Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Going Abroad 7 Miles Away: A Tale of Survival and Triumph

I get the Sedano's Supermarket ad in the mail every Tuesday. They have some great deals. 4 lbs of yellow onions for $0.99. Bananas, $0.39/lb. Avocados, 2 for $1. I drive by a Sedano's every Tuesday night on the way home from teaching.

I was out of bananas. If you know me... I LOVE bananas. I sometimes eat 5 or more in a day. I feel similarly about potatoes. They sustain me throughout workouts and keep me trim!

So I stopped at Sedano's. I was nervous. I was the only native English speaker in sight. It was like walking into a foreign country. A portal to the unknown, if you will. I headed to the produce section, and I was that weirdo lingering by people who were having a conversation near the bananas. That was me. I wanted to hear them speak... unfortunately, it was too fast but I could pick out a few words. Hey... I've only been learning for five weeks!!

Picked up my bananas and onions and headed down towards the frozen foods section in search of frozen peaches. On the way, I passed two employees talking in an aisle. As I squeezed by, I said, "Con permiso." ... and one of them responded something! In Spanish! I only understood "Señora". I didn't care. I'm a Señora!!

So I found raspberries. And only raspberries. But I wanted peaches, too, so I went back and found one of the employees I'd passed, and I said, "Dónde está la fruta... frozen?" He understood me! But he didn't know where the frozen fruit was. So he directed me to his compadre, Delgado. I said, again, "Dónde está la fruta... frozen?... Fruta... peaches... amarilla?" (yellow!) And he understood me! He took me right to the frozen fruit section... which, it was so tiny, no wonder I missed it.

In case you're wondering, they didn't have peaches. Only mango, blackberries, and raspberries.

Onward to the checkout! I got to the cashier and I said, "Buenas tardes!" To which I was corrected that it's actually "noches" ... it was already after 7. So "Buenas noches" I said. Then, I said "Estoy tratando de aprender Español!"(I am trying to learn Spanish!) And I can't repeat the sentence to you, I understood her to say, "Are you taking a class?" I replied, "No, aprendo en mi casa." (I learn at my house). She nodded. A few seconds later, I added, jokingly, "...y en el supermercado!" and she LAUGHED :) Not a chuckle, a full-on laugh. So I not only was understood by la cajera, I also made her laugh :)

So there you have it, five weeks of learning Spanish and I made it through a grocery store.  It can only get better from here :) My goal by the time we depart for Ecuador is to understand and be understood. If I can get to the fruit by saying "fruta amarilla" ... cool. But if I've gotten this far in five weeks, I'm hopeful things will continue to progress swimmingly from here!


Not much other news... today I didn't have very much time at all to work on Spanish... SO much work came in and I just try to stay on top of it all, and when I get done, then I work on Spanish, so it doesn't pile up. Well, I never got done today. As soon as I thought I was done, there was more in my inbox. I was very frustrating today... there were tears. In fact, I STILL have about 60 pages that came in about an hour ago that I started to read until I said y'know what, I've had it. This can wait. Plugged in my headphones and worked on some Spanish audio exercises online. And now I'm blogging.

We have been cleaning out the house lately. Challenging ourselves with getting rid of stuff we haven't touch and don't need or use. It is addicting. We're planning a garage sale soon, too, so hopefully make some money off of this unwanted stuff. I've been selling some DVDs and even my old iPhone online, so that's helping, too.

But really the only thing I want to do all day every day is español... I want to:

  • watch Spanish TV
  • listen to Spanish music (really enjoying the tunes from Camila, Reik, and Jesse & Joy)
  • translate some song lyrics to learn the words and train my ears
  • work through DuoLingo (free, top-rated language tool online)
  • work through CatSpanish
  • work through StudySpanish topics and quizzes (reinforcement)
  • write out sentences using new vocabulary
  • create flashcards and practice sheets
  • listen to the Camino de éxito audio exercises
  • read Spanish magazines
  • talk to my Colombian mailman, Mauricio (he is awesome!!!)
  • take live Spanish classes for $3 on 
SO MANY things to do to help me learn Spanish quicker ... but I have to work. UGH. Can you believe that?! ;-) Seriously, I am trying to be happy that I even have work, but it's hard when I want to do something else so much more. Today I literally worked from 8:00am to 7:00pm... made a ton of money but was so exhausted by the time I was done. Tomorrow I've got a pretty open schedule till about 4:00pm when I have to go teach again. I like my work, I do... but when you REALLY want to do something/accomplish something it's kind of all consuming... can't even sleep at night because I'm running through all the words I learned in my head. Who knew I'd EVER want to learn another language? I sure didn't... but I've rekindled that excitement I had when I was learning German and I'm loving it. Soaking it up like a sponge.

Hasta luego!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Qué pasa? Phones, luggage, and Spanish vs. German


I got a new smartphone. It's a $100 model from Posh Mobile, a brand new company (NOT a provider) of unlocked phones. It's Android. I have to say I'm very impressed with it. The battery does go down markedly faster than iPhone 5S when in use, but iPhone 5S costs like 6x more brand new. Soooo... yeah. It also has the same amount of storage as my iPhone, but only cost $17 more to get it that way, by way of a microSD card. I paid an extra $100 for my iPhone to have 32gb. Anytime I reach a snag, I just tell myself, "It's a $100 smartphone, Pyle" and if I keep that in mind, I'm pretty impressed with the value for the money.

Why did I get a new phone? Well, and I didn't blog about this before, but I'd been fighting with AT&T for the right to unlock my 5S to be able to use it in Ecuador. I got denied three times. They WILL unlock it, IF I cancel my contract and pay a $245 early termination fee. LAME. It's my phone!! I don't want to cancel my plan, just put it on hold while I'm gone, and use it someplace else! GEEZ!! So I thought, screw that, I'll SELL my 5S while it's still worth something, buy a phone that'll do what I need it to (let's be honest, I only *need* access to email, calls, and text), and then get a local SIM card when we get there. Other folks in EC have shared that they purchase 300mb of data from Claro (provider) and it lasts them six weeks... for $12! Way better than trying to get some $50/month plan.

The Ecuador Expats group on Facebook has been absolutely invaluable to us as we prepare to take this trip [of a lifetime!!!]. Any question we've had along the way so far has been cheerfully answered and many wise voices have chimed in to help us with even the smallest decisions. Today was no different. We'd been discussing luggage a lot between the two of us here at home, and so I thought I'd post and get some feedback from the group. LOTS of feedback, I got. Within minutes. Super responsive, helpful people. I got many new ideas, suggestions for solid duffle bags with and without wheels, packing tips, and much more.

We can get duffle bags on wheels weighing in at 7 lbs each for about $50 a piece... we can get solid non-wheeled duffle bags weighing in at just 3 lbs each for $30 a piece, including a shoulder strap. Now we just need to "weigh" our options. Plenty of folks took ONLY duffle bags, and some people even took THREE duffle bags for their person, and were able to manage. Note some of these folks were in their sixties. There are carts at the airport, and we have options of how we get from the airport to Cuenca, too... the most attractive option with all those bags is a private van, honestly... then we're in charge and you get portal to portal service. No need to get off at a bus station, get your bags out, put your bags in, and then take them out again once we're finally at our place. Ha. Sometimes it pays to go for convenience, even if you spend more.

Still having some fun learnin' Español! I am constantly drawing parallels between English, German, and Spanish (which is my THIRD language, never thought I'd learn a third!) and I've pinpointed a few things that make German harder than Spanish:
- many German plurals aren't as simple as adding -s or -es to the end
- German pronouns change after prepositions -- in 3 ways, depending on the case!!
- prepositions for "at" and "on" change based on the verb

That's all I got so far... but these three things alone (ESPECIALLY prepositions) have made learning Spanish delightfully easy so far. I'm two weeks in and can speak full sentences... learning vocab will probably be the hardest but I've got a couple tools under my belt for making that easier. I've started labeling items in the house with their Spanish names and every time I see the name, I say it, and try to say the word in a sentence. So far, I've only said things like "The sponge is next to the window," and "I need more soap for the bathroom". But hey, I just labeled everything last night :))

Okay, that's it for now...