Saturday, October 9, 2010

The rest of September

Students protest education in Argentine capital

So I went to get an MRI on Sept. 14, and the results show that I tore my ACL and I’ll need surgery. For the past month I’ve been worrying over whether I should get the surgery here in Argentina for free and be immobile for awhile, or get it done in the States and have some gigantic co-pay. In the end I decided to get it done right around New Year’s at home, that way by the time next semester starts at Rider I’ll be able to get to class on my own in crutches.

That same week I saw two movies, "El Baile de la Victoria" - Spanish director, Latin American actors, takes place in Santiago de Chile - which was funny and tragic and inspirational and broke my heart with all the gorgeous shots of the Andes; and "La Dolce Vita" - Italian, Fellini magnum opus – which was fascinating and weird and brilliant and classic and modern all at once.

I finally got to see my favorite play from the Spanish Golden Age, Calderon de la Barca’s "La vida es sueño", which is like Spain's answer to "Hamlet" in a time when these nations were mortal enemies...I told Mario, the IFSA director, that I’d had a class on it in Spain and I’d like to share what my wonderful professor taught me with the other students going, so they’d get more out of their experience by knowing what to look for: how the structure of poetry reveals the emotion behind it like music, and how the characters with the same goal have mirrored speech, and how women were allowed to perform onstage unlike in England so when the main character dresses like a man to avenge her honor it’s so much more potent…it’s really exciting! Of course the production was phenomenal, and I was so happy I got to see this masterpiece in its entirety. Heather and I even got to give the actor who played Segismundo a kiss outside the theatre when everyone was clamoring around to take photos.

I'm finally taking advantage of living in a big city with all these cultural opportunities, which is the main reason so many people come here! I just have to thank IFSA for giving me the opportunity; without them securing us free tickets to so many events we request, I wouldn’t be able to afford the majority of the art I’ve been lucky enough to see here.

Speaking of gettin’ cultured, I went to a wine tasting with a group from SAE; it was delicious. Here are the wines we tried:
Don Salvador Torrontés, my favorite
Ernesto Catena Tahuantinsuyo (the Inca word for Four Zones) Malbec
Del Fin Del Mundo Reserva Pinot Noir
Martin Koch 13 Meses Cabernet Sauvignon

On Sept. 18 Heather and I went to Carly’s (the English girl who started working at SAE) housewarming party she put on with her housemates David (Mexican American picking up Spanish and already maneuvering the subjunctive perfectly, I’m so jealous), Kevin (David’s friend from Arizona), and Erin (from California). I brought along plátanos and started cooking tostones as Heather mixed us a couple of screwdrivers. Erin’s Argentine boyfriend, Juan, taught Heather and me and Santi (he’s Colombian, he studies history and journalism, and he’ll be in Miami with his family for Christmas too!), how to play this card game called Truco at the party (Fabio had shown me the game before but it’s so complicated that I wanted a second explanation)! I also got into a long, tough political conversation with Carly and Pedro, and I learned that Argentines are afraid to bring up the most recent dictatorship with other Argentines that aren’t family or close friends; Pedro told us that you never know who had family on which side, and emotions still run high. We left the house to go out; somehow Juan had us ending up at a private party in the middle of a farm with stables you could smell from the dance floor and soccer fields and at sunrise when we were kicked out Heather and I walked back to Av. Santa Fe to catch our bus and as we went past the racetrack we saw all the jockeys warming up the horses…it was unreal.

That weekend I also went to an amazing venue for the first time called Salón Irreal on Perón 1281 and I can’t wait to go back! I got to hang out with my co-worker from the internship; he was the one who invited me. He’s a character: Mohawk, tattoos, wearing mascara and black nailpolish, and with fantastic taste in music. An apparently popular Argentine band called Adicta played; I didn’t know them at all, nor is it my kind of music really, but I thought it’d be worth checking out for the experience. I’m really glad I did because everything I felt was missing in the porteños (such as warmth, acceptance, free-spiritedness, friendliness, freedom and diversity) I found there! The opening band was called Peter Pank and what a show they put on – they had boys dancing in leather, and fans in the crowd (I heard mostly girls screaming surprisingly) whistling and cheering as the lead singer seduced us all; he pulled people up to come onstage and dance and there were no security guards or anyone saying that was against the rules. Everyone was just enjoying themselves; the atmosphere was so uplifting – people with all different takes on their own sexualities supporting and encouraging each other, strangers greeting one another, boys reaching out to girls just to be silly and dance together, not to try to hook up…I walked out of there not only rejuvenated and happy but also profoundly affected, considering the range of human behavior and thinking, how is it that social rejects are always the most fascinating people? The individuals that must be hard and soft, sensitive and tough: fighting society and at the same time holding out their arms to it; caring about the world so deeply that they reject it, sickened; craving to express their wildness and their primal urges but all the while with sophisticated wits and higher morals and sharp consciences…

Which reminds me – forgive me while I analyze society just a moment longer – what I wrote on a facebook status Sam posted about the phrase “sex sells” is actually very relevant to Argentina and the US and I thought I’d add it here:

What Sam said: “I swear to god I will lose my mind if I hear the “sex sells” fallacy one more time. Sex does not sell. If sex sold, we would see penises where we see boobs. Naked men would be on everything that naked women are on. Sex isn’t what they’re selling you. They’re selling you an impossible, pornographically fueled misogynistic idea of the perfect woman.”

What I said: “i don't know, there's a lot to think about in this subject, economically, politically, historically, etc. in the economy we've constructed for ourselves, extreme consumerism thrives on our insatiable desires and fantasies. men and women are..., on the whole, different and as such they sum up, average out and target us differently; of course we all have sex drives but women are expected to prioritize other interests/objectives and this is reflected in the way ads, movies, entertainment etc. cater to a female vs. a male audience...not to mention, it's a fairly recent phenomenon that everyday women can make decisions, control their lifestyles, earn money and own property...and that it's not a life-devastating thing if we're not virgins! as for historical influences: we come from puritan, prudish, highly regulated and sexually repressed founders (i've learned just how extremely this affects us because i can assure you, if you think it's bad in the states how often you see half-naked women, it's NOTHING compared to spain or argentina) = the forbidden is fascinating and powerfully attractive. then you can dive into the political side of this whole thing: it seems that to keep us ordered, controlled and unified we're spoon-fed more or less fixed ideas of what we should do, say, respect, look like, aspire to, believe...(i.e. bombarding us with images of the perfect woman tells men that's what they should want/earn and tells women that's what they should be to get respect/attention/fulfillment). as for what you said about porn, Sam - well, erotic or "obscene" images, stories etc. are universal and ancient and potentially artistic but our modern methods are pervasively, extraordinarily twisted (and one-sided).
now i haven't gotten the chance to blog about argentine norms and values and how they're different from ours but here's a hint - this is the regular ol' primetime celebrity competition show that they sit around and watch together after dinner: ”


The following weekend, Sept. 25-26, I went to Rosario (here's my photo album) with the other literature concentration students, the advisor Diego and his wife and 2-year-old daughter Ema, the Spanish grammar professor Darío, and two more IFSA guests, Rachel and Heather (who got to come because her concentration’s trip was scheduled for the same weekend that her boyfriend’s gonna be here). It was exactly what I needed since it’d been over five weeks since I’d gotten out of the big exhausting capital. We saw all the touristy attractions such as the Monument to the Flag and the never-ending parks, and we took a lovely little boat trip up and down the river during which Darío taught us the Argentina version of the card game Spoons (which is so much more fun because you can win by lying – so typical, seems like Argentine games always want to make lying a big part of the strategy!). I had a fantastic time just wandering around this beautiful, open city with such a wonderful group of people.