I’ve been in this country just over a week and eaten empanadas on five separate occasions. We even made some today in our “end-of-orientation-welcome-treat” in addition to a horseback ride and a brief dance lesson. (Even with Google’s aid, none of us can manage to remember what the dance is called.) Needless to say, we’ve been busy this first week.
Everyone greeted each other with a hug upon their arrival at the Casa. I’m a big fan of the amount of physical intimacy I feel here, both within the program and Argentina in general. Almost every Argentine, man or woman, greets and bids farewell to one another with a kiss on the right cheek. I see it happen at least a hundred times a day. We will try and do this just as Argentines would, but it definitely doesn’t keep us from sticking out. The girls here “appear” much taller on average than the girls in the States. I use quotes because most of them wear these platform shoes that give them at least an extra two inches. Between height and the fact that we speak Spanish poorly, or not at all, we don’t blend well.
There are many rules that we must abide by as “LMU students” in Córdoba, but perhaps the most beneficial one revolves around Spanish. Anytime we are in the presence of an Argentine who doesn’t speak English, we have to speak Spanish. This includes our cook, Marta. We may implement a few other times to speak exclusively Spanish, but for now that’s our only goal. A great time to practice is on the walk between Casa Sol (our house) and Casa Luna, the house that doubles as one of our classrooms and the home of our program director, Santi. Our neighborhood tour that introduced us to our “classroom” and other general surroundings also exposed the full extent of the wealth in this neighborhood. The houses are large and luxurious, and almost every single one has a guard dog. (Between those dogs and the strays, it safe to say a dog barks at you every few seconds, too.) But the walk between the two Casas is one we are sure to take often, so we’ll have get used to it.
Doug and Jennifer teach their class, Contemplatives In Action, on Mondays at Casa Luna. The two of them and their four kids (two sets of twins, ages 10 and 14) moved here from California in June and have committed to this program for three years. The Casa students see them often, and I have to say, it’s one of my favorite parts of the program so far. All of them come over for family dinners on Friday and bring their newfound puppy, Solito. Another one of our professors, Martín, joined us this week as well, but that will be less common.
Martín is our main Argentine contact while in the country. He is invaluable to us and was a crucial player in getting the program started. His class, Comparative Poverty from a Global Perspective (Comparative Poverty for short), is taught at the downtown campus, while our other two Argentine professors, Ariel and Diego, teach Spanish and Philosophy, respectively, at the South Campus. Diego is actually the VP of the University, and that comes with some advantage to us as he introduced us to the President of UCC. I felt incredibly fortunate to have that opportunity as a foreigner.
Of all the things we did this week, one stands out above all else: Dia de los Niños. We celebrated at Nuestro Hogar III, one of the praxis sites, on Saturday. This was my first total immersion in Spanish, and if there was any bit of my brain that was left in the US, it’s here now. It was a real wake up call to realize how little Spanish I can actually understand and communicate. Somehow I managed to find myself as the ref of a soccer match between about thirty ten year olds. It was a terrible idea for everyone involved. There were a few instances where there should have been a foul called or a goal considered no good, but alas, my knowledge of the sport (and language) upset many children. At one point I had the entirety of both teams yelling at me to call something, I don’t even know what, in their favor. I just blew my whistle, pointed towards one goal, and yelled “JUEGA!” which means “play on!” You do not want to get in between Argentines and their soccer. Excuse me, fútbol. I assume I left with more enemies than friends.
I’m happy to note that my praxis site is Barrio Argüello with three very nice nuns, and that I won’t have to return back to Hogar III.