Sunday, October 11, 2009

Real World

Hey everyone,

So I've been kind of dreading to write this post partly because there's so much to report on and partly because I have to put down in writing a lot of unfortunate things that have happened lately.

Well, I realized I forgot to tell you about the Celtic Festival that I attended before I left for Chile. It was literally a few blocks from my house, and there were bagpipe players and vendors selling Celtic-oriented things. I bought some Welsh cakes and chocolate imported from Scotland, and technically I also bought one of the traditional Irish rings, but like with all my other rings, I managed to lose that within the night. So I don't know if I can even count that as a purchase. Anyway, the real treat were the performances. There was everything from "classical" Irish music, dancing and one band even incorporated these elements with rock music. It was a lot of fun and I was really happy that I attended.

So, next thing... well, a group of ISA students traveled to Colonia, Uruguay, which is what you would guess, a colonial but touristy town. We traveled by ferry, which by all means seemed to me like the cruise ship I had been on while traveling to the Caribbean, but the only strange thing is that there were seats in the middle of rooms. I was so tired that I napped on the way there (about 3 hours) but I took advantage of the great sunset and moon rising shots on the way back to Buenos Aires. It was a nice and relaxing day, and I got to hang out on the beach by the Atlantic Ocean.

I forgot to mention this march that I went to. It was really one of the most amazing things I've done in Buenos Aires. Well, my friend Nea had gotten word from one of her teachers that there would be a march for the legalization of abortion in Argentina, and of course, we being feminists, decided we'd go and show our support. Well, after being confused as to where it was for a while, we realized that it started at the Congress building and ended at the Plaza de Mayo, which is where we were. It's a good walk so by the time we got there we managed to see the signs that pointed out that they were protesting Kraft (the American company). Literally, everyone started moving en masse so we didn't really have a way of getting out. We decided we'd try to ask what the march was for, and the first people we found seemed ambivalent about the whole thing, but thankfully we found the Socialists soon, and of course us being the Socialistas we are, we asked them! It appears that in Argentina, Kraft has been paying them horrible wages and has also made them work in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. You might be thinking that they just own macaroni, but you'd be wrong. They own quite a few different brands and they're exploiting workers in other countries to produce their products. Well, after the Socialistas decided to pack up and leave the Plaza (there were hundreds of people!), I was invited to go back to their headquarters. I was truly surprised that the government wasn't watching them because of its past human rights abuses; but I was assured that they were not. How then, is it possible that the United States, supposedly the most democratic and progressive country in the world, is wiretapping its own citizens and harassing people for their political beliefs? (I later found out that usually organizations don't even ask for permits to march on the streets in Argentina; it's just assumed that they'll do it and no one can stop them. However, if you don't know, in the US, even after you've gotten a permit to march in the streets sometimes, they still arrest you.) I think in the US you can be either a democrat or a republican, and you will probably be hated by the other side for it, but you will not be persecuted like you would be if you were a communist or another type of radical. My new friends kept asking me how it was possible that not even an inkling of socialism or the idea of "worker's rights" had no place in the US; some simply see Obama as the lesser of two evils because he is not progressive enough. (Personally, I kind of have a political crush on Obama.) I said that it takes time and they asked, "When then, will America be ready?" It's a question I don't have the answer to at all.

So I guess I'll get to bad thing #1 now. I had been planning to go to El Calafate (in the far south of Argentina) for over a month, but after some complications with the airlines and coming to the harsh realization that I wouldn't have enough money to do ANYTHING ELSE if I took this trip, I canceled my plane tickets. I had been looking forward to it since before I had gotten here; there are glaciers that you can walk on and other spectacular nature shots. But, while I regret that I couldn't go, it was probably the right choice in the long run. This was on top of the fact that I got another awful cold here...

I've been trying to keep busy with other things. For example, I went to the Museo de Evita (think: Don't Cry For Me Argentina), which was really interesting because I've learned about her through a historical perspective. Some people really hate her and others think she's a saint (really, they asked the pope to canonize her). To give a very, very brief summary: essentially, she grew up in a very poor family whose father had a "legitimate" family miles away, so she never really saw him. She dreamed of being an actress from early on, and when she was a teenager an agent offered her a role in Buenos Aires, and with permission from her mother, she went. She landed some gigs, but nothing too big. After several years, she started seeing Colonel Peron, and perhaps this was the most significant event of her life. Without getting into the details, he was very popular among the masses of workers because of his socialist policies, and when he was forced into exile by the military, the masses came together to protest and they were forced to return him, where soon after he became president. Though Peron was worshiped, Evita became like the Holy Mother to many people; she personally founded her own charity organization that saw to thousands of peoples' needs. People asked for anything from dentures to houses, and she delivered them with donations from workers' unions. Many people in the upper classes hated her because she had a "bad background," but to the poor who had never had anything in their lives, she was an idol. In fact, and this is another story in itself, when she died, so many flowers were used that Argentina had to import flowers from several other countries. Can you imagine? What happened after her death became almost mythical, but I won't get into it here. :)

I also went to the local zoo, and it was fun, but mostly I felt out of place among all the kids. ^_^' They had many different animals, but I've been to so many zoos all over the US that they kind of lose their charm after a while. I did enjoy the fact that many of their animals just ran loose (they would go sunbathe by the buffalo or the polar bear, but would shy away when people tried to pet them). My favorite animal was what looked like a mini capybara, but I later saw the capybaras, so it couldn't have been them... oh, speaking of capybaras, I saw a goose bite one on the nose! I felt sorry for it. I also saw a male monkey trying to have sex with a female and she slapped him in the face. Oh animal relations.

I've also been reading in the Botanical Gardens of Buenos Aires lately; it's very relaxing there and is one of the very few places where you can look all directions and see trees instead of buildings. They're nowhere near as big as say, the Botanical Gardens of Chicago, but their spring season is just starting here, so I'm sure it'll only grow more pretty by the day. They have a huge population of cats there; animal control doesn't really seem to exist.

My friend Kirby, his two Colombian friends and I also went to a dance club in Palermo called Kika. The cover charge and drinks weren't too badly priced, but I just couldn't get over the fact that they continually played American classic rock. Besides country, that is the one genre I despise the most. Honestly, most of them probably don't even know the words, so why do they cling to it? I definitely don't dance like they did in the 70's (nor would I want to) and I had to be happy with things like Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" (which is apparently modern). Ah, well, it was still fun. This is in contrast, however, to the club called CroBar that Nea, Jordon and I went to. We got there too early (at 1), so we had to wait a few hours before people started arriving. But once it got started, it was a lot of fun! They played a lot of good remixes of modern American music, and no matter what anyone says, I like dancing to it. Unfortunately, Argentine (and Latin American guys in general) don't understand the concept of solely dancing, and 3 guys tried to kiss me. Sigh. I think I'm exotic to them because I'm an American. However, the cover charge was ridiculous, at least for Argentina (about $20 USD with no drink coupons) and I had to pay another 80 pesos for two glass of vodka and speed (an energy drink). We're not allowed to have alcohol in our host family's houses so obviously so we spend a lot of money ordering drinks at bars or clubs.

Well, I think I've put this off long enough so... for those of you who don't know yet, I was robbed. And to be completely honest, it was one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life. I was always warned to keep my eyes open and be aware of my surroundings, and I did this without a fault. In fact, if I had been alone, I don't know if it would have happened, because I am usually just so alert. The case was that I was with Nea, and we decided spontaneously to go to this one music concert, but once we found out it was canceled, we wandered around trying to find a bar. There are so many things we SHOULD have done, but the fact is that we didn't, and there's no use saying that now. This was right after I had canceled my El Calafate trip, and I just wanted to take my mind off it, so I was acting rather carelessly by speaking English in the streets in a neighborhood I wasn't familiar with, and I wasn't completely aware of the people around me. It was about 11:30pm (remember, the nightlife doesn't start until 3am here) and it just happened to be in that spot of the city that there were no police around. Though there were quite a few people, no one helped. What actually happened is this: Nea and I were walking down the street, just laughing and talking, and I did see the guy (in his 20's) out of the corner of my eye, but what happened was so fast that I was literally in shock. Even though I was holding on to my purse like I had been told to, he somehow managed to pull down so hard on the strap that it broke and left bruises on my arm in the process. If he had tried to grab it from me, maybe I would have had a chance. But that purse was made out of leather, and how was I to know it could break so easily? Well, I was so stunned right after it happened that I just stood there for a second, and then I started running! I always promised myself I would fight back, and I think the adrenaline just told me to do anything I could. Well, after a few blocks, I realized I wasn't going to catch him, and no one had stopped him in the meantime. In fact, Nea and I think he may be one of the guys we passed where we had instinctively started speaking Spanish because they seemed so creepy. The total damage: purse ($100), ipod ($200), camera ($150), keys ($45), Belgrano and Knox IDs ($30), state license ($20), two wallets, one of which was from Japan ($30), bus money ($10), Argentine pesos ($60), powder ($15), and a compact mirror ($15). Now, I put these things in USD amount, but the fact is that as much money as I spent on all these things, I now have to spend more to replace them. What's hurt me the most are the camera and the ipod, the camera because I lost my camera in Japan last year (which was also traumatizing) and it had my Uruguay pictures on it, and my ipod because it has years of music that I'd been saving and that I could find nowhere else, and which I do not have on my computer because of space issues. It's been almost a week since it happened, but I'm still scared to walk around, and I've pretty much refused to leave Belgrano at night (my neighborhood, which is known for being upper-class and quite safe). I still have this awful feeling that someone is about to grab my bag from me again, especially when I see men. But, little by little, I think I am becoming comfortable with the real world again...

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