mayo 26, 2004

Horn Tooting (with a note of sad violin)

So, after all the excitement of yesterday’s Argentinathon, what could possibly compare in splendor for a lovable nerd like myself except...midterms?! The emotional riot of ignoring the books, guilt-tripping myself, cramming all morning and taking my first in-class Spanish midterm. I’ve taken dozens, maybe, of midterms in Spanish, but it occurred to me that for the first time the kids asking the professor questions about the test were asking about *content* and I was up the linguistic creek if I needed to know how to say something not already in my little brain. After two hours of impromptu essay-writing I was feeling pretty good about myself. On a day to day basis it’s hard to see if my Spanish is improving or not, but to just be able to spill out explanations of cultural theory for a couple of hours would’ve almost killed me before I left the US. Sweet...

Poor Randy, on the other hand, passed a beautiful morning back in the good old U.S of A, doing some stolen document replacement. the experience itself was kind of interesting, if not really very rewarding. passing by the buildings next door with the kids spray painting “(expletive) USA”, through the 5 layers of security, body scans, x-rays, and into the little white “consular affairs” box crammed with screaming, crying, pleading humanity crawling up the walls and hanging from the ceiling. several hours and several disinterested embassy personnel later, still no passport but at least it will be mailed at great expense.

Well, the maté water’s getting cold, so we’re onto a congratulatory/conciliatory dinner.


anna & randy

mayo 25, 2004

Happy Holiday

Hola, compatriotas –

¡Feliz 25 de mayo! For those of you not familiar with your Argentine history, it’s the anniversary of winning the revolution for independence. In the States I (and I think most of us) find revolutionary war history mind-numbing, but the Argentines are shockingly gung-ho about it. In only four months, both Randy and I have learned the names of all the generals involved. We spent all day in Plaza de Mayo listening to the most famous Argentine musicians playing, buying grilled meat from street vendors, watching tens of thousands of flags waving, and drinking hot chocolate distributed by military convoys. No, really, the military spends all day handing out hot chocolate. In truly Latin American fashion the line for hot chocolate was over a block long. The president invites a group of schoolkids to drink hot chocolate and eat fried sweets in the Casa Rosada. Teams of other schoolkids set up shop in the street and challenge passersby to chess matches while families dance all through the plaza; all in all, a damn cute celebration. Tonight’s big concert was canceled because of rain, but I loved to see the front of the government house turned into a huge outdoor stage, just between a bronze statue of General San Martin and the balcony where Madonna so famously addressed a crowd of poor Argentine extras. Can you imagine George W. Bush inviting 200,000 people to chill out on the south lawn of the White House? By the way, the Argentine government has co-opted me according to the block-long banner proclaiming, “We are all Argentines!” Not so bad in my book.

I realized that I only have a little over two months left here so I’m really re-energized about getting out to do all the oh-so-Argentine things. Last week we watched Boca, our fútbol team, get squashed by their arch-rival. The staff at our parrilla (grill) is divided between teams, so the majority of River fans chides us every time we go in (about three times a week), while the Boca fans slide by whispering, “Viva, Boca!” And on the note of the parrilla, I went out with a bunch of friends last night to see a dinner show with a pretty bad tango singer backed by a karaoke machine. But the dancing was good.

Hope all’s well with you yanks, enjoying your beautiful spring weather. It’s been raining a lot here and I have to wear a heavy sweater every day now. Yet it never freezes. Having grown up in the southeast, I didn’t understand what humidity does for cold, just for heat. Until soon.



mayo 24, 2004

Re:Another Evil Stepsister (Anna to Cara-edited)

....Me, of course, writing from my belovedly inefficient latin american home
and dreading more and more everyday the prospect of going back to that
wretched country in which I had the misfortune to be born. Granted, it's nice
to be able to buy groceries and waffles at any hour of the day (hell, I can't
buy waffles at all here; but I did find bagels!), but I'm not sure it's worth
the trade for millions of gallons of foreign blood, poisoned air, a military
state and gun-toting idiots who couldn't compose a coherent sentence trying to
lecture me on the intellectual foundations of our revolution. Whew... sorry,
I am, admittedly, from the same part of the world as William Faulkner: just
can't stop myself when I get righteously pissed about something. Amazingly
enough, the US news is even more shocking and ridiculous when viewed from
afar. I was a little disappointed and a little horrified when my mom told me
she thinks Susan's reactionary about the controversies there because she
doesn't 'hear the other side that balances it out.' What balances out locking
up your own citizens and throwing out the Geneva conventions? I'm living in a
country that's done it, and I don't think they recommend it. Randy and I talk
really often about how the beginning of the military dictatorship here has
some eerie resemblances to what's going on there (minus the history of cout
Since I only have a couple of months left here, I'm having a really strong
ambivalence. I want to do as much as I can that's really Argentine and not
think about the US, but it feels more inevitable everyday to get on a plane
and not have any idea when I'm coming back, or how long I have to live in the
US again. All this supposed life-altering change you're supposed to go
through when you study abroad actually seems to be playing out; not that my
views have changed, really, but that I'm coming to accept the long-latent fact
that I may be uncapable of living the rest of my life there. Isn't it nice
when you can still delude yourself into thinking that since your values are
right and good in your mind, and you respect other peoples rights and all that
jazz, that the rest of your country feels the same way but just doesn't know
how to show it? Haven't we all had boyfriends like this, too? So, I think
I'm about at the proverbial breakup with feeling any kind of solidarity with
'the American people.' I used to hang onto thinking, 'but if people really
knew this, they would be as horrified as I am.' Now I accept that that's just
not true (recent epiphany thanks in part to the Michael Savage article on
Salon). I know that some people are just bad (hard to accept, giving who my
mother is) but it was a much harder process for me to realize that quite
possibly, at heart, most of my country is bad.
Now, now, I am going on and on and on. There are good, real, worthy people,
such as yourself, who hail from the US (mind you, I can't bring myself anymore
to just say America; all the latinos chuckle at the way we do that). Maybe I
could carve out some little space of meaning surrounding myself with worthy
people, meaningful work, a nice garden and a dog. That would be okay. But do
I want to flee from the rest of the world? There are terrible, awful things
to hate about this country too. Just that I'm getting nostalgic about them
because I have to leave soon. And no matter what I do, the only US things I
can get nostalgic about are: Torpe, Cleo, you, selected other family members,
all night diners and Indian restaurants. I concur with your earlier proposal:
we in fact should take over an island and start a happy tree-hugging,
queer-loving, UN-subscribing revolutionary nation; and the best part is we
won't massacre the natives! Didn't know what you were in for when you opened
this communication can of worms back up, did you? It's just kinda rare that I
have people I'm close to to talk with. The home life is great and all, but
how many times can you say, 'remember how we hate the US? yeah, I still hate
the US. whadda ya want for dinner?' before it rings a little stale.
Should wrap up with some kind of alacrity because I gotta meet Randy at home
to see how the investigations into replacing his passport went. Probably bad,
seeing as how the US is involved. Tomorrow's Homeland/Independence day here.
I hear there are military parades and hot chocolate with the president and
school children in Plaza de Mayo. Then exams till I choke. Good luck with
the readjustment to the parental house life.


ps - Randy also misses you a lot, but doesn't get as much chance with the
computer because internet's free on campus and costs out the ass at home.

mayo 10, 2004

Fun Stuff

Hey, guys. This is the first in a series of, like, frequently asked questions, pertaining to things we have done recently but have been too lazy to write about. I’ll send them a couple days apart so that you don’t get tired of reading about our asinine trip and still think that we’re cool, and don’t spend all day on the computer writing messages to make you think we’re cool. Here goes:

Q: What is an argentine fútbol game like?

A: Everything Latin American sports should be. The game we went to was between Bolivia and the most popular Argentine team, Boca Jrs. For those of you that are familiar with UT football, imagine a team a thousand times more popular than the Vols (fully a third of the country claim to be die-hard fans), with twice the attendance per game, but playing in a stadium half the size. What could that possibly add up to but the Most Fun Ever? Anna and I opted for the cheap tickets in the notorious home-team section in spite of the dire warnings in the guide books (which I admit I’m getting a little tired of), and arrived two hours before the game, in the driving rain (which never stopped, but somehow didn’t seem to discourage people), with a little trepidation and only enough money on us for the bus ride home to prevent the (also notorious) possibility of getting robbed outside the stadium. The stands are built, unlike in our pansy north american stadiums, at a kind of frightening 45 degree or greater angle and were already packed by the time we got there. The only open spot we could squeeze into was behind one of those thick metal barricade things that they place at frequent intervals to prevent the people in front from getting squashed, and under a series of strings, sort of like seat belts, that run from the top of the stands to the bottom and are about six feet apart. These, it turns out, are for support: half an hour before the start of the game hundreds of the more hardcore fans stand up (!?!) on the metal barricades, using the seatbelt-things for support, and summon an impromptu band of other fans who have brought drums and trumpets to begin playing. At this point everyone starts singing and chanting a litany of perhaps twenty catchy pep songs. The singing will continue, uninterrupted, until well after the game, with only a short break at halftime so that everyone can smoke pot. (there is no drinking at fútbol games, for whatever reason this seems to be frowned upon, but the air is thick, so thick, with smoke.)

But there is no pausing during the game. There is music, there are fireworks (In the stands. People just bring flares and rockets and stuff and set them off in the stands...) There is no room to move; the only exception being for newbie foreigners such as ourselves. When it was determined that we didn’t, in fact, have a clue, we were made to swear the appropriate allegiance (“Boca rules!!! River fans are putas!!!”) and a spot, however small but with a view of the action, magically opened. It was amazing in its scope, what with there not even being room to breath, and henceforth friendly people explained to us at every step what was going on. Apparently the people on the barricades have some sort of voodoo power.

During the game it is electric, the energy; we jump up and down as the crowd jumps up and down because our arms are on the shoulders of the people in front of us, and theirs on the shoulders in front of them. We chant the words that we are taught, and are hugged by our neighbors when a goal is scored; we shake our fists at the other team and cry for former Boca superstar Maradona, who is in the hospital after a drug overdose. We duck for cover, wide eyed and frightened, as the entire section next to us tumbles down the stands in a mudslide of arms and faces because their seatbelt-thing has come untied at the top, but still the music hasn’t stopped, and won’t, until a good half-hour after the game as we are finally leaving and dancing in the streets because Boca has won! and, of course, we have been and always will be Boca fans.

Q: Will you go again?

A: There’s a game between Boca and their arch-rival River Plate (from our neighborhood, also supported by a good third of the country) on the 16th. These “superclasicos” have to be approved by the federal courts because of the potential for post-game riots. We’re trying to get tickets.


randy and anna

mayo 06, 2004

Yeah, Calculating is My Other Middle Name (to Cara-edited)

Thus far I've calculated:
a fútbol game
a leather jacket (I'm so mod squad!)
camping in the beautiful palm savannahs
enduring three fall-changing-into-winters
the statistical probability that the US is the devil (pretty high)

I'm still trying to think of ways to wring money from stones or something because
I do desperately want you to come here. You'd love it. There are filet minions (I think that's their US equivalent...) for $2! So my current scheme for Ben is to get him down here and hook him up with a little Argentine thing. I don't know which one yet, but they're all about as good as the cream of the United States crop.
Glad to hear that school's winding up again; I have midterms starting next
week. Weird. And you're moving...? Are there pictures to be posted on the
website, or perhaps sent directly to me? I'm losing my English faster than I'm gaining
Spanish, so by the time I get back, I won't really be able to say anything!
So, good luck with the moving -- it's always such a joy!