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Archive for May, 2008

Well, I have about 5 minutes to post. Things have again righted themselves. I will be moving to an appartment on the 25th of June, I am going out with my friends tonight, and I felt a difference in the way I was treated at the homestay. Thanks for all your prayers and support.

Laura Reiter

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The weekend was great. I spent Saturday relaxing and on Sunday went out with my friends to a restaurant called Disnivel. We had great fun and the pasta was the best I have ever had. Seriously. They make it all there in the shop.

After dinner, we went out for ice cream and then to the square in Santelmo where people were dancing tango. We just watched and took photos. I even have several videos which I will post when I get back.

That was the good, happy, fun end of the spectrum. However, it is known that the pendulum always swings back. Today it did. In my previous post I wrote a few reasons (and I must say there are quite a few more) about why I am planning to switch to an apartment.

Here is what it boils down to: I am being treated like a child. The woman I am staying with treats me this way and so do the secretaries at the school. Especially one, who had a talk with me today about Argentinean culture.

Apparently what I did not realize is that I am still a child here. I feel very frustrated because in Argentina I have apparently regressed back in time. Buenos Airesis an incredibly modern city with older rules. While I am an adult in the US, here I am still a child until the age of 21. My teachers, by the way, have all treated me with respect and so do my fellow students (most of whom are in their 30s).

Below is a list of what I plan to say tonight when I get home. I have taken the past few hours to cool off. I am used to being treated with respect, and I feel as though I have not been the past few weeks (even if it is unintentional).

1. I am frustrated because I do not understand cultural norms. Things are different for 18 year olds in the US. Once you turn 18 you are allowed to do everything except drink.

2. None of the other students seemed concerned with calling their families, one has not even seen her host in five days. I did not know that I needed to check in unless I was going to miss dinner.

3. I am the type of person who needs my own space to live and think.

4. I am not used to having someone else clean for me. I am perfectly capable of cleaning my own room. I also do not like it when my stuff is moved. At home I was completely responsible for my own space. My parents never interfered with that.

5. I want to have freedom. The freedom to eat the foods I want, to watch TV and do my homework on the sofa, to come and go as I please. I have never experienced this freedom.

To wrap it all up, I think cultural differences are at the center of our problems. Most noticeably my age. In one country I am treated like an adult, in another I am not. This is not easy to swallow.

So, tonight I will talk with her and hope that these problems can be resolved. Either way, I am moving on the 25th of June to my own apartment. If all goes well, we may live together much better. If not, then I will be spending a lot of time at coffee shops, Internet shops, and the gym.

Pray for me that I can have wisdom and calmness.

More as this story develops.

Laura Reiter

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Well, I have had many queries about my recent haircut and have decided to answer them.

My hair is a little bit below my shoulders. It tends to curl up at the ends, which makes it look a bit shorter. I have layers going about up to my chin. The most important consideration for me was the ability to place it in a pony tail. Same color, just much shorter. I am thinking that when I return, I will get even a little bit more taken off. Shorter is much easier to manage.

Hmmm, my outfits are not spectacular according to Argentinean standards, but I feel decent among incredibly fashionable people. So you get an idea, my favorite clothing store is Ann Taylor. I like clothes that fit me, are not too revealing, and can be worn in many different situations.

What is Havanna? Only one of the best chocolate companies in the world. Havannas are very similar to Starbucks on the US. There seems to be one on every street corner, and they sell coffee and sweets. Personally not a coffee drinker, I have instead come to love their chocolate creations, especially Havanettes. Picture a cone of chocolate encasing a nugget of caramel. And all for less than $.75 US. You really can´t beat that. P.S. I do visit the gym frequently.

Tango. I have discovered that it is not for me, but definitely fun to watch. After two lessons and excruciating pain in my feet, I quit Tango. My cousin Craig will be taking my 8 remaining lessons. The teacher of the tango class was in a show last night and I went out with a bunch of friends from school to see her dance. The show was free and the dancing was amazing. Most of the people in the audience were women in their 70s or 80s. They had all come in together on a tour bus, and absolutely enjoyed themselves.

It was not strictly a tango show, but also involved famous tango songs and music. We, of course, did not know one song from another, but when a particular famous song would start, the ladies would clap very loudly.

The theatre was incredibly old and looked like a bomb shelter. The ceiling was layered ovals that went up all the way to the top, and to sit on the seats was comparable to sitting on a teeter totter. The dancing impressed me the most. It was amazing to see two people move that fast together and not trip over each other. After watching tango, I have come to a realization that it is a sexy, but not romantic dance. The only way that tango can happen is if the man is in complete control. The woman is not being romanced into the dance, but commanded.

During some of my tango lessons, my partners would not “tell” me where to put my feet. This caused a lot of stumbling. If your partner is a good dancer, he will force you into the steps. Craig is actually pretty good in this respect. He is quite strong and tends to fling his partners into the correct place.

On a very different note, I think that half way through my time here I may want to change my living situation. It does not cost any more to live in an apartment solo than with a family. I would just be responsible for my own meals. I think that, for me, learning to live alone would be a fun experience.

I came to this conclusion last night. Mrs. Mirta is nice, but also kind of like my mother. I did not tell her that I was out with my friends yesterday, and by the time I got home (10:30) she had already called the school and was worried sick. I had figured that I would be able to come and go when I pleased, which is true, but she still treats me like her kid.

I also had a horrific dinner last night, of which hot dogs were the highlight. Anyone who knows me also knows that I DO NOT eat hot dogs. Last night I ate two because the alternative option was inedible.

I figure, if I lived alone I would be just fine. I do not eat that much, so if I went out to eat I could make a meal last a few days. Also, I would be cook, and thus would know that what I was preparing was healthy and edible.

Please write back with suggestions or opinions. I really can change my living situation any time I want. There are apartments two blocks from the school. It would not be that difficult.

I hope this has sufficiently updated everyone on my current situation. Tomorrow night I am again going out with friends from school. Thanks for all your comments.

Laura Reiter

P.S. The apartments are completely furnished.

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After Friday night, I spent the rest of my weekend alone. I had planned to go out with one of my Costa Rican friends who is living here in Bs. As., but was unable to get in contact with her. Oh well, I do have 10 more weeks.

On Saturday I walked to the same street fair I had gone to on my first Sunday here. I had a great time, except when two people approached me and asked for money to fund their organization. If you are just sitting on a bench, people will see it as an opportunity to ask you for things. The street fair was fun though. I still have not bought anything besides necessities, although they have amazing shopping here. I especially love the shoes and clothes. However, I plan to scout out the entire area and during the last two weeks I will do what shopping I want to.

On Sunday I walked to a new location. It was in the area of the city called Palermo, an upscale neighborhood. I walked through the Botanical Gardens of Bs. As. and then went to the Zoo.

The Botanical Gardens were free, and not all that impressive in terms of their amazing plant life. However, as I walked through them I noticed an amazing number of cats. Yes, well-fed, healthy indoor cats. My guess is that people who abandon their cats do so in this park. No dogs are allowed, so the cats roam free and are undisturbed. Craig, who lives close to this park and goes there often, said that some people go there to feed the cats.

The Zoo, like the gardens was also not very amazing. I actually felt a bit sorry for the animals because the care was not as good as Brookfield. What I found most interesting were the animals that they let roam free in the zoo. At Brookfield in the States they allow ducks and geese to wander freely. Here they also had ducks and geese, and two other kinds of animals. I do not know what they are called, but my best description would be of a giant rat and a giant bunny. These animals were friendly. They would not exactly allow you to pet them, but people could hand them food pre-approved by the zoo. I had never seen anything like them before.

My total walking time on Sunday was about 4.5 hours, a lot for me and my feet were very tired. However on the walk I did think of some things to post about the people here.

More people carry their children. It is not uncommon to see a mother carrying her baby down the street. It is not that women can not afford strollers, I think that they value physical affection more than comfort. Or maybe it is because of the difficulty of moving along the sidewalks, I do not know.

In general, B.A. feels like a big college. Everyone is concerned about their appearance and always dresses fashionably. I am glad that I had Leanne help me pick out my most fashionable outfits. Without them I would clearly stick out as a tourist. As of now, if I dress fashionably I do not stand out. There are many Germans in the city, no Africans though. In my whole time here I have seen 5 people that look like their ancestors came from Africa, and half of them were probably tourists.

A final interesting tidbit:

Where you place your sweater matters. Yes, this is true. In America, when people do not wear their sweater, it is common to see them wrap it around their waist. Here I have NEVER seen anyone do that. There are only two ways to correctly hold a sweater or jacket if it is not on your body. One is to drape it over your arm. The other is to wrap it around your shoulders (much like the prep kids in a movie). Yes, I am truly among a group of people who really do care about clothes and appearance.

Laura R.

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So, last night I went out for dinner with Craig and two other kids from school, Ester and Ben. We went to a really fancy restaurant whose speciality was steak. Instead of ordering individual servings, we ordered a platter of meat for four people. When our order came it was basically a pile of meat on top of a board. Ribs, steak, ham, chicken, intestines, blood sausage (which I did not try). After the restaurant we went to an amazing ice cream place. I got a cone with dulce de leche and mousse de chocolate flavors. It was amazing.

If you have not been to Argentina, you do not know that going out for dinner means, at the earliest, 9:00 PM. By the time we were done with the ice cream, it was about 12:30. You might think that we would be the only people in the shop at that time. However, it was incredibly crowded. Most people eat dinner at 10, especially on Friday night, and stay out till 2 or 3 in the morning. Even young children begin eating dinner at 9 or 10 while their counterparts in the US have been asleep for 2 hours.

Well, more next time. I hope you all are doing well. Oh, and in case you did not know, when I am with my English speaking friends, we do communicate in English. We all need this real communication. After 5.5 hours of Spanish class a day, if I was not able to talk in English, I think my brain would fry. I think my Spanish is improving, but I still do have a long way to go. Most of this stuff is buried deep in my memory, and I think it will take a while to get it out.

Thanks for the comments.

Laura R.

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Well much has changed with regards to the classes I am in. Craig and I no longer are together. He has (shock) advanced beyond me. I think that I know as much as he does, it is just buried in my memory. Today I had a “group” class solo, which meant that it was from 10:45 to 1 instead of 9 to 1. This is more to my taste, but I have just learned that tomorrow I will again be in a group and need to be here early. I do not know who the other person is.

In other news, Craig and I are getting along well and have been eating out for lunch together every day. Most of the places here are Italian, so I have eaten a lot of pizza. Today we also stopped at an ice cream shop. It was really good, and Craig said he thought they probably put a lot of cream in it.

My tango lessons were good the first day, but after that it was just Craig and me and the bad teacher. We decided to go next week when the real teacher is back and other people from the school are also there. I joined a gym that is two doors down from my house. I think that I will just go over and bike for 1 hour each day. It is all very convenient.

In case you are curious about what the city looks like, I will give a brief description.

Streets, much litter, but not so unmanageable that it is impossible to walk, it just looks dirty. People are everywhere. It is a city-wide art form of walking and dodging everything. Because I am close to the capital, there are also people handing out political bulletins and asking for signatures for petitions. Vendors also congregate in the street. Either outside their shops, or people selling things like small amounts of soap or socks, and small food stands. All of this along with newspaper stands, homeless people, and motorcycles, make the walking rather difficult.

One of the interesting things I have noticed is that people “push” each other on the road, in cars, but wait patiently in a straight line for the bus. Cars, buses, and especially motorcycles and every bicyclists do not especially care that there are other drivers or people on the road. Sometimes people continue to drive when the light turns red. Pedestrians must always beware.

I am always surrounded either by smokers or people making out in the street. Both are common and do not cause anyone to take a second glance. There are little shops that sell one kind of something. For example. A shop will only sell sunglasses, or candy, or washing machines. There are a lot of candy shops especially because people do not have a meal from 1 till 9 or 10 at night. This means everyone is eating snack food.

In these little shops are mountains of candy, they almost obscure the salesperson. You do not go inside, but simply stop in the sidewalk and pay for what you want right there. I have not purchased anything there yet because I brought candy from home and decided to eat that first.

Well, this has been sufficiently long. Any questions or comments are welcome. I will try to write more this week.

Laura R.

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Hola todos,

I am writing from my school. It is smaller than I expected. Craig and I are in the same class. Many hours of Spanish is tiring. Well, how did trip go?

For the most part ok. I sat next to a really nice lady on the first flight, and then on the next flight I was in front of Craig. I got all of five (maybe) hours of sleep. When we arrived at the airport, there was a driver there to pick us up. However, he had only been given Craig´s address, so we were both dropped off there. I knew our houses were not close to each other, but we both went in anyways, and up the smallest elevator I have ever been in. Craig and I and our four suitcases barely fit. The elevators are very different here, and so are the keys.

Oh, before anyone asks for photos, I forgot the connection to the computer, and I do not know what computer I would connect it with even it I had it. So, all pictures will come when I return.

When the driver finally realized his mistake and came to pick me up, I had already met Craig´s family. They are very nice. A mother named Diana, and a boy Leandro, who is about Craig´s age, maybe a year or two older.

My apartment is very nice. Although at first I thought it was incredibly small, I am now getting used to it and realize that it is possible to live in a very little space compared to my house.

My room is nice and I even have my own toilet and sink. The neighbors are pretty quiet, exept for one kid three floors up who practices his drums for two hours a night. Mrs. Mirta is nice and good conversation, although I hope I can make some good girl friends to hang out with.

I plan to join the gym that is a few doors down. Mirta has told me that it is nice and has mostly young people. That way I can also ride my bike.

Adios for now. If you have any questions, email or comment and I will try to answer. Or facebook me. I may not get the computer for a few days, so I will try my best.

Laura R.

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