Monthly Archives: September 2012

Psychoanalyze This

You may have recalled from an earlier post that I mentioned Buenos Aires had the most psychoanalysts per capita in the world.  Because I’d read a couple of semester’s worth of material on the city and it’s quirks before I came, I knew that Argentines were very comfortable with the fact that practically all of them see a psychologist on a regular basis.  They also don’t tend to censor themselves quite as much as we do–political correctness is literally a foreign concept here.  They’re all very polite and aware that I might have a much stronger filter than they do, but sometimes things slip through, leaving me a bit lost for words. (The other day my host brother asked me if I was on my period because I had cramps.  Just writing the fact that he asked me that on my blog makes me feel kind of uncomfortable haha.)

So, despite knowing that everyone would be acutely aware of their attraction to their mother here, it still sometimes catches me by surprise and squeezes a little smile out of me.  It happens more often than I thought that plans with an Argentine friend have to be rescheduled because they have to go to the therapist.  “I can’t reunion with you today, as I have to go to an appointment at my shrink. That’s how it’s said right?”  Yes, my dear friend, that’s pretty much how you say it and total gold star for the contraction!  Adorable.  ❤ 

To give you guys an idea of how concentrated the psychologists are here I have two photos from google maps both at the same scale.  One shows the results of psicólogo in Buenos Aires (the blue arrow is where I live now…please don’t stalk me) and the other is a search for psychologist in Fort Collins with where I used to live.  Obviously, I didn’t live in such a compacted city, but I still think you get the idea of how popular it is around here.  Argentina had 145 psychologists per 100,000 residents (that’s 1 for every 689!) in a 2008 study by researchers Modesto Alonso and Paula Gago. That’s far more than second-place Denmark, with 85, or ninth-place U.S. with 31 (1 for every 3,226 people…), in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization.

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^^Where I live now, in Buenos Aires.

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^^Mi departmento (my apartment) in Foco.

The 13th of October is really Día del Psicólogo, and although it’s not a national holiday, there is said to be quite the festival surrounding the occasion. 

With all of the stress of being in a new country, culture shock, and missing my family and friends back home I would never have considered going to see a psychologist.  Even as my level of self-discovery reaches new heights that I never anticipated upon coming here and I’m constantly trying to figure myself out, going to the shrink wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, but it’s so common here.  I don’t really feel like paying someone to tell me that the reason I sometimes chew absentmindedly on pen caps is because my mom didn’t stop nursing me soon enough.  Maybe it’s true though–how could my mom resist my cute little baby face?! 

I don’t think the reason that porteños have such a fascination with unearthing their subconscious desires is because they all have repressed childhood memories.  I think it’s because they want to sit in this badass chair:

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Well, at least I do.  And to their credit, Argentines seem to be really happy people that are in touch with their own personalities and motives.  They don’t seem to complain much (probably because they already vented to their therapist about how their id and superego just won’t call it quits and finally shake hands), and they have a crazy amount of energy (something I’ve mentioned before in several posts.)  Maybe their dreams really are filled with ponies and butterflies after all that therapy, I don’t know.

Psychoanalysis and psychology in general in Argentina, however, is certainly a concept that transcends social culture and diffuses into my classes.  I wrote another post (one of the one’s sitting in my draft box) about how interesting it is to study Marketing in another country because it is directly linked to culture in many ways.  We seriously covered the psychology concept exclusively for three hours as an essential part of market research in one of my classes; by that I don’t mean we talked about how people in general are motivated by certain types of advertisements (sex appeal, etc.).  No, I’m talking about recognizing the specific psychological issues a certain demographic may be dealing with and how that’s going to affect our marketing decisions.  That particular class period wasn’t even presenting the topic as a potential topic of discussion with reasons you should do market research by psychoanalyzing your markets use of ego defense mechanisms.  It was already assumed that a good “relacionista pública” would conduct market research in this field, so instead we spent the class disscussing the logistics of how to obtain accurate psychological statistics and data for your target market.  Rather interesting.  Really different. 🙂

Take from it what you will.  I don´t think it would hurt us conscientious Americans to pull a page from their book and lighten up a bit when we’re talking about “taboo” subjects.  It’s kind of relaxing (just kind of, it´s still really weird and awkward to a certain point for me) to just say what comes to your mind.  For example, and I have to disclaimer this because I don’t want to come across as racist and if you know me, you’ll know I’m very far from racist: The other day I came home from school with a banana and some of my favorite alfajorcitos.  Yum!  My host brother, to make conversation, asked me if I’d just gone out and bought them.  I replied:

“Sí fui al supermerc–un ‘minimercado’ en la esquina.”  (Yes, I went to a supermarke–‘minimarket’ just on the corner)

And he clarified: “Ah, un chino.” (I think that one is pretty obvious.)

I looked at him like he’d just pulled a pet rat out of his pocket to show me and told me he´d named it Nibbles–a little confused and unsure because I didn’t think I’d understood.   I mean, yes, there are little minimarkets on practically every block with your basic set of produce, toiletries, milk and eggs, bread, and the like, and I´ve yet to see one that’s not run by Asian people, but really…?

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^^A little market here in Recoleta…I didn’t take this picture myself (camera tomorrow hopefully!) and it’s hard to find good ones on Google…

I guess
it’s like nail salons in the States (and my American sense of political correctness is prickling as I write this), how most of the nail artists are Vietnamese. But we don’t call nail salons “Vietnams”….that would be outrageously inappropriate!!!

After I’d digested this information thoroughly and assured that it wasn’t just him but EVERYONE calls the little markets “Chinos”, I asked him if he would really call it that in front of any Asian friends he has.  He assumed a pensive face and then gave a slight nod in affirmation before saying, “I’ve never talked to an Asian person outside of a ‘chino’.”

Don’t even know how to respond to that haha.

Anyways, I’ve got to go early to pick up my visa tomorrow and see about getting my camera fixed (I swear I’m actually going to finally go try and do it), so I’ll leave you guys with this humorous picture of a book I saw at El Ateneo (famous three story bookstore here) the other day:

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For just $89 pesos you will:

  • Learn to understand the feline language! (How many ways are there to say f*** you, really?)
  • Learn to take care of your cat in a caring manner and maybe even train it (also caringly)
  • Identify when your cat is well and when it is having problems

Don’t get me wrong, I think cats are cute and funny (Oh no!  I’m going to have “Can’t Hug Every Cat” stuck in my head for the rest of the night…), but I still thought you guys might get a kick out of it 😉

Hasta Luego!  Besos 🙂

 

Seriously, I have that song stuck in my head now 😦  I’m never going to fall asleep!

 

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Energía Argentina.

I’m not even going to apologize for the fact that I’ve severely neglected this blog lately.  I know I have, and no amount of apologies can really fix that.  😦  When I last posted, I told you guys that I was at the top of the culture shock curve, right before that frightening-looking cliff.  I think that I was accurate because, within a couple of days, I plunged off the edge.  I didn’t want to post when I was so homesick but I’m in an excellent mood now, lucky for you! The culture shock is completely different than I expected too.  I don’t have any complaints really about the culture itself yet.  I still absolutely adore everything about being here: the music, the nightlife, the school, the language, the friendly people, I could go on and on; but what is really pulling me down lately is missing everyone back home.  It’s super tough I have to admit, and it makes it quite a bit harder knowing I won’t see you all for the next 10 months.  That being said, I’m FINALLY starting to make good friends here–the sole medicine that can save me from my homesickness 🙂 

Time is going so incredibly fast.  I’ve been here two months, can you believe that?!  The semester students in the group are leaving on the 10th of November, which means that they are already halfway through their study abroad!!!  With everyone else in my group in a sad sort of shock about being on the otherside of the hill I keep thanking myself for choosing to stay all year.  I feel like I’m only just now reaching the first knot on the rope in gym class–I could never get to the top and ring the bell if I were leaving in two months.  However much I feel like I NEED to see you guys over Christmas break (summer break here…) I know that if I’m strong it will be worth it and that you guys will still be there when I get back.  I’m going to have to give up a few valuable hugs from you all and some Olive Garden breadsticks for this experience.  I’ve already learned so much about myself and changed so much you might not recognize me. 

And I dress nice (am dressing nicer…) 😛  I’m not one for fashion necessarily, but let me explain my first couple of weeks here, enserio.  Have you seen the movie Inception?  No joke: During my first weeks here, I would be walking down the street and feel like I was intruding on someone’s subconscious.  The people would begin to double take at me, turning their heads in curiosity, like the projections in a dream in Inception.  They would stare at me more and more until I really wanted an Alice in Wonderland shrinking potion.  Of course, that was an impossibility, so I changed the way I dressed.  I went out last night with a group of Argentines for a friend’s birthday.  One of the girls who went out with us told me that she had no idea I wasn’t from here until I opened my mouth and told her, which made me feel accomplished.  I am really trying to learn the culture from the inside out as much as I can. 

Her comment was also particularly uplifting for me because the women here are beautiful.  At first, and still a little bit, I was terrified of them.  I’m only just now starting to make girlfriends because they seemed so unapproachable and intimidating.  That’s not a bad thing necessarily, I don’t want to offend anybody at all!!!  They’re just dressed to the nines, always, skinny, with long dark hair and a certain pride in their eyes that you’d have to see to understand.  They speak impossibly fast and don’t hesitate to show how much they love their friends in public (stroking each other’s hair all the time, rubbing each other’s feet, etc.)  Not that we don’t do that, but when was the last time I gave you a foot rub???  For the typical American, it makes it hard to picture yourself as a part of their group.  You suddenly feel that zit on your face has grown to an impossible size, that your hair is frizzy and uncontrollable, and that everyone’s noticing your little tiny paunch in the dress you chose to go out in…which couldn’t be further from the truth but still makes me shake in my fancy leather boots.  🙂  I’m definitely working on my confidence with them though. You’d be shocked to see what I wear to school everyday.  It’s not even that fancy but I would probably only wear something like that if it were my birthday back in the states.  So long T-shirt and jeans; hello scarves, heels and skinny jeans.

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^^The above picture is me holding a MEDIUM-sized coffee at McDonald’s haha  But it’s the only picture I have of me wearing a scarf (with my rain jacket because it’s constantly raining here…).  I don’t have many other pictures lately but I’m working on the camera situation.

Anyhow, I was going to talk about the Argentine nightlife in particular in this blog.  I’ve started writing a bunch of entries about all of the different experiences I’ve been having, but they all started making me homesick so they’re sitting in my drafts box half finished.  I will post them as I finish them 🙂 

This weekend is a four day weekend. Today is Monday, the last day, but it still feels like I’ve had a week off, maybe even two.  I have some really important midterms next week and so I’m studying today, but the rest of the weekend I just went out and had fun.  I’ve already told you that the nightlife here is rather insane–hours upon hours of constant dancing, partying, and socializing–but I must tell you that this weekend, as I floundered along after all my friends trying to keep up, I experienced the insanity on a whole new level.  On Monday, I got invited by one of the guys in my class to his “country” for Thursday and Friday nights and half of Saturday.  To say I was completely out of my league with this type of experience and unprepared for it is an understatement.  I’ve never been to a country club–actually I’m not completely sure this was a country club…it was a huge house with a beautiful yard, pool, and pretty much every ammenity you’d ever ask for about an hour outside of the capital–and maybe it’s just my small town roots but I am not really accustomed to such extravagance. 

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^^Me enjoying the tranquility of suburban posh 😉

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^^You can’t really tell because it’s a bad picture, but this is the greenest grass I’ve ever seen in my life.

I’m not going to lie, we partied for two days straight and slept about as many hours as a cat spends with its eyes open…which is saying something.  No one seemed to ever tire though! We just
kept pounding the energizer bunny drum.  And although Saturday was a relief when I finally got back to my own bed, I only slept about five hours before I couldn’t stand it anymore and got up to enjoy the beautiful sunny day.

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Saturday night was a friends birthday, the one which I mentioned earlier. We all surprised him with a preboliche fiesta (because you can’t go out to the dance clubs until 2 AM here, they pregame at around 11 or 12 and hang out until they can actually go dance…) and then went to a boliche and danced until 6 in the morning.  I wore my new heels, which I actually didn’t completely regret until we had to run to catch the bus home.  You guys would be SO proud of me though!  I didn’t lose anything, injure myself, or break anything all night Saturday DESPITE wearing heels*.It was a fun night all in all.  Just a generic night of dancing, nothing too crazy 🙂  Oh!  One thing that just had me in total fits of laughter were the guys dancing on the bar.  Not only were there guys dancing on the bar without being thrown off, but there were (before our group got up there) ONLY guys dancing on the bar, and the way they were dancing was just, for a silly yanqui like me the summation of hilarity.  They weren’t bad at dancing, far the opposite, but they could seriously move their hips better than me.  Those of you who have seen me belly dance know that’s saying something.  I seriously envied their moves. 

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^^Too much to explain the carebear costume lol Just don’t worry about it.

When I woke up Sunday afternoon, I fully intended to spend the day studying and have a quiet relaxing night at home, but since my host mom and host sister are gone for the weekend, my host brother couldn’t resist continuing the celebration.  He invited a bunch of friends over for what he told me was just intended to be dinner.  HA!  We DID end up having a big dinner, to his credit, but then a group went out to buy some beer and I foolishly mentioned that I had bought ping pong balls and poor excuses for solo cups a couple weekends ago and knew how to play beer pong.  That was that. Although there wasn’t enough beer to really play, I managed to explain the entire game and we got a few games in. It was an awesome taste of home and everyone had a great time.  I went to bed at 6 AM this morning again…and I was the first one to poop out.  I heard my host brothers talking in the kitchen this morning at 10, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t go to bed until like 10:30 in the morning.  Ridiculous!

Anyways, I have to get back to studying….which is tedious and annoying (Seriously, this is ONE sentence in my history book, and the next page, which consists of two of these columns, has a grand total of four sentences.  I posted it to facebook and said I felt like my mind was running on a hamster wheel…so accurate.) 

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I promise you guys I will try to keep up with the blog more than I have been.  I am just having too much fun actually living here to write about living here 🙂  Love you all!

 

*The rest of the weekend I cut my middle finger really deeply trying to clean up a champagne bottle that someone…who me?!…broke, scraped my back on the side of the pool, and lost 100 pesos, but considering my usual average…I still have my phone, uncracked 🙂 and I haven’t broken any bones or chandeliers or or or or…so you should be proud of me, really, considering I’ve spent three days awake with minimal sleep!

GangAires Style

Rachel showed this video to me today.  Apparently it’s just gone viral but I only saw it today.  It gave me a much needed laugh (I think I have SARS or something…*) because it’s so random and I sometimes feel like I’m seeing just as much randomness in my daily life.  The elevator scene in the music video seems a little less outlandish when your bus ride to school at 7:15 AM involves seeing five of these artistic beauties along the way (Note that the movie is sponsored by Citibank, oh what pride!). 

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And please note that I wouldn’t post this potentially offensive material on my blog if it weren’t already in lifesize version on my street corner for public viewing. Anyhow, the dancing makes my naive gringa grin unfurl as I try to wrap my head around the idea of Sexy and I Know It, Jump On It, and Soulja Boy all rolled up in a  single egg roll (not at ALL meant to be racist, I love egg rolls 🙂 The vegetarian kind at least.) Sometimes, I feel like my life here is like this video–so random and foreign yet awesome.

I feel like I’m at the following place on the culture shock graph:

Previousmodule

I’m still loving everything and  being here but I’m starting to miss my friends and family back home quite a bit.  The language barrier has a completely different character than I thought.  It’s really easy to make friends but making GOOD friends and having deep conversations is exhausting.  I know you guys can’t probably imagine me being quiet but I’ve probably been quieter here than ever in my life!  I can usually follow conversations at the dinner table, among Argentine friends in class, and even between people at the bars, but I just can’t add anything to them for the life of me.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s tons I’d love to say (surprising huh? :P)–I’d love to make little jokes, to tease people, to share my own stories on the same subject–but everytime I open my mouth the entire conversation has to stop while everyone helps me stumble through what I’m trying to say.  What started out as a little teasing comment becomes a huge ordeal and by the time it’s understood it seems really stupid and pointless.  Commence feeling like an idiot.  So I find it easier to just keep my mouth shut until I have everything mapped out in my head and am sure that people will understand and laugh at my joke.  When I am successful people seem to enjoy it even more, probably because I seemed boring and unwitty or because they’re surprised I actually understood. Either way, it is really difficult to express your personality without being able to relate to people and be witty (although I’m not witty, I’m not slow either and I can be funny sometimes…)  It makes me miss easy banter back home, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.  🙂  Everyday is characterized by even more and more little successes in my conversational ability.  I live for the moments of pride I have when I successfully make my family laugh at the dinner table.

That being said, you may have noticed the “Everyone Else” on the culture shock graph above.  That’s me making a HUGE generalization, but it really feels like everyone else from my program has started to complain quite a bit about the differences and is having a bit of a hard time.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re not unhappy to be here, far from the contrary.  But I don’t think they’d mind heading home for a week or two.  My brother, Cody, who works a lot in the UK told me that every little difference would be like throwing a coin in a bucket.  At first they sound really cool hitting the metal, but then the bucket starts to get heavier and eventually overflows and you can’t carry it anymore.  I can easily identify most of the coins–having to separately weigh produce at the grocery store before waiting in line for over 15 minutes to check out, the 45 minute commute to a 3 hour class that could be summarized in 15 minutes, having to dress up all the time, even for a quick trip to the grocery store.  But for now, my bucket’s still manageable and I’m really happy here.  Maybe I feel like I’m not as close to culture shock as the other’s just because I am planning on being here for more than a semester.  I came mentally prepared to spend a lot of time here and I don’t want to resent it so soon.  Besides, when you get to take a picture with the Joker, how could you not be thoroughly excited to be here?

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And on a random note, in what culture would this sound appetizing?  I’m pretty sure this burger company set themselves up for failure 😦

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Love you guys!
Autumn

*Ok, don’t freak out, I don’t really have SARS, jeez.  But I’m pretty sick and it is no bueno and muy feo.  My host mom insists that the reason I am sick is because I go out without a -30 degree rated North Face fleece, two scarves, and one of those winter hats with the stringy ball on the top of it.  In my defense, it’s like 60 degrees out and I wear my leather jacket and maybe a scarf.  I may look like a pelotuda to everyone else, but I’m pretty sure us Colorado girls know how to prepare for cold weather 😉 And if you know me at all, you’d know you’d be well aware of any discomfort I was feeling because of my lack of proper apparrel for the weather 🙂 But I digress.  It’s probably because my body’s a little preoccupied with being on the other side of the world to worry about trivial things like my immune system.