Si, yo hablo Español - My search to find a great school to learn Spanish is over.

Frustrated, that’s how I felt. And slightly desperate. I had been traveling through Argentina and Chile for 2 months and had finally made it to Chile’s capital Santiago. I cannot say how much I fell in love with that city, instantly. Love at first sight. But today, in a small supermarket just around the corner from my guesthouse, I was feeling frustrated and desperate. The cashier who was scanning my groceries tried to have a bit of small talk with me, like most cashiers do here in South America. She was all smiles and bubbly and sweet. But I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. All I could stumble was “No entiendo”, which pretty much means, “Sorry, I’m an idiot, I really just do not get what you’re saying, at all”. I felt desperate because I just couldn’t understand the easiest of conversation in Spanish. And I was frustrated, because I couldn’t answer her questions. All I wanted was to just chit chat for a few minutes with her and be all happy about our little interaction.

There, in that little mercado in Santiago, I decided I needed to take Spanish classes, sooner more than later. When traveling through Argentina the months before I was hoping that my little knowledge of French would help me to pick up Spanish quickly and with no effort. Well, to be honest, that happened only just a little bit. A French girl at my guesthouse told me she took classes with a school in Cusco, Peru called Fair Services and she was really pleased with what she learned in the 2 weeks she was with them. Learning words and some grammar in the morning and lots of talking in the afternoon, that was pretty much the set-up. I liked that idea, because I heard from other travelers who took Spanish classes in South America that they didn’t really learn a lot. Lots of focus on past and future tenses, supported with old and copied ‘books’ from other schools (or no books at all), sitting in a class room with 10 other people… And after 2 weeks you can’t even ask what the price of a melon is or where the bus station is? I didn’t want that. 

I wanted to be able to talk. Even if each sentence I say is full of grammatical mistakes. I just want to be able to respond to that bubbly cashier in the supermarket.

And that’s where I’m at right now. I know quite a few Spanish words, I can say the most basic of sentences and generally feel more comfortable in my little talks with cashiers, bus drivers, restaurant owners and street food vendors. And that’s all thanks to my teacher Alicia and 8 hours of private Spanish classes together. The fact that Alicia is based in Cusco and I am currently, well, all over the place, is no issue whatsoever, because Alicia and I use the wonders of Skype! No matter where I am in this world, as long as I have an internet connection, I will have Alicia by my side. I love this, because I don’t want to spend 2 or 4 weeks in the same place, just to learn a language. 

Besides the fact that this school offers skype classes (I haven’t heard about any other Spanish school who offers this), the story behind this organisation is what makes it even more worthwhile to take classes with them. Fair Services mainly employs single moms and turns them into Spanish teachers during a 9 months (9!) training program. Single moms in Peru are outcasts of the society and simply have no way to build a future for themselves and their children. Pushed out of their families with no chances to find a job, these moms just disappear in the cracks of poverty. Fair Services picks them back up and helps them to recreate their future and to find back their self-esteem. This mission touches me in my heart and soul and I feel really honored that, as a student of this school, I can contribute to such a great cause.

Want to know more about Fair Services? Here’s their website:

Besides running Spanish classes (in their school in Cusco and via Skype), they also have a volunteering & homestay program for students and volunteers (where you stay with a family and really get to know something about Peruvian family life), an afterschool project for 30 poor children called WAAW and a vegetable garden to provide healthy food and education to the poorest in Cusco. 

This week I’m in Cusco and I got invited by John, the founder of Fair Services, to join their cooking class, which is something they have every Tuesday nights, for all volunteers and students of the school. Excellent way to socialize with students, teachers and volunteers, over some amazing Peruvian food and a cold local beer!

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