Español and Cultural Musings

These posts are the most fun because there are endless stories of botched translations and trying to navigate a new culture.

One thing about traveling alone is that it naturally lends to being approached by locals, which is always an opportunity to practice Spanish. The unfortunate thing about this is that when I met a family with an adorable 5 year old kid, I realized that my level of Spanish is not even close to that of a 5 year old yet. The family was lovely though, and practiced with me for a while. Only the dad spoke some English. I told them what I am doing in Argentina, and they were very excited for me.

In my broken Spanish I said, “Quiero vivir en Argentina. Estoy buscando para un lugar a vivir y trabajar.” (I hope that says, “I want to live in Argentina. I am looking for a place to live and work.”

The Dad: “Bueno, bueno. Tienes un novio?” (Do you have a boyfriend?)

Me: “Well, I am looking for that too.”

(only kidding Dad (if you’re reading this), I didn’t even know they had men in Argentina! ;))

They all laughed and then pointed at the brother hiking with them at which point I made my exit.

So yes, my Spanish still needs a lot of work, but I ask questions a lot and I practice everyday. Sometimes in asking an innocent language question, you’re a bit vulnerable.

Example: I asked my hostel owner in Chile how to say, “I’m excited” as in, “I’m excited to go on this trek!” He told me to say, “Estoy excitada” and then proceeded to die laughing at me when I said exactly that. It turns out that he had told me how to say the equivalent of “I’m sexually excited to go on this trek!” So note to Spanish learners out there, ‘excited’ is a word that is lost in translation.

Sometimes I just make the effort myself; confidence being the biggest asset I think you can have in learning a language. It doesn’t always work out, like at the grocery store when intending to say, “Do you accept dólares?” I instead asked if they accept “dolores”…basically asking if I could pay with pain. “Can I punch you in the face for these groceries instead of paying with dollars?” oops! Luckily she thought it was funny too.

Let’s talk hairstyles. The rat tail lives on in Argentina, enough to even call it popular. This isn’t to be outdone with the dred/rat tail mullet combo though. I apologize for not having pictures of this yet; I’m just still in too much awe that people are doing this to their hair on purpose to remember to take a picture.

And buses? It’s a pretty unbearable scenario for efficiency driven Norte Americanos. Many towns don’t actually have a bus station. They have bus shops while the stops are scattered about town. Any corner or shop front might be a “stop”. Some bigger cities, think Buenos Aires, have bus stations. What a treat! Once in the bus station you will notice that there are approximately 50 bus companies, each selling different priced tickets at different times to a mix of places. So while you are going from window to window to see if a company is even going to where you want to go and at a desired time, the exact bus you want is leaving. You read that right, there is no single place in the station that indicates which company has a bus leaving for a location and at what time. You might wait 10 minutes in line to find out that company doesn’t even go to where you want to go.

Camping, my love. There have been a lot of comments here about how rigid Norte Americanos are in regards to camping…so prepared and geared up and strict in our national parks. Whereas here they pack up a bunch of unrefrigerated meat to somehow haul up the mountain for a big asado. The outcome is amazing, but there is a level of casualness that makes me get a visual of someone just throwing some steaks into their backpacks and hoping someone else has brought a knife. Forks? naaahhh. In related news, you’re told to try to smoke sitting down and not while hiking…ya know, to prevent forest fires. For those of us all too familiar with the wild fires in Colorado and the thinness of air, there are so many things wrong with that sentence!

In all reality, Argentina feels so familiar to me, moreso than other countries I have visited. I can tell I am in a different place and there is enough unknown in the language alone where I am getting rich experiences and learning a lot. The familiarity is mostly in landscape and weather. It does challenge me to seek out the differences and learn from them or have a good laugh though, and hopefully I’ve shared some of that here.

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