Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'll Be Missing the Kissing

Last night, my good friend and wonderful colleague, Diane, skyped me from her ESL class at City College, Alemany Campus, where I also teach. It was great to see some of my old students and also some of my future students (maybe). It reminded me why I love my job so much.

The students had some really good questions for me, but I wasn't prepared to answer them and I was a little bit nervous. I think someone asked me what I would miss when I leave here.

Today as I was walking to the gym, I remembered something that I really like about Argentina that I won't have in the US - kissing!

Argentines kiss everybody, or almost everybody. It is a typical Argentine greeting. Men kiss women, women kiss men, men kiss men and women kiss women. I kiss my Arabic teacher when I go to class, and sometimes I kiss my classmates. I kiss my friends when I meet them and if I meet their friends, we also kiss. I kiss the receptionist at the chiropractor's office, but my chiropractor shakes my hand - we don't kiss (I don't know why).

I think the kissing is really nice and I will miss it when I return home. Maybe I can start a new tradition in San Francisco of everyone kissing everyone!

The other thing I will miss are the Argentine gestures. Argentines use their hands a lot when they speak. I think it is because there are so many Italians who immigrated here. My family is Italian, so these gestures remind me a lot of how the people in my family speak. Not all of the gestures here have the same meaning as Italian gestures, but I found this cute video on You Tube of a guy explaining Italian gestures.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cultural Adjustment

This week I felt like I moved into the best phase of culture shock - adjustment. This is the time that life in a new culture begins to feel almost like home - with good days and bad days. It is different from that time at the beginning when everything is exciting, and not the same as that time when everything is really difficult. I like the adjustment phase.

Today I went to the supermarket and felt very comfortable there. I didn't feel stressed out that I would not understand the questions the cashier was going to ask me. I wasn't frustrated that I couldn't find the things I was looking for. I didn't get upset because the lines were really long and moving slowly. Everything seemed normal for me and I felt very comfortable.

I'm also feeling comfortable on the street with the broken sidewalks and people blowing smoke in my face and all of the traffic and noise and dog poop and everything else. Today when I left my Arabic class and walked out on to the street at the end of rush hour, I felt the excitement of being in a city with so much energy. I was glad to get home to the quiet of my apartment, but I also enjoyed being out on the street with everyone else.

I think cultural adjustment is a difficult thing. I don't know if I will ever be fully adjusted to life here in Argentina. I think there will always be things that I miss about my home and things that I don't understand here. For example, I won't take the bus because I need to have change. The smallest bill here is a 2 peso bill. But the bus costs 90 centavos. So, to take the bus, you either need 90 centavos in exact change or you need a 1 peso coin. But nobody has change! In the cafeteria at my school they have a sign on the cash register that says "no coins". Because so many people need coins for the bus, it is almost impossible to find them.

I think this is crazy. I don't understand why they just don't sell bus passes. Some people take the same bus every day. It would make so much sense to just sell regular bus riders a bus pass every month, like our Fast Pass in San Francisco. So, because I think it is stupid that you need change for the bus, I walk or take the subway or a taxi!

On the other hand, there are things I like about living here that I know I will miss when I get back to San Francisco. A friend of mine who lives in Victoria, Canada, just sent me an article she wrote about reverse culture shock. This is what happens when you return to your native country. I was glad she reminded me about it, because I want to continue my blog after I am back in San Francisco so I can write about what happens when I come back.

Culture shock can be difficult sometimes, but in the end, I think it is a positive thing and I think makes our lives much more interesting!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Back in Buenos Aires

After a short trip to Uruguay, I am back in Buenos Aires in my apartment that feels like home. It is nice to be home and in familiar surroundings.

I had a nice trip to Uruguay, but it is always challenging visiting a new place. I didn't know where to eat or where I could find a shop to buy water, even some of the food vocabulary was different. It is amazing, because Argentina and Uruguay are neighbors, yet, when I looked at the menu I didn't know many of the words for the food. It would be like visiting Nevada from California and finding the words on the menu completely different. Still, I had a good time, I found some good food and I made it there and back safely.

It is spring here in Buenos Aires. The trees are turning green, the birds are chirping and it is warm. People are beginning to wear shorts and t-shirts on the streets. Uruguay was still cold. People were wearing winter coats. It is nice to be back where it is warm.

The trip was good for me to be able to realize that my life here is comfortable. I have familiar surroundings and I can do things fairly easily here, even if it is still more difficult than San Francisco, it is easier than Uruguay!

I am finishing up my breakfast now and am on my way to the post office and the gym. I have not been to the post office here yet. I am sure it is different than in the U.S., and I am sure I will be confused. I am expecting it to be difficult, but if it turns out to be easy, I will be pleasantly surprised. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Culture Shock - Finding What You Love

Today it has been 2 months since I came here. I arrived at the end of winter and now it is the beginning of spring. The weather still changes from day to day, sometimes it is warm and sometimes it is cold, but I can tell it is spring. The trees are turning green and birds are chirping everywhere.

In my two months here I have gone through different stages of culture shock. In the beginning I was excited about being here, but it didn't take me long before I was feeling tense and nervous about things. I was afraid to speak Spanish, especially at the supermarket, and every time I went there, I got nervous. I didn't like the pollution or the people smoking on the streets. My culture shock experience began making me sick.

I feel like now I am moving into a new phase. I am not sure what it is, but my health is better and I feel more relaxed about things.

I was looking for something on You Tube and I found a video that I really like. Every time I watch it, it makes me laugh. The more I watch it, the more I laugh. I sent this to some friends and now want to put it on my blog.

The reason I love this video is because for me it describes everything I love about Buenos Aires. It is hard for me to describe Buenos Aires only in words, but this video does a really good job doing it.

This is not a video of all of the famous tourist sites here. Instead it is a confrontation between some people and the police.

The video was shot in San Telmo. San Telmo is one of the oldest parts of Buenos Aires. It used to be where the rich lived, but there was a yellow fever epidemic and the rich people left. Their big homes were taken over by the newly arriving immigrants who often lived in very crowded conditions. Today, San Telmo is a working class neighborhood. It is a little dangerous. Some buildings need repairs. But it has a lot of character.

Every Sunday in San Telmo there is a street fair. There are vendors selling clothes and handicrafts, there is typical food and music, and of course, tango.

This video was part of a documentary about a tango orchestra called Orquesta Tipica. It is a group of musicians who decided to form a tango orchestra. They wanted to set up on the street in San Telmo and play. The police came and told them they could not play.

I love the interaction between the musicians, the people on the street and the police officer. The officer is very respectful as he tries to enforce the law. The people are varied. Some are respectful, but others become very animated. This is Buenos Aires.

Here the peole are very animated. They use their hands when they talk. They use many different gestures and are very passionate. They protest everything. I love watching this video because it reminds me of the things I love about Buenos Aires and why I came here.

I think it is good to remind myself about the things that I enjoy about being here and try not to focus on the things I don't like. It makes me feel better.