by Sarah Wurm, Greenheart Travel Volunteer in Argentina
The coffee here is excellent, but we don’t have a coffee maker in the apartment, and I’ve gathered that it’s socially unacceptable to carry around a to-go cup. The coffee drinking experience is supposed to be enjoyable, a time for conversation and medialunas (literally half-moons, or croissants). When I got here I bought some normal coffee (not instant) for the morning. I haven’t been able to find filters or French presses or anything of that sort, so this morning I tried to make my own paper-towel filter. It seemed clever at the time, but…no. Later today, I went to buy some bananas and discovered coffee tea bags, which are advertised as pre-filtered coffee. What luck!
Carina and I have done so much exploring. We went with our friend Clara to La Boca this morning, an artsy neighborhood where tango originated. It was just touristy enough.
Though we took the bus to La Boca, we’ve been walking everywhere else. Monserrat, the neighborhood where we live, is very old. There are a lot of government buildings and churches and old hotels. The architecture is just beautiful. At dusk, if you glance across one of the avenues, the light catches the buildings in such a way that you feel as though you’re living in the early 1800s.
I’m thankful for sense of direction that I’ve gained from living in New York. The subte (subway) is easy to navigate, and I am already pretty familiar with Monserrat. There are things about Buenos Aires that remind me of New York. I encountered the same sort of shenanigans in the subway: people selling things, performing, etc. I was surprised, though, with the way that people went about asking for money. In New York subways, signs or announcements are common. But in Buenos Aires, the process is very….polite? People hand out small scraps of paper with a description of their situation. Once everyone in the train car has had time to read, they collect the papers again, and you can give money if you wish.
Today I took the E line with Paola, one of the contacts from my volunteer project, to the Modalla Milagiosa stop, where I will be volunteering until July 16th. Modalla Milagriosa is a huge Catholic church near Parque Chucabuco (try saying that a few times without laughing) I met Albeana, the head honcho of sorts, and she told me about the girls. There are 10 girls living in the house with Albeana and two other nuns. The are from 8-16 years old and they have been removed from their homes because of sexual abuse. Basically, I will be teaching English and hanging out with them and offering homework help. We signed some paperwork to make everything official, and then Albeana made a joke about how I better bring homework for the girls tomorrow. At least, in the moment I thought it was a joke. On the train ride home I made a mental note to bring some exercises anyway…just in case.
These first few weeks are going to be all about lists: words I don’t know, names I want to remember, places to visit, memories, etc. Maybe this sounds strange, but I want to start thinking in Spanish. I feel like when I reach that goal, I will be able to remember things too, without translating back and forth into English.
And now, a teaser of some subjects that I hope to elaborate on at a later date:
- Chinese people speaking Spanish..yeah.
- The protests in Buenos Aires (aka, an international interpretation of Occupy Wall Street)
- The wonder that is Argentina Pizza
- All of the awesome people I’ve met from Mexico, Brazil, England, and Italy!
- Mate! Mmm.
I am extremely blessed to be here. These first few days have been busy and tiring and wonderfully overwhelming, but I’m happy for the challenge. To all of you kind people who care to read my silly thoughts and stories, thank you. Please pray for the work that I’m doing in Parque Chacabuco. Pray for patience and safety. And pray that I am not afraid to speak Spanish, even when I am tired or I feel like I can’t express myself fully.