As part of Spanish School, every student is required to give a devotion in Spanish to the whole Spanish School. Today was my turn, so I thought I would post what I shared in Spanish this morning. Yesterday I decided I want to speak on Micah 6:8, but I wasn’t sure what exactly to say about these verses. Then, I remembered that in college, I wrote a paper on Micah 6:1-8 for my Minor Prophets class. While this was not a devotional paper (it was 19 pages long with tons of footnotes and was mainly about the history and context of the passage), I was still able to use it as inspiration for my talk. In my paper, I made the conclusion that in this passage, Micah is saying that God does not require grand sacrifices–instead he asks only for us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before him. And that’s what I shared today:
6¿Cómo podré acercarme al
y postrarme ante el Dios Altísimo?
¿Podré presentarme con holocaustos
o con becerros de un año?
7¿Se complacerá el Señor con miles de carneros,
o con diez mil arroyos de aceite?
¿Ofreceré a mi primogénito por mi delito,
al fruto de mis entrañas por mi pecado?
8¡Ya se te ha declarado lo que es bueno!
Ya se te ha dicho lo que de ti espera el Señor :
Practicar la justicia,
amar la misericordia,
y humillarte ante tu Dios.
Estos versículos hacen la pregunta y responden a la pregunta: ¿Qué sacrificios requiere Dios? Miqueas habla de sacrificios grandiosos, como holocaustos de becerros o diez mil arroyos de aceite. Hoy, no sacrificamos animales, porque Jesúcristo, se sacrificó por nosotros. En nuestras vidas, sin embargo, todavía necesitamos hacer sacrificios. A veces pensamos que tenemos que hacer sacrificios grandiosos, excepto nuestros sacrificios grandiosos son diferentes de los sacrificios del Antiguo Testamento. Quizás estos sacrificios son dejar casa, mover a un nuevo país, o vivir en una tierra desconocida. Estos sacrifcios son buenos, pero no son los que Dios requiere. Miqueas dice en el último versículo, los tres cosas que Dios dice que son buenos:
Practicar la justicia,
Amar la misericordia,
y Humillarse ante tu Dios.
Estos requisitos, estos sacrificios son difíciles, pero son todo lo que Dios requiere. ¡Gracias a Dios!
So, where did October go? I can’t believe it’s already time to review another month of What I’m Into (inspired by Leigh Kramer). In the past month, I finished a level of Spanish school, said goodbye to new yet dear friends, went on a three day clinic trip to the mountains, started a new level of Spanish, met new friends, and continued to enjoy life here in Mexico! October was also the month that reliable internet returned! Everything is better now that I can communicate, get new ebooks, and do other internetly things without taking a taxi to the next town. Here’s hoping it doesn’t leave again!
For the first part of October, my classmates and I hurtled toward the end of Level 2. In mid-October we took finals, and good news: we passed! I may or may not have cried for at least 10 minutes in the middle of my final because a good friend left to start a journey home in the middle of finals taking, but don’t worry, I was able to finish. After finals, we had a week off, but most of us students who remained went on a three day clinic trip to the mountains. It was a great trip, but it deserves its own post.
But, vacation can’t last forever. The last week of October, the new session of Spanish School began. Everything is different for me now in Level 3. Besides the changes in the students here at Spanish School, I embarked on a new adventure: I am now the only student in my level. Every other level here has so many students that each is split into two sections. We make many jokes about also splitting Level 3, but I can only be in one place at a time. Being the only student in my class is great for Spanish learning—I’m just exhausted by the end of the school day! Even in just a week of class, I can see a significant difference in my ability to speak and understand Spanish because I spend so much more time conversing in and listening to Spanish in class.
At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal of reading 50 books in 2013. I use the Goodreads Reading Challenge to keep track of how many I have read and see how many I have left. As of now, I have read 38 books and I have 12 left. According to my Goodreads tracker, I’m 4 books behind the pace, but I have read 12 books in my time here in Mexico so far, so I think I should be able to manage 12 more by the end of the year. I’m in the middle of at least 12 books right now (check out my currently reading list—it is real. Try not to look too long at my to-read list because it’s ridiculous and I love it).
I want to write a love letter to ebooks. It is thanks to the wonder of ebooks I have been able to read so many books here in Mexico. Some really great new books have been published in my time here, and I’ve been able to download them IMMEDIATELY, which has been magical. I had about $40 worth of credit card points that I have been using to feed my ebook habit—I’ve used about $30 so far, so I’m running out! Thank goodness for the Tulsa library and its vast ebook lending library.
I had a lot to say about each of these books, so I’m going to allow them their own future post(s). I’m trying to be better at actually reviewing these books I read. My favorites of the month, though, were When We Were on Fire and Allegiant. Here are my favorites of the books I read this month:
With each show I rewatch, I learn a whole new set of Spanish vocabulary. With Chuck, I learn words about spies and nerdery. However, sometimes the Chuck subtitles seem a little lazy, so I don’t count on its accuracy 100%. On my lone season of Parks and Rec, there are some fun words about small town politics as well as quite a few silly and joke-y vocabulary. Also, the subtitles for P&R are much more creative and accurate, trying to find the best way to translate the jokes. I’ve also watched a few episodes of Bones, where there are a number of complex scientific words. It’s great to use TV watching as an excuse for gaining new vocabulary.
When I was last at the Super Che (supermarket) in Puerto Escondido, I happened to glance at the large pile of DVDS. Lo and behold, they had Orgullo y Prejuicio (Pride and Prejudice) and Mas Barato por Docena (Cheaper By the Dozen) for less than $10 for both DVDs! And, they were made to be watched in Region 1 (US) as well as Region 4 (Mexico). Watching the movies with Spanish voices is so much more beneficial than just watching with subtitles. I promptly spent the weekend watching both movies with my family, which was great fun!
As I publish this story, I have less than 5 weeks left here in Mexico. My sister and I return home the first week of December, one week before the last day of school. Tickets were $300 more apiece to return the second week of December, so home a week early it was. I’m looking forward to Christmas at home and to seeing my friends and family while I’m home for a month! But before then, I can’t wait to see what November will bring.
At my language school, they hope to teach us about more than just Spanish grammar and vocabulary. When you learn a language, you need to learn about the culture and history, too. One way to better understand the people you are talking and listening to is to learn about their past. Because there are many indigenous people groups here in southern Oaxaca, there is a lot of different history to learn.
One of those indigenous people groups is the Mixtecs. From around 800 to 1522, the Mixtecs were an empire at the same time as the Aztecs and Mayans. Their empire was vast and their power was great, but for some reason this people group was always left out of the story when I learned about the Aztec and Mayan Empires and the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s.
The capital of the Mixtec Empire was Tututepec, which still exists as a sleepy little pueblo up in the mountains. No longer the capital city of a great empire, it is now the county seat, with a town square, a Catholic church built in the 1500s and a small museum about the history of the Mixtec people. I was able to take pictures of the town center and the Catholic church, but the museum prohibited pictures.
The museum in Tututepec is small, but it has significant artifacts, including a large stone idol depicting a fertility goddess from the religion of the Mixtec Empire. Few artifacts still exist from that time: almost anything relating to the Mixtec religion (and by extension anything relating to Mixtec Empire history) was destroyed by Spanish priests who came with the conquistadors. While I understand the impulse to get rid of false idols, the destruction of hundreds of years of history of a people is a loss for those of us learning today. There is so much we don’t know about this 700+ year empire, but the Tututepec museum displays the artifacts and facts that have been discovered about the Mixtec Empire.
One of the things that struck me about the art and artifacts of the Mixtec people was how similar it looked to Chinese art I have seen. I thought that I was just seeing things, but in the museum, they have statuettes uncovered in archaeological digs that appear to depict people with Chinese features, as well as people with African features. Perhaps people from China and Africa made their way to Mexico many hundreds of years ago?
The funny thing about history? As we learned about the beginning of the Mixtec Empire around 800, I thought of when I traveled to Iona, an island of the coast of Scotland. The saint Columba landed on Iona in the late 500s and started a monastery there. Monks were trained there and the famous Book of Kells was started there in the 700s, but by around 800, the Vikings came and destroyed the monastery. Iona and Mexico are thousands of miles apart, but it’s crazy to think about how such monumental historical events happened around the same time.
When the conquistadors came to Mexico in 1522, they didn’t exactly conquer the Mixtecs. As I was told the story, the way the Spanish took over land was by striking deals with smaller people groups already subjugated by the Mixtec Empire. That way, the Spanish had a built-in army of sorts when they approached the Mixtecs. Apparently, the king of the Mixtec Empire offered to make a deal with the Spaniards, but his overtures were rebuffed, and then, as this sort of thing almost always goes, battles broke out. Instead of being conquered, though, the Mixtecs fled high into the mountains where the Spaniards couldn’t reach them. With the people scattered, the Mixtec Empire as it was vanished and the Spaniards took over the area.
Those Mixtecs that fled to the mountains are the ancestors of the Mixtecos of today, of my friends here who have Mixtec heritage. In many of those high mountain villages, there are many people who still only speak Mixteco, not Spanish. In Tututepec we had the unique opportunity to attend a Mixtecan celebration honoring their Mixtec heritage, complete with their own style of music and dancing (and had we been able to stay longer, also food). At this little celebration, tiny Mixteco women taught some of us how to dance, sharing a part of their ancient culture with us.
Tiny Mixteco Woman Teaching Cassie and Elaine to Dance
Learning about the Mixtec Empire at the museum and being able to experience a taste of Mixteco culture at the fiesta were great additions to my Spanish School experience. I’m thankful to be studying Spanish at a school that values the history and culture of the local area. My studies of the Spanish are richer with this background knowledge of some of the people I meet and talk to every day.
Yesterday, I wrote about the school side of Spanish School. Now that school is explained, I want to talk about the more entertaining part: the people! I am one of 23 Spanish School students in this session. We range in age from 18 to 71, and we are a lively bunch. The group divides fairly neatly into two categories: the young people and the couples. There are four older couples (as in, they have children and grandchildren older), the middle-aged couple, the youngish newlywed couple, and 13 young people. We also have seven teachers, including my sister Emily (who is an additional member of “the young people.”
I am the oldest (by only a few months) of the young people, but I appear to be the youngest. In fact, one of the young gentlemen here asked me, upon my arrival, “So, have you graduated high school?” Because he was already friends with Emily from earlier in the year, I knew how old he was, and I had to restrain myself from saying, “Oh honey, I’m two years older than you.” (Ah the trials of appearing 16. People keep telling me I’ll appreciate it when I’m older, but I keep getting older and I still don’t appreciate it.)
Essentially, as a group we’re a funny little Spanish School family, made up of older, wiser people who are responsible and study a lot and go to bed on time (and I mean this as a sincere compliment), as well as we younger people who like to run around and be silly and study occasionally and go to bed late. We young people have a lot of fun together attempting to experience all the interesting things our area of Mexico has to offer.
I liken the Spanish School family to a large family vacation or reunion. At a family reunion, you’re with many people you like and love, but you can move around and hang out with lots of different people. There’s almost always something entertaining and/or cultural happening, as well as plenty of people with whom you can enjoy that cultural entertainment.
Spanish school family (among the young people) includes, but is not limited to:
sharing food, sometimes by literally taking food off of other people’s plates, while other times it just means giving what you don’t want to eat to the hungry young man sitting next to you
getting lost in the city and not having a meeting point planned but finding each other anyway because Emily and I were in separate groups and sometimes we can read each others’ minds
having a group Bible study in English but going to Bible study mostly because the newlyweds bake cookies and have fresh fruit (FELLOWSHIP and fruit)
throwing impromptu late night swing dance parties
having a bonfire birthday party on the beach
and more and more
Whenever you’re in such a close environment, studying, living, eating, celebrating together, you become close quickly. We plan each others’ birthday parties, throw impromptu swing dance parties, discover new restaurants and revisit old favorites, explore cities, study the Bible in English and try to read it in Spanish, learn about each others’ lives before now and where we want them to go. It’s messy and great and awkward and wonderful all at the same time.
The sad thing about Spanish School Family is that every 7-8 weeks, the family changes. Today, many of my new friends leave and move on to other adventures. The lone Level 4 is moving on to a new job in the states, the Level 3 who is my housemate (we live in the same house and share a Mexican family) is returning home (and both these people have become dear friends—today is awful because they’re going; I’ve been crying all day), and all of the older couples are going on to other adventures.
The trouble with becoming close to people, with becoming friends, with becoming family is that it hurts when you have to say goodbye. And this weekend is just the first round of my goodbyes here—I have two more sessions of Spanish to learn and new friends to make! The joys of friendship, community, and family, though, are well worth the pain of saying goodbye.
Now that I’ve been in Mexico for seven weeks, it’s more than past time to answer the question: So, what am I doing here in southern Mexico? Since the beginning of September, I have been attending Roca Blanca Spanish Language School in the state of Oaxaca. The goal by the end of my time here at the school is (obviously) to become fluent in Spanish. I want to give you a little glimpse into how I’m trying to accomplish that goal.
Spanish School is in session every day Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 1:00 PM with an hour break for almuerzo (breakfast/brunch/first lunch). On “A” days, I have gramatica (grammar), fonetica (phonetics), vocabulario (vocabulary), and laboratorio (laboratory—basically practicing speaking Spanish). On “B” days, I have gramatica, verbos (verbs), patrones (patterns), and traducción (translation). After a couple of alternating ABABAB days, we have “C”days, which just means it’s time for a test. This goes on for 7 weeks, then there is a week break before the next session starts.
Currently, I am finishing Level 2 out of 4. I was able to begin in this level because I knew enough Spanish to skip Level 1. Most of Level 2, though, has been review for me. Nearly all my grammar lessons have had concepts I’ve learned before, but had forgotten. It’s been a great way to ease back in to learning Spanish.
Next session, I will complete Level 3, then when I return to Mexico in January I will complete Level 4. I plan to stay an extra month past Level 4 to keep practicing my Spanish in this “immersion” setting. If I’m putting this much time into learning the language, I want to make sure I know it and can use it!
The hardest part, of course, of language learning, is understanding what people say and then being able to speak back. You know, having conversations? For Level 3, I will be the only student in my level, because my current classmates are moving on to other adventures and no one new is entering into Level 3. Being the only student in my class will challenge me in my language learning because I will be the only one responsible for knowing the answers. I will miss my current classmates, but I’m excited for this new part of my adventure.
One of the most important parts of any new living situation is the comida (food). There are a lot of things I like about the food here, and there are things I really really dislike. Here, though, are a few of my thoughts on comida.
The Mexican eating schedule is very different from the American schedule. You eat a little desayuno (breakfast), like oatmeal, before school, then almuerzo (lunch/brunch) is at 10:00 AM. Comida (lunch/dinner) is at 3:00 PM, then cena (dinner) is at 8:00 PM. I eat almuerzo and comida on the base in the comedor (dining room), which is served cafeteria style to everyone who works and learns at the base. Some days the food is better than others—Mondays are the worst because there aren’t many people on the base so sometimes they just serve leftover tortillas covered in watery beans, which is not my favorite meal. Then, there are days where they serve shrimp soup, with a rich and delicious stock that might convince you that you’re at a fancy restaurant. That makes up for hot dog soup days. Yes, hot dog soup.
The best restaurant in Cacalote is Maria’s taco stand. The tacos are simple: just barbacoa (“barbecued”meat) and tortilla, fried. Each taco is only 6 pesos, and an order of tacos comes with a roasted cebolla (onion). The salsa verde is delicious and insanely spicy, to the point where the comment was made, “Hey Sarah, did you know that your lips get bright red when you eat spicy food?” Well, if I didn’t know before, I know now! Also, when I say it’s the best restaurant in Cacalote, it’s the only restaurant that isn’t a bar that is open every night. There’s a family who makes tlayudas (Oaxacan quesadillas) some weekends, but that’s about the only other option. Fortunately, Maria’s tacos are the best.
Those who know me well know I don’t like milk. I can’t remember ever drinking a glass, because I find it disgusting. The texture, the taste, everything. Chocolate milk on the other hand, is delicious. And I can get chocolate milk in a box anytime I want. It’s delicious, but there’s never enough in the box.
Another great Mexican snacky is galletas (cookies). Sharing a package of galletas around the lunch table is a common pastime. Triki-Trakes, Empreadors, Maravillas, and Marias are just a few of the tasty options. Healthy? Not at all. Tasty and delicious? Yes.
A great thing about living near the Pacific Ocean, as I do, is that there are a lot of dishes that include seafood. One of my favorites dishes when I’m out at a restaurant in a nearby town, is shrimp cocktail. Yes, it is as delicious as it looks.
Watchers of PBS may know of a show called Mexico One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless. Last season, he traveled throughout the state of Oaxaca, enjoying plates of Mexican cuisine and then showing viewers how to make similar dishes. One episode is set in Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, Puerto being the closest “big city” to little Cacalote. This spring in America, my family watched this episode and I was enamored with a dish called encamoranadas (shrimped things), which are basically shrimp tacos. So, when I found myself at Playa Carrizalillo I had to try these shrimp tacos. I split them with my roommate Cassie (in Spanish, her name sounds like the word “casi,” which means almost, so sometimes we call her Almost) AND THEY WERE AMAZING. They were Mexican expensive (100 pesos, which is about $9) because we were at a tourist beach, but it was worth every peso.
I’m excited to see what else I will eat in my next two months here in southern Mexico!
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.