Por FIN, it’s beautiful and sunny and warm Buenos Aires! I would have been completely satisfied with just perfect weather, but Buenos Aires had to outdo itself (btw, just had to re-write that sentence 10 times before I realized why “do itself out” didn’t sound right… apparently not fluent in English or Spanish at this point) by perfectly recreating the euphoric yet chill vibe on the Middlebury campus during the first day of spring after a our long, long snowy winter. Every first day of spring, porteños take to the parks in droves for “Día de los Estudiantes/Jóvenes” (Student/Young People Day) to tan, drink mate, drink alcohol, listen to music, play guitar, smoke pot, play soccer, and hang out with friends. Everyone gets a day off school — I made the executive decision to ditch the internship for this spectacle — and the parks (which are quite extensive here and very beautiful, with lots of lakes and palm trees!) are absolutely filled with young people. Our park was pretty tranqui but apparently at some others it can get rowdy, since this is the only day of the year it is o.k. to darty (for those in the 30+ range: darty = day party = getting drunk in full view). Also, porteños have an absurdly low tolerance, so everyone was a little loopy. It was the best. And now, some other updates:
Favorite new humor:
- The only comedic word that translates as humorous in castellano is “clásico” for “classic,” which is really exciting. They use it in the exact same dry/slightly sarcastic way we do!
- “Quééé caballero” = howww gentlemanly (sarcastic); this phrase is very powerful because it has the ability to convince men here to do absolutely anything. As soon as you imply that they may not be acting like a man, they’ll buckle immediately to your every whim. Qué útil!
- “Sabés que si!” = You know! So for those of you who speak Spanish, you’ll see that it’s just literally, “You know that yes,” and it translates perfectly as the, “Yeah, you know,” sassy phrase we always use in English. Funnn. (And for those who speak Spanish, you’ll wonder why it’s “sabés” instead of “sabes.” It has to do with the fact that in Argentina, we use “vos” instead of “tú,” and the conjugations are slightly different…)
Misunderstandings happen in English, too:
- A good thing to constantly remember. My knee jerk reaction to any confusion or miscommunication is to think, “Ahhh my Spanish is so unintelligible that this person has no idea what I’m saying!” But then I started reminding myself that misunderstandings happen between native speakers all the time; I’m not always the one at fault! This has made me a lot more comfortable in some situations. An example: my host dad is a complete space cadet. I can say things perfectly and he’s like, “I don’t understand you,” straight up. For instance, he asked me if I was the same age as the girl who had stayed with them last semester. I answered, he didn’t understand, so I said, as clearly as I could, “No, we all study abroad during our third year of school. So she came during her third year, and I’m coming during my third year. That means she’s a year ahead.” I tried to cover all my bases. Then: “Oh, so you’re the same age?” What? The good thing is I’m often backed up by my host siblings, who are like, “DAD you are being so difficult.” Gracias, chicos!
Dinnertime chats: a couple interesting comments from the last few days:
- Host brother recounting an incident at a boliche where a female friend came upto him crying, very drunk, and admitted that she was pregnant with his friend’s (her boyfriend’s) child. My family members were all aghast that she was preggers, but I was like, “Why was she binge drinking while pregnant??” They all kind of looked at me and were like, “What? Just like, once.” Am I crazy, or is that weird?
- Conversation about how all the members of the family on my dad’s side live tobe 100+, and my host parents being absolutely fascinated. It got awkward when they started asking what they did to be so healthy, though; after listing a bunch of things and avoiding the elephant in the room, my host dad finally said, “Did they smoke?” Um, no. Knowing nods around the table. I quickly added that theyalso all liked afternoon cocktails and exercised, so maybe that was the reason? Uncomfortable.
- My noting that lots of people were smoking pot at Spring Day opened up a new can of worms with the family: drugs! My host mom informed me that she wants to try smoking, and asked me if I had any pot in my room. Then they taught me how to say every possible drug-related term known to man, which was interesting but, given my inability to remember new vocabulary until I’ve heard it at least 150 times, probably won’t stick. Anyway, I’m surprised and fairly impressed.
Wanna hear about my social life? Of course you do! So my master plan of going to a program before the Midd program to pick up some friendz beforehand has totally paidoff: one of my favorite groups to hang out with I formed through a connection with my girl in a class at Road2! So I’ve been hanging out with these two girls who are living here and who graduated from Miami University in Ohio last spring, a porteña who we randomly linked up with, and then all their connections (one of the girls lived here in high school so knows tons of locals). Pretty nice! My host siblings have not once taken meout or ever really tried to socialize with me, but I’m meeting lots of people and having a great time, so I’m not too torn up about it. Also, all the Pomona kids and some Tulane ones in my program are really cool, so that’s been a really good group as well. Hooray for friends!
I can’t figure out how to organize this post for the life of me. Here is all the other stuff I wanted to write about:
- Found out my host cousin is the regular DJ at my absolute favorite club here. OH my god. Next time he comes to dinner I am blatantly asking for 1) free passes, 2) VIP entry, and 3) input on his playlist. No shame.
- Problema: I also cannot locate anywhere to study. I legitimately want to do all my homework, but my house is generally always noisy (everyone turns their music up really loud and talks really loudly) or smoky (common areas = smoking areas when they’re not being used as music venues), the national library is super far away, I don’t want to buy coffee every time I want to sit in a café an study, and outside I can’t get internet to look up words while I’m reading. Have never missed the Middlebury library so much.
- I’ve started pointedly combating my secondhand smoke inhalation by opening all the windows off the laundry room (none in my room…), and closing myself off from the common areas. I’m actually really grossed out by the fact that sometimes my room is positively filled with fumes. If we’re being completely honest, I held my breath while passing smokers until I was at least 16, so this is a really kind of terrifying environment for me.
- Gringo blunder: in Argentine history/politics class, all of us gringos were, as per usual, spacing off and doodling because we have no idea what is going on. Suddenly, we hear the phrase, “our compañeros from the United States…” and we all perk up. Wait, was he just talking about us? Then he says something, and we catch the phrase, “… who was running from Texas. What was his name?” So immediately we’re like, “George Bush!” Um, no. I go, “Rick Perry!” Noooo. Weird looks. Then he’s like, “Ah, Perot!” Clearly we had not been on board with the conversation and were not aware of the decade being discussed. Just stellar performance all around. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
- So to use the buses here, one must have coins to pay. What makes this system thrilling, though, is the fact that there is a shortage of monedas, or coins, so you’re always skimping around trying to manipulate every payment to garner change in coins, all while every vendor gives you dirty looks for innocently denying that you have any monedas to help with the change-making process. I actually quite enjoy this game, because it makes every time I get a few coins so exciting. When will getting 2 dollars change in coins ever again make my entire day?! Cheap thrills… literally.
- This is going to sound silly, but my host mom’s voice drives me absolutely nuts. Like, I actually cannot stand to listen and have to put my ipod on when she is yelling at someone in another room or talking on the phone. This has never happened with anyone else’s voice, and I’m wondering if it’s actually the interesting squawk/shriek hybrid quality to it or just the fact that she usually is yelling right outside my door when I’m (trying to) take my afternoon siesta or study. Meh.
- This is kind of embarrassing given I’m living in Argentina, but I’d actually never seen “The Motorcycle Diaries” before a few days ago. One exciting thing was that when I watched it online, there weren’t Spanish subtitles so I had to rely on listening — and I understood casi todo without trying too hard! It helped that a lot of it was with Argentine accents (never thought I’d say THAT). But really, everyone should see this movie and then buy the soundtrack.
- So Toms shoes (the style) began in Argentina. But the only people in BA who wear them besides me? Homeless people.
- I have also managed to lock myself in the bathroom in my house 3 times today due to the absolutely ancient system of locks our apartment uses. This was especially awkward when it happened at 8 AM, which is about 1.5 hours before anyone in my family wakes up, and I had to have my host brother roll out of bed and literally body slam the door open for me. Oops!
- My friend from Pomona and I finally procured our Brazilian visas! We’ve decided that the loss of $100 was totally worth it to get a really cool colorful, shiny visa that fills an entire page in our passports.
On the agenda
- Looks like October will be “kick into academic gear” month. I have a huge paper, presentation, and exam. Exciting thing is that I get to go to Brazil/celebrate Halloween (which I will obviously be celebrating whether or not I find an actual costume party: sabes que si) as soon as it’s all over. Perfect!
- Places I’m going to try to visit before the end of the semester: Mendoza (wine country) with a stop over to Santiago, Chile; Mar del Plata, the fun beach town area; day trip to Colonia, Uruguay.
So, in conclusion, Feliz Día!