McCanns in Honduras

Let the nations be glad & sing for joy!

Quite a Mouthful

Lucy and her bud Will hanging out on some teeth.

Above: Lucy and her bud Will hanging out on some teeth.

Last week, during our vacation from school, we took a trip with some school friends to the Children’s Muesem in San Jose. Lucy and Will, her best friend in Costa Rica, had a blast exploring all sorts of toys and exhibits. One room that was quite a hit was this one, the mouth room. As you can tell they liked sitting on the teeth, though the giant toothbrush with a smiley face kind of put Lucy on edge.

In other news, we’ve just completed our first week of our second (and final!) trimester at Spanish school. This trimester promises to be more challenging than the last with tougher classes, longer assignments, and grammar lessons that seem to get harder by the hour! We both really like our teachers and classmates, and we’re excited about how much Spanish we’ll be able to speak (theoretically) in 4 months.

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September 7, 2008 Posted by | Language School, Lucy, Our Blog, Our Costa Rica Life, San Jose, Spanish Language | 3 Comments

Two Down…

Above: Lucy and Sean feeding the ducks and pigeons in Parque la Paz.

…one trimester to go. Yesterday we finished our first full trimester at language school and our second Spanish course since we’ve been here in Costa Rica. Though we’re moving up, it is amazing that the more Spanish we learn, the more we realize how far we are from fluency. Classes have been great and we seem to communicate better ever day, but we are in the midst of an uphill climb with much more ahead than behind.

August 14, 2008 Posted by | Family, Lucy, Our Costa Rica Life, San Jose, Spanish Language | Leave a comment

Spanish Word – Mono

Above: Lucy riding with our buddy Pratt checking out some friendly monos in Manuel Antonio National Park.

A couple weeks ago, while we were at the beach, we met tons of monkeys (monos). Now Lucy has always loved monkeys the zoo, on TV, or in books, but we weren’t sure how she was going to react to monkeys in the wild. Turns out she had a mixed response.

The good: We saw a cute little squirrel monkey outside our room the first day to whet her appetite. Then over the next few days we encountered many traveling packs of white-faced monkeys both on the beach and up on the hill where we were staying. They were friendly and active and Lucy loved them. We sat out on our porch for almost half an hour watching 20 monkeys move through the trees below us, and the next day we got face-to-face with some on the beach (pictured above).

The bad: The third type of monkey we saw was the howler monkey. These guys are HUGE, as big as a big dog, and move slowly but loudly through the trees. They are intimidating and unleash some very loud roars that scared Lucy.

The ugly: On our last morning at the beach, the howler monkeys set up shop outside our room around 4 AM and started going to work. We found out later the the howlers are the loudest of the land animals and their howl can carry up to 3 miles. We of course were woken up terrified, and Lucy work up in abject fear that her short life was drawing to a quick end. She got in bed with us and somehow managed to sleep with us the rest of the morning.

Our monkey experience was fun, but Lucy will no longer think of cute little Curious George when someone mentions mono in her presence.

August 5, 2008 Posted by | Beaches, Lucy, Nature, Our Costa Rica Life, Spanish Language, Vacations | Leave a comment

Spanish Word – Tiempo Libre

Above: Lucy and Sean at the park on Saturday.

Translation: Free Time.

Throughout Lucy’s whole life, she always been with either her mom, her dad, or both. When she was born, Lindsey had a long maternity leave. When Lindsey went back to work part-time, Sean stayed at home for half the week. When we both quit our jobs and starting raising support, we were all together all the time, either at home or on the road. So here in Costa Rica, with Lucy in “school” 30 hours a week, it has been a bit of an adjustment.

How does this tie in? We now we value our tiempo libre as a family more than ever. Usually most of our shopping outings are together, we love to go out to eat as a family, and we absolutely love a nice Saturday morning with no one but the three (four!) of us.

This Saturday, a children’s home in our neighborhood was throwing a fund raising festival at our local park, so we stopped by for some food, games, shows, and music. The festival was fun, but being all together was even better!

July 2, 2008 Posted by | Costa Rica Culture, Family, Lucy, Our Costa Rica Life, Spanish Language | Leave a comment

Our Spanish Speaker

Above: Lu and Lins after a bath.

One of the amazing things we have witnessed since we’ve been here is Lucy’s Spanish development. For most adults learning a new language is a laboring process, and one of the most difficult parts is translating from your first language to your second. For Lucy, this is not a problem. She is just learning new words and phrases daily. It may look like she is learning English and Spanish, but to her it is just one big language with a lot of words and different words for the same thing.

For example, she knows how to count to three in both languages, but if we ask her to count in English or count in Spanish she just gives us a blank stare. On the other hand, if we start with “one” or with “uno” she can easily finish the counting in the proper language.

One reason she is learning so fast is that she is in day care for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, and her teacher, Gloria, only speaks Spanish. So her little growing mind is hearing 30 hours of Spanish a week. Just the other day we decided to test her and started asking her where her body parts were in Spanish. Though she didn’t get them all, she surprised us with what she did understand.

Her Spanish vocabulary includes mas (more), pato (duck), agua, uno, dos, tres, cuatro, pan (bread), vamos (let’s go), aqui (here), pina (pineapple), boca (mouth), adios, gracias, chao (bye). Some of these words she say exclusively, as in she never says water, more, or thank you. And those are just the words she can say, they don’t include the dozens more that she hears and understands.

There is a good chance that by the time we leave Costa Rica, she will understand more than us!

Above: Lucy playing on the playground.

May 22, 2008 Posted by | Lucy, Spanish Language | Leave a comment

Spanish Word – Pájaros

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Above: A couple birds outside our door.

Simple translation: bird. There are lots of birds here in Costa Rica and we have gotten used to seeing them everywhere. One of our first weeks here we heard some loud squawking up in a tree and looked up to find some parakeets like the ones pictured above. We thought it was so cool to see such pretty birds out in the wild that we stopped and watched for 5-10 minutes. Unfortunately, the novelty soon wore off. We originally thought these were parrots, but upon further research, they look to most likely be parakeets, Crimson Fronted Parakeets to be exact. Though we are not entirely sure what they are, what we do know is that they are loud and apparently never sleep! I cannot tell you how many mornings we have been awakened by a pair of these green guys screaming away outside our window. They usually travel in loose flocks, so where there is some noise there is a lot of noise. The other day in the rain these two guys settled on the power lines outside our front door and proceeded to let the world know they had arrived. We still love to see them and try to take pictures (they are lightening fast), but their squawk is something we could live without.

Above: The Yigüirro, or the Clay-colored Robin, the national bird of Costa Rica.

This bird above is essentially the polar opposite of a parrot/parakeet. Compared to the brilliant green and red of the parakeet, this bird looks downright dull. But what is lacks in beauty it makes up in song. There are lots of these guys around school, so we hear their song while are in classes and it is a great relief from the ugly sounds of our struggling Spanish. And after the squawking of the green terrors, we can see why this unassuming yet beautiful bird is the national bird of Costa Rica.

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Costa Rica, Nature, Our Costa Rica Life, Spanish Language | Leave a comment

Spanish Word – Lluvia

From time to time, as we learn some Spanish, we’ll try to help you learn some as well.

Above: The family ready for a day out in the rain.

Rain (pronounced “you-via”). No other alternate translations, simple rain. In Costa Rica, and most of Central America, there are basically two seasons, the rainy season, and the not rainy season. We arrived here in the not rainy season and didn’t see any rain for a few months. Then a few weeks ago it started raining every afternoon. Although the rainy season isn’t here in full, we have had a few good tastes. The lesson we’ve learned is never leave home without an umbrella or jacket. Some interesting tidbits about the rainy season in Costa Rica:

– Despite the fact that the Tico’s are used to the rain, no one seems to want to go out in it.

– When people do go out in the rain, they almost exclusively use umbrellas, not rain jackets. Rain jackets seem to be a strictly gringo thing.

– There are taxi’s all over the place in San Jose, we’ve never waited more than 5 minutes for a cab, but when it rains there are none to be found. We were stuck out in the rain the other day and asked someone to call us a cab, but he said there were none available, they were all in use. So we put a trash bag over Lucy’s head and walked home.

– Amazingly, the rain can seem to come and go in an instant. It will be very hot and clear in the morning, then pouring in the afternoon, and clear and cool again at night.

The boy scout motto prevails here when going out, always be prepared!

April 24, 2008 Posted by | Nature, Our Costa Rica Life, Spanish Language | Leave a comment

Spanish Word – En Serio?

From time to time, as we learn some Spanish, we’ll try to help you learn some as well.
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Above: Lucy loving her rain jacket, indoors none the less.

“En serio?” This is a question loosely translated in the lingo of a US high schooler, “seriously?” Other translations might be “really?” or “are you serious?” We hear it a lot when we tell Tico’s here about our strange customs in the US (most recently, hiding plastics eggs in the park, “en serio?”)

How does this relate to the picture? Well the other day it was drizzling when we went to the park with Lucy, so we put on her jacket and her hood. When we got to the park it stopped raining, but she screamed when we tried to take off her hood. She wore it all the way home in the bright sun, and then wore it all over the house during her snack, causing us to look at her and laugh: en serio?

April 6, 2008 Posted by | Lucy, Spanish Language | Leave a comment

Spanish Word – Tranquilo

Above: A tranquilo Lucy on our porch.

From time to time, as we learn some Spanish, we’ll try to help you learn some as well.

Tranquilo is a word we’ve heard often here, and has become one of our favorites, both because of what it means and how it sounds. It basically means to relax, calm down, chill out. We’ve heard it in class when a student gets too frustrated and the teacher tries to calm them down, we’ve heard it on the basketball court when a player takes a bad shot and his teammates try to get him to slow down, and we’ve said it a lot in our home to try and help Lucy relax when she is upset.

We also like the word because it reflects to some degree the attitude of the culture. LIfe in Costa Rica is not lived at the crazy pace that it is in the states. People love to stop and chat, have some cafe, never rush (unless they are driving), and absolutely never look at their watch to start (or end) anything.

Though tough to apply at times, we are trying to embrace our new life, tranquilo-style.

March 31, 2008 Posted by | Lucy, Spanish Language | 1 Comment

Instituto de Lengua Espanola

Above: This is the white board in Lindsey’s grammar class after a particularly mind-boggling day of studying direct and indirect objects.

We’re half way through our intensive language course and we can already see it paying off in our daily interaction. The first day of class we were tested to see how much Spanish we knew. Lindsey was placed in the 3rd class (out of 5), while Sean ended up in the 1st class (that would be the lowest).

We go to school around 1 pm every day, drop Lucy off in nursery, and begin class at 1:30. We each are in a class with 4 other students on the same level, or at least close to our level. From 1:30 to 2:45 we study grammar (ie: verb congregation, pronouns, direct/indirect objects, etc.) Then after a 10-minute break, we go to our conversation class until 4:10, we were learn new vocabulary and put everything that we have learned into action.

In Lindsey’s conversation class she has had to give oral presentations on the city of Charlotte, a summary of a newspaper article, and a retelling of the parable of the sower. Sean has presented in class what he is wearing, his different body parts, and his family tree.

All in all we have enjoyed our learning experience has it has challenged us, but at the same time truly helped us as we interact with the culture.

March 4, 2008 Posted by | Language School, Spanish Language | Leave a comment