How hard can it be?

These words have burned in my mind this month.

During my first days of my second class, a classmate was trying to talk to our Spanish professor in English, and he didn’t understand. I watched as she became frustrated and decided to talk to her during the break. She had transferred into our class after the first day, so she didn’t know he doesn’t speak English in addition to Spanish.

During the break, I explained this to her, and her response to me was, “I’m just trying to say food poisoning, how hard can it be?” How hard can it be. These words have burned in my mind this month.

They’ve reminded me that while language barriers do exist, our response to them is extremely powerful. Positive or Negative.

How hard can it be? If it wasn’t difficult, she would have been able to tell him in Spanish. If it wasn’t difficult I would always be able to communicate with my host family, people on the street, and those who speak Spanish in my home country. But it is hard.

However, just because someone doesn’t know multiple languages doesn’t lessen their worth as a person. This doesn’t deem them as unintelligent.

In that moment in class, I felt so much judgment being placed on language barriers. Just as I don’t want Costa Ricans to deem me as unintelligent based upon my Intermediate Spanish, I desire the same for those in the US, who I may interact with in the future.   There is so much a person has to say, even if they can’t communicate it. I don’t ever want someone to feel they are lesser because of my reaction to their language. I don’t want to give that impression. I’ve now lived it. I’ve now seen it from the other side.

Comunicación

Communication is completely different on so many levels. It was during week one and it still is during week four. Ironically, if anything, it has gotten harder.

Communicating with my host family has in some ways, become easier. I have been able to learn the different phrases they use regularly and I can now distinguish the differences in pronunciation and vocabulary between Costa Rica and Spain.

However, communicating with them has also become more difficult. Culturally, everyone is extremely excited to help when it comes to the spanish language. This means that oftentimes when I become stuck on a word or phrase, my family will begin trying to finish my sentences for me. I struggle with this a lot. Over the last two weeks, I have realized it comes purely from a place of wanting to help, which has helped me to feel better about the situation. Additionally, during many conversations I will have to abruptly stop to take a moment to formulate a sentence or write down a correction to further understand and learn.

Overall, I am thankful my family works with me, every time I speak, because I can see how I am improving weekly.

Right now, my biggest struggles occur outside our home. Oftentimes, I feel like a complete idiot, sometimes based on the way others respond or treat me.

Last week, I went to the post office to mail some postcards to the US. I walked in feeling pretty confident and walked out just the opposite. I know I have a very “gringo” accent, and don’t speak as quickly as others. After telling me how much it would cost to sent my postcards, the teller knocked on the glass to hold up the number of fingers that corresponded with the cost. When I looked up, I already had the appropriate number of colones out. I found myself offended, most likely because I did understand what was being said and what was asked of me; yet I don’t completely believe she meant to offend me.

It seems that many struggles happen when out and about buying things. Another time, I was buying some things at the grocery store and the employee automatically took out a calculator to show me the numbers instead of verbally tell me how much I owed. It’s hard when you’re not even given a chance, most likely based upon looks.

However, a fews days ago, when shopping in the market, a few people asked if I speak Spanish, and then allowed me to try. Others, didn’t even bat an eye when I spoke Spanish and responded just the same as anyone else. This also happens at a café near campus where I like to spend my time completing homework. The servers are always really patient and work with our Spanish.

All of my experiences with a language barrier continually remind me of those in the US who do not speak English as their first language. I’ve even thought of this with classmates from other countries who communicate with us in English.

Specifically in the US, I have found a lot of negativity toward those who speak English as their second language. Additionally, I have lived in a bubble where people believe that because “we’re in America, they need to speak English” which infuriates me more and more.

As time passes, I am sure I will have more opportunities to reflect upon my language barrier, my improvements, and those living in the US.

Mi vida en Costa Rica: la primera semana

I don’t think I can adequately express how this past week has been–in either language.

Overwhelming. Divertido. Unpredictable. Alegre. Motivating. Vergüenza. Awkward. Adventurero. Beautiful. Lindo. Treasured. Simpático. Rewardimageing. Apasionado. Humbling. Real.

This past week has been real. I spent my first few days in Sa
n José shocked that I’m here. Everything was as real as real gets when I enrolled in class last Monday. I’m not a tourist (well, not completely). I’m a student. At the Universidad of Costa Rica.

Monday was also the day:

  • I thought the world was going to end.
  • I believed I would be okkay.
  • I walked around San José extremely overwhelmed.
  • I laughed with classmates as another Costa Rican student joked with us and we didn’t understand.
  • I realized my entire life in San José is in español.
  • I wanted to just hop on a plane and go home.
  • I felt at home here.

I’ve thought a lot about those who come to the United States, for various reasons, whose first language is not English. Although I have a taste, I cannot imagine how overwhelmed they may feel. In my experiences, I have not seen them welcomed into the country and supported while they do their best to survive.

Costarricenses have definitely welcomed us with open arms. Prior to coming here, I had been told how friendly the people are. This couldn’t be more true. Even with a language barrier, people have done so much to help us in any way we need.

I am extremely grateful for my host family. They are wonderful people who are extremely patient with me day in and day out. My second morning here, It took me almost an hour to work up the energy and motivation to get out of bed and jump in to the day. Spending every moment of the day immersed in another language is exhausting. It is so difficult. But, it is also rewarding. In one week, I have seen improvements in my communication (which is the area for me that needs the most improvement), along with my vocabulary and written language.image Other aspects of my host family have been extremely rich as well. We have all our meals together (which is yet another opportunity to speak and hear spanish) and have our lunches sent to school with us. I live with one other student from KU, Allison, who will be here until the end of June. I enjoy the family dynamics and my Papá Tica usually spends time every evening patiently talking with me As each day goes by, I notice our conversations go a little deeper in content and my language comes out a little more fluid. As someone who likes to talk, there are times that are difficult. If I can’t say it in español, I can’t say it at all. I struggled in the beginning because my conversations went from being rather complex and detailed to very surface-level and simple. image Those of us from Kansas and some of our classmates traveled to Manuel Antonio this past weekend. It was nice to spend a lot of time with friends and see the beauty of Costa Rica outside of the city. During this trip, I realized when there is a need for spanish, I’m able to make it work and communicate. We had a few bumps in the road, which were all worked out, but I further grew in my confience of navigating the world. image Las montañas outside our hostel. image image La playa de Manuel Antonio. image All I wanted was to climb this rock and get a picture. And the daily downpour begins midway. image image Fam Din! image The National Park was really beautiful. I love nature.

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We saw many monos y bebés!

image image Can you spot the cangrejo?image These were some of the biggest palm trees I have ever seen. image Our iguana friend also wanted some sun at Las Gemalas. image We always find the best places to eat with great food and smoothies too! image I absolutely do not like spiders. But this big guy was pretty cool. He was almost the size of my hand. image San José at night. Returning home.

This week I have learned a lot. I’ve grown each day. I am so extremely thankful I’m here and excited for the rest of the summer!

¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

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As most already know, I arrived safely in San José, Costa Rica! My flight was rather enjoyable and I’m somewhat in shock that I’m here for the next two and a half months!

One of the first things I saw upon my arrival was the landscape. It’s so beautiful! Pictures are worth a thousand words, but reality is much sweeter!

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I have been pretty uneasy about my spanish abilities, and as a good friend and mentor, Mauricio, reminded me several weeks ago–“You don’t have to be confident, you just have to be competent.” I’ve reminded myself of these words often. I navigated through immigration and customs with ease in Spanish, and I’m feeling rather proud. It was also cool to find a sign with my name on it!

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Later last night, Eva arrived! We had such a blast exploring the city today. San José is divides into two parts–old town and new town. We’re staying in old town. There are so many museums and things to see!

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The last photo is of the Italian Embassy-which is where many of my friends are now!

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Food was one of the most difficult parts of of our day. Our meals cost about $3 each. Once we began looking for food, we couldn’t find anywhere other than pastry shops or markets with raw meat. By the time we arrived here, I was soo hungry. The way my day fell into place yesterday, I missed all meals.

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After ordering, in español :), we waited until our food was lowered down to where we were. It was pretty cool and maximized their space for seating.

There is artwork, graffiti, and paintings all over. I enjoyed how colorful everything is.

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This says Arte=Libertad, or Art=Freedom

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We stopped at the Universidad Político to enjoy the view.

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It’s amazing how varied the scenery is.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the day, with all 9 miles of exploration! The sun rises at 5am and sets at 5pm, which is an adjustment! I’m sure I will rise again with the sun!  Hasta mañana!