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.

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