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.