Hola a todos,
Sorry that it’s taken me so long to update again… my first day here I tried to plug in my alarm clock and broke the adapter for my plugs because it was the wrong voltage. As it turns out the type of adapters that work with U.S. products are a hot commodity here and it was quite an adventure trying to find another one. After walking all over the city asking in different “Ferreterias” (essentially shops that carry all kinds of tech., kind of like a hardware store) for what I was originally called an “adaptador” but which I found out is actually referred to as a “zapatilla” which is the same word that they use for sneakers. Who knew. I found an Apple store in the local mall, which here is called a “shopping” and Apple products are REALLY expensive here… just buying a new charger would have cost me somewhere around 750 pesos, which is close to 200 dollars. Pretty much nobody here has an iPod or a Mac. I finally found a zapatillas in a Ferreteria that the director of my program suggested, although I am still unsure whether one of the bills they gave me in change is fake or not: my taxi driver on the way back home that day thought it looked very fake, but my family says it looks real enough that I should use it.
Our intensive culture and language course started on Monday after we took an exam (part written part interview) to decide what level of Spanish to put us in – they’ve divided us into 3 groups: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I’m in intermediate with 9 other students and so far it’s going pretty well, we’ve mostly been talking about how the Spanish spoken here is different from the Spanish that we learned in school and about the different regions of Argentina in general. On Monday I have to give a short presentation on a region in the south called Santa Cruz, which is part of Patagonia. Santa Cruz has a really varied climate: some areas there are tons of glaciers and in others valleys and beach. Apparently there is a lot of wind there and they are pioneers of wind energy.
Every day after school I’ve been exploring parts of Córdoba with some of my classmates, and more often than not getting lost and taking a taxi home. What sticks out to me most about Córdoba so far is the amount of graffiti. There is graffiti everywhere, on statues and buildings and unlike in the United States rarely is it painted over, even though the majority of the graffiti expresses anti goverment, anti religion, anti the current school system sentiments and all of the graffiti is called for organization to create a new Argentina. My teacher Alejandra says that she thinks there is so much graffiti because the people here feel like they don’t have a voice. I will have to continue to observe and talk to people to find out what this means.
Yesterday, I went to a rock music festival in an area called Cosquin which is in the mountains, where everyone was wearing shirts from classic rock bands in the U.S. like AC/DC, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Tons of people with tattoos, converse, and dreads which seems to be the “look” here for the “hippies” and tons of people smoking weed. It’s a three day festival and lots of people camp out there and the people who live there all year take advantage of it as a way to make money by selling food and drink and offering places to stay. The music ranged from softer rock to regaee/rap to heavy metal and the crowd was mostly my age. The most popular band that played while I was there was Calle 13, which was a regaee/rap group that from what I could tell was expressing positive revolutionary sentiments. There was a huge crowd during their set so much so that I was plastered against other people and when other people decided they wanted to jump, everyone had to jump. It must have looked like a giant walking amoeba from above. The ground was mostly dirt, so when people stopped jumping a huge cloud of smoke from the dirt rose. It was an experience.
At the festival people were handing out little pamplets, the cover of which has a picture of a young boy giving the middle finger with both hands and which reads: “You have the power and you are going to lose it: Pino 2011.” Pino is an older man who is running for office and I don’t know much about him, but it seems like the more liberal people like him. However, the student in my house Sol says that people running for president always promise things that they don’t actually deliver once they are elected (not unlike the U.S.) Anyway, the inside of the packet reads:
Our five “banderas” which is a word I know as flag but here must mean principles or wishes or something like that:
(Currently my host sister Clara is pretending to call the police on her mom’s cell phone because I won’t leave my room to come play with her right now.. she says they are coming in five minutes).
1) Internal debt: Stop hunger and poverty, exclusion and inequality. For the rights of original pueblos (towns) and gender equality.
2) Recover what belongs to us: Stop plundering/looting and recover our natural resources. Investigate external debt.
3) Participation of everyone and human rights: Combat corruption, gangs, and repression. Reform the National Constitution.
4) Cultural revolution: Stop colonialism, individualism and consumerism. Defend and fund public education.
5) Reconstruct industry and public services: Recover the trains and national industry. For Latinamerican integration (among countries, I’m guessing).
Next to this, there is an illustration which reads: Water is worth more than gold. And on the back: Together we can transform Argentina. The organization is called Juventud (Youth): Movimiento Proyecto Sur. It is interesting to see such anti-current society sentiment expressed without any backlash, but this action also does not seem to be culminating in any revolutionary change as of yet. My teacher Alejandra also told us that police constantly think of Córdoba as a place that needs to be monitored because at any moment revolution could occur. The most liberal people here are explicitly calling for socialist revolution- it is not too rare to see a red socialist symbol painted on a wall.
Unlike most every big city in the U.S., I have seen only one homeless person and I have not seen anyone begging for money. Nor have I seen a single homeless shelter. From what I have heard from Sol, welfare carries little to no stigma here. Rather, people expect the government to provide for them. If you are out of a job, if you don’t have a house, if you have a lot of children to provide for, you receive money from the government to help you get by. It’s as simple as that. Everyone who has children in school receives money from the government to help them provide for their family. When your child graduates from high school, you can bring their diploma to an office here and receive reimbursement. I tried to ask Sol how the application process works for welfare here and what the designated poverty level is but I didn’t quite follow her response. However, because government aide is not stigmatized does not mean that there is no poverty. According to Sol, a lot of people who receive welfare will spend money on expensive technology and not have enough money left for clothes or food. I am looking forward to getting to know Argentinean students at the University once the semester starts in March so that I can get more information/perspective on the political and social climate here. I’d also like to know my host mother’s take on things, but I haven’t broached the subject yet. I figure I’ll give it some time before I ask her political orientation.
There is definitely North American influence on the culture here – it seems to be “in style” to wear clothing with English written on it. For kids, Hello Kitty is very popular, Bob Esponja and Dora La Exploradora. I also watched Los Simpsons for the first time yesterday, which is my 8 year old host sister’s favorite show. From what I could tell, the humor has been recontextualized to make sense here. Yesterday, one of my host mother’s best friends came over for lunch and we talked about North American (it does not fly to call products from the U.S. “American” and people from the U.S. are not called “americanos” as North and South America are included in America, therefore calling ourselves American is considered ethnocentric. Instead we are “estadounidenses” which translates best as United States of American”) cinema. He is a big fan of Tim Burton and also Alfred Hitchcock! Most all of the movies shown here are películas estadounidenses (u.s. movies) dubbed over in Spanish or with subtitles. Also, in most of the “shoppings” they play música estadounidense – yesterday while walking around a department store with Sol I heard Rihanna and after shopping we got ice cream at Burger King. Some things are not so different. Some of the clothing with poor English on it is pretty hilarious – yesterday I found a shirt in a popular store for teenagers here that said “That’s nice. I like it.” There is a restaurant in the “shopping” closest to my house called Neverland modeled after Michael Jackson’s Neverland that caters to kids. Also, it is very fashionable here to wear Levi’s jeans and they are VERY expensive.
It seems to be very popular here to go out with friends to “shoppings” and there are many more malls here than there are in the U.S. However, nightlife works differently here. People will go out to dinner or to bars (which are more like restaurants with live music here) around 10 or 11 and boliches (clubs) don’t open until 2 or 3. Normally, people will return from boliches somewhere from 6-8 in the morning. Last night, I went to hear an all-women folk band play in a plaza in the city and then some friends and I went to a bar to get something to eat/drink and left around 1:30, deciding we were too tired to stick it out until 2 or 3 when the boliches open.
Something else I have noticed here is that much more time is dedicated to spending time with friends and family than to watching TV or using the computer (at least in my house). We have two TVs in our house but my family rarely watches TV, instead it is more common to have friends over for mate and to sit talking for hours. This seems a nice change to me.
Alright, time to play with the kids again!
I love and miss you all!