This is the story of my 6 months of studying in Arizona in 2010 and subsequent travels in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Yo aprendo Español! :)

For Christmas I gave my professor Ernie, who invited Helene and me for dinner Christmas eve, two old books with Grooks, little pragmatic poems by the Danish writer Piet Hein. It was inevitable that I had to read through the books before I gave them away (!), and I found this one.

To be brave is to behave
Bravely when your heart is faint.    
So you can be really brave
Only when you really ain’t.

So this morning when I packed my stuff in the hotel before moving to my host family, I kept these words in mind.

Mario had asked me to either be at the host house before 1 PM if I wanted to go with the family to a party, or after 5. In the spirit of adventure and unique experiences I obviously decided that a get-together with people I didn't know and who probably wouldn't speak a lot of English would be a great idea... That gave me 3 hours to tour the old city center before moving along.

The receptionist in the little hotel allowed me to leave my luggage in the reception, and then I stopped by in the bakery to get some breakfast. Though I prefer a more full breakfast than some pieces of bread, I don't mind to live off a few croissants every once in a while! :) Mario had told me about one of the major streets being closed for cars every Sunday morning, so I headed down it towards the center together with hundreds of bikes. Seemed to me like people were just enjoying the fact that there were no cars, without actually having to go anywhere. And well, the weather is amazing here, so I cannot blame them! :)

However, all the shops were closed, and I realised that life in a very catholic city like Guadalajara on a Sunday does not start till church is over... Or well, around 10.30 at least. (Considering that in Denmark NOTHING would really start on a Sunday, this was actually great!) So for a little over an hour I just strolled around enjoying the views - it really is a beautiful city! :) I sat on a bench in the sun in front of the cathedral with my breakfast and enjoyed the whole thing. Then I walked around with the quest of finding a notebook for my Spanish notes, which turned out to be more difficult than I though. The mission brought me into several indoor market places, which would for sure have never been approved for fire safety in Denmark. And the food courts, however delicious the food looked and smelled was not exactly attractive. Im sure it will be, once my stomach gets immune to all the local bugs! :p

So yeah, anyway, one thing bothered me walking around, but of course I should get used to that to. Attracting attention. I am using the same tactic as in Turkey, avoiding eye contact, as that literally makes people follow me around. This tactic minimizes the attention to staring and comments, which in most cases I don't understand. Yet. Though probably for the better anyway - makes it easier to ignore.

I succeeded in my book quest when I found a little pink notebook with Tinkerbell and a lot of glitter. FYI, Tinkerbell is called Campanita, or "little bell", in Spanish. It came with a Disney pen, which sadly doesn't work. I will try to get over the loss. Headed back to the hotel I managed to walk in the wrong direction, but in the end found my way. Picked up my luggage and found a taxi, with 3 veeeery helpful drivers, each eager to respectively assure me he knew the way to my hosts, carry my backpack, and open the door for me, etc. Nice nice... Once in the cap the nice driver really had no clue of where we were going, but he did have a map, and spoke happily to me in Spanish. I understood nothing but his gestures, but that was enough anyway. Spoken language is overrated... ;)

With this newfound discovery I pulled up to 2529, a number the taxi driver was getting tired of repeating to me to learn, I guess. Veinti.. (I actually almost know how to say it, just not sure how to write it ;)) The house was surrounded by a gate, which luckily the driver found out how to open, and I got through the second gate in front of the door. And knocked. Twice. Then a very ecstatic Mexican woman open, hugged me, welcomed me, and showed me my room, los baños (WC), and the kitchen. Slightly overwhelmed but very excited by the fact that she spoke a bit of English AND that there was wireless Internet, I sat down to relax for 5 minutes. We would be leaving to her daughters birthday shortly after.

The birthday girl next to me, and...
Look at that cake! 
Could say a lot about the whole afternoon, but I really need to get to sleep now. :) So I will make it short.  First we picked up a beer in 7Eleven, as my host, Carmelita (or Lita in short) likes a beer before her meal! Hehe... I didn't mind a cold beer on this warm day. :) We went to a restaurant in a fancy neighborhood, and I met the entire family with loads of children with cheek kisses from everyone. During the meal I was seated next to Lita's sister who lives in Texas, and thus speaks good English as well. GREAT! The IMAC school where I will be taking the Spanish class has a policy that the hosts should only be speaking Spanish with the students, but as I really do not know any Spanish, this is just a better solution. Like in the discussion class I benefit so much from having the direct translation between English and Spanish! And I realised that learning my 4th language from my 2nd (English) is somewhat a different challenge from learning it off my mother tongue. Adds another dimension of complexity, though the knowledge of language structures indeed is very useful! :)

In my Tinkerbell-notebook I now have a selection of words and a few phrases, such as "Estoy cansada" - Im tired, and "yo tengo hambre" - I am hungry, or rather, I have hunger. A good example of how German helps me, from "Ich habe hunger", the same structure as Spanish, but different from Danish and English. Ok, enough lanugae geek babbling, I will go to sleep now. Im so happy! :)

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