Trip Start Jun 23, 2011
27Trip End Aug 30, 2011
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Where I stayed
Rosario is the birthplace of Che Guevara, and he lived here until he was 2. You can see the house where he lived, but it's now a bunch of offices and there's no tour or information placards or anything, so it's kind of underwhelming. We realized that the really cool stuff to do in Rosario revolves around the river. It has a 20km riverbank, much of which is developed into cool parks. The river is very wide here and there are tons of islands in it, many of which have little undeveloped beaches that you can take boats out to. However, it is now winter, and the highs were around 65 when we were there, so no one was doing that
I don't know if there is another couple in the US that knows less Spanish than we do. Seriously. Neither of us took Spanish in middle or high school. We both took German. Who takes German?! What use is that? Especially since everyone who speaks German also speaks English. Not so with Spanish speakers in South America. We have had several very difficult conversations with almost no understanding passing between the parties whatsoever already, and we haven't even gotten to the least developed parts yet - Bolvia and Peru are still ahead of us. So we emailed a woman about taking a Spanish lesson or two while during our brief stay in Rosario. She got back to us that she had a Friday night meet-up off a lot of her students where they talk Spanish and we could come and get a survival guide that she had put together and meet some of the teachers and students. Also, it was a local brewpub, so we were in.
We went over there and met up with the gang. There was Stephanie, who started the Spanish school. She was from California. There were teachers from Argentina and people there from Ireland, Honduras, Singapore, and the US
We've been moving pretty fast on this trip, and when we told people that we were only going to be in Rosario for a day and half, universally they said, "Ohhhhh, so short. You need to stay longer!" Except for one guy. When we told John, the Irish guy who was there learning Spanish to get the perspective of the process of learning a language in preparation for going to Korea to teach English in the fall, he said, "Sounds about right." We thought that was funny.
We learned one (of the many) reasons that we have had difficulty understanding Spanish in Argentina is that they have accents on some sounds. Like I said, we know very little Spanish, but what I did learn second-hand from students of Cesar Puente's various Spanish classes at Huron High in the late 90's was that both Y's and LL's make y sounds, as in "Yo" (I) or "Pollo" (chicken), pronounced something like "poy-yo", or so I thought. In Argentina, both of these letters make a rather gutteral "sh" sound. So I is "Sho", chicken is "Posho", she is "Esha". Learning this simple fact has increased my understanding of what I hear by 100% - from 1% to 2%.
Friday night was fun. We talked about Spanish and what words we should know. We asked about certain words from menus that we had seen but not understood. We had delicious draft beers and quesadillas ("quesadeshas"). We were there almost five hours with that group of people. We arranged to meet up with one of the teachers for a beginner lesson the next day. After that we headed to another bar and had a nightcap before heading to bed
The next day was July 9th, which is Argentina's independence day. We had seen enough "9 de Julio" avenues and plazas to know that this was an important day. A lot of things were closed, so we wandered around Rosario, a pleasant enough town, but without a lot to keep a tourist particularly interested. We had our Spanish lesson, which was great. We learned a little Spanish, especially Argentinian Spanish. (Another trick, they don't use "tu" for you - they have a whole different word "vos", and to make it even more difficult, verbs are sometimes conjugated differently for vos than for tu.)
The even better part, though, was having a native explain some of the local costumes to us that we had been wondering about (and generally getting wrong). For example, in all but the fanciest restaurants in Argentina, you seat yourself. Don't wait at the door for someone to seat you. Always tip 10%. We learned all about mate, the tea we had seen literally everyone in Argentina drinking constantly, but hadn't been able to find in any cafes or anything. Apparently, mate isn't sold like that. It is a personal thing and people only make it at home, although everyone then carries it around all day with them.
Mate is an herbal tea that is put in a wooden or metal cup specially made for the purpose
After that, we headed to the bus station to catch our overnight bus to Salta, in the northwest part of the country, and 16 hours away by bus. The buses in Argentina are amazing. They have a class of service (Cama Suite) that included lay-flat beds and personal LCD entertainment units. However, we learned after getting there that this service isn't available from Rosario to Salta, only from BA to Salta, which is an even longer ride (19 hours), so we went with the Cama service, which is still nice. Better than domestic first class on an airline in the US - the seat is wide and it leans back very far. There is a steward who brings around dinner, drinks and breakfast, and they show movies in Spanish for most of the non-sleeping times during the trip. We saw "Tears of the Sun", "Rango", "Just Go With It" and a very strange Argentinian movie about a Chinese guy who has a cow fall from the sky onto his girlfriend in the opening scene. After that, it got weird and I couldn't follow the action.
Anyway, arrived safe and sound in Salta, and we're ready to begin the high-altitude portion of our trip.