Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Snake skin belts and cabbage, I'm moving on up.

Picture this if you will.  (No really, please.  Still no camera (ergh) and feel that now I must be more descriptive with things in written form...) Getting up at 4 o clock in the morning, chugging down a glass of orange juice with your aforementioned host mother, and running out of the house to meet your friend who is to be at your gate at precisely 4:07.  Who makes meetings specifically seven minutes after the hour?  Yes, LeeAnn does.

Last weekend, I spent my first night in my host site.  I'm not going to lie, I didn't even leave the house.  I know there is much to explore and learn about, the school, the church, the well, really that's about it.  But there was so much to learn about in the backyard alone, I'm getting ahead of myself though.  Let's travel then back to that morning.

I woke up at midnight and every ten minutes after that, except of course between 3 and four, hence the chugging.  I grabbed my bag and went around the corner to meet my friends traveling with me.  Then there was much waiting.  We got on the bus here in Orosi, standing with our luggage for the 45 minute ride up a mountain, and went into Cartago.  We wandered around for a few minutes and went to the bus stop in Cartago bound for Turriabla.  Here we moved up to seats and under the bus storage.  Pure comfort.  Though when the bus filled up there was a man a bit too liberal with the cologne standing right next to me which made it necessary to breathe a bit less.  You win some, you lose some.

At Turriabla and waited in the bus station grande, a really nice one where you could eat and sit and what not, and  so we did.  They also have a cappuccino machine where one actaully pulls shots instead of pushing a button.  Che Rico.  A little while later we were approached by a shorter, older, mustached man wearing a leather cowboy hat asking if we spoke Spanish.  He had kind eyes.  I knew instantly.  This was my year long host father.  He spoke to us for a while, about you know, rain and buses, most of which I did not understand.  We offered him a seat, he declined and said he was going to go walk for a bit and he left.  He would come in periodically to check that I hadn't gotten lost I think.  He would talk for a minute or two, the cows aren't producing much milk yet, there were mudslides just last night and then as abruptly as he had come, he would head off in the other direction, always with some sort of instruction to my friends, "Don't let her wander off."  He must have known I was a wanderer of sorts somehow...  As my friends met him, there were descriptors like, "he's adorable", "precious" and "what a bad ass".  Wait,  A Bad Ass?  "I love his belt."  What?  When he checked in again I saw it, a black and white snake skin belt and buckle. "I bet he killed that snake."  Probably, actually.  There will be snakes.  However, I should better knowing that this soft spoken host father can not only kill snakes, but he may also make awesome accessories out of them.  Sweet.  Finally it was time to wait get on the bus.  We stood next to each other awkwardly with nothing really to say, but without the same terror that there has been (for me, at least).  When we were getting on the bus I held a bag of his groceries while he put my suitcase up which I admit, was heavy.  Then I just sat with this white and pink striped bag in my lap.  I didn't know what it was but it was cold...  Then my friend got on the bus since she is in a nearby town and my host father's eyes just lit up.  I'd like to think it was because she speaks more Spanish than me and he was excited to have some way to communicate, but it may have been cause she's really pretty.

So we rode on the bus for a while and go off somewhere in the middle of the mountain at a road and a bus stop in the rain.  I was quickly ushered into a jeep of sorts and we turned around to go up the mountain.  I hate to say but I was told not to wear my seatbelt and as I know nothing of this nature of travel, I followed suit.  So we drove up the road a little bit and another gentleman get's picked up.  Three men in the car and I know one, but the beauty of the environment, even in the rain, overwhelms me, and I just look around in a stupor.  So we drive up the mountain a bit.  I think people were talking to me or they were only talking to each other, but the green, and the banana trees, and the fields that run nearly perpendicular to the road, and the occasional house painted in a bright teal or vibrant pink overtook my senses.  This was my street, paved or no, this was my street.  At a certain point the driver tells me Alto Varas, we are at my site.  Sweet.

A minute or two later we stop and I think it must be time to get out.  Instead, my host father comes around to the front seat and takes the bag of cold cans from me, then pats my shoulder to indicate that I should stay in the car.  He runs off to somewhere.  I do not know where, nor do I ask.  In a few minutes he came back up to the driver's side of the car and passes through a bag for me.  It's a cabbage.  The car starts and we continue up the mountain.  I no longer know any of the men in the car with me, but I have a cabbage and all is good.

We drive for a bit more, I am trying to memorize landmarks for distance on the days when I will be walking down this hill (mountain).  Then the driver points out the school and the church, this is pretty much all of the town.  Really.  We come to a driveway that goes up higher in the mountain.  This pink house overlooking the town will be my home for the next year.  I'm pretty much blown away.  The guy from the back seat takes my bag inside, turns out he's my host brother.  I kiss my host mother on the cheek.  She is exactly how I would have imagined her to be after meeting my host father.  Shorter, stout, but strong and able.  I deliver the cabbage.  She makes a salad.  All is good.

I talked to my host mother while I ate some rice and beans.  I say very little but there is laughter.  My host sisters claim to be crazy.  I went into the back yard and I wandered out toward the bodega (barn).  I walked to the right in the mud (my host father said I had to get a pair of mud boots so I could learn how to milk cows) and took a few steps.  There are baskets made out of sticks hanging over head with flowering plants, there is much mud.  There is also a precipice.  Ha ha, a few steps back and a look to the right.  Why, there's a baby cow.  Huh, I hadn't seen that coming.  Though I suppose I should have.  I guess that's all I have time to write for now, though there is much I want to share.  Keep looking right, there are always new things to see.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Speeeling decrease

No, that's not a typo.  It's actually an example of what's happening to my English language skills.  At first I just thought that it was reflective of my inability to type, but it has since come to pass that when taking notes by hand I spell words in new and creative ways...  Rools instead of rules for example.  (Which I must admit, looks pretty nice.  I hope it catches on as an alternate spelling.)  In addition to wacky ways of spelling, I have also found that I am literally creating new letters.  Hard to demonstrate while typing, even harder to review what I have written.  At this point, I have been able to catch most of these mistakes, but there have been words that have caused me to take pause.  How do you spell equiped?  Today I actually tried to look up Enklish in my pocket dictionary for the spelling in Spanish.  I don't know friends, but I hope I can keep some level of written communication.

My daily routine is likely in part to blame for this decrease in communication skills.  Along with culture shock, jet lag, a new diet, and learning a new language, of course.  Here's a look into my mind yesterday should anyone ever choose to act it out as if in a play.  Six a.m, wake up, prepare for the day.  Eat the breakfast that has been set out for me (Today a bologna sandwich with tomato, mustard and some other type of dressing, which I will call runny russian.  To drink, coffee, water and Tang.  Yes, Tang.  At every meal...).  Sit awkwardly with my host mother.  Listen to her explain to yet another neighbor that I don't speak any Spanish.  At all.  Seven thirty try and finish Spanish homework regarding irregular reflexive verbs.  Enter class at eight confused.  Try and absorb some of the hundreds of new words in my mind along with the way they may change due to tense, number, gender, or just their irregular nature.  Take coffee break.  Return to Spanish class, try and observe more verbs.  Go to a class in English about how to teach classes in English.  Eat lunch, chat with friends, check email, delete those from Detroit Public Television, more coffee.  Four more hours of classes in English, do skits, laugh loudly.  Another coffee break.  Get into small groups and discuss practice lessons taking place next week.  Decide that in comparison, you will be too strict of a teacher.  Wonder if you are a horrible person.  Finish with friends. Walk slowly home.  Walk into living room.  See that a friend of the family is visiting.  Say hello.  Wonder if you are supposed to introduce yourself.  Pause for too long.  Smile.  Excuse yourself to the restroom.  Breathe.  How do I spell English again?  Eat dinner with family and guest.  Put salad dressing on cabbage, Thousand Island by Kraft.  Feel a bit of pride that you have been able to correctly identify anything.  Listen to guest speaking very much, and very fast about something that had happened to him.  Finish food.  Wonder how long you have to stay at the table to be polite.  Sit.  Cross hands in lap.  Sit.  Smile at host brother.  Relax for a minute.  Have some more tang.  Think about scooting chair out a bit.  Wonder what guest is talking about.  Sit.  Recognize one word.  Death.  Get caught understanding.  Decide not to scoot chair out.  Recross hands.  Look at salad dressing bottle.  Feel proud again. Watch bull fight taking place on the television behind you.  Sit.  Wonder when it's polite to leave a conversation when the only thing you understand is death.  Assume that it's not.  Sit.  Put empty glass on empty plate.  Reconsider scooting out chair.  Wait.  The guest stands up to leave.  Wait.  Watch as he says goodbye to the family.  See his face freeze when he comes to you.  Smile.  Shake hands.  Say pleased to meet you.  Breathe.  Meet friends at bar.  Chat.  Laugh loudly.  Drink more beer.  Relax.  Group gets smaller.  New conversation.  Laugh.  Realize that it is 10 p.m. and the bar is closing.  Pay tab.  Stand out in rain.  Smile for photo.  Start walking with friends.  Gage interest in walking around for a bit more with group.  Find interest.  Notice car next to the soccer field with steamed up windows.  Point it out to friends.  Laugh.  Lean in to hear a story a friend is telling.  Get smacked in the face by a friend going in to high five the person across from him.  Look sad and walk away.  Laugh.  Another friend comes to give you a hug.  Instinctively knee him in groin.  Wonder why that was an instinct.  Bend over with laughter.  Walk more with friends.    Laugh.  Return to host families house.  Check watch.  11 p.m.  Take off wet shoes at door.  Sneak into room.  Get ready for bed.  Sleep.  Wake up next day.  Finish homework.  Have breakfast with host mother.  Repeat.

Really though, please don't think that I am only frustrated.  I'm just not that good at the imersion method of learning a language.  When I don't know one word in a sentence, my brain stops to try and process it.  So, I've been really confused a lot of the time, and I don't want to answer when I have no idea.  I do answer when I have some idea, but no idea, no.  I have had some great momentshere though and I am glad to be here.  I went on this awesome and really challenging hike into the mountains.  I've learned a bit about Spanish, fallen in mud, seen my first poisonous snake (dead, whew), had a banjo lesson with my host brother, and laughed a lot.  Real bad news, I lost my camera.  Or it was stolen, but as I've mentioned before, my brain isn't running at top speed.  I may have just misplaced it....  Cross your fingers, por favor.

I have to plan now to prepare for my first journey to my actual host village.  The group is splitting up, leaving the safety and comfort we have found in each other in these classes and new experiences.  I'm going to travel from Orosi to Alto Varas. I'm a bit nervous, but my stomach is settling a bit.  My second host father will be meeting me in San Martin so I will not have to make the journey alone with a big suitcase.  Good to know.  Also good to know, he is now planning to use a car for this journey and not a horse.  Excellent.  I apologize dear friends for not writing sooner.  Please understand that it is not because I have not been thinking about you.  In truth, there have been times already when I considered repacking and returning to you.  I believe however, it's important to work through the awkward and enjoy this time.  Adios, amigos!  Hasta Luego!