By Sandy Williams
A group of 20 students, including 14 from Western Albemarle High School, along with 5 adults, headed to Quetzeltenango, Guatemala in June for a three-week Spanish immersion program. Carrie Mersch, a teacher at Henley Middle School, guided the group.
They lived with families in Quetxaltengo, also known by its Mayan name, Xela, and took five hours of classes every afternoon at Casa Xela. Mornings were filled with cultural activities and volunteer projects. They toured the city, learned about back-strap weaving, visited schools, took Salsa lessons, and helped with native chocolate production and cooking local cuisine. The Natural History museum in Xela also holds the country’s historic Marimba Museum. The group also hiked into the dormant volcano of Chicobal to the edge of the lake inside.
One weekend they flew to the state of Petan to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal and tour that ancient city with professional guides.
Students took the Albemarle County Spanish exam upon returning home and those who pass will receive a full year of Spanish credit. Spanish immersion not only included the classwork, but mealtime with their families, buying items at the markets and ice cream stores. The students came back loaded with Guatemalan textiles, wooden masks, chocolate, and also loaded with stories, new friendships, new experiences and many wonderful memories.