The Maté’s Finally Tasting Better

kathynguyen

So yes, I was a bit infatuated for a while. But it did eventually start to settle in: My first trip outside of the house without Gabi (my mom) was the scariest event of my life. Although the city is beautiful, the students are so heavily advised to “keep your bags in front of you and, if you can, have it right underneath your arm!” and that if we are mugged, do not try to fight back. The neighborhoods in Mendoza are not what you might call “elegant,” and let’s hope that you aren’t ever caught alone at night. The trip to the supermarket with Elizabeth was our first pursuit without an Argentinean guide of some sort. Piropos, catcalls, were thrown every couple blocks; almost got run over several times from drivers who have no regard for pedestrians; and man, the cashier at the store was so mean about not having change! However, all these things are common here. Piropos and honks are almost a sign of respect from men, acknowledging the woman’s beauty; hah, it’s not a law here, so vehicles have the right of way; because of Argentina’s unstable economy, vendors are frugal with handing out change as much as possible and try to convince the customer to pay as close as possible to the price.

For some reason, that trip just made me feel somewhat discouraged. Oh my god, she was just being mean because I’m Asian and therefore she knows that I’m a tourist. How will I ever blend in? Riding the micro was intimidating. It was crowded, I felt like I was a blatant foreigner, and I was still unsure as to where I was supposed to get off. It didn’t help that I didn’t use the metro system back in Seattle. Luckily, I made it home to find that my clothes were all crusty because the water here is so harsh; then when I took my first shower there, the water, or the faucet, or something, smelt so strange, like burnt something … I can’t even describe the smell. Also, my mattress slumped. My mattress actually concaved from being used so much. I’m already short : I don’t want to come home 4′ 10″ due to poor posture from a mattress.

After complaining about it enough, I went in to the IFSA office to chat with the director of the program about my concerns, mostly about the mattress. I ended up telling him about everything, and he was incredibly nice about it all. He said he would subtly talk to Gabi about the mattress, and appeased my material anxiety by telling me that everyone’s clothes end up like this. Once we get back to the north, our clothes will be back to normal (but I also heard that people’s clothes fall to crumbles so they end up leaving half their wardrobe here … I hope that José is right). And the next day, I woke up to a mattress waiting to replace my old one in the living room.

Now, I’ve miraculously changed! I drank maté and I love it, I got a cell phone and even loaded the minutes myself! I went to the bank and they kindly gave me 20 $10 bills for my 200 pesos. I’m getting the hang of the bus system and I’m getting off on the right stops! I can pretty much say that I’m a real Mendocinian.

Mate and Bizcochuelo
Mi first maté in Argentina that I enjoyed with some homemade bizcochuelo!

Not really, but I definitely feel better about living here. Of course, I haven’t completely accustomed myself with the abrupt change in lifestyle, and I will continue to have problems, but I feel less tense than I was. I’ve hung out with a couple people from the program, playing at the huge park, eating helado, going to bars. My host sister also has a guitar (she’s “learning”) that she lets me use! And I thought I was going to die without playing for five months.  It especially helped when I met Damian, a friend of Lindsay Olson’s (she was on this program Spring 2011 and has been super helpful!). They met last semester and became very good friends, and she passed him on to me so I can also indulge in the authentic Mendocino help I need. We had a two-hour long conversation about our lives, about the things I worry about in Mendoza, about slang in Argentina, etc … and it was wonderful. I thought it was a productive Saturday afternoon, much more productive than spending the day on my computer and complaining to my friends on Facebook.

Communication has been a little tough, especially because my internet has not been completely figured out, but it’s fine. Hace frio, but not even comparably to a Walla Wallan winter day (it can go down to about 5ËšC here, whereas in Walla Walla it can go down to about 5ËšF). I have enough warm fleece-y stuff to survive. Luckily, since there are kids in the family, they all go to sleep at normal hours: 9-12 p.m. Therefore, they eat dinner early (8 p.m. … still better than 11 p.m.) and I’m not expected to stay up as late. I haven’t had much of a problem with the lack of punctuality yet; I’ve accepted that people will be late and service will be slow. Plus if I were late to something, my excuse would be that I currently live in Argentina, where everything happens half an hour later (many of our orientation presentations have started half an hour later –– I think it’s hilarious). My Spanish class started, and we are getting prepared to register for our classes at the University; we’ll see what happens there. I realized that I just have to ir con la corriente, go with the flow. I’m here to enjoy what I came for and for all the new things I learn, not to stress out about all the things that are different. I got this.

P.S! If you want to see a great video of how different Argentina is from the US, watch this video that José showed us, if you haven’t already. It’s great.  Italy (Argentina) VS Europe (US)

To see more about my adventures, visit my other study abroad blog that has a “Foto del día,” Photo of the Day!
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