Thursday, July 10, 2014

My name is Samuel Bakken, and I am 18 years old. I am currently doing an exchange trip to Rosario, Argentina. This trip is through the English Conversion Volunteers Abroad (ECVA) program and is my senior project.

Before writing about my experience so far, I would like to thank several people that helped make this trip possible for me. I thank my parents and grandmother for financing this trip and Heidi Smith for coordinating this trip. I thank my brother, who will be give blogging and ESL (English as a Second Language) advice. I also thank my Aunt Lynda for helping me find a project mentor and my mentor, Jesse, who teaches adult ESL classes in Spokane. His experience will tie in with my project. Lastly, I am grateful for the hospitality my host family, the Piccolis, have shown me. I am supposed to teach them English, but my job is easy because they already speak English at a conversational level. I will also be taking adult Spanish classes and for the rest of the time I have free roam of the city.

Many things that I have encountered have been strange to me, and I am sure that I will encounter more things that puzzle me. I should note that I am far from the stereotypical person from the USA, who is ignorant of other cultures. I lived in Kongsberg, Norway and attended a public Norwegian school in the 2nd grade. Through that almost complete experience of immersion, I became fluent in Norwegian. My father’s Norwegian university students could not detect a foreign accent after the year ended. My father is a self-described 'language romantic.' He has helped me travel to several European countries, but this is my first time in South America. It has been quite an experience so far.

My first bit of culture shock in Argentina was the driving I saw on the buses I took from EZE airport near Buenos Aires to Rosario. In the U.S., all but the rudest drivers leave space between cars. The driving I saw was not like that at all; everyone was aggressive and left little space between vehicles. Moreover, drivers treated the lanes and stop signs as mere suggestions. After realizing that I was not going to die in a fatal car accident, I dozed off on the bus. I was picked up at the bus station and driven to my host family’s home.
Buenos Aires from a bus window
After 30 grueling and stressful hours of traveling, a hot shower, a meal that wasn't airport food, and a warm bed felt marvelous. The rest of the day I unpacked, relaxed, and got to know my host family. I am living with SeƱor Piccoli, a German professor with an extensive background in linguistics. His daughter Flavia also lives in the house and will soon have a degree in environmental sciences. At 8 o’clock, after I learned a little about my host family, we ate dinner – which was early for Argentineans. At dinner, we got to know each other a little more and talked about the World Cup. After that, I slept like a baby.

Flavia with a hammer- frightening
If you are ever in a foreign country and wish to learn curse words, I suggest that you go to a local sports bar and watch a World Cup game. The next day I went to the Argentina versus Belgium game (1-0 Argentina) at Fenicia, a local bar, with Flavia and some of her friends. I was also exposed to Argentinean greetings. When I greeted the women, we kissed on the cheek (just touching cheeks and making a smooch sound). I shook hands with the men, but men that are close kiss on the cheek. I did the same thing when saying goodbye.

After the game, my new friends and I took a drive around the National Flag Memorial, a plaza in honor of the creator of the Argentinean flag. The locals flooded the streets and displayed Argentinean flags in celebration of the victory. There was a cacophony of car horns. After observing this commotion, I watched the Costa Rica versus Holland game with my new friends. They taught me another Argentinean tradition: mate. Mate is like tea, consisting of yerba mate (a South American shrub) leaves with hot water.  We all drank mate, passing it around the table, then I returned to my host family’s house for a tasty dinner of fish and salad.
The celebration at Flag's Memorial
My trip so far has been fun, and I have learned a lot. The phrase culture shock doesn't come close to describing what I am experiencing. Everything is disorienting and foreign, but also new and exciting. Despite taking three years of Spanish, I still feel overwhelmed with the language. Everything is strange and new, but I hope to improve my skills in Spanish and gain a greater understanding of this culture. Having experience with immersion, I believe that I will be able to accomplish those goals. Only time will tell.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to posting more updates. If you have any feedback, please do not hesitate to email me.

3/7-6/7 (July 3rd-6th)

1 comment:

  1. Sam, mate is the gourd container, yerba mate is the drink. Enjoy!