of Pilates, run by a woman who seems determined that we all need to be able to get our legs behind our heads. It certainly increases my vocabulary as I try to listen to her explaining how to contort myself into various ridiculous shapes. However, I worry that she thinks I only know one phrase: ‘no puedo’ – I can’t do it.
4) Just getting on with it
Routine is bliss when you haven’t had it for a while. Making breakfast? So exciting! Working in the sunshine and nipping upstairs for a cup of tea and a view of the mountains? Sublime. Cooking chocolate chip cookies with the children? A massive treat. We’re trying to make the most of it all. Especially since over Christmas we’re on the road again – down to Guatemala while our landlord rents out our house to someone with far deeper pockets than us. We’ve had an earthquake – it must be time for a festive volcano now?