Internet Still Exists?
Yikes! I’ve been having such a good time down here, and not sleeping, that I’ve been neglecting this blog! Thank you Greg for reminding me that I ought to get back to work!
Places to See
Buenos Aiers is huge. I went to all these open air markiets, musuems, and even a theater. Let’s start with El Tigre. El Tigre is a small city/river near Ba that, through some Christopher Columbusian error, somehow because associated with tigers. There was a theme park with an actual ferris wheel and a real live roller coaster! I didn’t know they had those here! Ironically, roller coasters are called Russian mountains here, but are called American mountains in Russia. I spent most of my time trolling around the market looking for souveniers though. Speaking of, buying souveniers is hard. Several houses decorate a chain of isles in El Tigre’s river. There are no roads and no electricity. The lack of roads means the houses have names instead of addresses, and one was named David. Market boats go to houses that put out their shopping bags and offer their wares to the people who live there. Everyone owns a boat, and the gasstation is for boats. It’s pretty dang nifty. However, I think that means that in Argentina groceries shop you.
After El Tigre we went to Teatro Colón (like different day after. Most of these things happened on different days). Teatro Colón is beautiful. There is art everywhere, a bust of Mozart, and tons of chairs that have been restored so many times you can’t sit on them. I was a little sad thinking about how it must have once been a great theater, but now was just a piece of history. Once we entered the theater though, we found a group rehearsing a modern dance piece! I just hadn’t paid enough attention to the signs outside that clearly indicated this is still a functioning theater. I’m adding that to my list of things to do here.
Then there was the Evita museum. Evita and Perón created several social reform programs, including introducing women’s suffrage in the 40’s. Each room in the museum had a dress she used to wear, or a bag or some such that she used to own, and a picture of her actually wearing it, while explaining why the event where she wore that was important. During her time as the first lady of Argentina, Evita put her name and her husband’s on as many of the reforms as they could, propaganda and progress going hand in hand. As such, quite a few people have differing opinions on what sort of leader Evita was.
Okay, let’s talk about classes
I need a break from talking about amazing places. It’s not that I’ll get bored, it’s just overwhelming to try and remember all these tiny details and figure them out. So, I haven’t just been running around looking at beautiful places (I haven’t mentioned El museo de bellas artes yet, have I? We’ll get to that), I also am taking three hours of Spanish every day. Today I turned in my first paper – two and half pages, though it was supposed to be three, thank God for rough drafts – and my midterm is this Friday. The number one thing that surprises me about this class is the amount of effort I need to put in. Don’t get me wrong, I had to work in Spanish back home, but after an hour of studying, I was normally set to go, especially if I was in class that day. Still, passing is passing and I’m here for the culture and tango first, getting a good grade…sixth or so?
I have two professors, Úrsula and Laura. Laura is a little more fun loving, and Úrsula corrects my grammar far more often, but both of them are great. Sometimes it seems like Úrsula thinks I purposely mispronounce basic words like “ahora” instead of just messing it up from having a long a sound in my language. I feel like I’m pretty dead center in the class, I have things that I’m good at and things I’m worse at. It’s nice to be in a class where I can rely on everyone to help me figure things out if I get lost and vice versa. The folks in class with me are pretty nice, and hopefully we’ll meet up to study before the exam this Friday.
Speaking of studying together, study groups usually don’t work for me. Getting together to discuss the book we’re reading though? That is really helpful. The book is called Dos veces junio and it by Martín Cohan. It follows a soldier during what’s called The Dirty War in Argentina, a time when a dictatorship “disappeared” several citizens, robbed babies to be raised by military families, and in general ruined everyone’s good times. I’m pretty sure they outlawed tango at some point. The book has a ton of vocabulary that I’m unfamiliar with, but reading it really helps improve my grammar as I get used to hearing the way things are supposed to sound, and get to see the way sentences are structured. Also, I get to learn new words! Some are even swear words! Sometimes the book is difficult to read because of the content; women were not treated well during the Dirty War – no one was. Due to all these things, and having a social life, I am now about three chapters behind, but that’s okay! Who needs to be caught up on homework when there are blogs to write!
I keep misspelling things now. I’ve never had a problem with their there they’re, but now everything is their for me, until I edit it. I end up phrasing my sentences to try and make sure I don’t end with a preposition (which you aren’t supposed to do anyway), and every time I say something hypothetical I marvel at the fact I have to use the word would. Also, what’s with Oxford commas? I just don’t understand anymore. Some days I don’t even know if I can speak Spanish or English.
Bidets are amazing. At first I was terrified of them and now I want to take them home with me. I’m pretty sure they were invented by people who did not have enough fiber in their diet, but that’s great for me in a country where the main things I eat are bread, meat, and cheese.
Empanadas. I do not feel like I am in empanada central, but that is often what I would like to eat for lunch and I haven’t found a decent spot near my house where I can drink a gourd of mate and drink empanadas. This is something I must do before I leave Argentina, or else I might have failed studying abroad, regardless of grades.
When I bought cologne this year, I figured it’d be great to wear to tango. However, here in Argentina, water is sort of expensive, and rewearing clothes is encouraged. I also sometimes wash my socks by hand, along with my handkerchiefs.
I am not a plumber. Washing things by hand is great, but not when it clogs your bathroom sink that already doesn’t flow too well. When this happened, I figured I could easily fix this by just unscrewing the entrance to the sink and clearing the blockage. Turns out sinks in Argentina connect directly to a pipe that just opens so that water can pour out the back when there’s a problem. However, after I cleaned up the flood that came out of my sink, it works great again. Sometimes it has problems after I shave.
One More Museum
El museo de bellas artes was filled with wonderful paintings. I even saw a Van Gogh, which was something else. For class I had to make up a short story about it, where I just sort of rambled about the end of France for fifteen lines. Work from the Rococo and impressionist eras in France was also displayed, which reminded me of the good times taking French classes in high school. Outside the museum, I had choripan for the first time, which is sausage straight from a parilla (grill) on a bun. I thought it might be undercooked, but as I didn’t throw up, I suppose it wasn’t.
The tango here so far is delightful. It isn’t quite the paradise of dancing I envisioned it, but that’s mainly because I have to wake up for classes and am not quite ready to go out every single night and keep up with my homework. I enjoy going to La Viruta, Milonga10, and La Catedral. At La Catedral I met a stunning Uruguayan girl who mixed contemporary feeling with her dance and we did some pretty amazing ganchos together, even with our styles being so completely different. Still haven’t run into her again. The last time I went to Milonga10 I danced with a woman who had been leading the entire night and she turned out to be from Seattle! I was super excited about that, and hopefully I’ll run into her again somewhere. My friend Roxy is a great wingwoman for going out to milongas, and also pretty good at dancing, especially considering she’s only been doing it for a few months!
Learning wise I can tell I have some bad habits I need to kick. My left arm is too floppy, and it makes my chest lead confusing. I need to relearn containment to make it more comfortable and secure, while keeping my feet closer to my follow to keep our balance as a couple on track. In general though, I get quite a few compliments on my dancing, and more than a few impressed looks when I tell people how long I’ve done tango.
Not all the traditions, mainly the cabaceo, are really used down here. One man actually laughed when I asked about how using the cabaceo (a nod of sorts that helps arrange who dances with who) would work at La Catedral. He told me that was only for the men who wore fancy hats. Probably should buy one of those.
I’ve also been to Salón Canning, but I really need to keep going out and trying new milongas. Thankfully, I have a little pamphlet full of information about when and where they happen, so that’s good.
Taryn’s Week and my Birthday
Taryn came down to visit me for my birthday, to dance tango, and to see the city. She even bought two new tango shoes! I also bought new shoes. Couldn’t resist. The first night she managed to stay out until 4am, which is a heckuva lot better than I did after my first week here. We checked out Feria de los Matederos, which was fun, but the big thing we did was go to the Lujan Zoo.
The Lujan Zoo lets you pet tigers and lions. Presumably they are drugged, but they are still not shy about telling you if they don’t like the way you touch them. There are ducks, geese, and chickens that wander around everywhere. You can see donkeys and llamas, you can ride dromedary (basically a camel), and you can feed elephants. There were baby cubs that were absolutely adorable, sea lions and one of the donkeys really wanted to have sex. It was pretty fun for a zoo, but still, as always, a little depressing to see all the animals trapped in cages. Glad they didn’t eat me though.
My host mother, Martha, also allowed me to invite over friends for my birthday. She made a delicious dinner, Juan bought some red wine, and Taryn and Meigan came over to eat with us. When the cake came, Martha put this big looking candle in it and told Juan to light it. I think everyone expected it to be a little less like a fountain firework. After failing to blow it out and then laughing at how shocked we all were, the candle went out, and we ate. That night we went out to La Catedral (no Uruguayan girl) and met up with my friend Rio who I met on the plane ride down here. It was quite a successful birthday if I do say so myself. Also, those tango shoes I bought? Extra money my dad wired down for my birthday. Good stuff. Not many presents better than having a friend come to visit you though.
Día del campo
My study program took everyone in my program out to the country side to a ranch called Mimosa. There we saw a church and tons of folkloric dancing and tons of folkloric food. We ate the food too, didn’t just look at it. The meal the gauchos served us was huge, starting with empanadas, followed by a salad, and then chicken, well-done steak, rare steak, blood sausage, vanilla ice cream you could smell from the table and it was all delicious. Roxy and I danced tango to a couple songs that were played. The first time we danced the band decided it was a challenge.
They played faster.
We were spinning around like crazy, and once the song was over everyone jumped up and applauded. Probably more for the band, but it was still pretty great. In keeping with the way that tango is better when done slower, after one of the songs where we danced with less ferocity an older woman came up to me and told me she danced just like we did in her youth and that it was beautiful to watch what we could do and that I should never stop. It was awesome.
It was wonderful to just take some time to relax and enjoy being somewhere without so much noise as there is in the city. Also, being fed all day was pretty nice.
I think that’s all the big important things that I need to update the folks at home on. If things seem a little ramble-like and disorganized, it’s because there was too much for me to write down in my journal for now, so I just typed it all out to make people (Greg) happy. Time to get back on regular blogging schedule!