24 Apr 2008
Okay so I am doing a bit of a sneaky and writing this post in my last hour at work. I just cannot work any more!!! The hours of this office are insane! 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday! Granted most people trundle in at 9:30 or so but my body clock definitely says time to go home at 5pm! And lunch is not that long! Today we stopped for 20 minutes! The work is going really well but I just cant work in silence for all that time! It seems like everyone else has no problems so I dont know what is wrong with me! Ha ha!
So besides the long hours I am loving the work. The Spanish is insanely hard! I seem to have lost all of my confidence here. I have no vocabulary and get all my tenses confused. I think its mainly because I cant understand what they are asking me. My usual plan is to stay silent until spoken to which yes means that you enter less conversations but also means that you have less choice of conversation. For example, I have found that I have no problems with Spanish in the streets. I have come to the conclusion that this is because I approach people on the street for example to buy something and in that situation I chose the conversation. I determine what vocabulary will be used because I chose it first. The problem with not speaking until being spoken to is that someone else determines the vocabulary and topic of the conversation!
Yesterday was my first really hard day. I am working on a case to be put to the commission on human rights about the Uruguan governments policy of removing street children from their families and keeping them in public institutions throughout the 1990s. My role is to research cases from the European court because the cases are in English and French which means the others here cant read them. I have spent all day today trying to put the main points from English into Spanish. And when you are dealing with legal jargon it is not so easy! So anyway yesterday was hard because one of the lawyers came in and spat all this stuff off at me that he wanted me to research. As I tried desperately to find some words I knew!! Then another lawyer asked me to do some research on a different case regarding the conditions of the Bolivian prison system. She also spat off a whole lot of stuff at me! I think they think I understand a whole lot more than I do!! So I spent all morning swimming in Spanish and hating every minute of it. We got to lunch and I thought finally a break! One of the interns who is leaving brought in a cooked dish from Peru. He is the one I thought was from US but also South America. I think I have deduced that he is a Puerto Rican American who has some sort of random connection to Peru. Anyway so I had no idea really what to do I was just sitting there like an idiot. Eventually someone gave me a plate of food so yummy it is chicken, corn rice, spinach of some kind and it is cooked with beer!! Dont know but it tastes really good! So I am there keeping very quite eating my food not bothering anyone when suddenly Lilian, the director (hugely respected in the world of human rights) turns to me and says we have a dish from Peru and we have learnt a lot from Daniel about his culture now everyone what do we all know about Australia? Very lovely and inclusive of her but dear God! Can we not just leave the poor girl who cant speak Spanish alone! Everyone then spouted off things they knew about Australia and I had to say whether that was correct or not. They were absolutely horrified that we eat Kangaroo. They kept on saying son lindos theyre cute to which I replied son lindos si pero son ricos tambien yes they are cute but they are also tasty. To which everyone laughed my first joke! Yay!! But the ecstasy did not last long as everyone began asking me about working conditions, the cost of housing, inflation and the unemployment rate SHOOT ME! I wanted the kitchen to open up and swallow me whole. I was a mumbling mess with red hot cheeks and shaking hands. Every second word that came out of my mouth was perdon you can figure out what that means! I think they were talking slowly and clearly for me! I am determined to improve. Last night I went to the video store and hired a movie made in Argentina. My plan is to watch as many as I can so that I will be able to understand the crazy Argentinian accent (although I suspect blaming it on the accent is just my handy excuse and it is the actual language which I have trouble with!). So until that wonderful day of clarity comes (it is not going to be in month trust me!) I have to continue to struggle through with my very crappy Spanish. Its hard to really even appreciate that that day actually will come. I remember learning to drive and hating it so much. Watching other drivers on the road and thinking how on earth can you do that! Then one day I got it even though I thought I never would. I am hopeful that that is the same with Spanish because I need some hope to hold on to! Otherwise I am in for a grim six months!
I am still looking for a place to live! I have an appointment to see a place this afternoon so hopefully something comes up. I am getting on really well with Adam and Pablo though. Adam took me to some totally random concert that other night. We had to take three buses to get there. And then when we got there is was a this crazy narcissistic guy who played all night in three different bands and spoke for about 10 minutes between every song as if he was gods gift to music! Ha ha! We had a laugh about it though!
While Im here trying to waste a bit of time maybe I should tell you a bit about the similarities and differences between Australia and Buenos Aires. To begin with Buenos Aires is a lot more like Australia than I thought it would be. Well actually its a much bigger city than I am used to so for me its a lot more like New York than I thought it would be. Very well developed with huge glitzy malls and very good subway system. They even have a Harrods here! There is a lot of homelessness but I think you get that it most big cities. Culturally there are some things that are similar and some that are really different. General politeness of people in the streets is similar to Australia and quite different to other places I have been in Latin America. For example pleases and thank yous are used about the same as Australia (ie often!) and things like if you knock someone in the street you say sorry like you would in Australia etc.
Food is incredible here! It sux that at the moment I dont have many friends because I would love to go out and discover the restaurants more. Pablo and Adam prefer to eat at home and save money so we usually cook something for each other (although Pablo doesnt cook at all quite weird actually but that can be for another time!). There are incredible bakeries stocked high with incredible taste sensations. There is amazing pasta (always made from fresh pasta) the meat is always really good quality and I have not had a bad meal anywhere yet. The interesting thing is though that with all this amazing food the women seem to be really funny about it! I read before I left that Argentina has the second highest eating disorder rate after Japan. I can see it here. I have not yet seen an Argentinian woman eat anything resembling a carbohydrate. At my office they all eat fruit for lunch and lunch is the big meal here! I feel like an absolute heifer pulling out my pasta or roll! At least Paula from Colombia has a health appetite!
Another thing that is different (and dont laugh) is the way they wash dishes here. They dont use a plug. They just let the water run and wash all the dishes under the tap. That would get you put in jail in Australia! It is such a waste of water. Then they put all the dishes on the draining board and let them dry then put them away. This is not so strange but they have never heard of drying a dish with a tea towel! I mean sometimes you just want to get all the dishes done so you know that you have done your dishes and not left them someone else. But you cant dry them! They dont have tea towels! Its a tiny thing but it actually has a quite a big impact on my life. I guess considered I don dishes three times a day, its three times a day that I am thinking hmm no plug and no tea towel!
So to stop myself from boring you any further I am going to post this and then see if I can find something else (non work and non Spanish!) to do. This has managed to kill 20 minutes so even if you havent read it all thanks for letting me kill time with you!!
Keep the emails coming I love hearing from all of you!
Love you lots. Muchos besos
posted Thursday April 2008