Friday, May 18, 2012

3 Amigos

On the last day of the trip I took around Argentina I went on a tour up into the mountains with a tour group. Not too far, but out of the city. I went rafting and then went through the canopy zipline tour. Canopy is a little bit misleading, because there weren't any tree, but there were ziplines. I was a little bit skeptical beforehand, but it was pretty cool. At least I didn't come down with an infection of flesh-eating bacteria. Anyway, the highlight of the day wasn't either of the activities, though they were great. The highlight was the company of two Argentines from Buenos Aires, a mother and daughter, who were spending the week in Mendoza. We struck up a conversation on the van and they welcomed me as a third wheel for the day (hence the image of the Three Amigos above). They were extraordinarily helpful when I struggled to say something in Spanish, and offered me lots of pointers about how to speak better. We had great conversations and it was a terrific way to spend the day.

One of the biggest Ah-Ha moments I had during the day was when we were watching a vanload of tourists unload. My new friends were talking about where they were from, and eventually agreed that about half were from abroad, some from the US and some from Europe. I asked how they knew, and they explained that it was as simple as complexion right off the bat, but also clothing, sunglasses, baggage, and how they behaved that led them to this conclusion. It turned out that they nailed it- 2 from France, 5 from the US, 4 from Argentina. What I got out of this conversation is that even if I don't open my mouth, most Argentines are going to spot me as a foreigner from a mile away simply by my haircut or the way I dress and walk. So they probably already expect me to speak differently too. This might not seem like much of a revelation, but it was really liberating for me because I don't have to be concerned about fitting in. Not that I ever really expected to blend in to begin with, but now I know it's basically impossible.

Pablo and I sharing a toast before digging into some delicious homemade empañadas. 
The past week or two also marked a big change in my life here in San Luis. It seems I've finally gotten past the awkward outsider phase and found some folks to hang out with, most recently in the form of Pablo and his fiancé Valeria. We've become good friends and they've incorporated me into their daily lives. This has led to all kinds of experiences that I'd been missing out on: cooking meals and eating together, going to the mall and playing air hockey (some things don;t need to be translated), hanging out, and even a soccer match. The game started at midnight, which isn't so common back home, but it was great to play and I can't wait to go again. Pablo has also appointed himself the Mr. Miagi of my Spanish training, and vows that I will return home speaking like a local. Don't get me wrong, the welcome that everyone gave me when I arrived was incredible. However, there is a difference between a formal welcome and making friends on my own. I feel really lucky to have gotten to this level.

My project is moving forward, and I'm slowly getting things in line to visit more schools. The schools I've visited have been great, but I need a wider range of data for my study to be meaningful. It's too bad that some of the schools happen to have their physics classes scheduled at 7:15 on Thursday mornings- I still haven't figured out how to be in two places at the same time. The students are great and I wish I could go to all their classes, but sadly that's not the way it works.

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