My biggest motivation for learning to speak Spanish is the need to explain to Federico how delicious his food is.
Remember how I said sometimes I feel like a magnet? Un imán. Well apparently my attitude towards everything in Argentina breaking is a powerful force, because the microwave spontaneously combusted today as I was attempting to warm an empanada. But my other force, the one that has its roots in the idea that el mundo es una cadena de favores brought this video into my life as equally spontaneously. Have you ever seen such a powerful commercial? If you’re from the US, probably not on TV.
Some people in this world believe in a religion. Others have a name for their God. Many people have a place of worship. Ultimately, the only thing we all have in common in this life is that we are all human beings, and we all have the need to have a faith that our time here on earth has meaning.
My weekly religious experience isn’t going to a church on Sunday morning; it’s going to my Ethics and Metaphysics class on Monday mornings. It’s my place of worship where I discover things, about me and myself, and I feel. I understand better and better with each class how the world works for me and how I am capable of working within this world.
I always feel small. 5’4 ¾’’ short, invisible most of the time. But sometimes, I feel powerful, like there is an energy radiating from within me and that I am capable of pulling things into my life; my emotions are magnets, each separate emotion attracting a reality to my soul.
So, this morning, during my two and a half hours of worship, when Professor Limperiales built the whole class up to finally tell us, “El mundo es una cadena de favores. Sin vos el mundo no es el mismo,” I had my religious experience; my moment of bliss and understanding that allowed me to walk out of class and into the rest of my day feeling clean and absolute.
The world is a chain of favors. Without you, the world is not the same.
None of us will die without having accomplished what we were put on this earth to do, so what is there to be afraid of in this life? Surely not dying. Probably only spiders.
I slept three hours, and then went on my date. I don’t know why I’m not tired. We ended up eating lunch instead of getting coffee. And then sitting in the park talking (and petting everyone’s dogs because he loves dogs and clearly they love him too because they kept running up to him to get a little love). I learned more Spanish today than I have in my Spanish Grammar and Culture course so far this semester. And a ton of important basketball words. Beyond basketball words, what else is there really to learn? Just kidding, I have so much to learn, but my new friend is definitely my biggest asset right now. And my basketball hook up. I’m pretty pumped to play. Kidding Mom, I’m not actually going to play…all out on a professional basketball player. I am mad at you for not letting me pack my basketball shoes, though.
I got empanadas at a little hole in the wall pizza place tonight a block from my house. As I was walking there, a woman and I passed a homeless man lying in a contorted position, face down, with wetness shimmering in the gloom of the street lights on the dark alley, pooling at his head and dripping down the slope of the sidewalk down to the curb. We both froze, walked on and then turned around again. I asked her if he was ok, and the worry on her face didn’t put my restless soul at ease. She said he is always here on the street, which is true, and she said it didn’t look like blood. So we both walked on in silence. Because there was nothing we could do for him. Was there?
I bought a dozen empanadas, watching the soccer game with a couple old guys while they were warming, and then paid, and asked what the pizza-looking torta was under the glass on the counter. The owner let me try a whole slice of this garbanzo-bean dough deliciousness, another beautiful gift, another link in the chain of generosity. As I was walking into my apartment, a kid about sixteen-years old, directing cars to open spaces as they parked to eat in the restaurants across the street, paused and told me buen provecho. I stopped and we ate a chicken stuffed empanada together quickly before he continued directing cars. I walked through the door to Av. Caseros 439, just as a mother began to change the diaper of her baby outside my door on the street.
So tell me. Does this make San Telmo a dangerous place at 8:30pm? Or just a real place?
Follow your gut when packing; Bring your basketball shoes.
A nap was necessary today to survive the evening. I went to my new Italian friend’s house. (Morgan Falls, my friend and inspiration at HPU met an Italian guy in Ecuador when she was studying abroad and this Italian guy is friends with this Italian girl, Sophie Spinoglio, who happens to be living five blocks away from me working in a psychology internship. Small world.) We got lunch together the other day and then she invited me to this international festivity at her house. There were about fifteen people there (a few Argentinians) and everyone brought homemade food from their country. We ate. And talked. And I met an Argentinian woman who happens to be a math teacher at a private school here in Bs. As. She was incredibly intriguing and we just kept talking and talking, slightly ignoring the rest of the party during that time. Three glasses of wine into things, I scooted out because there was a gathering at a boliche in San Telmo with the PALS and that whole gang. I took a taxi because it was close and didn’t cost that much. I got to listen to a taxi driver’s opinion on the corruption of the construction of the bus system on Av. 9 de Julio, always hearing different perspectives, which is great. This boliche…Craig & Amy, we might have to go… It was pretty wild. And by the time 6am rolled around, people were getting a slightly drunk-weird. When within thirty seconds two different guys grapped my hair and felt it/petted it like they had never seen blonde hair in their lives before, that’s when I called it a night. Getting to the door wasn’t easy, though. I suffered a casualty when I guy came out of the strobe lights and kissed me. Thankfully only on the cheek. I could debate that a boliche at 6am is more dangerous that the streets of San Telmo during the night. No worries, though, I can hold my own. Meaning that the guys grabbing at me and Alana weren’t successful in kidnapping us. Ahhh, Mom, I’m exaggerating. Don’t worry. That much.
Hardest part of the night was finding a taxi at that time of the night…or is it morning? Finally I got one amidst the hoard of people. And waiting was never more worth it. It took ten minutes to get home. I asked the taxi driver how his night was going and he said well…and we got to talking about how I am studying art and Spanish and living with an artist. And then he asked me my birthday. With my birthday he then explained my life to me. I never believed in those people that studied that astrology stuff, but now I am a believer. We sat parked outside my house, talking about my life. It was almost scary how much he knew about me, like he knew me better than anyone else knew me, as if he understood all my little inner struggles. Like how I am a complete introvert. (Wonderfully demonstrated by my lonely taxi ride home) A perfectionist. How in 2009 something happened that drastically changed my life…like how I tore my ACL… And how last year, a relationship very close to me ended…like how Brandon and I broke up after dating for five years… It went on and on and on. Crazy. He just kept calculating numbers in his head. A genius. He studied this stuff in college. I was amazed. Amazed that this is real…and that I watched the sunrise with Mario this morning in his taxi.
Where am I? In 2017 I am supposed to find my love…and call Mario when I do, with the business card he gave me. Everyone in Argentina really does have two jobs. I’m still working on figuring out my second…teaching English and maybe selling Fernanda’s art?
Always talk to the taxi driver. Make the first move. Taking a taxi is the equivalent of those monthly packages that girls sign up to get that have a whole bunch of random crap shoved inside, but girls love ‘em because it’s just new and you never know what’s it’s going to be, but it’s always something different. Same with the taxi drivers; they all have a unique story, you never know which you are going to get told during the ride, and sometimes what you do discover and learn is priceless, way better than lip balm, nail polish, and chocolate. They are memories that don’t have an expiration date.
The lady in the Organic Market made the biggest impact on my life this week. And not only because the smoked cheese and aged sausage she recommended were delectable. No, as I was tasting little chunks and slices of heaven at her stand, we got to talking about all the spices in the sausages (God knows I’m never going to be able to remember all these words, granted I don’t even know the names of half the spices in English either.) and she told me that I spoke Castellano well. What she really meant was that for how well she expected an American to be able to speak (which is hardly at all), I spoke very well. I was very pleased to exceed this woman’s low expectations and said that I still have lots to learn. She asked me if I had a boyfriend here. –Nope. –You need to find a boyfriend here, that’s the best way to learn. –It’s hard to find a good boyfriend here. –No it’s not. You’re need to try harder.
Did she ever tell me how it is. I have the utmost respect for these types of people that tell you exactly how it is. So I walked back home with my meat and cheese and homemade plum jam and vowed to find me an available, male tutor this week.
Where to start? No, the three guys that called me hermosa on the way home still are never going to make the cut. But that cute guy that I saw working the other morning in my favorite fruit stand could definitely be a possibility.
So, the next evening I went to my fruit stand and got talking to the owner again, the one who washed and gifted me the free plum. We are tight now so I asked him, “Hey, so I was here the other morning and there is a really cute guy that was working who was about my age…” You gotta be kidding me…
Of course it’s your son. Go figure. But he is 21? And is studying to be a physical education teacher? And is studying abroad next year in Miami? And he works every morning here? I will come in the morning from now on! Diego’s his name. Got it. What an awesome dad. The perks of being friends with the guys in the fruit stands.
So that was me putting more effort into finding a boy. You’re thinking that I have still accomplished nothing, and you are absolutely correct.
It’s funny though how as soon as you decides to make yourself available, automatically you become a magnet. (Being blonde in a Latin American country also helps.) I was idly shopping along Av. Santa Fe when I crossed the street and was calmly approached by a young guy dressed in a crisp blue dress shirt and black pants. He said excuse me and I thought he was going to ask for directions or something, but he said instead, “Could I please have your opinion on something real quick, a scent. I work at a store here on Santa Fe and I really would like to have your opinion specifically on what you think smells the best.” I am not gonna lie, I was a little intrigued, thinking he was trying to get a foreign girl’s opinion on what cologne she liked best. Sounds like fun. I have nothing better to do on a Friday. Then, I realized that this guy was really smooth. He wasn’t asking about cologne, he was asking about perfume for me. He asked where I was from and I said the US and he started speaking English…but I wasn’t really understanding and he asked if I understood Spanish and I said, yeah, so he continued on in Spanish and was pleased with how much I understood. Entendés muy bien. We kept talking, on the edge of the sidewalk, out of the way, as colectivos and taxis passed right by us. Basically we realized we had more in common than coincidence usually allots any passerby. Works full time. Has family in North Carolina and has visited them there. Traveled all around the world. He is on a professional basketball team here in Bs. As. Is super single…because his sister doesn’t let him date “easy” Argentinian girls, and every Sunday they go out on dates together. (Sound familiar, Kevin?) And he is super protective of her. And the kicker…He goes to UCA. So moral of the story: The best way to meet people at your school is not in class, but rather walking down the street. And, the law of attraction (like in the book the Secret) is a real thing: if you think you are going to find a guy, he will probably stop you on the street and make you smell something sweet…or citric, depending on what kind of girl you are. We talked for at least 45 minutes. His super-refined charm made me slightly hesitant to believe all this was real, but because he seemed so sincere, I really couldn’t resist his offer to get a coffee with him on Sunday. Before I left, and he offered to walk me to the other side of the street to catch my bus he said, “Look Alicia, the sun just came out. Before I met you it was cloudy, but now the sun is shining.” Chico encantador. But super-kind as well as he directed me to the closest place where I could charge my SUBE in the middle of commercial Santa Fe.*
I hope I am making the lady at the Organic Market proud.
*You can charge your SUBE in any subway station, without having to enter and pay. I actually think it is quicker than using the self-service machines at many of the little convenience markets.
It’s been over two months and I still make a silent wish every morning as I walk along Pto. Madero with the sun warming my right cheek that it never end.
I was talking about resumes with Leo in our English session today and I asked him what his skills were. His answer: “I am proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Candy Crush.” He kept a totally straight face as I was doubled over laughing for a minute. “Am I that charming, Alicia?” “No Leo, you’re just hilarious. A comedian.”
That’s how my morning started, and my Metaphysics class ended with a huge kiss on the cheek and a half hug from my professor who adores me for attempting to take this class in a foreign language and even more so for taking notes. It’s getting easier every class. And now that I made friends with Joaquin who sits next to me, I might pass.
I received an impromptu email from Mariano, my boss, this afternoon asking if I could fill in for an English teacher. Sure, why not. I had to find an article to read with them and discuss. There were two men, one an accountant, the other a lawyer and they were both at the advanced level. I kind of want to continue teaching them, but I also want the other teacher to no longer have food poisoning, so… I asked how they learned English and they both said they taught themselves. Then the truth really came out and one had taken classes for a year and a half and the other took a few classes but also lived with his English-speaking girlfriend for two years. I really think this should be my plan to become fluent in Spanish. Find a boyfriend who speaks Spanish and no English. Yeah, I’ll work on that. I asked the lawyer if his girlfriend learned any Spanish while she was here for two years and he said, “No, all English speakers are too lazy to learn another language because they don’t need to.” Ouch. Hello, my name is Alicia. I will be filling in as your English teacher today. I am from the United States…Oh, you knew that already? You are quite observant that in fact I do have blond hair and blue eyes, but that does not mean that all Americans do. Anyway, I am actually studying Spanish at UCA, breaking all these native English speaker stereotypes.
On my walk home through Pto. Madero, (I know you’re thinking that I should just camp out on a bench there and make friends with the homeless because I am there 75% of my day.) right past el Puente de la Mujer there were three telescopes set up. I slowed down to see what was up and here these telescopes were pointed at Jupiter. For fifty cents I looked through this telescope and saw Jupiter with all its rings and its three moons. After forty seconds it disappears, because the earth is moving, and the guy refocused it and let me look again.
A night of simple nerdy pleasures in Pto. Madero.
Don’t bring nice things with you. You will get robbed. You think you have your passport tucked away safely from all the ladrones? Well, good try, but you never know when a stray dog will come up and decide to play tug of war with your purse. I think those growls were playful…and when he bit my shirt I think that was part of the game too…
<<Ayudame por favor…>> yo le dije al tipo en Pto. Madero. Help me, please. I asked the guy walking by after the dog wouldn’t let go for about thirty seconds. My purse has quite the souvenir now—stray dog teeth marks. Can’t buy that at the Louis Vuitton outlet.