Tag: Buenos Aires

Making New Friends and Family in Buenos Aires

Life is full of contradictions. I knew that my experience in Buenos Aires would push me to be more independent, but I never guessed that I would gain a new family and a network of relationships that would teach me about the importance of trusting and depending on those around me. My first days living in the city were exhilarating; taking the bus by myself for the first time without my host sister, ordering food at restaurants, and buying photocopies of course readings were really—as opposed to challenging my language skills—all mini-tests of my confidence. In an unfamiliar environment, I chose to throw myself into these situations and had to allow myself the possibility of failure. On more than one occasion I stared awkwardly out of the bus windows trying to determine where my stop was (or couldn’t even find the bus stop to get on the “colectivo” (bus) in the first place) but I was so proud when I finally reached my destination without any help. Once I was more comfortable getting around the city, I chose to participate in a tour of the Boca Juniors (one of the most popular futbol/soccer teams in the city) training center and take a clinic with one of their junior coaches, went to Yom Kippur services at a local Jewish congregation, started taking an improvisation-acting workshops, and began to attend weekly tango classes. In order to take advantage of these opportunities, I had to take the initiative to show up alone, practically without knowing anyone beforehand. Sometimes being independent wasn’t easy, though, and I slowly began to realize how much I had taken my University community for granted. The last time I truly was forced out of my comfort zone was freshman year, but even then, I was only one state away from my native California, and we lived within the protective bubble of our dorm building and the greater UO campus. So, amidst my early adventures in Buenos Aires, I had a wonderful host sister, made a few friends and met some really great people, but I still felt like I was missing my community.

Ironically, it was my independence that eventually led me to find my two new families in  Argentina: Matemurga and a group of international friends. As a theatre major, I knew that I wanted to see different performances in the city and participate in a form of theatre that is distinct from the forms and styles with which we typically produce theatre in the United States. Instead of choosing an internship position coordinated by my host organization, I sought out an independent internship with Matemurga, a community theatre group, or teatro comunitario, based in the Villa Crespo neighborhood. The first day I arrived to watch a rehearsal, I found many people coming up to introduce themselves, and by the next week they were greeting me as if I was a long-lost friend. Through this experience, I not only collaborated on their new performance Herido Barrio and learned about the successes and struggles of producing theatre, but I learned about myself and about being a part of a multi-generational supportive organization whose focus is theatre “by the community, for the community”. Coincidentally, I first experienced teatro comunitario with another student, Fanny, from the University of Buenos Aires who ended up becoming part of my group of international friends. In the coming weeks, I met her other roommates and one of their cousins, and we bonded over a love of music and sense of humor. One of the most special experiences with them, though, was being able to share dinners with each other where we would cook foods from our native countries: the United States, Peru, France, and the island Reunion. If I hadn’t been confident enough to make conversation with Fanny that first day in class, I might have never had the opportunity to share my adventures with these amazing and inspiring people.

Unfortunately, joining these communities made leaving Buenos Aires bittersweet, and I left knowing that, even with Facebook and Skype, it can be difficult to stay in touch. Studying abroad gave me a new sense of independence and confidence in myself, but also an awareness of diverse cultures, histories, and the importance of teamwork and community. I hope that my new friends and family know that they are always welcome if they come to the United States, and I am filled with gratitude at their generosity and love and for welcoming me into their lives.

Ariella Wolfe, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Working and Learning in Buenos Aires

Alicia Kirchner        Today was the day that I realized why I came to Argentina. And it didn’t have to be unbelievably adventurous! I started off the day waking up to breakfast after sleeping in. After a quick shower, I repeated my routine of checking my e-mail, reading the news, and relaxing before heading off to work in Plaza Primero de Mayo with Salud en la Calle (Health in the Street). It was a hot and sunny spring day. I stopped by a shop to buy a couple of pastries and fruit and enjoyed my treat on a park bench as I patiently waited for the team to arrive thirty minutes late (which I expected because that was frequently on time or early in my Argentinean experience).

Next, I met two guys named Sebastian and Hector at the mobile unit. We briefly talked about life and our individual experiences. It turns out Sebastian grew up in L.A. and moved to Argentina when he was 31. Talking with him made me realize how fortunate I am with my opportunities, my lifestyle, my family, etc. Anyways, he told me how hard it was to find work in Buenos Aires, especially as an older person (of 41 years instead of some 25-year old). He would work maybe 4 or 5 hours for 100 pesos! That’s nothing! He likes that there are programs like Medicos del Mundo (MDM) in Buenos Aires since he never encountered anything like it back in the United States. But he misses the U.S. where his family is at, where he can make money and drive his own car, and where he can have a mix of most cultures especially in terms of food (Mexican food in particular!). Here in Buenos Aires, there’s mostly Argentine and Italian food. Hector said that he loves the fact that the people are friendly – if you ask for help on the street, the majority of people will help you (but any place has bad people too).

Street Graffiti     Back at the office of MDM, I talked with Raul, my supervisor, about two papers Infancia en Indefension and Notas Sobre infancia y teoria: un enfoque lationamericano. These papers discussed a great asymmetry between adults and children where we view childhood as a transition into adulthood, where we are superior to children and adolescents, that children are incomplete, immature, and must obey our authority. However, “childhood” is an idea, a social construct that we created, and has not always existed (think before schools and educational institutions back to when everybody in a family worked to help the family no matter their age). Why do we treat children (and their opinions) as inferiors? We should listen to them and observe things in their own terms from their perspective, not from our perspective centered on how an adult would view things. Think of how an anthropologist tries to study other cultures from inside that culture, not from his/her outside point of view.

We need to start thinking of childhood as a permanent state not a transition, as young adulthood, as something that represents self-improvement instead of trying to mold a child into our concept of an adult. Children should not be independent but autonomous. Children have the ability to change the world. It’s time we start recognizing that, treating them like that, and allowing their talent to flourish.

I came to Argentina for these critical thoughts and realizations about myself, my society, the rest of the world, and potential future professions (specifically in health). I’m so glad to have had this conversation with Raul and to have read these papers and seen a small part of the system in Buenos Aires in Salud en la Calle. It took a long timeClub de Pescadores (5.5 weeks) to make this small understanding but it wouldn’t have happened if I exclusively got the project I originally wanted. And that’s part of the challenge – making other people, including myself, realize the importance of this idea, this project, and our work when everybody else has their own things they consider important, their own priorities. For me, moments like those I experienced today definitely made the trip worth it in a professional, personal, and cross-cultural sense that I might not get in a study-abroad program.

– Alicia Kirchner, Buenos Aires