I hope you all are well. It’s hard to believe that it’s already April, meaning almost 3 months have passed since I returned from Xmas vacation in the U.S…. and almost a year has passed since I graduated from college. What. It’s strange to me that we are only just a month into the school year here in Córdoba, while back at home you all are a month away from finishing. In the past seven months I’ve gone from summer, to the very end of spring, to summer, to winter, to summer, and finally now we are easing here into temperate and beautiful fall weather.
Since classes started at IICANA almost exactly a month ago (March 11) I have been so busy that I have actually had to turn down new students. In time, I am hoping to be able to incorporate a few more conversation classes once or twice a month, but for now I am pretty booked. What I have found is that teaching is largely exhausting for me. I spent the first couple of weeks of teaching with my jaw aching from tensing it so tightly. Though I like working with people (and I actually think I’m doing a pretty good job), having to constantly lead and facilitate groups of people is draining for me. However, I think this is largely because I am a first- year teacher and I have been given pretty much 0% guidance as to how to structure and teach my classes… so I spend LOTS of time brainstorming, planning and creating materials.
I do have textbooks I’m working with but I’m trying to not rely too hard on the book and be as creative as possible to keep the students engaged. I can see that the last thing teenagers want to do after spending all day at school is open a textbook. Also, side note: Most teenagers here have up to 15 or 16 different subjects at one time at school. Here in high school you choose a concentration (natural sciences, humanities, etc.) and so you have more specialized classes (philosophy, psychology, geography, several different kinds of math or science at a time…). I’ve talked to some of my friends about it and they say that because kids have so many different classes at once they aren’t able to reach too deep an understanding of any one subject. One good thing is that a lot of high schools have students complete work at school so that they have no homework and are free to do more extracurricular activities afterwards (and maybe relax for five minutes).
Anyhow, I’m sure in a few months once I get more in the rhythm of things teaching (and planning) become less stressful. I have some really wonderful students and I regularly get good feedback from my bosses saying that my students are content with my classes. The majority of classes I leave feeling good and my students apparently understand my jokes (and think they’re funny) because they laugh a lot. And I’m lucky that I actually genuinely like all three of my bosses (and they seem to like me too). So, I’m probably being too hard on myself (as usual).
Aside from my teenagers and advanced convo classes at IICANA, I’m keeping up with my students in companies and my one private student, the Sociology professor. The Sociology professor (surprise) is one of my favorite students. He has a great level of English (though he is very reluctant to believe it) and we are able to have some really interesting conversations about the research he’s doing and differences between American and Argentine culture.
He’s been researching traffic norms for a while – why people do/don’t follow them and how they justify that to themselves. This is a particularly important topic here as Argentina has one of the highest rates of death by car accident in the whole world. Hardly anyone here wears their seat belts (most taxis don’t even have them in the back seats) or consistently obey traffic signs. A lot of people will just drive through intersections beeping their horns and figure that’s good enough… Crossing the street is actually a pretty terrifying experience here. A lot of people travel by motorcycle and most of them don’t wear helmets so a ridiculous amount of people die from motorcycle accidents every year as well. My student’s wife is also a Sociology professor and is trying to get a paper published (in English) about representations of masculinity and femininity in the media and I agreed to help her edit it. Glad to be able to simultaneously keep my interests in Spanish language and Sociology alive.
Only three weeks into the school year, I had about an (already much needed) week’s vacation for semana santa (Holy Week) so I traveled to Buenos Aires with two friends of mine. Since my tourist visa expires this month it was also a convenient time for me to cross the border and renew my visa for another three months. Though I spent a weekend in Buenos Aires in 2011, I hadn’t gotten to see much so this was my first chance to really explore and get to know the city.
It was just as full of interesting graffiti as I had remembered it being:
We stayed with a friend of mine, Tano, who lives just a subway ride from the center of the city. It was a luxury to be able to zip around the city on the subway instead of waiting 30 mins every time you want to take a bus somewhere in Córdoba.
We spent our days exploring different city neighborhoods. On the first day, still tired from the 10 hour bus ride down, we leisurely walked around the beautiful parks and gardens of Palermo, one of the nicest neighborhoods in BsAs:
It became immediately evident that BsAs is a much more racially/culturally diverse city than Córdoba, and also much more of a tourist destination. As we wandered about, we heard a variety of languages and saw a bunch of people stumbling about with expensive cameras and maps. Since I am usually able to pass on appearance as an Argentine, it was interesting traveling with Paula and Kirsten, who, being paler and blonde/red haired attract a lot more attention from locals. When I walk about on my own, people usually do not bother me, but traveling with them we got a lot of “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” and “I love you, baby!” and from one particularly intoxicated man “Fuck you!”. Since all three of us were sorely missing the international cuisine available in the U.S., we tracked down an Indian and Mexican restaurants to eat at.
On day two, we explored San Telmo neighborhood which is known for a huge artisans fair which is held there every Sunday (I practiced restraint and only bought two rings this time). We also saw an exhibit at the MACBA (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Buenos Aires / Buenos Aires Contemporary Art Museum) which I liked.
We ended the day by taking a walk around the Ecological Preserve in Puerto Madero, a neighborhood that borders Rio de la Plata (a river).
On day three, we took the Buquebus (a ferry boat) to Colonia, Uruguay where everything is very expensive but beautiful! It is a small colonial town by the river. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent time at the beach. The tide was so low that I was able to walk out to where the boats were moored… and the water still came only to my knees!
On day four, we visited La Boca neighborhood, which is one of my favorite places in BsAs, but being one of the sketchier places as well I decided not to bring my camera. This photo is brought to you by Google Images:
That night, we ate remarkable homemade pizza made by Tano (whose nickname comes from the world ‘italiano’ which means Italian- some of his family is from Italy). In typical Tano fashion, we didn’t end up eating until about 1, 1:30 am, at which point Paula, Kirsten and I had gotten a bit delirious from exhaustion/hunger, but it was wonderful just the same. By the time the food was ready, we ate in silence listening to a mixture of The Beatles and classic Argentine rock.
On our last day, we wandered about Recoleta neighborhood, which is known for its theaters and for the huge graveyard where many famous/rich people have been and continue to be buried, including several presidents and Eva (Evita) Peron. For lunch, we ate barbeque (complete with intestine, blood sausage, and kidneys… yikes), since supposedly BsAs has the best in South America (and the world?). Personally, I prefer homemade bbq I’ve tried here in Córdoba. The day was overcast, drizzling on and off, which seemed pretty fitting for walking about a cemetery. By a lucky twist of fate, it turned out that we missed the major flooding in BsAs by just a day.
Meanwhile, at home, I continue to live inside of an episode of “Too Cute” (an actual show on Animal Planet):
That’s it for now. Sending much love to everyone back home! Un abrazo fuerte.