July 20, 2016

Hi Ya

Over the last two weeks, the mental switch from thinking in English to thinking in Spanish has really been going on in my brain. It is a crazy, amazing feeling. The other day, I was listening to some country music on my phone. All of the sudden, I realized that instead of singing along with the lyrics in my head as usual, I was doing my best to absent mindedly translate the lyrics into Spanish. It was so awesome to realize that without even trying to, my mind was thinking in Spanish.

Also, my English spelling has gotten a lot worse. I have never been a particularly strong speller in English, mainly because I am a fonetic speller, which does not tend to benefit even a native English speaker. Anddd, in additional to ruining years of hard work sitting at the dining room table re-writing miss-spelled spelling words “ten times each” in accordance to the orders of my loving parents, my English grammar is getting a bit mixed up too.

The more I get used to the formatting of Spanish sentence structure, which orders words differently than the English language does, the more I find myself trying to use the Spanish sentence structure when speaking English. Instead of saying, “I miss you,” it has become “You I miss,” which is the literal translation of “Te extraño.” Sometimes, I imagine it sounds a bit like Yoda talking, but I am not super sure about that since I haven’t seen Star Wars much.

And on top of all of this, I am beginning to forget words in English. The other day, I was talking with a local friend and for the life of me could not recall the English word for someone who does not practice religion. In the end, after thinking for several minutes, Google reminded me of the word after a quick search. Atheist. The word I was unsuccessfully trying to recall was atheist.

Since being in Mexico, my Spanish vocabulary has grown considerably. I have been learning new words every conversation that I have. Not all, but most have literal translations. However, sometimes I find that even words that I think I know the meaning of can refer to other things that I did not previously associate with specific words. I experienced this today while exploring with my friend Marlene.

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My day began at school with more subjunctive verb tense practice in my grammar class. The pace of this condensed summer program is really astounding. Each day we cover what is a week’s worth of material when taken on campus at Oregon State University. I have a lot of studying that I really need should do before my final exam Friday. After this class, I presented my final presentation in my speaking class. It was about my life in Mexico. I ended up writing most of it last night since we randomly lost power in my neighborhood Monday night. While I was unable to use my computer, I did write a bit of it by candle light though.

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My final presentation was to be at least 10 minutes long. I think that mine was nearly 20 minutes in total, after I shared short video that I made about my day in Bernal and answered questions asked by my teacher such as “What is in fact the proper way to drink Mezcal?” I am so pleased by how conversational my Spanish has become. I feel that I speak fairly quickly and fluidly when I know what I am speaking about and do not need to pause to look up vocab words.

After class, I rode the public bus home. Earlier this week, the main road that I cross to get to the University bus stop from my house in the mornings was completely dug out. The first day, I was able to tip-toe my way across the giant ditch, but the next morning it was completely full of rain water and resembled a giant moat. Thankfully, there is a public bus stop only three blocks from my house.

As I headed for the public bus stop this afternoon (since the afternoon University bus randomly stopped  running as well), I did not bother to hurry since there is no bus schedule. If you hurry it always seems you have at least a 10 minute wait, which therefore proves you needn’t hurry at all. However, when you don’t hurry it always seems as though you just miss the bus by seconds and indeed would have made the bus if only you had hurried a bit. I think of it like the episode of SpongeBob where the closer to the bus stop he is, the farther away the bus is, and vice versa. Right as I was walking down the ramp to the bus stop, I told myself not to look at the number on the passing bus since it would probably be the bus I wanted and there was no point in knowing that I had just missed it. But, ignoring myself, I looked and sure enough it was the bus I wanted. I didn’t mind too much though. I hoped another bus would come soon enough.

About 15 minutes later, the D Bus passed. I was waiting for the 24 because its route passes near my house, but I knew the D Bus was also a possibility, it just meant that I had a half hour walk from where the D would drop me off on the opposite side of the Centro to my house. I decided to wait for the 24 to come around again. As I waited, I got a few honks from passing cars, something that is very normal here. Another good 15 minutes later, when I saw the 24 bus in the distance, I began flapping my arm like a bird in hopes it would stop. But, it wasn’t even in the right lane as it went blasting by bursting with people. I figured that if it was too full to stop, I probably didn’t want on anyway. But, I did want to be getting home since it was hot and I didn’t want to be too late and make my host mom worry.

After another 15 minutes went by, I decided that I would take either the D or 24 bus, which ever passed next. I would rather spend half an hour walking through town if I had to take the D Bus than spend another 30 minutes standing on the side of the road in Mexico. Finalllly, the D bus came by again and I paid my eight and a half pesos as I took a firm hold on the above head railing and planted my feet firmly for the ride.

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Once I got off the bus as near as I could to the Centro, I enjoyed my long walk home thinking that I wouldn’t have many more walks through these neighborhoods for quite a while since I only have two more days here in Mexico. I was pretty hungry too and hoped that my host mom had something tasty ready for lunch.

When I got home, I apologized for being late and I explained all the hassles with the buses. My mom wasn’t fazed at all about my tardiness; I forgot that being late is pretty normal here. As I drank a glass of water, she put an omelet on a plate in front of me. Now, I am not sure if I have written about my surprise with how many dishes my host mom has served me featuring hotdogs, but there have been a lot. I have had hotdog soup, cold hotdog sandwiches, and today, omelet with as much hotdog as egg. Needless to say, it was not my favorite, but it did away with my appetite. After comida, I did a little studying before meeting Marlene at the Plaza de Armas.

The other day in class, I asked my teacher what other places she recommended that we visit during our last week in Querétaro. I feel very comfortable walking around the Centro now and I would like to explore other parts of the city before I leave. One of the places she recommended was Plaza Antea. When I mentioned to my host family that I was interested in going to Plaza Antea, they said that it is the biggest plaza in all of Querétaro and that it has lots of shops. It turns out that my host cousin’s good friend, Marlene, lives very close to Plaza Antea. She offered to take me today.

We had decided to meet in the Centro at five and she was going to then drive us to Plaza Antea. I got there my American five minutes early, and at five I received a Facebook message from her telling me that traffic was bad and she would be there around 5:30. I smiled and spent my time imagining what Plaza Antea must look like. Since it is the biggest plaza in Querétaro, I figured it must have a very large square in the center with a big fountain and lots of old stone work. I figured that buildings would be old and fit many smaller shops and cafes inside.

I heard a honk and snapped out of my head when I saw Marlene’s car. I hoped in and we were off; to her house. She had just finished dancing (she is currently studying dance at a university) and wanted to stop by home and change since it is on the way. Marlene’s home is different than any others that I have seen so far in Mexico. It is in a very nice neighborhood where all of the homes look exactly the same. This greatly contrasts the hillsides of houses that are all painted different colors that I have become accustom to seeing around Mexico. It didn’t take long at all for her to change and then we were back in the car for a short bit.

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When we turned off the freeway, we pulled up to a large parking lot and had to get a ticket before entering. I couldn’t believe that this was the plaza, because it looked like the outside of a giant shopping complex to me. Once we entered, I made the connection. When I think of plazas, I think of buildings that have been around for centuries bordered by cobble stone roads that lead to a beautiful fountain. But, today I learned that “plaza” can also mean “mall.” As we walked around, it was true, Plaza Antea has many shops, but it is totally modern. Among its three floors it has Victoria’s Secret, Aeropostal, Gap, H&M, C&A, Forever 21 (called Forever Veinte-Uno in Spanish), and many more stores that I recognized. I was pretty surprised. It also had many more stores that I did not recognize, either because I do not frequently go mall shopping or because they are not stores found in the USA.

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This placed that seemed a lot like your average American mall , but did have characteristics that made it feel a bit Mexican. The architecture is open-air featuring lots of plants and natural elements. Marlene and I walked through many of the stores. I was not really prepared to go mall shopping this afternoon, and, if you are a girl, you know that a full try-on-everything-you-like and don’t-add-up-all-totals attitude kind of requires the right mental state of mind. Not to mention, I just finished buying all my gifts to take home yesterday and am trying to space my last few pesos over my last few days in Mexico. But, I did buy two pairs of earrings and Marlene bought some tights for dancing.

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After wandering the shops, Marlene and I both heard frozen yogurt calling our name. I was thankful to be able to treat Marlene in thanks for her taking the time to show me around Plaza Antea. This frozen yogurt place was more my style than the first time I had frozen yogurt in Mexico. I chose natural piña (pineapple) flavor with a bit of chocolate, nuts, oats, and more fresh pine apple over-flowing on top. Marlene chose the flavor mamey, which is a fruit. An interesting note about portion size- In America, when you go to frozen yogurt, they don’t have small bowls, only large and really large. Here in Mexico, they have sensible smaller bowls that allow someone who just wants a little treat to get just that.

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As we finished our frozen yogurts, the sun was setting and the temperature was dropping. I knew that it couldn’t have been very cold based on Astoria temperatures, but I took the rise of goosebumps on my arms as a sign that I must be getting pretty accustom to Querétaro weather after almost five weeks here.

On our way out, we paid 33 pesos for parking and Marlene drove me home. As we said good night, we did not say goodbye, only hasta pronto. And we really mean soon! Marlene and I plan to get together one more time before I leave Saturday morning. I am not sure exactly when; I am still working out plans with Alex, but we will make it happen. I am so very thankful for the generosity of all of my friends here in Mexico and all that they have taught me.

Today I learned new meanings for Spanish words that I thought I understood as I continued to think more in Spanish and less in English. Although it is a bit confusing that my mind no has to slow down to translate things from Spanish to English, it could not be more exciting! It kind of seems that the more I learn about Spanish, the more I mix up my English. It is going to be strange when I am home in a few days and can no longer say “gracias” and kiss people on the cheeks in the same way.

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