Happy Friday! It’s been just over two weeks since I arrived in Buenos Aires and I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable.
Yesterday (Thursday) we tried to meet up at the Plaza de Mayo with some other students from our exchange program. The good news: we discovered we can take the #29 bus, which goes right by our house, straight there. Also, we didn’t get lost! (I have a really bad sense of direction, and every successful bus trip thus far has been a small victory for me.) The bad news: we put way too much faith in the Buenos Aires bus system, something we do quite frequently, and were an hour late. Needless to say, we missed the rendezvous with our group, and also the demonstration we wanted to see—more on that in a second—but we took some pictures! Look!
Every Thursday at the Plaza de Mayo, the mothers of the desaparecidos hold a demonstration to remind the Argentine government and people that their children and loved ones lost during the Dirty War (1976-1983) still have not been returned to them. I’m not comfortable enough with the history yet to give a whole lot of specifics here, but suffice it to say that during the Dirty War thousands of Argentines were taken from their families by the military and either detained or forcibly made to disappear because of their political beliefs. Some were released, but many were killed and some are still unaccounted for—the name desaparecidos, the disappeared ones, refers to these last two groups. It’s not a pleasant era of Argentine history by any means. The mothers and their causes have many supporters; on the other hand, there are also Argentines such as my host father, who told us over one of our first few dinners here that he empathizes but thinks that Argentines need to put that time behind them and move on with their lives.
Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the Plaza in time to see the mothers, but I’m sure we will be back another Thursday. In the meantime, here are some links for you.
Official site of one of the branches of the mothers: http://www.madresfundadoras.org.ar/pagina/whoweare/85
A movie you can rent if you’re interested in the story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Official_Story
Official site of Project Disappeared: http://www.desaparecidos.org/eng.html
We were able to meet up with our group at a café a little ways down the street. What a gorgeous old building! I was too busy enjoying a milkshake to take too many pictures, but here’s one:
After that, we took the subway home—my first time! It was kinda dank and smelly, and I got way closer than I would have liked to a whole lot of strangers, but it was definitely quicker than the bus.
It’s kind of gray and drizzly here today, but I stopped at the bakery down the street from school for a treat (see below). Also, I needed bus change—the only two ways you can pay for the bus here are swiping a handy reloadable electronic card (if you have any kind of sense at all) or hoarding absolutely all your change (if you’re foreign and can’t ever seem to find a place that sells those damn cards). Scrounging change is a lot harder than it sounds—there’s a shortage of coins in the city and businesses are extremely stingy about handing them out. Luckily the bakery owner was feeling generous today (or he just fell for my “I’m-so-sorry-but-please-help-me-I’m-foreign” face) and gave me five 1-peso coins for one 5-peso bill.
On the subject of being foreign, some days I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb—I can’t make the words come out in the right order no matter how hard I try, and there’s nothing that frustrates me more than a blank stare and a headshake. Most days I get a conversation started off OK, and then about two minutes in, the person I’m talking to cocks her head or looks at me out the corner of his eye like I’m trying to pull something over on him, and asks me where I’m from. For some reason it always feels like I’ve been caught pretending to be someone I’m not, and saying I’m from the United States feels weirdly like a confession. But I’ve gotten several compliments on my Spanish pronunciation, which is always encouraging 😀
All for now. Hope you all have a great weekend!