I arrived home two days ago but I haven’t had the mental capacity to sit down and write out a response to my return. Coming back to the U.S. was more than bittersweet, for me it was heartbreaking. I left behind a life full of challenges and excitement everyday, for a comfortable and boring existence. I left behind friends, love interests, and favorite places behind in Buenos Aires and I have no idea when I will be returning. At the very least I will come back in a year when I have completed my time at UVA. But will I want to return after completely re-adjusting to life in the United States? Only time can tell. The United States is literally the easiest, most luxurious, most convenient, and without a doubt the most excessive country I have ever been to. Living in Argentina made me realize that excess isn’t necessary. We have been brought up to EXPECT an iPhone, a car, new clothes/shoes, a large home and much more from our parents. In other countries this isn’t the case. In other countries these items are luxuries that you might have after saving up for years, or may never have access to. It is very easy to live a comfortable life without an excess of material possessions.
Something that has caught my attention from the very first moment I came to Buenos Aires is the prevalence of model-esque skinny girls. Argentina has historically had a very large problem with eating disorders. According to the Association against Bulimia and Anorexia (ALUBA), one in ten Argentines suffers from an eating disorder. This translates into four million people nationwide!!! After Japan, Argentina has more citizens with the disorder than any other country. This statistic is a clear indication of how Argentine women are affected by expectations to look a certain way due to media and social pressures. Several factors such as the popularity of dieting and smoking also contribute to this Argentine “thin ideal”. Additionally, the obsession with staying young and beautiful is demonstrated with the prevalence of plastic surgery in Argentina. According to The Guardian, one in 30 Argentines has gone under the knife. The pressure to be homogenous is a cultural sickness and is an extremely unrealistic goal. In Argentina there is one beauty ideal: thin, young, light hair, light skin, and if possible light eyes. Most women in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires, strive their whole lives to look like something that they are not. Low self-esteem and poor body image are among the contributing factors to anorexia and bulimia. Combine this with the perfectionist ideal to be thin, blonde, and young that permeates Argentine culture and you have a perfect mixture for eating disorders. Argentine clothing stores also enforce this ideal: In 2005 stores in the Buenos Aires province were forced to stock larger sizes or else face a fine. Despite this law, many stores still carry impossibly tiny sizes.
I know this may strike some as a little early since I am not leaving for another month, but lately I have been thinking more and more about my trip back “home” to the United States. Reintegration into university life. Reintegration into vanilla suburban Indianapolis life. In all honesty, I have no desire to go home. I have created an amazing life here and I have done everything in my power to extend my stay but at a certain point, July 18, I know I have to head back to what is currently “my reality”. I can’t help but think that my life in the US is a shallow version of what my life is supposed to be like. It is also hard to compartmentalize my life here and fit it into not only my life in Charlottesville but also my life in Indianapolis. As I do this I constantly ask myself, “Would my friends in Argentina like my friends in Charlottesville or Indianapolis and vice versa?” “How much am I being molded by my surroundings at any particular moment?” “Am I going to return the same person as I left?” The answers to every one of these questions and many more are almost always big, fat question marks. As the Argentines say, “Qué sé yo???” (Translation: What do I know??) If I did know, I would have the gift of perfect introspection as well as omniscience in my own life. Unfortunately I don’t and these questions will surely go unanswered. What I do know is that I will wholeheartedly welcome any changes I have undergone since being in Buenos Aires because I feel as though I have changed for the better.
In this edition of Sarah’s extremely sporadic blog I plan to squash some of the Argentine stereotypes that I have heard from Americans. The reason why I decided to embark on writing about Argentine stereotypes is actually because of the Argentine relationship with stereotypes. As a country, I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it as one that is politically correct. Honestly, categorizing and generalizing are part of daily life in Buenos Aires. And among these generalizations are often racist remarks. This often surprises me because Argentina is a country comprised of immigrants, similar to the U.S., and everyone looks different yet they hold on to their ethnically insensitive categorizations. Porteños (those who live in Bs As) will NEVER admit that they are prejudiced, but continually refer to each other as “negro”, “gorda”, and “flaco” insisting they are endearing terms.
I was looking at some of these blog prompts today and realized that I am supposed to be chatting a little bit about the problems I have encountered in my host country. As much as I think Buenos Aires is the most incredible city in the world, it has its problems like any other big city! And I digress…
Ever since the first day I arrived in Buenos Aires I have been surrounded by the consumption of mate. For a long time I have wanted to blog about it as well, but simply didn’t understand its complete significance until about a month into my study abroad program. Today I decided to write a digression on mate, so enjoyyyy!!
homework & mate…Most Argentines claim they can’t even think, study, or read without it!
What is mate?
Mate is a type of infusion (tea) that is prepared from steeping dried yerba in hot water. It is usually served from a shared hollowed-out calabash gourd with a silver bombilla (straw) with which to consume the liquid.
One thing that I have continued to admire about Argentine people is their sheer activism when it comes to politics and in fact most aspects of their lives. In the United States, we have checks and balances within our government structure that ensure we won’t have our rights compromised. In Argentina they have these norms as well, but the government doesn’t necessarily respect them. For example, a recent demonstration by the middle class in Buenos Aires was in response to Cristina Kirchner, the current president, moving to “democratize” the judicial branch. In theory, this is a good idea considering the judicial branch hasn’t changed since the most recent dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. But in practice, this is the executive branch attempting to exert absolute power over another, completely separate, branch of the government. Despite the accepted Ceasarism that Christina uses as her means of government, this was a step too far for the Porteños.
So this post is going to be a discussion about Argentine economic history and some challenges as a result of this troubled history. In no way, shape or form am I attempting to talk poorly about Argentina, I am merely attempting to relate things as best and as truthfully as I can.
Hello All!!! Sorry I am updating this so incredibly late, but my internet where I live is very spotty. This post was from approx. 3 weeks ago and I will probably post another one today that is from this week. I hope everyone is having a great time where ever you are in this wild and wonderful world we are all a part of!!!
I have encountered many challenges in Buenos Aires in the first two weeks I’ve been here. To name a few: the language barrier, warding off overly aggressive men, figuring out public transportation (subway & bus systems), balancing a budget and understanding the currency, getting used to the late eating schedule, and last but certainly not least, accepting that things aren’t ever as convenient as they are in the United States.
My goals for this semester are the following: significantly improve my Spanish to the point of fluency, meet a great group of friends that aren’t exclusively Americans on the IES program, learn more about South America and how business is conducted in this area of the world, and travel to multiple countries that I have never seen before. Currently I would consider myself conversational in Spanish, but this is a personal evaluation and definitely subject to change. I recently had my oral exam via IES for class placement so I suppose I will find out what level I actually qualify for after I hear back from the professor with whom I took my exam. Improving my Spanish is one of the key reasons why I chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires, and I hope that I significantly improve my control of the language. In addition to recently having my oral exam, I also received my housing placement. I will be in a dormitory in San Telmo, which apparently is the oldest barrio (neighborhood) of Buenos Aires and is characterized by its colonial buildings. (picture of a square in San Telmo after the jump) I am eager to live in a dorm and chose this type of housing because I have already done a home stay and wanted something more college-like. But just like a traditional university, I am uncertain about my roommate, the dorm rules, my closet size, and all other things that come along with being fresh meat at a school.