Friday, February 29, 2008

Culture Day At School

One day out of each semester we don’t have formal Spanish instruction. Instead, our teachers work very hard preparing classes to teach us about Central American culture. Today was Culture Day at our language school.

The students received hands-on instruction in topics including dance, fruit, sports, singing, cooking, and more. Mike and I signed up for the classes on cooking and fruit.

Our first class was cooking. We learned how to cook gallo pinto and platanos. I have prepared both dishes in the past, but, the hints and added nuances only guarantee a more flavorful product in the future. The gallo pinto (which is rice, black beans, onions, garlic, peppers and more all cooked together) contained more garlic and salsa de Chino (soy sauce) then I usually put in. The platanos, which can be prepared hundreds of ways, were fried in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and stuffed with cheese….mmmm….que rico (how tasty)!

In our fruit class we learned about different fruits, their medicinal properties and the various ways they can be prepared. We learned about the local uses for some fruits we were familiar with, like coconut, papaya, watermelon, mango, pineapple and bananas. We also learned about some fruits we are less familiar with, like tamarindo, granadilla, guayaba, guanabana, and caimito.

Our teachers put so much effort into preparing for these classes, and it all paid off. What a great lesson on Central American culture.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Madison’s First Track Season Is Over

This evening Maddy had her final track meet of the season. This is her first season of track. During the season she ran the 100 meters (17.91), 200 meters (41.80), the 400 meters (1:25.01), and the relays. She put in a great effort, never missed a practice and improved throughout the season.

Here is a 2 minute and 30 second video to commemorate all her hard work:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Conjugating a Verb

I’m thinking that the ability to take a verb, and use it/conjugate it 14 different ways is incredible! I’m sharing this with you so you can understand my frustration, at times, in class. Trying to incorporate all of this info into my brain just gets a bit overwhelming sometimes!

We have just finished studying the 14th (and final) way of conjugating a verb. I’m going to give you an example, but please keep in mind that I am only showing you the “yo” (or the first person) form. For example, the verb IR means “to go”. I will show you all the ways to use it in first person – “I go” However, this includes future (2 different ways, depending on usage), past (2 different ways to use it, depending on usage), present, and all the other ways (WAY to complicated to get into – for that matter – for 4 of the uses, I only know the conjugation so far, not even how or when to use them…sigh…). So – here we go:

1. Present: voy
2. Imperfecto (past): iba
3. Preterito (past): fui
4. Futuro: iré
5. Futuro condicional: iría
6. Perfecto: he ido
7. Pluscuamperfecto: había ido
8. Futuro perfecto: habré ido
9. Potencial compuesto: habría ido
10. Presente subjunctive: vaya
11. Imperfecto subjunctive: fuera
12. Perfecto subjunctivo :haya ido
13. Pluscuamperfecto
Subjunctivo hubiera :ido
14. Imperativo (not used in 1st person) – this example uses second person: ve

So – as you can see - the verb is irregular in many forms. There are many verbs that are regular in some forms, irregular in other forms, and only irregular in 3rd person singular and plural (and MANY other ways in which they are irregular). The "501 Verbs" has become my favorite book now! I only use it as a last resort - but when it comes to staring at a page, and not being able to remember if it happens to be irregular in THIS tense, in THIS person, can be out comes the 501 (gives ALL the conjugations of 501 major verbs in Spanish).

I had a test on all these tenses today. We were given 20 verbs and she gave us the “person” she wanted us to conjugate it into, and away we went – all 13 ways (we didn’t conjugate the imperativo). I managed, through the grace of God, to receive high markes on this exam. Maybe something is managing to ply its way into my brain! Can’t wait to see what’s next!

Sunday, February 24, 2008


We have always been aware that crime is an issue here in San Jose, Costa Rica. We have been warned about it, taught how to prevent it and taken steps to avoid it. We know that North Americans are targeted because of the higher probability that they are carrying money or technology.

While some of our classmates have been targeted for muggings and break ins, we have continued to feel safe in the knowledge that the roughly 10% (unofficial) crime rate against the students of our school is equal to that of any big city in the world. While we have implemented prevention and street smarts we have never felt at a great risk. While we have not been victimized in our six months here we know those that have.

We know of seven or eight property crimes (muggings, break-ins, etc.) that have occurred since we have been here. But, in the past four days our friends have been hit hard by crime:

Matt Keiser is in Mike’s grammar class and is a missionary headed to the same place we are – La Ceiba, Honduras. Both Mike and I like Matt and have enjoyed doing various ministry work with him. On Wednesday night Matt was walking in a notoriously crime frequented area. He was walking with a friend. He was approached by a man and mugged at knife point. Matt gave up his backpack willingly. In his backpack was his laptop, wallet, credit cards and other less valuable items. Matt was not physically harmed, but, is likely suffering.

We live in a four plex apartment building. Last night a man crawled up on the roof of our neighbor’s home. He laid a t-shirt across the razor wire that encircles our apartments and crawled over the wall. He took a few items that were left on the porch and tossed them over the wall. He tried to get into our landlords car which is protected by an alarm. When the alarm went off he fled. But, not before he inflicted emotional damage on our neighbors. Each family in our apartment building has kids, and two of the kids are under the age of two. In all, not much was stolen, but, our neighbors are a little shaken.

We know that God is in control of everything and we love that about Him. We also know that no matter what we do we can be hit by crime no matter where we live. But, who wants to be robbed. We ask that you pray for us and our fellow students.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bugs in the Pettengill house

Please pray for us - Mike has been down and out for about 3 days now with the cruds. I've managed to catch a cold that's kicking me and keeping me down. I just feel really run down, and don't have the energy to do anything. I've not been able to do my daily walk 2 days in a row - partially because I can't breath through my nose, which makes breathing in general very difficult. Madison has managed to escape both our bugs, let's pray that it stays that way, and the bugs aren't brewing as we speak! Anyway - so sorry for the delay with posts. Between school, Madison's track, ESL, La Carpio, and everything else we have going on - being sick just compounds our weariness. So - please pray for us!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Track and ESL

Madison tired after a hard run

Madison trying to finish hard on the last leg of a relay

Today was Madison's 4th track meet. She did really well. She ran the 100m dash, 400m dash, and the 4X200 relay. She got second place in the 400m dash! Way to go girl! She has one more track meet next Wednesday. This has been a great time for Madison to be on a team, workout with many of her friends, and stay in great shape! They practice 3 times a week for 2 hours each day! Makes me exhausted just to watch them! Mike has also been running in the mile to encourage many of the young boys to push themselves to their limit. He has helped lead a few boys to their personal best records! He has been an unofficial assistant coach for this season.

During the track meet I had to leave to go teach our ESL class to our 18 students. It's a very large room with over 90 people in it, divided up into different learning levels. It makes for a noisey room, but the people seemed engaged, asked lots of questions, and I used a LOT of my Spanish to help make the class a little easier for my students to understand. Cool to use my Spanish to teach English! This has been a great opportunity for Mike and myself.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Busy Week

It's been a busy, busy week this week. I had two tests in grammer class, we picked up our team mates the McCann's on Tuesday and have been showing them around town. Went to go see a movie Friday night and left in the middle of it - Cloverfield - not because it was scarey, but because I lost my lunch - Saturday we picked up our friend Cam from the airport. He will be going to Colombia after language school. Both the McCann's and Cam start an intensive course on Monday. They are both excited to finally be starting on the next leg of their mission work.

All in all, it's been a crazy busy week, and the weekend was a much needed time to relax to prepare for the beginning of a new school week.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Today was another track meet for Madison. She has been diligently working out and eating right. She received a 1st place ribbon for her heat in the 100m run! She was very excited about that accomplishment!

This week has been quite busy! Our Honduras team mates the McCann's have arrived, and we are trying to help them get settled in. So - we've been shopping! We have plans to do more tomorrow, maybe some on Friday, and a bit on Saturday?! Want to try and get as much of the busy work done before they start school on Monday! Our other friend, Cam (an MTW missionary to Columbia), arrives on Saturday, so we need to get him settled in as well before he too starts school on Monday! Busy for all, but it's been awesome having the McCann's here! We can't wait to have movie night, and a trip downtown with them!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Here was my dilemma - I finally found some good, somewhat spicy braughtworst/sausage. We had it about a month ago, but it was sadly missing the main ingredient - and that's sauerkraut.

But - what's a girl to do in a country that doesn't eat it? Well...make it of course. I've made sauerkraut once before - and that was in my microbiology class in college. I remember it being a fairly easy process. So - I did my internet search, found out how to make it, and it's been "brewing" for 2 1/2 weeks now. So tonight is the test. I purchased braughtworst again, and going to have braught and kraut! Can't wait!!!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Tica Festival

Our teachers showing us a fun Tica dance

Lots of good food!

We even had an artist in our group

Today was the second fiesta for this week (see post below). It was the Tica festival complete with gallo pinto (a rice and bean dish), mango salsa, eggs with ham, juice, and lots of fresh fruit. It's very common to have dancing at social gatherings - you can imagine how well this went over with all of us gringos! Quite funny, but we did muster up the courage to dance the Macarena with them. Good time, and a great way to end out the week.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


My language class (Yadira is my teacher - the little one in the middle)

Our combined class for our "gringo" party

As you may know (from earlier posts) we are learning new things in our language class based on themes. A few weeks ago we learned about the office, then we learned about home remedies. This week we have learned about fiestas. We had to give an oral report (in Spanish, of course) about a holiday in the U.S. The next day we had to give an oral report about a Costa Rican holiday that we were assigned. We had to interview someone about it and then report back. To finish up the week we are having two in-class fiestas! Ahh...what a way to learn :-) We have combined with another language class, which happens to have Mike in it, and today we did a "gringo" fiesta. The foods we brought to class included uncooked veggies (they do NOT eat those here - only green salads), dip, chips and salsa, brownies, cookies, soda, deviled eggs (a big treat for our teachers), and we watched Spanglish (very appropriate we thought). Tomorrow we will be having a "Tico" fiesta. Will report on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Chapel Services At The Spanish Language Institute

Every Tuesday and Thursday the adult students at the Spanish Language Institute put on a midday chapel service. It is like a mini-church service complete with prayer, singing and preaching. It is a great spiritual lift twice a week. Take a look at this 2 minute video to get an idea what our typical chapel service looks like.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

1 month success!

Well is the news....I have successfully walked for one month as of today! I have diligently kept an exercise log, and I am up to about 45 minutes of walking everyday - including my time to and from school - it's about 3 1/2 - 4 miles a day! I think this blog entry is more for my own accountability than for anything else, but if you have been praying for me in this area - all the praise should go to God for keeping me motivated and energized for this! Thanks to everyone who asks me periodically, " is your walking going?" - so keep it up! Thanks again!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Central Market

Front sign of Central Market. Welcome! (Bienvenidos)

This is a MAZE of shops which cover an entire city block

Hard to catch a picture without TONS of people

Meat markets all throughout

Pet stores had everything from puppies, rabbits, birds, chickens, and these birds

Promised I would take Madison to the central market yesterday, so we went. What a blast! As I said earlier, if any of you know me well enough, you know that I HATE to shop - but this place is such a blast! Bought lots of cool stuff - ate some pumpkin icecream, tried fudge, talked with a lot of people, and walked until we dropped.