Thursday, July 28, 2011

¡Mira vos!

Sorry for the long wait! I meant to update this more often, but I've already been a bit busy. Now, where were we? Ah, yes:

Finally, our airplane is right over the city. I craned my neck to see out the window (in the aisle seat), and they aren’t kidding about the night life! Keep in mind it’s a Sunday night, about midnight – and there were bright lights for miles and miles. I got off the plane, waited for my luggage (which had gotten to the airport so much earlier than me), and started looking for Mariana (Panrimo coordinator). Thankfully, after some confusion and calling her on a pay phone, I found her. It was really nice to see a ‘familiar’ face, especially after the last couple days. It was uber late when I finally got to the apartment on Junin, but Ramon (host father) was still up – bless his heart! – and let me in, showed me my room, and where the important places were (bathroom, kitchen). Then, we pretty much said – Buenos noches! And I conked out on my new bed.

As I woke up the next morning, I almost forgot where I was. But it was bright and early for me – I was beginning my internship at 9am as planned (I didn’t want to fall into bad habits right away, like sleeping in for an ungodly amount of hours). Luckily, Marianna came with me the first day to show me how to use the bus, and where the internship was. I really didn’t have time to figure things out the previous night, and it was all so confusing. There are a ton of bus lines (749 to be exact), and the map (Guia T) to figure them out is just as confusing. However, this video makes it seem easy...

I met Maggie and some of the staff from VOS; they all seemed really nice (most didn’t speak much English) and the atmosphere was very laidback, which I liked a lot. The first week was mostly for observation, to see what happened day by day, as well as doing some online searches to see VOS’s presence online. Maggie wanted me to understand VOS and what it was about before starting to promote and advertise the school – makes sense. So far, I really like the vibe – and it seems every day is different. One day, a woman from Canada came to see the place, and I got to use my English to help her figure out prices and the placement test. Another day, no one there spoke English so I spoke in small Spanish phrases all day (next week my classes start – and I will be able to speak more!).  Today, there was an adorable little baby boy that the staff was babysitting for one of the teachers. I also got to sit in on one of the classes, and learned a little Spanish myself! So, in sum: Internship = Great!

After getting back to the apartment on that first day, I met my host family. The mom (Marta), dad (Ramon), and daughter (Eugenia) are really nice and very accommodating. They’re laid back, and seem to come and go all the time, having their own separate lives. They also don’t care when I come and go – as long as I tell them if I’ll be out late or something like that. Ramon speaks some English, and he is a hoot! He likes to make jokes, and always keeps me laughing and smiling. His wife Marta is so sweet – a real mother figure. And she’s really patient with me when I’m speaking Spanish – since she doesn’t speak any English. She speaks slow for me, and teaches me words every now and again. She’s actually started giving me ‘lessons’ during dinner time – basically we talk in broken, simple Spanish.

I’ve also met some pretty awesome people since I've first arrived. Naturally, I first met Mariana who is very kind and helpful. My first day was also my orientation for the city, where I basically hung out with Mariana and saw the city. Unfortunately, on this particular day, it was overcast and raining. But it didn’t stop us from walking in the rain, and seeing some of the city. We ended up going into a shopping mall to eat lunch (Mariana had wanted to take me to a different place, but couldn’t find it in the pouring rain). But we still had some pretty awesome food for it being a food court. I got to try the famous asado meal – all the different parts of the cow (just don’t ask me what parts, haha). Some were ok, others were pretty good. It was just a blessing to get out of the rain and dry off a bit, while eating mucha comida! 

When I first arrived, there were also two other tenants living with my host family; an Argentinian woman (Analea) and a French/German woman (Fabian). After a week, Fabian left to go back to Europe – but not before we had a nice gathering/dinner at the apt with everyone (homemade empanadas which are a lot like mini pasties, wine, y alfajores). Analea will be staying for about 4 months here in BA (originally from a more rural part of Argentina). She’s married, very nice, helpful – and loves to talk (Spanish and English). She speaks British English because she spent over a year in Great Britain as an au pair, taking care of a little boy and also getting to travel Europe with the family and by herself. She’s really making me want to do the same!

All in all, I’m having a great time. But there’s so much more to tell! I’ll be back soon to update you on other fun things I've done in the last two weeks, like trying yerba mate (with friends!), tango night, and eating the most amazing pizza ever (it's one of these)!

Until then, dream to create! ¡Chau!

Note: Meaning of the post title (¡Mira vos!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

In Flight (and Airports)

It’s been a long few days. My flight was cancelled Saturday night and rescheduled for Sunday at noon. The upside: I got an awesome hotel room and an excellent free breakfast. As I waited for my flight, for the second time, I finally began to get excited (instead of nervous). The Porteños I saw at the airport seemed nice, and besides being a bit upset at first, seemed happy the next day (we all clapped several times; before the flight, as we took off, and when we finally landed in BA). 

One funny thing I found out was that someone (perhaps a Porteño) thought that the cancellation of the flight was a conspiracy, and that the French took the airplane we were supposed to be on, haha. A woman I met waiting for the shuttle to the hotel told me this, right after a spirited conversation with a flight attendant in Spanish was finished near us. The woman lives in NJ but is Latin American, and was only going to BA for a couple days for work. She was bummed that she couldn’t see more of the city. We chatted for a bit. And it wasn't just me. Everyone was sharing in this experience, and it was great to see the camaraderie between all of us. We were all in the same boat. We were all late for something. But I didn’t mind at all! A great (free) hotel with very fluffy pillows and an excellent breakfast, and I was ready for a long flight (unlike Saturday, when I sat in the airport for a solid 9 hours, and was already quite tired from the night before). 

Finally, on Sunday, when the airplane lifted off the ground, I smiled (well, maybe I grimaced - not too keen on the take-off and landing part). Either way, I was about to start a great adventure! Midway through the flight, I took a long nap and dreamed of travels and adventures. I was dreaming to create...and now as my internship starts - it seems more like a reality! :-)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Soul Sharing

File:Mate en calabaza.jpg
After exchanging dollars to pesos, I came to the realization that I'm actually leaving the states in a week and a half! I still have a busy weekend and week ahead of me before then (a friend's bachelorette weekend and her wedding). However, I can't help but get excited about the new culture and adventure I am embarking on! It has not fully sunk in, but it probably won't until I'm on the plane next Saturday.

While I am looking forward to the whole experience, I also need to keep researching the Argentine culture - especially because of my internship. I need to understand a good chunk of it before I can start advertising and marketing for a Spanish immersion program within BsAs. Just now, I have been browsing the web - still researching the culture and finding out new things - and I came across a site that talks about food and drinks of Argentina. What struck me most was the 'bebida nacional' (national drink), mate, or cimarrón. A common drink among family and friends, I couldn't help but wonder if my host family would let me share in the ritual/tradition of roda de cimarrón. This is when a gathering of family or friends will pass a calabash gourd (guampa/cuia) around, drink it all through a metal straw (bombilla), and then, usually, the server (cebador) will fill it up again for the next person. It's a very interesting ritual, as is the history behind it, and I hope to be able to participate in it while I'm there. Drinking the yerba mate (herb) is good for the body and the soul, and is a form of meditation and reflection when done alone. But when done in a group of friends or family, those who share the mate join in a kind of bond of total acceptance and friendship. While I will most likely drink and meditate alone, I am still hoping to experience this bond with my host family or friends that I make in BA. My thinking is that if this happens, I will have fully integrated into the culture. When you are finally included in a mate sharing, it should be taken as the highest possible compliment and entered into with great appreciation. Because when you share mate, you are sharing your soul.

While I reflect on this, excitement builds. I can only dream to create the same excitement in others!