Friday, April 22, 2011

At a Distance

It's frustrating to think that returning to the states will mean such systematic monotony. Whether it's true, or every day ACTUALLY is what you make it- disregarding the northamerican workoholic manifesto- I still feel this pressure to take advantage of being here. Yet, I'm so close to the end that investing myself fully is tricky: it's this weird dynamic of trying to be present in the moment and fully comprehending that the departure is near.

I've been "seeing" this fellow for a bit here, whatever that means. He speaks using a more .... er.... complex vernacular. I never understand him entirely, but it never seems to matter. Breaking the stubborn language barrier is truly a remarkable thing. We speak a lot in "what ifs" so I get to practice the conditional and subjunctive tenses plenty. What if things were different? What if we had met each other earlier? Equally, there's something dreamy and unreal about starting a relationship that- from the beginning- is known to have no future. Who knows, perhaps the foundation of our connection is a mutual romanticism of the impossible. Is all affection based on some sort of disillusionment? He sends me poetry and kisses my neck when I'm not looking. I buy into less that I understand. As much as I try to trust these gestures as genuine, which they very well could be, the end is so near.... I feel sooo timeworn and burned that perhaps "the dream" can never become the reality; like parallel lines that go on forever but can never touch.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Total Eclipse of the Goon

Last night in a (semi-frantic) search on the world-wide-web to find cool things to do before I leave Buenos Aires, I came across an interesting page. Keep in mind this is about 1:30 in the morning. TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE HAPPENING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 22 MONTHS! COME SEE IT AT THE PLANETARIUM IN PALERMO!! Holy smokes, I thought, and set my alarm clock for 4:00 this morning (the total eclipse would happen at 4:41). When I woke up, however, I had a strange feeling that something was wrong. I googled the page again. Turns out this event had already passed in December of 2010. I was so excited I didn't bother to correctly verify the date. Unfortunately a friend of mine bothered to get up, too, thanks to trusting my word about this non-existent event. I told her through text about 30 minutes ago that it wasn't happening because it's too cloudy. Whoops! I'll tell her the truth tomorrow in class....

Anyways, seeing as I'm already awake, I may as well do a little update.

1) Failed at the blogpost everyday thing. It's hard! Oh well, I'm already over it....
2) Thursday night I went out for drinks with this nice musician dude I met randomly. He was really nice but the downside was he thought it was a date and I clearly had not been given the memo. How many times must I remind myself that men and women simply cannot be friends in this country? Or maybe my gorrilla mask would help for any time I leave the house.....?
3) On Friday we went on a class day trip to San Antonio de Areco, about 2 hours outside the city. To sum up the bus ride briefly, it consisted of a lot of singing with a Minnesotan accent. "Baby Got Back" has never sounded so good,
donchaknow? Anyways, here are some pictures from this incredibly beautiful estancia....

This is where we ate lunch

Being sung old folklore by an old gaucho (Whatta mustache!)

This is Pablo the horse whisperer. He made a horse lie on its back and made every girl (and several boys) from my program fall in love with him.

We all rode horses..... ate a ton of great food..... I fell asleep in a field...... fresh air! (What a treat!)
All in all, it was incredible. Everyone was really sad to leave.

4) On Saturday, first I went to do my service learning. That was the first day my helping with this boxing class for kids actually worked out. The kids were adorable. (And one of the little girls guessed I was from Spain which is all sighhhh complement.) I'll write more about this another day. Afterward, I returned home, packed up some stuff, Sarah and Tasha and I went to Retiro Station, and we took a train to Tigre.

The night before I had hauled my butt over to Olivos (after getting back to BsAs from the estancia) to pay for a cabin for one night on an island in Tigre. We took the hour-long train ride there, and got to Tigre at about 4:50 in the afternoon (the last boat out of the day leaves at 5!) Quickly, we bought a bunch of water (the tap water there is virtually undrinkable) quickly bought our boat tickets, and made it with about 3 minutes to spare. Three creative but poorly organized girls? I'm surprised we made it at all. The boat ride was about an hour and 45 minutes, which is considerably longer than the last time I stayed the night over there. The details of this beyond perfect experience and pictures..... are for another day.

It's now 6:05 in the morning and I think I can get back to sleep now. Before I go, though, let me do a quick recap of some other things....

5) Arrived back to the city on Sunday night at around 10pm, exhausted, shoe-less (I'll explain later), and happy.
6) Today wasn't too exciting: class from 11:30-6:30, some window shopping with Cody, Photoshop lesson in Spanglish with my friend, Kiosco. Got to bed early.
7) Finally no longer sore from my last boxing class. I was limping for a little bit/going up and down stairs like an old lady with hemorrhoids. I think I'll be ready for some more ass-whoopin' by the Wednesday noon class, though....

Got a calendar FULL of things to do every single night, but we'll see if energy and homework allow for it. I think this is our last week of class before finals which is SO WEIRD. I feel like I've been here forever, yet there are still quite a bit of things I want to do before I leave..... or more people I want to see, rather. I suppose all I can ask for is some sort of closure? Anyways, much love to all, and remember to always check the dates of astrological events before suggesting to friends to wake up at 4 in the morning!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's to come

Tonight, Natasha and I made the poor decision of bringing up the idea of going home and how weird it's going to be. There are certain things one grows to accept as the norm which just ... will be gone.
To name a few....

-Barefoot children sticking their tiny hands out to you and asking for change.
-Evita Peron's face plastered everywhere
-Everything having the option of involving dulce de leche
-Eating dinner at 9
-Regularly seeing women breastfeeding in public
-The presence of tango
-Having to watch out for dog poop
-Buying fresh fruits and vegetables from the market each day
-Strikes. All of the time.
-Parties that start at 1 am and run until 8am
-Constantly being stared/whistled at (just for being female)

I feel like I'm going to return to the states and feel like a martian. Maybe I will be one. Is it supposed to be easy to go from walking down Avenida Florida - being attacked by people trying to sell you things or hand you flyers - to walking through Old Orchard shopping mall and watching preteens with their parents' credit card acting like they're entitled to something(/everything). Upon returning, stock characters will rotate: suburban soccer moms will replace señ
oras with plastic surgery addictions, tribal tattoos will stop being cool, men with long hair will be creepy. How do I prepare myself for such things?

Above all, it will be weird to stop speaking Spanish. Any conversation with any given stranger is valuable, at the very least, because I'm practicing a language. Maybe when I go back I wont want to talk to anyone because it will be too easy. I guess I'll have to wait and see...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Martes 12 de Abril

It has been difficult to stay positive lately. School and schoolwork accumulates into a dark cloud over my head despite the beautiful weather in all other parts. Sunday I slept all day and all night, only to wake up occasionally for short periods of several hours. Yesterday, however, Natasha dragged me out to La Bomba de Tiempo, an extraordinary percussion show every Monday night at the Konex in Almagro.

I had been there several times before, but this time was different. There was this incredible guest performer from Brazil named Mauricio Tizumba, and I swear if someone were to tell me that this was God in human form, I would have believed them. He's about 65, I'd guess, and with this unbelievable spirit that left us all dancing with our mouths open in awe.

It's pretty hard to describe how wonderful this moment was, so I'll get to the point. Afterward, I felt INCREDIBLE. I had been feeling so crummy and all of the sudden the world was good again. Yesterday, all day, I had been asking people, How can I do homework? How can I force myself to do something that I so badly don't want to do?! The fact is that I had been putting so much energy into NOT wanting to do the work, but energy all the same. What has been tiring me out lately is not so much the work load but the stress of having the work at all. Basically, the only way to not stress about the work is to get rid of the work; to do the work. Ugh it's so annoying when the responsible solution is also the best one. I realized from the concert that the only way I'm going to get the most out of this last month is to knock off the other junk. Otherwise, I'll feel so weighed down and bitter than I won't have the energy nor the desire to do the fun stuff. Granted, I'm blogging about responsibility while ditching politics class and drinking coffee at a cafe, but I prefer to think of this as "spiritual prioritizing." Mission: accomplished. The problem is I had been thinking about this motivation thing all wrong.... it's not about the incentive of anything physical, like a grade, but of being one thing lighter.

Okay, enough Oprah talk.

I'd like to go out tonight. Tuesdays are the best for tango dancing. Plus, I met the manager of "HYPE" night at Kika Nightclub and got a card for free entry as his "personal guest" so I should probably use that while I'm here. Also, a couple weeks back I bumped into a dude in the food court at the Galerias Pacifico mall and we started talking and he works for the Centro Cultural Borges (Borges Cultural Center) and gave me a card to see a free tango show with whoever I'd like, also as his "personal guest(s)."

As crazy as living in a big city is (and how horrified I would be to live in New York), it's really cool to see first-hand how conducive it is to networking. Since successful networking is contingent on having something to network, I can also see how inspiring it is for artists living in big cities, as well. I've met a lot of working artists here, and knowing that- should I want to return someday- doing the same is doable. Living here has definitely made me realize how many options there truly are.... how many labyrinths of possibility run through our day-to-day lives.

...but I wonder... when is opportunity an option, and when is it a responsibility?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Y aca estamos....

And all is beginning to wind down. Today officially marks one month left in Argentina. Ideally, I'd like to do one post a day until I leave, but I don't know how realistic that is. I want so badly to be present.... to experience all that I can and use the rest of this time to reflect, but school is getting in the way. I know that school is a part of this experience, but it doesn't feel like that right now. I feel like my Spanish class is making my Spanish worse.... making me second guess myself all the time, not to mention bitter about sitting in a classroom when I could be out in the city speaking Spanish with natives. The new history teacher is incredibly intelligent but lacks the teaching abilities to hold one's concentration for more than five minutes. The reading material for that and for politics are about as dry as they come. Plus, the politics class is one day a week for three hours straight, which no person should ever have to do for a subject that's not what one is majoring in. The other two classes are good/bearable, but I'm so drained by the others that I have no energy nor desire to put effort forth.

What's the point of all of this? Forcing us into knowledge? This can't possibly be with our "best intentions" at heart. One of the guys staying on the third floor from my program came up to our apartment, a ball of nerves, trying to study. I sat down with him for about 40 minutes and helped him with his Spanish, which he said was the best tutoring he's ever had. It seems like none of the teachers actually want to teach, just spit out material, pick up their pay check, and call it a day. Is it an Argentine teacher thing? I talked to the head of this program and she said that North Americans, because we pay so much at our universities, are accustomed to feeling "entitled": to outside-of-the-classroom help, to hand-holding, to catered education. Here, the public universities are free, and as such, it's not customary for the teachers to do anything outside of the basic job description. However, we ARE paying. We aren't some dumb gringos feeling that our parent's money has earned us assistance..... well, at the very least, that's not ALL we are. We're young adults who are still struggling with culture shock, with the challenges of wrapping our minds and tongues around a new language, and making sense of the histories that surround it. I never had to learn about the politics in the United States, and suddenly I have to learn about them here, about the history of the military dictatorship of the 70s and 80s and the thousands of people that went missing during that time. There is no sensitivity training, only the responsibility to concentrate, to read hundreds of pages about it, listen to teachers recount it, and regurgitate the information back out in the form of a detached, semi-informative essay.
Education system, you are even more of an ice queen that I could have ever imagined. And I support it. Fiscally, at the very least. Boycotting is counter-productive.
There is no space between noting someone's drink order and placing their glass on the table to state my position on the monopoly that is the university system, only half-genuine smiles, wiping down tables, and picking up my 2 peso tip stuck behind the bill.

Currently I'm on the Art Education track at the U of Minnesota. Whether this profession would allow me to take part in the bettering of the education system in some way or not is contingent on me participating, on getting my diploma.

So here I am, 3:23 in the morning, with a bottle of Malbec and a to-do list with a superiority complex. No matter which way I spin it, however,
the idea of watching Dead Poet's Society makes me want to slam my head into a wall, and doing the work is the only exit-plan. Still, the strength to accept the bullshit is hiding just beyond the horizon line....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wah-ka Wah-ka

Congratulations to me are in order! I just finished 2 politics essays culminating 4000 words. I have been working on those stinkers for like 2 weeks now. Finally ready to talk about my trip up north!!

The bus ride was about 24 hours. The time was surprisingly a non-issue. I had just worked Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of that week before; the night before until about 5 in the morning. AND I fell asleep on the bus and ended up in San Telmo so I had to walk home after that. I was running rate to make my bus on Sunday at noon (surprise, surprise) and saw an advertisement from the cab window. It said "Salta awaits you," and had a beautiful picture below. Life is such a movie sometimes, I swear. I made the bus with about five minutes to spare, which is better than some of the other buses I've struggled to catch. Once I got on, I just felt incredible! I hadn't been out of the city since Tigre in January, which is a LOT of time to spend in the center of a downtown of a busy city. Here's a picture from the bus window:

It rained that whole night.
We got into the city of Salta at around 3 on Monday afternoon.
When I got there, I went to a tourist agency to ask for ideas on making a route throughout Salta. The problem was that, because it was rainy season, everything was considerably more challenging.... some not even doable because of flooding and mudslides. I decided to sleep that night in Chicoana, a quick 45-minute bus ride out of the city. It was a beautiful ride there though the country. I was smiling so dorkishly in my bus seat.

Fortunately, that week that I was there was ALL Carnaval all throughout Salta and Jujuy. This is how Chicoana looked when I arrived. It was raining. I found a hostel real quick, and went for a walk.
A walk around the neighborhood

I stumbled into a tobacco field... and just stood there, listening to the raindrops gently hit the leaves.

The sky boomed with thunder. I rolled up my pantlegs and ran out, my shoes squishing in the mud. Music came from a folklore dance nearby down the dirt road. It cost 15 pesos, but I got in for 5 ($1.20 USD) because I played the foreigner card. (I'm traveling and don't have much money....) It was already getting dark by that time. I met a lovely younger (in their 30s) couple, Felipe and Carlotta, who let me sit with them and shared some boxed wine with me. I watched them dance. Folkloric dance is so beautiful to watch. They hold their arms up in the air, and turn, and snap: it kind of reminds me of windmills. He rolled up his panuelo (hankerchief) in the air. She held hers in front of her mouth, like a mating game.

Some people were dressed up as gauchos. I asked them if it was just for Carnaval. Felipe said they always dress like that, that's its a way of keeping the traditional "Salteño" traditions alive. They even still consider themselves gauchos.

I got a tamale. The couple that was making them were actually there because they had won a local tamale-making competition. That says something, because everyone says that Salta is home of the best tamales in Argentina.

A tall, skinny man with no teeth and deep cheekbones asked me to dance. The couple I was with said it's rude to say no to a dance. (According to customs.) I said okay. Went I got to the dirt-ground dance floor, a boy came up to me and handed me a hankerchief. Fortunately I had a fair amount of cups of boxed wine, so I just watched the other people dancing and danced! It was fun. I danced a lot that night. It tired me out! Some people had their faces painted. Carnaval is supposedly the time that the devil is set loose and because of that, everyone dresses up in silly costumes and parties! It's basically the one time of year that no one works for about one or two weeks, and can just relax. What an amazing tradition, huh?

A woman got up and played a drum and sand in some indigenous language. I think it was Quechua. My eyes started to water up. It was beautiful.

It ended at 10. Before I left, an old drunk man from the town gave me a laurel of albahaca (basil), a traditional symbol of carnaval. (Or at least that of Salta.) Felipe drove me back to the hostel in this jeep with open doors. It bumped up and down on the dirt road. When I returned, a man, Daniel, had left me a message. In the guest book, everyone writes where they came from and where they're going to. Daniel saw that I was intended to go to Cachi, and he was also. He had a car, so offered to take me early in the morning. That night, I fell asleep to crickets.

We met up at about 7:30 that morning in the lobby, and stopped for a cup of coffee and medialunas before the drive. It had rained all night, so there was a chance that the path would be cut by rain. We decided to try anyway.

The flooding was unbelievable!
We drove through giant ponds and waited as cranes moved piles of dirt so cars could pass (See left side of the phone above) and we were actually feeling pretty hopeful until we got to a rest stop in El Maray, and it began to rain again. Here are some photos from the rest stop. Next to the picture taken below was an auto-repair shop, with a baby goat (5 months-old) on the roof.

The dude on the left has a big hunk of coca leaves in his cheek. Keep in mind that it's NOT like cocaine! Sucking on coca leaves is a tradition up north like drinking mate is for other parts of Argentina/Latin America. It's also used to help with altitude sickness. When you suck on them, your saliva mixed with the leaves produces a kind of juice, which also helps with dehydration. It tastes very bitter!

We ended up having to wait there for like an hour or so, hoping the rain would stop. It didn't. A big tour bus of older French couples was stuck in the little restaurant there with us. The bus driver bought me a Pepsi to accompany my delicious 2 pesos (50 cent) a piece empanadas. Daniel decided to continue waiting, but the tour bus decided to turn back around and go back to Salta the city. I didn't want to potentially stay there for the night, and since the tour bus offered to let me go back with them, I took them up on it. It was a very funny ride, considering my French is limited to "Bonjour," "Mercy," and "Toilet" (spelling?), and that the age group on the bus was probably between 50 and 80. I fit right in. It was around 2 in the afternoon at that time. One man handed me a plastic cup with straight gin. Some things just don't need a translator, huh?

We got back into Salta about an hour or hour and a half later. After dropping off the french group at a hotel, the tour/coach bus driver drove me around in that big thing to find a hostel. I found a nice one, and we split ways. The sun had finally come out, too! Here are some pictures from the hostel.

I didn't want to spend much time in Salta the city. In fact, I wanted to avoid city, even a small one, for as long as possible. I checked in to the hostel, then went over to the town square and picked up a bus to San Lorenzo. It was about 40 minutes away. Here's a picture from the bus window:

It's a fairly rich suburban town, but the line ends in a place where you can do mountain hikes or horseback riding. Before I went up I got some coca leaves for the trip. Here are some pictures from the hike:

... And I took the road not traveled by, and that made all the difference

By the time I got back down to the bottom of the mountain, it was dark. Just before a little mountain kiosk closed, I bought a big hunk of goat's cheese and a big circle of bread with pieces of sausage baked into it. I hopped on a bus, headed back to the hostel, and got to bed at about 11:30 that night.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to look up hostels in Cafayate, where I was heading to that day. The streets were dark and incredible foggy! You couldn't see past the block. The bus left the station at 7. Of course, I underestimated how long it would take to walk there, and ended up having to run to the station with my big backpack and stuffed purse. I made it with about two minutes to spare. Fortunately, everything in Argentina is late. (In that way, I'm so right for this country, no?) It was about a 3 hour bus ride to Cafayate.

Right when I got off the bus, there was a lady waiting to attract people to the hostel. I went with her. I had to share the room (bunks) with about 9 other people, but it wasn't a big deal.

Wow, I've been working on this blog post for a while! I think I'm gonna come back to this later. Stay tuned... Cafayate was probably the best day of all of them!

Sending lots of love.