Aguaceros

When it rains…

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We are in the rainy season, and that means aguaceros (downpours) most days. The downside is most things stop since streets flood and people have a hard time traveling. This can be frustrating when carefully designed plans are cancelled at the last minute (more for me than for anyone else I believe.) However, many kids take the opportunity to run around and play with their friends in the flooded streets.

I live in a  community without running water. We have been in a drought and there is a system is in place for running water but it rarely functions. Most homes have large tanks or buckets in place to catch water to pull from later. Some people have pump systems to create running water throughout their home. We have a mixture of running water and bucket systems in my house. The upside to rainy season is as long as you have buckets, you have water. When it’s dry for a long time, families either have to buy water, have it delivered to their homes, or go without. This can create all sorts of difficulties.

When I first arrived, my family only used buckets. The water was for washing dishes, hands, bucket bathing, cooking (this was a special bucket that is covered and cleaner than the open ones), flushing the toilet, and more. Think about everything you use water for in your house. Now imagine filling buckets of water throughout the house to be able to do all these things. Makes you appreciate simply turing a faucet, yeah? I know I do!

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Collection of buckets

With that said, there is something to be said for bucket bathing. You use way less water and after a few times of getting your system down, you feel just as clean at the end of it. The grey bucket in the middle is what I would use for my bucket baths. Anyone up for a challenge? Try a bucket bath!

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Estoy Aprendiendo…

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What is in a PCV’s bag? Whatever you might need.

So I’ve been at site for a month and a half. Woah! Work wise, it has been full of meetings, planning time, preperations, and writing scripts in Spanish to make sure I have some idea of what I am saying to a room full of people. Which brings me to my current topic of thought: language learning.

“Estoy aprendiendo español” is one of my go-to phrases. I just want everyone to know that I might say something completely ridiculous and be ready for potentially long, awkward pauses early on (such as trying to explain that for Thanksgiving, my family eats turkey but getting the word for turkey wrong. It’s very similar to the word for dust, oops.)

While there are a lot of challenges, there is some benefit to being an intermediate Spanish speaker. I make it very clear that learning a language is difficult, takes time and dedication, and you need to be willing to use it and make mistakes so you can get it right the next time (or 16 times from now.) “Pena” is the Spanish word used for embarrassment. Many students are full of pena when asked to speak in English. I tell every class I am in that I don’t like pena and they shouldn’t have it in English class. Most students don’t believe me, but I am finding students are more likely to at least try a few words before they get overwhelmed with pena. It’s a (slow) work in progress. We just finished the first month after all.

I found the Spanish version of an awesome book I used to use in tutoring: El Punto (The Dot). It’s about a little girl in art class who won’t draw anything because she doesn’t think she can. Her teacher tells her:

“Haz sólo una marca y mira adónde te lleva.”

In the English version:

“Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”

The little girl slams her pencil on the paper leaving a dot. This starts a whole series of artwork and wonderful realizations…but I won’t ruin the ending for you. It’s worth the search.

What I love about this sentiment is that you just need to start somewhere, anywhere. This really resonates for me in language learning. It doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to be something. Then you can keep building.

On the other side of things, the listener has to be open to actively listening and using context clues to figure out what someone is trying to say. While I have found many people have a lot of patience and will help me out, there are times where it seems I have grown three heads and I am the most confusing thing to have ever been accounted. I happen to prefer the first scenario.

My takeaway…sin pena, if you want to learn a language, start using it! It’ll be difficult, it will be funny, it will be frustrating…and it will get easier.