Monday, August 23, 2010

argentine medicine

One thing that's interesting about living in a different country is that you get to see how different medical systems work. For example, as I've told some of you already, here, the pharmacist has a much more active role in your care. A far greater quantity of drugs are available over the counter here so anytime I feel sick, I just go to the pharmacist, tell him my symptoms, and he (or she) gives me the medication.
This Saturday, my boyfriend had to get his wisdom teeth pulled. The dentist instructed him to go to the pharmacy an hour before surgery to get some medication. What was surprising was when we arrived at the pharmacy it turned out that said medication was in the form of a shot, and was to be delivered by the pharmacist (they had a special room in the back for shots). So, Hugo disappears with the pharmacist into the little room. As he's having oral surgery, I'm assuming its a shot of Novocaine that is going in his gums. About a minute later, the pharmacist opens the door and walks out. Hugo is standing there, half bent over the table, with a pained look on his face, clutching one ass cheek. He limps out into the pharmacy. "What happened??", I ask, desperately trying not to laugh. "They gave me the shot in the butt", he whimpers. At this point I completely lose it and start laughing uncontrollably (I know, I'm a terrible girlfriend). I was just so surprised! I thought that only happened in the movies... do we still give people shots in the butt???

the time my entire bathroom fell apart

So, about 10 days ago, we had Alberto, a general fix-it guy, in to do a few things around the house--- fix some blinds, hang some shelves, etc. First, he fixes the blinds. We now have working blinds that go all the way up and all the way down. Great success. Then, he moves on to the shelves. This is where everything starts to go to s**t. Before I can explain exactly what went wrong with the shelves, theres one thing you have to know about toilets in Argentina. They aren't like toilets in the states -- here, the tank is built in to the wall. Agostina's room (where the shelves were to be hung) shares a wall with the bathroom. Now, I may not be a licensed plumber, but even I would hazard a guess that it may not be best to hang the shelves directly behind the toilet. Alberto, apparently did not share this same assumption. He drilled away (drill, baby drill???) until....wait for it...... toilet water started gushing out into Agostina's room! Alberto goes "oh shit" and sticks his finger over the stream of water in an effort to plug the leak. As he soon realized that he was literally up shit creek without a paddle (and Agostina was starting to get REALLY pissed off), he told her to turn off all the water in the apartment while he called a plumber.
Cut to 30 minutes later. Plumber friend arrives. Looks at wall. "Yes, this is bad. There is a whole in your wall and toilet water is going to flow out of it every time you flush. That is not ideal." Plumber friend inspected in the toilet, in the wall, etc. and said "Well, you need a new '________' (insert name of part that I don't remember). But the issue is that I can't get it for you or install it until Wednesday. So, I'm gonna put a temporary patch there now, but I have to leave the toilet top open, so you'll have to reach in and pull up the stick to flush until Wednesday ". As this was a Saturday morning, I was not so pleased with the promise of a Wednesday solution. "Ummmm why not today?", I asked. "Well, its that its after 12, so the store is closed now, it wont be open tomorrow or Monday (Monday was a holiday), and Tuesday I'm busy. No worries, Wednesday I'll come."
Can you imagine what someone would say in the States if their plumber told them they were going to have to live with a broken toilet (that possibly could gush water into a room of their house) for 4 days?? No doubt, they'd flip out. Here theres nothing to do but sigh and say ok.
Later that evening, I got another nice little treat, when, after coming home from a run and hopping in the shower, I found that we had no hot water. No matter what I did, I could not get hot water to run in the shower. Sweet, I thought, we get to flush by sticking our hands in the wall cavity and pulling up a little stick, and now we have no hot water... in the middle of winter. Alberto you are a GEM. The next afternoon, things reached a new level of disgusting. I had been trying to flush the toilet, had reached into the wall cavity, lifted up the little stick and flushed. Then I was trying to push it back down into its hole so that water stopped running into the toilet. I was not successful. The stick floated on some water and then fell over sideways into the vast wall cavity. OHHHHH SHITTTTTT I screamed. I quickly rushed to shut off the water and then screamed for my boyfriend to come help me. The two of us stood on chairs in the bathroom, shoving a mangled coat hanger into the wall cavity, unsuccessfully trying to locate that stupid little stick. Eventually, I had to roll my sleeve up to my shoulder, and stick my entire arm in there and feel around. ECH. I managed to locate the stick and put it back in its proper place, and later that night Hugo fixed the hot water, but the toilet situation remains unresolved. Anyone know a good Argentine plumber?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

such cultchahhhhh

So lately I've been trying to take more advantage of all the cultural opportunities available to me here in BA. I was starting to feel pretty lame for living in a city with so much culture, yet spending most of my time working, watching TV (have you guys been seeing the new episodes of Mad Men??), eating disgusting amounts of food, or hanging out with friends. These activities, while all wonderful in their own right, can be done anywhere. Right now, as I have the good fortune to live in a big city with lots of activities available to me, I figured I should get my act together and start getting some cultchah. Here in Buenos Aires there's a vibrant theater scene (Avenida Corrientes is kinda like the Broadway of South America), museums, galleries, a million restaurants (most of which I cant afford), and of course lots of clubs.
Last Wednesday I went with a group of friends to see this show called Fuerza Bruta. It was AMAZING. Seriously, you should all go on youtube and search Fuerza Bruta, there are some videos up. I think the best way to describe it is like Cirque du Soliel but even more cracked out and with lots of audience participation. The entire time I was watching the show I just kept thinking, "soooo this is what taking acid is like". They do crazy visual stunts, like the performers walking on the walls. They come in to the crowd and dance with you and break these boards filled with confetti over your heads. My favorite part was when the performers were in this pool that was lowered down above the crowd. They slid across the pool (kinda like a slip and slide) and walked on water, etc (picture above). The show tours all around the world so make sure you go see it if it ever comes to your city. Its seriously one of the coolest things I've ever seen.
Last night, continuing our cultural tour, we went out dancing at this club (I'm gonna do a post on this later). It actually turned out to be this reggae concert, which was fun even though the performers were not that good. Well, either way, I'm counting it as culture. Tomorrow is a holiday (we have an insane number of holidays here), so instead of my usual Monday night classes I'm going to La Bomba de Tiempo, this huge drumming concert that takes place every Monday in a former warehouse. August is Tango Month (or so say the posters all over town featuring a woman who looks shockingly like RuPaul), so I think I'll also try to go to some of the free tango shows downtown. Maybe I'll go see a show in the theater? Maybe I'll sit on my couch and watch 16 and Pregnant like I usually do? Who knows? The possibilities are endless...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

wow! Your accent is wonderful!

So I think I've mentioned before that many stores, food products, etc here have English names. However, when Argentines say these names, they pronounce them with an Argentine accent. For example, Burger King is "bowr-gouhr keeeng", and Nike is said more like bike (we pronounce it like "niy-key"). Anyways, its really hard for me to pronounce these English words with a Spanish accent. It just gets way to confusing. If someone asks me where something is, and its next to the Burger King, I just say "está al lado del Burger King"; I really can't bring myself to say "está al lado del bowr-gouhr keeeng". Its just too much.
As part of my job, I often create worksheets for my students that I then need to print out. As these worksheets have to do with English grammar or vocabulary, I always give them names in English (really fascinating ones, like "Non-defining Relative Clause Review"). So, I save the aforementioned worksheets on my pen drive, and head down to the corner store to print them out. About a week ago, I went to the kiosko to print. I handed the lady my pen drive, and asked (in Spanish, of course) to print out some documents. She plugged in my pen drive and, noticing that there were several items on the pen drive, asked me for the name of the document. "Non-defining Relative Clause Review", I replied (in my normal Upstate NY accent). She stopped, stared at me for a second, and then goes "wow, your accent is wonderful!". I chuckled and responded "well thanks, I've been practicing".

PS Here's a picture of one of my new favorite terrible English names: an ice cream store called "Wimpy".

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Roomie

In other news, I have a new roommate! The day after we got back to Buenos Aires, Pame (my old roommate) moved to the US where she will be working as an Au Pair for a year. I moved in to Pame's old room and am sooooo excited to have a real bed again! We live by the train, and sometimes when it would pass by, Hugo would jump in his sleep, and due to the incredibly close quarters, punch me in the face. Let me tell you, waking up to a screeching train and a punch in the face is not the most pleasant way to get up in the morning, so the extra space is much appreciated.

Anyways, Agostina, my new roommate, is impossibly sweet. She came and re-painted the entire apartment before she moved in! She's also been buying a lot of little things to give the house a more homey feel. It was funny having Agostina move in because she came with a moving truck! Any moves I've ever made in my adult life (and there have been over a dozen) have either involved me shoving everything I could into my car and driving it up to Ithaca, or me shoving everything I could into the two suitcases I was allowed to bring on an international flight. It was kind of shocking to see how much stuff she has! Most of my friends are also in the "everything I own must fit into two suitcases" club, so we simply don't hold on to things that long. When I finish a book, I give it away to someone else, or trade it with them for a new one. Anything I buy, I always think, "Am I going to be able to fit this in my suitcases?"

I know, its been too long...

So for about the past month or so, as I've been sitting (well, more like standing in a complete cluster f*** of people) on the subway, or walking in between classes, I'd come up with little pieces of information and try to remind myself to put them in my next blog post. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and the aforementioned post just didn't materialize. The past month has been quite the little flurry of excitement.
First, we had guests!!!! Hugo's sister came to visit for 5 weeks, and one of my very best friends, Ben, also managed to come down for 8 days. It was soooooo great to have someone from home come visit me. It was especially great to have Ben here as his love for meat products meshes perfectly with Argentine culture. While I spend a lot of time writing about my life here, or talking with people on skype, its hard to really understand what my life is like until you're here. (Was that a solid enough pitch for you all to come visit???) Anyways, when Ben got here, we basically did a meat-centered tour of Buenos Aires for the first few days. Then, the four of us (Ben, Hugo, Claudia, and I) went on a short trip to the waterfalls at Puerto Iguazu, and had an absolutely AMAZING time. Going into this trip, both Hugo and I were a little worried about the blending of our markedly different families. The biggest concern of all was that Ben does not speak any Spanish, and Claudia does not speak any English. Amazingly though, the two managed to communicate using hand signs (and of course Hugo and I as translators), and we all bonded over a shared love of excessive drinking and eating.
Iguazu is potentially the most beautiful place I have ever been. The waterfalls are enormous and completely breathtaking. I think the best way to describe them is kind of like Niagra, but bigger, and with a lush Brazilian jungle behind them. On the second day there was a huge rainbow over the falls! We all left Iguazu saying "Wow, that is one of the most stunning places I have ever been". I would seriously recommend it to anyone (though I'd say don't go in Dec-Feb as summer there is over 100º every day).
Before he left, Ben, who is not usually one for words, shared some interesting insights with me. He said that after spending about a week non-stop with Hugo and Claudia, he felt pretty close to them, yet at the same time, oddly aware of the fact that he may never see them again. I think that's something that us expats deal with all the time. In this lifestyle, friendships tend to become intense quite quickly as we lack our traditional support networks. However, these friends almost invariably move away at some point, and while you tell each other that you'll visit in your respective countries, you are left wondering if you ever really will.