I have finally made it to Buenos Aires, Argentina. After a very long flight, in which I did not sleep much, I landed in the Ezeiza airport. My flight was filled mostly with Argentines, which certainly helped reacclimate my ears to hearing Spanish after some weeks without Spanish class. I would say that everything passed without a hitch, but the Customs system in the Ezeiza airport is very much un quilombo (a huge mess); after I picked up my bag I had to find the back of an already huge line that probably doubled or tripled in length while I was in it in order to go through Customs. I traded some comments with some Argentines who were also in line and they were just as frustrated as I was; it certainly didn’t help these lines were crossing all over the area where people were trying to pick up their bags.
But finally I made it through and walked out to find a representative from IFSA waiting to bring me to the rest of the administrative staff that was there. I met a couple of the head staff and they walked me to a pre-paid taxi that took me straight to my host-mother’s apartment. Situated in the neighborhood of Recoleta, the apartment is close to so many things, all within walking distance. In the apartment is myself, my host-mother Maria, her dog Alma, and a guy my age named Juan, who is renting the room and works as a manager in a nearby restaurant.
After some introductions, Juan (who is from Colombia) took me on a walking tour of just about everything in Recoleta. I learned (er, well, still learning) the main streets that can serve as landmarks to find my way back. I can definitely find my way back if I need to, but when Juan was quizzing me verbally walking back I’m pretty sure I failed the test. No worries though, it is only the first day. We saw quite a bit of the neighborhood, and it was all within walking distance. The laundromat where I will take laundry is about a block away and whose next-day services seem quite convenient. We also visited the famous cemetery in Recoleta, which is filled with elaborate mausoleums like I have never seen before in my life. Some immensely famous Argentines are interred there including Eva Peron and her family, as well as Domingo Sarmiento. They give guided tours of the cemetery and we hitched along with a group of what appeared to be students from the local colegio or high school.
I also obtained a transit card that will allow me to easily use the bus system or the subway. The funny thing is though while I was able to obtain the card, we couldn’t find anywhere to put money on it! Usually you can pick any convenience store and they will do it for you, but everyone we went to had signs that said “No se carga las tarjetas del Subte.” No worries though, Maria knows of a place where we can go tomorrow, which is when I begin Orientation. Juan and I also walked through the Cultural Center of Recoleta, which was hosting an amazing art exhibit of high-definition photography focusing on the housing of the Latin American poor. The photos showed the inhabitants inside their respective housings and it was quite moving to see the extreme poverty that many of these individuals live in. There was some very powerful language used in the description of the exhibit which was painted on the wall of the hall, which I would like to return to with my camera to capture it in its true form.
We also passed through some of the malls in Recoleta, which to be honest seemed straight out of any ritzy American city with beautifully designed and lit interiors and many internationally known brands, as well as some Argentine brands too. It was impossible to miss the presence of American businesses in the streets as well; it seemed as though every block had its own McDonalds and we also saw a TGI Friday’s, a Starbucks, and even a HardRock Cafe!
I am honestly a bit surprised as to how comfortable I feel here in Argentina; I had a serious case of nervousness right before I boarded my flight in Houston but today has gone swimmingly. The Argentine accent is an absolute pleasure to listen to and I’ve loved strolling the streets just listening to the various conversations that fill the air. As Juan and I were waiting to cross the street a man came up to me and asked if I was Salvador Dali which definitely got a laugh out of me (although he then commented on how Dali was a monarchist which, while true, I didn’t really have a response to). I’ve been speaking Spanish all day with Juan and Maria and while it has been going better than expected, I still realize the limitations of my language skills and I want to kick myself every time I recognize myself making a mistake. But of course, one is never done learning a language and I am positive over these next 6 weeks my vocabulary will expand and slowly my mistakes will decrease. Talking to Juan however certainly hasn’t helped my Argentine Spanish; his accent is much more neutral and he doesn’t use el voseo (a trademark of Argentine Spanish) in conversation so I found myself neglecting it myself. But once classes start and I’ll be with Argentine professors I’m sure I’ll be able to integrate it more easily. All in all, this day has been a seamless transition and I can’t wait to see what is to come ahead in my experiences. Thanks for reading!
Nota Bene: Of all the things to forget back home I managed to forget the memory-card reader for the digital camera I brought. I’m going to try to obtain one here and the appropriate cable so I can upload the various pictures I’ll be taking to the blog. If I can’t find one, however, whoever is interested in seeing the pictures will just have to ask me for them after the trip and I will be sure to send them out right away.