My Spanish lessons started a few weeks ago. Dean’s company provides 80 hours of one-on-one lessons for me. The teacher is very good. She’s smart, funny, follows Panama politics and is willing to explain so many things. She comes Mondays and Wednesdays for two hours each visit.

My teacher thought I was a bit brilliant when by lesson two I could count to one hundred, tell time and recite the alphabet, the days of the week and the months. I had to admit to my three years of high school Spanish (more than half my life ago) and a memory that was slowly but surely kicking in. I can even conjugate a few verbs (did you have the book “501 Spanish Verbs”? I did.).

I’ve learned a lot in the few weeks I’ve been officially studying the language. I’ve even used it! I get a high-five from my teacher every time I tell her when I’ve correctly and successfully communicated in Spanish. The key was learning the phrase, “Habla despacio, por favor.” Speak slowly please.

The minute I admit that I am studying Spanish and need to practice, the world becomes my teacher. The fumigator (did I tell you they found termites along the back wall? It’s not all monkeys and iguanas living next to the rain forest.) was glad to discuss birds, nests, porch lights and the accompanying vocabulary when he discovered I was willing to learn his language.

And for a word nut like myself, there’s a lot of joy in studying words, Spanish words, English words, their bases, their common ground and their differences among Spanish-speaking countries. It’s an exciting to explore the differences between learning a language to pass a test in a classroom and learning an active, living language specific to the country you are living in.

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