Some of the highlights of the remainder of the trip included:
- A plane ride that went through a storm over the Amazon and where I was lifted about 5 inches out of my seat by turbulence. The man two rows in front of me lost his toupee in the process. That sounds like something out of a bad sitcom, but it really happened.
- On the same ride the menu choices were "Carne con papas" or "Carne con pollo". In other words "beef with potatoes" or "beef with chicken". When I asked if I had heard the second option correctly my seatmate just answered "Welcome to Argentina".
- Because the plane didn't arrive until about 1:30, I stayed at a hostel near my apartment last night. It was pretty similar to some of the places Christopher and I stayed in China, but for the fact that my room was immediately above the bar and at 2:30 when I arrived it was still packed with people. Haha, so aside from the noise, no hot water and the spider I found in my bed, it was a pretty cool place; really colorful and with a central room where people were playing instruments and board games in the morning.
When I woke up I met Carlos, one of the program coordinators for CFHI, and he took me to get café con leche and croissants (called medioluna in Argentina, meaning 'half moon') and went over some basics of the program and of Argentinian culture. I'm pretty excited because it sounds like I'll have some choice in where I work, and depending on how much my Spanish improves I'll be able to switch to more clinical work next month.
That said, over the course of the day, I've come to realize that my Spanish level is a lot lower than expected. In Nicaragua, my speech was broken, but I could understand most of what was spoken to me. Here, I can tell that my speech, and particularly grammar, is practically non-existent and my understanding isn't far behind. I'm hoping that part of that is because I'm rusty and the accent is unfamiliar and I haven't picked up on the regional slang yet, but regardless of why, I'm really glad I'll be taking some language classes while I'm here.
After breakfast with Carlos he took me to Cami's apartment a couple blocks away. It's on the second floor of a high-rise and it's pretty nice; really bright, exceptionally clean and I even have my own room. I'll take some photos tomorrow morning when it's sunny. Cami is really friendly and I spent the rest of the day with her. She's 23, studying audiology, has three brothers and is from a small town called Pupullo about 12 hours north of Cordoba (though I think I must be butchering the name, because it didn't come up when I searched for it). Cami lived in Virginia when she was younger and is fluent in English, which I see as a mixed blessing. Today she has translated for me a lot, which has been extremely helpful, but I think I'll have to be really careful not to just revert to English around her because it's easy.
First we went to get groceries- fruit in an open-air market a lot like Beijing and then food staples at a store a couple blocks away. When we got back she made a torta, which in Argentina is something like quiche without eggs, or a pie filled with corn and beans. Afterwards I unpacked and passed out until about 6:00 when one of Cami's friends came over. He's studying music and he hung out and we drank mate (a bit like green tea, but minty) and beer and the three of us talked for a few hours. He was really funny, we talked a lot about Argentina and the U.S. and by the time he left I'd promised the two of them I'd teach them how to play beer pong (Haha, a real ambassador for CMC).
I also told him that I brought my guitar in hopes of being able to play it by the time I return to the U.S. and he said that he has a lot of friends from school who give lessons and he'll give me their contact information once I'm more settled. I think that sounds really good considering how challenging I find anything/everything musical.
Around 10:00 Cami and I left the apartment to go to another friend's place for dinner (pizza and beer) and then to the club with her friends to celebrate a birthday (where they were also serving pizza and beer). Her friends were all very nice, although at that point I was pretty tired and I don't think I said much at all. The pizza I was surprised by, but I've seen it a lot today I'm guessing it's part of the Italian influence here. Also, it's good pizza, so I don't mind. The beer is less welcome since I still have absolutely no taste for it and no real desire to acquire one. In fact, it's pretty common for me to cringe while dinking it and I'm pretty sure I embarrass myself in the process (Haha, does that cancel out some of those CMC ambassadorial points?).
Whew, if anyone but my mother makes it here, all the way to the end of this post, I'll be glad and maybe a little surprised (love you mom!) but all in all it's been a really good first day. Awkward and unfamiliar, but definitely a great start.
P.S. A motorcycle alarm just went off right outside my window and I feel like that's the perfect cue to go to bed. And strangely enough, it's kind of comforting, it feels like I'm back in Zijing #20 at Tsinghua.