Hola a todos!
I have been in Córdoba for about a day in a half now and although I am overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings, I can tell that I am already starting to love this country.
My journey here was very long and exhausting (25+ hours of travel). By the time I got to Miami, I was surrounded practically entirely by Spanish speakers so much so that it felt like I had already left the country. On my overnight flight to Santiago, Chile I was seated next to an old Chilean woman who was all decked out in silk pajamas and leopard print slippers and who warned me that she had taken laxatives before the flight and would have to get up to go to the bathroom a lot, advised me not to fall in love with an Argentinian man because they are all liars, and invited me to come stay at her house in Chile. Pretty much all of the passengers and all of the staff on the LAN Airlines flight from Miami to Santiago spoke Spanish and it was nice to be able to ease into speaking only in Spanish even before I arrived here. They fed us breakfast and dinner and I watched The Motorcycle Diaries which takes place in Argentina and is about Che Guevara. I’ve learned that Che got his name because he used the expression “che” so much – “che” is an informal way of saying “Hey you.” For example, “Che, tenés la hora?” means: Hey, what time is it? My host mother also uses it when scolding her dogs and children, so it seems like it has many uses.
When I arrived in Santiago, I ended up running into nearly half of the kids on my program since we were all taking the same flight to Córdoba. They are from all over the country, mostly from the Midwest and East Coast, places like Washington, North Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, California etc. There are a few other Pennsylvanians. It was really nice to talk to people in the same situation as me and it was comforting to be able to speak English again for a little while. It seems like a lot of the kids have had less years of Spanish than I have and many had not had more than a very short email with the address of their host family, so I feel very lucky that my host mother reached out to me so much before I even got here (and that they have wireless internet in their home).
By the time I arrived in Córdoba I was exhausted and ready to never set foot on a plane again. I managed to make it through Immigration and Customs without noticing that baggage claim was located in the same room and so when I stepped out into the airport to meet my director and host family I had to explain that I thought I had forgotten to pick up my luggage and a stewardess took me back into Customs. Apparently it’s a stupid mistake that a lot of extranjeros (foreigners) make.
My host family is wonderful. My host mom, Laura (which here is pronounced lou (like the beginning of louse) -ruh (like the beginning of rug) is very tall and linda – Linda (leen-duh) is a word that is used to mean a variety of good things: most commonly beautiful, also wonderful, nice, great, etc. It can be applied to bascially anything: people, the weather, a nice camera. Her daughters Clara (4) and Vera (8) are great – most of the time they like to play in the backyard in their treehouse and lovingly (and unknowingly) torture their two dogs and cat. Clara already calls me “hermana” which means sister. Yesterday we spent about two hours in their treehouse “cocinando” (cooking) and setting a table for ourselves with leaves. There is also another student staying in the house – from Patagonia in the South of Argentina, whose name is Sol (18). She is very nice and it is great to have another student here who can relate to my experience but also who is not on my program so I can get another’s perspective on la vida (the life) here. Tonight Laura and the two kids are out at a friend’s birthday party so Sol and I made dinner (spaghetti with beef and a little bit of cheese and red sauce) and talked all night.
The house is beautiful – there are lots of plants, windows, and paintings and a staircase to the roof where you can look out on this part of the city (which is pretty much entirely residential – we are about 15 minutes (by bus) from the center of the city and 20 minutes from the University where I will be studying.) The bus comes not even a block from our house and it seems like getting to school will be very easy.
Today I met for an orientation on life in Argentina with the other students from my program: cultural things I should know for living with a family, how to get around the city, how to get a cell phone, see a doctor, etc. etc. etc. (Mom & Dad – el gato Arenita just jumped onto my bed and is currently getting ready to lay down on the blanket that Arlo loves so much – don’t tell him). The program director, Alfredo, is really nice and supportive and helpful and after he gave us a bunch of information we all went out to lunch and for a short tour of the city. I got to try Argentine steak and potatoes for the first time and it was delicious.
On our trip, it’s a rule of the program that we are only allowed to speak Spanish to each other which is great because it makes it so that we really are fully immersed in the language here and also there is something comforting about practicing a language with others who are also learning it and being about to encourage each other. It sounds like the other students are all having positive experiences with their host families – although I talked to a girl today whose host mother continues to hand her food continuously even when she says she is full and follows her into her bedroom to continue talking to her haha.
Tomorrow we have a free day before we start our intensive three week language & culture immersion class by taking a written and oral placement test – our group is going to be split up into three for the course by spanish ability level. There really is a range – from people who struggle to put together every sentence to others whose parents are Spanish speakers or who have traveled a lot and so have nearly perfect Spanish.
Bueno, I should get to sleep now – although my family still has not returned from the birthday party yet and it is almost 1:30 in the morning (this is typical here). We eat dinner around 9:30-10 and any sort of party or event at night starts and ends really late. I get to sleep in tomorrow which will be great since I have not fully caught up on sleep since I began my travels three days ago. Last night I plugged my alarm clock into my adapter before checking to see if it was the right voltage and broke the adapter so I am not sure yet when I will be able to plug in my computer next – but I will update you again soon! I can already tell that my Spanish is improving a lot every day – it is wild but also wonderful to speak it all day long. Tonight after speaking Spanish all day I found that it was somewhat difficult to switch back to English to make phone calls because in my mind Spanish words kept coming to me first.
Un abrazo desde Argentina. I love and miss you all.