Saturday, March 24, 2007

Buenos Aires, por fin

So I have officially been in Buenos Aires for a month. The past four weeks have been very busy with orientation, trying out classes, and getting to know this huge city, so I haven’t had much time to sit down and reflect. What better time to start than now!

Buenos Aires is absolutely huge (about 12 million people live here) and although a lot of people call it the “Paris of the South,” it reminds me more of New York City. I’ve already had my fair share of adventures with public transportation and getting completely lost trying to walk somewhere, but I’m slowly but surely learning my way around. Even though BsAs has a subway system, it’s very old and poorly planned, so most people take public buses (called colectivos here). There are literally hundreds of different buses and bus routes, making it really convenient to get around the city, but also really confusing for a newcomer like me.

My home for the next four months is in the barrio (neighborhood) of Recoleta, which is in the north of the city. It’s a pretty residential neighborhood with lots of parks, restaurants and cafes. It’s probably most famous for being the home to the Recoleta Cemetery – the resting place of that kindof famous former first lady, Eva Perón, who is buried there in the Duarte family crypt. The crypt is actually pretty simple compared to the rest of them, despite being the home of Argentina’s most famous corpse.

My Argentine host lady Cecilia is really great. She’s only 26, so she’s more like a host older sister or host aunt. It’s definitely not the “traditional” host family experience like I had in Spain, but I really like the change. We have a lot in common – she studied international relations too and loves travel and languages. She invites me out with her friends all the time, so I’ve already had the chance to meet and talk to a bunch of young Argentines.

My program is centered at FLACSO (Facultad Lationamericana de Ciencias Sociales), which is a Latin American social science “think tank” founded by UNESCO in the 1950s to promote the study of Latin American social sciences. Nowadays FLACSO runs a graduate program but also offers classes for undergraduates through my program. I’m taking one class at FLACSO, International Relations of Latin America, an Argentine Literature class through the University of Buenos Aires (UBA)’s language lab, and two classes at UBA’s social science department (Argentine History and Transition, Crisis and Reform: The New Scenarios in Latin America). All of my classes seem really interesting, but the UBA classes are going to be a lot of work. I’ll write about UBA another day because it’s a really interesting place and completely different from Tufts.

It feels good to be speaking Spanish again. The Argentine accent is very distinct though, and it took a little while to get used to that. Argentines (especially porteños) pronounce their “y”s and “ll”s like “sh.” So, for example, “Yo me llamo” is pronounced “Sho me shamo.” It’s completely different from the accent in Spain, and I actually like it a lot more. I think it’s pretty and it gives Argentine Spanish extra character. Personally, I feel like I can function almost completely in Spanish and a Spanish-speaking country. However, I think the challenge for me now is to learn how to be “me” in Spanish. Communicating your personality and truly being yourself in another language is really hard and that can be extremely frustrating.

In a week and a half I’m going to Chile for Semana Santa (Easter week) with a friend of mine from the program. We’re going to spend 2-3 days in Santiago and then a few days in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, two oceanfront towns north of Santiago, where my friend Chloe is studying for the semester. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and it will be really interesting to experience another South American country and see how people live and act there.

So I think those are the basics of my experience so far. A bit vague, I know, but it's hard to boil down an intense experience like study abroad into neat little blog entries. Instead of just updating about my day to day activities, I think I’m going to write more about my observations and particular experiences with Argentine and Buenos Aires culture as they come.

Until next time, chau!


macdok said...

Just in time for Caitlin's class to read! They just started studying South America last week, so they will love getting on and reading about Argentina! I love the pictures in the blog! Take care and we are glad to hear from you!!!!!!

The King travelers said...

My classes are also studying Latin America. I think I'll have them read this.

It was really interesting--the comment you made about being "you" in Spanish. I've always wondered about that. I'm sure that we have a lot of kids in our school that experience that very same frustration--unable to express themselves wholly, since they have to do it in another language. It surely would slow you down as you have to be so deliberate in your speaking.

You are surely having some unbelievable experiences. Enjoy, and thanks for writing!

Joni said...

Hey good to hear from you! Sounds like you're having another great time. It's so amazing that just about all of the "gang" are from one end of the world to the other!! I think Josh and Micah are the only ones who didn't venture anywhere. We are starting to experience a bit of spring. Of course as I say that, it's snowing out! Won't last. Upper 40s tomorrow. I'm sure your weather is much better, as is Devin's down under!! Can't wait for the next update.

macdok said...

Can't wait to see more pictures!

Joshua said...

ahhh... love the update. its so sad being one of the 4 left behind in the states

blogs like this make me sad, jealous and happy for you - i cant wait to sit and hear all about things

miss you! cant wait until you come home