EL PARAISO Esta a Mi Alcance

Arenal from above

Arenal from above

 “Paradise” can be many things: defined by a place where a sun dress is sufficient. Characterized by a slowed pace of life. It might be where you remember the things you have to do in a day without a list, or having four, rather than two, hands on deck to run a household.


My paradise has been all of the above for the past two weeks. Every morning, B is on breakfast while I prepare fruits, veggies, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches (rules about nuts at school don’t seem to exist here) for school lunches. On our way to school, we join a busy highway of leaf-cutter ants, say hi to the iguanas, spot the bright green backs of lizards before they scurry into the bushes.


On the short drive to our school amidst jungle, “Chewy,” our new-to-us Mitsubishi Montero Sport, starts up, stalls a couple of times, and then we are on our way, windows rolled down to let the morning air into our hair.


My paradise has also been having the mind space and time to learn a new language. Speaking of comfort zones, new language is a chance to observe and understand a world I’ve never before been a part of, and the people here are more than willing to help you speak if you ask them.


When we sit down to learn new Spanish vocabulary, verb conjugations in present, past and future tenses, how to use prepositions and align gendered nouns with their adjectives, it is like putting together a giant puzzle. There is the cerebral sensation of your brain actually growing, trying to make something foreign familiar.


No translation from English to Spanish is word-for-word; and pronunciation is everything. As one of our teachers, Michel Thomas, puts it—“If you don’t say it with the right ‘push’, you won’t get it over the net.” (He has audible books to learn any language; perfect for taking in a new language in small doses, or on long commutes to and from work.) 


In some cases, Spanish gives a whole new meaning to the English language. Where we use “last”, they use “the ultimate”—Último. To rise or stand up is to “levitate”—Levantar. To return somewhere is “to regress”—Regresar.


In Costa Rica, people are more formal in greeting people. They use the third person, “usted”, when speaking to someone who is not a close friend. A common example, is using “?Cómo está?,” the 3rd person conjugation of “how are you?” versus “cómo estás,” the 2nd person conjugation.


“Gustar”, meaning “to like,” is a verb in its own league, that if used the wrong way can turn your polite compliment into a sexual advance. 

I’ve also had to review my own language and how it is put together to understand how to assemble Spanish sentences—in particular, understanding the ins and outs of the “Indirect Object.”


“She gave me a new bathing suit.”


“Me” is the indirect object, which is said to fall between the verb and the direct object.  


Who knew. (This is probably why I should never teach writing.)


No question, learning a new language is a journey. Some days I feel I am capable of a coherent conversation, but most days I am caught flat footed, stumbling through a mess of words that is followed by a very confused look. But still…


El paraiso esta a mi alcance.


            Paradise is in my grasp.


Question I’ve been pondering


Does intensity translate into success?


Book I am reading


One of the most memorable stories I read in high school was Thomas King’s Medicine River. I am finally revisiting his work in A Short History of Indians in Canada (2005). This book has sat on my shelf at home for so long, the edges of its pages are yellowed. Definitely recommend this brilliant collection of short stories.