Today, in our final Argentine class, the professor asked the students what their best and worst experiences were. Happily, no one had a truly bad experience to relate (or, for bureaucratic purposes, none they WOULD relate). We all chafe a bit against serving sizes and the difficulty in getting water at a restaurant. When a bottle of mineral water costs the same as a local craft beer, which would you choose?
Probably the worst story is the student who only packed one bra. Hey, we’ve all been there. The thing is, Argentine bras are not sized in two ways. As I understand it, in the USA, there is a torso measurement (as in “33”) and a cup size (as in “DDD”). Here, there is a size: an integer from 0 to some large figure. So, if you’re well endowed but thin, you’re in trouble. Likewise if you’re flat but wide. Apparently, this goes to the point for how women are viewed in Argentina and how fashion is considered generally. The idea is, you stuff whatever you have into the clothes you have. Which explains a lot. There are a lot of women running around who look lovely and are wearing lovely clothes and are either spilling out of the bra (or bra equivalent) or that bra is so loose that….well, use your imagination.
In any case, this student is – so I’m told, I am far too professional to notice – relatively proportionally correct and the bras she has purchased in Argentina fit pretty well. But not perfectly and, I think we can all agree, imperfectly fitting underroos can be pretty annoying over time.
Still, if that’s the worst that happens to a student on this trip, I’ll make a large donation to the charity of your choice.
There were several stories where someone said they were “scared”. My professor ears perked up at this but, in each case, it turned out to be a situation where someone didn’t understand the local culture and it freaked them out, thinking they were under threat when they clearly weren’t. The unknown, you will not be surprised to learn, is scary.
We had a nice discussion about why the students are here and that they should embrace situations where they aren’t entirely sure what is going on. Students keep looking for ranch dressing and peanut butter when they should be eating dulce de leche and chimichurri sauce. I can’t entirely blame them as I do the same thing. Your comfort zone is comfortable. But, so far, what students report negatively is basically the fact that they’re in Argentina and not the United States. That’s the point, the professor correctly pointed out.
I was just thinking about this as I went to pick up my laundry, probably for the last time. When we arrived, I left the flat girded for battle. ID in one pocket, keys in another. A bit of cash in every other pocket, maybe a bill tucked in a sock. I studied my route but I left my phone at home lest someone mug me for it or rip it out of my hands as they whisked by on a motorbike (I was assured this would happen). Made sure my laces were double tight. Rationally, I didn’t think there would be trouble but I didn’t know the neighborhood and my unconscious activity betrayed anxiety.
Today, I got back from class, had some lunch, did a little work, realized I needed to get the laundry in advance of tonight’s Tango lesson*, so I put on my Tevas, threw a t-shirt on, grabbed the laundry slip and a 100 peso note and headed downstairs. I was back in the flat in a little less than 10 minutes no one having attempted nefarious action against me.
This is particularly poignant because our time is drawing to a close. When I arrived in Buenos Aires, it was an entirely new place. We left Santiago where, to date, I’ve spent a couple of weeks. It would be silly to say I feel at home in Santiago, though, hopefully, I will. However, it was certainly more familiar than Buenos Aires. When we return to Santiago, I will have lived in Buenos Aires about twice as long as I’ve spent in Santiago. I can’t say for sure how I’ll feel when that happens but the prospect of leaving here feels like leaving A home if not THE home. I’m comfortable here.
* There, I mentioned it. We will never speak of this again.