After about a month at home I am officially back (again) in Córdoba. On my way to Philadelphia from Córdoba I noticed an immediate and pretty extreme change in the degree of security as soon as I boarded a plane run by an American airline. Before we were allowed to board the plane to Miami in Santiago, Chile, every single passenger had to stop and have their carry-on baggage opened and examined again (having already gone through routine security). A water bottle I had bought in the airport had to be thrown away. Upon arriving in Miami, I didn’t get the same friendly “Welcome Home!” treatment I had gotten last time I reentered the U.S. (When I went through immigrations/customs in D.C. in 2011 after having studied abroad the woman literally said that to every U.S. citizen when she stamped their passport).
The employee in immigrations/customs this time was very cold and stern, staring me down like he expected to find kilos of marijuana or a bunch of guns stowed away in my luggage. It felt very “guilty until proven innocent” rather than “innocent until proven guilty.” I was asked a lot of questions: what I was doing in South America, if I knew anyone there, if I had worked there, what I had studied in college, what I planned on doing post-grad, etc. Maybe I just happened to have a grumpy customs officer, but I found the tone of it all very off-putting. And then I had to pay $5 just to use a cart to move my luggage! Hello, capitalism.
Having gone through airport security in various countries in South America as well as London, the U.S. is by far the most thorough, making you take off your shoes/hats, take your computer and charger out of their case, take all metal jewelry and belts off, empty any liquids, etc., sometimes even patting you down. Although certain heightened security is understandable after 9/11, I also feel in general that we live in a very paranoid, often times isolating, society with a lot of displaced anger and aggression… which combined with pretty easy access to guns and a lot of gratuitous violence in the media is highly dangerous/problematic (as we have seen now again and again). The fact that so many Americans feel an intense need to own a gun speaks for itself. We have a problem.
Obviously we can’t go out into the world expecting everyone we meet to be loving and gentle towards us and taking certain precautions or making plans of action “just in case” are practical and even necessary. However, it is a problem when on a broader level we can’t feel safe around one another and are even taught not to feel safe around each other/trust one another, told that we need to watch out because there might be a “bad guy” hiding around every corner waiting to hurt us. For me in almost every case there is no reason why these precautions should have to include loaded guns. When people here ask me why these shootings keep happening in the U.S. I don’t know where to start.
On a lighter note, upon arriving in Córdoba I made a funny mistake in sending a text message to my host mother. Wanting to let her know that my plane had landed, I sent her a message saying “Acabamos de aterrorizar” (We just terrorized/finished terrorizing) instead of “Acabamos de aterrizar” (We just landed). Because the two verbs aterrorizar/aterrizar are so similar I got them confused. If nothing else, I suppose I am giving the people in this country a good laugh! She sent me back a message saying “¿A quien estás aterrorizando?” (Who are you terrorizing?). She was pretty amused by it.
Since we are in late summer in Córdoba most people are still on vacation and things have been pretty slow/quiet around here so far. I am just working on settling back in, getting ready for my classes (which will start next week), and finding some more ways to get connected with a wider circle of people. This week I have started taking a tissue/fabrics seminar at a local circus arts studio which is physically exhausting but great fun. Surprisingly (and luckily), circus arts have become a fad here in South America in the last couple of years too. Whenever I go out to a park I inevitably see someone practicing tissue, having hung one from a tree. This month a series of intensive dance seminars are being held at the Universidad Nacional so I am going to try to attend some of those as well as look into some printmaking or screenprinting classes at a local art studio. I am also considering taking a Portuguese class at the Universidad Nacional, as I’ve finally decided I’d like to learn a third language and as a nice side effect it would allow me to get a student visa (which are good for 6 months).
Hopefully some of this will be feasible with my work schedule– I’m probably being a little over-ambitious as always. My work schedule as far as the second school I will be working at is still uncertain as people here are still pretty solidly in summer vacation-mode and are not too good about answering emails. Also, the translation class I visited in September (if you remember) is finally getting around to starting to work on translating the TED talks that were filmed here in Córdoba last year, and I will be working with a student on writing the subtitles for one of them, which should be fun!
Hope you all are well. Sending lots of love.