So life has been pretty hectic here. I have started to feel at home. I am still learning how to maneuver a big city, got lost coming home from dinner last night, everything worked out fine, but its just teaching me that I need to do more research before I go out, plan ahead more. I cant just ride my bike home like I usually do in Eugene, gotta know what bus to take, or take a taxi, or carpool.
So monday everyone in my program leaves for four days in Pujato in the Santa Fe province of Argentina. We are going to be staying in twos with rural families. I really dont know much about what we will be doing, they gave us a whole packet about our trip that we need to read before monday, yeah still need to read that. Its all in spanish so it will take me a bit. Really excited to get out of the city though. The air is too smoggy here and every other person smokes so you get second hand smoke just walking in the streets. One of the seminar we are taking is teaching us skills to prepare for the Independent Study Project at the end of the program. The ISP period is the last month of the program where we will not be having any classes but will be gathering research and writing basically a thesis paper on a topic of our choice relating to the program theme, Regional Integration, Development and Social Change. It also has to be something that we couldnt have just written in the US. So, during the rural homestay we will be practicing one of the skills we have been learning about in our ISP class which is how to conduct interviews. We have an assignment to interview someone from our rural homestay and get their life story.
Ive started meditating again. Ive been having these headaches in my frontal lobe and also my temples, and they subside when I meditate. My host mom is so cute, she is a psychologist and also gives reiki and massage treatments, all from a nice cozy room in her house. She meditates everyday and encourages me to meditate as well, stay relaxed, she is teaching me a lot about spiritality and life. Before I came I was really concerned that I was going to be out of the 3ho Sikh community that I have grown up in, but I am actually so glad that I am not in that community right now, and I couldnt be more grateful to have ended up with such an awesome host mom who is also such an amazing cook!
Oh one more thing I wanted to mention. I got lost today somewhere in Palermo. Frustrating and scary at first but it was a beautiful day and I ended up stumbling upon a nice park. Ah a park in Buenos Aires on a saturday afternoon is a beautiful thing! Parents playing with their kids, papas playing soccer with their kids, dogs running around, people sitting in circles drinking mate…
There was also a really cool band of college aged kids all with different kinds of drums playing different afro-salsa beats. I really couldnt help but laugh cause everyone was so joyful. There were kids dancing to the music, and people who were walking by the park would start dancing too. One woman was walking two dogs and danced all the way down the block to the band. I also stumbed upon an abandoned factory. An abandonded factory you say…why is that interesting? Well, its interesting to me because we have been studying the economic crisis that Argentina experienced in 2001. One of the effects after the crisis was that tons and tons of factories were shut down because they were not making ends meet. Well, a really cool thing started happening a little while later where the workers who had lost their jobs started re-opening the factories and runing them as co-ops. We got to visit one this week, very inspiring, there is no heierarchy and their business is doing really well. So much more I could say about that but too tired. Im like always tired here, so much mental stimulation!!! My brain needs like twice as much sleep but there is not really time for that….well Im doing the best I can.
Im off to drink some mate while reading this packet and then probably going to take a siesta before dinner and then salsa dancing!
Los Madres de la Plaza, mothers whose children were taken by the military dictatorship in the 70s/80s and who to this day still have not gotten a response from the government as to whether their children are alive/ dead march around that big white statue every thursday around 4ish. So many people disappeared during this time (over 30,000) that they even made a new word to describe those taken by the military. Los Desaparecidos. (the verb is desaparecer, literally, to dissappear) I’ve got a ton more to say about this but I’ll wait till I can put up some pictures to go along with it. (This past thursday I got to see the Madres de la Plaza)
So it’s very interesting for me to observe the differences between Argentinian and American culture. One thing, here in Argentina the service is way better. For example, when you go into a cafe, you just go sit down and a waiter comes to bring you a menu. Typically when I go into a cafe it is sometime in the afternoon, around 4 or 5 and I order a cafe with milk and a medialuna (mini crosaint). Another thing about Argentina, if you just say cafe, they will bring you a tiny espresso…you have to specify you want it with milk (con leche). It is a typical menu option or order a cafe with 2 or three medialunas. Between the hours of 4-8ish cafes are full of people getting a mid-day snack and chatting with friends. It is so cute, they will also bring you a mini cup of water (like the size of a double shot glass and usually a tiny bite-size cookie or brownie thing of some sort on the saucer of your cafe or in a mini mini bowl. It is just so cute how they put so much care into each person’s cafe….all these little parts.
So I’ve been here for a few weeks now…. I can really feel that I am becoming accustomed to living here, I’m settling into a rhythm. So this video of yogi bhajan below, I think at one point he says something like, “when the storm is sooo dark, that one cannot see one’s own hand, that is when you must be like a light-house” or something like that…..well I feel that. I feel like I have no control over my life right now, and I also feel like the future is so clouded I cannot see anything. I said something similar to my mataji last time I talked to her on the phone “I feel like my future is so clouded, like I can’t even see my hand in front of my face” and it made me remember this video. It’s true what he says, the lighthouse cannot see it’s own light but for others it can be a beacon of hope in a tumulous storm.
Seriously, one of the most inspiring things you will ever watch.
So I don’t have wifi at my appartment. It is a good thing really. If I did, I would be on facebook a lot more, surfing the net, messing around, wasting time. The computer can be a black hole for my time. It has forced me to find other things to do to pass my time, such as do my homework, read, practice guitar, talk to my host-mother, write, etc. etc. I’ve realized that I feel lonely without a constant connection to the internet. I have become so dependent on this contact, but in reality it’s not a real connection with people. It’s so strange how people spend so much time on the computer communicating when they could just get together and talk face to face, over coffee, take a walk…
One tradition I totally love here is drinking yerba mate! It is a stimulant similar to caffeine but is much healthier for you and also doesn’t make you jittery like caffeine can. You can drink it alone, but traditionally it is something do do with friends. Que bueno! It is common to see people walking around with their mate cups and a big thermos of hot water.
I’m really lonely over here. I feel a bit panicked sometimes, like I’m just so far away from my family, friends, hometown, community, everything that I know and that makes me feel comfortable. People don’t know me here. They don’t know where I come from or who I am or what I’m about. I get a lot of quizzical stares on the subway everyday. I just gotta laugh but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get to me every once in a while. Wearing a turban, sometimes it’s hard to stand out so much… I thought that wearing a turban would help to defer unwanted attention from guys…doesn’t always work.
So another thing about Argentinian culture, or at least in Buenos Aires, the men frequently whistle or say things to you as you walk by, like how beautiful, que linda, que hermosa! Sometimes the guys say different pick-up lines…they are called piropos. Like one popular one is, “arriba las manos y dame todo tus besos”, translation is raise your hands and give me all of your kisses. Pfffffff. Puh-leeeeez. Could you be any more cheeeezy? It is kinda creepy sometimes cause sometimes the guys are like really older men. like, wtf. Also in Buenos Aires, they have a specific way of talking, specific words that are neither slang, nor necessarily grammatically correct either. It is confusing, but I have made a handful of Argentinian friends who are teaching me a lot.
I’m actually having fun in my Spanish class. I am so much more motivated to learn Spanish because it is applicable here. I want to learn because I want to be able to communicate with people and with my host-mom who only speaks spanish and with my teachers who only speak spanish with us. As far as my other classes go. We have a seminar all about the recent history in Argentina, basically in the 1900s. Economic and political history mostly. It is so interesting! At least what I can understand from the lectures, they are all in spanish. Now that my spanish is getting better I am way more interested in the class. Well, in the beginning I will admit I was close to tears a few times because I was so frustrated. How could they expect me to learn anything about the economic and political history of Argentina if I couldn’t even understand what the teacher was saying, much less understand economics and politics which are two things I have NEVER studied before. It is good I’m studying these things though, and in such depth too. My major is International Studies with a focus in Peace, Human Rights and Conflict Resolution. Economic policies and political environments play a huuuuge part in all of these things but honestly I probably would have never taken a class about this stuff if I hadn’t come here. Yeah, why did I choose this program? Honestly, I just kinda had a feelin’ I really didn’t understand a whole lot about the academic part of it before I came (hehe, don’t tell my parents).
to remind myself I am in Argentina. Things are starting to actually feel normal, my life is starting to have a routine. It´s good but at the same time I can feel myself starting to look at this city with different eyes, more relaxed eyes. Things which used to pop out at me before are starting to become normal.
So I am soooo happy because my host mother has a guitar! When she showed it to me last week I think I literally jumped for joy. I started playing a lot more this summer and was sad when I came here cause I thought I would loose the caluses on my fingers I worked so hard for.
I have been slacking in class though. I have been spending too much time exploring the city, making new friends and playing guitar when I should be reading for class. Whoopsies. Its annoying because I know that the majority of my learning is taking place outside of the classroom, why should I have to sit in a chair listening to someone lecture for 5+ hours a day when it is a gorgeous day outside and there are places to go and people to meet! Such is life though, Ive always been really bad with being able to sit still for any extended period of time. Im one of those people that learns better interacting and moving and exploring.
There will be more of that. I mean every week we have a field trip to some cool place in the city and learn about it, plus we are going to Brazil and Paraguay. I really shouldnt be complaining…
Random favor to ask, if anyone knows how to hack a linux operating system please let me know. Ive forgotten the master password for my little pc netbook which is running linux and it is really cramping my style. I cant connect my ipod, computer, flashdrives, digital recorder or phone to it. Dont have itunes or skype. Sad day. Im also going to scope out a computer shop and see if someone here can help me. I might just resort to installing windows. Dont think I really have anything too important on my computer that isnt in my external hardrive at home.
The last few days have been kinda hum drum. Riding the subway to school, school, lunch, more school, go to a cafe, study (or pretend to study and just end up talking with friends the whole time, but the conversation is so good it feels worth it) go home, eat dinner, procrastinate doing homework some more, maybe do some homework, go to sleep, wake up, etc etc.
A few of my friends in the program have expressed interest in doing some yoga and meditation with me. Ive got my own little practice in the evening and morning but it would be really nice to find a space where I could meet up with my friends. We might end up meeting in the park sometime this week to meditate.
Walking through el Centro, where the Plaza de Mayo is and also the University of Buenos Aires, where I have Spanish class in the afternoon, it feels like walking through the matrix. At least on the way to UBI. El centro has a lot of the main bank branches in these really tall, old European-style stone and marble buildings and everyone is walking around in suits with straight faces and breifcases. People smoke a lot here too.
I bought a calling card the other day and got to talk to my parents! It was the first time Id talked to them since I arrived. Sooo nice.
Youtube search ¨lighthouse Yogi Bhajan¨ it will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
Well I came to this internet cafe cause I was locked out of my apartment, going to go see if my host mother is home yet cause I would really like to take a siesta before going to a cafe for a study sesh…
I think it is common knowlege that your environment makes a huge impact on who you are. This is an interesting idea for me to contemplate these days as I have been placed in a completely new environment unlike any other I have ever been in before. I mean, yes, I´ve lived in India for four years but that was quite different because I was surrounded by peers who had grown up as Sikhs and was living in a Sikh state. I have yet to meet a Sikh here in Buenos Aires. I know a few and am in contact with them through email but we have yet to meet up.
I am observing myself and how I am changing here. The language is a huge thing that has changed. The culture here is very open, friendly but sometimes too much (it is very common for men to whistle at you on the street or say things like ¨how beautiful!¨) which you just have to ignore. PDA is widely accepted, I mean I come from the states and I am surprised a lot by the make-out seshes people have on the subway and in the streets.
Anywhoo back to my point,
It is my belief that if someone is able to maintain a practice or personal charasteristic despite being in an environment that does not necessarily support it, might even condem it, then the person can know they are a truely ¨whatever they are doing¨ or truly believe in xyz etc….
I mean in soooo many cases, people live a certain way, good or bad, because that is the environment they are in, what about you? What things are you doing just because it is what your environment (society, culture, friends, family, job, etc.) is telling you to do/ be? If you don´t agree with me, I´d be interested to hear what you have to say on this topic.
I am keeping a journal and documenting things I am realizing and how I am feeling throughout this whole process. I am very interested to go back and read it after my program and see my progression of change. Sometimes I lament choosing to study International Studies only, like I shoulda double majored in Psychology or something, the people and the brain are just so facinating…
One of our first days in the city, our program sent us out in small groups of 3-4 with each group going to a different part of the city to explore and report back in a few hours. My group went to explore part of Belgrano.
Sorry, I know this is long, but there are pictures at the end!
Gosh, so much to say about life here in Buenos Aires, it is really nothing like my life back home. I guess I´ll just go ahead and describe my day…
Got up at 8:30ish, did some yoga in my room, showered, dressed, ate breakfast.
(I mentioned this before but I´m living with a woman and her two dogs in the neighborhood of Belgrano. It´s pretty close to Palermo which is a popular neighborhood in Buenos Aires with many resaurants and bars and places to shop. Belgrano is more of a residential area, very calm for the most part, and safe. I live with Marcela, a psychologist and massage therapist who works out of her home. She also gives reiki treatments. I´m definitly going to be needing her services sometimes soon I think. She is short, with short dark, curly hair and lots of pep in her step. She is very patient with me and my intermediate spanish. Her appartment is humble, with just the right ammount of furniture. I adore her two dogs, Uma and Lola. One night when there was a lot of thunder, I heard Uma whining outside my door, I let her in and she rushed under my bed, I guess she didn´t want to be alone.
As part of the program, Marcela provides me with breakfast and dinner everyday. I recieved a stipend from SIT for my lunches. Today I ate out at a cafe, a sandwich with cheese and tomato and a cafe and medialuna (small, sweet crosoint) for about 30 pesos, less than 10 dollars. Her boyfriend, Marcelo (how perfect right?) is a vegetarian and makes sandwiches and pastrys from his home and delivers them. He offered to deliver vegetarian sandwiches to me at school, def going to take him up on that.
I live here but it doesn´t quite feel like home, I didn´t even feel really at home this summer living with my parents either. I suppose that must be part of growing up, it´s time for me to fly away and make my own home.
Being here is really forcing me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. First of all the language barrier. All of my classes are in spanish which is crazy cause I am learning about human rights and development issues but I know that there is a lot I´m missing. Marcela only speaks spanish, that is interesting sometimes…we are both patient but sometimes our quizzical looks at each other trying to explain something go on too long and we just have to say “no es importante”.
I know I am experiencing culture shock. So much changing in such a short period of time. I can feel myself on the verge of being emotional sometimes, mostly in the evenings, and I just remind myself to breathe. I am finding myself very excited and hopeful though that this is a very very good thing for me, for my growth into an adult. I really have been asking for this kind of challenge for years and it is finally here. It´s funny, I actually feel like I am living like a monk. My room is very sparsely decorated, I didn´t bring a ton of my things with me, I am finding some solace in reminding myself of the big picture and why I am here. Ultimately it is because I feel that this experience will serve to make me a stronger, more competent, mature, aware person so that I may serve better. I can´t feel sad for too long when remembering this. I am homesick. I still want to be able to have my mother come into my room at night, bring me tea, read to me, tuck me in, and my Papa to come read Kirtan Sohila, touch my forehead with his hand and say “Good night kiddo, keep up”.
I´m keeping a journal which has served me very well so far, it has priority over this blog and I don´t have wifi at my house (I´m kinda glad because the internet is ultimately a distraction like right now when I should be reading for my seminar tomorrow, but it also makes me feel more alone, disconnected from the world, but it´s good. I have been too dependent on connection with people through this fake interaction that takes place on my computer screen).
Anyway, back to my day, so I had a breakfast of ceral, yogurt and fruit salad and rushed out of the house at 9:30 to ride the subway to school. I walk about six blocks to get to the subway station, Congreso de Tucman. From there I rode seven stops to Scalabrini Ortiz. The homebase here of SIT is I.D.E.S. (instituto de desarrollo y economico sociales) Institute of Develoment and Social Economics. It is about four blocks away from the Subway station in Recoleta. This morning we had our second seminar of the program theme, Regional Integration, Development and Social Change. I will explain that more when I start to understand more from our classes (it´s all in spanish so a bit of translation is required :p). Class was about an hour and a half/ two hours, then we had lunch. I went to a cafe just down the street. Was muy yum! It was fun to watch all the people go by. It is very common to see many dog walkers here with 7-10 dogs in a bundle behind them. After lunch we all followed Pablo, one of the program assistants on the subway to the first stop on line D, Catedral which is right next to the Plaza de Mayo. Three days a week we will be having our language classes at UBI (University of Buenos Aires).
Gosh so much to say, well blah blah blah, spanish class for two and a half hours was kinda brutal, but necessary. After class I wandered around the city on my own, exploring the Plaza and the monuments.