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Monday, July 22, 2024

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Just Me – 6.21.2006

By Rick Racela

If you have been following my columns, it would come to no surprise to you that, although it is summer, I am not currently at home.
After a successful first year at Georgetown with good health, great grades, and amazing friends, I deserve a quiet, relaxing summer. Right?
Think again.
Instead of bumming it on the Wildwood beach, I am experiencing the fœtbol world cup fanaticism first-hand.
Currently, I am in Argentina, a country truly obsessed with the sport.
Not only is one able to purchase Argentina fœtbol jerseys, noisemakers, and other paraphenalia on every street corner, but you cannot watch TV, read a newspaper, or even talk to an Argentine without the mention of fœtbol and Argentina’s road to victory.
And victory it has been so far. In fact, my classmates and I had to rush home from an excursion last weekend so our directors, Argentine natives, could watch Argentina play (and defeat) the Ivory Coast in the first round of the Mundial (Soccer World Cup).
The celebrations were insane. After each goal, fireworks. After the final buzzer, riots in the streets.
However, fœtbol is not the reason I ventured across the equator.
Enrolled in a Spanish grammar course, I have class Monday through Friday for five hours. When the course description called the class “Intensive Spanish,” they weren’t kidding.
Since the end of May, I have been studying at the University of Belgrano and living with a host family (Marta and Pancho) and roommate, Abby, in an effort to advance my Spanish speaking and understanding ability.
Or, as I’ve discovered thus far, my lack thereof.
Marta and Pancho know very little English, and now that I’ve been forced to rely only on my Spanish knowledge, I’ve come to realize that I need a lot of practice as well.
I have perfected the “deer-in-headlights” confused stare to the point that Marta and Pancho know immediately when I need them to repeat what they said.
Many times, I find it difficult to even split their sentences into separate words.
A frequent phrase of mine has become “ÀPuedes hablar m‡s despacio, por favor?” which translated means, “Can you speak slower, please?”
Thankfully, my host family never minds repeating themselves nor explaining other words in circles several times over.
Nonetheless, the situations when I presumed I would be able to practice my Spanish most, like in stores and restaurants, seem to be few and far between.
Vendors have spoken immediately in English to me so many times that I am considering replying, “ÁNo hablo ingles!” (I don’t speak English!) just to get some more practice in.
I guess the Georgetown University t-shirt is a dead give-a-way that I’m not from Argentina.
Besides sports and speaking, I have also been exposed to Argentine cuisine and culture.
Virtually no part of the cow goes to waste here in Buenos Aires.
Whether they are barbequing tongue or intestine or wearing a leather jacket or belt, Argentines specialize in “made-from-cow” products.
Although I haven’t been brave enough to try, for instance, cow intestine, my mom would be delighted to learn that I actually ate some traditional Argentine dish with zucchini in it.
Most of the food here is generally okay, but I have come to love, and in fact almost crave empanadas, Argentine ice cream; medialunas (a type of croissant); and anything with dulce de leche (a caramel-like spread).
In comparison to the hurry-up attitude of the United States, Argentines truly prefer to take their time, whether eating or even just walking.
Many times you must jump up and down to even get a waiter’s attention in a restaurant. That would not fly according to my boss at home.
Coffee-to-go does not even exist.
I feel “so-American” on the street when I walk my normal pace and pass a strolling Argentine.
This out of place feeling does not only apply to the streets of Buenos Aires either.
One of the most influential experiences I’ve had thus far has touched me deeper than just my taste buds.
In addition to visiting Iguazœ waterfalls and Jesuit ruins in northern Argentina (perfect for a Gtown student, huh?) we also toured an indigenous town outside of Iguazœ.
I have never felt so American nor so out of place.
The 20 of us pulled up to the community in an obnoxious, loud, and polluting safari-like truck. Offensive sign, numero uno.
Deep down, I felt that it was so wrong that these people have literally been put on display for tourist enjoyment.
My group leader could sense our uneasiness.
He explained that, like the Native Americans of the U.S., the government also took these people«s lands and rights.
Now, they had no choice but to offer tours. It is their only source of money.
It seemed as unnatural to me as a staged tour through Disney World.
In the end, I have realized that although I have tried to embrace as much of the Argentine life as possible, there is no doubt in my mind that a nice conversation at dinner without intense concentration and a mug of Starbuck«s coffee would hit the spot right now.
So, keep your eye on the Soccer World Cup.
And if Argentina wins another game, pray I survive the riots. ÁVamos Argentina!
Visalli, 19, of Wildwood Crest, will be a sophomore at Georgetown University

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