Sunday, September 4, 2011

Livin' la Vida Homestay...

So after the wonderful countryside orientation, we headed into Buenos Aires. We had a day and a half to tie up the loose ends of orientation before heading to our homestay families. Thursday night we had arrangements to stay at a hotel and for an evening activity we went to Ana Rita’s house. Ana Rita is our wonderful director, who was a great host. At her house, we had the chance to talk with some local Argentine teenagers about life in the city. She also had a live band (her daughter’s friends) come to her place, which meant the night was a ball and ended with even more singing. Excelente! On Friday we had another activity called Drop Off, where we were put in groups of 3 and given a location of the city to explore. My group and I were given the place furthest away from our base. We were excited for the challenge. We had quite the exploration. We took the subway, which ended up braking down after the 2nd of 8 stops, (obviously because I was with them – I have terrible luck with public transportation, every other group that took the same subway line had no problems, go figure.) and wasn’t fixed for 25 minutes. We then walked to this plaza, where we found a very colorful amphitheater as well as a great place for lunch, El Hipopótamo (The Hippopotamus). Mmmm. We then began to walk through the street and ended up wandering into various shops. At one point, we walked into this little cowboy boot shop, where we spoke with Raúl. He was the owner, as well as the man who made every single pair of boots in the store. He explained that it takes him about 10 days to make each pair. He works hard and probably makes very little money, but it was somewhat eye-opening to listen to him talk about his work. On our way back we walked down this street with many shops and beautiful architecture. Unfortunately, we had to walk fast as the required return time was nearing, so we are planning to go back to really take it all in!

Finally it was Friday night – the night we were all anticipating. We actually found out who are homestay families would be on Thursday, as we all received envelopes with info and photographs. It was a nice way to come into it more mentally prepared. But Friday was when I would actually meet my host mother – Gloria!!! I would be living with a single widowed woman, who is 63 years old and an English teacher with an apartment in Recoleta, an older, but still very nice neighborhood in Buenos Aires.

This is how it went down. All of us students were in a room, debriefing the Drop Off activity while the families started showing up. They entered the room next to ours. After the debriefing, we had to wait a minute… just so the anxiety could build up I think. Eventually, we were sent into the room with the families to mingle and find the people we would now be living with for the next however many months. I entered the room, walked around, and didn’t see Gloria. I asked a few older women if their name was Gloria but no luck. The homestay director didn’t see her either. I stood waiting by the door while everyone conversed with their families for what felt like an eternity. (aheeem…. Reminded me of another incident a few summers ago, involving a late family….) Thankfully, I didn’t cry this time, but the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach was welling up so I think I was on the verge. Finally, a women walked through the door who I knew right away was Gloria and after an extra big hug and a kiss on the cheek – I was reassured that all was well. She actually wasn’t late to the building but was looking around on the floor below… I told her it was not a problem and off we went!

We ended up taking a taxi to her apartment. A very nice, “antique styled” place. My Spanish was immediately put to the test. I think the main problem at first was that I couldn’t hear her while we were walking down the street because I’m at least a head taller than she is. It was a bit of a struggle but I made sure I understood all of the things that seemed important. I would say things like, “Necesito repasar…” (I need to review) and then I would try to repeat back to her what I had understood…usually only partially correct, so she would explain it until it made sense. I have to ask a lot more questions then I normally would and I am much more direct when I ask for things. I really can’t assume she will know what I want or need, so I am doing my best to communicate that from the beginning. But so far I cannot complain! I’m keeping a positive attitude and am trying very hard to be patient, especially with my Spanish - so far, so good. Gloria really cares about me and is always making sure I’m ok with everything we’re doing. We have gotten along very well, and I am very grateful to have her hosting me.

Right now, (I am writing this on Saturday night, but don’t have internet so I’ll upload tomorrow) I am actually not at Gloria’s apartment. I am with her, at her son’s house, about 40 min. outside the city. It is an amazing house. It’s colorful, gorgeous, big and very modern. I’m fairly certain her son is quite wealthy. I believe he received a scholarship to play golf at a university in the U.S. I’m not sure what he does now. He is married and has three boys, Juan Mauel, 12yrs; Tómas, 9yrs and Felipe 6yrs. I have good things to say about them J It was a last minute decision to come here because (long story) her son’s wife’s mom (so Gloria’s daughter in law’s mom) recently had a heart attack, and her son's wife was away helping her mom. So, Gloria came to help with the children and asked me if I would like to join her. Why not? So I did. She didn’t want me to miss my first weekend in the city and the program also had an optional get together for all the families that I would miss, but, I was happy to come along. Besides the fact that I actually didn’t have any problem missing the weekend, I didn’t think it would make the best impression to ditch my host mom on the first day. So here I am, and today has been great! We ended up going to this country club/university thing (don’t ask…I don’t know) that had a rugby match going on! I had never seen a game of rugby and it was SO LEGIT!! I have so much respect for all y’all rugby players. I enjoyed it much more than American football… not only was it very intense but the opponents were so respectful to each other. I even saw a guy from one team stretching the hamstring of a guy on another team in between plays. So much skill and strength and guts, it was cool to watch! Then, when the boys were all home we played fútbol in the backyard. Fantástico! Man, do I love that sport. I hope to play it more often. The oldest boy had great footwork and ball control – very impressive for a 12 year old – and the youngest one is just hilarious – he always displayed some crazy dance moves to the music playing outside before running away with the ball. They are all so cute!!! Dinner tonight was excellent, as always, and it ended with a banana con dulce de leche. I feel as if I have already had invaluable experiences and that I have learned so much. Right now, I am feeling very thankful for this opportunity. I am doing my best to appreciate all of it. I hope all is very well, updates wanted!

Con Amor,


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