January 19th 2009:
My personal goal for today was to learn how to use the public bus system well enough to make my second haunt at Q Café. When the same waiter as my first visit served me politely with few words despite obviously recognizing me, I could not help feeling satisfied with myself that things were right on schedule:
-Step one: polite strangers
-Step two: strangers who recognize/remember each other but don’t address it
-Step three: occasional brief but friendly conversations about casual things such as what I’m reading,
what song is playing, how’s the weather…
-Step four: mocking other customers and similar forms of more interesting conversations that eventually lead to our actual selves
-Step five: friends who no longer secretly look forward to seeing each other on the given day
-Step six: seeing each other outside of the given day
Unfortunately, part of my homework today was to ask a handful of locals who they think the most important historical figure of Costa Rica is and when I was paying the very sweet hostess I thought I might as well ask her and my waiter who was lingering by the desk. By accident, this started an actual conversation which was over rather casual things but also touched on how long I’m here, what I’m studying and that they’d like to see me there again to help me practice my language ability. Now I’m a bit disoriented as to where that falls between steps 3 and 5 and my entire experiment has been overthrown by a factor I forgot to account for in the initial plan: the irreversible warmness of Latin Culture. I’m back to the drawing boards trying to decide whether I can count this as a sort of catalyst that sped up the reaction time and resulted in success or simply an unexpected addition which altered the results entirely. However, being ahead in schedule, while lacking in the romantic development I’d counted on, has the advantage of the possibility we may actually be close friends by the time I leave- or at the very least, I now have consistent conversation partners not to mention the assurance that I’m capable of holding up conversations with strangers in Spanish which is one of the best feelings in the world.
Speaking of the development of my language skills, yesterday I purchased “Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal” at a book store in town and have been positively shocked at how much I understand. Naturally, it helps that I’ve already read the story in English but that was the beginning of high school and I never actually read the first good 30 pages but I can read it without a dictionary and, to my surprise, not only understand but actually enjoy myself! I have decided to use a dictionary anyway so I can learn new words but I can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me sooner that the one and only reason I ever passed English classes what with my horrific spelling and grasp of grammatical rules in elementary school is that I suddenly began to read like crazy in junior high- and I did exactly what I’m doing now: read a book just slightly above my vocabulary level with a dictionary and notebook at the ready to learn new words and then intentionally practice using them at least once that day. I already feel myself being able to speak more fluidly and understand more quickly. The most perfect thing about it is that this series increases by book in length and complexity of both plot and language as more things happen and the characters get older and speak more intelligently. Therefore, my most recent personal goal is to finish the series in Spanish so that my understanding can progress along with the books. Depending on whether I have things too well memorized for it to be useful by the end of this round, I’ll do the same when I take up French at UGA (which is the next language I recently decided on for certain after reading medicine instructions in French and understanding the vast majority of it).
I don’t think I could love anything more than learning as I am now. I feel positively romanced by knowledge… perhaps that’s the reason relationships fail to make my priorities. I’m not too headstrong or idealistic; I feel lacking in nothing.