Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hablamos Castellano, no Español

Buenos noches,

I am happy to announce that I am almost over my cold and my feet are almost completely healed. A great improvement right? :)

Well, let's see, what did I do this week... I think my favorite thing was going to the Buenos Aires Jardin Japones (Japanese Garden).

As you know, I've seen plenty of authentic Japanese gardens, but I thought they did pretty well considering it was right within the city. Apparently their koi are directly imported from Japan. Sometimes I really wish I had gotten to study abroad in Japan, but that would have included changing some of my life goals; however, even in the end, I formally studied their history from "beginning" to "end," and I'm proud to say I know a little Japanese! It's such a beautiful place, but the truth is that I will have spent less in Argentina during four months' time than I spent in Japan in 16 days. I'm still grateful that I got to go there at all, and of course, my ultimate dream would have been to study abroad in the British Isles, which I have been actively trying to get to since high school. Alas, because of time and money, this wasn't the opportunity to do so. However, I know I'll have enough motivation to get there in the future! If my studies really do center around that place, it will be inevitable right? :) Anyway, back to the Japanese Garden: I really wish there had been more Shinto statues, but it was nice to be around nature. They had a nice Japanese restaurant, and that was the second time in a week I got to eat Japanese! ^_^

Other than that, I mostly go out to cafes with my friends and to the bars on weekends. There's a French-owned bar called Le Bar (how original right?) and they have REALLY GOOD pisco sours. They usually have their lights turned down, a DJ, and a couple of floors where you can sit with just your friends. When we were there last week around 4am, it was absolutely packed, but when we got there at midnight the other night, it was bare!

Now I'm going to commence my list of random facts about Argentina.

1) Argentine guys are really aggressive. Mostly girls know just to ignore them, but knowing my heart, I always feel bad, especially for the ones that try to talk in English! (How can they ALWAYS tell we're American/British? We don't usually look that lost and we try not to speak in English. Is it what we wear? How we walk? Are our features really that light? Who knows.) However, my friends explain to me that it's not really worth the risk trying to get to know a guy you just met on the street, even if he seems really nice.

2) This brings me to a scarier thing. Poverty is rampant here, less so than in other Latin American countries, but it still remains a daily part of life for some. This, of course, leads to desperate measures. Pickpocketing is pretty common, and I know several ISA who have already managed to have their wallets stolen one way or another. In fact, I was told that if someone robs you, even if you are quick enough to notice and call out for help, no one will help you. This is because in the past pickpocketers have set up scenes like this so people will be confused as to what to do, and in the meantime their goods will be stolen. Sounds scary right? I've never seen it happen, but then I mostly frequent busy city streets. It's somewhat ironic because when I ask for directions, people are mostly hesitant to help at first because they think I'm a thief, but it's actually my English that saves me because they know English speakers aren't the ones stealing.

3) Something else that's different is solicitation on public transportation. Many American companies completely ban it, but here it's tolerated and people often get on buses and subways to offer their wares. I've seen everything from pens that can also become highlighters and post stickers, to CDs by obscure artists. Socks and kleenexes are often a favorite, and you'll see those on many curbsides as well. Flower, magazine and jewelry stands are on nearly every street. Of course, there are also people who are simply begging for money. It's sad because sometimes people are maimed or disabled in some way, and sometimes mothers have their entire families with them. Sleeping on the streets is not uncommon.

3) Something else that's common among Argentine people is PDA. Like, major PDA. People make out against buildings, in bars, on buses, in fields, even in the middle of the sidewalk! They're all very touchy-feely with each other, and maybe that's to be expected if everyone already kisses each other on the cheek. This is a really Catholic country like I said, so often young adults will stay in these sort of overnight hostels where they can be together instead of coming home... I just always feel weird because I'm like, this is something that belongs to them, not me. But they're right in my way, and I don't know where to look! Oh, my mini dilemmas.

4) I think I mentioned this briefly before, but dogs are by far the favorite pet here. In fact, people love their dogs so much that they often make other people walk them in the city. And of course, since they have upwards of 8 dogs, they don't happen to notice the *presents* they leave behind. And I can only tell you horror stories as to what happens when it rains or you're not looking down.

5) I think three foods/beverages sum up Argentine cuisine: beef, dulce de leche, and mate.

Argentina is really famous for its choice meats, and they've been importing to Europe since the 1800s. As someone who doesn't particularly care for it, it's just too good to go without here. I especially like chorizo (sausage) sandwiches.

Dulce de leche is sometimes described as tasting like caramel, but it's so much more than that! They have dulce de leche spread which they often put on toast or in their flan, they have flavored coffees, ice creams, alfajores (a type of cookie), cakes, muffins, etc. In fact, I just now learned that the Girl Scouts sell dulce de leche cookies. If I ever see a girl scout, I am totally buying them.

The last thing is mate (maa-te). It's an indigenous drink that colonists took up when they arrived. It's made from the leaves of yerba mate and is naturally caffeinated. You can buy regular tea packets (mate cocido) but often people do the whole works involved with it, which is then described as having a taste between "green tea and coffee, with hints of tobacco and oak." It's quite strong.

6) I mentioned that Argentines had an accent before. Well, it's an "Italian" accent, mainly stemming from the masses of Italians that migrated to the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. They refer to their language as "Castellano," not Español. I must say, it messes a lot of things up. Any word with a "y" or "ll" is subject to the "ja/sha" sound, and so it changes words like ella (she), llamar (to call), llevar (to wear), calle (street), yo (I), llegar (to arrive), lluvia (rain), among many others. So assuming you already know that "ll" means "y" for most Spanish speakers, you have to try to catch words that you somewhat remember and then translate them into a familiar Spanish. It's sometimes difficult.

7) I now understand what it's like to go to a big university. Because it's right in the middle of the metropolis, they can't really have a sprawling campus, but they do have several buildings, the main one being about 20 floors. They have one about 5 blocks away, and another one 30 blocks away. Thankfully, buses are frequent around here! Now I'll be grateful that the most it takes to walk across Knox is 10 minutes...

8) ISA people are awesome. I can obviously only speak for the roughly 20 people I know, but here are some general characteristics that I've found in them. Most of them have lived or at least visited Europe; in general, most students have traveled abroad widely. Many have already studied another language, and some are learning to be trilingual. Many are learning Spanish because they want to help Spanish speakers in America live an easier life. They have grand dreams: many want to go to graduate or law school, be union organizers, social workers, writers, etc. A majority of the program is from either Colorado or California, and I don't know if that was by accident or if that's really a true demographic of US population. :P Many consider themselves liberal (I've found several Socialists), but many also do not adhere to radical philosophy, which is really different from Knox, where if you're a moderate you're considered a tool of the capitalist system. A majority, even if they come from well-off families, still practice conservative spending, and many have worked at least one mundane job to save up for traveling. Some have girlfriends or boyfriends, and none of them see studying abroad as an insurmountable obstacle to their relationships. In conclusion, they're some of the coolest people I've ever met.

I'm going to go back and add pictures to my old posts now, but if you want to see all of them, go here:


Well, I think that's about all I have to tell you for now. See you next time!

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