Why I am I going to Guatemala? My reasoning is this:
- I hardly remember any Spanish from my high school days, but the Duke foreign language requirement forces me to take either three semesters of a single language, or one "100-level" (i.e. fifth semester level or higher) course. The latter option will be much easier on my schedule, and Spanish 105, "Spanish for Oral Communication," is the most practical choice of class. Before starting the course, I need to drastically improve my Spanish skills.
- The best way to become proficient in a language is intense immersion combined with ample one-on-one tutoring.
- Guatemala enables me to achieve both at an incredibly low price. The cost per week of both extensive tutoring and living accommodations is no higher than my cost of living in Durham. The real cost of the trip, therefore, is the price of the plane ticket -- which, while not exactly cheap, isn't that much higher than the price of a ticket back home to Oregon.
No doubt someone will claim that by choosing Guatemala for its extraordinarily cheap prices, I am somehow "exploiting" the poverty of the country. This is a good opportunity for me to say that I find such objections ludicrous. Yes, I am paying much less for tutoring than I would in America, or in a comparatively wealthy Spanish-speaking country like Spain or Costa Rica, but I am still paying a much, much higher wage than the typical Guatemalan receives. At market exchange rates, Guatemala's GDP per capita is about $2500, and due to the country's extreme inequality (with a Gini coefficient of 55), the median yearly income is far lower.
While my tutoring experience in Guatemala will be cheap by American standards, it will still provide a large and unambiguous benefit to those receiving the money.
On a more personal note, my internet use will be close to zero over the next few weeks. If I don't reply to your email, it's because I can't!