Friday, July 24, 2009

One Day More – Coming home

July 24, 2009

Today is the last day of classes. Tomorrow is my last full day in Costa Rica. Sunday...I will be home.

It is strange how much and how little I have become accustom to this place over the last ten weeks. I’ve learned the restaurants, the roads, the stores, the bus routes. I’ve learned how to avoid the rain and how to escape the heat. I’ve even somehow managed to pick up a little of the language. I look at the new students; see how they gaze wide-eyed at the tour guides, chat excitedly about new restaurants they’ve discovered, and even try to fit their own habits and customs, however awkwardly, in this strange, new world. I cannot help but smile inwardly when I watch them. They will soon transform from the “idealistic freshmen” to the “veteran” sophomores. They will become accustomed to this place and move on.

I have had the slightly unusual opportunity to spend my entire time at CPI studying in the same town throughout my entire time here. Most students here study for much less time and almost no one chooses to spend all their time in only one of CPI’s three campuses. In that sense, I have had a somewhat unique ability to come in as a student and not just travel around, but to live here for ten weeks. At the same time, though I have been living in this place, I haven't lived here. It has been only an extended visit – a journey to finish, not a destination or place of rest.

This idea stirred the question in my mind: What is a home? What makes a place that you go back to rather than just come back to? Obviously spending a mere seventy days in a foreign country is unlikely to replace the roots and ties a person has to the place he has been living his entire life. But what would be enough to make that change? Is it merely a matter of time? If so how can so many of the students at Patrick Henry, after spending a few short weeks on campus, a semester length in the decades of a lifetime, consider the school their home? Does it depend on the people you are with? If so, how are new homes ever established? How did the pioneers leave their families to stake out new homesteads in the frontier? How do grown, single sons and daughters leave their parents and make homes for themselves miles away from the family that raised them?

Maybe “home” is just a preference. “Home is where your heart is” and thus wherever you feel most comfortable, that is your home. But I think that is a dangerous idea because I believe that “home” is an objective, not subjective idea. We can choose to be comfortable in many places. It is even easier to choose to be uncomfortable in many places. I have seen both here. I have seen how a more tranquil lifestyle, a lifestyle that makes time for just hanging out with other people with nothing in particular to do, is restful, comfortable, and important. I have also seen how hours, afternoons, and dare I say even lifetimes can be wasted lounging “comfortably” in your bed, mindlessly watching television all day; how when the very real responsibilities of exerting energy to some higher purpose, of living for other people and not just working for them, become uncomfortable, they remain ignored responsibilities.

I believe and hope that I have learned many things here in Costa Rica. I have learned to value a more tranquil lifestyle. I have learned just how little I actually “need” to use the internet. How blessed we are to live in a world where doctors and medicines are available, where consumer products and department stores exist, where food is readily available and is stacked in piles. I’ve gained an increased appreciation for the unique and rare opportunity to spend time simply learning and educating oneself – a luxury that for most of history was reserved for kings and nobles. I have seen patience, kindness, and boundless hospitality displayed by my tico family whose generosity has humbled me and made my ask myself if I would be as selfless as they. There are many lessons I hope to take home with me, but that again raises the question: What is home?

Home, is the idea of permanence. It is an objective concept in the sense that you should match your subjective expectations to the objective realities, but we view “home” to be the place we expect to be our permanent shelter and refuge. This is why you cannot truly feel at home when you know you are leaving in ten weeks, or even ten years. This is why people are so devastated when that idea of permanence is shattered by losing their homes, even how an entire civilization can be gone with the wind. For us, home is the place where we understand our shelter ultimately is, our journey ultimately ends, and our responsibilities ultimately lie.

Where is that, I wonder? And am I living knowing, not just understanding mentally, that place might not be exactly where most people would consider it to be?


One day more. Another day, another destiny. This is my final day of studying Spanish at CPI. This is also my final blog post.

In a way, this post is the essay I wanted to write for my final Spanish project. The ideas that I can but express in my mother tongue alone. Only this time, I write in a matter of hours rather than weeks. It is an essay with much less revision than the one I submitted this morning, but hopefully one that conveys what I really mean.

I am incredibly excited and looking forward to be returning home. I will truly miss Costa Rica. But I yearn for someplace else. I miss my family, my friends, my home...and yet I also know that deep inside, I yearn for Home.

Thank you for reading.

This is Tico Adventure, signing off.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dia Sesenta y Seis y Dia Sesenta y Siete – Casi hecho

July 22-23, 2009

So, for today I am (kinda) breaking my usual habit of posting a day later. (i.e. instead of posting my Wednesday post on Thursday, today I am posting my Wednesday, July 22 post AND my Thursday, July 23 post.)

Yesterday, (Wednesday), we have a very interesting class. Because I am now in Book 2, and Book 2 is mostly review of Book 1 concepts with some nuances added, I asked if we could cover some of the topics of Book 2 that were not in Book 1 at all (namely the subjunctive tenses). So first, I think she tested me to see if I really knew the stuff we were covering now. We went over twice the number of concepts we would usually go over in one day (and thus, I have twice the usual number of pages of homework). But apparently I did sufficiently well for her to agree to teach me the present subjective tense today. It was an “official” lesson because we are technically supposed to go in the order of the book, but since I this was my last week here and it was a topic that we haven’t covered, she first taught the “official” lesson on participles and gerunds and afterwards taught the unofficial lesson on present subjective. (Unfortunatelly, we will not have time to cover the other subjunctive tenses so I will just have to study those back in the States.)

Also today, I learned the Spanish word for “like” or “um.” We were doing an activity where I had to make up a story based on some pictures and my profesora kept noticing that I was using “uh” y “um” while I was thinking. When she pointed it out, I asked if there were similar words in Spanish. In Spanish, you use “este” or “entonces” as your filler words. Now that I know that, I have all I need to know to speak Spanish. ;-)

I have been keeping a to do list of everything that I need to do before I leave...but the list keeps getting bigger! I finish one thing just before remembering two other things I need to/would like to do. :-P And half the time, all I really want to do is sleep. Costa Rica is hot and humid and you get tired more easily here. I calculate that I walk an average of three miles a day with my bag, which isn’t all that much, but here it feels like double. Anyway, I can’t wait to exchange this hot, sticky Costa Rican summer for the hot, sticky summer of Virginia :-)

I am finishing up my essay today, it is on draft four and I still don’t like it much. It’s the kind of thing I want to do and then bury forever under six feet of earth. Maybe I am just being too proud and haughty – sticking my nose up at substandard writing – but I really am not excited about this essay. It is technically fine. Grammatically, structurally, etc. But for me, it is formulaic. It lacks spark or imagination. It lacks passion. I like to care about what I write or what I speak on, and I do care about my trip and experiences here in Costa Rica. I just can’t seem to care about this essay’s message and I am worried it may end up like a cliched Disney movie.

Oh well, I ready to be done. Tomorrow is the last day of classes. Casi hecho.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dia Sesenta y Cinco – Not Much to Read

July 21, 2009

I have a lot to do today and a ton of homework, so I am being lame and this is all I have for my blog.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dia Sesenta y Cuatro – It's continuing mission to explore strange new worlds...

July 20, 2009

Forty years ago today. Forty years ago today the culmination of humanity’s first venture to explore the universe beyond our planet earth was realized by the astronauts that landed on the lunar surface. Forty years ago today, that one small step ushered in a new era in humanity’s mission to explore the vast and beautiful creation of an amazing God. But was that giant leap worth it? Billions of dollars, millions of man-hours, and even the cost of men’s lives were the price we paid for that endeavor. What makes space exploration worthwhile when we have so many problems here on earth with real people involved? Doesn’t God’s dominion mandate specifically say “fill the earth and subdue it?”

I have to admit right up front that I have always had a soft spot for space travel. Space is the final frontier and it never ceases to fill me with awe and wonder. Ever since I can remember I’ve been a self-proclaimed “Trekkie” and had a deep interest in space exploration. One of my biggest regrets and one that my goal is to rectify someday soon is that I never really studied the history of space travel as much as I wish I would have. I never studied star constellations as much as I now looking back would have liked. (There is still time for me :-) I have this all on my to-do list.) So understand that when I say this there may be a hint of boyish idealism - space travel has never failed to spark my imagination.

I believe that space exploration has brought about some of our nation’s proudest moments and should be a national priority. Politicians don’t talk about space exploration much (and my libertarian friends may not talk to me soon after this post :-P) – it really is not a national issue, the people don’t care, the politicians don’t care, NASA has been relegated to just another one of those everlasting government agencies (Reagan: The closest thing to eternal life on earth is a government agency) with no real mission other than to simply exist. Some people see this as a reason to get rid of NASA and the American space program; to discard it as the government waste spending they see it as. I agree that there is a problem with the American space program, but to me, the solution is not to quietly shut it down, but to open the gates, sound the trumpets and set out on a grand new adventure to the stars.

I first started writing this post about two weeks ago. The month had just turned and I was watching Apollo 13 when I realized, “Hey this is July, and it is exactly 40 years since 1969. I am going to be in Costa Rica for the anniversary of the moon landing!” To be completely up front, I usually don’t remember to mark the moon landing every July. While I love the history of space travel, I have to admit it usually isn’t on my radar. This year, I started thinking about it ahead of time by happenstance. As I was planning this blog post during these last two weeks, I suddenly started seeing a swarm of articles on the US space program about a week ago leading up to today. As I started reading the various articles, it was for me it was an affirmation. I have not done a tremendous amount of research so I am not in a place to comment on particular policy proposals, but the articles (both those I agreed with and those I disagreed with) strengthed this belief that I view as fundamentally true:

And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” God created a universe worth exploring. He gave mankind a sense of wonder over His creation. Exploration is not always profitable for bottom lines, but it is profitable for inspiring minds. Inspiring minds with the awesomeness of God’s creation and the incredible universe He has given us. Should we go to Mars? Return to the Moon? What should be the government’s role and how much should we leave to the private sector? These questions are for another day, and frankly I have not done enough research to give an answer I could confidently stand on. What I do believe though, is that space exploration is important. We have problems on earth. We have issues to confront. But we also have a universe outside. A universe that is unfathomably huge and yet still less than a grain of sand in the hands of our Creator. If we fail to explore it – if we ignore it – all I can say is, (to slightly alter a phrase) it seems we are wasting an awfully big space.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dia Sesenta y Uno hasta Sesenta y Tres – The Last Weekend

July 17-19, 2009

This weekend was my last full weekend in Costa Rica. This time next week, I will be in the United States, in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia.

This weekend I successfully completed a challenge, I hung out with my tico family’s family, and I analyzed the content of my milkshake.

Just before Benjamin left a few weeks ago, he (out of either the goodness or maliciousness of his heart...I can’t tell which ;-) ) gave me free money. Only this money wasn’t exactly the kind of money you’d want. All the small change that he had aggregated and didn’t want to carry with him to Monteverde he graciously bestowed upon me. Dozens of coins worth anywhere from 4/5 of a penny to a whole 3 cents! Wonderful. Just what I needed.

Well, I am happy to say that I have successfully spent and used all those small coins. It took me three weeks, but the job is done. No more do I have a bulging coin purse filled with 5 colon coins. No more do I pay for everything in exact change. I am free, and I successfully completed this daunting challenge. I am also very proud of the humility I am showing here ;-)

On Satuday, my family went to visit the brother of my mama tica. It was like a mini-family reunion with about three or four whole families there. We ate some absolutely delicious “Chicharrón de chancho.” (Pork...from what I think is the hoof/around the leg, not sure). I played hide-and-seek with Sofia, Ricardo, and Alan (the grandson of the brother of my mama tica...or the first cousin once removed of the kids in my family. Confused yet? :-) ). We also played tag and ninja fighting. I didn’t beat them up too much. ;-)

On Sunday, I went to the Fresas resturaunt for a milkshake. Fresas has an amazing milkshake and I wanted to have one before I left. As I was enjoying my milkshake, I started to wonder what about it made it so good. As I thought about this, I had a few thoughts on ice cream in general.

Now, as a disclaimer, I am not an ice cream afficianado, I have never studied or read books on ice cream but I am an lover of ice cream who enjoys eating it a lot. That said, you know how certain ice cream flavors have different consistencies and textures? I guess that is super obvious, but you know how mint chocolate chip ice cream melts faster than simply vanilla chocolate chip? You know how fruit based ice creams tend to scoop out in half-balls and you never quite can get that full rounded affect from the ice cream scooper as easily? You know how chocolate, after its been in the freezer for a couple days, is not quite as hard to scoop as vanilla if neither one of them don’t have other ingredients (like peanuts/cookie dough/etc.)? Well, anyway, as I am sure you know, there are those little subtle differences in ice cream that make each flavor unique in a way other than the taste. So anyway, I was trying to analyze exactly what ice cream was in the milkshake. It obviously (por supuesto) had ice cream, chocolate syrup (it was chococlate), and milk. But the milk to ice cream ratio was a bit odd. It was a type of soft vanilla ice cream that was mixed with with syrup to make it chocolate. The vanilla flavor wasn’t strong but it was definitely there. The chocolate syrup masked it mostly, but it was a definite factor. In the end, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something in the ice cream that was abnormal that made the milkshake both different and scrumptious. I failed, however, to divine exactly what it was. :-/

This was my final full weekend in Costa Rica. Twas fun :-)

(P.S. I just realized that facebook was not automatically updating from my blogspot blog. :-P Sorry about that.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dia Sesenta – I Love Writing

July 16, 2009

Essay writing is hard enough in English. In Spanish it’s...even more interesting. It’s hard to write “well” with a limited vocabulary and almost impossible when you have no idea of connotations of words. Why use this synonym versus that one? In English, it’s a matter of closing your eyes and “feeling” it (In an un-Star-Wars-use-the-force way). Instead I am forced to write in overarching ideas. For a writer that loves polishing and turn of phrase, it is maddening. Big ideas are fun, and need to be coherent, but I just can’t get into writing the same way without agonizing whether to use “agonizing” or “wrestling with.” In Spanish, you have no such choice. Even when there are two ways of expressing an idea, I have no clue what the subtle differences are. I hate writing like this.

As a side note, Spanish subtitles in movies are uninventive. They just don’t do justice to the actual English lines. Spanish has nuances of its own that give it special life, but you can’t translate great English writing into Spanish (and I am sure the reverse is true too). The great books that have been translated into English from other languages, are all classics in English because of the great stories – those big ideas and plot points that make it exciting to read. But those great stories never quite come out showing great writing. Translation can only do so much. So, for me, I am writing an English essay in Spanish...and wringing my hands with despair.

P.S. Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn are my fictional writing heros ;-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Nueve – Essaying

July 15, 2009

I’m working on my essay today.

‘nuff said.


(Wow. That came out a lot more random than I thought it would.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Ocho – Dancing Blogger Batman! It's another Post!

July 14, 2009

Having been here for nine weeks and having attended the dance classes for most of them, I am actually at the point where I can teach pretty much all the moves they’ve taught. Every week, there is a “Clase de Baile” that teaches the basic steps of Salsa, Merengue, y Cumbia. Every week the professora teaches the same moves (mas or menos). A veces, ella now enseña algo un poco differente y neuve pero la mayoria de la tiempo it is the same. Entonces, ahora you puedo enseñar the dances and much of the time I am able to help the other students when they are having trouble and the professora de baile no esta. I miss swing though. I need to/want to practice. :-/

Today Alex had to teach an English class so he couldn’t come to our class. Because he is my only other classmate this week, I got a private lesson! My professora y yo talked for a long time (actually, it was probably no more than normal, but it seemed longer because I had to respond and speak twice as much as usual). We talked about government and religion (ooh! I love those topics :-) ), and I learned that the favorite phrase of my tico father was actually a swear word roughly equivalent to the English “son of a...”. When I asked my teacher “What does this word mean?” she laughed, explained, and then we talked about the growth and prevalence of using curses and language. We covered a large number of new reflexive verbs and she gave me a ton of homework.

Because of all that homework, and because I need to work on my final essay, that is all I have for today :-) Hasta luego!

P.S. No, I really have no idea what the title of this blog means. It's kind of just a random string of thoughts and a take off of the old Adam West batman.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Siete – Week Nine Commences

July 13, 2009

We have an amazing teacher this week. Generally, it seems the older the teachers are, the better they are. (More experience really does make a difference.) My three best teachers so far have been the three ladies with the most experience. (i.e. The nicest way I can think of to say “they are older.” :-/ Sorry.) Anyway, I am in a class with just one other student, Alex Rodman. He is both incredibly fortunate and unfortunate at the same time.

I have had Alex in three classes before this, he takes classes off and on because he works for CPI and gets classes free. He works about six hours a week teaching English and gets 20 hours a week worth of Spanish classes in addition to his teachers pay. Isn’t that neat! :-) On the flip side, because he takes classes for free, he is put in basically whatever class has room. When there is no extra room, he doesn’t get classes, and when there is room, he is put in whatever class is available. In our case that means that I haven’t had him in our class for four or so weeks’ worth of lessons. Luckily his Spanish is pretty good, but he is put in a class that expects you to have covered all the subjects of the previous classes, and the professoras don’t slow down for him when he hasn’t covered the subject. Poor guy :-/ He is also fortunate to be living with a friend of his here in Costa Rica so in general, he does not have to pay for room or board. Isn’t that cool? :-) On the flip side, the friend he is living with is his “ex”-novia who invited him down to Costa Rica for the summer and after he got down here she decided she didn’t have time for him. So she broke up with him but her mother likes Alex a lot and insisted that he stay for the summer. So that’s kind of an awkward situation :-/ Poor guy. Alex is a very forunate and very unfortuante individual at the same time.

One of the neat things about being here so long is that you get to know your classmates stories pretty well. My classmates that have been pretty consistent have been Benjamin, Adonis, and now Alex. We’ve had a couple people come and go for a week or two at a time, but these guys have been my consistent classmates. Every week, with a new professor, they ask us where we are from, what we do, why we are studying Spanish, etc. Basically we talk about ourselves to practice Spanish. But by this time, I have heard these stories quite a few times. I think I could impersonate all three of these guys. I know their answers to all the standard questions. I was joking with Alex today that next week we should switch identities to see if they can catch us or tell the difference. ;-)

So anyway, I need to start my essay. I have two weeks left, but I really want to get a chance to have my professors review my paper before I turn it in so I need to give them time to do that. Five pages of writing in Spanish on pretty much any topic I want. I am going to make it easy on myself and just write a summary of my trip...and I am very glad that I’ve written this blog, it makes the essay a lot easier to brainstorm for and outline.

Hope y’all are doing well. Que tenga un buen dia!



Monday, July 13, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Cinco/Seis – Volcan Arenal

July 11-12, 2009

This weekend I went to Volcan Arenal. It was an unique experience and I had a lot of fun. The trip started Saturday morning and we were dropped off at our houses on Sunday evening.

Our driver Saturday morning was from he actually didn’t know where anyone lived in San Joaquin and was supposed to pick up everyone at their house. So we spent about an hour driving around San Joaquin getting lost and unlost trying to find people’s homes. You have to kinda feel sorry for the driver. He was trying his best, but he just didn’t know the area at all. One of the interesting things about Costa Rica is that there are really no street addresses. Some of the streets have names, but it is rare extremely rare to see a street sign. Directions and addresses are given by landmarks and approximations. I think the local governments should make it a priority to create street signs and addresses...I have a feeling they can really increase the efficiency of their economy if they had better transportation infrastructure. (You’ll have to excuse my policy-minded thinking...I’ve been researching transportation policy in general for debate next year. It seems like an incredibly important, yet overlooked area of national policy...anyway back to Costa Rica...)

We got to the hotel about three hours after leaving San Joaquin and unpacked. We had about 45 minutes to unpack and eat in the hotel restaurant. While we were technically free to eat anywhere we wanted since this was a meal we had to pay for ourselves, they unintentionally (or keenly) scheduled the tour so that the only practical place to eat was the hotel’s $10 lunch plan. :-P

The first thing we did after lunch was go on the rainforest tour. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and an excellent and entertaining guide. He actually studied Resource/Land Management in school but wound up becoming a tourguide because he loved actually hiking the jungle more than writing environmental impact statements. The rainforest tour was amazing! We saw many types of plants, butterflies, a few frogs and lizards, we smelled wild pigs (yes, we were only able to smell them) and we were lucky enough to see a Sloth, Howler monkeys, AND White-faced Capuchins. (Though, unfortunately, it was very difficult to take pictures because they were far away, and moved quickly.) We were also very lucky that it didn’t rain during our hike, we were able to go the whole afternoon without using ponchos or umbrellas. For me, this was the best part of the tour. (Pictures coming...eventually. I have to sort and upload them and that takes a bit of time.)

After the hike, we went to what others considered the best part of the trip: Baldi Hot Springs. Basically, a tourist resort with natural hot springs from the Volcano. The hot springs were pretty neat...but after about 15-20 minutes it just becomes hot water that you can’t swim in. I don’t know...maybe Benjamin’s boredom syndrome had rubbed off a little on me, but I don’t understand why people get so excited (and are willing to pay so much) to lounge in hot water for hours at a time. You can’t swim, you can’t splash, you can do laps, you can only just sit there and prune. :-/ Anyways, no me gusta mucho. For everyone else, they said it was their favorite part of the trip, apparently it’s just me. After the hot springs, we had a buffet dinner at the resort. It was good food and they had strawberries with a chocolate fountain :-) I went back for seconds. ;-)

That evening, we drove to the back side of the Volcano and hoped to see some lava. The volcano was all black and it was hard to see anything because of the clouds that surrounded it. We waited about 15 minutes hoping the clouds would clear up so we could see the volcano. Luckily, they did clear up a little and we were able to see little “dribbles” of lava flowing down. It was pretty neat :-) We waited/watched for about thirty minutes after that first showing of a little lava and were able to see a few more “dribbles.” The clouds did not let up much, though, so we eventually decided to go back to the hotel. (We were again blessed, though that it did not rain.)

The next morning, we drove to a waterfall and hiked down. The hike was very fun and the waterfall was neat, but I couldn’t help compare it to some of the waterfalls we saw last summer in Yosemite and it just didn’t compare to the good ol’ United States ;-) The waterfall hike was free time, so we were just supposed to meet up outside the entrance by a certain time. I asked the guide how long it would take to hike back up from the waterfall and he told me about 20 minutes...ha! ;-) I (moving at a safe pace, Mother) made it in 6:47. So I hung around the souvenir shop waiting for the others and made some impulse buys (shocking, I know). They were pre-calculated impulse buys, however, so don’t be too disappointed in my NPR instinct.

After the waterfall hike, we checked out of the hotel and headed to town to find a place to eat lunch. The restaurant we went to was very good, although a bit different that what we have in the US. For being in the middle of a tourist trap town it was very affordable. I ordered a “taco” which turned about to be what in the States I would call a taquito with salad on the side. I guess taquitos are just condensed tacos...but it was just a bit surprising when I got my plate :) The taquito was very greasy and very good. You HAD to eat it with a bite of the salad (cabbage) or it was literally too greasy to stomach by itself. Yummm :-)

Finally, after lunch we headed back to San Joaquin. There was a little traffic, but were were able to make the trip in about three and a half hours. I got home at about 5:30pm and was able to eat dinner with my tico family. I unpacked, packed for tomorrow, went to bed, and prepared for my second to last week in Costa Rica.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Cuatro – My Analysis of My Analysis

July 9, 2009

I made Snickerdoodles today.

After classes, I swung by the supermercado and picked up the few remaining ingridients I needed. When I got home, I spent about three hours doing homework. It wasn’t hard, just very tedious because almost every word I had to look up in the dictionary to figure out if it was a masculine or feminine noun. So even though I knew what most of the words meant, you can never really tell just by looking at a word if it is masculine or feminine. It’s like English grammar: there are rules but there are so many exceptions that they don’t really make a difference. So, unless I specifically knew what article to use for the word, I had to look it up. Very time consuming.

Because of the homework, I started baking a little later than I had planned. I could bore you with a detailed description of what I did...but really all I’d be doing is filling space, suffice it to say that I baked Snickerdoodles while waiting for everyone to get home from their activities. It actually worked out quite well, I finished just as they started getting home so I was able to vacate the kitchen before they needed to use it and I had fresh cookies just about done.

Maybe it is the wannabe psychologist in me, but it is interesting to analyze their reaction to cookies and to analyze my own analysis. My mama tica, Olga, says that they are “muy rico” (very delicious), but I wonder...would she tell me if she didn’t care for them? If she would say that she liked them no matter if she did or not, how do I know if she really means it? Likewise, Maurico, the eldest son, is a jokester. He likes kidding me and he says that they are “malo” and “me no gustan.” So, does that mean he is kidding me this time, or is he really saying that he doesn’t like them? The moment he says he doesn’t like them, my mama tica glares at him and says “no, they are very good cookies.” So would she say that if he was kidding or only if he wasn’t kidding, or both?

Then there is my own self analysis. Why am I analyzing these reactions? What would my reaction be if I truly knew that they didn’t like them? What would my reaction be if they thought they were stupendous and I could tell for sure? Do I care about what they think of the cookies? Should I worry about it? How much weight does their acceptance/rejection deserve in my mind? Where is the brightline between being aware of other people’s desires and needs and finding self-worth in the approval of other people? Why am I spending so much time thinking about this?

Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut said, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is." In other words, all this analysis and hypothesizing can only take place in the theory realm. The real test is to see how quickly they disappear. :-)

...maybe I could make a Time vs. Remaining Cookies chart and graph it... ;-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Tres – My Pixar Adventure

July 9, 2009

With as much humility and objectivity as I can possibly muster, I am nothing if not a dedicated Pixar fan.

After classes today, I had my whole day planned out – When I was going to finish homework, what stores I needed to go to, what things I wanted to get done, everything. They were organizing a trip to the theaters to watch Up and Ice Age 3 (both in Spanish). When I asked whether Up was in Spanish or English they told me that the show they were going to was in Spanish, but there was a 9:30pm showing of Up in English – the last English language showing they were going to do in theaters. So what does the dedicated Pixar fan in me do? The whole day got restructured. I dropped all my non-essential afternoon plans and headed off for the mall with the theater. I arrived six hours early so as to be sure to get a ticket. Turns out my seemingly overenthusiastic action was well warranted. School is on vacation and EVERYONE was at the theater. The line for buying tickets stretched out of the theater entrance and around the food court in almost a complete circle. I estimate several hundred people in line (Era como las filas a la Best Buy en el dia despues Thanksgiving). Half the theater was sold out. At 3:oopm, you couldn’t watch Transformers, Terminator, or Ice Age until about 8:30pm. Luckily, tickets for Up were still available. So I waited. I waited in line for more than an hour. It was like Black Friday shopping, but I was so excited to have the possibility of seeing Up in theaters in English that the time flew by. After waiting in line, I finally got to the front. I was going to buy tickets for the 9:30 showing five hours later. I get up to the desk and was relieved to see that there was still space. I asked, just to double check that it was in English...

...and it wasn’t. It wasn’t in English, just Spanish. My intelligence (the staff at CPI), who are generally very reliable, gave me incorrect information. So I said “gracias” and left the mall immediately. :-/

But I hadn’t waited in line for nothing. I had supported Pixar in spirit, if not in the actual action of seeing the movie.

So, I went home, did my homework, called my family in the States, ate dinner with my tico family, went to bed early, and dreamt of balloons.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Dos – Eureka! I found it!

July 7, 2009

Yo estoy,

Muy feliz hoy,

Por que,

Lo encontré!

Eureka! I found it!

Today I went to HiberMas, a HUGE supermercado and they had cream of tartar! Yay! Finally, the search is over. This store was huge. I was amazed at just how much stuff they had. Think Costco size with Target density. A lot of Costco’s space is used up by storage on the big orange shelves and wide spaces for carts. This store really was huge. Anyway, I am extremely happy to have found what I was looking for. I am going to make Snickerdoodles :-)

Last night, Phantom of the Opera was on TV. My tico family started giving me strange looks when I started trying to sing along (I use the word “trying” because as bad a singer as Gerard Butler is, I can’t hit those high notes either ;-) ). My tico family is not much of a song and dance family...they are more of a sports family. Anyway, I hope I didn’t scar them for life ;-)

That’s all for today. Short note because I’m in a bit of a rush right now. Lot’s of stuff to get done before leaving this weekend for Volcan Arenal.

Hasta la vista!

P.S. Special note for Stephen and Vincent. I started LE again tonight. Claus and Lavie just got back from their first mission ;-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Uno – Week Eight Begins

6 de Julio del 2009

Two-hundred forty one. That is my new number for the week. Two-hundred and forty-one new verbs to learn. Two-hundred and forty-one new words to categorize, conjugate, and memorize. Oh, and that’s just the regular verbs. I didn’t have time to count all the new irregular verbs. I stopped last night after three hours and took a break. It will be a fun, busy week this week. :-)

We have a new professora this week who is very good. It is still a little frustrating that it seems like I can only understand Spanish in the classroom but not the calle (road). In other words, I can only understand Spanish when I am talking with my professora and other students. It seems like whenever I talk to “real people” I get lost. Partly, I think because they use slang, partly because they talk faster, but also partly I am sure that they don’t speak “correct” Spanish. I know in la casa, mi tico family no habla español correctamente todo el tiempo. Muchas veces, they slur palabras, o usan grammatica que no es correcta. Anyway, I want to be a fluent Spanish speaker one day...I feel a lot closer to that goal that I did seven weeks ago, but I still am so, so very far. :-/

I have decided to go to Volcan Arenal this weekend. I figure it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s the only big trip I am taking so I still feel somewhat fiscally responsible. That means that I will have only one other weekend left with my tico family. Ahh! I have three weeks left. At the same time that is an incredibly short and an incredibly long period of time. This week I need to prepare to go to Volcan Arenal, find cream of tartar and make Snickerdoodles, start writing my essay and get it reviewed by the professors here, and even start making preparations to return to Virginia...and of course, on top of all that study my two-hundred and forty-one new verbs ;-)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dia Cincuenta – The Countdown Begins

5 de Julio del 2009

So this week, I went to see Up. One of my fellow classmates told me that at the mall, they had one theater with English and the other with Spanish. So I took a trip to the mall, and unfortunately they only had the Spanish version. I debated it – I had taken the time to go to the mall, I had paid the bus fare, I had set aside the day, and I figured that this would be the only time in my life to see it in I went and saw it in Spanish. :-/

I’m still not sure whether I made the right decision. I enjoyed the movie, and I followed the story, but the dialogue was for the most part lost on me. The montage of Carl’s early life and marriage were absolutely amazing. After that sequence, though, I was only able to follow generally what was happening. Pixar is good enough to tell a story almost without words, but for me, it was a good movie...and I know that if I had understood the dialogue, it would probably have been a GREAT movie. I guess I’ll have to wait for the DVD to find out. I can’t wait to see it again (in English).

My other adventure this weekend was trying to find cream of tartar in this country. NOBODY has it. I’ve been to five supermercados and no one had it. A few had tartar sauce, but for snickerdoodles you really can’t use that ;-) I talked to my mama tica about it and she was surprised that that one of the supermercados did not have it, she suggested I try another one. I’ll try to go there soon because I have a Snickerdoodle craving.

Tomorrow, we get a new professor. Adonis (my classmate) left this weekend and so now I have been at the school longer than any other student. Steven got replaced and now there are two students from the Bahamas in the two houses across the driveway. David and Roxanne actually speak a lot of Spanish already so I can speak to them in Spanish, which is good because I am trying to avoid speaking English. (Yes, I do feel a twinge of guilt as I write that sentence in English.) We will start in Book 2 next week as well, so it will be interesting. Supposedly Book 2 is mostly a review of Book 1 in terms of concepts but now applying those grammatical concepts to new words and using them in new ways. I look forward to it.

For the fourth of July, I watched Apollo 13 since it was the most American movie I had available to me. That is such a good movie. As it happens, I am now in a countdown of sorts myself. I am here for twenty more days in Costa Rica. Twenty short days. Twenty long days. Twenty days left to learn, to explore, to be in Costa Rica. I am thinking of going to Volcan Arenal either this next weekend or the weekend after. We'll see. :-)

That’s all I have for today! See y’all tomorrow.

God Bless,


Friday, July 3, 2009

Dia Cuarenta y Ocho – More Random Ramblings

July 3, 2009

Today we finished the last day of my seventh week of classes. Next Monday, I will have three weeks remaining, a short twenty-one days. Wow, time seems to have flown. I got an email today about Chorale next year and how that needs to start gearing up soon. I’ve been receiving Google News Alerts on “Trucking” for the transportation resolution NFA is going to have this year. I read a screenplay last night that could very well be a movie a a few months. The world of reality is beginning to pull me back from this hidden corner of the globe. I need to start writing my final essay in Spanish. I need to start looking for a gift to give my tico family when I leave. I need to start thinking about any trips I may want to go on in my remaining weekends.

I am not ready for this. Tomorrow, I am going to celebrate the fourth of July; the day that marks the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. We’ve been talking in classes about the difference between the United States and Costa Rica – the education system, the healthcare system, even demographic trends. America is truly messed up in a lot of ways but it is also truly special. We may live in a country with a broken education system, a secular culture, and a overbearing government, but we also live in a country with an active populace, a free press to scrutinize government corruption, and a responsibility to use our gifts and blessings for causes of righteousness. I love my country. I hate certain aspects of its culture, but I can’t say there is any other place I’d rather live.

Yeah...this is another random rambling. I am kinda just letting my mind wander at this point and writing whatever pops into my head. Sorry. Hope y’all have a wonderful fourth of July celebration!

God Bless,


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dia Cuarenta y siete – An Atrocity against Civilization

July 2, 2009

So, ladies and gentleman, have I told you about my affront to truth, beauty, and my attack on civilization?

I didn’t want to do it, in fact I waited five minutes after I knew it had to be done, just sitting there, contemplating the atrocity I was about to commit. In the end though, necessity triumphed over idealism and wishful thinking. But it needed to be done, so I did it: I put...

...duct tape...

...on... Mac :’(

Yes, the angelic beauty of the humming machinery is now scourged by the horrific blotch of stickiness. If you think Wesley had it bad contemplating destroying stained glass windows and artists like Inigo, just think the pain I went through taping my Mac up.

...but it had to be done. It was falling apart and without treatment, dust and dirt would have infiltrated my poor Mac’s innards, and that would have been an even truer tragedy.

I feel I need to do penance and read some pro-Mac articles on

(Yes, this was a random post. Yes/No/Maybe I am running out of ideas on what to write on. Yes, you should feel sorry for my poor Mac. Although I think only other Mac lovers will truly understand the emotional pain I am experiencing.) ;-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dia Cuarenta y Seis – We are so blessed

July 1, 2009

I am happy to say I am really feeling better this week. Much, much better. Thank you Lord for allowing me to live in an age where doctors and medicines are readily available. We are really lucky to live in the age that we do, ya know? Can you imagine life without computers? Without cars? Without fast food? Without daily news? Without microwaves? I sure we could live, and we’d get used to it. But I am so glad we live today and not 100 years ago. (Although I wonder if people 100 years from now will say the same thing.) I think that right now, I am going to unplug my computer from the electric plug in the wall, put my computer in my bag that was made with materials all over the world and shipped to my local store on an airplane that can fly and traverse the globe, walk out of this lighted room with internet access, and go down the street and get some lunch that will have been heated and prepared by manipulating electrons to create magnetic and electric force that releases energy that can be utilized by machines that make life easier for everyone. The wonder of the incredible world God has let humans build is overwhelming. I thank God that he gave humans the gift of innovation and creativity. Heaven is going to be pretty awesome.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dia Cuarenta y Cinco – I'm Back!

30 de Junio del 2009

So, Gregory :-P what’s up with the pictures (or noticeable lack thereof)?

Well, the short answer is that I just didn’t feel like taking pictures this week. Yeah, it’s a lame answer, but to tell you the truth I really didn’t feel like doing much of anything.

This week, I was ill. I got sick, my mama tica got a sore throat, Rodrigo (the dad/uncle next door) got in an accident and hurt his eye...and Michael Jackson died. I’ve been reading Matthew 24 again and I am wondering if this is a sign of the end times ;-) So anyway, I will spare you the details of my “getting sick in Costa Rica” experience, but I will say that it wasn’t pleasant. I am feeling much better today (Monday) and I think the worst has past. I treated myself to some movies at the rental store and I finally saw “Hercules” (which is one of those Disney movies I always wanted to see but my mom had objections when I was younger). It was enjoyable, but I think I like Lea Salonga singing “Go the Distance” more than Michael Bolton. OH! Also, I am going to see UP this week. The theater has one showing of English and I am going to go see it :-) I am super, Super, SUPER looking forward to it.

This week Steven left and now I am all alone with my tico family and their extended family/neighbors. This is also the last week that Adonis is going to be taking classes here. Adonis is my classmate who is an American but lives in Costa Rica. He is the last person who is here from my original week. Once he is gone, I will be a super old-timer here. I’ve outlasted pretty much everyone else who has come for the past few weeks. It’s fun to see the new groups come and go. It’s a little be funny how similar they all act on their first week and how they acclimate.

Okay, I need to get going now, but here is a random fact: You know how in English we speak “Spanglish” by adding “o” or “a” to the end of words? i.e. “Pass-o me-a the salt-o por favor.” Well, “Espanglish” is spoken almost as simply. You can take any word and add an “ation” to it to speak “Espanglish.” For example: Casa-ation, Perro-ation, Comida-ation. See? Muy simple :-) So now, I can speak Spanglish and Espanglish...I just need to work a bit on my ig-pay atin-lay.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dia Treinta y Cinco - Past the Point of No Return

20 de Junio del 2009 – Dia Treinta y Cinco

This is it. The peak of the mountain. The point of no return. I am at halfway point of my trip.

Today is the thirty-fifth day that I have been in Costa Rica. I have exactly thirty-five days remaining. Tomorrow morning I will wake with the majority of my time in Costa Rica behind me, the road ahead growing ever more narrow.

Time seems to have flown by so fast. It seems as only a few days ago that I got off the plane and spoke practically no Spanish at all. I can see how much I have learned, but I still feel so far from the goal of basic comprehension of “street Spanish” (as opposed to “classroom Spanish”). I can only hope that learning Spanish is more exponential than linear. I feel like I could pass a test in five weeks, but I still can’t imagine myself without a Spanish-Ingles dictionary while conversing with real people.

With Noah and Benjamin gone, though, I will have less opportunity to speak English, which I hope will help me a lot. I am going to try an experiment this next week. I am taking a short break from writing the blog to both recharge my batteries for blog post ideas and as part of a larger “English fast.” I have decided to take this opportunity while Benjamin is gone to do my best not to speak or listen to English at all this week (or at least, as minimal as possible). This means I will take my mid-morning breaks and avoid the English speakers as much as politely possible, I will not read the news on the English websites for a week, I won’t read non-essential mail, I won’t check facebook status, and I won’t write my blog. (Even when I write in Spanish, I really write in English first and just translate it.) Instead, I will try to take pictures during the week and post them instead. But for this week of English fasting, I won’t be writing any. Which means this is my last written post for one week. We’ll see how it goes.

I am excited about the new few weeks. I am so glad that God worked it out so that I would be in San Joaquin for the whole ten weeks. I love the town, I think I am learning more here than I could elsewhere, and my tico family is perfect, I cannot imagine going somewhere else and having an improved experience. I have known them only five weeks but I look forward to staying with them another five (if they can put up with me for that long, at least ;-) :-P).

Tomorrow is the big day. It will be the first day that a PHCer will not be living within walking distance. In one sense it is the peak of the mountain for the time I am here. But in another, more important sense, this is only the beginning of the foothills - still the first steps of a continuing endeavor to learn and speak the Spanish language. I’ve invested the last five weeks in learning Spanish and I have begun this journey. It is a journey that will last a lifetime and it is a journey that recognizes only those who reach the goal and those that fall short. Now that I have started, there is no withdrawing. I either learn Spanish or I fail to accomplish the enterprise I started five weeks ago. The die is cast, the journey begun, and I have past the point of no return.

Dia Treinta y Cuatro – Give and Take

19 de Junio del 2009

Today I was given a gift and was witness to a theft.

CPI had a Spanish language celebration day of some sort today. A few days ago, everyone wrote down their “favorite Spanish word” and submitted it. My favorite word was “puedo” which I realized later was actually kind of Obama-eske. Puedo comes from the infinitive “poder” which means “power/to be able/can.” So in a slightly indirect way, my favorite Spanish word was “Yes, we can” (though, technically that would be “Sí, podemos” but it is the overall idea.) The reason I choose “puedo” though is because when you use it as a question it changes from “I can” to “Can/May I?”. It is a word I have to use a lot and it is also fun to say so I decided (in the two minutes we were given to decide) that it was my favorite word. Benjamin choose “que?” (What?) because it is the word we use whenever we can’t understand what our families are saying ;-) Our professora, however, said Benjamin should have chooses “aburrido” (bored) because Benjamin is an adventurer who gets bored rather easily ;-) :-P (Truth be told, on the very first day after arriving in Costa Rica, “bored” was one of the first, if not the first, word Benjamin looked up in the Spanish-English dictionary.) No, I’m not really trying to beat up on Benjamin all the time...I’m just razzing him as much as I can before he leaves :-( It is going to be so weird to have both Benjamin and Noah gone.

Anyway, they put all the favorite words in an envelope and today they drew from it. And out of all the students who participated, they drew my name and I got a book on the birds of Costa Rica. It is a really neat book with many exquisite pictures. I felt kinda embarrassed about “winning” it though. I feel a little guilty winning something that I didn’t earn in a game of chance. Games of strategy, games of skill I like to win. (Actually, I love to win :-P I’m pretty competitive. I really don’t care about the prizes; the sinful, proud part of me just likes to be able to know that I won.) But in games of pure chance, if I get something that other people don’t get for no other reason than a random drawing I just feel really awkward about that. Anyway...that was kinda of random tangent. I got a really neat gift from C.P.I. on the birds of Costa Rica :-)

I was also witness to an attempted theft today. I was at the Megasuper looking for ingredients for Snickerdoodles and they didn’t have any cream of tartar. I am going to have to hunt around in Heredia to find some. Anyway, while I was shopping it started raining incredibly hard. The rain was coming in at about a 60º angle and bouncing off the pavement. I have a twenty/thirty minute walk home and I had my books with me. I decided to wait it out because I’ve learned that when it is raining that hard, no matter how big your umbrella is, you are going to get soaked. So, I was waylaid at the Megasuper for about an hour. During that hour it was very interesting to observe the people coming in, going out, and how they responded to the rain. No one went out in the rain, most had cars and a few people called taxis. Quite a few people, like myself, just waited. As we waited, I saw two ladies walk out and the guards (Megasuper has guards right outside the doors) stopped one of them and found that she had about 12 sticks of deodorant stuffed in her pockets. Over the next thirty minutes, they had the police come and take the ladies in for questioning/whatever it is they do with shoplifters. It was very interesting to observe (from a polite distance)...I really want to be in law enforcement someday. I know it is kinda weird, but for me, it was really cool. :-) Crime doesn’t pay, that gives me warm fuzzies in my heart for some reason.

So today, I received a gift and I saw a theft. It was a rather interesting day.

That is all for now. :-)

Have a great weekend everbody!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dia Treinta y Tres – Nothing to do with Costa Rica whatsoever

18 de Junio del 2009

This doesn’t have anything to do with Costa Rica, but people like people who don’t complain. It is so easy to start a conversation by complaining about something; school, work, professors, employers, the weather, etc. It is easy to talk about because everyone can laugh a little and say “yeah, that stinks.” ...but then one of two things happen. Either the next person complains about something else and you get into a complaining-fest or there is the awkward silence as the people who want to think about more positive things try to decide whether it would be tactful to talk about something good that is happening when someone else seems to be having a bad day. It is so much more pleasant to be around people who have nothing but positive things to say about life. I need to be more positive. Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind should be my role model.

So, I’ve been reading a bit about Obama and Iran and all that. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what Obama should be doing or how he is doing awesome (generally opinions are divided by party lines...of course :-P). I actually read an article by John Kerry that made a lot of sense to me (I would have never expected that, but hey, it’s the argument and the warrants that are important, not how much you agree with the person in general). Democracy in Iran should absolutely be supported and human rights upheld, but if the United States takes the situation in Iran and uses it to start saying “hey, we told you so, you had better listen to your people” the mullahs will twist our words to warn their people of outside interference and unite the Iranian people against the US. The one thing Iranians hate more than their oppressive government is the violation of their national sovereignty and their pride of being Iranians. Before we step in and help a resistance movement we need to make sure it is there. If we move too early it becomes self-defeating as the domestic resistance movement dissolves to unite against the foreign “threat.” (What would have happened if the French landed troops in the colonies against the British BEFORE the Declaration of Independence?) Of course, I am open to changing my mind given better arguments. I welcome your thoughts on this.

PBR, for those of you who have been asking is “Principles of Biblical Reasoning.” My next year at PHC is full of indecision right now. The chorale is going to Europe in the spring. I know it will be an amazing trip...only I really, really, really can’t even imagine myself affording it. I have no real cash reserves (even the money I have in the stock market is not worth much right now), and earning/raising the amount of money I need in the amount of time I have would take a miracle...and we only have about two weeks to make a final yes/no decision. I might be able to earn half the money if I get a job at PHC and can work enough hours a week...and in that case I’d definitely have to drop a course this Fall...which would also kinda put a dent in my school plans. I have decided against trying to do the SI program. I just looked at all the classes I really want to take, all the concepts I really want to learn, and the SI program just wasn’t compatible with my priorities of what I want to learn about. I would LOVE to take every class PHC offers. But I only have a certain amount that I physically can take. The SI program is an amazing opportunity, but the courses it requires just aren’t as high on my priority list. I am thinking right now that I want to declare as a general Government major...we’ll see.

Anyway, you probably couldn’t tell from this note that I am in Costa Rica, miles (or kilometers) away from the nearest McDonalds, huh? ;-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dia Treinta y Dos – Wishing I was Somehow there at Nats...

17 de Junio del 2009

...Sometimes it seems, if I just dreamed, somehow I would be there!

Wednesday is cooking day. Sign up for the free cooking class and get a free lunch included. :-)

I have decided against participating in the CPI volunteer program to help teach English :-/ I would really like to, but there are three mental obstacles that I just can’t overcome. First, it will cost me $60. It COSTS $60 to VOLUNTEER to spend eight hours a week helping teach English. That just seems kinda backward, doesn’t it? I am not actually that deterred by the cost, it is more the principle of not supporting the system. I understand a registration cost if they are providing extra transportation or extra services. I understand if there is a small fee for processing the paperwork, but $60 is no small fee. Anyway, reason number one (though not necessarily the most important) is cost. Reason number two? Time. As the days go on, I find that I seem to have less and less time to get what I need to/want to get done completed. I keep thinking of new activities that I would like to do that I just don’t have time to do all of them. (I’d like to exercise/run more, play soccer, watch movies in Spanish, read books in Spanish, tour the city, organize my life, sleep, etc.) I need to put the higher priorities first and volunteering just isn’t a high priority for me right now. Finally, I want to speak as much Spanish as I can. Benjamin volunteers at nights and basically just speaks English during his volunteer time (that is what he is volunteering to do). I want to be forced to speak as much Spanish as possible. Being required/obligated to speak English for an extra eight hours a week is probably not going be a good investment of the opportunity to learn Spanish here. :-/ So anyway, for these three main reasons I have decided against registering for the CPI volunteer program.

Benjamin is leaving next week. I don’t think that has sunk in yet. It will be at the exact halfway point and all my PHC buddies will have moved on. It has been interesting being here for so long. All of the “new people” are now in the “veteran group” and are getting ready to move on themselves. I feel ancient. Once Benjamin leaves every student (that doesn’t live in Costa Rica) who was around during my first two weeks will be gone. It is amazing how long and short five weeks can feel at the same time.

Classes this week have been interesting. We spend a TON of time just talking. Often we rarely even get to the “lesson” until the last twenty minutes (technically the whole class is a lesson, really we just don’t get to the grammar until later). It’s good for me because I am listening to a lot of Spanish and am responding in Spanish and am able to think about the communication rather than the new grammar concept. The hard thing though is that in class, while I understand pretty much everything the teacher and the other students say, at home I still don’t understand a lot of what my tico family says. When they speak to me, I can understand their meaning because they speak more slowly and clearly (and I think use simpler words). When they talk to each other, though, I just get completely lost. I recognize some words and can see the general structure of the sentences they use, but they speak with so many words I don’t know and conjugations I don’t know and so quickly (and slurred) that even when I would know I don’t understand. Anyway, it is a little frustrating because while I feel I am making progress in the classroom it doesn’t feel like I am making any progress at home. I know that isn’t true but that is the way it feels.

I’ve been trying to keep up with Nationals on RND (and HSD when it is up). I am so excited for Region IX! Region IX, y’all are doing great! Keep it up :-) I am really bummed about McNair and James and the Voells not breaking :-/ They both amazing teams that I could easily see deep in outrounds...but I guess God has different plans. In debate, you don’t have to win to be great. So many great teams don’t win and so many teams that win are teams that have some things they could improve on. Anyway, I can’t wait to see more results. I wish I could be there :-(

Long live Region IX! Huzzah!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dia Treinta y Uno – I Need to Think of Some More Exciting Titles

16 de Junio del 2009

I am a little bit bummed today. You gotta hand it to Pixar (and Disney too, I guess), they really do care about quality. They care about quality so much that instead of releasing a second-rate English version with only Spanish subtitles in a Spanish speaking country, they dub their latest film in Spanish before it hits theaters. Most other American movies in theaters here only have subtitles. In fact, the only movie that is dubbed in Spanish is the one movie I really want to see: Up. I just can’t do it. I know that my Spanish isn’t good enough to comprehend a whole movie in Spanish and I don’t want to ruin the movie by seeing all the visuals and only later adding the audio. I wanted to see Up and now I have to wait. :-/ So, I am bummed.

You know how in English we say “Good-bye”? The etymology of that phrase is “God be with ye.” I was thinking of the Spanish version “adios” and wondering whether it has its etymology in “a Dios” (roughly “to God”). That would be pretty cool. I had never considered that before. I wouldn’t doubt it at all.

I am so thankful I go to the college that I do. I am reminded here at the school in Costa Rica just how lucky I am not to have to hear certain words or listen to certain topics all the time. The worst thing we have to worry about is John Miller at Parli meetings ;P (Sorry John, you are such a good example and I couldn’t resist.) But yeah...there are a lot of people who use curse words as their amplifier of ever adjective. It’s not terrible or anything, it just makes me realize how much I appreciate the environment at PHC.

The days seem to be getting so as not as though I have more school but the time I have to write my blog seems like so much less. At night I write after I do my homework and I start to fall asleep. After class, in the afternoon I usually try to finish what I started in the prior evening but then the goal becomes to finish before the deluge begins. Once it starts raining, you never know when it will stop. You don’t want to get trapped.

Now that I have a soccer ball, I am going to try to organize a semi-regular pickup soccer game. If we can play a few times a week, that would be a lot of fun. We’ll see how that goes.

That’s all for today.



Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dia Treinta – Some Thoughts about Next Fall

15 de Junio del 2009

We have an excellent professora again this week. This week is definitely focusing on conversational Spanish, we are still learning a grammar lesson but two thirds of the class is talking. I can actually carry on a decent conversation in Spanish with my professora. Now, the problem is figuring out how to keep up a conversation (beyond a few sentences) with my tico family. They speak much faster and use more words that I don’t know. They also slur and use incorrect grammar ;-) I don’t want to have to ask them to repeat themselves over and over so I don’t actually understand a lot of what they are saying. I am finding it easier to speak Spanish than to understand it right now. We are learning the differences between imperfect and preterit tense now. I can now conjugate verbs in present, past (preterit), future, and imperfect tenses. Yay! (Well, sorta...I need my book sometimes for irregulars :-P)

I bought a soccer ball today. It cost me about $12. I am finally going to start practicing soccer! Though, I realized that I am not going to be able to try out for the team this next Fall like I wanted because I will be doing debate during tryouts. I need to practice and get better anyway. I haven’t played a single pickup game for a year now and I need to build my skills. If I don’t play soccer, I need to make a concerted effort to play some sport and exercise. In the Naval Academy, you are required to play a sport. I promised myself that I would require myself to do the same thing, but I am not as hard on myself as the Naval Academy would be and I have been lazy :-/

At the end of this week, I will have reached the halfway point. Only five more weeks. I’ve been thinking a little about life when I come back to the states. I am looking at my school schedule next year and I haven’t decided whether to take 18 credits or drop PBR in the fall and take 15. I need to take a total of 33 credits in my sophomore year to finish the core (which is my goal) which means I need to either take 18 credits this semester or next. So the choice is to take PBR while I am taking Con Law and Biology or while I am taking Philosophy and Economics. Anyway...with only a few weeks after I get back, I need to start planning.

That’s all for now. Hope y’all are doing well!

God Bless,

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dia Veintesiete hasta Dia Veintinueve – Tres Dias, Tres Cosas

Yo tengo tres cosas por los ultima tres dias:

1. Apple

I caved in and watched the WWDC Keynote on Friday. Apple is amazing :-) My favorite part of any keynote speech is always the Mac OS and the Mac computers. Admittedly, Snow Leopard is not a groudbreaking release, but it still is pretty neat and the price is incredible! Apple knows and admits that Snow Leopard is not a huge new OS and specifically calls its new features “refinements.” So for Leopard users, they are selling the new OS for only $29. I saw that part of the keynote and I audibly gasped. The new Macbooks look pretty amazing too. The thirteen inch MacBook Pro was such a neat announcement because it really is true; it truly is a MacBook Pro and they are selling it at the price of a MacBook. So anyway, Apple didn’t release anything utterly game-changing but I think it was a pretty solid advance for the Mac OS and the Mac computer line.

What I thought was really cool was the iPhone updates. I usually don’t really pay as much attention to the iPod or iPhone parts of the Keynote speeches but I think the new iPhone + iPhone OS is pretty neat. For the first time, I am really considering the iPhone not just as a cool gadget to have but as an incredible tool. GPS, calendar, phone, IM/email service, CAMERA (the iPhone takes pretty amazing pictures), to do list manager, etc. I am seriously considering saving for the $199 16GB iPhone.

2. Benjamin

I have decided to write a short blurb on Mr. Benjamin. Benjamin and I went hiking on Saturday. Benjamin decided he wanted to hike up Volcan Barva asked me to come with him. I learned a lot about Benjamin on the eight hour trip to the Volcano and back. Benjamin and I get along splendidly but we have different viewpoints on a variety of things. You probably already know from my other posts that Bejamin is more of an adventurer while I guess I am more of a homebody. When we missed our bus in Heredia and had to make new plans to get to the volcano on the fly (namely by getting a bus to another town and taking a third bus to our destination) my mind instantly began to consider the things that could go wrong: What is the bus schedule for this new route? Will the buses be running all day? How will we know when to get off the bus? As I pondered these and other questions in considering our new situtation, Benjamin turns to me and says with a smile, “Awesome! This is going to be an adventure.”

Benjamin is cheap. And for anyone who knows me, if I say someone is cheap, they are. My family is the “never pay retail” family and when it comes to spending money, I like to think that I am pretty good about keeping my spending down. Benjamin takes this to an (I would say unhealthy) extreme. You are going hiking for about 4-5 hours, what do you eat for breakfast and what do you bring for lunch? If you are Benjamin, you eat half a loaf of white bread (it’s like candy) for breakfast and eat the other half for lunch. WHAT?!?! Yes, it turns out that Benjamin has been eating sugar and starch for the last few weeks for lunch because he is too cheap to actually buy something with protein in it. (And yes, I got permission from Benjamin to post my thoughts on his eating habits before I shared them with the world.)

Benjamin’s philosophy is “what can I get away with” while comparatively I seem to be a “better safe than sorry” kind-of-person. What do you learn in Boy Scouts that you need before, during, and after a hike? Water. Yes, lots of it. I drank two bottles of water during our hike. Benjamin? Half a bottle at most. Why? “You need to purposely dehydrate your body so that you can train it to need less water.” Stephen, are you reading this? You are pretty smart concerning this topic. I think one of us is crazy, can you say which?

Finally, Benjamin is fun to hang out with. Sure, he drags me into hiking with him up a volcano by ourselves in the middle of nowhere in a country we don’t speak the language in. But we survived so I can say that he is a lot of fun to talk to and has a lot of senior wisdom to pass on to this little freshman. Anyway, the trip was fun. I am very thankful to God that we got back safely. And I don’t think I am ever. Ever. EVER doing that again. (At least, not in quite the same way.)

3. Steven

Noah got replaced. On Sunday, a new student named Steven came to live in Noah’s old residence. He is 17, speaks less Spanish than I did when I first got here and talks like Ian Sturdy or Matthew Miyares (two debaters I knew in NCFCA). He seems to be a thoughtful, contemplative person and it will be interesting getting to know him. I sometimes serve as translator between him and his tico family and it is fun to practice my Spanish in that way. He plays chess (we are 1-1 right now) and is interested in science. In our walk to school, he was naming the plants as we passed by. Wow. To me they are just “plants” and “bushes” and maybe a “tree” here and there. He knows their names and characteristics. It is pretty cool how people have such variered interests.

Anyway, that is all for today. I look forward to a new week and I hope y’all had an amazing weekend!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dia Veintiseis - No Me Gusta Objectos Indirectos

11 de Junio del 2009

¡Hay! Hoy tuvemos un lección dificil...and my head hurts so much from the overload that I am going to write in English :-P We covered indirect objects and their pronouns today. I understand the pronouns. They are extremely easy, and since our homework mainly deals with pronouns, completing the homework is easy. The problem is that even though I know what to do for the questions they give me, I don’t know why I am doing it or why it works. I understand what an indirect object English, but I am having a lot of trouble comprehending even simple sentences in Spanish that use the indirect object pronouns, I get lost extremely quickly. Anyway, I am currently in the process of looking at English and Spanish grammar websites and trying to figure this out. :-/

Anyway, a few things coming up. I am looking into are going to Volcan Arenal in a few weeks. It’s expensive but if I can only do one trip while I am down here, that would probably be the best one to go on. Benjamin wants to go hike some nearby volcano on Saturday. I am planning to go with him and hopefully it will help me gauge how much I would be willing to spend on a trip to Arenal. I am also wanting to do the volunteer program here and am still gathering information on that. The only volunteer program that seems to be feasible is volunteering for the English department here in the afternoons. I would have to commit about eight hours a week and they charge you $ volunteer! :-P I haven’t decided yet.

Speaking of which, I had a chance to talk to some of the English students here (the Costa Rican students learning English). We all talked in a blend of Spanish/English conversation. One sentence would be Spanish, one would be English and it was kind of a neat mix. I usually don’t get a chance to see any of the English students because they have classes at a different time and I’m often gone by the time they start. I got held up by the rain today and so we got to hang out a bit. Twas fun :-)

I asked the students what music they would recommend and they gave me a few names of artists that I looked up. I like a lot of these songs, but it is a painstaking process to lookup the lyrics online. I am making a list of all the melodies that catch my attention and then evaluating whether I can understand the words (since I would be buying for the sole purpose of learning the words). Looking up the lyrics, however, is hard because CPI has a “no music” internet filter. (The filter is trying to block media sharing/online piracy but ends up blocking anything that relates to music :-P). So, I have to browse through pages upon pages of google search results before I find a site that they haven’t blocked. Then I go to google translate which is good, but still needs a lot of work. So often I have to manually translate the lyrics with my Spanish-English dictionary. I want to get songs that I can learn the lyrics and wouldn’t feel uncomfortable repeating in a Christian environment :-P So far, I haven’t found much. All the songs I’ve found so far have been “clean” but they are all love songs ;-) I guess compared to mainstream pop in the US they are actually pretty tame, but I don’t usually listen to mainstream pop in the US. Anyway, still looking.

That is all for today. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dia Veinticinco – Solo en Español

10 de Junio del 2009

Clase fue difícil hoy, pero mas facil que ayer. Nosotros aprendamos objetos directos y sus pronombres. Yo comprendé la lección, pero no es “internalized” (la palabra no esta en la diccionario). Yo no comprendo oraciones por muchas minutas. Yo comprendo solo depues mucho tiempo y mucho trabajo. *sigh* Es muy difícil para mí.

Otras noticias, yo fui al cine esta noche. C.P.I. tiene un “noche de cine” cada semana. Yo quiero ver “Up” de Pixar proxima semana, entonces yo piensé aprender donde esta el cine y como comprar una entrada es un buen idea. Entonces, yo fui con el groupo de C.P.I. Yo ví la pelicula “Duplicidad.” Fue muy buena pelicula. La pelicula es de dos espías que tratan de robar secretos de corporaciónes y lo venden para dinero. Me gusta la pelicula porque los ladrónes no ganarse – acciónes malo no esta premié. En el mismo vez, la historia de espías es muy divertido :-)

Escribir en español is bueno para me, pero toma mucho tiempo. Entonces, yo no puedo escribir mucho. Lo siento, pero no mas hoy.