I live in Mexico now. One month in, and it is awesome. I go to school every day from 8 AM to 1 PM. I eat Mexican food. I have made new friends and run around doing fun activities. I go to the occasional Bible class to work on my Spanish listening skills. I don’t internet much (yes, internet is a verb) because after the first week, it stopped working in the Spanish school, and it’s a lot of effort to get to the next town over to internet. Basically life is grand and I love it here (even when it’s hot, even when I have a zillion mosquito bites—It’s worth it). Estoy feliz.
My categories of What I’m Into (Inspired by Leigh Kramer) are a little different than normal, because my life is different than normal. This opportunity to live in another country, learn another language, and just enjoy life in another culture with great people is rare. And I’m embracing it.
Learning a language is a lot of work. This should surprise no one. I’m in class for four hours a day, learning the ins and outs of Spanish grammar and phonetics, memorizing vocabulary, practicing the actual speaking and understanding of Spanish. I’m actually pretty good at learning how to read and write Spanish, and I’m even good at reading aloud, pronouncing Spanish mostly correctly. But understanding when other people talk to me and actually speaking to others? That…is very difficult. I live in a house with a family with two kids and another Spanish School student, so we talk in Spanish (as much as I can). Having another Spanish School student in the house who can speak and understand more than me is nice when I need a home conversation clarified. I go to church, devotions (worship services on the base), and the occasional night Bible school class to practice listening. It’s great, but it’s exhausting. Language learning isn’t easy!
Side note: A problem with learning Spanish is that my spoken English is starting to deteriorate. Being in between languages means sometimes you don’t make any sense at all.
I have purchased 3 revistas since I arrived in Mexico. I always choose Vogue Mexico, but I decide on other magazines based on the cover and if there are any interviews and articles I might find interesting. The covergirl of Marie Claire Mexico Latin America was Rachel Bilson, and Elle Mexico is some model I don’t know but the magazine was celebrating its 19th birthday, so it looked festive. I go through the magazine, translating the Spanish text into English. It’s fun practice with words I don’t generally come across in my school vocabulary.
Spanish Learning via Entertaining Media (Currently DVDs but I want Podcasts)
I brought a number of DVDs with me to Mexico, and I go through an episode or two every night as I get ready for bed. None of my DVDs have Spanish dubs, but they do have Spanish subtitles. This will come as a shock to no one, but I started with Chuck, and in the month of September, made it through Season 2. It’s actually been helpful to my language learning because I start to recognize through the subtitles ways to use grammar and vocabulary I learn in class. I’ve also been watching Season 2 of Project Runway with the Spanish subtitles, and it is enlightening. It’s a great complement to my revista moda (fashion magazine) habit, reinforcing my learning of words like estilo (style), diseñador (designer), y pasarela (runway). Also, TIM GUNN EVERYBODY. Carryon? Continúa! Make it work? Resuélvanlo como sea!
I would absolutely LOVE to watch Project Runway Latin America, all in Spanish, but I don’t have internet and even when I do, streaming video is sometimes a little much for it. If anyone has PR:LA on DVD or knows how to get it cheaply, LET ME KNOW. Or Mexico’s Top Model. Just really, any funny reality show with Spanish talking.
Seriously, though, I’m on the lookout for Spanish podcasts, sermons, or anything similar to practice listening instead of just reading. It’s surprisingly difficult to find Spanish podcasts in the iTunes store that ARE NOT specifically for language learning (I don’t need that, I need people speaking Spanish naturally), ARE in Mexican Spanish and NOT weird Spain vosotros Spanish, and ARE remotely interesting or even good. Where is NPR Mexico/Latin America for my podcast habit? I ask you.
I’ve been reading books in English. Reading a whole book in Spanish is still beyond me. Maybe next month?
Due to luggage weight restrictions, I didn’t bring many printed books. Thanks to borrowing books from new friends and ebooks I can download from the library when I do internet, I’ve been able to read a little. Let’s face it, though, I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with new friends (see a future post—my stories about my new friends/classmates got too long for What I’m Into: September), not reading. I’m just going to highlight a few noteworthy reads from this month.
Have you ever wondered why airport security is the way it is? If you have, read The Skies Belong to Us. This book tells the story of the rise and fall of “skyjacking” of commercial airplanes in the 60s and 70s. At first, some hijackers/skyjackers would take over a plane just to redirect its path to Cuba or some other exotic destination. Later, though, the skyjackings would take a turn to violence and ransom demands. It’s a complicated story of disturbed skyjackers,airlines willing to pay exorbitant ransoms rather than increase security, and a public afraid of being skyjacked while flying around the United States. Books like this one about no as well-known times in history are some of my favorites. Learning about a moment (or decade) in time where life was completely different is fascinating.
My favorite kind of book is Young Adult Literature. However, I have a number of random gaps in my YAL repertoire, books I never happened to pick up as a child or young adult. I’m trying to fill some of those gaps, in case my pipe dream of becoming a bilingual children’s/young adult librarian comes true. My gap-filling attempt this month was reading Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. As Spanish School classmates saw me reading this book (as I had borrowed a printed copy, because my library doesn’t have it as an ebook), they would gush over how much they had loved the book when they had read it. Unfortunately, I did not have the same reaction. It feels like a book I would have enjoyed reading at age ten. However, at 25, I don’t find some of its quirks as endearing as I might have when I was younger. I would definitely recommend it for children, but I did not personally love it. I am planning on reading the next three in the series, because they are available here and because I like to complete things. Also they’re short and don’t take very long to read.
I’ve known the story of the five missionaries martyred by the “Auca” Indians in Ecuador in 1956 forever, but I had never actually read any of the books written by those who loved those missionaries. A friend had a printed copy of The End of the Spear, written by Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint, and I read it in a weekend. I grew up reading missionary stories, but had fallen out of the habit as an adult. While I have a few stylistic and editing critiques, overall I really enjoyed The End of the Spear. It really is a powerful story of how God’s love can change history, change lives, change stories.
September 2013 has been a great month. I love being here, and I can’t wait to see what the next two months bring. I’m going home in December for a month, then returning in January for three more months. I just hope I can speak and understand Spanish by then!
In case anyone is wondering, I can receive mail here. If you’re interested in mailing me something, let me know (email, facebook, etc—I’ll check it eventually!) and I can send you the address.