Monthly Archives: June 2013
It’s been over three and a half months since I returned from my summer trip and I’m still only on the fifth day of summarizing the adventures. This took place on the 30th of December, 2012. Sorry if this post is a bit (or a lot) strange and devoid of pictures. I don’t have any to share really
Maxi and I successfully stow-awayed to Cruz del Eje with the kids we met on the bus. It was dark outside when we got off and when the driver gave us our backpacks, I was already drained. I swallowed my exhaustion and dutifully followed the group only slightly dragging my feet. We only walked two or three blocks before we found the others they had planned on meeting up with. There were so many of them! Altogether we were at least fifteen. Everyone had dumped their backpacks against a cement wall in this plaza-type area and were sitting in a circle passing around a carton of wine and telling jokes, talking, and playing games.
I was totally exhausted and had a hard time keeping up with the Spanish but managed to stay awake. Whenever the wine supply got low they’d pass around a baseball cap; those who could contribute would and they’d go buy more wine to share. If the baseball cap fund came up short they’d take their bowling pins and metal ring and go juggle/do tricks for a few pesos to make up the difference. It was a pretty chill system actually.
In the middle of the night some kids came up on their BMX bikes asking if we had marijuana. I was shocked. They looked about eight years old. Several people in the group were surprised too but didn’t do much more than turn them away. A half hour later the youngsters came back asking for a lighter and promising to return it if we gave them one. This was by far not the strangest or most shocking thing we saw that night, though. In the wee hours of the morning we left the plaza and headed to look for a place to sleep.
We were on our way to a park by an irrigation ditch to lay out the tarp and fall asleep when a throng of people following a pick-up truck and yelling/chanting passed by. I hardly had more than two mouthfuls from the disgusting carton wine, yet I found myself questioning if I had been drugged or was hallucinating the current scene before my eyes. It may have been the most bizarre and uncomfortable thing I have witnessed in my time in Argentina. A long wooden pole was planted in the bed of the truck, attached to the back window. Tied securely to the pole with thick rope was a stout naked man in his late forties or fifties. His hair was gray and greasy, covering his face, head, and the rest of his corpulent body in stubbly patches. He had the skin of a man who had worked under the sun for many years, leathery and burnt. He didn’t seem to be very conscious, head lolling from side to side and eyes almost indistinguishable from the creases in his face.
The crowd of followers, no more than twenty, were all men of a similar age, rowdy and riotous. They were spitting and throwing wads of trash and bottles at the man. I couldn’t tell what random pieces of obscenities they were yelling out of unison, but the whole scene incited a sharp fear and confusion in my chest. Swirling police lights added to the chaos of the scene as a caboose of police cars followed the procession, sirens silent. The parade moved at about five miles per hour. I looked around to the others in our group who seemed to notice but were nonplussed. Maxi met my jolted expression, widened his eyes at me back, but only shrugged.
What the hell was that? Maybe we weren’t in the best part of town, and yes, weird things happen in different countries, but I was trying to fit this scene into a logical file of my brain and it just didn’t belong. The closest thing I could think of was some sort of Ku Klux Klan abomination or a hate crime, but there were police cars there and seemingly no effort to at least mask whatever was going on being made. If I had to put words on what I saw I would say lynch, mob, ritual, torture, I don’t know?
We turned a corner and slowly left the absurd exhibition behind as we made for a quiet camping spot. My senses had in no way been compromised, except for sleepiness, but I’m still not sure it wasn’t a hallucination. The image of the naked man swaying in his unconsciousness in the back of the little truck is still starkly fresh in my mind. I really don’t understand what happened. I feel ashamed that I just stood there and watched before shielding my eyes from the perverseness of the display, but I’m sure that there was nothing more to be done. I just prefer not to think about it (is that wrong as a human being? To just ignore a thing like that? I’m not even sure what happened…)
Anyhow, my guilt upon witnessing such a thing and succumbing to the typical bystander behavior aside, we settled down by the little irrigation creek and I lay out on Maxi’s tarp, layered in clothing to keep me warm. The others stayed up for some time, playing trivial Mexican drinking games, smoking, singing, and sharing swigs from the final carton of wine. I tried to chill out and not think about how so very unordinary my life had become within the last week. I didn’t want to be scared, so I wasn’t, but fear still licked at my throat ready to bite on a whim. Sleep did not come easily, but it did come in time.
I woke up first, my ball-of-clothing-pillow trying to escape from under my head. It was a bright sunny day and the streets were quiet. I rose, shed a few layers of clothing, administered a few layers of sunscreen, and rinsed my face with the cool water of the ditch. One by one, the others dragged themselves from their dreams and dazedly began to wrap up the menial camp we’d made. Someone bought a couple loaves of hard bread for breakfast-type sustenance. We were packed up and headed out within fifteen minutes of the last person waking.
I was in a strange mood. Indifference, I would call it. Things had changed so much in the last week. I had changed. I don’t think I had the capacity to comprehend my life at the moment, so I just allowed myself to be numb and detached from everything going on that morning. Luckily nothing too surreal took place. We lugged our packs a few blocks to a street corner mere blocks from the bus station we’d arrived in. The group split in two to go “work” enough to pay for bus tickets to San Marcos Sierras, the next proposed destination. Once my pack was no longer my main source of discomfort and safely on the ground with the others, I recognized my hunger.
I crossed the street and bought bananas, frosted flakes, and some milk for Maxi and I. Bananas soon became one of our main meals because, unlike most fruit, they don’t need to be washed. It was a much needed relaxation to sit against the building on the sidewalk, spooning nutrients into my body and watching the jugglers. They were really some of the most incredible jugglers I had ever seen. I don’t know if that is saying much, as I’ve seen very little juggling in my day…but they really were talented.
After breakfast, two of the girls, Roci and Oli, announced that they were going to head on to San Marcos Sierras and would meet the others there. Maxi and I decided to tag along with them—the bus ticket was only like 8 pesos after all.
So…I am supposed to be at Migraciones right now freezing my ass off and waiting in line to get my visa. I even woke up at 6:30 AM after 5 hours of poor sleep to go and renounce my illegal immigrant status (which is how I currently roll…) but of course, TIA. Argentina is still not quite sure if I’m a criminal and they have yet to tell me their final decision on that. They promised me they’d decide in 5 days (which should have been 4 days ago…) but apparently I’m still being reviewed and I should check back later. Maybe I shouldn’t have jaywalked that one time.
It’s wildly unfair because the caffeine of my morning Nescafe has already began to block adenosine receptors in my brain and organs, slowing down my cellular activity and stimulating my nerve cells to release epinephrine. This hormone, better known as adrenaline, is now increasing my heart rate, my blood pressure, and blood flow to my muscles, which control my fingers as I type. These symptoms are contradictory to sleep. If you’re experiencing something similar this morning I’ll leave you this dandy final addition to my mini-series of little things that remind me I’m not in the USA to enjoy 🙂 Don’t forget to check out the first, second, and third parts first.
76. Open any girl’s purse in the USA (if you dare) and you’re 80% guaranteed to find at least one tube of lip gloss. I’m not sure many of my Argentine girl friends have even heard of the stuff and I’ve yet to see anything but lipstick or chap stick on the shelves in Farmacity here. I’ve concluded that, while it can probably be found somewhere in china town, along with bacon flavored jam and soy whale liver, Argentina’s lips remain largely unglossed.
77. Argentine ice cream was churned and cooled (or whatever magic they do to make ice cream) in heaven.
78. There is a shortage of change here so everyone is stingy with their monedas. Stores usually round up a few cents when handing you your change back, so that’s nice, but they’ll almost always ask you, “¿Tenés cincuenta centavos?” (Do you have fifty cents?) and grumble when you apologize for being coinless. Olvidate if you only carry around cien pesos.
79. This kind of goes with the last one but because the stores try and hoard coins they’ll ask you if you want to donate 17 centavos, or however much is easy to round off your bill to, to the Starving Fireman’s International Ice Cream Fund. Or the like.
80. If you’ve never heard of the things before, you might think that Argentines go to the bathroom in pairs. It’s a myth. There’s just this crazy-weird butt-rinsing machine next to the toilet that they copy-catted from France. It’s called a bidet.
81. Books are really expensive here because of import taxes and other factors (see #64)–text books included. Apparently copyright laws are only suggestions though because you’ll get most of your university texts as photocopies in a bookstore. They’ve found cute little loopholes through the copyright laws but what’s the big deal if they blatantly disregard them too? Shhh…don’t tell.
^^My management textbook, which is a compilation of select chapters and articles from other books (loophole)
82. I am often shocked by the influence of English here. Everyone says it’s the “universal language” (maybe that’s why we don’t seem too interested in teaching other languages in the USA) and many prioritize the teaching and learning of it. Many English words have made their way into everyday Argentine speak as well. For example, when I used to say that I was studying Business Marketing here, I would simply say “marketing.” I took a class called “Fundamentos de Marketing” and we talked all about what “marketing” was, etc. To market something would often be referred to as “hacer marketing de un producto“–literally, to do marketing of a product….
83. Water and plastic utensils are not free: let me diverge for a moment to tell you my spoon story.
So I bought a bunch of food from a chino for lunch one day–some chips, the makings for a sandwich, and a yogurt–and brought it back to the university to eat in peace and pretend to catch up on my reading for Social Movements (we already know how that worked out…) I sat down outside the cafeteria (you aren’t allowed to go in unless you buy something…bah humbug…) and set everything out in front of me like I used to in Elementary school all proud and excited at the prospect of filling my tummy, when I realized I didn’t have a spoon with which to eat my yogurt. In Elementary school that wouldn’t have mattered. I’d eaten my fair share of liquidy substances with the foil tops of their containers to the awe and admiration of my tablemates. Having no spoon couldn’t stop me back in the day!!! But, realizing that a woman of 20 years should probably be a bit more sophisticated and use utensils, I entered the treacherous environment that is the cafeteria and tip-toed to the line where they sometimes buy things. After I spent a sufficient enough time looking like I’d bought something, I went over to a different counter to ask for a spoon.
–“¿Tenés una cuchara, por favor?” Do you have a spoon please?
–“¿Emmm…compraste algo?” Did you buy something? You could see the suspicion in the cook´s eyes right away, like a dog who thinks he’s heard his master’s car in the driveway, instantly on alert.
–“Uhh…¿qué?…¿tenés una cucharita?” Umm…huh?…do you have a little spoon?
–“¿Compraste algo? ¿Qué compraste?” Did you buy something? What did you buy?
–(Realizing he would not part with his plastic spoons without my buying something and not really wanting to have to use my foil spoon method, I spoke in my most beautifulest yankee-est accent): “YO-guuur, sí, compro YO-guuuurrrr. ¿Tenés coochawwruh?” YO-gurt, yes, I buy YO-gurt. Do you have spoon? For emphasis I make a shoveling motion into my mouth.
–“Y lo compraste acá?” And you bought it here?
–Tilting my head sideways slightly like a little baby bird, “¿Coochawruh?” Spoon? More shoveling motions, this time more desperately and faster—if there were real yogurt on my imaginary spoon it would be all over the stingy cook’s floor.
There is a pregnant pause as the cook gives me a judgmental, unsure look. Then he tentatively grabs the blessed plastic spoon from a tray full of them. He starts handing it to me but snatches it back and gives me another doubtful inspection. I return his gaze with my best feigned innocence and puppy eyes—it’s more effective because technically I didn’t lie about anything. I did buy yogurt, just not from his overpriced, monopolistic university cafe. And I do want a spoon.
After a little more language volleying in which I expertly imitated a stupid gringa, he eventually parts with it. I slide out of the cafeteria with my new plastic spoon clutched tight against my chest like Gollum and the ring, hop away to my stash outside the door of the cafeteria, gather my reserves in the chino plastic bag, and take the stairs two at a time to settle two floors up and eat in peace with my stolen spoon. Nothing is free, and I swear he gave me a dirty look the next time I went in the cafeteria that same week with a friend and had magically-improved Spanish ten levels. I keep the spoon in my purse now, just in case I am left without one again.
84. Most people here seem to think that we curse like sailors in the USA. Personally, I think they curse like sailors. Probably, sailors don’t even curse that much.
85. As if to prove the last point, I constantly see clothing, as I am forced to window shop daily walking down my street, that cracks me up. I highly doubt that these types of displays would last anywhere in Fort Collins, or even bigger cities in the USA. Besides the picture below, I have quite recently seen a flowy tank top bejeweled with the F-word, and a Black T-shirt proclaiming that “God is the new black”…whatever that means.
86. If you watched my first video way back in August, you will have seen my elevator here. Most elevators are like that one, tiny little things with two doors that you have to pull shut. I loved them then and still do now. I’m not meaning to be demeaning when I say that they make me feel like I’m in the 20’s. They actually are pretty sweet, I’m serious.
87. Probably just a city thing but you have to buzz up to someone’s apartment here. I had a buzzer back in Fort Collins but only because my apartments were seriously weird. I know it’s not that common, at least in Foco, but here EVERYONE has them, even if they live in a house. It’s like a doorbell but it makes an delightfully awful buzzing noise. Then the people in the apartment pick up a little telephone and talk to you downstairs.
88. Security is a major concern here. Upon hearing your voice through the telephone in the above point, it is very unlikely that your friend’s will just buzz you up (press the button that unlocks the door.) They will instead make a point of coming down to get you just to make sure you aren’t a thief in disguise or something, I don’t know. Video cameras are also common, as is changing the locks when you lose your keys (which I have done twice 😦 ) I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, I’m just not used to it coming from a place where it’s not a big deal if you forget to lock your doors.
89. This picture:
90. This is hard to explain but the idea of what types of foods make you fat is different here. In the USA, when we diet, the first thing that we commonly “unfriend” is sugar. Here, the idea that “sugar doesn’t make you fat” is quite common. Instead, greasy and salty foods do (although they eat both regularly 🙂 )
91. Portion sizes at restaurants. I mean, where do I even begin?! My first week I was constantly starving, partly because I was burning so many more calories than usual with all the newness and lack of sleep, but also because Statians just eat HUGE portions and Argentines don’t. I think if I got a Qdoba burrito today I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I would be so excited that I’d dive right in but feel full to the brim after half of it. I could eat a burrito the size of my head back in the day before I came to Argentina. Now I’ve learned that humans really don’t need all that much at once…
92. I am going to miss the Fourth of July this year but it’s ok because we got fireworks on Christmas 😛 With the seasons being switched, Christmas is during the summer, which is just plain strange…
93. Coupled with mayonnaise obsession is the mysterious salsa golf. It’s basically just mayonnaise and ketchup mixed together. At first, I was revolted but now I won’t dip my french fries in anything else.
94. Clothes dryers and dishwashers are rare, but garbage disposals are non-existent. I have yet to see one in my eleven months here in Argentina. I am now sure that garbage disposals were one of the greatest inventions of all time and I just don’t understand whyyyyy they aren’t in all Argentine sinks? I get so grossed out pulling all of the nasty food chunks from the bottom of the sink after washing the dishes and transferring them to the garbage, and then you have to take out the garbage because it gets all stinky and nasty. Garbage disposals are beautiful pieces of art to me now and luxuries one can only dream of. APPRECIATE THEM!
95. It is common to weigh your produce separately at a grocery store and get a sticker on it before checking out.
96. When you walk into a party you are typically expected to greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek. When you leave, you go through the same routine. When you see a friend on the street, in the hallway, or are meeting them for coffee, another kiss. When you meet someone for the first time, etc. I love it though, I think I’m going to feel like everyone thinks I smell when I go back to the USA and people don’t kiss me hello and goodbye.
97. Inflation is so bad in Argentina that it is one of the only countries that will sell a 2013 car for more pesos at the end of the year than at the beginning. This phenomenon has led to the “blue” market value of the US dollar, which keeps me from going over budget here.
98. In Tigre, a community just outside of Buenos Aires where the roads are made of water, there are lancha (boat) colectivos, taxis, and even police and trash services!
99. While the toilet water doesn’t flush the other way, there are weird looking flushers here. Usually, there’s a little button on the side of the toilet, but sometimes you have to pull a string. The standard Statian type of flushers are rare.
100. [Insert something about tango or psychology (read my post Psychoanalyze This) here]
ANDDDD 101. When people think of South America, they generally conjure images of tropical rainforests, tribes of natives playing the drums, and maybe Machu Picchu. Argentina does have some tropical areas, but it is, in reality, a huge country that spans mountains, jungle, desert, and even arctic cold temperatures and glaciers.
Not to be continued because I’m getting bored of these posts :P…
51. Fall (Autumn ❤ ) lasts for months here!!! It’s incredible when compared to the couple of blissful weeks we get in Colorado before the harsh winter sets in. I love it.
52. It’s uncommon for a 20-year-old student to be living on their own. Kids live with their parents for many years after colegio (high school) usually.
53. No Thanksgiving 😦 Sometimes I forget that’s a strictly Statian holiday… Click here to read about my Thanksgiving in Argentina.
54. Feriados (Argentine days off) are more common than owls at Hogwarts. I remember reading an article in the local newspaper last semester that claimed that government workers in Argentina technically only work 4 days a week because of the profound amount of feriados and their two weeks of mandatory paid vacation. Read this for a better understanding of just how many holidays there are.
55. If you didn’t know, I have a severe addiction to greasy, buttery, slimy, good ol’ ‘Murican movie popcorn. You know, the kind where you leave the movie theater feeling like your throat has been lined with plasticwrap? Mmmm irresistible. Well, that doesn’t exist here. The most popular option at the movie theater is kettle corn. Kettle corn. KETTLE. CORN. Don’t ask me how I I find the strength to wake up in the morning in a country that prefers kettle corn. I may not if they didn’t have dulce de leche.
56. Apparently there’s a whole different kind of deck of cards that I didn’t even know existed–Spanish cards. Our “regular” version of cards here are called “poker cards” but they’re actually less common than the other kind which are used to play truco among other games. I’m still struggling to get an idea of which suits are which and their values and such. My whole world shattered pretty much once people told me the suits were coins, cups, clubs (as in the type of weapon, clubs, not the clover-looking ones), and swords.
57. Music in English is apparently a single genre of music–at least according to some radio stations here. One station playing at a party I went to with my host brother sounded like I threw my mom’s, brother’s, six-year-old niece’s, and philosophy teacher’s music libraries onto my hard drive and threw it on shuffle. Rap=rock=pop=classical=reggae=metal=>English ( => means “if” in math…)
58. 30° conjures up images of icicles and snow in below freezing temperatures to me, but to an Argentine it’s the peak of summer. (Farenheit4Life!)
59. There’s this incredible invention of a fourth meal in between lunch and dinner–called merienda, or tea time. I’m waiting for them to come out with an after midnight one.
60. The Simpsons. Everyone here is enthralled. I don’t know if they’ve ever been so popular in the states. Ever. Argentines love them.
61. It’s actually very uncommon to shave here, everyone waxes. It’s much much cheaper to do so than in the states, so I can understand the appeal, especially with the warmer weather and more time to expose legs and so on. I’m a fan, but there’s no way I could afford to keep it up in the USA. It’s more expensive to shave here though, plus the razor options are limited to crappy disposable gas station equipment…nothing like Intuition or Schick Quattro with replaceable heads and all that fancy dance.
62. It’s not so bad in the capital of Buenos Aires, but the more rural areas of Argentina are full of street dogs. Some are clearly diseased or have bugs and are “hecho de mierda” as they say here; some are adorable and cuddle-able and sweet; all of them I want to adopt and love and care for. 😦
^^Ciruela spent the night keeping me warm in Maxi’s hammock in Simoca, Tucuman, Argentina and shared breakfast with us in the morning. I seriously considered taking her with us.
^^Me getting a hug on New Year’s from the most adorable attendee. I miss my dogs.
63. A regular Argentine “horario“: 8 AM–Breakfast/wake up, 9 AM–Start of workday, 1 PM–Lunch time, 5-6 PM–Tea time, 6 PM–Post Office and official-seeming businesses close, 8 PM–Closing for most shops and stores, 9 or 10 PM–Din din, 11 PM–After dinner coffee/postre/tea, 12 AM–Think about pre-gaming/going out, 3 AM–Go to the club, 7 AM–Get early McDonald’s/Get home from club. Sleep? What’s that?
64. Libraries here are primarily academic. Not every little kid can get excited about getting a library card (Pagemaster nostalgia) because you can’t usually check things out either. It’s not like back in the US where you can check out The Hulk on DVD, Dirty Dancing on VHS, Ke$ha’s new album, a couple of audio books and a paperback sappy romance novel. Those things cost money, which is why Argentina is world-famous for it’s second-hand book fairs and markets. After working in Interlibrary Loan for two years though, I realize that not even a badass book fair beats free.
65. In general, people here are much more aware of politics and their role in government. Maybe it’s because of their recent tumultuous past, maybe it’s because voting is obligatory (not voting is punishable with fines and such), but either way people seem to take much more of an interest in what’s going on around them. Again, this is just my opinion based on observations.
^^I took this video of the cacerolazo (cacerola means pan and people flood the streets banging on pans and marching to the Casa Rosada to protest the government, hence, cacerolazo) on the 8th of November of last year.
66. Grades are not given as A, B, C, D. and F. Instead you get a number 1-10. Four or above is passing and 10 is really really hard to achieve (theoretically), probably the equivalent of AAA+++, at least in my experience. Grading practices and philosophies are much different altogether.
67. Naturally, being on the opposite hemisphere switches the seasons. This means that it’s summer in November and my name makes no sense. Why would I be named Autumn if I were born in summer??? Nada que ver…
68. The majority of broadcasted television is originally in English and can either be dubbed or subtitled. It’s kind of adorable when you hear the names of Statian shows in a Spanish accent. It does hinder my Spanish language learning though when I can watch TV in English all the time.
^^La beeg bangh theeeuhrreee. Somos…Warner!
69. If you understand much Spanish you may have noticed in that last clip that they use military time here for most things. If you wonder why, read #63 and think about what it would mean if you said to a friend you wanted to meet at “three”…
70. People speak Spanish. Alright. That is kind of a dumb and obvious difference, but it still surprises me to this day–especially little kids speaking Spanish. It’s so adorable and strange and boggles my mind to think about growing up speaking something other than what I grew up speaking. This is very difficult to explain. I give up.
71. Most everything you buy here, from your groceries to a new computer can be paid for through a series of cuotas, or quotes. It’s actually really cool and I would so use it all the time except you have to use a credit card to do so. In the end I would never end up saving money because of extravagant international card usage fees.
72. When I first printed a paper for class here it looked like I was trying to cheat by setting my margins to 2 or 3 inches. I wasn’t though. It’s because they use a different paper size here. It’s bigger, so a five page paper here is actually 5 3/4on regular-size letter paper.
^^It doesn’t look like much but it adds up.
73. For Girls: There’s no applicators on tampons here. In fact, tampons are really not that popular. I was/am shocked. Weird.
^^Really not a very tasteful tampon-brand name….
74. Deodorant is also weird and different. It doesn’t usually come in the traditional stick you rub on. There are some that are like liquid roll-on but the most popular are the sprays. It’s hard for me to understand how this is effective but people here smell nice in general so I guess it is…
75. Coca-Cola is incredibly popular. I call it Argentine water simply because they drink it like I would drink water. If you’re in a restaurant asking for water is very rare. This may be because there’s no such thing as free water–see spoon story in my next post (#83)–but I still find it incredibly strange. They even give this magical Coca-Cola to little kids who drink it like Kool-Aid.
To be continued (one last time…)