When I arrived in Costa Rica, I wasn’t worried about watching television. Well, I was, kind of.
In the States, everyone was gearing up for the season premiere of Scandal. There were Facebook posts, picture posts, and guesses about what would happen during the premiere. People prepared buffalo wings and chips and soda as if it was the Super Bowl and I was going to miss it all. Granted Costa Rica is Costa Rica. It is one of the happiest places on earth, ecologically sound, cost effective, and not to mention there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables, some of which I have never tried until now. But this was Scandal. One of North America’s most watched television shows. And I wanted to be amongst the thousands of people watching it.
Here’s what I didn’t know about Costa Rica, English is not a language spoken often. Maybe at the resorts, but in regular neighborhoods not so much.
My use of the Spanish language was basic, at best. In my mind I could put together a speedy reply to a question, but I have since learned that English is a lazy language. What I mean by that is this for example, in Spanish there are two ways to use the word “for” para and por. And it’s the same for many other English words. To say in Spanish ‘I like fruits and vegetables’ you have to make sure the verb agrees with the noun. So if the noun is plural, the verb is plural. That requires too much thinking! In English the sentence will sound like ‘I likes the fruits and the vegetables.’ Which of course makes no sense in English but in Spanish it makes a lot of sense, which is why I believe the English language makes us very lazy as speakers. But I digress.
So Thursday arrived and I have read post after post on the “Count Down to Scandal.”
Let me say this, my host family is wonderful. Only the daughter speaks English, which really forces me to speak Spanish. But in Spanish class before coming to Costa Rica, I didn’t learn how to ask, “What channel does Scandal come on?” That was mistake number one. Mistake number two was not finding out before hand if people watched Scandal here! Here is how the conversation went:
Me: Que channel es ABC?
My host mother: ABC?
Me: Si. ABC. Scandal. Tu miras?
My host mother: Scandal?
The house maid: Scandal?
Me: Si. Scandal. Greys Anatomy. Channel ABC. Que sabes?
Now at this point, they have only known me for 4 days and before this the only things they really heard me say in Spanish were hola, bien, y usted and no me gusta so I am sure they were just as shocked to hear me speaking as I was.
Another student from Costa Rica came down stairs, and he tried to help. But between my broken Spanish and the fact that they don’t watch American television, I was on the crooked end of the stick on this one.
At some point the student understands me, takes me up stairs and together we figure out which channel ABC is on. And just in time, at 8pm, Scandal comes on!
Watching television in Costa Rica isn’ t easy. And living with a Costa Rican family isn’t easy when there is no one else in the family to save you when the pronunciation of hombre vs hambre becomes blurred. But some how we muddle through it and make it work.
It’s been 4 weeks now and my Spanish has improved. Being in a Spanish class for four hours everyday has a way of doing that. There are plenty of televisions in the house and no one watches the same television that I do so the channel doesn’t change. I only watch it on Thursday’s and it helps me feel not so a lone.
Being a study abroad student in a country whose language you are not fluent in is a challenge. But if you keep your eyes open, immerse yourself in the culture and learn to laugh at yourself, it is a challenge worth taking. Some people never have the opportunity to study abroad. Some people are too afraid to leave the city they were born and raised in let a lone live in another state or country. But living abroad should be on everyone’s bucket list. Adventures and all.
Written by Patricia Nazirah Mickey, Social Media Journalist