Sunday, August 23, 2009

Can you get to that?

Fun and frustration - these two things both fill my days here.


Today, Katie and I walked down the big street market in San Telmo. Again, our neighborhood is very touristy, so there are lots of visitors walking around, but it's still great to see people who live here and what they sell and what they make and the music they play.

But the best part? The REALLY FUN part?
After walking through the whole (huge) market, Katie and I were getting some coffee around 6p.m. and heard a lot of drum music outside. We pay and walk out into this huge crowd of people dancing around a group called Radio Roots, I think. A few guitars, trumpet, trombone, drums, wooden boxes for hitting. It was impossible not to dance. Good, good people.

We thought it was over when they ended, but they pointed down the street, where we heard another band playing. So, we walked down, and there was a drumline of at LEAST twenty people. Again, amazing. This happened a few more times with a few more bands for a few more hours. God, I love it. Our neighborhood is so great because it's less busy than areas like Palermo, but awesome shit like that happens.


Getting honked at and yelled at by EVERY FUCKING moped/motorcycle/taxi/BUS/car that passes you just because you're a lady? What the fuck. Honestly, I didn't think it'd bother me that much, but it REALLY does. Got into a heated argument at some restaurant with some folks about why I think this society is a bit mysoginistic and I told them that any place where a woman feels like she's unsafe walking around is mysoginistic. It's BULLLLLSHIT. Bullshit. I'm also not at all saying that there aren't places in the USA where I feel unsafe walking around - there's plenty of those too. Not only that, but the people who linger in doorways here and say "Ciao, miraaa," as you walk by? Not exactly comfortable.

Also, technology difficulties are frustrating. I was trying to clean up my computer, and it deleted the hardware for my audio! So, now my computer has no sound. Trying to fix this, but have no idea how.

Also, this whole speaking-a-different-language thing is hard sometimes, ya know? That's a bit frustrating, but I'm trying to go with it, learn, etc. It's just rough sometimes when I come home and my family says things I don't quite understand. It's hot and cold - some days it just clicks and I can carry on conversations awhile, but then there are days like today, when I have to ask them to repeat themselves a million times. Oy.

When my computer is easier to work with, I will surely upload some photos from Iguazu and the waterfalls. They're un-fucking-real.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Boy oh boy, there sure are a lot of people in this world...

I've become sentimental of my routes of public transportation here. I think it's similar to the way people talk about gardening. The way you have a certain amount of time every day to do nothing but contemplate. I have a 45 minute bus ride in the morning and in the evening in which I can decompress from whatever stress I had that day; getting lost and walking in a circle twelve times, not being able to get books for my classes, the fact that the classroom I'm supposed to be in for a certain class got switched THREE TIMES, meaning I had to walk 3 blocks back and forth to another building to find it.

But I love that time on the bus. Or, as they call them here, colectivos. I take colectivo 29. There are at least a hundred (or more, I'd think?) colectivos. Or sometimes, the subte (subway). I love that as well. But there's something about being on the colectivo and seeing everyone on the streets that you pass and discovering the area you live in that is so great.

Last night my friend Katie (who was my roomie last year at Knox and lives about 4 blocks away from me in Buenos Aires) and I went to this bar called Gibraltar in our neighborhood, San Telmo. I love San Telmo because it's one of the oldest barrios (neighborhoods) in Buenos Aires, and because it's such a touristy place, you can find people who sometimes know Spanish and a bit of English. While at Gibraltar we met some people who spoke both and got to talking to them.
Earlier in the day, Katie and I had marched with the Madres de La Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers who march each Thursday from 3:30 to 4:00pm to fight for the remembrance of their children who were a part of the Disappeared in Argentina in the 70s and 80s. It was incredibly moving and wonderful and sad at the same time.
But we told these people we met at the bar that we had marched with them, and they were almost outraged. I didn't even think that people who hated the Madres existed, but I guess they do. The guys who got pissed off about it turned out to be sons of people who work for the military, so perhaps that has something to do with it.
Either way, I love every person I talk to here because I constantly learn things that I had no idea about before.

One of the other guys we met also said "I hate Buenos Aires. Why would you come here to experience Latin American culture? This place is so European." Also interesting.

Another thing about this place is the streets and sidewalks. First of all, there is dog shit EVERYWHERE. I mean everywhere. Also, the sidewalks are often in pieces. A lot of times, tree roots push up the concrete so there are bumps everywhere, as if a rolling earthquake is a constant here.

Also, my house. My house (which is really an apartment) is full of art. FULL of it. I love it. My host mother loves cats, so not only do we have two cats, but much of the art is of cats, too. And besides that, there are many abstract paintings that my host mom's son has done, and other friends as well. It's sooo pretty.

I am realizing the things I take for granted in the USA. Like, people in the USA have to give you coins as change. That's definitely not required here, which you don't THINK would be a pain in the ass, until you remember that's how you have to pay your fare for the colectivo, with coins.

Also, banks and ATM machines. If you need to go to a bank, you often have to wait half an hour or more in a line that stretches around the block. I'm not sure all the reasons for this, but I do know that one reason is that because of "gripe A" (swine flu), most banks only allow 5 or so customers inside at a time.

My phone also continuously fails. Still trying to figure that out. I wonder if it would be cheaper to try to unblock my USA phone and see if it would work here? Some do. But I don't know how that works in terms of prices either.

For now, I am off to try to buy books for classes. Another luxury I take for granted at Knox: the bookstore being there and having the books I need. I tried two stores yesterday and found 1 of 4 books. C'est la vie. Try again today.

Despite some difficulties, I'm still loving it here. A lot. A lot lot lot. LEARNING SPANISH. I have to remind myself sometimes that that's why I'm here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

estoy aqui!

Pues, I am finally here in Buenos Aires, Argentina!

What a whirlwind of a week it has been, and it hasn't even been a week.

This city is bigger than any place I've ever lived, and I think bigger than most cities I've been to. From what I can understand, there are around 12 million people in this city, but only 3 or 4 million of them live in the main center. Right, right, only 4 million...

Coming from a town of 33,000 to this is definitely insane. I commute every day on either the bus or the subway and each one takes about 45-50 minutes. And then I have to walk a few blocks. I love commuting. It's a nice way of learning the routes of buses and it's a good way to see everything.

Well, it'll be hard to EVER see everything here, how big it is.

I live in un barrio by the name of San Telmo. There are many barrios, neighborhoods, that make up the city. San Telmo has a residential area and also a touristy place where people come to buy lots of handmade goods and clothing. It's gorgeous, but sometimes living in a touristy area means the prices are also touristy.

Prices. Ah, let's talk about prices. 1 USD = 3.8 pesos here. I can get lunch for about 10 pesos. You do the math. Que barato! So cheap!

Well, things like food are usually cheap. But this week my whole group of friends from my college were trying to buy cell phones and THAT was awful. When the people working in stores see us come in and we speak, they immediately know that we speak poor Spanish and they jack up the prices. There is a guy from Barcelona who attends Knox, and is on this trip, and Spanish was his first language. He too needed a phone. He bought one for about 150 pesos. The next day, he told us where to go to get cheap phones. We went, and they told us 200 pesos or more for the same thing.

Luckily, I already had a phone from a friend on the program last year, so all I needed to do was buy a pay-as-you-go card for minutes, which you can buy from shops on the street, so that was not a big problem for me. But it was frustrating for all of my friends and also the fact that NONE of us could communicate much outside of classes.

Ah, classes. This week we have classes in which the professors come and explain for an hour what their class is about so we can decide if we like the subject and understand them well enough to take their class. I think I am going to be taking Literatura, La cultura de Argentina, yyyy posiblemente la Evolucion de la sociedad argentina (political class, methinks).

There are many abandoned animals in this city. It's very, very sad. Lots of dogs walking around look like they are going crazy. Many cats perch in windowsills outside. Que triste.... But also, there are many people who walk their dogs without leashes, through busy, crazy streets. Very obedient. That part is cool.

I am currently in a cafe with wifi, and I think soon we will go back home for dinner. Each barrio has a nice personality of its own. Me encanta. We eat VERY late here. Like 9 or 10pm. And also, meals here are an experience, not just something to get over with. If you go to a restaurant, expect to spend at LEAST 2 hours there, always.

I love this city so far. This weekend we go to Iguazu.

Dos besos, amigos! Adios.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Maggot Brain.

It just dawned on me that, somewhere in Buenos Aires, there is a family that knows I'm going to be living with them. Some family that is waiting for "Annie, exchange student from Chicago-land suburbs, student of Knox College."

So bizarre...

Sometimes when I'm reading over the packets of information that the program director gave us, I have mini panic attacks. I'm sure this is fairly common and is happening to many of us right now. Right?

I have to go figure out how to make Skype work.

Also, I was installing a new camera system on my computer the other day, and one of the "sample photos" included is one of this gorrrgeous waterfall. It doesn't even look real.

And then I realized the label for the photo is "iguazu.jpg." I GET TO GO HERE! Part of the study abroad program is going to Iguazu and hiking around and zip-lining and stuff.

Here, this is the photo: