Saturday, June 21, 2008

It's like Thanksgiving...every single Saturday

As I mentioned in my previous post, every single Saturday there is a gathering in Marta's house with all her children and grandchildren, and I got to be part of it today. I believe that about 30 people came, everyone ranging from probably their mid-50s to newly born. The closest thing I can compare it to is Thanksgiving, and yet they have this every single Saturday. It really was fun to be part of. I definitely had to work hard to hold my own among all the conversations, but after so much practice day after day I feel like I'm able to understand more than when I arrived, for certain. They explained to me that Argentinian family get togethers consist of "two hours at the table eating, two hours away from the table talking, two more hours at the table eating, etc, etc...". In my opinion, there's no better way to run a family function. Everyone's always happy when there's food on the table and conversations all around. I felt very welcomed by everyone and I was comfortable sitting in on conversations and joining in where I could. In the end, I probably spoke or listened to Spanish for 5 hours, and learned way more than one would get in a week of spanish class at UW. Like I tell all of them: Speaking Spanish around the dinnertable with everyone is my classroom, and who doesn't want to eat homemade breads and meats and salad and desserts while in class?! This is the MUCH better way to go about learning the language.

I am definitely running into trouble when trying to talk about politics or about religion or about economics..there are so many terms that are complicated that conversation soon gets lost in translation, so to speak. Those sorts of conversations will come easier in the future.

I had a very unique experience with languages today that I'd never had before. There are a couple women staying at the house tonight who are from Italy and just needed a place to stay tonight. The thing is, they don't speak English, and I don't speak Italian, and yet both of us speak Spanish, so we can communicate with each other through a secondary language. I think that is just so...for a lack of a better word....awesome. To be able to talk with someone from Italy about their country and customs through the medium of a shared language like Spanish was surreal. I definitely enjoyed that conversation.

One interesting thing that I haven't mentioned is that, in Argentina, you don't greet people with a handshake - you greet them with a kiss on the cheek. Now, like most Americans, I was taken aback by that at first. For instance, if you enter a room with 30 people, you don't just say "hi" and sit down. You go around to each person and say hello and kiss them on the cheek. It might be odd at first, but I think it's a very welcoming gesture. The people here are very friendly.

As a final point, as some people have asked me about it (in a joking fashion), no I do not drink very much down here (what a surprise!). I am on a completely "taste-only" regimen. That is to say, when I went to the bar and someone would offer me a drink, I'd taste it but I certainly do not drink a whole bunch, and I never drink enough to ever feel it. Tomas' friends have told me multiple times that "we will break you by the end of this, yankee" (they seem to enjoy calling me yankee...except they pronounce it yang-kee. it's kinda humorous), but do not fear. I don't really have a problem with peer pressure and I'm going to stick to my guns on this one. Drinking until one is drunk isn't attractive to me whatsoever.

The interesting thing about drinking in Argentina, as many people have told me, is that you're allowed to drink at a younger age (18), and so people have the whole "let's go get drunk with all our friends because now it's legal" experience at an earlier age. Therefore, when people get together to drink that are 20-21-22, it's not too big of a deal. There isn't really excessive alcohol consumption at this age, because they all did that when they were younger and it's lost its luster.

Take that for what it is, I thought that was an interesting point of conversation to come out of talking with some people I've met here who are my age.

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