Friday, 25 May 2007

For want of a better word.

Made my first big faux pas this week.

There´s a man - about 60 - who sits in front of our house every afternoon. Sometimes he carries out DIY for Hilda - the landlady - but most of the time he just sits with a cup of coffee that Hilda sells him for 1 cordoba a cup (3p). He always says hello to me and we try and have a chat but for me his accent is so indecipherable I usually just nod and get on my way.

The other day he was asking for something but I couldn´t work out what. I concluded that it was most likely to be coffee or Hilda.

So I asked him if he wanted more coffee.

´Quiere mas cafe?´He didn´t.

´Quiere Hilda?´ I asked, to which he shook his head and gave me a puzzled ´I don´t understand look´.

I repeated it again slowly using the friendly familiar version of the verb, rather than the formal.

´Do you want Hilda´. He shook his head emphatically.

I couldn't work out what he wanted so said goodbye and assumed he´d knock on the door if it was important.

You´re no doubt ahead of me here.

The following day I went to school and asked my teacher if he could demonstrate the difference between the formal and the informal. He did and I told him I´d been using it that way but was receiving confused looks.

´How did you use it´ he asked.

I explained the situation and he burst out laughing.

´Quiere Hilda means: Do you love Hilda?´

I see. I should have said ´Busca Hilda´. Are you searching for Hilda.

The following day the man wasn´t on the step. I felt terrible but couldn´t find the right words to explain my faux pas to Hilda. Thankfully the following day he returned smiling away and giving me firm handshakes as before. I assume a day away from the doorstep was enough to show me that he´s only after Hilda´s Nescafe and nothing more.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Volcano Momotombo

The break through - possibly

I´ve almost completed six weeks of my course and have two weeks to go.

These last few two weeks have by far been the most demanding.

From gently learning past and the present tense I was suddenly plunged into Pluscuamperfecto, the Gerundio and various other perfects and imperfects. I had so much going on it my head that all of a sudden I felt I could only string the most basic of sentences together.

How is it possible to be surrounded by Spanish speakers, learning for 6 hours+ per day and not get it?

Well thankfully, whilst doing a few homework exercises suddenly things started to come together. ´This word fits here´, ´ahh that´s what you use the gerundio for´.

I still have a long way to go but at least a few things that previously seemed to have no logic to them are now making sense.

Now I know you´re not going to pity me but I am in serious need of a break. I don´t think I can take on board any more information. In hindsight I think it would have been best to do about 4 weeks, go travelling and practising for a few weeks and then back to school for another 4.

So as it stands, I have two weeks to go, then my girlfriend´s coming over - she´s expecting some seriously good Spanish - and then I need to sort out some volunteering. That´s when I get to practice, learn more and try to understand the Nicaraguan accent.

This weekend I´off to swim in a volcano crater near the colonial city of Granada. I need it - honestly I do.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The next Alan Sugar

Most of the water here is sold in small plastic bags. You chew the top off the bag and suck it out in one. They´re sold everywhere.

On a recent bus journey we pulled into town and the usual mass of hawkers barged onto the bus selling the usual stuff; biscuits, ice cream, fizzy drinks and water.

Outside the bus was a young entreprenuer who´d found himself a carrier bag, like you would get from Tesco, filled it up to the brim with water and stuck a straw in the top. He was selling it for the bargain price of 10p. The journey had been so hot and dusty I was about ready to down a shopping bag´s worth of water. I was a little concerned about hygene factor though. So instead manage to find a chap with a dusty bottle of water.

After a couple of minutes everyone drank up, threw their empty bags out of the window - as everyone does in Nica - and off we went.

Top marks for initiative though.

On your bike

Due to the high price of public transport - which like in the UK is run by private companies - bicycicles, even in this soaring heat are commonplace. What´s more, most bike usually have two people on them. The extra person usually sits awakwardly on the handlbars or precariosuly on the cross bar. Despite the loads they seem to move with ease.

As well as other family members these bikes are used to carry basically whatever will fit on them without falling off.

Here are my favourite spots so far in Leon:

5. A man with a young baby on his knee. The baby moving up and down with the motion of the pedals.

4. Four chickens. Two hanging off each handlebar. Upsidedown of course. Not a pretty sight.

3. A full length wardrobe mirror carried under one arm while the other arm steered and desperately kept balence.

2. A whole crate of beer resting on the cross bar.

1. Two freshly iced birthday cakes without boxes or any form of covering. One balenced on each hand - waiter style - by the passenger perched on the handlebars. Unfortunately I can´t verify if any made it in one peice.

I´m with stupid

Firstly apologies for the lack of updates. My professor is working me hard. Days usually consist of 4 hours study, lunch at 12 and then onto the library for around 2 for more study/homework. By the evening I´m exhausted.

I do have time to give you a quick insight into Nicaraguan fashion though.

You know when you dump your old t-shirts outside the charity shop once in a blue moon? The ones that advertise the gym that you joined but never used. Well, this is where they end up. They´re mainly American but I have seen a few English brands. And I would say that by the majority of the people wearing them have no idea what they´re promoting or urging people to do.

Here are the top 5 t-shirt slogans.

5. Minnesota Saddlebred Horse Association - Young Nica student on the bus
4. Welcome to Fort worth, Houston. Please set your clocks back 100 years
3. For your viewing pleasure - splashed across the chest of a middle age conservative looking lady.
2. About 100 God is Love tshirts probably handed out by the many evangelical missionaries making huge inroads in Nicaragua.
1. And finally, seen on an extra large chap you wouldn't mess with:
´THE NEXT SALE´ across his gut and on the back ´STAFF´.
I was tempted to ask for the whereabouts of the chinos but didn´t think him and his beefy mates would have seen the funny side.