This is an English Binge

(because I’ve spoken only Spanish all a week and writing in English feels totally weird)

Ok, this post is a lil long. In fact, I might even recommend reading it in two parts… but make sure you stop at an exciting cliffhanger (for example, “What classes will she choose?!?”) so you remember to finish it up.

Castellano:

  • Por fin, I feel like I can see an improvement in my Spanish! Having all the Middlebury kids (and a few from Tulane, Pomona, and Williams) arrive has really made me appreciate how far I’ve come in the last 5 weeks language-wise; my accent is really good at this point (rrrrrrr’s rolling off the tongue), and my general grammar and speaking skills appear to be quite advanced. I still have trouble understanding native speakers when they get going, but a program coordinator today made me feel better by telling me that he got his PhD in the U.S. and wrote a dissertation in English and still can’t understand Americans when we’re all in a big group talking quickly. But at least now, Argentines understand me when I speak.
  • Favorite new word in castellano: quilombo. Significa: basically, but without being a bad word, a clusterfuck (though the translation is “mess”). But the great thing is, it can be used in a positive sense too, which I’m choosing to interpret as a “hot mess.” Infinitely useful.

I have a new family:

  • Off to a good start. My room is about 2/3 the size of the smallest Middlebury dorm room I’ve ever seen, but it’s o.k. because the family seems nice, which is obviously a lot more important. There are two sons and a daughter who are all in their 20s that also live in the house (everyone here lives with their parents until they get married), and the kids have already introduced me to some of their friends and invited me out with them, which is cool. The older son and his friends are a little intimidating — they speak in this Argentine slang called “lunfardo” sometimes that is full of sexual innuendos and that’s almost like another language. I can’t understand a thing they say. Interesting note on lunfardo: although it has about 20 words for “to fuck,” it lacks the equivalents for “random,” “awkward,” or “sketchy.” Our program coordinator informed us of this right off the bat — apparently lots of American students have inquired about these three words. lolz.
  • Also, I’ve found that although Argentina has legalized gay marriage, it is only relatively tolerant. For instance, pretty much every new guy I’ve met (this happened with the Mexicans, too), his friends would point at him and joke, “He’s gay.” After a while, I’m like, “Uh-huh, I get it. It’s funny because… he’s not…” But this kind of joke is endlessly entertaining for boys here. To the extent that my host brothers literally introduce every male member of the family like this.
  • We had a whole half hour segment in orientation today about how Argentines are completely unconcerned with political correctness, and that we should try not to be offended. My host family is a perfect example of this. They’re very nice people, but one brother blatantly told me the other day that the reason they don’t like the people from other Latin American countries because they’re “dark.” And he wrinkled his nose when I told him I’d lived in Belgrano and went, “We don’t like Belgrano; they’re the new rich …” I think they family’s also pretty conservative; I just had an hour-long talk about politics with my host dad, which was prompted by the fact that apparently my internship is with a superliberal Peronista political group that my host parents clearly despise. To get an idea of his leanings: he told me the “other” side of the story of the Mothers in the Plaza de Mayo who demonstrate for their disappeared children from the Dirty War, and told me that many of their kids were quite violent and killed people, too. This while my host sister whispered “assassins…” under her breath about the Mothers’ lawyer, who apparently got his law degree while in jail for killing his parents?? It’s like a telenovela. What a quilombo. I guess they’ll provide an interesting contrast to my professors at la UBA, who are actual Marxists. Like, full-fledged party members who often demonstrate in the streets. Interesting.

Orientation:

  • Started out with a bang. Having slept for 1 hour after a night out, I arrived at the orientation looking quite disheveled to find that, to my dismay, we were scheduled for a day full of activities. Yum.
  • One interesting thing I learned the first day: apparently I was not delirious when, at 7 AM on Thursday, the taxi driver kept handing me back my bills and kept telling me that I’d given him a 2, not a 20, and a 10, not a 100. Apparently, he was stealing my money and quickly changing out the bills- trickyyy.
  • I’m going to take a couple classes in Argentine politics and do this internship with a political group that’s really active right now because of elections in October. One class will be on the transition from the dictatorship to democracy, and I think the other one will be some topic on international politics. Pretty pumped.
  • My “cultural tutor”: so for la UBA, we are paired with a porteno student “cultural tutor” who’s supposed to show us around/answer questions. This is because — to quote one of the Middlebury program alums who came and talked to us the first day of orientation — “the first month is a complete disaster.” Apparently, although la UBA is the best university in the country, it’s really hard to figure out what’s going on—you don’t have textbooks, syllabi, or pretty much any direction. The visual for this was a circle with a dot in the middle that our program coordinator drew on the board; in the US, the student is the center, with everyone working for their success. In Argentina, it’s reversed; la UBA is the center, and the university couldn’t care less what the students do. We were informed that, “the first month, you will have absolutely no idea what the professor is saying. Ever.” Great. Anyway, because of this, I was paired with this really nice girl who took me around town that night and invited me to visit El Tigre and Iguazu with her. She also said that her brother is a club promoter, which is awesome because knowing a promoter means free entry to clubs! And she buys me food; today, while walking to the BA Stock Exchange, she asked if I’d tried a certain chocolate here. I said no, so she bought me one on the spot! Obviously the quickest way to my heart. GOD she’s good.
Other activities
  • Rollin rollin rollin. I’ve started riding the buses! Major confidence booster.
  • Engordandome. Reasons I will probably get fat here: there is a pastry shop between me and the gym, pastry shops also exist every 10 storefronts or so, I have a jar of dulce de leche in the fridge and plan to eat it all, I have now figured out public transport so will walk less, Argentine pizza is to dieee for, my host family informed me that it’s happened to every American girl that’s lived with them, etc.
  • “Cooking.” My host dad is super impressed that I make omelets every morning, and is now under the impression that I am some kind of master chef. Ok, I’ll take it.
  • Reading HP in Spanish. Great decision. Now have acquired the vocabulary to speak with ease about owls, wands, sports involving brooms, and — most importantly — dementors.
  • Taking siestas. I’d say I now qualify as an expert.

Aight, chau!


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