Friday, April 10, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
In America, the standard procedure for greeting someone is a brief handshake accompanied by fleeting eye contact. Sometimes, if we are greeting someone close to us or someone we have not seen in a while, we brave the uncomfortable territory of close proximity and actually move in for a hug. Usually this is a measly side hug or perhaps a short full frontal hug, but it is rare to experience an enveloping, consuming bear hug from another American. We are terrified of affection. We even have a derogatory term for it. PDA. A public display of affection is a formidable offense. Appalling. Disgusting. “Get a room!” we shout.
In Argentina, these words are never uttered. (Or perhaps I just couldn’t understand them since they were in Spanish!)
The standard greeting in Argentina is a simultaneous hug and kiss on the cheek. That’s right, besos! And gender does not change this. Men kiss men. Women kiss women. Besos a todos (kisses to all)! Furthermore, they carry out this greeting every time they say hello or goodbye to ANYONE! When they get home from work, every member of the family is greeted this way. When they meet up with friends, every amigo is greeted this way. When they walk into a panaderia (bakery), the store clerks are greeted this way!
Furthermore, it is a common sight to see two people embracing. Men put their arms around other men. Teenage children embrace their mothers. Lovers swap spit. On the street, at the dinner table, on a park bench. Wherever.
And no one gawks or looks disgusted.
Argentines are just very affectionate and loving people. They realize that love should be expressed in a tangible way. Not just in flowery words scribbled inside a flimsy and overpriced Hallmark card, but in a true physical manner. Besos a todos!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The next 3 days we stayed in Tandil. Melissa and I went horseback riding with Dama and a member of her church, Gabriel, in the evening. It was beautiful. You could see every star in the sky. My horse’s name was CiCi. Who would have thunk it?! The whole ride was so peaceful and amazing. Afterwards we sat around a toasty fire and listened to Gabriel sing and play guitar. He did wonderful! It seemed so surreal just relaxing and listening to the soothing music.
Melissa and I went to visit a private school in town. This school was so nice. 200 students in all grade levels 1st through 12th. The students study English everyday. We got to visit with the students and answer questions that they had for us. Learning that teachers here in Argentina work 2 or 3 other jobs to make enough money to live has probably been the most influential aspect of this trip for me so far.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
In Argentina a job is a job. It is a place you go for the sole purpose of providing for your family. That is not to say that people do not take pride in their work or that they are not passionate about their work, because, indeed, they are. But what is different about the people of Argentina is that their jobs do not consume their lives. Although they may consume a lot of their time, Argentines refuse to let their work incapacitate them.
Instead, they pour their passion into their relationships. Their families and friends are of utmost importance. They value long conversations over three course meals or witty banter over a cup of mate, the official drink of Argentina. A lot of time is spent (not wasted) communicating with friends and family.
For example, for lunch most people (both adults and school age children) leave their jobs or schools and go home to a house with a table large enough for the entire family. And they actually eat at it! Hard to believe, I know, but the entire family sits at the same table without iPods, cell phones, or television, and they consume a hearty meal accompanied by face to face conversation! And they do this todo los dias. Every day. A meal. At a table. Preposterous, I know.
Furthermore, many families even have a special room or house just for these family gatherings. It is called a “quincho” and contains a built in grill on which to cook “asado” or barbeque. The quincho is used for the bigger family gatherings that most families hold on Sundays where they barbeque and eat several courses of meat and some kind of dessert. These gatherings usually last all day with no one cutting out early to get tasks completed before the work week begins.
Mate, the herbal drink unique to Argentina, is another example of how the people here cherish their relationships. Mate is a social drink; it is meant to be shared. The mate mug is filled with several scoops of “yerba mate” and hot water, and then is passed around a circle of friends, each person sipping from the same metal straw. It is a tea-like beverage with a stronger, more herbal flavor. Argentines consume mate quite frequently, some every day or multiple times a day. It is an obsession similar to that of the Starbuck’s phenomenon. Except it is less fattening and much more fun since it is shared with friends!
These are just a few examples of how the value of relationships is carried out in their everyday lives; however, there are countless more. Immediately upon observation, it is clear that the Argentines believe that time spent with family and friends is most precious. In fact, I have heard more than one Argentine refute the statement “time is money” when it was suggested by an American. Unlike Americans who view socializing in the workplace or leaving work early to go home to their families as a waste of time or a missed opportunity to earn that cash, Argentines believe time is valuable, but not in a monetary sense. Time should be spent in the best and most enjoyable way possible, a philosophy we could all benefit from adopting.
Argentina is a country far too complex and great to be summed up in a silly little blog written by the likes of me. However, I will try. Because what I have learned from this country deserves to be shared.
Overall, I find Argentina to be a living paradox. The country’s economic situation seems to be worse than that of the U.S. People work long hours at multiple jobs to provide for their families. Workers go on strikes frequently. (We have witnessed numerous strikes and protests since we have been here).The government and legal system is somewhat corrupt. However, despite this, the attitudes of the people remain blissfully optimistic. And it is not due to ignorance as the old adage “ignorance is bliss” suggests, and as it is in America. Optimism is simply their mentality. I have a few theories as to why the Argentines are the way they are, but the lifestyle of the Argentines is so complex that I have chosen to break up my observations into smaller topics. It may take me awhile to complete these because I am still analyzing the country and the people as we continue our travels. Please remember that these are simply my humble observations and analyses, and they cannot act as a generalization for all the people of Argentina, nor should they be taken too seriously since my time here in Argentina is short, and I am not one to be taken seriously anyway!