Attending Spanish Language School in Mexico's Playa del Carmen

Seniors on the Move: Spanish Language School for the Single Female 
When I chose to become single again at age 54, I also chose to live my life to the fullest and decided to publicize the fact that I was a Baby Bloomer (only beginning to blossom).  I had just returned to full time teaching in a diverse, though largely Mexican, community in southern California.

I was itching to...spread my wings and go off on my own for the first time in thirty years. It only seemed logical to combine my vacation with education so I researched total immersion opportunities in several Spanish speaking countries. I excitedly decided on Playa Lingua Del Caribe in Playa del Carmen Mexico.

Thirty minutes from Cancun, it was the perfect destination! For all those single seniors out there, language schools are the most affordable, safe and "unlonely" places to visit. Playa Lingua is a quaint Mexican structure within a gated campus two blocks from the beach and one block from 5th Avenue, the shopping Mecca of Playa del Carmen. Single rooms with shared bath are less than $200/week. If you have a buddy, double rooms have their own bathrooms. The courtyard has a small pool, lush tropical landscaping and several hammocks.

Every morning a typical Mexican breakfast of juice, coffee and fruit is served family style. Special orders are taken for eggs and meats. I took Spanish language classes each morning from 9-12, again for about $200/week. Afternoons were mine and the friends I met at breakfast had several options planned. I chose to do several adventure tours that included snorkeling, kayaking, four wheel jeep rides to Mayan communities, bus tours to the pyramids, ruins and churches and swimming with the dolphins. I spent hours on the beach and enjoyed the nightlife of 5th Avenue. I felt very safe. I practiced my limited Spanish on the vendors and merchants. I got to know the bartender at the closest open-air restaurant and bar. I walked daily to the beach and shopping areas alone. They called me “Miss Cali-for-nia”.

I may have gotten a little cocky in my sense of independence and one night took a bus alone to Morelia, a nearby fishing village. The bus was empty when I boarded; but after one stop every seat was filled with commuting Mexican shoppers, their children, their packages and their chickens. Suddenly the bus stopped and the driver told me “Here”. I asked, “Here?” and a young girl, probably the only English speaker on the bus, told me that, “Yes, this is where I got off for Morelia”. I was to wait in the empty field for a cab that would drive me to the village. OK, I got off and waited. Sure enough, in a short while a taxi came along and asked if I wanted to go to Morelia. Five minutes and $3 later, I arrived at the beach. I walked the small village, looked in shops and dined at Los Pelicanos, a delightful restaurant on the beach that was hosting a small wedding. The owner seemed friendly and sat with me after dinner which was very nice, until he suggested that I stay with him overnight in a beachside hammock. I politely refused and walked back to get a cab back to my empty lot (I thought). Instead, the driver told me that I had to go to the bus station. I arrived just in time to get the last bus back to Playa del Carmen. I decided that I was maybe being a little too carefree and should instead stay on the beaten path. This was quite a few years ago; but all my research says Playa del Carmen is still a very safe tourist destination..  

I spent two weeks at Playa Lingua; but plan to return again and stay for a month. I was never lonely. I had the choice every day to spend the afternoon on my own or join the others from the school. I met families, single adults and young girls from Europe whose families had sent them to Mexico for the entire summer. No one seemed to discriminate against age, gender, or ethnicity. I learned the culture and the language. I wish I had taken the cultural classes offered which included dancing, cooking and arts. It was the least expensive and most rewarding trip I have ever taken and would tell anyone struggling with traveling alone to try a foreign language school. They are everywhere and are sure to help you blossom.

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Comment by Ed Wetschler on September 12, 2012 at 6:25pm

John, you took one of these courses? I have a feeling you could give these courses. 

Comment by John Lamkin on September 12, 2012 at 1:18pm

Saludos MaryAnn y Ed, I did it in Oaxaca and enjoyed it very much.

Comment by Ed Wetschler on August 29, 2012 at 8:40pm

Que tengas opportunidad de hacerlo, MaryAnn. 

Comment by maryann virack on August 29, 2012 at 5:46pm

Thanks for the comment Ed. Unfortuntely, I have not kept up.Sometimes watch spanish language television and try to translate. I have a background in Latin so many words in the romance languages have the same root.  Ironically, I teach in a very diverse, mostly Mexcican, population and my 8th graders are encouraged to speak English. As I said in the article, I am hoping to return this summer for a longer stay.

Comment by Ed Wetschler on August 29, 2012 at 10:08am

I've done something like this in Spain, so I can tell you enjoyed it. Now that you're back, are you keeping up with Spanish -- maybe reading the newspaper or listening to the radio or something? 

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