So, here I am, about 6 weeks into my time in Argentina. I am surviving and living further South than I have ever been in my life. I am a mere 24 hour bus drive from Buenos Aires to give you an idea of how enormous this country is. As organised as ever, this blog finds you very late, the largely original blog title is the result of five weeks’ worth of thought and consideration. A lot has happened and I’ll try to summarise what I’ve been up to for anyone interested (hi mum).
I am working in a language institute in Comodoro Rivadavia, in the Chubut province in Patagonia. So far, so good. The institute teaches adults, teenagers, children and little people who are so small they can’t read in Spanish yet, let alone English. Everyone is lovely and the students are at least humouring me by smiling when I tell them about my life, England, and how incomprehensible it is that Argentinians eat their dinner at 10.30pm.
I am staying with a gorgeous family whose willingness to help and welcome me has been invaluable. They live in Rada Tilly, which is a very lindo seaside town about half an hour from Comodoro city centre. In my family there are three children who are all fantastic and their parents are great too. They are so patient and repeat the same sentence three times for me without complaint.
I spent my first fortnight in Argentina on a ranch with 45 other English speakers in the back-end of nowhere in Mercedes which is in the province of Buenos Aires. We did a short TEFL course, a Spanish immersion camp and an English immersion camp with us pretending to be Argentinian children. There were several points during the camp when I found myself wondering what on Earth is my life, notably on the day when asked to perform Jack and the Beanstalk in Spanish, play in a five-a-side football tournament and then cook our own pizza over the parrilla. We ate copious amounts food, laughed a lot and I met lots of wonderful people who are now scattered around the country working as language assistants.
I cannot think of a time when I have thought so frequently. Every word that comes out of my mouth requires some thought. I am suffering physical side effects from overthinking, ie. extreme fatigue and brainache. My family seems flummoxed by the amount of time I spend sleeping and I reckon that is a direct consequence of all the thinking I am doing. As a student I work my brain to full capacity about 2 weeks a year, and all this mental exertion is taking it right out of. I knew speaking Spanish was going to be a struggle after having lived in France, but man did I underestimate it. Spanish is tough but Argentinian Spanish is a whole other ball game. The accent is very different and don’t get me started on the vocabulary. My favourite cock-up so far is asking for my ramera (hooker) rather than my remera (t-shirt).
Argentinians are lovely. They are outrageously animated which is a huge advantage given I only tend to understand about 30% of a conversation. They are generally interested in my life and my country, albeit a certain female Conservative Prime Minister who we won’t mention. A bus driver dropped me to my door last weekend when I handed him a note with my address written on and asked in pigeon Spanish which stop I needed to get off at and a lady at the grocery store gave me some free bananas because of my lindo accent. Unsurprisingly people keep guessing I am not Argentinian, I don’t blend in particularly well; white as a sheet, 5’11, covered in freckles and devoid of rhythm or coordination. I went to a concert and I reckon I was the tallest person there; I understood none of the lyrics and I can’t dance but I could see the stage perfectly.
I’m just about getting used to my new routine. I am not chewing my arm off at 10pm now when I am still waiting for dinner, I generally remember to kiss every flaming person on the cheek when I arrive and leave somewhere, and I actually really like mate – it is like a bitter herbal tea which is the Argentines drink at any hour of the day.
I’ll keep you all informed on what I’m up to, if I manage to stop sleeping my life away.