Hola Otra Vez!
I can’t believe I’m soon to begin my third month studying abroad in Costa Rica! El tiempo movido muy rapido! Does anyone else feel the sadness that ensues from time slipping so fast?
Every time I speak and write in Spanish and I know it’s grammatically incorrect, I always think of the memoir I read back in high school called Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. While I’m sure my Spanish is still pretty goofy-sounding, I have definitely built stronger confidence in speaking and writing and can only imagine that I’ll talk bonita one day too. The month of October has been a compilation of hours of studying el preterite y el subjuntivo, my first purely Spanish conversation with my father, and a trip to Monteverde. And in-between these moments, seeing a beautiful movie called The Motorcycle Diaries, and appreciating the Cuban Revolution.
The University Studies Abroad Consortium program (USAC) in Heredia is Spanish intensive. We move from Beginning Spanish Level 1 through Intermediate Spanish Level 2 within one semester. This means I will have four separate grades per course, and naturally we have un examen casi siempre every two weeks. The first test I had at the beginning of October was muy fao. In fact, when our professor distributed the exams, he told us most of us had performed under par. In all honesty, I did have a moment of self-pity and frustration with myself for having performed so poorly. Though sometimes failure is the best way to find self-determination. During a conversation with my father on the phone, he told me to have more faith in myself and to study harder. And after my moment of self-pity had past, I was struck with determination to get an A on my next exam. Since then, I have spent hours- I kid you not, HOURS- on the floor in my host family’s sala with the light of a flameless candle and hot tea (gracias, mama tica), committing to memory all those wacky irregular verbs, and the patterns the CAR, GAR and ZAR verbs take on in the past (for example: yo buscar, yo busque). I’ve gone through stacks (yes, STACKS) of flashcards. I’ve made three trips to El Rey, also known as el supermarcado muy barato, for more flashcards because I have been running out constantly. Anyway, with the next exam, I did indeed pull an A!!! All of those hours studying and “si, se puede” moments literally saved my final grade in the course which turned out to be an A-. (The next course will be an A!!!)
Studying abroad in Heredia to gain Spanish as a second language has also made me feel closer with my Latin American family. I had my first conversation with my father in Spanish for almost twenty minutes via telephone. We spoke solely in Spanish, and it was moving hearing my father tell me “Este bien;” “This is good.” I hear everyone in Costa Rica say those words like they’re nothing, but when I heard my dad say them, I felt we connected on a closer level. I love my dad so much, and never would have imagined that one day I would be speaking with him in his native language. Even out of my four other sisters, two have completed years of Spanish in the classroom, but my dad said I was the only one he’s ever had a conversation with. Que fantastico, verdad? Es fue una momento muy bonito.
Before deciding to study abroad in Costa Rica, it was somewhat of a struggle for my mother to grasp my reasoning since I had previously studied abroad, and because this was to be my last year of undergrad. She felt that my time would have perhaps been better spent at my home university because it would be less expensive (which in reality, would not have been the case thanks to the Gilman Scholarship). My mom is from Germany by the way, and she speaks German and English fluently. My dad is Mexican, and he speaks Spanish and English fluently. Me? I have had five years of German courses throughout my high school education, including a semester of college German classes. Though I have fulfilled my dream of communicating with my mom’s side of the family with my butchered Deutch, I still have yet to call myself fluent in a second language. Which is why, as my father and I ended our phone call, I requested him to communicate to my mom that I felt I made the best decision to study abroad in Costa Rica, and my father agreed.
What has truly been an incredible moment presented through my program with USAC, was meeting the Alberto Granado II, the son of Alberto I, who rode on a motorcycle journey throughout South America with Che Gueverra when Che was 23. USAC presented us with the film The Motorcyle Diaries, which is based on Che’s journal he kept throughout his journey in South America, before he would go on to become a revolutionary leader. It was neat thinking that at 22, I am close in age to how old Che was when he went on his journey. Before the movie, Alberto gave a speech about how accurate the film was to the journal, and it was such an honor to meet him and celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday during our program trip to Monteverde. As my Spanish professor noted to those of us who went to see the movie: “This is a moment you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.” During my semester abroad, I have become absolutely fascinated by the Cuban Revolution. For my Politics of Latin America course, I was given an assignment to present about the international relations between the United States and Cuba. And since, my curiosity about Cuban-American relations has flourished.
On a side note, it turns out my Political Science professor is a professional chess player and played throughout graduate school competitively, which had me pretty excited. He told me he’s a huge Bobby Fischer fan, and I finally got around to watching The Game of the Century. My professor was also kind enough to lend me Bobby Fischer Goes to War, which I am excited to start reading.
Wishing everyone a beautiful beginning to the start of November.