Written by Rhiannan Davies – GVI Quepos Intern
It is widely recognised that language barriers can be the most difficult, frustrating, exasperating, yet incredibly hilarious things to overcome. My first week in Costa Rica has more than confirmed that statement. Some examples? The first time ordering a sandwich here saw the waitress and I debating for half an hour on whether or not I wanted chicken involved. Not being able to express with her clearly that I am a vegetarian, and having chicken in my sandwich would probably spoil the remainder of my day, I relied on the kindness of a conveniently bilingual stranger in the large queue formed behind me to convey the order on my behalf. From then, my first word in Spanish became, “vegetariano”, or; “veh-hee-tah-ree-ah-no”.
The initial visit to Casa Del Sol (the community center in El Cocal where we volunteer) exhibited similar difficulty for the children. By the end of the day, a male volunteer was being referred to as Jasmine, and he has been subject to ridicule ever since. My advice to volunteers heading to Quepos; if your name is longer than one or two syllables, come up with a simple nickname prior to your arrival.
One of the most beautiful aspects of this program is the concept that we are not just teaching the children – they are teaching us in return. The fact that we are playing with and giving attention to them is enough, and as a result they are very patient when it comes to communication and can express their desires through an impressive amount of non-verbals. However, I do understand that I cannot get through my internship here by running around shouting, “vegetariano” at the children. Thus, the twenty hours of Spanish lessons we receive through GVI, along with the admirable patience of teachers Carlos and Runia are beyond helpful. From verbs and nouns, to salsa dancing; the classes both enlighten and involve you in not only the language but the culture as well.
Whilst for now the language barriers seem to remain prosperous, these classes make the wearing down of this metaphoric wall inevitable, and I could not be more eager and excited to get to know the children of El Cocal more than I feel I already do.