¡Bienvenidos a Mendoza!
“tengo una cita pendiente con mi soledad,
para ver quien soy cuando nadie esta mirando.
tengo una cita pendiente con la mujer que soy,
no la que fui hace tanto, ni la que ven los demás”
(I have an appointment with my solitude
to see who I am when no one is looking
I have an appointment with the woman I am
not the one I was not so long ago nor the one that the others see)
I have now been in Mendoza for four days, but it feels a lot longer! I’ve been spending the time settling into my new home for the next four months and getting to know the city a little better and learn what the expectations will be for the program.
Also, I got my luggage back in one piece the following morning, in case anyone was worried!
I have a host mother and host father and a host brother and sister as well, who are both in their early twenties. They have all been very friendly and welcoming to me and happy to answer any questions I have. The other great thing is that they are Jewish! I’m really looking forward to learning more about the culture of the Jewish community here and how it differs to that of the Jewish community in the Bay Area or at Brandeis. Also, when I mentioned that I usually am home for Passover to help my mom with the seder, my host mom told me that I could help her with her seder this year!! I think I’ll like that a lot.
The house is very nice, my favorite thing so far is that we have a nice patio in the back where we’ve had all our meals since the weather’s been so warm.
I have a very nice room as well. It’s small but it’s in the corner of the house so I can have alone time if I need it. Also, I have my own bathroom so I don’t need to worry about disturbing anyone if I need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night! Another plus is that the wi-fi works very well here, which will allow me to stay better connected to the outside world!
As a result of living with a host family I’ve been surrounded by more Spanish in the past few days than I think I ever have in my life. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I understood a lot more than I thought I would at the beginning of my time. Some of my family members have even commented on it, “¡pero vos hablás muy bien!” When a native Spanish speaker is impressed by your language abilities, then you know that you’re doing OK. That being said, it’s still hard to understand sometimes, especially when everyone is speaking around me at the dinner table about someone I don’t know or are using words specific to Argentina that I’m not familiar with (there are a lot of those!!) but I’m learning more everyday and eventually I hope that I can follow every conversation without difficulty.
Some examples of some new words I’ve learned already:
In Argentina, you don’t say “maíz” when you’re talking about corn, you say “choclo”
Also, “fresa” isn’t strawberry, it’s “frutilla”
Instead of using “tú” to talk to say “you” you say “vos” and you conjugate slightly differently (instead of “tú hablas” you say, “vos hablás”)
This might not be true of everyone in Argentina but when my host family is talking about someone in the third person you put an article before their name. For example if someone wants to say “Rebecca is coming, too” you say, “La Rebecca viene también” aka, “The Rebecca is coming, too” This has confused me a lot, sometimes people are talking about me and I don’t even realize it!
Another funny story with language has to do with the words for “hot” and “cold” here. In Spanish, hot is “caliente” and cold is “frío” so a lot of faucets have just a C and an F, the C marking hot water and the F marking cold. This is something I already knew and was prepared to deal with. However, the faucets in my house have english labels, “Cold” and “Hot” both in fancy script letters. Problem solved, I don’t need to worry about Spanish! The only problem was not hot water was coming out of the faucet. Maybe it just takes a long time to heat up… a really long time. Then, I saw my host mom fill a glass of water from the faucet that said “Hot”. When I asked her about it, she laughed and said that the faucet labeled “Hot was the cold water and the faucet labeled “Cold” was the hot water! She supposed that the workers who installed the faucets didn’t know English and mixed them up, probably assuming the faucet with a C stood for “Caliente” and the script H in “Hot” kind of looks like an “F” for “Frío”. So, the point is, if I want hot water I have to use the faucet labeled “Hot”!
This is for Hot Water
This is for Cold Water
Other things to know about Mendoza, there are acequías, or open gutters through which water flows through the city. These are also known as “gringo traps” because the gringos (Americans/foreigners) often fall into them on accident! It’s hard to tell from this photo but they are really deep!!
Also, keys looks like this
The other students from the program and I have met up a couple of times so far for orientation activities and to hang out. Yesterday we had an open-air bus tour of Mendoza, especially San Martín park, which is like the Golden Gate park of the city. We also went up “El Cerro de la Gloria” where we saw this awesome statue and got fantastic views of the Andes mountains and of the city below!
There are so many trees here. In the park each street is named after the trees that line it. This street is called “los plátanos”
and this one is called “los palmeros”, can you figure out why?
The group has also met up a couple of times to hang out in the evenings but it’s been a little difficult because we don’t all have cell phones yet and I live far away from most of the other students so we can’t walk together, and it’s not safe to walk alone at night, though all that will get easier once we can communicate through phones and we know our schedules and the city a little better. Last night we went to a concert at one of the plazas celebrating the city’s Italian heritage, it was a lot of fun! I’ve realized that being with the other group members gives me confidence that I don’t have when I’m with my host family. Remembering that my friends are going through the same adjustments that I am and that we can all help each other to figure things out makes me feel less alone and less like an ignorant tourist who doesn’t always know what’s going on. In both my homestay environment and my environment with my peers I’m trying really hard to go with the flow and not worry about how everything is going to work out, and instead have faith that whatever needs to happen will happen when it needs to.
People have told me that studying abroad can be the loneliest time of your life, and I think I now understand what they mean. It’s not exactly that you’re isolated from people, it’s that your cut off from so much that is familiar and that is a part of your identity. I am making friends and learning a lot but sometimes I just want to hug my friends from Brandeis or laugh with my sister, or get an answer to my question in English instead of Spanish! Though this is a scary experience, it is also a good opportunity to learn more about who I am when I’m far from the support system I’ve come to take for granted, and that process will, I hope make me a stronger person. So, though it’s scary, as Julieta Venegas says “mejor me voy a donde sea”, it’s better for me to go wherever I might go. I’ll keep you posted on my discoveries!