Thursday, July 31, 2014

Let me begin by acknowledging that I have not updated this blog for a while. I have been busy, sick, and [insert excuse here]. To keep a consistent schedule and produce enough content, I plan to publish a post every Monday until I leave.

So far, my trip has been great but it has also been stressful. I have been spending my time doing many fun and exciting things and meeting a ton of people. Adjusting to a new culture is stressful, regardless of how many great people I have to meet and beautiful places I have yet to see.

On the ninth, I watched the Holland versus Argentina game in Fenicia, the bar mentioned in my first post, with my friends. It was an intense game with no goals scored, ending with Argentina winning in penalty kicks. This time around, I was more immersed in the game and my cheers were more in harmony with the locals.

Four days later, on the 13th, I watched the World Cup final. This game was unlike the other two games I had seen. The other two games were tense and emotional, but the pressure of it being the final game compounded these effects. A man tripped over a dog that was lying on the floor, resulting in a spilled drink. That was the only break in the palpable tension of the game. The dog then proceeded to lick some of the beer off the floor. The man apologized, and everyone returned to watching the game almost immediately.

Argentina scored a point that the referees deemed offside and Germany scored with minutes to go in extra time. Immediately upon the Krauts scoring this point, the mood dropped. Because I had only been in the country for about ten days, I did not empathize with this well. I was also awestruck at the goal that Mario Götze scored. It was an amazing feat to score a goal like that while not even looking at the goal.

Several days later, Flavia, brought me to an amazing meal of fondue with her mother and sister, Helena and Virginia. Flavia's boyfriend, Gustavo, and Virginia's boyfriend, Aníbal (aka Hanni) were also present. It was an amazing experience, even if I could not understand everything that they said. Everyone asked me questions about things such as U.S. history and my musical taste. The U.S. Civil War came up. For the first (and likely last) time in my life, I was able to show off that I know Johnny Cash’s birth year (1932). That night was fun, not only because of the amazing food and company, but also because of the cultural experience.

In my last post, I wrote about culture shock being a wonderful and euphoric experience. In contrast, shell shock would have been a more appropriate term for about ten days after my first week. (My research revealed that both are typical stages in culture shock.) Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines culture shock as 'a feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to.' It is about having to think about how you cross the street and every other mundane detail. It is about missing your old routine and the familiarity that came with it. It is also about overcoming the anxiety brought on by the language barrier. Your first instinct is to shut down and be quiet when you move to a foreign country with limited abilities in the native tongue. It is tricky to overcome this overpowering and counterproductive response. While experiencing those feelings over those ten days, I became physically sick. It was tough to handle because adjusting to Rosario had already made me exhausted. I saw a doctor last Saturday and got a prescription for an antibiotic. I now feel better, which will enable me to move on to learning more Spanish.

The chief purpose of my coming to Rosario was to learn Spanish. I am currently taking classes at Spanish in Rosario – the name is self-explanatory. (Thanks to Stephanie for being in contact with Heidi to help coordinate my lessons.) I have two teachers, Federico and Marcela. They are both fantastic teachers that have been immensely helpful. They provide me with a structured approach to learning the language and a place where I do not feel overwhelmed by the language. I have 90-minute blocks with each of them five days a week. I had class with James, an Irish political science major who is currently working on his dissertation. The structure may change a little because he is no longer taking lessons, but I doubt I will ever remove the traces of his Irish accent from my Spanish.
Federico, Marcela, and I
These blocks consist of conversation, grammar, and engaging exercises. For example, we watched a creepy (Did you know that “creepy” has no direct translation in Spanish?) video, titled Alma (Spanish for soul), about a young kid who decided to go into a doll shop. We practiced the conditional tense by writing what-if statements. I wrote, “Si Obama hubiera escapado de la tienda, él habría llamado a la policía.” That means, “If Obama had escaped the store, he would have called the police.” (My brother says, “Let's be real here. He would have nuked the place.” I would not blame Obama.)
The interior of Spanish in Rosario

I have made a lot of progress with the language so far; I practice vocabulary daily from my several vocabulary sheets that I aim to master. Out in the real world, I practice the skills that my teachers (that include Señora Green and Señora Fernandez, my high school Spanish teachers, whom I have not yet thanked) have given me to cement this knowledge. I am becoming more fluent and more able to think while speaking.

The locals, or rosarin@s, have a distinct accent. (In modern Spanish, the @ symbol indicates gender ambiguity.) It differs considerably from Castilian Spanish, or castellano, the dialect from central and northern Spain. Castilian is also the Spanish dialect most taught in U.S. Spanish classes. The locals say the letters ll and y with a “shh” sound and sometimes drop the s’s at the end of words. I will use the sentence, “she gave me a horse yesterday, and I told her ‘thank you,’ ” as an example. That translates to “ella me dio un caballo ayer y yo le dije ‘gracias.’ ” Spelling that sentence phonetically to reflect the local dialect would be challenging. Instead, I will point out the big differences from castellano. A native would pronounce the ll in ella and caballo and the y in ayer and yo as “shh.” They would either drop the s in gracias or barely say it. Upon my arrival, the accent caused great confusion. Even now, the local dialect and rate of speech still confuse me.

Teaching English has been an easy job so far compared to what I anticipated. Hector, the father, and I talk about politics and current events in English. These talks are good for me because I get another perspective on the world. Flavia and I speak in English and Spanish (and Spanglish). My questions to her are simple, generally about phrasing. She asks me more nuanced questions. A few days ago, she asked me how you refer to a sink handle (faucet). She asks me questions that make me think. Her level of English is impressive to me.

My world here is the house with Flavia and Hector, wherever my friends and exchange family take me, and Spanish in Rosario. I have not toured the city as much as I would have liked to, but I will. Fortunately, not only do I feel much better, but also the weather is now much better for photography. I will take advantage of this.

It would be impossible to name everyone that has helped me, so a blanket thank-you will have to do, at least for now.  I am grateful for everyone who has showed me around, helped me with the language, or provided some other form of hospitality. Thank you for everything.

I plan to make the rest of my trip fun by going out and practicing as many of the things I have learned in class as I can. These three weeks have felt long due to all the things I have been doing and people whom I have met. I have learned many things. It would be easy for me to write travel and language learning advice, but I will save that for later. I look forward to the rest of my trip and, because we have fresh helado (ice cream); I am going to stop writing and enjoy a local delicacy. Life is good…
José sure loves helado

P.S. These posts are not current. To determine when a post is written about, check the dates at the end of the post.

7/7-24/7 (July 7th-24th)

No comments:

Post a Comment