Saturday, January 31, 2009

I don't think Kansas is on the radar anymore Toto...

So I knew that living in Costa Rica was going to be "different" but I didn't realize just how different it was going to be until I saw a cockroach in my bathroom. (Which, upon reflection, I think those guys get a bad rap. I mean they don't really DO anything except maybe be gross - they don't bite, they won't kill you - they're just big. I think it's all societal conditioning that makes us hate cockroaches so much. But in reality, we're just jealous that they would survive a nuclear holocaust and we, sadly, would not.


If you've ever read David Sedaris' "Me Talk Pretty One Day," you've read a pretty accurate description of what it's like learning a language in a foreign country. Basically, he's describing the group of us on this study abroad program. I'm sure I muddle up the language quite nicely, mixing present-tense verbs into past-tense narrations when I can't remember how to conjugate in the imperfect, or assigning the wrong gender to certain words. (Like things have genders. HA!)

But my favorite part is how brilliantly I manage to screw up the simple act of listening. I mean, it's not really that hard. In fact, it is so natural that to NOT listen to someone is difficult.
Unless you are me. I can sit and listen to someone speaking to me, and, while still comprehending that they are speaking Spanish at me, I can fully stop listening to anything but the general sound of that person speaking Spanish.
When asked a question, I generally tend to answer a completely different one.
When not asked a question, I'll answer one anyway.
When asked to do something, I nod my head yes, just the same as I do for everything else, and continue to not do whatever I was asked to do.
I have had entire conversations that were wrong. Yes, a wrong conversation. How can a conversation be "wrong," you ask? Well, when you use the wrong word, the whole thing is out of context and goes completely to pot. My host sister and I discussed driving last night, and the whole time I was assuming that we were talking about concerts.

Then there's fun in being outside a conversation. Listening in to try and glean more Spanish experience will only take you so far, especially when you have those magpie tendencies: "Ooh! I just heard the word 'matrimonio!' I know that that means! They are talking about marriage! I've found the track again!" But by the time my brain has comprehended that I comprehend, the conversation has moved on to motor oil and I have to start the whole process over again.

The best is when you are asked a ridiculously easy question by someone with a strong accent, and have to ask them to repeat it five or six times before someone else answers for you.
"She's 20 years old."
Ah. They were asking how old I am. Great.

The conversations that I end up having with my host sister or my host mother that actually last longer than six sentences, are always inane. I spent probably 15 minutes last night explaining 'ravioli' to a pair of girls who probably knew what I was talking about considering they knew what "cannoli" and "lasagna" are, but were most likely humoring me.

And yet... it doesn't feel too different from home...

They say that within two weeks my Spanish will have gotten ridiculously better. I've been here two days, but it feels like two weeks already. Does that count?

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