This has all been pretty ME ME ME so far. I mean, it is a blog, as my dear friend, Pianoman (dude, if you hate the name I can totally change it) reassured me the other night via skype, but I want to mix a little more information in with all this emoting. Pure emoting is never a good thing. Unless one is running. Y’all know I like my running music good and angsty. So to add a little more substance I’ve found the local public library and a few museums, all of which have some really good resources on the history of San Luis, province and city alike. I’ve been working with them for a few days, but I have a little more digging to do before I’ll feel confident enough to write a responsible post about it. That’s in the works for those of you who can only take so many “I feel” statements. And Mom, if you’re the only one reading this . . . that’s cool too. I am eating my vegetables, I promise! So for now, what I have to offer are some reflections on the settling in process and pictures of a sweet, sweet puppy. Yeah, that’s right. HERE BE PUPPIES.
So BPE1 and BPE2 found me the apartment I’m staying in, and so far it is absolutely perfect. It’s what my Mom calls a “mother-in-law apartment” – attached to the house, but with it’s own entrance and everything. The houses here in the city are literally right next to one another, and no one has a front yard. It’s kind of like some of the neighborhoods in the French Quarter that look really small, concrete and closed off, and then when you open a gate there’s a beautiful garden or courtyard or patio. I’ve always loved neighborhoods like this, because it’s like there’s a secret garden behind every door. I mean, realistically I know that there are probably secret gardens behind, like, 20 at the most, and then it gets real Sandlot real fast . . . . but it sure seems like there’s something lovely and surprising behind all of them. The gate to my house leads you down a 40 meter gravel driveway lined with roses and other flowers to another gate which leads to a nice green yard and then to the house. There’s special area for asados, an outside workspace and a shed for my landlord who is a retired metalsmith, and a yard for the grandkids and puppies to play in. My entrance is hidden off to the side. I have a small kitchen/living space, a bathroom and a bedroom all furnished, clean and comfortable-like.
Settling in reminded me a little of how I
was as a kid am now. I couldn’t wait for anything, and my mother would kindly but sternly remind me that I really needed to learn patience. Well, I bought a router the first day here so that I could connect my computer to the available wireless. I finally got it to work, but until I did I was kind of an anxious wreck, and I’m certain Olga and Federico (my landpeople) thought I was crazy while I was muttering to myself and typing frantically. When I finally got it all fixed I slumped down in the chair and Federico came over to me to say, “Lento, lento, lento bonita.” This is how nice people say “Chill the f*&$ out, crazy gringa,” in Argentine Castellano. Note: People here are adamant that they speak “Castellano” and not “Spanish.”
Federico and Olga are wonderful, and even thought they saw me living up to every awful stereotype about uptight Americans that first day (so much for being a good global citizen), they have still welcomed me into their home, given me mate, fixed my shower, and let me snuggle the hell out of their puppies and guinea pig. They have three children (Just FYI everyone I am naming has given me permission to use their real names in this blog) Gisella (26), Anabella (22) and Camillo (?). Gisella is a student at the IFDC where I am assisting, and she has two adorable daughters and a son on the way. She speaks English quite well as she is studying to be an English teacher herself, but she has been kind enough to speak to me only in Spanish because she knows that’s what I want. Anabella is a ballerina and is studying to be a physical therapist. Next weekend she’s invited me to Cordoba (a city a few hours away) to celebrate a friend’s birthday, so this will be my first taste of Argentine nightlife. Science fair project time: will drinking make my Castellano awesome or awful? Hypotheses?
I’ve settled in in other ways as well. The first thing I did on Monday when things opened up again (everything is closed on Sundays), was join a nearby gym. Routine! I was hopeful I might meet some people there, but it’s pretty dead in the mornings when I go. No matter. I am also trying to get in with a group of people who do mountaineering-like things around the province and further out. It’s funny, I didn’t mean for this to happen, but when my colleagues/bosses (the English Professors at the IFDC) found out I had joined a gym they all kind of decided that I was re (re = very/really) deportista (into sports) and so now they’re all looking for a women’s soccer team I could play with. Trouble is that women here don’t really play soccer. Field hockey is much more common. I would love to play again, but in case that doesn’t pan out . . . I’m looking into Tango lessons. I know, me dancing Tango is kind of a horrifying/hilarious mental image, but I think a dance class would be a really fun way to meet people. Other things: I’ve gone to the movies, found a class in Castellano for extranjeros (foreigners), walked the city and located the local library, laundromat, pharmacy, grocery store and bakery. Seriously, I am going to buy the pastries here in bulk because the “sacramento” I ate today (croissant with fruit filling) may be the first thing that’s made me cry since The Notebook. Judge me, I dare you.
Obviously it hasn’t all been puppies and pastries so far. There have been difficult moments and I have felt isolated at times, but there have been many more small kindnesses offered by individuals than there have been individual frustrations. It’s gotten me to thinking about what immigrating must have been like centuries ago, when there were no telephones, much less skype, and when saying good bye meant “good-bye forever” more often than “good-bye for now.” Have any of you ever read The Arrival? It’s an absolutely breathtaking graphic novel for children by Saun Tan (he won the Oscar for his short animated film, The Lost Thing, last year) about starting a life in a different place, and . . . just, yeah. It’s enchanting.
And then what about immigrants from Spanish speaking countries today, living in America? I feel isolated, and my welcome/adjustment period has been about as cushy as it gets. I may be the least bad-ass person I know. I can’t imagine immigrating to a country that is so repulsed by my presence that entire areas would ban courses that taught my culture. The inevitable alienation one experiences when adjusting to a new place and culture is hard enough, but when coupled with complete rejection . . . .
No way to gracefully transition from that to this, so here: have a puppy!
Have two puppies!
Thanks for sticking with me dear readers (Hi Mom!), and I promise more substantive content soon. Besitos from San Luis.