De vuelta

Hello world. Acá estoy de nuevo en Córdoba. At times it feels as if I’ve entered a time warp where I never left Argentina, and at others it feels like so much has changed since last I was here. Transitioning into life here has been a lot simpler and smoother than last year, where for the first few weeks I was constantly overwhelmed by new sights, smells, sounds and where the very task of producing speech in another language for hours every day was mentally exhausting. For the most part Córdoba is how I left it, although my host sisters are taller, a few new bridges, fountains, and parks have been built, and there’s a fishtank with three large goldfish in the kitchen. I’m experiencing springtime in South America for the first time, which is pretty beautiful so far: warm and sunny 70’s during they day, cool and breezy 60’s at night.

My trip here was pretty uneventful, minus unexpectantly having to buy a new return ticket on the spot in the Philadelphia airport so I could make it through immigrations in Argentina. Since tourist visas here are only valid for 90 days, in order to enter the country as a tourist you have to have a plane ticket for sometime within 90 days of when you arrive. Although I don’t actually plan on leaving in November, I had to buy the ticket as a formality and soon I can cancel it and get a refund. Guess I should have read up a little more on tourist visas beforehand… Since arriving I have spoken with other people from the U.S. that have returned here to work and the consensus is that if you cross the border every 90 days and re-enter, you can continue living here as a tourist without a problem. However, unlike in the U.S. and other countries, the government here isn’t very strict about visas for immigrants — when my friend Chris’ tourist visa expired, an employee at immigrations took him aside, told him that it didn’t really matter and that he could stay, and let him go. Imagine that. There’s a lot less xenophobia here.

The strangest and most tedious part of my trip by far was the in-between time between flights in Miami and Santiago airports, where I spent a combined total of 11 or 12 hours. It was unsettling to sit for so long in a sea of strangers in a sort of holding cage or fishbowl, not quite anywhere. By the time I got to my gate at the Miami airport, everyone around me was speaking Spanish. Besides myself, there were maybe five other native English speakers on the plane from Australia and Canada. Luckily, the seat next to me on the eight hour flight between Miami and Santiago was vacant and I spent most of the time asleep, half listening to the terrible American movie being played on the television. Immigrations and Customs in Argentina were uneventful– They took my picture and fingerprints, and I told them I hadn’t brought any goods purchased abroad (although that’s obviously impossible, considering everything I own practically was purchased in the United States).

My host family welcomed me with a lemon pie, a poster with my name written all over it, flowers on the kitchen table, and a hand embroidered pillow with my name on it. Que lindo. By nighttime, I learned that my host sisters have recently become obsessed with a telenovela called Graduados which they watch everyday, most of which I don’t understand because a) they speak ridiculously fast and with a lot of slang and b) I really can’t stay interested long enough to pay attention. I’ve become accustomed again to eating lunch around 1 or 2 and dinner around 830 or 930, without much snacking in between, although I confess that when left to my own devices a few times to eat here I’ve eagerly consumed entire boxes of Annie’s mac and cheese (which I brought with me to feed my macaroni and cheese addiction). My host sisters are fascinated with my iPad and ask to use it constantly – thankfully my iPod seems to have gone out of fashion, so I no longer have to recharge it every other day!

I spent most of my first few days here reconnecting with friends, drinking copious amount of mate, and devouring empanadas and dulce de leche, the foods which I’d missed most. I’ve attended a few yoga classes, in search of one which I like and have had mixed success. I also went with my friend Ana, who has gotten really into buddhism, to a buddhist meeting at an apartment in the city. Although I thought the discussion they had of social problems and the attitude that individuals can take towards them was interesting, I wasn’t a huge fan of the first 30 minutes which they spent reciting a mantra in Japanese. The general message was that although we may feel powerless in the face of pervasive social problems, we must remember that small (and large) transformations in our own lives also change for the better the lives of others.

Within the first week of being here, a company called Media 8 (where I had sent my resumé prior to arrival on the recommendation of a friend) asked me to stop by for an interview. Another CC-CS (Center for Cross Cultural Studies) alum contacted me earlier in the summer to say that after a year of living and working here, she was returning to the U.S. and that Media 8 would need someone to take her spot.  Media 8 (you can find their website here: www.media8.com) is an international company that creates and designs advertising campaigns for a variety of different big name clients (Sony electronics, Ford, General Mills, HBO, BMW, Hertz, Mastercard, Discovery Channel en español, etc. etc. etc.). What I would be doing is helping to translate content writing and advertisement materials from Spanish to English. Although I can’t say I’m very passionate about advertising, I can get excited about the idea of facilitating communication/transmission of information between different cultures. The guys who interviewed me were young and super nice and seem to be interested in hiring me — they want me to come back on Tuesday so that they can give me a few sample things to translate and see how I do. Essentially if I do well, they’ll offer me the job, if not, I’ll look somewhere else. They said they need someone who is attentive to detail, which I certainly am — unfailingly I pick out the typos every time I read a book or article. Also there will be no cubicles involved in this job, and the office has windows.

If they don’t offer me the job (which I should know by next week), I plan on sending out my resume to  different English schools in the area. Even if I do get the job, I’m still gonna put up flyers in the hopes of finding some people interested in private classes. The people who I have talked to that have been teaching English here all tell me that they don’t think it will be very difficult to find a job teaching English, as a native speaker with a TEFL certificate (although my timing is awkward, since the school year ends in December and starts in Februrary). I’ve also started attending an event that is put on twice a week called “English y Mate, Spanish y Cerveza” where essentially anyone interested in practicing English/Spanish get together in a plaza and spend half the time speaking in English, the other half speaking in Spanish. Should be a good way to meet people — and potential students.

Aside from all that, I also visited on Thursday a translation class at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, which is taught by a friend of my host mom’s. A representative from TEDx Córdoba came to visit the class to explain what TEDx is and to present the possibility of collaboration. They need people to help transcribe and then translate from Spanish to English the Córdoba TED talks so that they can reach a greater audience. Once translated, they would add the subtitles and upload the videos online. Hopefully I will be able to help out!

Some days I struggle more than others with the amount of uncertainty and free time which I am currently living with, but I am able to steady myself and continue forward. It is simultaneously overwhelming and intriguing that I honestly have no idea what I will be doing a week, two weeks, a month, three months from now and that I have no particular plan or program to follow. No matter how well I speak Spanish, I still have days where I feel frustrated, unable to communicate all I would be able to if I could speak in English. I have begun to dream in a complete mixture of English and Spanish, sometimes hesitate to recall certain words in English, inadvertently insert “but” “like” “como” or “que” into sentences in one language or another, and occasionally freeze, unable to tell if a song on the radio is in English or Spanish. Bizarre tricks of the bilingual mind.

I’m going to join my host family outside in the backyard where they are getting ready to eat bbq for lunch. Sending much love to you all back there in the EE.UU!!

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