This past month has definitely presented us with some challenges. Primarily it would be a singular challenge: SPANISH; but there have been the every day challenges that simply come with adapting to a new culture – a new schedule, new food and new customs. Some days everything is perfect, but there are also those times when we are tired and it really just hurts to try and think in Spanish. We are being assured that those days are normal – it is a part of culture shock – and are also told that they will become few and far between because we have the skills to appropriately cope with what is going on around us, as well as an amazing network of individuals who have gone through the process or are going through the process with us. Peace Corps really is an interesting experience.
These challenges are completely worth it because of all of the amazing things that we are also experiencing. Today I was sitting on the patio and studying Spanish when my mind started to wander. It started with this: Wow, our neighbor uses barbed wire for clothes line. I thought that this was very interesting because it makes perfect sense, there is no need for clothes pins because the clothes won't move anywhere when there are pieces of wire keeping them in place. Granted, I enjoy having clothes pins because that means I should end up with fewer random holes in clothes, but I thought it was a great idea – even if I never plan on using the method. This mental process was quickly followed by thoughts of other things that have just made me smile over the past several weeks, including:
- Our one-eyed parrot. He was attacked by a cat. He survived, but is now without his right eye. This makes him very entertaining to watch – he can tell when there is a bug nearby, but can never quite figure out where it is when it is on his right. His head starts bobbing and he starts dancing around – I have yet to see him actually catch a bug he was “chasing.” I also enjoy that the family calls him Pariquito Rico.
- The woman who owns the local libreria (bookstore). She is really sweet and doesn't mind the fact that our spanish is mediocre. She actually jokes with us that she will teach us spanish for free if we teach her english in return. Unfortunately we don't have much free time at this point in our lives. After we finish training it would be a different story; however, we will no longer be living in this community after we have been inducted as actual volunteers.
- The neighbor of the libreria. The other evening we went into the libreria looking for a map of Costa Rica. She only had small ones, similar to what we already have. While we were talking to her about wanting a larger map her neighbor waited patiently to finish his conversation with her. Then, the next morning we happened to be walking past his house and he said “Buenas” and essentially, “You're the guys that were looking for a map, right?” We confirmed this and after a broken conversation and much confusion on our end, we ended up with an old map of Costa Rica, which was exactly the map we were looking for (perhaps a little outdated, but it does the job!).
- Our local panaderia. I think it is by far the best panaderia in the country (or at least out of the 5 or so that we have grabbed delicious bread from.) They have sweet breads, ones filled with sweet cheeses and fruit, others with dulce de leche, there are pizza breads and sour doughs – pretty much anything that you could really want. The woman who works there is incredibly sweet and has started to expect us on our breaks from Spanish class. The other bonus – these delicious goodies cost about 550 colones or roughly one dollar. Sometimes when I think about this I feel bad, but then I see the news reports that the dollar keeps losing value on the colon.
- Our Tico Family. Everyone is so nice and they are always checking in on us to make sure we: have had enough to eat, have slept well, are staying cool enough, are getting our studying done, need help with anything, or want to watch TV. Really the list goes on and on. They are wonderful people and they want to make sure we are adapting to the culture here. I also love that they continually assure us that at the end of three months Spanish will no longer be a challenge. I'll keep hoping they are right, but also keep studying and know that I really have two years to get the language thing down. I know it will become easier before then, but also that we will continuously learn new words, phrases, or rules.
The list goes on, but I will save the other goodness for a later date. After all, we can't have visitors until after training ends and we don't want to give you all of the good stuff in one shot. We'll keep it coming until you are able to book your ticket!