24 September, 2007

Waiter, there's a gecko in my shower...

Does anyone remember that little skit on Sesame Street? Where the muppet with the bald blue head orders some soup and then explains to the waiter (Grover) that there is a fly in his soup?


Tonight I heard some mild screaming coming from our front bathroom. Keeley was about to give our girls a shower (since there are no bathtubs here) and before they got in they noticed a little visitor was already in the shower.

There in the corner of our tile shower was a small gecko, about 3 inches long.

We were able to scoop him up into a little plastic aquarium we have. The girls have had a great time looking at him. Geckos are very common here, but this is the first one we have found in our house. They eat the bugs that we don't want, so he is a welcomed friend.

18 September, 2007

Dreaming in Spanish

Many people who are fluent in a second or third language have told me about a good indicator of language proficiency.  They say that you really have an excellent command of the language when you begin to dream in it.  Now, I also know some people who say they never remember their dreams, so for those folks this indicator won’t work.


Since we started language institute two weeks ago to learn Spanish, I feel like my head is full to the top with sustantivos (nouns), adjetivos (adjectives), articulos (articles), and verbos (verbs).  Our teachers give us homework assignments and many times I am working to complete them before I nod off for the night.


Several nights ago I sat up in bed and started to speak (this happens on a fairly regular basis and Keeley has had a variety of reactions ranging from amused to annoyed).  Usually whenever I sit up in bed it wakes Keeley up and she asks me what is wrong.  On this particular occasion my reply was something like this, “I can’t find el verbo” (which happens to be a fine example of Spanglish). 


Upon realizing that once again I was talking gibberish, Keeley sighed and went back to sleep.


Now for those of you that talk in your sleep or try to talk about your dreams first thing in the morning before you are “really” awake, you can relate to me when I say that at the time you are saying whatever you are saying, it makes complete and perfect sense.  Because of this I am always bewildered at why my wife is looking at me like I am crazy when I say these things.  Fortunately we are able to have a good laugh about it in the morning after she reminds me of my dream-induced statements of nonsense.


So although I can’t yet say that I am dreaming “in” Spanish, I can with full confidence say that I am dreaming “about” Spanish.

15 September, 2007

First Time on the Roads

Today I had the opportunity to experience another first. Driving in a Latin American country.

We went out to lunch with some Tico friends, and as we were about to leave for the restaurant my friend asked me to drive his car. I resisted, he insisted, so off we went.

Just about all of the cars here are stick shifts. Fortunately I have owned several in the past and can get in one and have it all come back to me (I learned to drive a stick by going around and around the Independence Center shopping mall).

Today is a national holiday here in Costa Rica, it is Independence Day. Because of this, traffic was lighter than usual, so it was probably a good day for my first outing behind the wheel. Unlike the States, most businesses were still open today even though it is a holiday. This made selecting a restaurant fairly easy. At the recommendation of our friends, we went to a seafood place called El Balcon del Marisco. Goooood stuff!! I had some ceviche that was out of this world.

After lunch we went shopping at a store called "Pequeño Mundo". They sell a little bit of everything at cheap prices. I bought a cool Costa Rica shirt for $2.00 US.

Upon leaving this store it started to rain. So it was time for another first, driving in Costa in the Costa Rican rain. And although we passed a bad accident, we made it home without being a part of one.

It was fun to drive again. It has been almost one month since I drove last in Kansas City. It seems strange to have gone that long without driving. We did find a car for sale that we are interested in, so maybe we will have some wheels of our own soon. Then it will be time to stay off the sidewalks. No, really. I'm serious. The sidewalks are just for walking here. :-)

08 September, 2007

Potty Mouth

In our language school we have three classes each day.

- Language - 1 hour

- Phonetics - 1 hour

- Grammar - 2 hours

In phonetics class we are focusing on learning to make the right sounds in order to correctly pronounce Spanish words.

One of the exercises that our teacher has us do is to recite a list of sounds that help us learn to put the sounds of different letters together. These are not real words mind you, just combinations of sounds based on the vowels.

Some of the sounds end up being pretty funny sounding. This past Thursday we were going through and reciting the sounds that go with the vowel "u". Upon reaching a certain part of the list of sounds, it was all I could do to contain myself.

Listening to a room of 5 grown men and a serious Tica Spanish teacher say "upu pu" (Sounds like "ooh poo poo") struck me as incredibly funny. Some other choice sounds were "upi pi" and "udu du".

Now I know what you are saying, how juvenile of me. And I have to say I agree, it is juvenile.

Maybe my 4 and 2 year old girls are rubbing off on me. Maybe I cracked under the pressure of learning. Maybe I never grew out of thinking that innocent bathroom language (or sounds) were funny.

Whatever the reason, I am going to have to exercise self-control in my phonics class in order to not disrupt our learning. :-)

07 September, 2007

Driver's License Adventure

We all have stories about going to the DMV, waiting in long lines, and then finding out you are missing one of the documents you need. Well, this past Wednesday, Keeley and I added an experience to our list of stories.

A Tico friend of ours (Costa Ricans refer to themselves as Ticos) offered to help us get our Costa Rican driver's licenses. There is a one month window of time after you arrive in the country when you can get a license without taking the test (in Spanish). So needless to say, we wanted to take advantage of this window and get it taken care of the "easy" way.

Copy of our Missouri driver's licenses, front and back.......check.
Copy of our entire passports, including the blank pages....check.
Money for the license fee ...................................check.

Everything we need to complete the process. Or so we thought.

So off to the license department we go with our Tico friend driving the four of us. Then it starts to rain as we are driving through downtown. No big deal, it rains all of the time here.

Then it starts to hail. That does NOT happen all of the time here. Most Ticos don't use ice in their drinks, much less have it falling from the sky.

After experiencing our first tropical hail storm, we made it to our destination. Inside our friend asked the nice man at the information booth where we needed to conduct our transaction. He directed us to a waiting area in front of some teller windows. After waiting for about ten minutes and moving from seat to seat (it was a sitting line, not a standing one..), our friend asks one of the tellers if we are in the right place. "No", was the answer, we needed to go to another building further back in the complex. So off we go, our girls in tow, to the building in the back.

The next building had an armed guard at the door that would check your documents to see if you had everything before he would allow you to enter. He checked our documents and directed us to a booth containing one of 5 clerks. The woman in our booth looked at our documents and asked, "Medico examin?". Ummm.....yeah......ummm.....didn't know about the medical examination. Our friend had called to see what we would need, and apparently this little piece of information had not been communicated.

OK, so now in order to make this whole adventure something other than an large investment of time with little to show for it, we needed to quickly get medical examinations and return to this building and get our licenses.

We all loaded into the car and tried to find somewhere close to get this medico examin that we needed. Our Tico friend knows someone just about everywhere we have gone with him, and this situation was no different. After consulting with one of his "friends", we drove around the corner to a couple of small buildings. The change in neighborhood "atmosphere" that occurred in just one block of driving was quite drastic. We went from a downtown business district not unlike many cities in the US, to a back alley location like you see in the movies and say, "Oh my, what are they doing in a place like that?". While Keeley waited in the car with our girls (doors locked), I went with my friend into a small building (around 10' x 15') to get my medico examin. Here is how it went:
- I handed my passport to a lady sitting at a small desk.
- She filled out a form with my information and handed it to a man at a second desk
- I paid her 12,000 Colones (around $24 US) for both Keeley and I

- The man at the second desk asked me if I had any diseases, how much did I weigh, and how tall was I.

- I signed the medico examin certificate.

- Done. I walked out with my official medico examin document.

(Keeley came in after I was done and had a very similar experience, the only difference being she had to read a line of letters on a wall mounted vision chart)

Now it was back to the other building. After showing the same guard our same documents PLUS the medico examins, we went into the booths again to present our documents. This time we had everything we needed and the process continued fine. We took some papers they gave us outside to a mobile bank (a large van with two teller windows in the side of it) and paid for our two licenses. Upon receiving our official receipts, we went back inside the building, presented our papers in the booths again. Next it was time to get our pictures taken, so across the room we went to wait in line for our pictures. We smiled for the camera, put our fingerprints into the system with an electronic scanner, and then sat to down to wait for our completed licenses to be ready. A few minutes later they called our names and it was official.

We have our Costa Rican drivers licenses!! Exhausted, but pleased, we returned home thanking God for allowing us to get this done in one day. Some hassles are universal.
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