Greetings to you all - I feel like there is so much to relay but so little space to do it in. I made a list of 10 items that I wanted to write about and I began to wonder how I would ever get through it and do each topic justice. I then quickly realized that I’m going to be here for quite some time; turns out I don’t have to share everything I’ve been thinking and experiencing in one blog post.
I’ll start with classes – that’s why I’m here after all. I love my Spanish classes – I actually pop out of bed most mornings and can’t wait to get to class. I haven’t figured out if it’s because I love learning this stuff or if it’s because it affords me a chance to converse with people in English; probably both. Seriously though, I am truly enjoying learning – I’ve not been a student for a little while and I love the feeling of really learning something new. I have three classes Gramatica, Lenguaje y Fonetica. Grammar is two hours long, we get an hour break and then the other two classes are I hour each. Twice a week we have chapel during the hour break (I joined a worship team to help lead singing during the chapels, we sing some hymns but it doesn’t compare with Mennonite 4-part harmony). I have all of my classes with the same 4 people – which is nice because you really get to know them. One of my classmates, Mike has to be one of the funniest people I have ever met. He’s 40-something, from Florida, has a thick accent and has the funniest comments and one-liners; he keeps all of us laughing, even the teachers, and they don’t understand much English. He struggles with pronouncing Spanish properly, especially in Phonetics. I swear he sounds just like George Bush trying to speak Spanish – it’s hilarious and he knows it. I give him credit though, he jokes around a lot but he tries hard and it’s paying off. I feel ahead of the game in Grammar because my teaching of English at CCS drilled the parts of speech into me, which we’re learning a lot of in there. My teacher’s name is Maritza and she is volatile, most of the time she’s a peach but if you’re not paying attention or goofing off she lets you have it. She just kind of becomes the extreme of whatever mood happens to strike her fancy in that the moment. Part of me, the brown-noser, loves the challenge of getting on the perpetual good side of people like that; thus far I’m doing pretty well. Lenguaje is taught by a lovely lady named Marlene who sits behind a desk and talks to us in Spanish – she teaches us conversation and it’s probably the most helpful right now. At the end of two weeks I am now able to greet someone, ask for directions and talk about the weather; very helpful stuff down here. Phonics class is a riot – it’s taught by Sandra who doesn’t know much English and reminds me of Theo Huxtable’s Math teacher, the one that came to his house to share his test grade with him. She’s very put together and very serious looking, but she has a heart of gold. Phonetics is the class where we learn to pronounce our vowels properly, it’s tough, and my mouth hurts after each class. One of our classmates is a bit ADD and is perpetually lost or studying the plant-life outside the window, and I have George Bush next to me speaking Espanola with a serious southern twang – it makes for a very interesting class. As I said though, I am really enjoying classes and I must say I’m doing very well in all of them right now – which is a plus.
Many people have asked me about my day – what it consists of. I feel awkward telling them because it never sounds like there’s much to it, but honestly, I’m exhausted at the end of the day. I wake up at 6:00, do my devotions, eat breakfast and get ready for school. I’m out the door by 7, the school is a 15 minute walk from my house through neighborhoods and a busy business district. Classes begin at 7:30, we get an hour break at 9:15 and then classes end at noon. I usually putz around the school, socializing or using the internet for an hour and then I come home, eat lunch and take a siesta (I love doing that). After I wake up I do school work, go for a run, watch “Little House on the Prairie” (“La Familia Ingalls”) in Spanish, eat dinner and then spend the rest of my evening doing school work and reading. That’s it, that’s my life – oh, on Tuesdays I teach English in a local ESL class and on Mondays I take a scuba diving course. Doesn’t sound like much, but I feel pretty busy, especially with siestas.
This past Friday started the 2 day celebration of independence from Spain. As the story goes, Guatemala was at one time the provincial Capitol for all of the Spanish holdings in Central America south of Mexico. When independence was declared a horse and rider came from Guatemala to announce the tidings to Costa Rica. He arrived on the 14th of September in the dead of night and people had to gather under lamplight to hear that they were free from Spanish rule. The next day they apparently partied like it was 1899. So, every year on the 14th of Sept. children will gather at their local schools in the evening with home-made lanterns, dressed in traditional Costa Rican garb and then march through the main streets singing songs and watching fireworks. On the morning of the 15th high school marching bands, dance troupes and Color Guards will compete in parades held throughout the city. In downtown San Jose, dignitaries give patriotic speeches – around noon everything wraps up and people go home, hopefully before the rain starts. At my school we had a little celebration, we marched around with our own lanterns, then listened to our teachers sing a few Costa Rican songs as they hoisted the flag, it was the most patriotic that this Mennonite has been in a long time. I tried to find the lantern-parade on the night of the 14th but was without luck; so that my evening wasn’t a total loss, I stopped at a bakery and had a piece of chocolate cake and coffee (Costa Rican pastries will be the death of me.). I was bound and determined to see the festivities on the 15th so a friend and I took a taxi to the university area and watched the parade there. It was massive – I was impressed with the drum-lines, and the seriousness with which the kids conducted themselves. They practice all year for this one parade – and it shows. I noticed, that unlike our 4th of July celebrations, there weren’t a lot of parties or picnics in people’s homes – celebration is more community oriented, the whole community turns out to one event that many, many people participate in; once the event is over so is the holiday. I like that, but I’m not ready to give up my hotdogs and bonfires at the Meckbach’s.
I’m gonna wrap this entry on up but I wanted say a word about Notre Dame Football. I’ve been informed many times over that they’re 0-3, terrible, etc. Josiah Stoltzfus has gone so far as to attempt to send me newspaper headlines that declare how bad they are, I loathe him. I know they stink, they have no offensive line, they’ll be lucky to beat the military academies this year. We’ve been here before, I’m just gonna be patient and pretend this season doesn’t count (it’s easy to do when you’re not in the country and can’t watch the games; it would be even easier if people like Stoltzfus would leave me alone).
Alright then, that’s enough for this entry. Tune in next week to hear what’s cookin’ in the kitchen, how many cockroaches I’ve killed and the woes of CAFTA, known as TLC down here (Costa Ricans don’t think it’s “Crazy, Sexy, Cool”)! Peace.
P.S. - I’m going to be publishing my first newsletter here in a week or two, if you’d like to get on the email list for that let me know at email@example.com