Sunday, May 31, 2009

Me and My Botella!

I confess. I'm a water-a-holic. It's a fact. I drink water all day long and you will never see me without a water bottle. NEVER! Me and a water bottle are attached at the hip and never leave each other's site. I don't think I can last without water for 10 minutes, I'm addicted.

Everywhere I go, I bring a water bottle with me and I refill it every chance I get! I usually buy a plastic bottle of water at the grocery store, and reuse it over and over and over again until it's gross and embarrassing. And then I buy a new one, and the cycle continues...

Diana always makes fun of me and my nasty plastic bottles, she tells me that it reminds her of the Lost TV show. I have no idea what she's talking about...
I walk to school every day and it usually takes me more than 1 hour and 15 minutes each way. As I walk, I carry my water bottle and drink the whole way to school. As soon as I get to school, the first think I do is re-fill my bottle!

Since I've been studying Spanish for 6 weeks and taking the same route every day, I decided to be brave and map out a different way to get to school to get a change of scenery. In the past, I walked down Santa Fe street, but I grew sick of seeing the same stores and maneuvering around tons of people.

My new route was brilliant. I simply started walking down a parallel street called Paraguay and this made me happy because it provided me with new scenery and less people to dodge. As I walked down my new route to and from school, I noticed a fishing supply store with a cool, metal, pink water bottle! These types of stainless steel bottles became very popular in US once numerous reports came out stating that plastic water bottles contain bad-for-your-health chemicals.

I passed the fishing store a few times, each time I marveled at the cool, pink, metal bottle. As I pressed my nose to the window, I saw that the price was very reasonable, the bottle was only 26 Argentinian Pesos! You'd be lucky to find one of those bottles in US for 26 Dollars! I wanted this bottle and nothing would stop me from purchasing it. I pealed my nose away from the window, marched into the store and made my purchase!

I came home, threw away all my plastic bottles and filled the new bottle with water! When Diana came home, she immediately noticed the new member of the house hold.

"What is that?" she asked.
"It's my new water bottle! Isn't it cool? I can't believe how cheep it was!" I said.
"I like it, it's very nice," Diana responded.

My school routine continued, but this time with my new bottle in hand!

The bottle was a big hit at school. Alejandra, my Spanish teacher, wanted to know where I bought it and asked me to get her the name and the address of the fishing store.

I didn't realize my bottle would become so popular.
On Sunday, Diana and I decided to go to a coffee shop in Palermo to study. I needed to study for my Spanish test and she needed to study for her Statistics class. And of course, my water bottle was in my hand. Prior to going to the coffee shop, we decided to pop into a few stores.
As we walked into a store, I went straight to the clothing racks as the sales girls talked among themselves.

Diana followed me and said, "You know, those girls are talking about your water bottle, they are trying to figure out what it is."
"Ha," I said, "That's so interesting that nobody here has seen a metal water bottle, everybody in US has one, I guess it hasn't caught on here yet."

As we were about to exit the store, I was looking at the pair of boots when a sales girl came up to me and said something in Spanish that I didn't understand.

"No gracias," I said, thinking that the girl was asking me if I wanted to try on the shoes.

"No," Diana said as she came up behind me, "She wants to know where you got your water bottle!"

I froze! I didn't know how to explain in Spanish where I got the bottle. I barely mumbled the street name, "Pa-ru-guay," I said to the sales girl.

"Ahhh," she said, thinking that I got it in a different country, but then Diana explained to her, in Spanish, that I got it in a fishing supply store on a street called Paraguay. The sales girl wanted one too!

This bottle had a fan club!

We went to the coffee shop and sat down. I put my bottle on the table and it caught the attention of the two women sitting next to us. They started talking about it and and trying to figure out what it is and what it's for.

"Es una botella para agua," Diana said irritated before they even got a chance to ask.

I honestly think she was jealous that my water bottle was getting all of the attention. I hope this doesn't cause any conflict between us at the house.

As we walked back to the car, we were trying to figure out what made this bottle such an enigma.

"Maybe it's because it's phallic," said Diana.

"Huh," I said, "I never thought of it that way.... by the way, how and why do you know that word in English?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Intercambio de Slang

I'm currently studying Spanish in a charming school in San Telmo. I have classes 5 days a week for 2 hours per day. Since I don't speak much Spanish outside school nor have any practice other than my homework, I thought it would be a good idea to find some language exchange buddies!

I searched Craigslist for some partners in crime, some local Portenos who want to improve their English and in return help me improve my Castellano (Argentine Spanish). I found 2 adds and contacted them immediately. Both of the people responded to my inquiry and now I have two buddies--Francisco and Guillermo--with whom I meet about once per week and practice practice practice.

What I like about my language exchange buddies that they are NOT weird. I was a little skeptical about meeting up with strangers and going to a bar/cafe to chat, but since we were meeting in public places and I ALWAYS had an option to make an excuse to leave, I felt pretty safe. I also like the fact that both of my exchange buddies are very interesting and in very different ways. I genuinely enjoy chatting with both of them and learning about their lives and hobbies.

As much as we all talk about our hobbies, jobs and studies, sooner or later the conversations lead to the same subject--SLANG. And I'm a queen of slang! I love it, I use it and I love love love to teach/explain/translate it. I not only teach and explain slang to Guillermo and Francisco, but also to my roommate Diana and my Spanish teacher Alejandra.

I put a lot of effort to ensure that my "students" understand the meaning of each and every slang word that I use. I provide them with detailed definitions, real life examples, explain how the slang term is used and even the location of where the slang word is predominantly used.

Guillermo is in his early twenties and is a student at a local university. He loves loves loves literature and we spend a lot of time talking about Franz Kafka, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe and Nicolai Gogol. What I find shocking is the fact that he actually knows, has read, and loves Nicolai Gogol who is one of the most famous Ukrainian writers. I haven't run across too many Americans who even recognize the name. Guillermo and his friends recently created a book of their favorite Fitzgerald stories and he brought it to our latest chat to get my opinion. Outside his love for literature, he also likes photography, independent cinema and indie music, so we have a lot to chat about...

Guillermo wants to improve his English because he's going to North California for about 4 months to hang out with his cousin who lives in San Francisco. Since I'm from North California, often times we talk about San Francisco and all the different things he should do. We talk about weather, we talk about culture, we talk about food, we talk about art, and most importantly we talk about slang!

I thought it would be important for Guillermo to understand and correctly use the word "Hella". If you are from North Cali, you probably say hella a million times a day, but nobody in South California really says it. If you go to South California and say "wow, that party was hella dope," everybody will know you are from North California. I explained to Guillermo that hella is used as an emphasizer of an item or an event, I guess in Spanish, it would translate to a word "muy." After providing Guillermo with multiple definitions and usage examples, I now feel confident that he is well-equiped to interact with the Bay Area natives.

In case you are curious, the link has definitions and exaples of how "hella" is used

My second exchange buddy is Francisco. He's in his late twenties and works in the financial sector while simultaneously studying toward his masters in Econometrics. Since my background is also in finance, we spend a lot of time talking about economic developments of other countries. I also found out that Francisco has made the national team for Japanese Fencing also known as Kendo ( Prior to meeting Francisco, i had no idea what Kendo even was...

One of my favorite slang terms which came up in a conversation with Francisco is "Cougar." We were hanging out at a tea house in China Town (yes, there's a China Town in Buenos Aires) and while chatting over green tea, I confided in Francisco that because I look young for my age, I tend to attract young men (or boys I should say...). I've had 21 year old youngsters hitting on me... Francisco asked me if I have a problem dating younger men to which my response was, "well, I don't want people to think I'm a cougar!" His face lit up and of course he wanted to know what I meant....

I took out my Spanish/English dictionary and looked up the word cougar which translated to puma in Spanish. I then proceeded to explain that a cougar is a woman who likes to date much younger men. I expanded on my definition by using examples of Demi More and Ashton Kutcher as well as Sharon Stone. My mission was accomplished, Francisco had a full understanding of what a cougar is!

Teaching slang makes me feel like I'm teaching my Argentinian friends something super important and useful! It's my way of giving back to them, and thanking them for helping me with my Spanish.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Symbolism Behind a Raised Eyebrow...

I met him when I was walking to dinner on Saturday night. I was walking down Uriarte in Palermo, when he asked me (in Spanish) if I knew where Soler was (a name of the street).

I said "no se" which means I don't know.
In perfect English he said, "Do you really not know or do you just don't speak any Spanish?"
My response was, "NO! I really don't FUCKIN know!"

We both started laughing and walking together. As we walked and talked, we passed the street that he was looking for, and he walked me to the restaurant where I was meeting some people. He was really funny, nice and curious about me, so when he asked me for my number, I thought..... "Hey, why not!" Then we parted.

He texted me on Monday and asked me if I had any plans. I told him I didn't so he asked me out for a beer.

We met up later that night and went to a bar.

Things were harmless at first. We were having general conversations about where we are from, what we do, or in my case what I did, travels and interests....

The entire time he was showering me with complements and getting a lil touchy as the night progressed. All of my friends know that I'm not a touchy/feely person and the fact that this guy was so touchy was really grossing me out. On top of that, I know this sounds crazy and neurotic and I really don't care, I was really disgusted by his hands.... I don't know how to explain it, but he was a grown man with extremely chubby, feminine baby hands that were very sweaty/moist, hot and looked like he's never touched anything rough in his life. Every time he attempted to touch my arm or my back, I was secretly vomiting in my mouth....

As we exhausted all the safe subjects, he started drilling me about the types of men I like, what attracts me to a man physically, what qualities I look for, if I prefer love affairs or relationships... It was to the point where I was getting uncomfortable.... Meanwhile the touchiness increased. I started dodging his playful and disgusting caresses with his gross baby hands.

and then I learned something new...

He commented on the fact that I raise my eyebrow when I speak and told me that when people do that it means that they are really rough in bed!

Let me explain this: Raised eyebrow during conversation=Rough in bed

My beer almost came out of my nose.
"Yes, yes," he said, "It's true, I've been with two women that raise their eyebrow and they were both very rough!"
Uh huh....
"But not me," he said, "I dont raise my eyebrow and I'm very gentle and nice."

And that's when the situation got worse....

He told me I have beautiful cheeks and then started pinching them, both of them, with his gross baby hands. I think I was frozen and in shock. He kept pinching my cheeks and and saying over and over again, "You have such nice cheeks, you have such nice cheeks!" which with his accent sounded like, "You have such nice tits, you have such nice tits." And when he was done pinching, he caressed my face with the back of his hand. I was unable to move. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever experienced and I couldnt believe that it was happening to me.

I wanted to escape but he wanted to chat further and this time on more sexual subjects. He told me that he's an extremely open person and likes to discuss sex the first time he's out with a girl. I told him that I disagree and dont find those types of conversations appropriate. He blamed my "shyness" on cultural differences and told me that I, unlike Argentinians, am not an open person. He told me there's nothing wrong talking about sex and the likes/dislikes when he's on the first date. I told him that just because there's a first date, it doesn't necessarily mean that the two people will have sex down the line so the whole conversation is pointless.

I FINALLY told him that I was really tired and wanted to go home. We walked to the main street together where we would part and he started talking about women in California having a lot of breast implants and then he said, "But you dont need it, yours are very nice."

To which I said, "Thank you, you are very observant and kind."

We walked to the main street, I hoped in a cab, and hoped for a hot shower and that I would never hear from him and his gross baby hands again.....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Beginings.....

When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I stayed in a hostel located in an area called Palermo. I thought that by staying at a hostel I would meet people aand spend the first few days exploring the city with them. That was not the case. The hostel was very small and often times, there were only couples staying there, so I was doing a lot of exploring solo.

I was only paying $15 a night for my room and I did have my own bathroom, a tv and wireless. At the same time, my bed was a squealy cot and the walls were so thin that I could hear everything that was going on at the hostel. The room did come with a wide array of cock-roaches. I think I saw five different types of roaches in my room, and who knows, there might have been more.... Along with the cock-roaches, I was under suspicion that my room/bed had bed-bugs! Yes! Bedbugs! Every morning I would wake up with tons of mysterious and very itchy bites all over my body. When I tried talking to the hostel manager about it, he laughed and told me it was mosquitoes.... but my bits were on parts of my body that weren't easily accessed by mosquitoes.... I was so paranoid that I had trouble sleeping and conducted sneak-up attacks on my bed a million times during the night. Since I had my laptop with me, I did a lot of research about bed-bugs and I realized that they lived in a mattress (how convenient for them) and they come out at night to feast on delicious people while they were sleeping. So in the middle of the night, I would jump, turn on the light and flip my mattress to try to find a trace of bed bugs....

Rather than loose sleep, I decided that I would put all my energy into finding a room to rent in an apt. I used Craigslist because that was all I knew at the time and majority of the posting were in English. Some of the places that I saw scared me but there were a few nice ones as well. Whenever I contacted/emailed people about their ad, their first response was about my last name and how strange it was....

I finally saw a place that I liked and moved in 2 days later. I now live in an area of Buenos Aires called Barrio Norte which is located between Palermo and Recoleta. The area is really convenient and has everything I need--transportation, banks, grocery stores, fruit stands, etc--within 2 blocks.

I live with 2 other people and a sinister cat. One of my roommates is Mike who's' from Australia. He came to BA for a wedding (about 4 weeks before me) and decided to stay and teach English. My other roommate's name is Diana, she's Argentinian and owns the apartment. Her cat, Shibu, should be called El Diablo. Coinsedentaly, Shibu is an name of an Indian God that's known as a God of Destruction... Accident? I think not! I've never encountered such an annoying and malicious cat!

I spent my first few weeks sight seeing and exploring the city, but not being able to speak Spanish and understand what's going on around me made me frustrated so I decided to find a language school. I did my research, narrowed it down to 4 schools, met with all of them and picked the school that I liked the best.

Let the learning begin!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Let the Wind Carry Me Away...

I've been feeling restless and out of place ever since I returned to the Bay Area in January of 2006 after a year and half adventure in Rome. Living in Rome proved to be, literally, the best time of my life. Yes I was there to pursue my MBA, but my experience proved to be much more than working towards a degree. I made amazing friends with whom I still continue to travel and share laughs, I've traveled, got sunburned, laughed my ass off, got lost a gazillion times, ate amazing food while washing it down with cheap and delicious wine and..... as I already mentioned, gained wonderful friendships...

I wasn't able to adjust to the US life although I tried very hard. I got a job in the corporate world and tried to convince myself that I liked it, but I didn't..... My instinct didn't fail me on my first work day, I wasn't keen on my job, but what kept me there for a year and a half were the amazing people that I worked with and adored. That was the ONLY reason why I lasted at that company for a year and a half.

I left my job in December of 2007 and embarked on a Southeast Asia adventure with my friend Nicole, with whom I became friends in Rome! When I came back, I decided to look for a different type of job, a job where I can actually enjoy what I do and can relate to the products. My previous experience has been in the marketing world of financial services.... Can't say it was too sexy or interesting.

This time around I wanted to find a job in the marketing department of the MOMA (modern art museum) or DeYoung, but as the economy started collapsing, my job prospects became slim. I tried to be optimistic, but after looking for a job for about 6 months, the reality set in. The economy wasn't getting any better any time soon so that's when I decided to close up shop and move!

I got rid of my apartment, sold my furniture and car and decided to move to Buenos Aires, Argentina! Why BA? Well, I originally wanted to move to Paris and even started studying French, but as I was researching the country, it became apparent that the EU laws are very strict and don't have many loopholes for non EU-residents. So as much as I wanted to move to Paris, I always had a some doubt that I wasn't able to camouflage, so I accepted the fact that at that time Paris wasn't an option.

But I was still restless and thirsted for change.

I haven't traveled through South America and I was trying to figure out when I would get to it. So one day I woke up and the first thing that popped into my head was...... BUENOS AIRES! And I thought to myself, "Well, why not Buenos Aires?" I've always heard wonderful things about Argentina and Buenos Aires being the Paris of South America with European architecture and way of life. The endless cafes, the European way of life, the wine..... My decision was made! 3 days later I gave notice for my apartment and started the preparations for my departure!

On March 30 I landed in Buenos Aires!