Sunday, July 17, 2011

One Year

I sit at the airport preparing myself to return to Buenos Aires for my 2nd year of teaching abroad. I have been in the United States for 5 weeks, traveling all over Tennessee and North Carolina visiting friends and family. I was in Nashville for 2 weeks getting my Level I Orff Certification at Belmont University (big accomplishment for me). Hopefully I can explain more about Orff later.

How different I feel this time! How scared I was a year ago, going to Argentina with my dog in the belly of the plane and all of my belongings in suitcases or left behind in storage. My life was drastically going to change and the airport was the place of transition. Today I am excited to return to BA. I feel a strength I didn't have before. Not because being in BA easy or simple, but because I overcame a challenge almost insurmountable for me a year ago. My friends who are international teachers seem to strive under these stressful conditions. They love the excitement of the transition. I don't think I'll ever enjoy the transition, but I've viewing it differently; more positively.

It is obvious the love and support I have at home. A crew of strong and big hearted people who trust me in my decisions. There were many doors open to me and many beds offered since I was floating around with no solid place to land.

I get to return to what is now a new home. I haven't looked at BA as home before, but now I do. I have Henry for now, friends, and a really fabulous and challenging job.

Henry stayed in BA for these 5 weeks with a young lady who teaches at my school who bunked up with him in my apartment. All she asked is that I bring her back some chocolate from the states. I found that funny since Argentina is known for it's chocolate! But, my bags are stashed full with chocolate for her and Cheetos for my dear friend and teaching partner from Venezuela. And organic dog treats for Henry!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Sad Morning Walk - Stray Dogs in BA

Every week day morning (around 5:30am) Henry and I walk down to the river so that he might do his business before I leave him for the day. This is usually a very peaceful walk. A quick "Buen Dia" to the security guards who watch over the school, a little fresh air, and then we are home so I may begin the daily grind. A couple of weeks ago, however, we had a bit of a surprise on our walk and I thought I would share my experience so that I might confess my guilt and also earnestly ask for advice on what to do next time.

There is no doubt that Buenos Aires is a pet-loving city. Many families have dogs. There is a veterinarian or two in every province. I have noticed, however, that many Argentines like to walk their dogs on busy city streets without leashes and even worse (in my opinion) that there are dogs all over that are "let out" the front gate to return after they have explored for the day. These dogs seem to be much wiser then Henry in regards to crossing the street (which I might add is dangerous even for humans). So, if I see a dog roaming the streets, it is quite possible he has a loving home, he is just on a walk-about.

This was not the case however for two puppies that found Henry and I one chilly morning a couple of weeks ago. No more than 4 weeks old, these two little guys were desperate for help and they whined and followed us on our walk as I contemplated what the heck I was going to do! As Henry and I approached the school where I work (the two puppies close behind) a couple of security guards approached and offered to help and they made a phone call as Henry and I headed back home without the little guys. I never asked them who they called or what happened to the pups. Truthfully, I don't think I want to know.

Just a quick note that Buenos Aires seems less flooded with homeless animals then other places I have visited. In the town of Bariloche (a small village in Patagonia), wild dogs over take the streets running in packs and chasing cars. It isn't nearly as bad here. I would guess it is because many loving hearted Argentines take these stray dogs and cats into their homes.

Update! I have found that there are services for stray dogs and cats throughout the city. They are all private and support foster programs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Challenges

I think it is only fair for me to discuss some of the challenges I am facing since my move here to Argentina. I in no way want to complain, but I do think anyone considering overseas teaching should understand that there will be difficulties.

The biggest challenge I face, by far, is the language barrier. Truthfully, I just feel rude when someone speaks to me in Spanish and all I can do is ask them to repeat themselves or say that I speak only a little Spanish. What right do I have to be in their country and not speak their language? This really bugs me.

I blame no one but myself for my inability to speak a 2nd language. I was never motivated enough in school to fully learn any of the languages I studied (Spanish in HS and French and German in college). And now that I'm an old dog trying to learn a new trick...well, let's just say it isn't going too well. I enjoy using Rosetta Stone and I had a nice once-a-week tutor, but it isn't "sinking in". I haven't been forced to immerse myself into the language since I speak English at work and most of my friends here are English speaking. Time to pick up the pace with that for sure.

Food. My first six months produced the classic "freshman 15". Well, I got the "freshman 10". Here is my issue. Argentines are, by habit, creatures of the night. They eat late and party late. They also eat heavy. I'm talking large portions of steak, pasta, cream sauces, cheeses, and lay-it-on-me desserts. So, if you want to enjoy a nice Argentine dinner, expect that pretty much all restaurants open after 8pm and you may begin to eat around 8:30 or 9 (and that is EARLY). Now lets add in the abundance of fabulous Malbec wines, weekly social functions and people wanting to try new restaurants and hello....the "freshman 15". So what have I done about this to regain balance? Well, I pretty much prepare all of my own meals now (like I did in the states) and try to only go out to eat once a week. I'm drinking very very little (I know, a shame to miss all that great wine, but it must be done) and I have a better exercise routine. The "freshman 10" plus some is officially gone and I feel SO much better, but it has been a serious struggle for me. Just walking by the bakeries and ice cream shops (on just about every other street corner and I'm not joking) can make a sweet tooth like mine go crazy!

Loneliness. Yes, this is a major factor. I didn't come here with a husband or a partner, it is just me and Henry. I feel a sadness being so far from friends and family. It effected me the most when I returned from my holidays in the states. I had a bit of a melt down. Perhaps I felt I was in limbo? Wanting to go, wanting to stay, wanting to feel I belong in either place and feeling I don't belong in either place. But, I realized if I didn't have some of those feelings I'd be a pretty big ice queen. So, I let the emotions wash over me and I eventually got over it. I still feel lonely, but the meltdowns are at a minimum.

Other basic things that bug me. People that don't pick up dog poop in places it is rude to leave it. Tons of litter and don't get me started about how gross the Rio de la Plata is! The machismo whistling from the local "boys". How long it takes to get anywhere here using public transportation. The lack of change here and how even at grocery stores they ask for "mas chico" if you produce a large bill. Sugar in the coffee grounds...really...why?

Experiencing these things are why I'm here. If I wanted to have it like I had it in the states then I should have just stayed home. So, I walk around the dog poop and at least pick up my own. I say no to some dinners out and stay at home to call my friends and family. I hoard small bills and coins like all Argentines do and I buy the "purple coffee" which is azucar libre. And what do I do about the whistling machismos? I bite my tongue!

The picture is from a tango show I attended in San Telmo. You arrive around 9:30, eat for an hour and a half, then the show starts. I've never seen such fabulous shoes and what an amazing band! I have a new found respect for the accordion.