Hola a todos!
Sorry for making you all wait again… I don’t have very much free time/alone time here which is a good thing in general although sometimes it can be tiring. So, I will try to give a summary 0f everything I’ve done in the past week. Time seems to pass somewhat slowly here because so much is packed into each day… every week feels like a year. It’s not a negative feeling, there is just a lot to think about and experience in every moment because just talking to anyone is a fully engaging experience that requires all of my attention. I don’t really have the luxury of being able to zone out and still comprehend all of what is going on here jaja…
By now I have finally (I think) figured out how to get around in the city, excluding last night when I walked around in the pouring rain for 45 minutes in search of a parada de colectivo (bus stop), gave up and called a friend I knew lived nearby to borrow 10 pesos because I didn’t have enough money for a cab. All of my taxi drivers have been extremely nice and interesting to talk to. Most all of them notice from my accent that I am foreign and ask me about what I’m doing here and what I’m studying, and in turn I ask them where they’re from and what they think of Córdoba. All of my taxi drivers have been natives to Córdoba who much prefer this city to Buenos Aires because it is más relejado (slow paced, relaxed) than the capital. People from Buenos Aires have a reputation of being conceited, thinking they are the best people in Argentina (my teacher compared them to NYC natives). When I ask if they like Córdoba, almost all have said they love it and would not change locations for anything. People here seem to have pride in their country, despite what they write on walls.
My taxi driver last night told me a story about a man who tried to pay for a 20 peso taxi ride with a 20 dollar bill. At least I am not that yankee (a popular word used to describe estadounidenses.. pronounced yah-n-key). I am fortunate because of my hair and eye color that I can pass as an argentino… one of my friends here who has blonde hair and green eyes gets crude comments from men all the time on the street and another friend has been referred to by strangers as “blanca” a few times. For my homework this weekend I had to ask my family what their stereotypes of estadounidenses are… Sol told me that when she thinks of an estadounidense she thinks of a fat man sitting in front of a TV eating McDonalds and wearing a big #1 foam finger for a sports team. (Her English is pretty good… good enough to say “I think Justin Bieber is a fucking idiot” and sometimes we will have funny conversations where she speaks in English to me and respond in a mixture of English and Spanish.) It is a common stereotype I think in a lot of foreign places that Americans are all fat. I think it is because in the US we snack A LOT which is something that people hardly ever do here. There are no chips, crackers, pretzels etc. for snacking here. If people eat between meals (which is not common) they drink mate (which is a kind of tea) and maybe eat a few crackers with jam or some fruit. Conversely, another friend’s host sister told her that she thinks of all estadounidenses as do-gooders who want to save the world… she also spends the majority of her time watching La Ley y El Orden (Law & Order), Bones, House, etc.
This past week we continued with our Lengua & Cultura classes which are más o menos (more or less) good. They are informative as far as learning about Argentinean culture is concerned but activities in class are somewhat boring. I am excited to start the semester and get to know more young people because so far Sol is really my only window into the minds of young people here. One day after class last week I was walking around campus taking picture and a photographer professor walked up to me to ask about my camera and advised me to carry a camera case/bag with me so that no one is tempted to steal my camera because the kind I have is very rare here. Macs and iPods are also popular items to steal because they are so expensive here.
He was very nice but I was somewhat put off by how close he was standing to me while we talked. Space talking between people is pretty different here. We were standing about two feet apart and during our conversation he noticed I had something on my face and went ahead and brushed it off for me. There is not as much a sense of personal space here.We ended our conversation with a beso (kiss on the cheek) which is a common form of saying hello/goodbye here. You don’t actually put your lips on their cheek, you just touch cheekbones and make a kissing sound. If you are getting together with friends it is common to greet/say goodbye to every person with a kiss even if it is a big group. Kisses actually on the cheek and hugs are seen as more intimate and is more of a mother/child, close friend or novio/a (boy/girlfriend) thing. Also, unlike estadounidenses, people are not constantly saying “I’m sorry” for everything. If you bump into someone or want to walk past someone or etc. you say perdon or permiso. Lo siento is only used if you have committed a serious error. I don’t know if this reflects the culture here as well, but people here seem to have more humor about life and complain less than estadounidenses.
Last week I met with the director of the program to talk about what classes I want to/will be able to take this semester. I still won’t know exactly until I take the CELU (spanish proficiency test for foreigners) at the end of the month what level of Spanish I am certified to have and therefore what courses I am able to take.. but Alfredo was very positive, saying that he felt that I would definitely be able to take some classes at the university and that I seem to be socio-linguistically intelligent and though I cannot always express myself effectively, I can understand what is going on around me. Those who receive a basic on the CELU exam can only take classes within PECLA (which is the center for foreign students). I will hopefully end up taking a few classes in the university and a few classes in PECLA. I told Alfredo (the director) that I’m interested in taking a sociology of education class, an art class, and a gender studies class if possible.
I feel like my spanish has improved since I’ve been here, and in general it is not very hard to get around here (to use transportation, to buy things, etc.). Part of the time I feel like wow, I’ve been studying this language for 10+ years and I still struggle to speak it and others I feel really confident and proud of my speaking ability. I think the reason it has taken so long to become fluent in Spanish aside from the fact that learning a new language is extremely complicated is that I have not had opportunities to speak for a very extended period of time in my classes in the past and that really is the best way to learn. I’d only speak/think in Spanish for the few hours a week I was in class and since most of that time was devoted to teaching I was speaking even less. Also, academic Spanish is very different from conversational Spanish. The same as in English, people don’t (generally) actually speak on the streets the way that scholars write in the volumes of theory we read in school.
This past Thursday CC-CS (Center for Cross Cultural Studies) went on a trip to Alta Gracia which is a city about 45 mins. away from here and is also where Che Guevara lived for 11 years.
I will pick up here later…
To explain the title of this entry: “Que sé yo” is a commonly used phrase in conversation which means “What do I know?”
I’m attaching a picture that was taken at a Jesuit estate that we visited in Alta Gracia as proof that I’m not making all this up…