Friday, May 29, 2009

Dia Doce – English, Spanish, Japanese, and Filipino

28 de Mayo, 2009

Tonight, we watched Apollo 13 in Spanish and I was struck by two things. First, a good movie is a good movie is a good movie. Sure, the tone and inflection of Tom Hanks voice adds more power to the performance, but even in Spanish, Ron Howard’s masterpiece comes through. I love space movies, and Apollo 13 is an amazingly well crafted film.

Second, Spanish is much simpler than English. I have always considered this a very positive thing. English breaks all its own rules, Spanish (and the other Romance languages) have clearly defined rules that are rarely broken. It is much easier to learn Spanish, it makes more sense in a uniform, structured grammar, and it is much more formulaic (hence, easier to understand and leaves less room for ambiguity). On the other side, though, the beauty of English is in its depth. We have no uniform grammar because we have taken words and grammar from languages all around the globe. English is based on a Germanic/French/Latin/Greek foundation that has been supplemented by languages in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Arab world. (I was going to say Middle East but I had the alliteration going ;-) ) English has a huge vocabulary that is rich with depth. It allows an easier use of wordplay like alliteration and other figures of speech. English words, because they are so many of them, all have slightly different connotations – a variety of which you don’t quite get in Spanish.

Spanish is a marvelous language, and I am glad I have the opportunity to learn it. But in studying Spanish, I appreciate the advantages of English a lot more. I am so grateful that I was raised an English speaker because it would have been a pain to learn otherwise, and I can’t imagine my life without the rich texture of the English language.

Okay, enough ranting about the language. Let me talk a moment about my classmates.

I am in a class of cuatro students: Benjamin, Adonis, Atsu, y yo. Benjamin, Noah, and I all came down together from PHC. Benjamin is the adventurous one of our group. He wants to hike big cities, climb tall mountains, and I am sure he would jump over building for the fun of it if he could. After classes he spends a lot of time on the internet chatting with friends and family. In the morning, he gets up early to go to school and get on the internet to chat with friends and family. I have no further comment on Benjamin at this time. (Benjamin and Noah are pretty awesome and deserve their own post ;-) I just am to lazy to write that post right now so you get the abbreviated version.)

Adonis is from Tennessee, but he is living in Costa Rica and plans to live here permanently because his wife’s family is here. Adonis works designing webpage templates, and was one of the first to get into the business. (The neat thing about new technology is that it is possible to be one of the founders of a whole new type of business.) Adonis is learning Spanish because his wife (who is Costa Rican) speaks it and since he will be living here, it is probably a good idea to know the language. Another random thing about Adonis, is that he is (at least in part) Filipino. How coincidental is that? :-)

Atsu is our resident spy from Japan (at least, that is what we jokingly call him). He works for the Japanese foreign ministry and is studying at Yale for two years. He already speaks Japanese and English fluently (he grew up in the US and in Japan) and now is adding Spanish to his repertoire. After he goes back home to Tokyo, he will be working with the Japanese diplomatic corp.

Adonis and Atsu are both great guys. Both really want to learn Spanish and work hard. Adonis actually can already understand Spanish extremely well, he is here simply to learn to speak it. Because of this, he is often able to help translate for us what the professor is saying when the professor is uncertain of the English translation. The rest of us work pretty well together in helping each other remember vocabulary words. Chances are, at least one of us recognizes the word or remembers how to communicate the idea. The class is very interactive and conversational. We do some worksheets but a lot of it is talking back and forth and using the grammar and vocabulary just learned. Class is a lot of fun and extremely productive. Spanish is hard, and I am lucky to be able to study it in such ideal circumstances.

Well, that is all for today. Hasta mañana!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dia Once – I think I may be starting to ramble...

May 27, 2009

Noah lost his iPhone today :-( He left it in the computer room and came back and it was gone. We do not doubt it was stolen :-/ Thankfully, he was able to cancel his plan and change his passwords before any additional damage was done, but still, the loss of an iPhone is no small matter. We keep hoping and praying it will show up and/or be returned, but it is in God’s hands.

We found an amazing Chinese food restaurant yesterday. It is a bit expensive, but they give you so much food you can easily split it between two or three people and it becomes very affordable. The food is excellent...not quite US Chinese food, but distinctly Chinese. Es muy bueno.

I have not made my rum cake yet. Last Saturday, when I was planning to make it, they had mí mama tica’s birthday and ordered a cake and I didn’t want to compete with that so I decided to wait a week. So my current plan is to make the cake this weekend.

Tonight was “movie night” at the school. They drove a bunch of students to the theater to watch Angels and Demons. We decided to stay home and see if we could pick up a movie at the video rental store. They had some excellent titles in Spanish and we almost rented Gladiator en Español (because Noah had never seen it) but while they only charged about a $1.50 for a movie rental, they charged $6 for membership. We decided that a 400% increase in what we expected to pay was too much so we didn’t end up renting anything. I brought a few movies; Apollo 13, Star Wars, The Princess Bride, Finding Nemo, and a few others. We are going to watch a few of those in Spanish over the next few weeks. We want to watch something that is actually in enspañol, not just subtitled.

Anyway...concerning learning Spanish itself, I feel like I am hitting a brick wall. The first few days, and to a lesser extent, the first week, I felt like I was learning a lot of new vocabulary and finally being taught the grammar of Spanish, giving a structure to all the vocabulary I learned in Rosetta Stone. This week I feel like I am not getting anywhere. I am sure it is just the feeling that everyone has in the middle of the tunnel when they can’t see the big picture. I am sure I am moving forward, but from the “inside of the tunnel” it doesn’t seem like it. Intellectually, I know that I am learning and incorporating more words and speaking with my family, but I am not experiencing the “wow” factor I had the first week. Much of the grammar this week is very similar to what we’ve learned and now instead of learning new concepts, I feel like it is mostly just memorization. It is good for me though. I just have that feeling that I am not moving forward.

I can’t imagine doing Spanish without immersion. If I was just taking classes during the day, it would be incredibly harder to learn the language. It is so helpful to be able to go back to my Spanish speaking tico family and practice what I learned and incorporate new words in real conversation. If anything, I need to spend more time with my family just talking and less time doing “activities.” I know that there are a ton of things to do here – go hiking, go shopping, see museums and tourist sights, etc. – but I am not here to be a tourist. I understand that it is necessary to participate in some activities and take advantage of this opportunity, but I also need to remember the the purpose of me being here is to learn Spanish, not be a tourist. If I spend all day going on adventures, I won’t get to use my Spanish as much and I will improve much more slowly.

Anyway, that is my random rambling for today. I’ve been trying to cut down on the length of my blog posts so that I don’t become a spammer; too long and posts become just large amounts of text that no one reads rather than an interesting update of the day. The trick is keeping it short and readable yet at the same time full of content. I like writing :-) ...but I need to write more in español. ;-)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dia Diez – I have a little amigo...

26 de Mayo, 2009

There is a cockroach that lives in my shower.

He is brown, about four inches long, and moves a little faster than Usain Bolt (I may stretching the truth a bit – I can’t say for certain if it is a “he”). Every night, when I prepare to take a shower, he is sitting on the floor. I scare him a little bit into running away and he doesn’t bother me. I think we’ve worked out an agreement that I won’t try to squish him if he doesn’t bother me during my shower.

Today was a tough day. We were assigned a huge amount of homework at school today. Memorization has never been a strong point of mine, and we were assigned to memorize ninety-six irregular verbs – most of which I had heard of only on Lunes. The irregular verbs, unlike regular verbs, all have different ways I need to conjugate them. There are eight groups with the verbs in each group following a similar pattern of conjugation. Anyway, we are supposed to have a quiz on the verbs today so I was working quite a bit.

Today was also the national championship soccer game between Heredia and Liberia. Noah and I had bought Heredia shirts yesterday (Heredia is the local team). Mauricio and Karla, as well as some of the members of Noah’s tico family actually had bought tickets and went to the stadium to watch the game. We stayed home to watch it with the rest of the family. (The game started at ocho de la noche and would last for quite a bit and I had homework, otherwise I probably would have tried to go to the stadium.)

Unfortunately, the game turned out poorly for Heredia. In the last game that I saw, they played extremely well. In this game, however, their goalie got a yellow card tackling a opposing forward and so Liberia got a penalty kick (which essentially was a free goal). Things went downhill from there. The most dangerous time for a team is the first two minutes after a goal is scored and that turned out to hold true. Shortly after the goal, Liberia was able to score another. Twenty minutes later, they scored one last goal. The game ended 0-3 and my tico family was a bit melancholy.

During the game, I had been working on typing up all the irregular verbs on my computer. I now have quite a nice list. :-) Now all I have to do is find a place to print it out or spend a few hours transcribing it to paper.

After the game I went to bed. It is late and I need to get up early tomorrow.

I like my Heredia camiseta. I will make it my soccer shirt when I come back to the states. :-)

A cockroach lives in my shower. I think I will name him fluffy.

Dia Ocho y Dia Nueve - Week 2 begins...

May 24-25, 2009

We returned home from dancing a little past midnight so technically it counts as dia ocho. Noah and I both decided that it was fun but we probably wouldn’t choose to do it again.

Domingo was amazing. We slept in until about ocho de la mañana and prepared to go to a church service at diez. We had been looking at a list of churches in Heredia; there were many Pentacostal churches, a Mennonite church, Anabaptist-amish churches, but nothing that really stuck out as “ooh, that would be a good place to go.” (Although Noah and I were both excited with the possibility of going to a Pentacostal church and see what their service was like.) Well, it turns out God had an even better idea. The day before, Benjamin and I had been exploring San Joaquin and looking for a church that Benjamin had heard about from other students who came down last year. We found the building but when we went by, there was no one there. We decided, however, to go to that church on Domingo mañana because it looked worth checking out.

The church was amazing. We actually arrived about thirty minutes early because we were not sure what the general practice is (it turned out that like everything in Costa Rica, it ran about 10-15 minutes behind the posted schedule). We spent most of that time trying to translate the church information and core doctrines pamphlet. It is a CCI church plant that has about a hundred people. We were all commenting on how the church seemed both so familiar to what we know in the United States while at the same time distinctively Costa Rican. The worship leader is of African decent and you can definitely tell by the way he leads ;-) Worship was wonderful; we recognized many of the melodies and that helped us understand the words on the projectors. The message itself was taught in Spanish. It was a bit hard to follow but we actually understood the big ideas and the main point. It turns out that this week was a special “world missions” week so the pastor taught on spreading the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost ends of the earth.

Practically the whole congregation came over to welcome us and everyone was extremely friendly. You can definitely feel that this church is alive. It was extremely refreshing.

After church, we wanted to stay out of the house long enough so that our families did not feel pressured to feed us lunch. (Their are only “contracted” to feed us breakfast and dinner, but they are such generous and polite people that if we were there during lunch time, they would feed us so on the weekends when there is no school, we kinda make ourselves disappear around noon). We ate at an great pizza place called Lonzcho’s Pizza. So far, it is the best restaurant in town that we have found. They make good pizza. Mi gusto the crust (the most important part of any pizza); es muy, muy buena. All the ingredients are good and the pizza is fresh from the oven. Best of all, it is very cheap. I plan on coming back often.

We came back to watch the futball final with our family. Heredia (the local team) is in a final match against their arch-rival, Liberia Mio (I think I butchered that spelling). If Heredia lost, there would be one final game to finish the match. If Heredia won, it would be over and Heredia would be the champion team of Costa Rica. Needless to say, our families were very excited. The game was very good and I enjoyed watching it. There were some amazing plays and these guys really knew how to play soccer. It was a treat. The score ended up zero to zero, but instead of going overtime, they decide match on Tuesday. Don’t ask me why, it didn’t really make sense to stop a game at 0-0 to me either ;-)

On Monday, we started school again, this time with a new professora. Every week, we change professors. This week our professora is focusing more on conversation than grammatica. We still cover grammatica but the first half of class is practicing conversation and speaking. (Rather than just reading and writing.) We went over the first four groups of irregular verbs out of eight groups. There is a lot to memorize and a lot more practice we need to do to make these verbs second nature. But we are all getting better little by little.

After school, Noah, Benjamin, and I went to Heredia in search of adventure (Ben’s motivation) and to buy some Heredia futball camisetas (Noah and yo’s motivation). Most places did not have them and it took a while to find a place that sold the Heredia T-shirts.I needed a shirt and I wanted to support their home soccer team for tomorrow so I bought a yellow one and Noah bought a red one. We were very pleased with our purchases.

So we caught the bus back home and successfully navigated our way through the city without a tour guide. All in all, it was a very good two days.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dia Seis y Dia Seite - And now, back to our regular programing...

May 22-23, 2009

“Good morning! How are you doing?”

“Why? Uh...How? Uh...What?”

“Good morning. How are you doing?”

“Uh...much well, thank you.”

“Would you like some breakfast?


“Would you like some breakfast.”

“Me very have. Thank you.”

“Today we have fruit and eggs.”

“Fruit and eggs”

“Ahh, yes! Fruit eggs for breakfast I much like. What family you eat?”

Noah and I were commenting the other day that we must sound like aliens to our host families. Imagine asking your guests if they want to go shopping with you and they responding “Me to go my like when all days” ...and somehow they put up with us. ;-) Out families are so gracious. (Although I think the 12 year old, Maria José, thinks we are all crazy.)

Anyway, a lot has happened since I posted last. On Friday, we celebrated mi mama tica’s birthday. They ordered comida from one of the nearby restaurants and we had fried seafood. :-) Most of the day, however, I was at school or in town. I scouted out the local stores to find the ingredients I need to bake the rum cake. When I went shopping, though, I got rained in and instead of trying to walk home (like I did last time...and got soaked) I thoroughly learned my lesson and just hung out at the store for about an hour. I also decided to by myself a real umbrella because my small travel umbrella was falling apart. First, I was about to buy a neat dark green umbrella, but on the way to the checkout counter, I realized it was not a paraguas (for hombres) but a sombrllas (for mujers). Apparently there is a big difference. Since I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, I went back and got a paraguas negra (black umbrella) that is for hombres. I got home, and my familia told me it was an umbrella for niños, pero no esta por muchachos y hombres. Turns out a bought an umbrella that is for kids under 12 (I was thinking portability I guess :-P). So many choices, I never realized buying an umbrella was so hard ;-)

On Sabado, we (mi familia y yo) got up early and went shopping in Heredia at a HUGE food market (see my picture album on Facebook). This is where my familia goes shopping. We bought several bagfuls of fruit. I would have taken more pictures, but I was carrying two large bags so too bad :-P Apparently people openly sell pirated videos at the market. I could have bought Star Trek for a few dollars but my conscious overcame my NPR instinct and I refrained. It seems like the venders burn DVD’s on their home computers and make their own packaging. It actually looks very professionally done, but you can tell very easily that these are pirated videos. Anyway, I just think it is interesting that pirated videos are the norm here. In the US, there is a lot of piracy, but here, it seems like people don’t even realize it; it is completely culturally acceptable and done by legitimate business. truly is a different world.

That afternoon, a whole bunch of family members came to the house to celebrate mi mama tica’s birthday. I met Sofia y Ricardo, the two grandchildren and they are really cute. But Ricardo is a little bit of a brat for a three year old. I am sure he has no idea what he is doing but he goes around giving people the finger with a big smile on his face. A whole ton of his family think its cute :-P Anyway, I played catch with them for about an hour and then Noah and I entertained them with our computers. They loved the games on Noah’s iPhone and they played with PhotoBooth effects on my computer for a bit.

That night we went dancing. One of Noah’s classmates had a birthday that day and so we asked our familia’s a good place to dance. Our families all recommended a place called “La Rumba.” Some of our other classmates (whose don’t exactly have the same standards we do) said that they had been there and that it was lame, too tranquil, and they recommended another place. We ignored them and went with the suggestion of our families and I am SO glad we did. If this place was “tranquil” then I don’t ever want to see what “lively” is. The place was very upstanding and respectable. I am thankful it was not a raunchy place where people got drunk. It was actually a very good dancing establishment. I guess the best way to say it is that considering it is not a Christian environment, it was about as good as it gets. But the culture here is very...passionate; there were dancers all around that we hope were married. It is interesting, though the difference between the US and this hispanic culture. It seems like there is a huge difference in intent and connotation here. The Costa Rican people are extremely pro-family. The same action that in the United States would be interpreted and intended to be suggestive in the United States is not the same here because the intent is completely different. People dance truly to have fun, and it completely changes the environment.

Anyway...I will write more later, but I have to go now. Hasta mañana!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dia Cinco – Why Macs are amazing

22 de Mayo, 2009

Well, I had a whole post planned. I was going to talk about what Benjamin and Noah have been up to and how classes are going, pero mañana es mí mama tica’s cumpleaños so instead I decided to work on something else. The familia had a camera with a memory card, but no way to download the photos onto the computer. Mauricio asked me if I had a way to get the pictures from the camera to the computer so I just swapped memory cards and used my camera and its USB cord to transfer the files. Their copy of Windows (which, at this point, I am sure is some pirated copy because they have “this copy of Windows is unregistered” popping up all over their screen), does not have any real applications for media except for a basic picture viewer. So, I decided to use my Mac for what Macs do best. I downloaded the pictures into iPhoto and worked with Mauricio to choose photos and music for an iMovie slideshow. He chose all the pictures, and then I went to work creating the slideshow with iMovie (which makes everything a breeze by the way...I have no idea how Windows Movie Maker users survive, I just know that they must suffer :-/). So, during the time when I normally blog, I worked on that. I just finished now and am now exporting the movie to a readable format. It took me a while, though, so I need to get to bed. Hence, my shortened blog post today. Sorry. I’ll have a full post tomorrow. Until then, adios!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dia Cuatro – Un Dia en la Vida de Gregorio

20 de Mayo, 2009

5am – My alarm goes off. Looking out the window I can see it is already getting bright outside. I can hear sounds of stirring throughout the house. La familia es mostly despierto and starting to get ready for the day. On Lunes, I didn’t get up until 6:30 and realized that the familia had started their day more than una hora before. I asked Señor Victor when he “generalmente” woke up and he told me “cinco.” Since then, I’ve tried to get up earlier and eat breakfast with la familia rather than after they had all eaten and started working.

7am – By this time I’ve completed my routine de mañana: we’ve eaten breakfast, I’ve packed my bags for la dia, done some studying, and am listo ir. Señor Victor leaves for work about this tiempo and Maria José, the 12 year old hija, has left for eschuela about thirty minutes ago. Señora Olga is in the kitchen and is about to begin the laundry. yo no tengo figured out what the older hijos, Mauricio y Karla, do during the day. So far, the seem to come in and out randomly. Around this time, we set out to walk to eschuela.

8am – Classes begin at 8am sharp. We’ve usually been there about half an hour where we can access the internet and/or talk to our fellow students (again, unfortunately most choose to speak in English rather than practice español). Our professor greets us and we go over homework. After that, the standard schedule seems to be we play some sort of game based on that homework. On the day we memorized numbers, we played BINGO. On the day we memorized verbs, we played charades of “guess the verbos.” Afterwards, el professor teaches new concepts and we drill based on those; we complete worksheets and draw flashcards to use the verb in a sentence. As the class comes to an end, we are assigned new homework and spend the last part of the class just practicing conversation and learning new vocabulary (as opposed to solo verbos).

12pm – We did have a short 20 minutos break from classes at 10am, pero aside from that nosotros vamos straight to 12pm. At 12pm or 2:30pm, activities start. (Different activities start at different times.) Ayer there was a clase de bailar. How there was a clase de cocina. At other points, there are tours and trips that leave from campus. A few people went bungee jumping today y Noah wants to go to a coffee plantation this weekend. After any activities, I try to get online, post on my blog, and catch up with anything that needs attention.

2-3pm – Sometime around here, I try to start walking home. It generally rains in the afternoon and ayer I learned not to walk home in the rain, even if you have an umbrella and it starts out light. When I get home around 2:30-3:30, I start working on mí tarea. It usually does not take mas que dos horas. After which, I review my notes from clase, read the dictionary, and look up words I had wanted to say that day but didn’t know how. The familia starts trickling home around 4-5ish and we hang out talking until dinner.

6:30ish – The familia eats dinner, y we hang around a talk a bit more when we’ve finished. After dinner, I have a dos hora limit before I can have mi malaria pills and 30 minutos after that before I can get to bed. I have a target bedtime of about 9:30pm and from the end of dinner to that time, we hang out on the front porch, I prepare for the next day by setting out everything I will need, I take a shower, brush my teeth, prepare for bed, etc., and I write my blog post until I can go to sleep.

9:30pm – Oops, still writing.

Some ambigious time between 9:30 y 10pm – finished. Buenas noches!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dia Tres – What is this Feeling?

May 19, 2009

It’s a weird feeling but I can’t really see myself getting bored of living like this for ten weeks. Usually, I can recognize when I will get bored after a while. This past Spring Break for PHC, I lounged around, did very little, and got bored–eagarly awaiting for escuela to start again. That’s why I prefer three/four day weekends to week long breaks. What is worse, though, is that for break I knew I was going to get bored, I could feel myself on that path at the very beginning. It is muy differentia here, yo no tengo that same feeling. There isn’t much to do aqui pero habla to people, do a little homework (practically nothing compared to PHC), keep my stuff organized, and eat. I’m on the internet for less than dos horas cada dia, y more like 30 minutes. I check my mail, my facebook, upload my blog post and any pictures I have and I sign off. I can practico my harmonica, write blog posts, read vocab words and look at fish in the tank. Alternatively, if I felt like it I could go into town, explore, and look for good restaurants pero porque it is always raining in la tarde after classes I can now say (after my experiences hoy) that it is ill-advised to go out walking around town in the afternoon. The weird thing, though, is that this doesn’t feel like a case of boredom setting in. My dias are relaxed–I do the work that needs to be done but am not overloaded–pero not in the least way uninteresting (to me anyway). I guess I can only hope this feeling stays the whole ten weeks. (This paragraph was kind of a random comment. I just find it a little odd to have a distinct feeling of not being bored. Anyway, yet again you can probably tell these posts are not edited with scrutiny at all. I basically just write whatever pops into my mind :-/).

Today in class we went over more verbs. Nosotros practicamos conjugating verbos for los verbos de AR, ER, y IR. The concepts are simple, it is the application and practice that is hard. After classes, many of the students go back to speaking English, which is fine I guess, pero most of the time I want to practice the español I just learned so it is un poco defacil for me to not default back to English while still not being rude. Partially because of that, I tried to get back early to la casa de mi familia tico. It seems like generalmente (I was about to say most of the time, but only having been here three days, I can’t really give analysis related to tiempo, pero soló analysis related to the numero de los estudientes y what I gather), the students don’t go home until later in the afternoon/just before dark. There were some dancing lessons starting right after class that I wanted to take, pero after that and getting lunch, I wanted to get to la casa right away. 

The dance lessons were interesting. I recognized a lot of moves very similar to swing y just barely different. Either the instructor or myself, however, was horrible off-beat. I know mi hermano Stephen would probably habla that I was off-beat, pero soy almost positive that I was correct. I think the instructor was slowing down a little to show the moves more clearly...but in the process led the group to be just off enough so that it drove me crazy. It was fun though, mi gusto bailando. (Just FYI, I do not mean to complain at all here, I think it was great, I’m just describing whatever I think of while I am remembering.)

After the dancing lessons, I met with Noah and Benjamin who had gone out for lunch. I hadn’t eaten yet and they were wanting to wrap up some business (with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child being introduced, I know that Noah has a ton of stuff he needs to do for the Parental Rights organization, Benjamin was also working on quite a bit). Porque yo tengo hambre, I left them to catch a bite to eat and head home. As I started out, it started to rain.

So far it has rained every day. Siempre dia in the afternoon (Storm’s description of a 2pm sharp rainshow is almost exactly right. It rains, often and hard. Before grabbing a bite to eat, I stopped by el supermarcado to buy some tissue and some agua. I needed the tissue, for the agua all I really needed was a big bucket for me to stand with outside. Simply walking a few hundred meters across town (it’s a small town) and I was soaked. Well, my shoes and the bottom of my pants, my umbrella protected me from the rain above me, it was the puddles and the bounce factor (raindrops hitting the floor and bouncing up). When I got home, I had to take my soaked shoes and change into drier ropas. My conclusion from hoy’s excursion is never to try to get somewhere in the afternoon; you will either not end up going or stick it out and get soaked.

When I got back, I did homework, ate dinner, and sat around and talked with the familia. That sentence has basically been my life for the past seis horas. I love it. Y I would never trade it for unlimited free internet access. There is so much more to write, but soy cansado y yo tengo diez semanas to escribo. ;-) Hasta la vista!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dia Dos - Huevos y Heredia

18 de Mayo, 2009

I had eggs for breakfast this morning. And coffee. For those who know me, you can probably guess that it was not exactly the breakfast I would have chosen for myself en mí casa en los Estados Unidos. Pero mí tico familia es so wonderful, how could I even think of showing the least bit of anything but full enjoyment of la comida? Shouldn’t it be that way all the time anyway? I can’t honestly say I enjoyed breakfast...pero shouldn’t we always be truly grateful for any comida we get to eat? Many personas around the world do not eat as well; intellectually I know any comida should be muy welcome. I don’t always feel it though. At least I can try my best to act like I feel it and intellectually recognize it. :-/ Anyway, I must eat huevas muy despacio, too rápidamente y I feel muy mal.

Hoy was mí primero dia at la escuela. Benjamin, Noah, Rodrigo (Noah’s familia’s padre) and I caminamos a la escuela. The first half of la dia, from como siete y veinte to como nueve y cuarenta (from what I understand, the word “como” is used to like “about”/“ish”. Thus, “como siete” is “about/around seven.”) was a placement test and orientation. We first took a multiple choice placement test. I knew I needed to start at the beginning so I didn’t lose too much sweat over it. I crossed off what I knew (or thought I knew) was incorrect and guessed on the remaining options. After the multiple choice test, they had us come in for a speaking test where I was interviewed for a few minutos. While they were processing my scores in order to assign me a clase, they gave us an orientation. This consisted menos of actual new information that was on the package of materials that the escuela sent us, and mas de advertising for all the tours and activities that they provide for free...and the ones that, of course, you have to pay extra for. Tarde, I was assigned a professor and started classes. CPI has a muy bueno student/teacher ratio. There are soló cuatro estudiantes en mí clase y uno es Benjamin. El professor es muy patient with me  y mí amigos, though because he chooses to speak soló español except when absolutely necessary, it is sometimes hard to understand what it is he is asking us to do. Because of this, homework is a little defacil to comprende.

After classes ended, I went and connected to the internet for the first time in Costa Rica. Mí madre saw me immediately and IMed me even before I could change my status message from “Packing” to “En Costa Rica.” Internet is a little shakey here. The speed is muy bien but the stability is not always ideal. I spent no muchas tiempo on the internet and soon Noah and I decided to head out for lunch (Benjamin wanted to stay and keep working on the internet). Noah and I went into town and ate at a place called “Pollo sus amigos” – it had fried chicken. Dos pieces de pollo, y frutas, y root beer, y tortillas, todos por less than cuartro dollars. We had to head back quickly after lunch because we wanted to catch the 2:30 tour of Heredia. We wanted to get to the supermarket but we will have to do that tomorrow. 

We went on a tour of Heredia, the city nearby San Juaquín de Flores, and it was very interesting. We went to a fruit stand and tried fruitas that I had never seen before in mí vida. Most were very good, a few were...interesting. ;-) Then we went and tried an extremely fried quesadilla con queso. Grease was litterally dripping off the napkin I was holding it in. After trying all these new foods, our guides brought us to a church, y a historic casa, all over. It was raining cats and dogs though and everyone, even those who had a paraguas got soaked.

After the tour, which took about tres horas, I came back to mí tico familia y sus casa. We had beans, rice, y pollo for dinner. It was very good. They drink a lot of Coca-Cola in the house and the only thing stopping me from an extreme sugar high is me saying “la comida es bueno, pero yo esta lleno.  No mas por favor, gracis.”

Anyway, mí tico familia es amazing and wonderful. La professor y el escuela es amazing y wonderfu. Finally, Costa Rica generalmente es amazing y wonderful. I am looking forward to another day with great anticipation and excitement...okay, well maybe not so much for eggs. ;-)

P.S. I'm uploading some photogarfias on Facebook as soon as I can.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dia Uno - A Whole New World

Mayo 17, 2009


Información de blog:

Hoy soy starting a blog por me trip to Costa Rica. Soy en la country por diez semanas to learn Español at Centro Panamerico de Idiomas. Yo wanted to learn Español solo no to get credit and finish a requirement, pero learn the language por verdad. Soy escribiendo this blog to recount my travels for myself to remember in años to come as well as to let mi madre se what I am up to ;-) Soy attempting to write in “Spanglish”; incorporating what little español yo se and mixing it in con el ingles por que yo no se. Yo se that soy completely getting conjugations and even word usage wrong–este is a learning blog–the idea is that my usage gets better con my learning y practice. Yo no tengo internet aquí at la casa que soy staying, so each of these posts are going to have to be posted the day after I escribir, cuando yo tengo access. Uno mas notas: These blog posts are basically whatever I can think of at the time. They don't go through an extensive editing process and I don't try to stop my sappy, cheesy, semi-poetic side of my writing style. If things seem ill-thought out or over the is because they are ;-)

I stepped through customs without the knowledge or even remote expectation of what awaited me. A throng de personas, todos trying to find someone or sell a taxi or hotel room to someone, stood outside la puerta with signs, huddled against the clear glass window and peering in. For a moment I stopped and waited before exiting. There was no way I was going into that mass de personas without some kind of clue or idea what I was going to do next. Once I got out there, I know I would not have time to think of contingencies. I looked at the sea of people through the wall of glass and finally spotted someone who was looking at me and had a sign with my name on it. We made eye contact and I nodded, heading toward the door to meet the jóvenes muchacho en la camiseta rojo. He led me out a little bit away from the crowd and told me to wait while he went and got the car. I was waiting by another young man from the United States, Andrew, who had also been picked up by the CPI representative. Andrew, as I found out later, was an excellent Spanish speaker and was very willing to help me make the transition to my new surroundings. But at the moment, he was talking to a young lady and we didn’t introduce outselves to each other until later. 

While I waited for the car, a friendly looking muchacho with a clipboard for a major hotel chain (I forget which) walked by and greeted the American students as he passed. Most ignored him, pero I returned his greeting. He smiled and walked toward me. “Oh no,” I thought as my mano de izquierda  grasped my luggage tighter and my mano de derecha did a quick, subtle, pat down of my vest remembering what was supposed to be there, “it looks like he is stopping to talk. I better keep my eyes out for an accomplice pickpocket.” It was a paranoia me madre would be truly proud of :-P

David was a tour guide, as it turned out, looking for an opportunity to practice his English. We chatted in English about the weather, mountains, birds, and Costa Rica in general. He asked me how to say planting fields/sowing/gardening in English, I asked him como se dice en español. Despite my paranoia, (or rather, the paranoia I was putting on for the sake of...well, you know who by now) I was struck with how friendly David was to a complete stranger. It was impressive and humbling. Because of his friendliness we, who had almost nothing in common, had a more fulfilling and meaningful conversation in those fifteen minutes than the two other college students sitting beside me and I had on a three hour long flight. It struck me that everyone feels alone in the world, pero it solo takes uno to create an friendly atmosphere and make others feel welcome. Anyway, when my ride got there I said my good-bye and headed off.

I don’t know how to describe it, but it takes a certain amount of trust to hop into a car of someone you don’t know who speaks a language you don’t speak to go some place you don’t know where. It is certainly no exaggeration to say that I was trusting Christ more to get me to my destination than the driver. (Although, technically that should be true all the’s just that usually we don’t think about it because the driver is someone we know.) Anyway, the man driving and his family spoke no English. They were nice people, but I had no idea what they were saying other than the occational mention of “calor” and pointing to the air conditioner with a knowing smile. Andrew, my fellow student, definitely saved me from many an awkward moment. He helped translate what they were asking me and my questions for them. He explained why he was using certain words and what his translation meant so I was actually learning how to say what I wanted in Spanish. The car drive was short (at least compared to the two three hour flights I had just been on) and after dropping Andrew off to his host family, the driver brought me to mine.

I do not think it is possible to truly do justice to the friendliness and warmth that my host family greeted me with and welcomed me into their home. All I can say is that this evening, the one thing that kept coming to mind was Pastor Gary’s story about entertaining angels unawares and his description of the man he met when he got lost driving. I was thinking that the idea that we might entertain angels unawares certainly does not preclude the possibility of angels entertaining us unawares. My host family was patient, gracious, and eager to help me learn. If they were annoyed at my frequent need to ask them to repeat themselves or look up something in my Spanish-English dictionary, they never showed it. They offered me a tour of the town and were happy to spend time just making small talk with me.

San Joaquín de Flores is a small town, you can walk the main parts of it in about thirty minutes. I was amazed at how many people greeted each other as we walked by and everyone seemed to know everyone. It was a true small town feel. I was blessed also to learn that my friend, Noah, was in the house right next to my host family’s house and that the neighbors were good friends. Noah is literally a stone’s throw away and we were able to spend a lot of time together, speaking Spanish as much as possible and helping each other remember Spanish words we’d forgotten (Noah helping me much more as he has a much better knowledge of Spanish than I) At 11pm tonight (if I understand correctly) Ben is also supposed to be arriving and moving into the next door house with Noah. I am so pleased to be so near them.

My host family is amazing and I cannot begin to tell what a positive impression they have left on me and how much I want to emulate them. It’s getting tarde and I need to get some sleep soon, so just one more comment before I finish this post. Today was Sunday afternoon and my host family and Noah’s host family spent much of the afternoon just sitting on the porch talking together and with Noah and I. There was no rush, there was no place to drive to, no demanding errands, they just sat and chilled on the porch. How often do you see that in the United States? Sure, many people may not have huge plans or to do lists on Sunday, but how many just sit together and chat for hours at a time? There is a certain peace and tranquility here that is rare to find in the United States. Maybe it is hard to find here in Costa Rica too. Maybe I just got lucky. But in more ways than one, my eyes are opened to a new world I’d never imagined.

This is Gregorio reporting from Costa Rica. Thanks for reading.