After about an hour of stewing over our poor performance on the test we all gathered in a cramped but air-conditioned room for dance lessons.
Our dance instructor looked straight from Mary’s Zumba videos back home. This guy was built for speed. He did an excellent job of demonstrating the steps and making sure no one was left behind. Although I can’t say I ever really got that 4 step arm twirly thing right, I sure laughed a lot and after two hours of sweating, I certainly got enough exercise. As it turns out, Dr. Bell is an incredible Latin dancer and we all watched in awe as she and the instructor demonstrated the various Latin dances. They were both wonderful. I certainly am not so wonderful, but as I said – we all had a great deal of fun attempting to Cumbia, Meringue, Salsa, and Cha-cha.
Today was the first day we didn’t have a morning excursion or activity so we took the chance to sleep in a bit and hobbled up the University Latina for a 10 o’clock review session with Dr. Bell. Mary and I studied all six forms of ser and six forms of estar for a couple hours last night and we’re not quick about t, but we have the table of twelve in our brains for use on the test. As expected, Dr. Bell clarified a couple of things, but mostly just confirmed we were on the right track. We felt really pumped about the test knowing the chart by memory. This was easily the most I’ve studied for a non music course and in fact is beginning to rival music courses.
We went in to class and reviewed our homework – 100% correct. So here comes the test…
It’s four pages long. The first page contains instructions in Spanish. Great! We don’t know enough Spanish to read the instructions so this is very frustrating. Also frustrating is the fact that there are about 30 pictures which we need to use in 8 sentences each. Because they are pictures, the chart we memorized is useless with the exception of one row (Or so I think). Since their all third person.
Anyway, it takes most of us about 90minutes or more to finish. I’m feeling pretty good and I turn in my test.
Mary’s still working so I take a seat outside the classroom. About ten minutes later, my professor comes out and points out that the second page pictures are all plural and therefore about 30% of my test is wrong.
Well, my spirit sank. I thought I had this wrapped up, but unfortunately I just practiced the wrong answers about 30 times.
Then Mary comes out and feels pretty good about the test until a similar thing happens to her. Apparently she didn’t realize there were supposed to be eight responses to each picture and instead only did 5.
This completely crushed her spirit. Up until this moment she was high on the whole experience. She felt very positive about learning Spanish, and was even considering continuing her studies in that direction. I was so proud and excited for her discovery of the language. She’s clearly more gifted in it than I am and I’m happy for her, but this test really wounded her confidence and halted the incredible momentum she had.
It took most of the night to put her back together again. I tried to reassure her that the test was not a very accurate measure of our accomplishments and that perhaps the professor would take into account both of our errors with regard to the test.
Time will tell, but unfortunately this is yet another reason I lose confidence in traditional educational efforts. I just do not feel today helped us learn Spanish in any way shape or form. If anything, we all reinforced errors repetitively.
We spent this morning meeting 18 of Heredia’s most mature ladies swapping stories about our children and assisting them in creating some colorful napkin holders. Before the art began we introduced ourselves to the group and then they introduced themselves. As the Tico’s say, “No entender ni papa.” which means I didn’t understand a potato. Although I didn’t understand much of what was said I know what welcoming appreciative eyes look like and I know the warmth they shared with us just for showing up. It was a special morning of clumsy talk, but smiling faces. We return next Thursday. Hopefully I’ll be more prepared to converse with these ladies. It is worth saying at this point that when we were introducing ourselves, Mary launched into an unbelievable introduction. I wasn’t sure where it all came from. I said something like, Hi. My name is Hans, but she filled two minutes or more and did it with genuine warmth.
It has been beautiful to watch her fall in love with this language and see it fill her up. Mary’s father was a Spanish professor and I honestly hadn’t thought of that when I duped her into this trip. I don’t mean to overplay this, but I can’t help but feel like her father is a part of this trip in a very real way. As her skills surpassed mine overnight I immediately noticed a glow within her that I feel is tied to his memory. I knew she’d enjoy Costa Rica. I didn’t have any idea that learning Spanish would ignite memories of her father and a new passion for Spanish. After twelve years of marriage, we’ve both developed, but it is awe inspiring to see this new side of her. It’s amazing to me that I had to travel to Costa Rica to find something that’s been next to me all along.