jgiffs on My latest article for The… skeating@providence.… on My latest article for The… jgiffs on Tupac Amaru neighborhood jgiffs on Ubuntu Nancy Giffels on Ubuntu
Not that I’m expecting any of you to remember, but on my plane ride from Miami to Buenos Aires way back in February I met a girl from Argentina- she was sitting in front of me on the plane and we started talking when we both couldn’t figure out how to recline our seats back. It turned out both of our original flights had been delayed due to weather in Dallas and we’d been put on this one, and after we got off the plane we both went to the baggage claim nervous that our bags wouldn’t be there (hers ended up being there, mine weren’t). She gave me her e-mail address and told me if I ever needed anything to let her know, and thus my first Argentinian friendship was made- and also my first impression of how generous and open people in this country must be! We e-mailed a few times in the first few weeks but just recently I was thinking of her and sent her an e-mail, and we ended up arranging to meet up this weekend. She lives in San Isidrio which is outside of the city, so it takes a bit more planning for us to meet up.
So Saturday night I took a train that goes out into the provinces of Buenos Aires (I got to the train station by taking the subway from my house), and about forty-five minutes later I arrived in San Isidrio. Maria picked me up from the train station and we stopped at a Starbucks to grab a coffee and chat for a while- it was definitely weird seeing her because it brought back memories of when I was first arriving in Argentina, which feels like so long ago now! We then went to a theater production of Spring Awakening (Despertar de Primavera in Spanish), in which one of her friends was acting. This musical comedy was put on by a local cast and the show was at the high school, and it seemed everyone that attended the show knew each other- the room was full of cheerful greetings and hugs when we arrived. She introduced me to all her friends, each one of whom was surprised when I could speak Spanish with them. I loved the show, especially the last song in which the actors and actresses just put so much emotion and that emotion is so contagious and permeates throughout the theater into the audience as well. Afterwards we had planned on going out to eat but by the time we said goodbye to everyone and got in the car it was after midnight and not much was open, so we ended up heading to… McDonald’s drive-thru! I was surprised at first when she suggested this (well, after I figured out what “Auto Mac” meant… the drive-thru of McDonald’s), and thought to myself well here goes my first experience with fast food in Argentina! I just got a cheeseburger and fries, but it ended up being more expensive than I thought- in the U.S. McDonald’s is one of the cheapest meals you can find but between the two of us it was $100 pesos which seemed expensive to me. The only thing I can think of which might have raised the price is we got bottled water but even so… I’m used to thinking of McDonald’s as a place where you go and spend no more than a few bucks!
I stayed the night in San Isidrio with Maria (it wouldn’t have been safe for me to return at that hour of the night by myself on a train, and it really made the trip worth it spending more time visiting with her- plus we hadn’t seen each other yet!), and her house was absolutely gorgeous. San Isidrio is a peaceful town and known for being a beautiful area, but I definitely wasn’t expecting so spacious and perfectly decorated of a house! I guess I got used to the apartments and smaller living spaces in the city. It was relaxing to spend a night away from the noises of the city, and furthermore it was great to speak Spanish the whole time. We slept in the next morning, and when we went downstairs the next morning I met her family (parents, grandmother, and a younger sister and brother), all of whom were welcoming and friendly- it’s really such a wonderful feeling being so welcomed into people’s houses. And to think, I randomly met this girl on my plane ride down here when my semester was just beginning. If the whole disaster with my flight to Dallas getting delayed didn’t happen I wouldn’t even know her! (And you’re going to tell me everything doesn’t happen for a reason?! :) )Every time someone asked how we met, we both looked at each other and one of us would begin with “Well it’s a funny story…” Overall it was such an enjoyable night, I loved seeing an area outside of the city, meeting her family and friends, seeing the play, sharing meals, speaking Spanish, and spending time with someone from a different culture but someone with whom at the same time I have a lot in common.
This afternoon (Sunday) she had to go to a play rehearsal (she’s going to be in a play herself, in a group similar to the one who put on the production of Spring Awakening) in the city so I went with her and took the subway from the part of the city she had to go to. She drove three of her friends to the rehearsal as well, and it was fun being in a car with all of them and listening to them talk- the everyday, colloquial language and expressions that I’m now able to understand so much better. I arrived home to my host mom baking empanadas and telling me to be ready by 6:30 because we were going to a birthday party- her son’s girlfriend’s (Valeria’s) 30th. What a busy weekend! But after a coffee and a shower I was ready to go again, and spent a lovely evening at my host mom’s son’s and his girlfriend’s apartment with her family. Everyone was extremely friendly and eager to ask me questions about where I was from, and also if I understood what was going on when they were talking- always the funniest question. (I also kept laughing at the thought of a foreigner at one of my own family gatherings!) There was a lot of talk about politics (as I’ve learned is typical here in Argentina), but two of her cousins were there and they were around my age so we talked for a little bit as well. It’s always nice being complemented on my Spanish- even thought they’re probably just easily impressed, and thinking it’s impressive that I can at the least half-follow their conversations. It was funny how when I said something everyone would stop and listen to the foreign girl trying to speak their language… if only I could use this trick at home to get everyone to listen to me! The food was also delicious- we had finger type food and of course a birthday cake, the candle on which was something else, it was almost like a firecracker! And this is the first birthday cake I’ve had that is like the cake we have back in the U.S. instead of the tart-like concoction that I’d had for other birthdays. We went up to the top of their apartment building after we finished eating and the view of the city was absolutely stunning- well, if you fall in love with views of the city at nighttime like I do. Deceptively peaceful, but you start imagining what all the people in the city are doing and realize how many people you’re actually staring out at. The lights of all the buildings twinkling softly against the solid black of the night… I’m going to miss having a view of the city!
And now it’s Sunday night, how quickly weekends pass! But this weekend was definitely a memorable one and it made me feel truly fortunate to be here with all of these opportunities. The next few days I must focus on my project, only two weeks remain and a lot to do! But I have this great weekend behind me to give me motivation, and I just have to remember to balance my time between work and breaks. Here’s to time going by super slowly from now until I have to leave!
What kind of code is that, you ask? The fun that is transportation in Buenos Aires! Every time I go somewhere new it’s always an interesting process figuring out exactly how to get there. Since Day 1 my Guia T (pocket-size map of the city with all the bus routes and subway stops) has been my City Bible, and the way it works is you locate the quadrant you’re in and the quadrant you want to go to and find a bus number that appears in both the quadrants. Then you go to the back of the book where the bus routes are listed by street and you find which the street with the bus stop for you to get on and the street where you’ll get off. To this day it’s still a little bit tricky, but I’ve had Argentinians tell me they often feel this way too- there are so many buses that run through the city and the same bus number has two different routes (going and returning) so you have to figure out the way there and the way back separately. However when it comes down to it the buses are undeniably convenient because there’s literally a way to get from anywhere to anywhere in the city on a bus. The reason for the title of my blog post is that these past few days I’ve had to figure out how to get a lot of new places but fortunately have had luck in getting there… even if it means pulling out my Guia T in the middle of the street- the #1 sign that you are a tourist.
So Friday morning- another early morning, I woke up at 7:30… I definitely didn’t expect this trend of having to wake up earlier during the ISP period than I did during the weeks we had classes! But once I get over the initial tiredness the day feels a lot longer and I fit a lot more activities in. I took the subway (line B) in the opposite direction than I usually do and at one of the stops met the program director, who accompanied me on a visit to one of the neighborhoods most affected by the April floods in the city (this was to help me with my ISP research). We drove in her car to the neighborhood of Saavedra and stopped at the Center of Management and Participation (each section of the city has one of these) to see if we could talk to anyone there or perhaps schedule an interview for another day. They gave us a contact phone number of one of the directors, and when we called the person said he would check and get back to us. We then stopped by my director’s house since it was close by so she could grab a few things and a bite to eat, typical Argentinian hospitality. She made me a submarino (hot milk with melted chocolate) and gave me some toast with peanut butter that she had made (!) and honey. We then drove to Barrio Mitre, which is a smaller and poorer section inside of the middle-class neighborhood Saavedra. A few years ago a shopping mall called DOT (yes, it’s as funny as you think to hear Argentinians refer in their accents to “el shopping DOT”) was built right next to this neighborhood, to the devastation of the people. Why devastation? The construction of the mall worsened the propensity of the neighborhood to flood, due in large part to the significant slope in the land from the mall down to the houses. The builders of the mall still have not complied with many of the stipulations laid out in the original agreement in terms of adequate measures in recognition of the existence of this neighborhood that is literally the mall’s neighbor.
We were able to secure me an interview for Monday afternoon with the vice principal of the high school in Saavedra, one that many children from Barrio Mitre attend since it’s only a few blocks away. It was amazing to me that we could walk in, talk to a few people, and before I knew it the principal of the high school is scheduling me an interview. It was a bit funny to walk around with the program director because every time we talked to someone new she would introduce me: “I’m with a student from the U.S. who’s here in a study abroad program and researching the topic of flooding in Buenos Aires…” and kind of like a five-year-old child does when her mom introduces her to someone, I would just smile and say hello, leaving the connection-making and convincing to my director, the expert. It’s always interesting to speculate as to what the other people are thinking though- I know they’re wondering how much Spanish I can actually speak, and they’re probably curious as to my impressions of the city and of the organization we’re in, etc.
We also went to the community center inside Barrio Mitre, and were able to speak with the director, Marta, for about an hour- I ended up recording this and am going to use it as one of my interviews. Even though we arrived without warning, Marta made the time to sit down with us and explain to us some of the history of the neighborhood, the devastation of the floods this year in early April, and the strained relationship the neighborhood has with the government. This was an interesting perspective for me to hear since I have been reading all about the history of the hydraulic infrastructure in the city, the studies that have been done, the plans that have been developed, the projects that are in place now and the effects of them, and I’d interviewed earlier this week a member of the team who developed the Hydraulic Plan for the city… but now I was able to see firsthand the actual results and effects of the city’s planning on its citizens. And it wasn’t too great in this neighborhood- although it’s just one sample of the whole city, it speaks to the ideas I’ve been reading about concerning the responsibility of the government to its people, the people claiming their rights and keeping the government on track when it fails to realize its responsibilities, the difficulty but necessity of incorporating the risks of flooding into city public policy, etc. Lots of theoretical questions regarding the responsibility of the government, which here in Barrio Mitre I was seeing a failure to serve the people to whom the government is responsible. One of the things Marta told us that really struck me was that if torrential rains were to come again tomorrow, the neighborhood would be in the exact situation of extreme flooding as it was in during the rains of early April, and during numerous other storms in years past. What do they have to do for the government to recognize their situation?
Marta had years full of stories and information to tell us, and she spoke a bit fast for me to understand every word but I knew I would be able to go back and listen to the recording again and I’ll also have the interview transcribed as I did with the last one. It was a huge help to have my program director with me to guide the interview as well and make sure we touched on important aspects. Afterwards we talked with some of the high-school age kids who were at the cultural center, baking a traditional kind of bread on a fire outside and with the man who had lead the workshop on baking the bread. Small talk is still the hardest part of the Spanish language for me, and it’s hard to joke around and think of things to say off the top of my head. During informal conversation like this, people will speak a lot faster and say quick things that I’ll often miss, so when I have to ask them to repeat themselves it looks like I don’t know a lot of Spanish at all. There’s also always the fear too that they won’t understand you, so despite how hard I try not to I always hesitate before asking something.
After a successful but fairly exhausting morning of visiting the neighborhoods, I successfully took bus #71 back to my house, and then had one of my typical lunches of sandwiches de miga (thin sandwiches, my favorite kind is primavera- “spring”- which has lettuce, tomato, ham, and little pieces of egg in it), a yogurt and a banana. The afternoon would bring my first Conversation Exchange, and this time a ride on bus #55. I met up with a girl a few years older than me who lives here in Buenos Aires but is originally from Columbia. She had suggested one of her favorite cafes for us to meet at, which I should have taken pictures of because it was the cutest little cafe called “La Panera Rosa” with a great selection of coffee, pastries and sandwiches, and although we just got coffee I will have to go back to try the waffles (yes, waffles!) that are on the menu. I was excited for the opportunity to meet up with someone who lives in Buenos Aires and practice my Spanish but at the same time definitely a little nervous too- what would she be like? What would we talk about? When you don’t know a person at all it seems like there’s so much to talk about but sometimes it can actually make it more difficult to find topics of mutual interest.
Lucky Luisa was super nice and friendly and we talked for a little bit over an hour without any problem. We started off in Spanish (since we are in Spanish-speaking country it’s kind of the norm to at least start off in Spanish) and the way the conversation went we ended up speaking in Spanish for the whole time. I was happy that she could understand me and that I could understand her as well, and we found plenty of things to talk about. I felt pretty accomplished by the end of it! And we are going to hopefully plan a time to meet again next week, and this time talk more in English so she can practice as well.
I then quickly met up with the girl who had transcribed my interview for me so I could pay her for this, and then successfully took bus #55 back to my house. For dinner I was able to meet up with two other Providence College students, one who is also doing an SIT program but a different theme than me, and the other who is in a program that travels around to different cities for the semester and the last stop happened to be in Buenos Aires. We went to one of the traditional “parrilla,” or grill, restaurants that the city’s known for- although a bit expensive we decided to treat ourselves, and plus we have to say we’ve been to one! This was called “Reencuentro,” and it ended up being fairly close to my house, only a short bus #55 ride away. It was a $110 pesos or about $22 dollars (drinks and dessert not included) but it was an open menu so we could order anything we wanted, as many times as we wanted! We got salads and steaks and pasta and split a bottle of wine, and felt like true Argentinians (minus the fact that we were speaking English) taking our time, enjoying each other’s company and the delicious food. We had plenty to catch up on from our semester abroad, and it was great- although definitely a little strange!- to see familiar faces in a country besides the U.S. We left the restaurant a little after midnight so I took a taxi home to be safe… and thus you have the title of this blog post completed, subway line B, bus #71, #55 three times, and a taxi! And that’s not to mention that my program director has a car so we used that to get around the neighborhoods in the morning.
I rolled out of bed around 10 o’clock this morning (Saturday) and opened my blinds to an overcast sky and a windy city, and tonight it’s supposed to rain. Although it’s a dreary day, I don’t mind this weather every once in a while. For lunch my host mom cooked lentils (beans) which she mixes with a few spices and pieces of this sausage/hot dog type meat, a hot stew that she thought was fitting for a day like today, and for dessert we had baked apples which were delicious- they tasted similar to the inside of an apple pie. I’m currently sitting comfortably at my desk in my PC sweatshirt and leggings, sipping on a cup of coffee my host mom prepared for me and keeping warm from the portable heater she bought for my room the other day- for lack of a better way to describe it, it’s basically a fan that blows hot air. It’s still funny how people down here think the weather is all of the sudden SO cold- as I was walking back from adding credit to my phone and taking out money from the bank this morning I passed my host mom as she was leaving to go grocery shopping and she was lightheartedly chiding me about how I must be so cold because I didn’t have socks on (I was wearing ballet flats) or a scarf (but I had my Northface jacket on). It’s funny to think of the norms I follow from being under her care though- like always bringing a jacket places so she won’t worry about me being cold, making my bed all the time, wearing slippers around the house, using plates and silverware for everything… that one might sound weird but I was thinking about it while making my tea and toast for breakfast this morning- at home I would probably just use a mug for the tea and eat the toast while standing in the kitchen but here I have a tea mug and then a plate for the mug, a plate for the toast, a knife to cut the bread and a knife to spread the cream cheese and jam, etc, and since meals on the go don’t exist here I always sit down to eat breakfast.
Well, I think that’s it for now- already Saturday afternoon! Saturdays seem to have that curse of going by so fast and never really being that productive, just kind of a lazy weekend time. Thinking of my family today as my aunt gets married in the Cape! And hoping it’s a bit warmer and sunnier out up there for you :) And I hope everyone who recently arrived back in the U.S. from studying abroad is readjusting and enjoying being back home! Since I didn’t leave until the end of February, I’ll be one of the last to arrive home- which just as it was weird being at home when everyone was at school or had left for abroad, it’s also weird being abroad when most people have started their summer!
Thursday, May 16 I opened up my yogurt just now to find this saying under the lid: “cada logro comienza con la decisión de intentar,” or every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. I buy this brand of yogurt (either vanilla or strawberry flavored) almost every day for a snack and there’s a saying under each lid, something fairly simplistic and some might say corny but they still make me smile. It’s the same as the F’real milkshakes I buy from Slavin at school, and I suppose I can admit here that I love to save these lids with their cheesy sayings and hang them on the bulletin board in my dorm. It’s just one more way of remembering to enjoy the simple things in life- in the middle of a chaotic day, you innocently open up a yogurt or milkshake lid and read a few words that make you stop for a minute and just think, when it comes down to it life is pretty darn good, ain’t it? And although today may seem like just another ordinary day, that’s exactly the attitude that allows life to pass by without you noticing it. Sometimes you have to purposely pause and take the time to appreciate where you are (for me, literally where I am… thousands of miles away from home in South America), to think about how you’ve gotten there and what you’re striving towards for the future- the age old question, what makes you get out of bed in the morning?
Yesterday morning I for one was certainly wishing I could lounge around in bed and not get up, and the day started off fairly slow. I’ve come to realize about myself that when I’m dreading doing something or am overwhelmed by all that I have to do, I tend to find comfort in sleep- whether it means sleeping in late and not getting up in the morning, convincing myself I need a nap in the middle of the day, or being scared about not getting enough sleep and going to bed too early. It’s some twisted logic about my bed being somewhere I can hide and not face the world… yet every time the world, in the end, never fails to impress and amaze me, and I always tend to regret sleeping more than doing something else. Yesterday I tried staying at home to do work, giving myself the whole day to research and write, which turned out to not be the best idea. There are too many distractions in the apartment (including food and my bed) that cause me to prolong my work and there’s not enough incentive to focus and be productive within a time frame. Similarly, when I give myself too long of a time period to do something, I end up using all of that time but barely getting anything done because my mentality is “oh, I have the whole day.” End result? Frustrated me who needs to get out of the house and do something, but feels like she can’t because she hasn’t gotten “enough” done.
I knew it was inevitable that I’d have these kind of days during the ISP period (despite the virtual sticky notes on my laptop background with motivational quotes and notes to myself not to stress out) but I really was trying my best to avoid them- with only a few weeks left in Argentina I don’t want to waste any time being frustrated or aggravated. So mid-afternoon I stopped and went for a run in the park to clear my head, which the fifty-something degree chill in the air certainly did, and then went to buy some snacks and ran into one of my favorite fruit vendors in the supermarket, whose warm greeting helped to cheer me up. I then introduced myself to Henry, the man who is in charge of maintenance and such in our apartment building, who stands at the front door every afternoon but I had just figured out who exactly he was a few days ago (he’s only there for a couple of hours a day so I don’t see him all the time, and never really paid much attention… a poor excuse for not taking the time to notice this and to talk to him earlier). Having a successful conversation in Spanish always helps put me in a better mood. I had had a Conversation Exchange planned for the evening, but it turned out that the other person cancelled only about an hour beforehand… Oh yes, Conversation Exchange is a website that one of the program directors suggested to me when I was looking for ways to improve my Spanish. The website allows you to meet other people who are looking to practice a language as well, so for example I search for native Spanish speakers in Buenos Aires who are learning English.
So what to do now? Back to work, I thought. But then another opportunity arose to get out of the house and although I was tempted to keep working on my project, I decided to go- which maybe at one point in my life I would have felt guilty about but I’ve learned, and the lesson has only been emphasized during my time studying abroad, that often times experiences outside of the books and the classroom are as valuable if not more valuable than “school” lessons. And it turns out my experience last night wasn’t entirely out of the classroom… One of my friends here teaches classes at the University of Buenos Aires at the campus that is for students in their first year- here, there is one year before you enter your major that consists of general classes, with the goal of bringing everyone to the same level, if you will, before the classes in your major start. So we went to grab coffee and then afterwards I went to watch my friend teach the class- which although it was a math class, I managed to follow along fairly well… no doubt it was a flash back to senior year of high school and a bit of a scary reminder of how much I’ve forgotten! But nonetheless it was interesting to be in a class with actual Argentinian students. The atmosphere of the classes in Argentina, from what I’ve gathered, depend a lot on the professors and on your major, but for the most part are lecture based. This two hour class went by fast for me since I was having fun listening to the language and learning new phrases and paying close attention when the students asked questions- to the words they used, etc.- but I certainly admire the students who come to this class three times per week from 9 to 11 p.m. after an undoubtedly long day working or doing other things. Students don’t live “on campus” here but rather “commute,” and it’s common for them to be working in addition to attending school- the amount of time to complete a degree varies widely depending on your particular situation, and on top of that each major is different (as opposed to the traditional four year system we have). I sat in the back of the class and just observed, and no one ended up asking me what I was doing there- since public university is free here and anyone can attend, it’s a more common to have people come and go in the classes.
Going out and experiencing another part of life here in Buenos Aires lifted my spirits again and I was glad I took advantage of an opportunity like this. That led into this morning starting off on a good note (despite waking up at 6:30!) and I was happy that I had things planned for the day- things to look forward to, things to structure my day, things that meant I was livin’ life and taking advantage of studying abroad. One of the things that makes me realize how fast the time is flying (if I had a nickel for every time I said that I swear I’d be rich) is the change in the weather- Today and yesterday were COLD! It’s funny to see how quickly people down here bundle up as if it were below freezing, when really it’s just a crisp fall day of maybe 40 something degrees in the morning and reaching 50 something in the afternoon, but what really did it was the sudden drop in temperature over a few days. All of the sudden it’s now cold enough that I wore my Northface jacket and scarf today! It’s certainly weird being cold again, and odd to remember back to February when I left snowy Boston for the gorgeous weather I found down here.
This morning I first had a meeting with my Spanish professor to correct the first part of my final paper. Unlike in the U.S., professors here don’t usually have offices at the universities but rather work out of their houses, so I went to her house for the meeting- which did seem a little weird but of course turned out fine because that is what they are used to down here. This project is also different for me in the sense that I’m researching, doing interviews, and writing the paper all at the same time- due to the short time period this is how we have to do it; it wouldn’t be feasible to write forty pages the last few days, and the interviews largely depend on when the people are available. I had my first interview Tuesday morning with someone who works for the government at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, and is also a sociology professor at the University of Buenos Aires. The reason I interviewed him was due to his participation in the team that developed the master plan for the city of Buenos Aires to address the issue of flooding. So nothing short of a specialist in the topic, he was able to tell me the plans they developed and what needed to be done, and I’m in the process of reading the plans right now. The plan was released in 2006 and my next step is to find out which parts of the plan the city has carried out and which parts remain only on paper. As it was my first interview here and not just with any person but someone who has a fairly important role, I was definitely a little bit nervous and not sure what to expect. After a successful bus ride (daylight had just arrived before I left for the bus stop at 7:30!) I arrived at an impressive and professional government building, had to check in at the desk (spelling my last name for the guard took me a minute, I always get confused with vowels because the Spanish letter “e” is pronounced more like the English long “a” and the Spanish “i” like the English “e”!), and needless to say was simply hoping I would be able to make the most out of this opportunity to talk with a professional. As soon as he came out to greet me though that friendly Argentinian tone was established and we talked freely for about an hour. Although I struggled a little formulating all the exact questions I wanted to ask, he had a lot of information to share and I recorded the interview so I can look back at it later. I actually had the interview transcribed by a professional, which is what the program recommends to help us, and now have this resource to read and analyze for my paper.
But back to today- after my meeting with my professor I met up with some friends from the program at El Alteneo, a large and well-known bookstore that was built in an old theater- the stage is still there for performances, and some of the side box seats are still there for you to sit in and read. We sat at a table in the cafe and got coffee and worked a little on our projects. Although I didn’t buy any books I was sorely tempted, as always when I walk into a bookstore full of inviting reads before I remind myself that I don’t actually have time to read or money to buy ten new books, but I’ll definitely invest in a few Spanish reads before I leave. We then found a nice cafe for lunch to treat ourselves- I ordered chicken that came in a delicious honey/soy/white wine sauce with a vegetable souffle on the side, and for dessert we split a brownie/dulce de leche/frosting concoction. Delicious and it was nice to catch up with some people in the program since we don’t see them as often now without class every day.
So overall a much better day, but it once again made me realize it’s all about how I look at my situation and the opportunities I take advantage of. As the wise yogurt lid tells me, I have to make the attempt before I’ll succeed. I have to make the effort to explore the city, the effort to make the most of my time, and even when things don’t turn out how I planned, this is nothing compared to the things I’d be missing if I didn’t try. So here’s to a balanced last few weeks in Argentina, to enjoying my research and appreciating the amazing opportunity I have to research a relevant and interesting topic in another country, and also to making the most out of my days exploring this magnificent city.
And I’ll end by relating one of the things I’ve come to love most about Argentina: its people. From my professors and the program directors who bend over backwards to help us out to the strangers who don’t hesitate to assist you out when you’re fumbling through the pages of your Guia T (map, bus and subway guide of the city, extremely useful but blatant sign that you’re a tourist), from my host mom who’s taken me in for the semester to the people I buy fruit and coffee from, the attitude is always one of helping others- people come first. You never hear “I don’t have time” or “maybe another day,” but rather it’s always “take a seat and let’s talk for a little” or “are you sure I can’t get you coffee or tea?”. I know I can’t generalize about the entire population of Argentina, but I can say with a degree of certainty that the culture definitely has its clear differences, its norms that permeate through everyday life. I feel extremely rude whenever I’m in a rush here, because people always stop to talk, and even when you’re walking down the street you notice that people generally aren’t in a huge rush. When I get in my high-strung, stressed-out North American student mode, I soon realize that this attitude is my doing, and I can easily un-do it as well. And as we’ve been encouraged to do from the beginning, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but a mark of recognition that human interaction and helping each other out is how the world works. This isn’t to say I don’t get annoyed by the whistles and remarks people will make as we (especially when I’m with a group of girls) walk by on the street, or the slower service at restaurants or the way you can never really count on a meeting being exactly on time, but there’s certainly a lot I’ve come to appreciate about the culture down here that I know will stay with me after I leave.