Sunday, December 23, 2007

Asado Anyone?

The smell of steak, chorizo, barbecue smoke and wine fill the air. Your ears are tuned to laughs and Spanglish. Bienvenidos, you're at an Argentinian Barbecue gathering, also known as an Asado or Barbacoa. Mike and I are invited to an Asado at least twice a week, as their great social gatherings for meeting people, practicing Castellano, and spoiling your appetite. We usually attend our friend Sarah's asado in San Telmo (tango district). This is where much of our network has been built. Her house consists of six other roommates, half of whom are bilingual and the other half speak only Spanish. Paola from Peru speaks only Spanish but she'll open up to you with the sweetest smile and treat you like family from day one. All in all, we have come away from every asado meeting someone new and leaving with affirmation that we made the right move to Buenos Aires

The rules of a great asado are much like your typical 'potluck' in the US. You're welcome to bring meat, usually chorizo or steaks, salad or dessert. Everyone provides their own drinks, either a nice bottle of wine or some beer which is roughly $5 USD. Then you have the privelage of learning something new about this culture or the Spanish language and maybe even teach some English. Anywhere you go in Buenos Aires, you can smell the barbecue smoke from the parilla (parilla=grill). This last Saturday, we decided to rid some of our energy by running along the Rio de la plata in a park which stretches nearly 10 miles. By the end, we had covered about 6 miles in the hot summer sun and needed some replenishment. What do we see? A street vendor selling cheap choripons. Doesn't everybody follow up their exercise with a chorizo?

We now sit in our apartment in Congreso District for the last night of our residence in this parade-filled area of the city. Our Christmas Eve day will be spent moving into our new apartment in Palermo, which is the nicer area of Buenos Aires. I've heard it called the Beverly Hills of Buenos Aires, a hefty comparison that I wouldn't make but it certainly is where you want to live in this city. Our apartment will be roughly 10 blocks from the Recoleta Cemetary (Cementerio de Recoleta) which is blocked off by walls like a gated community. Instead of homes, tombs of the many famous people, including Eva Perron, of Argentina occupy the enclosed neighborhood. Many other fine attractions also lie in our next barrio=neighborhood, including bars, clubs, restaurants, and our tango classes!

Hard to believe, but it's that time of year where I usually wake up to cold weather and wonder if Santa made his visit to my home. I do miss the Wintery spirit of Christmas but I can't complain about my Christmas plans here either. What are Robin's Christmas plans for 2007 you may ask? What else, we'll be attending another Asado at our friend Kate's in Palermo. May your holidays be filled tummy satisfaction, laughs and good people as well. If you need to find Mike or I, we'll be near the platilla.

Prost, Salud, Cheers!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Adaptation in the eyes of Ginger

Does your attitude and body language matter in another culture? I believe so. Since I first stepped off the airplane in Buenos Aires, I knew my Spanish was not up to par and immediately felt the un-comfort. The people of this country are very passionate and prideful for their country and the Spanish language. We'd be fooled to think that some of them want to speak a lick of English to us. Thus, our great adaptation is under way. My good friend Nick made a great comment on the first post about a law in Argentina. No public advertisement or billboard should contain the English language that literally translates to Spanish. Thanks for feeding the blog Nick. How ironic I came here to teach English. Not that I feel completely discriminated against but I have drawn some interesting looks down here, I've become quite accustomed to this new attention brought to myself. Some have migrated here to teach English before us and that is a threat to the prideful and faithful. To be honest, I don't see any shame in that. I've also met many citizens here who are 'abierto,' or open minded, that fully accept our presence and the English language.

Argentina is very political and it shows everyday on the street where we currently reside, Callao Avenue. Once a day for the last eight days, we have heard the drums beating hard, the whistles, firecrackers, sirens and chants. Some are protests and the others are celebrations. It truly is a whole new society who is very passionate about its respective opinions on issues. I can't blame them for wanting to protect their native language from us outsiders providing education of the English language. I can't remember seeing many public signs or advertising in foreign languages that literally translated to English, well maybe Taco Bell. How must this English teacher adapt?

I just had an interview today with a sales company that pays US wages, which is a needle in a haystack here. How? Through the friend of a friend, the word 'networking' carries some weight to it after all. English teaching doesn't pick up until March anyways, and I've already met with several of the language institutes so my foot is in the door there. My number one objective of meeting more people will continue without question.

It would be very false to say I was completely prepared for the outsider feeling that comes with being an Ex-pat in Argentina. Two weeks after my arrival, I finally have accepted the outsider feeling. The transformation in my attitude and body language seems to have made all the difference in my adaptation process. I started this by looking into other's eyes everywhere I go. Communicating without looking into each other's eyes is found as really rude here, which is why my shy demeanor in the first days was not successful. The smile is very underrated in the cross cultural communication as well. Bringing a smile to a stranger's face with your own smile is a very sweet feeling.

So let them observe this 'ginger' and so shall I observe with the same curiosity. I'm optimistic that we'll learn a whole lot from each other and do so with a smile.

See how far your smile takes you...

Monday, December 17, 2007

A taste of home via ESPN Monday Night Football

Sitting in my apartment very satisfied after eating some Chorizo and drinking fine wine from Mendoza, Argentina, I change the channel from futbol de Argentina to NFL football. Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings, big deal right? I must admit, I love watching Monday Night Football in Argentina just because of the commentators. No talk of the undefeated New England Patriots, no talk of Michael Vick, no talk of Terrell Owens, no talk of the Miami Dolphins finally jumping into the win column. Granted, my understanding of Spanish isn't up to par, I can steal understand that they're only commentating about the players and teams in the current game. What a concept! If and when I ever return to the good ol' US of A, I vow to watch all football games in SAP Espanol. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Did I mention the chorizo and fine wine? One thing you can't escape in Argentina is delicious food and good wine. I find myself saying 'Que rico' after every meal here. Que rico= How delicious or rich tasting. Argentina is known for its delicious meat, fine wine and cheap leather. Oh, how could I forget the tango? If you're a vegetarian, I would recommend you choose another country to visit. The steak, chorizo, and red meat here are the best I've had. It's easy to clean the palette with the red wine from Mendoza. I have yet to buy myself a good priced leather jacket. Maybe I'll give the leather pants a try for my next tango class, there's a first for everything.

This last Sunday evening was our second tango class and I think I might have the basics covered and am ready for level two, only with my leather outfit that is. From my immediate rookie experience in dancing the tango, it seems much more difficult for the woman, her steps are more complicated but the male partner must guide her through the steps. My balance has always been exceptionally well but my transitioning on the dance floor is rather choppy. Only time and practice will tell if its my calling, spare the laughs.

Much of today was spent trying to get our tourist visa for Brazil as we will be flying to Florianopolis, Brazil to ring in 2008. Our search for the Brazilian visa will wait another day as we did not have all of the correct paperwork. It would have been nearly $40 cheaper to get the Brazilian visa in the states, preparation counts! At least we now know what paperwork we need for tomorrow to experience a Brazilian New Year's celebration. We also plan on going to another barbecue with some friends. At least two times a week, we attend and Argentine Barbacoa. Good time to socialize with locals, practice Spanish, and of course eat steaks and chorizo. I only have one teaching lesson this week at Bristol Meyers Squibb. When they say Holiday vacations here, they mean it, work is very slow everywhere right now. Yet, much of our time has been spent studying Castellano, our knowledge of this large city, and our tango skills! Back to the game with da Vikings y da Bears. Oh yeah, the commentators here say Da Bears, top that Kornheiser

Please excuse me as I get back to futbol americano, eating this fresh fruit, and drinking more wine.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Flip Your World

What started as a decision via text message to flip our world completely and start over where the days of the year represent the opposite context. I look forward to writing more as I have occupied most of my time getting accustomed to our new life in the 9th largest city of the world and largest of Argentina. The Argentine Spanish, Castallano as they call it here, differs quite a bit from the Spanish language of Spain and Mexico. We've already tested our balance and coordination with tango classes. Tango, aside from futbol, is one of the most beautiful arts of physical talent in Argentina. Observing the expert tango dancers is one of the most fascinating experiences I've had.

I intend to portray my blog as how to start a new life in a different culture with limited financial resources and contacts. Two weeks into our life here, the network has grown from 1-15 in our new sleek old school Nokia cell phones (movil). Everyday is a new experience. Our conditioned minds are so interested in Christmas festivities taking place in 'Fourth of July' weather. Look forward to the ups, downs and all in between. I greatly appreciate comments and replies to my posts whether to offer advice on my writing, offer contrary opinions, or just to show interest and feed the blog.

Happy Holidays!