Spin the Gringa

My dear friend from home, codename The Jackal (Like it lady? We can change it if need be.) was introducing me to the glory that is The West Wing right around the time BAMF was becoming an acronym people used to indicate badassery. So when the Bartlett team did something particularly meritworthy, we would audibly congratulate them and one another on their BAMF-itude. It goes without saying that CJ consistently racked up the most BAMF points. My point is, and I’m talking to you jackal lady, I think I may have discovered the BAMF trump card, namley, EVERY YOUNG PERSON IN ARGENTINA. Let me explain . . .  .

I had the entirety of last week off because classes at my school hadn’t started yet and because of the Easter Holidays, so I packed my suitcase and headed to Cordoba with the daughter of the family I rent from (codename A) and 3 of her friends. I will not be able to tell you very much about Cordoba the city in the touristy sense of, “doing the city” where you go to museums, parks, monuments, guided tours, government buildings, etc. I’ll have to go back if I want to experience any of that, but I had absolutely the best time tagging along with A and her friends, and immersing myself in the rhythm of life as a student in Cordoba.

We were staying at the apartment of another of A’s close friends who is studying medicine in Cordoba. I had gotten to know the group a bit on the 7 hour bus ride to the city, and we hit it off really well, my Spanish being good enough to converse with them, but not so far advanced as to be able to banter. Let me just say that trying to follow along while young people start joking with one another is the absolute hardest. It’s like listening to Graceland (or watching MGMT music videos for that matter): It’s everyone’s favorite album and you know it’s all profound and stuff and you like the music, but you just don’t understand the lyrics so you just nod and smile don’t say anything and then someone looks at you expectantly and you’re like, “Ummmmmm.” Only here when I say “Ummmmm” I remember that in Spanish it’s “eeeeeehhhhhhh” and not “ummmmmm” and I feel like even more of a dingbat . . . . . . .  *takes deep calming breaths* So yeah, that’s what it’s like trying to understand banter here. That said, the girls were all kinds of patient with me, treating me like one of the group but explaining things when I was clearly lost.

We arrived in Cordoba Friday night at about 10 PM, and got to A’s friend T’s apartment at about 10:30. We unpacked, ordered some pizza (a standard pizza here is a thincrust with tomato sauce, mozzarella, oregano and green olives . . . it turns out I like olives! Who knew?) and chatted. I assumed that bed was soon to follow, but then the girls started to primp . . . and drink . . . and primp. . . . and drink. At about 1:30 AM we headed to a club downtown where a lot of students go. We waited outside for about 30 minutes and finally got into the club, which was packed. Being 5’ 1’’, packed clubs are kind of my nightmare because I am right at armpit/elbow height of most people. Besides the fact that it was bursting at the seams, it was way too loud for me to understand anything anyone was saying in Spanish, so when we finally left at about 5:30 AM I was frankly relieved. We went back to T’s apartment and were joined by a group of guys A and friends had grown up with. We drank mate and chatted until about 7:30 AM, at which point it became clear I could not last much longer and so I kissed everyone on the cheek and said Ciao (still not used to cheek kissing strangers) and slept until 3 PM the next day. When I awoke, there was a text from the girls who had NOT GONE TO SLEEP AT ANY POINT and had instead gone to the mall. I got a cab and met them at the mall where we proceeded to shop for hours. Then we went to the grocery store, made some dinner . . . . and then began to primp . . . and drink . . . and primp. . . and start the process all over again. Seriously. For four days straight. I was always the first one to conk out and the last one to get up. At several moments during the weekend I wanted to be like, “Are you all just beautiful robots or something! Do you not need to sleep???!!!!!” But they were just BAMFS, plain and simple. Shop, party, talk, primp, eat, drink, mate (the beverage not the discovery channel verb), lather rinse repeat.

Now this was a vacation rhythm for A and her friends. During the school year it’s not quite like this (although from what I gathered by listening to them it kind of is), and these girls are childhood friends who don’t get to see each other much so it was really fun and touching to see them aprovechar de (take advantage of) this opportunity to be together. Childhood friendships are at once so sweet and so raw. There’s just something really special about the bond you build with people you have known and who have known you since the beginning (Here’s looking at you Stubman and Jackal lady – I’m sending you hardcore virtual snuggles right now). Anyway, I think my favorite thing we did was go to a Peña, which is essentially a baile folklórico party. A is a ballerina, but also teaches baile folklórico, and so she has been telling me all about the different regional musical stylings and dances there are here in Argentina (post pending). A is a self-described clown off the dance floor. Her facial expressions rival Jim Carry, and she broke like 2 plates and a bottle of beer at T’s apartment, while sober. But when she dances she is all grace. The Peña we went to had 4 different bands from all over the north of the country that played while the audience members who knew how to (like A) danced in the center of the restaurant. I’m still working through the many different kinds of songs and dances that fall under the category of baile folklórico here, so for now I’m posting a video of one of the kinds of dances we saw.

You’re probably laughing at the poofy pants the dude’s wearing. The people I saw were just wearing normal clothes, which I liked. This is a kind of dance a lot of young people here know and do and they don’t need costumes to feel like it’s a significant link to their past. I think it’s really lovely. There’s another kind of dance called a Zamba they do that’s similar only both parties have a handkerchief and there’s this whole seducing without touching think going on. A’s friend M explained to me that it’s all about gauchos seducing innocent peasant maidens. Hmmmmmm.

One of the guys doing the dancing was also one of the musicians. He was from Tucumán, and his dancing (the fancy footwork from the dude you see in the video) was noticeably more exaggerated than that of the other men dancing. M leaned over to me and began to warn me about men from the north of Argentina. This is not he first time I have received this warning, and I’m never quite sure how to handle it. He said that as soon as “the gaucho” as he called him, heard that there was a foreign girl at the party he would try to “conquistar” me. I responded with my most alluring snortlaughter. M was of course joking, but nevertheless I assured him that I was no innocent peasant maiden and that I, the short but inarticulate gringa, was more likely to be conquistado by someone who could explain the pluperfect subjunctive tense to me than by the dashing “gaucho.” I also made a mental note that “conquistar” is an infinitely superior verb to “seduce.”

On our last night we went to another club, but this time there was plenty of room to dance and to talk, and our group was made up of both ladies and gents, so we could actually do some real dancing. . . . which I am pretty bad at but absolutely love to do. Eventually a different group of guys made their way over to us and we started pairing off. My partner was SO TALL, but was actually a really good dancer and was able to work with my passing knowledge of the salsa. . . . and then he got a little ambitious and began a fairly dangerous game of what A and I later decided to call “Spin the Gringa.” If you ever want to play, this game entails finding a gringa and spinning her till she’s extremely dizzy to this extremely popular Brazilian jam.

I was really disoriented by the end, and I think my dance partner flattered himself it was because I was so enamored of him. That was not the case. I was, in fact, just really dizzy, but menos mal if he wants to think he swept the gringa off her feet. It was good fun, and I’m excited to start dance classes soon so that I can stop describing my dance style to people as “casi madera” (half wooden).

So all in all it was an absolutely wonderful first half of my vacation week, mostly because I got the chance to interact with a lot of really interesting and fun people . . . and dance. I’m trying to think of a way to thank A and her friends for including me, so if anyone has suggestions let me know. From Cordoba I made my way back west by bus to Mendoza . . . which was equally wonderful, but very different and thus deserves its own post methinks. Until then, have some music:

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One thought on “Spin the Gringa

  1. Another interesting and lovely post! Sounds like quite the adventure, Kate! That’s great that group of friends was so welcoming and that you got to spend the week with them, even if you did need to sleep from time to time :)… Talk about cultural immersion!!! I haven’t gotten to check out all the videos you posted but enjoyed what I’ve looked at so far.

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