When I first moved my children to the historically-rich and charming city of Antigua, Guatemala, I decided that they were best served by learning all they could on their own at first. We took our time wandering along the cobblestone streets, listening to the sounds of Guatemala. We heard people speaking in Spanish, which is expected here, and also heard several dialects of Mayan from the many indigenous people selling beautiful handicrafts along the main tourist streets. We also met people from Germany, Belgium, Italy, Lebanon, Israel, Switzerland, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica and the good ol’ USA.
I discovered an amazing school for Theater, Art and Music called Cesar Brañas. The classes are really inexpensive, only 20 Quetzales per class per month ($3.00 USD). My children opted to take Tae Bo, Guitar and Piano lessons. The song book for Piano is in English and one of the Guitar teachers speaks English also. When the children are proficient in their subject, they can perform onstage in front of an audience. Find Cesar Brañas here: https://www.facebook.com/escueladarteag .After a while, I wanted to engage my children more, to expand their interests through classes. We asked around and questioned many local Spanish schools about pricing. Antigua is a pretty expensive city compared to the rest of Guatemala and most schools will charge roughly $5.00 to $10.00 an hour for Spanish instruction. While this is not a bad price if you are a single person, it was really out of my league as a single mom of two kids. Instead, I was extremely lucky to find a private Spanish teacher who was willing to come over and teach my kids for 2 hours per night, 4 nights per week, and she charges me only 20 Quetzales per night, which is roughly $1.50 per hour. She was willing to include me also in this price!
There is a wonderful children’s after school-type program for locals (and gringos who live here are considered locals). This program is called Kid’s Restaurant and is geared towards teaching any child who wishes to learn the entire process of running a restaurant as a business. They are trained to cook food from all around the world (last month they served Arabic f
ood and the month before that was delicious Italian food), how to serve the food and wait tables, how to present a gourmet dessert, how to interact with customers, and so on. In addition to the main feature of training kids for future restaurant ownership, they also teach English to Spanish-speaking locals, dance lessons, art, music and they even have games and a swimming pool. The kids can choose their own activities during their free time. The hours for this program are 2-6pm Monday through Thursday and it is absolutely free for locals. Two times per month the children get to test out what they have learned and literally run a restaurant for 15-20 very lucky adults who pay an average of $15 USD for this amazing privilege. A luxury shuttle picks you up downtown, in front of Central Park, and drives you the lovely 20 minute drive to the countryside where you are greeted by a dozen adorable chefs who seat you, practice their finest English on you and serve you a three course meal. All of the profits go to pay for cleft palate operations for babies and children born with birth defects. The entire adult staff are volunteers with big hearts. They moved here from mostly Europe and North America and found this organization and environment extremely rewarding as a volunteer option. Find Kid’s Restaurant here: http://www.kidsrestaurant.org/ . Moving your children to another country is an education in itself. But through a little effort and asking around, you should be able to find inexpensive and enriching classes for kids in almost any city. Taking classes will not only help your children engage with locals and make some friends, but will give them a chance to practice their new language in a fun and relaxed setting.
Alanna Fox Starks, C.Ht., D.D. is a writer and creator, Executive Producer and radio talk show host of the internationally-appealing show “Metaphysical Soul Speak”, heard Sundays and Wednesdays at http://SoulSpeakRadio.com, as a part of the greater Amazing Women of Power all positive programming radio network, found at http://AWOPTalk247.com. Her blog can be read at http://MermaidMoney.com and her first book, ‘Memories of Me’, is expected to be published later this year.