Thursday, July 22, 2010

aaaand we're back

Here's something interesting about visiting Argentina: I missed Chile. It's home, at the moment. I'm used to the dialect, the mannerisms, the money, the history, the weather. I'm even used to the food, which I'll continue to mock, but isn't that bad with the choices I make. Argentine produce is just sad by comparison. I wanted sopaipillas (disks of fried dough you buy on the street), and Argentina's sweet tooth dwarfs Chile's at a level I couldn't have imagined.

I wanted to live abroad so my cultural and mental habits would stand out in greater relief, and I've been sort of curious that in Chile that hasn't really happened. I've missed Anna, I've been extremely cranky about not being able to do aikido, but since I speak Spanish and everyone's really nice, I haven't felt a ton of cultural friction. Apparently, I had to get used to Chile and then go to yet another country to notice the changes.

Visiting Mendoza was 5 days of traveling when I really only wanted 3. (And the last day sucked reasonably hard: I'm writing this in my 10th hour on this bus, after 4 hours of delays while we waited to see if they'd open the pass through the Andes instead of forcing us to go back.) My schedule there was determined more by when bus tickets were available, and unhelpful ideas I had about not wanting to miss out, and wanting to see Argentina at least once, since, you know, it's RIGHT THERE. And they're supposed to have this amazing beef.

Instead, I was travel-fatigued, had too many expectations, was let down by the food, found the hostel uncomfortable, blah blah blah. But I stayed in Argentina for a few days! And I talked to Argentines, learning some of their awesome accent and some about their country and culture, which, like Chile, is Latin America, but is also its own super complicated thing. For example, my first morning at breakfast I made friends with the five shockingly adorable Argentine college girls who had the other beds in our room.

(I know, right? Dear Penthouse, I never thought this would happen to me...)

Apparently English education in Argentina is also awful. And while they were packing, Guillermina pulled out a knife and then re-sheathed it for no discernible reason, just like I do (if you like knives, sheathing and un-sheathing them is fun--just roll with it), so I asked to see it, and she said that she's from the country, and if you give someone a knife, you're wishing them bad luck.

Then Ignacio moved into the room, and he and I hung out for all of Wednesday afternoon, talking about history and social justice and international finance and how nice Americans actually are and why our movies make us look like assholes, as I tried to gently explain that the wacko conspiracy theory movie he'd watched was a wacko conspiracy theory movie, and here's how those usually tie back to anti-Semitism and eschatological Christianity. Lacking any exposure to the American lunatic fringe, he didn't know enough to be skeptical. He got a laugh when I started naming points the movie touched on even though I've never seen it: he started with 9/11 conspiracy theory and the evils of the IMF, and I correctly suggested it would continue with a rant about the evils of fiat money and dire warnings about a unified world government.

During the longer of the delays on the bus ride home, I got to chatting with Eduardo, a Chilean who teaches English in Argentina, and we're planning to meet up tomorrow so I can show him my English textbooks.

On balance, I would have more enjoyed staying home for the week. I learned a lot, though, and in general, it's not good for me to have everything the way I want it.

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