Isn't that great? Classes don't even start for at least another week. I've just been shopping and walking and eating and enjoying life. People here really enjoy life. You can't get a coffee to-go in this place. Which is a big change for me, working at Starbucks I always have a cup in my hand. You can sit down at the cafe and you can take the time to drink your coffee. Not the sit down with your laptop for hours and work while you drink coffee. Just sit down and drink your coffee and enjoy. Such a drastically different way of life.
I'm getting ready right now to go to La Pampa for a weekend excursion with the rest of the students. The rest of the students being Rachel and Bennett (and get this, Rachel is from Akron!). Just the three of us. I'm happy there is such a small group of students. I get this feeling like we are all in it together. We have this unique bond of our location, our discomfort and our determination to go through with this.
So anyway, we are headed to La Pampa, a province of Argentina. From what I understand, the Pampas (from Quechua, meaning "plain") are the fertile South American lowlands that include the Argentine provinces of Buenos Aires, La Pampa, Santa Fe, and Córdoba, most of Uruguay, and the southernmost end of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul. The fertility is due to the temperate climate, making La Pampa the most economically agricultural province of Argentina. Ximena told me all I need to know about La Pampa is that it is hot and dry. It will be nice to get away from the city and see what some of the rest of Argentina is like. Being the horse-girl that I am, I'm really hoping to see some Gauchos in the flesh. I'll keep you posted.
Last night was a real treat. I experienced, in person, some of that reputed Argentine pride that I've been hearing so much about. Tony arranged a lovely dinner with his host family. The same family that hosted him years ago when he first stayed in Buenos Aires. Rachel has the pleasure of staying there this time around. I was in the company of some really wonderful people. These are the kind of people that allow you love people again. Ramon and Marta, parents to three grown daughters, have a beautiful home in Balvanera. This place felt so authenic. I looked around and I felt so aware that I was not at home. I have never seen ceilings so high, 20 feet more or less? The doorways were built to scale with thick, embellished molding. The elevator was imported from Paris in 1915, so intricately designed. This building, standing since 1918, has such a rich history.
The conversation was enlightening, and amusing, and thought provoking, and challenging. Ramon speaks better English than my Spanish but still pretty rough around the edges. Marta has a small English vocabulary of about 10 words. On the American side: Tony is fluent in both, Bennett is confident, Rachel has a cute little mixture going on, I am not confident but but full of questions and ears always perked. There was an exhausting and hilarious mixture of broken English, broken Spanish, and the correct forms of each. Tony made a point to gently remind everyone, and encourage us, to use our Spanish speaking skills when we'd revert back to English. I felt like I really made some progress! I am beginning to finally understand what people are saying!
The Spanish of Argentina is very different than what you hear in the states. The accent is very unique, many of the words are not the same, and the "ll" and "y" are pronounced "zhhh" (like the sound in vision) instead of the "y" sound that I'm used to (like young.) Add a new sound to trying to distinguish the beginning of a new word and the ending of another, a challenge to say the least.
I can't say enough good things about learning language through immersion. Hearing the words over and over again and giving them relevance in everyday life gives you no choice but to learn. You need them to live. To make life more comfortable. I don't want to walk 50 blocks so I'm going to learn how to tell the taxi where I want to go. Today for example, I almost got ripped off, but I knew how to count and I knew what she said and I knew she owed me more money. Funny thing is she did too. The second I turned around to walk over and resolve the issue it was apparent she knew exactly why I was coming back. I got my two pesos, but I week ago I wouldn't have even known they were mine.