Anyone who has been following my Facebook posts, knows that I’ve been obsessing, sweating over and generally dreading my final project in Spanish class: standing up and making a presentation — completely in Spanish — on a Spanish speaking country. And those of you who have been trying to help me out during the course of the semester by speaking Spanish to me, also know that, while I can conjugate verbs, I can’t really say much of anything beyond: “una cerveza, por favor”. Let’s amend that. At one point, I could conjugate verbs with some accuracy. But that was at the point where I only had to deal with the Present, the Preterito and the Imperfecto. Suddenly, the class took an accelerated turn where every week brought two new tenses. Somewhere around the Subjunctive, the Future and the Conditional, I started moving backward. For every new tense I tried to shoehorn into my brain, I ended up losing one of the earlier ones.
Which brings me to this presentation. I knew I wasn’t going to dazzle anyone with my Spanish, so I figured I’d better pick a country that would let me put together a killer slide show and amaze my audience with facts they didn’t know. Since each of the chapters in the textbook has focussed on a different Spanish speaking country, everyone in the class was already familiar with the usual suspects.
Which brought me to Belize. And forced me to do a sell job on my professor to convince her that Belize is actually a Spanish speaking country. That is considering that English is the official language, what with it being the former British Honduras. Luckily, I found supporting evidence that over 50% of the population has Spanish as a first language. Which is amazing, since Belize is one of the few areas where the Mayans were still living in some of their cities when the Spanish arrived. And that they promptly expelled the Spanish as soon as they rode in. So there aren’t any Spanish colonial cities to be found there, but there is enough migration from neighboring Guatemala and Mexico to keep Spanish a very vital part of the culture.
But the best thing about Belize, for my purposes, is that it was all new information for the class, ensuring some level of interest. And I could use all my photographs from previous visits to wow them with Mayan ruins, underwater shots of the world’s second largest barrier reef and shots from the Belize Zoo of the many tropical animals that live here. I mean, no matter how bad my Spanish is, how can you beat a slide show featuring a Whale Shark, a Jaguar, Manta Rays and turtles?
Well, I bumbled through it somehow — mostly in the Present tense. I even scored a cheap laugh when the guy running the projector advanced too fast and a photo of Blackbeard came up just as I said, “Es mi esposo.”
But the best part of the presentation, besides the fact that it’s now over, is that all my talk of Belize prompted Andy to book another holiday down there. We’re leaving in two weeks — in time for the annual migration of the Whale Sharks. Who we will be diving with if we have any luck. This time, instead of staying in the Maya Highlands at an Eco Camp or in the Cayes, we’ll be further south in Placencia, which is one of the few areas where the usual mangrove swamps give way to sandy beaches. It’s also a center for the Garifuna community, whose music I discovered the last time we were there.
As I said in fractured Spanish during my presentation: Belice. Es un pais pequeño pero uno con grande contraste.
Image filched from About Utila, the official website of the Bay of Honduras. Find it here.