“No. No, español,” I find myself apologizing every few hours since my arrival in Costa Rica on Tuesday night. Never before have I felt like such a helpless traveller but that’s probably because I’ve only been to countries that communicate in Arabic, English or French. Central America, on the other hand, is definitely out of my comfort zone. I’ve tried learning some Spanish before my trip but I wasn’t disciplined enough and I regret it now. When I need to answer a question or communicate with someone I mentally scramble for the ten words that I know, but that doesn’t always get me very far. Mostly i just encourage people to play charades with me. I’m thankful that most people have been incredibly patient and tolerant of my Spanglish. When in doubt I nod slowly and say “sí” or I give my sentences a Spanish flourish and the result is quite embarrassing.
I spent the first few days exploring Costa Rica and then returned to San José where I’m now volunteering with Maximo Nivel over the next two weeks. Yesterday, I met the other volunteers and got my orientation in San Pedro. I moved in with my host family on Sunday and started working at a local orphanage. The experience has been nothing short of incredible. Volunteering and trying to learn Spanish at the same time requires so much energy and dedication but trying to understand the culture is by far the hardest part. No, I take that back. Dealing with bugs and spiders is INSANE. I have been quite brave though, and I have kept it down to a few squeals.
The kids, on the other hand, are adorable and very forgiving of my
terrible non-existent Spanish. The three kids above live on my street in Santa Marta and spent all of Sunday drumming! Thankfully I didn’t have to put up with the noise because I went down to San José with some volunteers and when we came back the kids were being told off by the neighbors for being so loud. At least that’s what it looked like to me. These kids were shy but really wanted me to take their photo so it all worked out.
I know that this post doesn’t make much sense but I’m trying to take so much in and it’s quite overwhelming. I will write more later and try to be more coherent. I have to eat lunch now and head to my project – I wonder what my Tican mamá packed for me today.