Monday, March 23, 2015

“¿Como se dice ‘flour’? No, no es ‘flor.’”

And more struggles fun with espanol. 

Hannah Ray Lambert

Today I made a list of all the ways my basic knowledge of Spanish has come in handy so far. Really, it started helping within minutes of arriving in Costa Rica, when I had to pass through immigration. It helped with buses and taxis, finding wifi in public places, ordering food and talking with the non-English speaking members of LAST. It’s also helped me feel like less of a stereotypical tourist. I stick out enough with my blonde hair. There’s no need for me to draw more attention to myself by bumbling my way through every interaction with a local.

The most valuable bilingual experience I have had here, though, is with our host family. Being able to communicate with our host mom and her two daughters has arguably been the richest part of this experience.

Yesterday I talked with Griselda, 18, about the educational system in Costa Rica as well as her career/schooling goals. Today, Griselda and her younger sister, Yahaira, gave me a tour of the property. They showed me their garden and all the diverse, naturally growing fruit trees around the house including – but certainly not limited to – guavas, mangos, plantains, a type of apple and coconuts.

The latter fruit led to the title of this post. Using my broken Spanish, I tried to say that coconut has a lot of uses in the United States, one of those being flour.

Trying to explain flour (since I didn’t know the Spanish word for it) was a five-minute endeavor, even with Selena’s help. I’m pretty sure we got there eventually, though.

After dinner, Selena and I spent more than two hours talking with the family (and playing dominoes with Yorleni). Yahaira showed us her drawings and drew portraits of us.
Selena braiding Yahaira's hair one morning before school.

She also had us help her study for her English test tomorrow.

Now, I always knew English was a silly, unnecessarily complicated language. However, trying to explain why “l” and double “ll” make the same sound to a sixth grade Costa Rican student really drove that point home. I’m incredibly lucky to have learned this crazy language from infancy; otherwise I don’t think I’d ever have the patience to figure it out.

Yahaira would read something (in English) like, “May I talk to Maria?” and then look at us for approval.

In Spanish, I would answer, “Si. Pero es ‘may,’ no ‘my.’”

She used her limited knowledge of English and I used my barely-functional Spanish.

It was a truly beautiful moment. 

Griselda, Yorleni and Yahaira with the Cougar flag.

Not relevant to this post, but this is the family gatita. She's so small I thought she was a kitten, but she's actually the mama cat. People don't typically feed their cats in Costa Rica, so they have to work a lot harder for their food than my cats do.



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