A lot has happened since I arrived (almost) a week ago, so hopefully everything will ramble on smoothly and I can knock it out all at once. I’ll preface this by saying how thankful I am to have been placed with a host near my age that pushes me to do something challenging every day. Little things, like figuring out a bus system. But I’ll get there. I’d also like to apologize for the poor formatting of this post. I’ve yet to figure out how to create new paragraphs within my beloved numbered lists. As for the writing, no valid excuse comes to mind.
My transition in Rosario has been much smoother than my transition last summer in Costa Rica. Maybe it’s my better grasp of the language, maybe it’s that the culture here more closely parallels that of the US, I don’t know exactly. But I can say this has been an entirely different challengee for the simple fact that I’m entirely immersed in Spanish. Yeah, sure, last summer my family didn’t speak any English, but I was still able to speak English with the incredible friends I made at school. Here, I’m making friends from Argentina, Germany, Lebanon, France, Italy, all in the first week. The main thing we all have in common is that our main language of communication – in most cases – is Spanish. I’ve been able to speak English people here and there, but I’ve only met two people from the US so far, and that’s the game changer.
This whole thought process is still developing in my head, so I’ll probably touch on it again in the future.
Onto the things I want to actually remember when someone asks what I did in Argentina instead of babbling incoherently. First and foremost:
- Mate. And my love for numbered lists (see previous entry). But mainly, mate. I’m not exactly sure what’s in it, but I have to guess it’s a lot of herbs and other green stuff. We’re not talking psychedelic or hallucinogen types of greens, to be clear. Think the contents of a tea bag, but less fine in texture. Or use wikipedia, I’m learning from experience here, and I’m still not so sure about the contents. What I do want to say is that I like mate, and I’m going to make my friends drink it with me when I return. Get. Excited. That’s in the top 5 things a local will ask me after learning I’m from the US. “Do you like mate?” My answer is yes. There’s also an awesome social aspect to it that I know I’m going to want to replicate when I return. Don’t blame me for being hopeful. Edit: After speaking with Stephanie, I now know mate has something similar to caffeine in it. It gives you as much energy as coffee, but the effects taper off instead of a 2pm crash. The more ya know.
- The buses, or los compartidos. This is a normal thing for any city person, but being from Small Town, USA, I still have an underlying fear that a bus is going to take me as far from my destination before I realize something’s wrong and I’ll be forced to a life on the street for the rest of my life. And that’s in any city. It’s a valid concern, just humor me. So Fer (my host brother, for those keeping up), did an excellent job making me use a map to find the bus stop, which bus was the one I needed, and deciding which stop I needed. We did a full day of practice on this. Then I got some news, all the bus drivers in the city were going on strike the the next day starting at 3. Sigh. I got an extra day of help (I uttered not a single complaint), and Fernando devised a plan that would allow us to take a bus to my language school, but afterward we were going to take a scenic, 35 block stroll by the river, which was cool I have to say, but it annihilated my legs. On this walk we went to this small museum, ate some churros, and I gushed as every single dog I saw in the park that stretched along the river. I probably came off like a crazy person, but come on. So many dogs. Then came the next day, my solo day. I was nervous to say the least, but I’d be trained for this bus ride. I was ready. Then I got some bad news, some of the bus lines were still on strike, including the one from my route to school. Fernando had already gone to work, so he sent me instructions of what I was going to have to do, aka figure out another bus stop, find a new bus, and get off at the right place. All mundane tasks for a well-seasoned city-goer, but I don’t fit that description. By the grace of God I made it in one peace, and after a 20 minute bus consultation with my teacher after class, I was also able to maneuver my way home. First day in the books.
- Night life. For my first night out I decided to forgo the advice that I should take a nap at 10pm, which was very, very stupid of me. We left the apartment around 12 to go to a friend’s house, and didn’t leave there for the bars until 2. As in a.m. As in anyone who knows me will vouch for me when I say I’ll be home eating a Tony’s pizza by 2. But no, the night continued on till the wee hours of 5 and 6 in the morning. No rahgrets, but my sleep schedule is still suffering.
- Bar-lingual. Once a month, Stephanie (the owner of the language school) organizes an event called Bar-lingual, where Spanish-speakers can come to practice English and other language speakers can come practice Spanish. Afterward, everyone went to the apartment of this guy from New Zealand and this included 3 people from France, 1 girl from Spain, a handful of locals, then myself, all trying to communicate with Spanish. The accents and languages that were flying around the room were BLOWING MY FREAKING MIND. And don’t even get me started on how hard it was to understand Spanish with a French accent. But still, so cool.
- The Language School. I’ve been inspired to open my own language school in the states. I’m only 90% kidding. But really, this school is operated by what I’m convinced is the cutest family in the world. To give their greatly abbreviated story, Stephanie met her now husband (who is from Argentina) on a trip in Machu Picchu. They fell in love, she moved from the US to Rosario, and they now have the 2 cutest kids I’ve ever seen and they’re at the school every day. They opened up a language school in the city, and now my 2 hour class is my favorite part of my day. Freshman year Hannah takings elementary Spanish would laugh at that sentence, but thankfully I can say my Spanish has come a long way since then.
- More cool things: Sunday, Argentina was essentially shut down as a result of their primary presidential elections. I went with Fernando to stand in line and see how all the political madness went down here, and I found out they receive an envelope with the signatures of three “officials” working at the table outside of the room where they go in one-by-one to vote. I put “officials” in quotes because it’s the Argentinian version of Jury Duty, basically chosen at random and obligated by law to carry out certain duties. Side note: voting is also mandatory of all citizens. When I asked what would happen if they didn’t vote, I was told that they would have to go to the police station to explain why they didn’t and then receive some repercussions. (PS I’m told the police here are corrupted. Apparently a police officer robbed a Chinese supermarket yesterday. Very wow.) When I asked what would happen if they stayed on their couch and vegged out all day and didn’t vote or go to the police station, things got shifty. So I’ve drawn my own conclusion: NoBoDy KnOws. One example I was told was that you might not be able to leave the country for a period of time. But I kept pressing, because I’m relentlessly curious, and it seems like the government has instilled a lot of paranoia into the people. Now, I’m in no position to say nothing happens, all I can say is that I’ve yet to hear anything that’s set in stone. Moving on. So the officials sign the envelope and give it to the voter, who takes it into a room alone with “votes” that look like brochures.
Also, I was pretty shocked they let me in the room. Point, Argentina. What happens when you go in the room is you pick the “vote” of the person you want to vote for, put it in an envelope, and take the envelope back out to the officials and put it in a cardboard box. Aaaaaaand you’re done. Later that night, I went to my first Catholic mass here. It wasn’t my first mass in Spanish, as my family is frequently late to mass, and when you do that on Easter you end up at the 3pm Spanish mass at St. Mary’s, but I digress.
As a final note, those closest to me have heard my embarrassing story from last summer, and I assure you there is another. But I’m not quiiiiiiite ready to put it out there for anyone to read, because I need another couple weeks or so to get to the point where it’s more funny than embarrassing.
So that’s a wrap. Next post will be sooner, and therefore shorter, God willing. Till next time.