I had more than a few warnings that choosing to spend a semester in another country would result in me being asked some tough questions about my own. In all honesty, most questions here are tough for me because they’re in Spanish. Anyway, I’ve decided to share a list of some of the questions I’ve been asked by my new tico friends and family. They have been translated into English by the best of my memory and ability for the benefit of my target audience (Mom and Dad).
Are you French? - Ok, so this only happened once, but it was cool. I was excited to think that my looks could be ambiguous, but on second thought, maybe I just have a weirdly French tone to my Spanish accent…
Aren’t you cold? - This is a totally normal question, but seeing as it hasn’t dropped below 60° Fahrenheit (15ish° Celcius) while I’ve been here, the part of my brain that contains memories of past Maryville blizzards just thinks LOL.
Do you speak Spanish? - This might seem like an obvious one since my skin is the color of milk and hiking sandals are my most common choice of footwear, but it’s interesting to me because I would never think to ask someone what language they speak at home. I have always assumed that all people who come to the US speak English. Whether that assumption is good or bad, I’m not quite sure.
Why aren’t there more language classes in US schools?/Why don’t people there learn a second language? - Obviously, I’m studying Spanish, and I want to be a language teacher, meaning that language classes and the encouragement of bilingualism have and will continue to be a huge part of my life. It’s hard for me to express my passion for this subject in my second language, but I try! However, I usually try to practically explain that speaking a second language seems unnecessary to most people in the US because there are so many English speakers throughout the world, and the opportunities for bilingual people (although there are many) are not quite as numerous or in-demand as they are in Costa Rica.
Oh, Missouri. That’s in the south, right? - It’s not that I expect everyone to know the exact location of my home, but I have just been surprised that so many people associate it with the southern region of the US. It could just be that living in the northern part of the state makes me identify more with my northern neighbors.
How do you say (insert word here) in English? - I love being asked this because it gives me a chance to be an expert on something, which doesn’t happen much when you’re on the wrong side of the language barrier.
Do “Americans” (see next question) like President Obama?/What do they think of Obamacare? – I almost want to laugh when I am asked these questions, not because I don’t appreciate the interest in ongoings in my home country, but because it’s impossible to answer. There are so many aspects that can be criticized or praised for every politician and each of their policies. I can barely answer these questions for myself, let alone the entire nation.
Why do you people call yourselves “Americans?” - I should preface this comment by saying that the use of “you people” may have been less intentionally blunt and more a result of the fact that a friend chose to ask it in English, her second language. Regardless, this question made my heart drop. Although the term americana (American) is used here in some contexts, I do not feel right using it. My other choices are: estadounidense (United Statesian, if you will), which is overly formal, gringa (yankee, but with slightly offensive undertones), which is overly informal, or norteamericana (North American), which isn’t specific enough. I usually choose to say, “I am from the US.” because it’s the easiest. So, I had no suitable answer to my friend’s question. Is it consoling for her to hear that there is no word in English other than an exclusive term that should include both of us and people from many other countries as well? Probably not.
One final question: What is a blog post without a few photos?
My aunt, uncle, and cousins visited during their spring break. Even though I only got to see them for a few days, I was excited to have some Iowans in Costa Rica!
View of Volcán Arenal
Climbing around in the La Fortuna waterfall… it was strong!!!
My amigos and I after a long, steep hike at Monte de la Cruz.
The alphabet sidewalk at the Museo de los Niños (Children’s Museum) in San José
P.S. Credits to Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers, I suppose) for this post’s title.