Tuesday, June 14, 2011

English, Spanish and Broccoli

One of the new delights of my week is the time I spend teaching English to my colleagues at ADES.   The basic class has about 15 students, but in general only about 10 are able to make it on any given week.  This means that I set up extra meetings with people throughout the week to keep them up to date with their fellow students. Their dedication is impressive!   This week all the meeting rooms were in use and so we squeezed into my team's office and had our class.  They really like songs.  So this week there were two -- the alphabet song and BINGO (There was a farmer had a dog and BINGO was his name oh...)   The buildings are created to maximize air flow, so there are lots of windows and walls don't go up to the ceiling, so that sound travels.  We were quite loud in our singing.    I was okay with this  as the other team in the building was not in their office.  That is because they were all in the downstairs meeting room, with the agency Executive Director and representatives from a foundation that funds programs!  I am told they found the English class amusing.  Oops...But no one told me!!!!

My intermediate class has less fun because they are working hard on grammar.  The students in both this class and the advance class all complain about irregular verbs in the past tense.  So I went on line to find out what the fuss was about.   Did you know that there are 118 irregular verbs in the simple past tense?   Simple past tense is generally made by adding "ed" to a verb in the present tense.  In regular simple past there are 3 pronunciations - say - locked, warned, wanted -- one sounds more like a "t", one more like a "d" and one like "ed".  There is only one pattern for about 6 verbs in the irregular -- they are just all different - begin/began, bite/bit, break/broke, cost/cost (no change), think/thought, see/saw.  So the next time you see someone who has learned English as a Second Language, give them a big hug and let them know that you know how hard it was.  It is amazing to me that anyone learns English!

There is no doubt that my Spanish is improving bit by bit.  However, I finding the process excruciating slow.  This weekend I had the opportunity to go with a group of my colleagues to visit a pretty town called Suchitoto.  I was really excited because I really wanted to go there.  There is a spectacular cathedral, artisans, a market and a whole bunch of other interesting things to see and do.  The group I was with were excited to be "tourists" for the weekend.  However, I got caught up in assumptions and assumed that my idea of being a tourist and their idea of being a tourist were the same.  We drove through the tourist area and they pointed it out to me and we kept going!  For most of the time we hung out at an agency that hosts activist groups from other countries.  They have dorm type rooms which is were we stayed the night.  This once grand house also has a pool.  We spent a lot of time there and "bathed".  In Spanish you only use "swim" if you are actually "swimming", floating in a pool is "bathing".  This was very pleasant, just different than what I was looking forward to doing.   My colleagues have been working very, very hard as mid-year reporting is brutal here.  They all just needed a chance to relax.   They talked and joked and laughed.  I understood little and felt very lonely.  I missed all you at home.  I missed the easy conversation and the laughing.   After dinner we went to a disco.  Yes, I looked for an opportunity to go back to "opt out", but there really wasn't one.  So, this group of ADES staff successfully got me not only to a disco, but dancing for several hours.  I also consumed a few "adult beverages".   Just to be clear there are no photos! The next morning we ate breakfast at a quirky cafe in the town square.  I opted to skip breakfast (because I wanted to be a tourist, I felt fine!) and take photos of the cathedral and do a bit of browsing of the shops and artisans.  

The loneliness persisted and I had a hard day "communication wise" yesterday.  I went home last night and just wanted to be alone and to feel sorry for myself.  However, you can't do that when you live in community.  I went home and a few of my housemates were working on dinner.  I went to my room and pulled out my book with special notes from people from home.  One of the notes led me to Psalm 118 which is a lot about hardship makes us stronger but God doesn't send us to death.  I also read a part from my "special book"  from a friend that reminded me to take things one day at a time.  Good advice, I was pretty sure I'd make it through today okay...it is another year of being that lonely that I'm not sure I can do.  Then this very wise 22 year old house mate came into my room and asked me what was up.  I actually tried to tell him a little bit and I know that what I said in Spanish  didn't make any sense.  In exasperation I ended  and with and that is the problem, I can't explain the problem in Spanish!  His response was interesting.  He was not comforting at all and in fact really told me off...but he was very right.  I didn't understand everything but I actually understood a fair amount. He told me that: 
*You can only climb a ladder one rung at a time.  
*That I am too intelligent to let language become this big of a problem
*My response is a decision that I make
*Canadians have access to lots of things but we lack "heart" which I took to mean fortitude
*That I need to have more patience -- which is something I am getting very tired of hearing.  I made some gesture and he told me I needed to be quiet and let him finish!

Then it was time for dinner.  Alex and another house mate Vicenta had been to the grocery store earlier to get supplies for the week. She asked me where I was in the afternoon because she had looked for me.  She knows I like to go to the grocery store.    Then I looked at the table and we had broccoli for dinner, which is available here but is not popular.  Vicenta told me that at the grocery store Alex saw the broccoli and said Lynn likes it, so they bought it for dinner last night.  In four months, we've never had broccoli.  It was mentioned once and I remarked on how much I like it, but that was it.    Then another piece fell into place...there is no aspect of my life that is the same here...literally...So I may miss friendships like the ones I have in Canada, but I do have friends here.  Like everything here,  it just looks very different.   In one afternoon, Vicenta had looked for me to include me in an activity she knows I like, Alex bought a food because he knows it is a favorite of mine and Vinicio gave me advice that I needed to hear, although it was not what I wanted to hear.   These are all things friends do.  

You know when you are at the gym and your head says you have done enough of that exercise and you want to stop.  But the person you are with says to do more.  Somehow you do and it doesn't kill you but if you'd been on your own, you would have stopped.  This is kind of the same.  Probably yesterday if someone had handed me a plane ticket, I'd have gone --- saying and believing that I had reached my limit of endurance.  Yet God reassured me both spiritually and literally that I am not alone and that I can endure and survive.  I was also reminded that I can also thrive and be happy, but that is my choice.

Leading the English class in the song BINGO

In one area I visited this week, they are building a new bridge, so in the interim all the vehicles drive across the river. 

Group in Suchitoto - Me, Jenny, Jamie, Digna and Vinicio (in green).  Jonathan (Jenny's son took the photo).  We were later joined by 2 others, making us a group of 8.


  1. Hi Lynn,

    I send you strength! I know exactly the feeling of being surrounded by a conversation you wish you understood more than 10% of. It is lonely, it is incredibly exhausting, and you know you'll probably clumsily trip over words if you do try to say something in their language. May God grant you the unending patience and humility that is vital to speaking in another tongue - a God-given talent unto itself.

    Thinking of you often!

  2. Hi Lynn: Thing of you with messages for your strength and encouragement. Obviously your friends there are GOOD friends... they know you well enough to know that you will rise to the challenges. As we your Canadian companeros/as also know that you "can do all things through Christ who strengthens" you! Peace and encouragements for your lonely heart.