Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Feel More Like A Stranger Each Time I Come Home...

I have spent a lot of time away from "home" and a lot of time outside the United States. I have literally never been homesick. I have missed my friends and family, of course. I have even longed for certain foods or places, but never have I thought to myself, "I wish I was home instead of here right now".

Well, it had to happen eventually, right?

It's official. I had my first homesick day the other day and I am not even exactly sure why.

Here's the thing, I don't really have a "home" in the sense that most people do. The house I grew up in was sold, repainted and stripped of all my memories long ago. I moved out of my mother's home at the age of 18 and never moved back. I no longer have a bedroom at my mother's house either, so I really have no physical attachment to the house at all. My family is small, I have basically no extended family at all, at least none that I can slash want to talk to and we never get together for any sort of celebration. I'm not saying this so everyone will feel bad for me, I'm just trying to show you that I'm not trying to be tough when I say that I don't get homesick, I just have never had much to feel truly connected to.

Moving here semi-permanently has made me realize that you can be homesick just for your country and, for me at least, the things you miss are never what you would have expected.

Silly things I miss include but are not limited to:
  • Peanut butter
  • Reese's
  • Pepper shakers on tables
  • Really good pizza
  • Cereal
  • Coins being readily available
  • ATMs that give bills smaller than $100
  • Central AC
  • $1 beer specials
  • Movies without terrible dubbing
These little things are worth mentioning, but they are trite and certainly wouldn't cause me to wish I was in the US instead of here. The following things, on the other hand, have a little more depth.
  • Clean streets
    • Littering is out of control here. I am shocked and appalled every time I see someone purchase gum, candy, cigarettes, etc and simply toss the packaging right onto the ground as they stroll past a perfectly acceptable trash receptacle.
  • Common courtesy
    • I have come to realize that the rest of the world has made me feel guilty for being American. I was never conscious of this before, but before traveling I never really thought of Americans as being a particularly polite group of people, mostly due to how other countries view us. However, we really are very polite. Think about how many times you hear the words "please", "thank you" "excuse me" and even "bless you" from complete strangers in the United States. Our government may bully other countries and we may have a lot of racists, but we will hold doors, say bless you when you sneeze and say excuse me as we bump past you.
    • Along the same lines, Americans have a lot more tact. When someone looks like hell we ask "Are you tired today?". If someone looks fat, we say nothing. If someone makes a less than tasty dish we smile, swallow and commend them for trying. We focus on the positive. Not too long ago my landlord decided to tell me I was looking especially fat, as if I really enjoyed Argentine food. First of all, I don't enjoy Argentine food. Second of all, I work out 6 days a week and buy expensive health food. Lastly, you're an insensitive bitch.
  • Proper work ethic
    •  I explained to a student who works for IBM that in the US we are technically allowed a 15 minute break for every 4 hours we work in but no one really takes it in fear of looking unproductive and lazy. He responded by laughing and saying in Argentina it is not uncommon to take a short break every hour simply to walk around outside, smoke, chat, or do whatever you want. I wasn't even surprised, because I have stood in line at a grocery store, waited for a check at a restaurant, and endured countless other seemingly endless and unpleasant waiting games here. Employees often decide their personal conversation is far more important than your business and simply cannot be bothered with you.
  • Well behaved children
    • I have a lot of experience with kids of all ages, but early childhood development has been a serious interest of mine for a while. I believe I have a great connection with small children and really know how to get to them. For this reason, it is especially painful for me to watch a child throw a massive fit and get what they want, or tell their mother to "shut up". Are you serious? I know some people believe kids are babies until they cannot be carried anymore, but I will tell you right now I can make a 3 year old speak respectfully and take "no" for an answer, there is no reason any parent cannot do the same.
  • Men who don't believe in Machismo
    • Machismo is basically the traditional Latin American belief that men are the caretakers, the decision makers, and have the overall control over women. It is not always so extreme, it may be as simple as being overly flirty and throwing compliments and love around so much that it ceases to mean anything at all. I am not impressed by your money, nor your ability to tell me how beautiful I am in 10 different ways in 20 minutes. Give me something worth taking about. Give me depth in your conversation skills and don't you dare call me princess. 
  • Good music
    • What the hell was Argentina thinking when they came up with Reggaton and Cumbia? I used to think "Wow that song is really popular, I hear it everywhere" until I came to the terrible realization that it is not the same song, but in fact several songs that sound exactly the same. Also, the common courtesy of using headphones is not often observed by the young douchebags who love to blast this so-called music from their crappy cell phones. 
  • American business practices
    • As much as I hate the compensation culture of the United States that makes it so everyone solves every problem with a lawsuit, I do enjoy that the laws protect me from being screwed over or taken advantage of. In the US, I would never have to deal with shady business practices like last minute raises in rent or not getting what I expect when I purchase something. However, in Argentina, you don't get the same protection. 
  • Hearing my name as it is meant to be said
    • My name is Rease. Not Grease. Not Riiks. Not Tere. Not Re-ah-say. REASE. I know I could go by Teresa and my life would be easier, but you know what? No one calls me that and I don't want them to. When someone named Jose comes to the States, does he have to go by Joe? No. I've even learned to semi-roll my R's just to better say my name, but no one wants to accept it.

I'm still really happy here, and overall, this city is still really interesting to me. My every day Spanish is really improving and almost every day I am challenged and I love that. Do I get tired of Spanish and relish the solace of my English music, books and television? Yes. However, I still enjoy learning how to properly ask for a ripe eggplant, casually ask if people are up to do something, or formally ask if health insurance covers pre-existing conditions. Living here is like having a really weird internship; ever-changing tasks that are a mix of fun and mundane with a pretty sad but mostly livable salary. I don't plan to go back to the US anytime soon, but I can promise you that is where I will end up. I may not really have a hometown, but I definitely have a home country.

Now that I have pointed out all the things it took moving away to miss, I want to know, what do you think you would miss?

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    How to Use an Argentine AC

    It's spring in Buenos Aires now, soon to be summer. I finally wheeled out the little AC unit my landlord pointed out to me months ago but never explained how to use. It took me a few minutes to figure it out and once I did, I couldn't get over how ridiculous it is. I thought I'd share the experience with all of you.
    ps- Padfoot didn't realize I was holding a camera so he makes a quick cameo.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Rant of the Moment

    I realize I have never actually had a post that was a Rant of the Moment, but I figure, for someone who hates as much stuff as I do, this was inevitable.

    Rant of the Moment: Slow Walkers/People Who Don't Understand Sidewalk Manners

    This has happened to all of us. You are walking along, trying to make it to your destination. Maybe you are in a rush, maybe you're not- it doesn't matter. Then, it happens-- a slow walker. They merge in front of you and suddenly trap you in their painfully slow rhythm. You feel like you are trying to walk up a down escalator as you desperately try to figure out how any human's legs could possibly move so slow. You dodge left, you weave right but, as luck would have it, slow walkers are almost always sidewalk hogging zig zaggers as well. If you're like me, this is the point when you start mentally screaming MOVE MOVE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WALK! 

    Eventually, you will be able to get around this slow walker. If you are having an especially rough sidewalk day, you might immediately run into the bad manners sidewalk people. These are the people who stop dead in their tracks to do or look at something like check their phone, light a cigarette, have a lengthy conversation with a long lost friend they have stumbled upon in the streets, etc. Or perhaps someone who is walking in the opposite direction and decides to look you in the eye and play chicken as they plow directly towards you.

    Am I one of the few people left that treats sidewalks as I would the road? Stay to the right, allow faster walkers to pass, never cross into oncoming traffic and never make unexpected stops. Pretty simple rules people, let's put them into good use.

    The irony of this post is I didn't even walk around today as I am bedridden. I suppose this issue annoys me enough on a daily basis that the irritation is still fresh in my mind.

    From Thriller to Chills and Fevers

    Today was supposed to be awesome.

    This was the plan: Sleep in, work out for a couple hours, do some yoga, enjoy the nice weather, get some work done on Travelated and then, to top it off, go to an amazing Thriller event outside the planetarium. A huge group of people will be taught the Thriller dance and simultaneously perform it with other groups around the world.
    This is what has happened slash is happening: I woke up with a serious fever, my entire body hurt and I was having hot/cold flashes. So, I went to the fruit stand, shivering in the 67 degree weather to buy some stuff. Then, I went to the video store I have tried to go to a few times, signed up for a membership finally and felt stupid seeing the guy who is always really nice and chatty with me as I stumbled around, half coherent, looking for "Blazing Saddles", having no idea what the Spanish translation would be. I then stopped and picked up an ice cream bar for my next hot flash and went to the pharmacy for medicine. Since then I have been in my bed covered in blankets (and then ripping them off when I start sweating) and half ass working and watching movies. My friends met 30 minutes ago to go to the awesome Thriller event.

    So, that is the bad news. However, I'd like to note that I had an awesome Friday night. My new friend Alex came over and we made a homemade pizza and vaguely watched a movie but really just talked and ate candy. She's from Buffalo, NY and we actually have a lot in common. We talked forever and it was a nice, cheap night in.

    Tomorrow I am off work! Sundays off work are so wonderful. Hopefully the fever will be gone by tomorrow so it doesn't ruin my whole weekend. Jorge and I are supposed to go to a Cafe/Bookshop/Music Store near my place that Jorge loves. I am looking forward to it.

    Today is my mom and Abby's birthday. I called both of them and it was great to hear their voices. I wish I could see their faces! It is also Patrick's birthday, but sadly I don't have his number so I was only able to wish him a happy birthday via Facebook.

    Life has been a little stressful lately but overall I'm still happy to be here. My job situation will change in December when I stop being an au pair. I'm a little nervous about it, but I'm hoping for the best. It falls at an unfortunate time as I will have to pay for my pricey apartment and Christmas, but hopefully my savings and picking up new students will carry me through it. During the summer (which starts in December here) I'm hoping to do a lot of work and build up some money. I might start looking into online work again too.

    I'm going to attempt to re-watch Blazing Saddles later and try to actually pay attention. I might even watch the Argentine movie I rented, El Secreto de sus Ojos, which won some awards. Hopefully I can focus.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Quick Re-cap

    I apologize for not updating this recently. I have been incredibly busy and at this point a detailed update just seems exhausting. Instead I will give you a quick re-cap and give you some photos and if you want details, you can just ask for them.
    • Travelated launch went well and we are still working hard. This is part of why I have been so incredibly busy. Keep spreading the word. This project makes me very happy.
    • Spent a weekened in Colonia, Uruguay. Details to come in the form of an article for Travelated.
    • Created a scavenger hunt and painted nails at a 11 year old's sleepover birthday party
    • Saw a local indie rock band called Adicta and really enjoyed it
    • Enjoying weekly outdoor Boot Camp exercise classes
    • Came closer to beating Jenny at Squash than ever before (15-13!)
    • Recorded a video to be played at an assembly at St. Cecilia School to say hello to all my old students.
    • Discovered a coffee shop nearby that gives free coffee refills during certain hours. Refills are unheard of here, so this is more exciting than it sounds.
    Wow, I really wish I could think of more highlights but that's really all that is coming to mind right now. Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure:

    Colonia, Uruguay

    Splitting a bottle of wine at lunch? Don't mind if I do.

    The girls with whom I spent my last Friday night.

    Ana got an ice cream maker for her birthday and we made mint chocolate chip. She and I were destined to get along.

    Juan and Jose went to the US for 12 days. Jose literally threw these at my face when he came back. I savored the first one by making it last for 4 bites. Oh Reese's, why haven't you made it to Argentina? It would make explaining my name easier and also make life tastier.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Happy Travelated Launch Day!

    The day has come! Travelated is going at full speed and I would absolutely love if you would check it out and share the link. We also have a photo contest going on that you should definitely enter. I took my own photo and, if I were eligible to win, I think I'd have a pretty good shot.

    Try and top this. I dare you.