September 11, 2013

Primera Semana [first week]

Que pasa Readers?

It’s been a week since I last posted, and only a few days longer since I arrived! {I wrote this a little bit ago, but the internet in our house has been funky, so I’m posting it now!} I simultaneously can’t believe it’s already been a week, and that it’s ONLY been a week. So much has already happened – my classmates agree with me that it feels like it’s been a month. With that being said, I think it’s time to catch you all up!

Around the time I last posted, I ended up getting sick for the day =/ I can’t say it was enjoyable. I was tired and my stomach was quite angry, but I was surprisingly fine with it all. With all the changes, I think I needed the time to just take care of myself and relax. Like how I talked about washing dishes making a place feel more like home in my last post, being sick has the potential to make or break the home-environment magic.

a food container marked "soda pozeulo"My host family was incredibly considerate, offering me saltines and all sorts of simple foods that are good to eat while sick. They consistently checked on me and asked how I was feeling. I made a full recovery in about 24 hours, during which I was frequently comforted by my new friends and family.

This past week has included even more new experiences. Our classes began, including our intensive Spanish courses, which we were placed into before we arrived. The school isn’t kidding when they call them “intensive”. This class is from 8-12 in the morning, Monday-Friday, with a 20-30 minute break somewhere in the middle each day. Only Spanish is spoken, and we leave each day with something to work on.

This sounds completely horrible, right? Wrong. Yes, sometimes it gets a bit boring, and tiring, but my professor is really great, and she always finds interesting activities for us to do. We aren’t tediously going through vocab and grammar rules, although those aspects are covered, but we have fun looking at newspapers, creating stories, listening to music, and watching videos. Between that class and my exposure via my family, I’ve already noticed an improvement in my Spanish.

For our group from Lafayette, we also began our faculty-led course; Cross-Cultural Psychology, taught by the wonderful Professor Basow. The class is a bit more relaxed than some of the typical classes at Lafayette, as much of what we are learning relies on our own experiences and thoughts. It’s a great place to reconnect and talk about how we are coping with the change we are all going through, as well as learn more about cross-cultural psychology, and what that even means.

Speaking of such, we’ve all been experiencing forms of culture-shock, the most evident symptom of which being a sort of unshakable fatigue. Even with getting a fair amount of sleep, we’re left feeling a bit sleepy. Not incredibly surprising, considering the amount of work our brain is doing listening, comprehending, and trying to form ideas in another language. I’ve dealt with some bouts of homesickness as well, and I can’t predict how I’ll feel each day, but I can tell that I’m progressing through it all.

One adventure that was somewhat culture-related was Sammi and my adventure to try to exchange her dollars for colones. Since she had larger bills, we couldn’t do it at the financial office at the school, so we had to go to a bank. Our host mother pointed out one that was nearby, but when we decided we wanted to go, she told us it closed at 3! With that option out, we decided to venture and take our first taxi to a small shopping mall with a bank that could exchange money.

With help from our Tica Mama to call a cab, we arrived at the mall. the parking lot and storefronts of a strip mall in SpainAt first, we couldn’t find the bank. Then, once we did, we only saw the ATMs and a bunch of people and couldn’t figure out how to get into the bank. After walking in circles for a bit, we finally realized that all the people were lined up, just to get into the bank, so we joined the line. We waited a bit, feeling a bit strange, never having had to wait outside just to get into a bank.

Continuing to wait, we started wondering what exactly was going on, as no one was moving, even after about 15 to 20 minutes had passed. We saw that there was a guard at the door and then were really confused. Finally, at the brink of asking someone what was going on, or just leaving, the line started to move. Everyone had to go in one at a time and be checked by the security guard, who kept the door locked between each entrance and exit. We joined the line inside, and felt much better, now being able to clearly see our destination and the progression towards it.

At our turn, Sammi and I stepped up, and I acted as translator. When asked for identification, Sammi gave a copy of her passport. For security, we’d been told to only ever carry around passport copies, and that most places will accept them; however, for the uber-secure banks, they need the original. Frustrated but better-informed, we stopped at the grocery store for a few staples and made our way back. The next day, we walked to the “nearby” bank. It was farther than we thought, and we had to ask someone how to get there. Finally, we made it, this time prepared with the original passport and not thrown off by the guard at the door. At last, Sammi had money in colones!

And then there was the weekend excursion, which requires its own blog! More later!

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