Friday, April 03, 2009

Nothing worth having ever comes easy

A lot of life has finally occurred since last week when I had a false start to classes and the worst sore throat of my life. I shopped a few classes that I decided not to take, began my real ones, began my Argentine/Latin American/Pre-Columbian weaving class, and saw some independent films at the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente. Even though yesterday was a national holiday which means I don't have the 4-hour lecture for my Sociology and Anthropology of Art class for 3 weeks after only one class meeting (next week is Semana Santa i.e. Easter) this week was more like a real week will eventually (in theory) look like than most others have been.

On Monday I shopped an art history class and a geography class at one of the private universities, and hated them. The kids seemed okay and the professors were nice, but the classes just didn't seem that interesting and the classroom that they both happened to be in is really crowded, noisy, and ugly. I also would have had one at 11 and one at 6pm, which means about 5 hours to kill alone in a neighborhood I don't especially like. On Tuesday I had my first small discussion "práctico," at Universidad de Buenos Aires for Sociología y Antropología del Arte which is a little scary but nobody had done the reading yet (and I actually have read some of the book in English multiple times before) so I didn't feel all that behind. UBA is just so cool. It's busy and dirty and political and crowded and is just a great place to study. The professors are amazing and while the classes are difficult, they are really interesting (they remind me a lot of Bryn Mawr classes) and I only have to take two of them plus my stupid required Spanish class to get to my required number of credits. So there is some justice in the world.

By this time I realized that I needed to find another class at UBA, even though none of the other three I signed up for were going to work. So I found a literature class on Tango song lyrics and decided to drag myself all the way to the facultad at 9am (1.5 hours of traveling, roughly) to shop the class. I got there and...nobody was there. The facultad was like...dead. This was bad news considering it was really my last option and it would be nice to meet the professor and see the class before I took it. Thankfully a girl who is also in my program and has been here since July is in the class as well, and showed up. She said it was a good class, and that it was in fact supposed to be occurring at that place and time, so that was comforting. Apparently in Argentina you just don't have class the day before a national holiday. I don't know how everybody else got this memo minus us. Oh well. This is basically going to be my life at UBA, from what I can tell.

I used my 4 free non-class hours to track down the syllabi for both of my classes (a real victory!) and get the reading for my Sociología y Antropología del Arte. I found the random photocopy shop where our professor had supposedly left the materials, and because it was morning before a holiday, there was no line. When you go into these places, you cannot see how they would work. The copy place is probably about as big as my bedroom at home (or maybe smaller), and basically has papers stacked from floor to ceiling. There were about 4 people and 4 copy machines crammed into this tiny space. I went in and told him my class, and he rifled through some papers and asked me if they were what I wanted. Amazingly, they were. So, for less than 7 American dollars I had the entire text of John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" ("Modos de Ver") and "La Experiencia Estética" by Jacques Maquet. Now I have to read them, but never mind. School in Argentina is confusing. I basically don't have class for the next few weeks, which is nice but also disconcerting. The way I see it, if all of these Argentine kids somehow do it, I can probably do it too. I just need to pay extremely close attention and stay on top of all of my stuff.

My extremely long and tiring commutes and fights for monedas this week led me to a difficult conclusion: I need to switch host families. Somehow my entire life here happens to occur in a cute, cool little neighborhood called Caballito, where my closes friends live and my UBA classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday take place. It is near impossible to get to Caballito from where I live without walking 10 blocks and then taking a 40-minute bus ride. This sucks. If I lived close to my friends, we could get together for short periods on week nights, I could basically walk to school, I could take the subway (it doesn't run near my house here), and I could save lots of money on cabs. Monedas would also be much less of an issue, because I would need them less and Caballito is a much more moneda-friendly neighborhood. In general, a lot more things would be at my finger tips.

I am comfortable in my little space here in Palermo, and I do like my host family, but I get lonely here. It is isolated and expensive and far from most transportation. Caballito is more working-class and younger and busier. It's hard. It was a really difficult decision, and I put off telling my host mom for days. I interviewed a new "family" (i.e. a single woman and her two cats) and I really loved where she lived and it seemed like she and I would really get along. So while I'm excited to move, you also don't know how to appreciate what you have until you're losing it. I know it's the right decision, but it's strange to think that "home" will be somewhere completely different and I will take different buses and see different things everyday. I will miss my comfortable little office and bedroom and I will miss my host mom Silvia and her grandkids. The director of the program basically said that this is the fanciest, nicest house out of all of the host families, which is probably true. I like the house, but don't see much more of it than my few rooms, so that's not as much of an issue to me. However, sometimes drinking white wine in the beautiful living room is really nice. When I finally broke down and told Silvia she was so nice about it and said that there was absolutely no reason to be sad, I could come visit whenever I wanted, which almost made me sadder. We are such different people, but I have gotten so used to our quick little dinners together.

I can't move for two weeks anyway, which is something of a relief. Since there are no hard feelings between us about the whole thing, I guess I can just enjoy my remaining time living in Palermo Chico until I move to Caballito for the next three months, closer to school and friends and transportation.

I am waiting for Buenos Aires to be less of a character-building experience and more of a fun experience. But I guess nothing worth having ever comes easy.



  1. Rach, I'm so happy to hear that your argentinian life is starting to take on a more comfortable pace. And somehow I can really picture you living with an old lady and her cats, in an ironic sort of way. I bet she has lots of good stories about what the city used to be like. Can't wait to talk more and see some photos.

    xoxoxoxxo b

  2. I'm so glad you got to switch. That should make your experience so much better since you won't be isolated. It's so weird that i have two weeks of class yet and you're just getting going.