exploring, examining, exchanging, expressing
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Gringo Fiesta
I had one rough day this week. But overall, it turned out to be a big week of small accomplishments. These may not sound like much to you, but to me, they were baby steps towards feeling better about my time here.

1) Yesterday, one of my students said, "I had fun in class today!" That's pretty major for me, a newbie teacher on his second week of teaching. It means my students are starting to loosen up and feel more comfortable with me. I'm getting them to open up and have fun with English, which is really the point of our course. We covered a couple of big grammar points, but we still had some laughs. My school's theory is that when students enjoy what they're talking about, they learn more. So in that sense, I think this week was an overall success.

2) I bought fruit from a street vendor. There's a guy with a pickup truck full of fruit that sets up shop along the road at the top of my hill, near the bus stop. I've been told that he gets the stuff that companies like Dole don't want because it's too big or too ripe to send to the US. I can believe it. So I plucked up the courage to ask the price for a bag of mangos. I got 6 decent pieces of fruit for 500 colones, about 1 dollar. Not bad. If I were better at Spanish, I probably could've bargained for either more fruit or better pieces. But it's a start.

3) I opened a bank account (as mentioned) and today picked up my debit/ATM card. Tomorrow, hopefully, my school should make a deposit. At that point, I will have officially started earning money from working in a foreign country. That just blows my mind. I have a job, a regular routine, and essentially a normal life, in a country where I barely speak the language. Groovy.

4) I was tested by my academic coordinator on my teaching skills. I still have a lot to work on, of course. I need to get better at correcting my students. I know when and why they make mistakes, but I'm too timid about interrupting them and pointing out the problems. I'm comfortable with the main concepts of teaching conversational English to advanced students. Not too shabby for a guy that used to be a computer geek for a living.

To celebrate these minor victories, I'm treating myself to a treat sans (err... sin) beans and rice. I stopped at a vendor in San Jose and got a roasted chicken. I've walked past a bunch of these chicken shacks in San Jose and today I decided to give it a shot. They cook the chicken on a rotissary over a wood fire in a brick oven. I just had a nibble and it's quite tasty. The guy mumbled to his friend something about "ingles" after I ordered, but he got the gist and I got my chicken. (I'll always be a gringo here, no matter how much I try to fit in). I also went to the store and got a box of wine (Chilean. Costa Rican wine is... not worth mentioning) and some pasta and sauce for a side dish. And I picked up a loaf of bread, because the lady at the bread store has started to smile at me more. (I go to Mus Manni because it's a self-serve store, I don't have to ask for what I want. My next goal is to go to a bread shop where I have to ask, but I like that the bread lady knows me and smiles).

It's Italian night at Casa Loco Gringo!

Pollo Asado: 2400 colones
Caja de Vino Rojo (Uno Litro): 2000 colones
Pan: 270 colones

One week of not feeling like a complete outsider in a new country: Priceless