Friday, March 9, 2007

Stage "Dos"...and some Futbol

Mi primero dia solo...

Today was my first day on my own (stage "dos" of my trip)...and it started out a bit shaky. Since I got to Buenos Aires, my law school friend Jeremy and his wife Betsy have been gracious enough to put me up and take me around. But, they had old friends coming into town (and also have a seemingly endless string of random houseguests--which I guess is what you get for being laid back and living in an exotic part of the world), so I moved to a hostel this the pouring rain.

I checked into my room and had my first sinking feeling of the trip. It was a room for four and there was someone sleeping (at about 11:45am) in there. He popped up, spoke basically no English, and didn't seem happy to see me, especially once he gathered that my Spanish is, well, limited. I'd been lucky enough to have my own room up until now, and for the first time, I thought, "I'm 30 years old; maybe this staying in hostels thing isn't going to be so sweet after all."

BUT, life steadily improved from there. First, I realized that I was pretty tired (I've already become a genuine BA resident by getting myself into a pattern of going to sleep at 3am) and my biggest concern was that I wouldn't be able to take a nap in a multi-person dorm room. That issue swept aside, I layed down and promptly took a beautiful three hour nap.

When I woke up, I got some lunch and then ended up having a 25 minute conversation entirely in Spanish with a Peruvian archeologist named Hector who laid out all the must-see spots in his home country (pais). Feeling pretty good about myself, I actually figured out how to use the phone card system here.

Are you ready for

My luck continued when I returned to my room to find my formerly sleeping and groggy roommate Joel (not pronounced how you think) up and ready to go to his favorite team's futbol match (we had discussed this briefly earlier, but I wasn't sure if he was actually going to wait for me). He's Argentinian, but not from BA.

So, instead of watching my beloved Blue Devils get sent home from the ACC tourney by unranked NC State, I got to see River Plate (Joel's team) lose 1-0 to Caracas F.C. Despite the low score, the game was fun and even getting into the stadium was a bit of an adventure (none of the cops or door people could seem to tell us where we were supposed to enter). The "estadio" holds about 80,000 and was about 3/5 full (many of the sections were closed off, but Joel seemed to think there would have been more people if it hadn't rained all day). There was lots of singing--a tradition that we wholly lack in the good old Estados Unidos.

I forgot to take my camera to the game, so all I can offer is a couple pictures of my ticket and the team's jersey, which Joel owns. Y'all have seen a big soccer stadium on TV anyway, so you pretty much know what it looked like.

As a bonus, here are some pictures of the futbol match I saw in Antigua at a MUCH smaller "stadium." This was the second level league, so almost all of these players have other jobs.

An interesting sidenote: both my current roommate and my host father in Antigua were going to go watch the futbol matches by themselves had I not joined them. It seemed as though Edgar (host father) goes to every game and many by himself. Just seems a bit different from the U.S. where most people won't even go to a movie by themselves (although I enjoy it from time to time--and I never understood the idea of going to a movie as a way of hanging out with a friend, i.e. sitting in the dark near each other for 2 hrs and not talking, but...).

And the Spanish...

Lots of folks have been asking me how the Spanish is coming, and it's a bit complicated. I'm feeling a bit bipolar about it--susceptible to huge swings in confidence. My first day in Buenos Aires was a perfect example. Jeremy was able to get me in to his weekly turf futbol game. So, in a span of 1.5 hours, I got to meet and play futbol with 8 real Argentines. The experience left me depressed. I could barely communicate with them. In a big group setting everyone was talking so fast and I felt pressured and I was basically silent.

After the game, I went out for dinner with Jeremy, his wife Betsy, and their friends Lara (who is a JSD student at Yale) and Pablo (her longtime "novio"). The conversation was 80% in Spanish and I understood 70% of it. Of course, they were terrifically patient with me, spoke slowely, and made sure I understood (and spoke perfect English when it was clear I didn't). But, still, I was following.

Today was similar. I was depressed that I couldn't communicate with my groggy roommate; then heartened when I was able to mostly communicate with Hector the Peruvian archeologist. It turns out my roommate has a thick Argentine accent (which is why Che Guevara was called "che"), so even words I know are sometimes hard to make out...but by the end of the futbol match we were talking about our favorite music and where "las mujeres mas bonitas" are from in Argentina--according to Joel, it's Rosario, not Buenos Aires.

The moral of the story so far seems to be: a) I can basically express myself fairly effectively; b) I can follow a conversation if people are speaking very slowly and mindful of me; c) I'm not ready for prime time, i.e. normal discourse; d) I just need to stick with it and stop speaking English!

One down...

I definitely wanted to see an Argentinian futbol match. In addition, the night before I flew to BA, my friend Tess (see "Mi Vida en Antigua") told me to: Eat the perfect steak; drink the perfect glass of wine; and kiss a beautiful woman.

Got the futbol covered; now I'll get to work on those other three...

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