Sunday, May 26, 2013

Costa Rica: Español, Escuela, y Familia - 5/25

¡Hola! Mis Amigos. 

I'm back! Sorry for being away for awhile. As with any trip abroad one should expect a few things to not go according to plan. This week I found that out first hand in two cases. The first was that I got sick (breaking one of my goals) and had to stay at home on Wednesday. They believe it may have been from the water, but the water is generally safe. I was just one of the unlucky ones. Then my card adapter for my iPad malfunction so I haven't been able to upload pictures. And no one ever wants to be unable to post pictures to Facebook! Due to the lack of postings I will be posting a general overview on three categories; Español, Escuela, y Familia.

- I have officially moved into the simple phrase and simple sentences stage
- my vocabulary though is still lacking. I feel that may be due to spending a lot of time with my classmates and not as much with the locals. 
- This week I learned both present and past tenses as well as directions and how to ask questions.
- Our teacher created a calming affect in the classroom throughout the rest of the week and allowed us to be silly and curious with the language 
- She continued to use a lot of games, manipulatives, and student created situations to teach the language. Allowing us to create with language kept us engaged and create our own connections for our new language skills. 
Here we are playing guess who in Spanish. Practicing our descriptors and listening skills. 

Takeaway: Exposure, exposure, exposure. Can't say enough about exposing ones self to the language and practicing it. Engage, engage, and engage more. The more students are having fun and naturally curious about the language the more students will retain. 

Escuela y La Carpio
So one of the best things about this trip was our different projects in the community we got to do. The first was that we got to spend two mornings at a school in Heredia working with 3rd and 4th graders with English. The first day we worked on body parts. 
This is Johan. He was really shy at first, but opened up right away as soon as we broke out the crayons. He loves to draw and was able to label most of the parts with a few hints. Language wasn't as much of a barrier as I thought it would be. I think this was due to having objects, pictures, and other visuals ready to help with communication.

This is Stephen. On this day we worked on shapes, descriptors of shapes, and personal hygiene. He was super polite. Even came right up to me and asked me what my name was. He loved getting to do a scavenger hunt around the school to find different objects. Again the language barrier wasn't as big as I thought it would be. However; certain concepts and labels were hard to convey. 

Takeaway: Kids need to feel comfortable with you in order to speak a new language. Either due to shyness or just not wanting to be wrong. Cause no one ever wants to be in a position where they can't convey their thoughts. Also hands on activities are a great way to build vocabulary, concepts, and break that anxiety barrier. It's similar to a pre-school mindset that I like to call intentional play. You retain more when your having fun and engaged.

Our other service we got to do was in La Carpio. This little settlement was created by a few immigrants many years ago. Now it's packed full of immigrants and low socioeconomic peoples. The town is actually built along side a river and the city dump! The houses are very very tiny, constructed out of aluminum in some cases. Most don't have any furniture inside besides a bed, a place for the bathroom, and a cooking area. There is electricity and some running water throughout the town. Every day is a struggle to make ends meet. However; despite these hardships the people have hope! A lot of this can be contributed to the Humanitarian Fundacíon. This small charity organization was started by a former teacher in the United States who moved into the area to specifically work with the people. She works directly with the people and helping them take ownership in the changes being made. For my group we had the majority go out with a few grandmas; they basically run the streets haha, and talk to the locals about a new recycling program they want to start up in order to clean the streets. Myself and two other girls stayed at the office and worked in the daycare they had set up. The children were really shy but once we played for a few minutes the kids really opened up. It really didn't matter that we couldn't speak each others language they just wanted attention. I even had the most stressful event happen; I was in charge of putting the last block on top of this TALL tower. Everyone just stopped and stared at me as I tried to not knock it over haha. 

I bought this doll as a way to keep myself motivated in helping those in need. These are handmade from the women in the community. 

Takeaway: The biggest gift you can give someone is hope. Generally people will work hard if they know that it's worth it, aka hope for a better future. Also getting into the community and incorporating everyone in what you do makes the biggest impact. As an outsider it does no good to not have any local ownership. This experience really makes me want to get involved in the community outside my future school. Invest in the community achieve a better future. Lastly in cannot be stressed enough even the smallest acts make a difference. This lady just started by having a women's group. 

So I just want to say if you ever want to do a study abroad with a host family Latin America is a great place to go. They are just simply hospitable and friendly. Not to mention my mama tica took really good care of my when I was sick. I even got homemade chicken and rice soup. Since I can't simply put into words how amazing this family was I will be using pictures. 
Here's Kevin (left) and Anthony (right) pumping up their new soccer ball. From this point on we just played soccer every day when I came home from school. Kevin got a kick out of making me look silly. 

Here's the whole family outside watching fireworks. Kevin and Rosa are vey much into fireworks. I found out that this past week was a special week in this Catholic country; not exactly sure what it entails. 

Typical night hanging out with the family. Not so typical was the choice of food, French fries and hamburgers. 

This is Brandon (far right) and his girlfriend hanging out with little Abigail eating some cake. 

My mama tica and myself on our last morning. She was truly comforting, friendly, and we had a few laughs in our language mixups throughout the week. 

Kevin at his soccer practice. You can see the church in the background. Soccer and the church are very much a center point of the community. 

Takeaway: Family is everything! You live within close approximation of family, you hangout with family, you take care of family. And family even includes guest. Everyone treats everyone with respect and holds them accountable. I saw that the parents are very much involved with their children's lives. I absolutely hate hearing that Latino families don't care about education. All of the family cares about education. I know now that I can be comfortable with hanging out with families of my students and really building that relationship up. As with any child building that family connection creates another academic support system for that child. 

Other observations:
- it's really hard to do homework when you have to keep looking up words in the directionally just for the instructions part. This is why key words should be written in L1 if possible.
- Locals will help you learn the language if they know you are trying to acquire the language
- Even though the country is starting a bilingual movement I have yet to see a lot of English literature displayed except in tourist areas. 

We are heading to Monte Verde today and meeting our new host families! We won't be having a lot of access to Internet, but I will try to post by mid-week! 

Hasta luego! 

"Any progress is good progress." - anonymous 

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