Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I love journalism part 3,495

Hehe. I just sent off the final draft of an article that will appear in my campus newspaper soon--the first of a series I'm writing about studying abroad here in Central America--along with some photos I took, including this adorable photo of my hermanita, Niñita.

I'm all excited now... so even though I should be writing up a report on Haggai (Hageo en español), I'm not sure I'll get to that tonight... :P

Sunday, September 27, 2009

R.I.P. William Safire

Man, all the news I get is random. William Safire, known for his On Language columns and all-around wordplay, died recently. I still read the On Language column in the NYT, although now it's written by a Jack Rosenthal. *Sigh* I shall miss the witty wordmith's works.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rindercella! Rindercella!

So, homework for the weekend is to write out a fairy tale in Spanish. We get to choose from one of four, including Cinderella; and I was talking about our assignment with some of the girls, when I found out they'd never heard the story of Rindercella!

So I looked on the Internet today and--lo and behold--there was a version very similar to the one my mom told me years ago!

It's so much fun to tell these things... and there are more spoonerist-fairy-tales (otherwise known as tairy fales) all over the place!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Journaling and Exams (in Spanish)

Today I considered the possibility of switching over to writing in Spanish when I journal. I'm feeling like I know enough of Spanish--both the grammar and the vocabulary--that I could begin to do a decent job in that language. Maybe next month.

I had an oral exam today for my class in conversation. This is the teacher that does really hard exams, and tells us to study everything in order to prepare for these exams. The exams are always oral, also--not a written word to them. (It is the class on "conversation," after all.) So I was... nervous, to say the least, and felt like telling her right off "Sé que voy a morir ahora." But I didn't; instead I smiled, said I was "muy bien" (in response to "¿Cómo estás?"), and gave it my best shot. I answered all the cultural-sayings questions quite well, remembered stuff about our literature-reading fairly well, was able to give an opinion about the Spanish-language movie we watched, and managed to use the past-perfect and past-imperfect tenses decently. Thus, to my surprise I received a 95% grade for this test--and she told me I had received the same grade last time! (Until today, I had had no idea what that grade was, and certainly didn't think I did quite that well.)

La Vida es Bella (the movie)

So, I've never seen "Life is Beautiful." Apparently it's an Italian film that got pretty popular recently. We watched it the last two days in our class about conversation. A few observations:

1. Having never seen the movie, I had no idea what it was about, so I had to just roll with it. I'm not used to that... usually I at least read the back of the movie case to get a general idea of the plot. I'm a framework kind of person--I like to have at least some idea of the big picture, in order to fit in the parts correctly. Watching a movie without knowing anything of the plot is... curious.

2. Watching a movie in Spanish is a whole 'nother story. For one thing, the Spanish is fast fast fast, and for another there aren't any subtitles, and for a third the words don't even match up with what the actors are really saying (since it was in Italian originally), so you really do have to rely solely on what you think you hear. And since I'm not quite that fluent in Spanish yet, it was difficult. I did manage to follow decently well, and understood enough of the jokes to laugh at the appropriate times.

3. Why did somebody have to end the movie that way?!? I was waiting for him to turn up suddenly! I thought he was hoaxing us again! Bad, bad filmmakers! Seriously, just imagine how I felt when I realized that this poor guy was... well I won't give away the ending.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A trip to the supermarket to buy newspapers

An assignment for class tomorrow is to read and analyze three different newspapers here. In order to do that, I kinda had to actually buy three different newspapers here.

And to do that, I had to go to the supermercado. My mamá told me it would be better to go as soon as possible, since if we waited till my papá got home, there probably wouldn't be any newspapers left! So, my hermanito and I walked over to the supermarket just to buy those.

I ended up buying the newspaper my host parents read and two other newspapers. Those were the perfect choices, as I found out; I ended up with one paper that's popular with lower-to-middle-class folks, another among the middle-to-upper-classes, and a third (the one with the best website, I believe) that's big with the upper class.

The funniest thing was that my nine-year-old hermanito wanted to read them with me when we got back.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Facebook update, etc.

Seems like anytime an article on one of my favorite websites comes up talking about Facebook, I gravitate towards it. This time it was a blog post, informing me that FB has upwards of 300 million users (and finally turned a profit).

I could guess that most of the newer users are the moms of the old users who heard about what their kids were doing... but I won't. I could guess that some of the newer users are kids in middle school whose friends talked them into doing it... but I won't.

What I will guess is that FB will be superseded by something yet unheard of. Or maybe something that's around now, like.... oh, maybe video-game consoles?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Volunteering with kids (your Sunday night update)

Whew. Second (I think...) week of classes done, one day of volunteering under my belt, a cold come and almost gone, and a day spent sightseeing and taking photographs! That, in a nutshell, was my week. I just wrote up an update on Facebook, as usual, and put in a LOT of photographs because... well, because I happened to take 160 of them yesterday on our sightseeing trip. :)

So yeah, the sightseeing yesterday was the highlight of my trip. However, if I hadn't been so miserable the day of volunteering (the day my cold started... after I left home... so I didn't have any medicine or kleenex with me), I would have enjoyed volunteering a lot too. I got to work with little baby kids (2 years old and under) at a day center for kids in difficult family situations. In between sniffles (of my own), I picked up kids, played with kids, wiped kids' noses, and generally wondered if it wouldn't be better for the kids if I could just go home (I couldn't really).

A few minutes after I arrived, the kids gathered for Bible time, which consisted of singing cute little songs (like This Little Light of Mine, in Spanish!) and the teacher (who was also sick, poor woman) telling the kids a short story. They returned to playtime, and then about nine o'clock had snack time! Let me tell you, they make enough of a mess with watermelon; however I'm told it's worse when they have oranges. And, of course, more playtime followed snack time.

Then I took the kids (with their actual supervisors) and we went out to have group time, where there was a clown. A few of the kids got scared there. One little adorable doll of a girl was fine for awhile, but then she wet herself... while she was sitting on my lap... and started crying because she needed to be changed. I just went the rest of the morning with a slightly damp lap.

We had lunchtime soon after. They all got rice and some meat and french fries (really good french fries), although several of them didn't eat too much (they are little one-year-olds, after all). I fed a little boy in a high chair who wouldn't eat hardly anything, although I did coax a few bites into him. After lunch, we put them all down for a nap, and then I was free to go eat my own lunch--burgers and french fries, mmmmm!--and we student volunteers left for the day.

Why do I keep typing friend instead of french??

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Big old field trip (and post #400!)

Wow! What a day I had. I can't even begin to tell all of it... basically what I did was just take pictures, posted them on Facebook, and put on some captions there.

We took a field trip all over an area of the country I'm in today. We visited three Catholic churches. Early on in the field trip, at the first (and biggest) church, we had to ask locals what was so important about this church and what its history was.

We asked one of the security guards there, and since the assignment was to ask two people, we went over and asked the gift shop clerks too. An older man behind us in line took a liking to us and talked to us a little bit after we had our questions answered by the clerks.

To begin, he introduced himself to our group and... asked me if I was the teacher! I'm not sure how to take that. I'm assuming it was in recognition of superior Spanish pronunciation or some sort of confidence in having asked the first two questions? (I'm just guessing here!) Considering I'm actually the second youngest of the group..... there is one other girl (who shares my first name, ironically) who is five days younger than I am.

Friday, September 11, 2009

And the other side of the coin

A couple days ago, my mamá was on the phone a lot. I came home after classes and she was on the phone for half an hour longer.

Once she got off, she explained that was a family member, and that her husband's grandfather was dying. It is best now, she said, because he's been suffering a lot, and he's getting up there in years. Cancer was taking its toll....

Today, my mamá said he was just a few hours away from death. My papá went to his grandfather's place today, instead of to his workplace. They had been preparing for this point, of course; my mamá said this part had started in January; but still.

My mamá told me about her grandparents, too, a little. She is close with them--they live nearby, and all--and she said she wishes they could live forever, but she knows that everyone has a time to die.

My hermanito told me today, multiple times, that he was sad. He will miss his great-grandfather.

Wow, it's been... 8 years?

The funny thing about living in Central America is that I'm away from all the U.S. hoopla over holidays, days of importance, etc. So I barely realized Monday was Labor Day (only on Sunday night, late, when I was writing stuff in my planner which has U.S. holidays). And only just now did I realize that today is September 11th. Saying "once de setiembre" (the date in Spanish) really does make a difference; it doesn't have the same memory attached to the words. It's curious.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Umm.... (Spanish idioms)

Can't think of anything again. Except that I've lost twice at a local version of Monopoly and I'm not very good at it.

Some of the sayings down here are downright hilarious. I'm having my Central American parents explain three to me every night, out of a list of thirty-five that I have from my teacher. A few of the most interesting....

"When frogs grow hair"

"Longer (taller) than a milkman's whistle"

"He who doesn't cry doesn't suck (get fed, like a baby)"

"The monkey, though dressed in silk, is still a monkey"

"Flies don't enter a closed mouth"

I think the one about the frogs has to be my favorite. :P

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday night update

It seems that Sunday night is usually a good night for writing something lengthy for my blog (and doing some other stuff, too).

Anyhow. This week I've been really busy, or rather busier than before. Classes started this week, of course, so I've had homework. That involved asking my Central American dad about lots of peculiar sayings that are used here (like "when frogs grow hair," which is along the lines of "when pigs fly"). And going over present-tense verbs umpteen times in grammar class (kinda boring). And reading three chapters in an apparently rather famous book called "Pantalones largos." And writing a nine-minute speech in Spanish. Yeah! I was sooo proud of myself when I finished that thing! And all that was only for two of my classes.

The third class, touching upon the culture and civilization of my host country, meets only on Fridays and is a pretty interactive, field-trip-based class. Which means it's awesome! We went downtown this past Friday, to see the national theatre and the original post office building and the central market and the artisan's market and the big downtown Catholic church. I just finished reading the info sheet with history/context of all those. But the experience was way more interesting--we got to taste some special cinnamon-flavored ice cream and some things called churros which are kind of like cinnamon sticks but have something really sweet in the middle. (How's that for a run-on sentence?) And the artisan's market! We're going back there sometime.

And so ended the official week, and the weekend began. That started with a picnic on Saturday morning, during which I actually played kickboll and soccer, and got extremely sunburnt (although not as bad as the one time I only put on one layer of sunscreen for two and a half hours on a Pacific beach a few years ago). And we walked around the lagoon in the park where we were, and of course ate food. I also tasted some weird ice-pop-like thing while at the picnic. I don't know what it was called, but it was just like an ice-pop except the blue one tasted like bubble gum and they were all thicker (like frozen jello, maybe).

Then, last night I watched an important soccer game. Well, sorta. What I mostly did was play euchre and talk (we did try playing euchre in Spanish, and got as far as knowing that
triunfa = trump
matar = to trump
baso = suit
diamantes, corazones, pomos, and somethingsomethingelseIcan'tremember = diamonds, hearts, clubs, and spades (at least I think pomos was clubs).
Impressive, no? Oh and we just called the bowers the "right" and "left"and dispensed with trying to figure out "bower."

And I'm not done! Today was a philharmonic concert downtown, so we took taxis to the theatre and spent two blissful hours listening to movie music accompanied by movie highlights (think a mini version of "The Polar Express," which was one of the movies). And by blissful, I mean fantastically heavenly and immensely enjoyable.

So, enough for one weekend. I did learn today about a really interesting little tradition in my host country. You take a threaded sewing needle and dangle it over somebody's hand till it barely touches, enough so it kinda bounces off the hand. Then you watch to see whether it swings back and forth, around and around, or doesn't swing at all. Basically you do this again and again until you do get it not to swing at all. Each time it keeps swinging back-and-forth equals one boy; each time it's swinging around and around equals one girl; and the time it doesn't swing means there are no more. You do this to determine how many children you will have, in what order and of what gender. Fascinating, isn't it?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Spanish profusion

The funny thing about being here, in Central America, is that Spanish and its related thoughts fill my life like nothing else has before.

When I wake up, I'm greeted by "¿Cómo amaneció?" and hear Spanish music on the radio. I play with my little hermanita and speak Spanish to her, though she is only sixteen months. (¿Ádonde vas? ¿Qué estas haciendo?) Then I talk to my mamá about random stuff (Amish people, today... no joke) and she doesn't speak any English, so of course all my conversation is in Spanish. I read my Bible in Spanish. I do my homework in Spanish. I hear telenovelas in Spanish (they're on in the afternoons and my mamá likes to have them on while she cleans or whatnot). About the only two things I don't do in Spanish are read my Chesterton book (during down time at home) and do stuff on the Internet.

So, it's really weird to get online and see that there's a world outside Spanish language study. That the news, journalism, Christianity blogs that I always read are still functioning (though I don't read them near so much now). That the random things I used to blog about all the time are still happening--just, I don't think about them when I get around to blogging. I just think of the random stories from classes, or the funny things that happened with my family today, or something new I learned about C.American culture.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I know more about my computer now.

Today my brother told me how to turn my laptop keyboard into a Spanish keyboard. Now I can type á é í ó ú ñ without much effort, instead of having to right-click, move to a menu, pick a letter and hit "enter." It's incredibly convenient!!!