Che Boludo!

Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
Trip End ??? ??, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, August 11, 2008

**If you click on and look at the larger versions of pictures, I've attached some further descriptions and stories.  I'll get better at this feature eventually.

Hey kids,
So, where to begin?  Orientation is going well.  They've separated us into groups which are decided (I think) by how much Spanish we've taken in college, so the group I'm in is at a pretty similar level to me.  My comprehension is okay, I'm finding, as long as I'm not put on the spot.  Once somebody is talking directly and exclusively to me, I get flustered and understand nothing.  Predictably, this causes problems.
Friday we had an activity where we were supposed to go around the city and ask questions which would lead us to el obelisko, but nobody really did the questions part.  The obelisk isn't really tough to find either, haha.  It's a monument for the founding of Argentina.  It slightly resembles an American monument; From the pictures, I bet you can guess which one.
After taking in the beauty and traffic that is el centro and the obelisk, I grabbed some pizza with friends.  It was amazing.  It's sort of an adventure ordering food here, as I don't really know what I'm going to end up with.  I ended up with prosciutto and red pepper pizza, which was delicious.  It was also one of the first meals I didn't photograph, haha.  A girl in our group thought she was ordering some sort of cocktail with lunch, but it ended up being something akin to maple syrup-with booze.  If any of you know what this drink actually is, let me know.  Anyway, it's awful.
Friday, after napping from about 5:00 until 9:00, I had some supper with my host mom.  I still can't get over how late they do things here.  Supper began roughly, with the following conversation (translated, of course):
Me:  "So Mary, what do you do?"
Mary:  "Oh well I volunteer with this organization that distributes clothing, and I exercise and I take singing lessons and English lectures etc. etc."
Me:  "Oh.. I mean.. how do you make money?"
---Awkwaaaarrd silence---
Me:  "I mean, I know you have a farm.. do you sell animals or something?"
Mary:  "Can people inherit money?"
Me:  "Uh..............."
Mary:  "Yes."
I'm clearly much less tactful in Spanish than I am English, but the situation eventually diffused, and we talked until about 11:30 about our families and how I pay for school and stuff, so it was good.  I found out she's been divorced for something like 26 years and her husband has a new wife and kids.  She also owns a farm and I think that makes her some of her money.
I didn't really go out Friday night (just went to a café with a friend until about 2:00 am), but I did manage to spill an entire glass of water directly onto the keyboard of my laptop causing the letters a, c, d, e, q, the tab button, and the number 1 to stop working.  After letting it dry out for a day, the letters all work again, but it makes some weird sparking noises when I push some buttons.  I'll probably get it fixed with my ultra-amazing warranty when I come home; it still works for now, thankfully.
Saturday, we had a free city tour through our program, which took us to several parts of the city in a charter bus.  It was really interesting, and we had the most opinionated and political tour-guide ever, so there were some good insights.  I'll attach a bunch of pictures from this tour... there are some beautiful buildings in BA for sure, and it was nice to see some green parks and open space.  I think I'm going to try and take more advantage of the public parks in the future.  It ended in the really colourful neighborhood called La Boca, at a restaurant called Carlito's, with an amazing free meal of salad, pasta, biscuits, empanadas, steak, ice-cream, etc.  (And by free, of course, I mean included in the $14,000 program)
Saturday night I went out with about 5 or so kids from IES to a place called Job's Bar that's pretty close to my house.  We met a bunch of other American guys from LA there, who were embarrassingly obnoxious but very generous.  At about 2:00 am we left for a brazilian club that had professional dancers and stuff, some IES kids got on stage, it was fun for sure.  I forgot to put batteries into my camera, so you'll have to just take my word for it this time.
Staying out until 5:30 am (I haven't made a true Argentine night yet, staying up until sunrise) was obviously tiring, so I slept until about 3:00 pm.  I should have dropped my clothes off at the Laundromat (lavenderia) during this time, but instead edited pictures. 

Took a cab to San Telmo last night to go out for dinner and ice-cream.  It's so sweet how cheap cabs are here.. I just went about 40 city blocks for $5.  So there's no excuse not to cruise around the city.  This cab driver hit 70 mph... kinda crazy for city blocks with stop lights and tons of pedestrians.  I wish there had been a seat-belt.
Gram sent me an email with some good questions, so I'll answer them here:
Did I go to church on Sunday?  No.
Do they have church on Saturday night?   Is it Catholic?  I have no idea.  I've read and learned in orientation that most people in this country claim to be catholic, but very few people practice.  I have seen one church (It's beautiful, I'll take a picture someday) during my time here, and it doesn't look to be used often.  There's also a fairly significant Jewish population here.
How long do I have orientation?  Until Friday.  I start my real classes next Tuesday.
A couple random facts:
-No Kleenex here.  If you know me well, you know this is a serious issue.
-Took the bus.  Pretty fast, and costs 90 centavos (30 cents).

-Took el subte, aka the subway.  Very fast, very crowded, very malodorous.  Costs 90 centavos (30 cents)
-Signed up for a field trip to Bolivia, which is a big monetary commitment and my host mother doesn't think I should go due to the current political conflicts.  She may be right.
-The soap (which is pictured) of the public bathrooms is kind of gross.  It's just a bar on a stick that you have to stroke.
-Confused two similar Spanish words, in doing so ended up asking where I could feel myself, instead of asking where I could seat myself.

-If they see a black person (of which there are several in our IES group), they automatically are assumed to be from Brazil, because there are NO black people here.  The girls get cat calls often. 
-They use bidets here (you know, the toilets that shoot water...)  I'd never seen one before, and curious about how it works, I seriously shot myself directly in the eye.  There's a lot of force behind that water.  As such I won't ever be using it or touching it ever again.
-I've learned it costs $60 and a one hour boat ride to go to a nice calm town in Uruguay (Colonia).  I'll be hitting that up one of these weekends, I'm sure.
Okay peeps, thanks for hanging in there to read this entire post!  Feel free to keep the emails coming, I love to hear from home.
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