In an Argentine Minute

So we have been here for a little over a month and you would think that I have already settled down with a consistent class schedule, wrong. We have at least come to terms with the fact that Argentina has the complete opposite take on being punctual, and probably are not even aware of this New York Minute concept we live by in the United States. Rather, they live by their own definition of being on time, and giving credit to my friend Cristina who coined the phrase, they live on the Argentine Minute.

We may be getting used to showing up late to events, or even classes…which I can barely say has even officially started, but we are still trying to understand this lengthy class scheduling process.At this point, I am a little more excited than I usually am to start classes, but I think it has to do with the fact that I’ve been  registering for the past 3 weeks, and just started my first class last week, except wait my first few classes were cancelled. Maybe this is their tactic, that they make it this huge, lengthy process to register and start classes, and then cancel the first week of class which actually motivates the students to attend? Just a thought. I officially went to my first class this week though, which consisted of 2 students, including me. Tango ClassWe waited about 30 minutes for the teacher to arrive, and yes that’s normal in Argentina. I am taking one communication class, as I am done with my requirements for my major back home at Southwestern University, and along with this class, I decided to  spice things up a little bit and add some tango into the mix. Our first day of tango was very fun and entertaining; we started the class off with an intro to folkloric dance, then ended it with a few tango combinations. No one mentioned what the suggested attire was for class, and I suggest you don’t wear your sneaks to your first class, just a thought. I was that girl in the back row trying to pull some sexy moves, stomping my adidas on everyone else’s feet. All the other students in our class had the correct attire, a nice low dancing heel and brightly colored flowing skirts, I’ll keep that in mind for next time. But I guess its better I wore my sneakers than choosing to wear the 3 ½ inch heels I brought to Argentina, everyone knows that would have been a disaster.

Back to this school schedule though; day 2 of my communication class I remember hurrying home to grab my books at home before class and heading to class worried I was going to be late. I arrived to class just 10 minutes late, which actually means I got there early, but arrived panting after my 20 minute power walk down the main street of Aristides. I sat in the classroom all alone for  a good 30 minutes waiting for my teacher and the one other student in my class to arrive. So after those 30 minutes, I realize they changed the classroom location from the first room we were in the week before, without notifying me. Wonderful. The one thing I haven’t really embraced yet is that time doesn’t really exist down here in Argentina. I’m always late for everything, and so because that is what am constantly working on, I enjoy being reminded that Argentina is ‘Andrea friendly,’ so I may be sticking around a little longer than planned, ha, but really.

So the next class I decide to add to my schedule is fotografía. This class is once a week on tuesdays from 12-3pm, except the teacher is not aware of what time class starts, or ends. I went last week and got there at 11:50am and walked up to the enormous auditorium it was being held in, and my friend and I see that the professor has already begun class and already in the middle of his slideshow. We walk in among a bigger group, and are wondering why it had already started, especially knowing that classes never start on time in Argentina. He asks all who just walked in to be quiet because there was a lot of chattering, a lot of confused chatter that is. Finally someone asks him why it had already started, and he said we were over half an hour late, and that it had started at 11:15am. What made this little incident a little more enjoyable was when the TA walks in and informs him that his class indeed was supposed to start at 12 noon, just like it said on the official schedule. Talk about dealing with this issue of time down here in Argentina, now I don’t even know what to think, arrive an hour early, or an hour late, just to be on time to class. And just to shake things up a little more, our professor mentions that there are only three cameras available to rent out to the class, of about 300 students. Yes, you heard me, 300. We’ll see how this class goes, but at the rate we are going we may not even get to our next class. This week classes were cancelled for one reason or another, and we really only have two and a half months or so left of class until our semester is over.

Being on time is definitely a big difference between the United States and Argentina. It is so laid back here, and they don’t put their focus on being punctual which is nice, but can be hard to get used to at first. With me already having a problem of always being late, I’m finding Argentina more welcoming everyday. I promise to update this more often, but sometimes I can get caught up with things happening down here in Mendoza, so I think it’s safe to say I’ll be back in an Argentine minute.

Argentina: More Culture, Less Shock

1957Argentina's_flagSenior year, it’s come at last  and I decide to spend my last semester of my 4 years of my college experience abroad in the southern hemisphere. I went “abroad” my second semester of my sophomore year to New York City for the GLCA Arts program through Southwestern University, and now decided it was time again to be off on another adventure, to Mendoza Argentina. My christmas break turned into a chilly 3-month summer break; everyone was back at school before I knew it and I was spending 3 months of free time at home. February 23 came around the corner in a flash though and before I knew it, it was the night before and I had two empty suitcases to pack for the next 6 plus months. Finally I packed my bright big blue suitcase, and a smaller black one and a backpack and I was off. Called a taxi, who was definitely interested in reminding me that American Airlines would be charging me extra for how heavy my suitcases were. I actually was just one pound over with no penalty, so take that Randall. Flew to Dallas for the group flight to Buenos Aires. About 25 college students soon took over gate D25, we didn’t even know what was to come.

Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires, Argentina!
We finally arrive to Buenos Aires and are told to find a bright yellow IFSA Butler sign as we reach baggage claim when we meet Jaime, one of our program directors. We arrive to the Hotel de las Americas and wait until the rest of

The Mothers of la Plaza de Mayo march for their abducted children

The Mothers of la Plaza de Mayo march for their abducted children

the students who were not on the group flight meet up with us there. In the mean time, we decide to try to connect with friends and family back home using the hotel’s WiFi. Before you know it, there are close to 15 girls in one corner of the hotel sitting on the sofas, speaking english, crowding the room with 30+ bags, each with our laptops out. Way to give in to the typical American stereotype – can’t live without our technology. For the next day and a half we toured the city and took a large bus, which frequently made contact with each curb in sight. We had a fantastic tour of the city, but I thank our tour guide Alejandro for that. I think he won the heart of every girl in our group within the first 5 minutes of his welcome speech to us on the bus, and not to mention there were 34 girls on that bus, but don’t worry he survived. On our tour, we saw many things like La Casa Rosada, and La Plaza de Mayo. What is interesting about this plaza is that every thursday at 3pm, there is an organization of Argentine women who are human rights activists who march together for their abducted sons or grandsons from the Dirty War (1976–1983) and so for over three decades this has taken place and this group of women meet every thursday at the same time to march around the plaza together to reunite with their abducted children.

Our first orientation session was focused on clearing any questions or concerns we had, basically addressing the culture shock that in some cases, were inevitable. Here were a few of the major topics we covered:
1. Personal Space: Unlike the U.S., Argentines do not pay much attention to personal space, or rather they just don’t have any. In the U.S. we are very distant with one another; we shake hands when meeting someone new and even when seeing a friend we greet them with nothing more than a simple hug at times. Here in Argentina, whether they are your mother or a new classmate, you will eventually find yourself in a conversation that is not more than a foot away from you. How they greet one another in Argentina is with one kiss on the cheek, and this goes for whether you are greeting anyone new, or even if it’s your mother coming over for lunch. Both women and men greet one another with a kiss, yep guys greet each other with a kiss as well. However they sometimes don’t touch cheeks, and often just make the sound of a kiss. The 8 boys in our study abroad group had a little trouble during their first practice round they performed when they were told to practice in front of our group. They added an extra kiss on the other cheek, or sometimes kissed the wrong cheek first, but I think they have the hang of it by now.

2. The Staring: Yep, it’s normal to stare at people here for however long you want. Anything more than a glance in the states and you could start trouble. But here in Argentina, you walk down the street and it feels like they are all checking you out for a good full 3 minutes, both the men AND women. Of course it doesn’t help that we have been traveling in groups of like 15 girls walking to class speaking english and lacking the dark argentine glow.

3. The Cat Calls: They’re inevitable girls, so just ignore them. Men, young or old, will say anything and make any noise just to get your attention. Sorry boys, whistling, making the ‘Ssss’ sound, saying “I Love You”, asking to hold our hands, asking to marry us, telling us we are beautiful gringos etc… will not win our hearts. (Not even kidding, every one of those examples has happened in the last two weeks while we’ve been here.)

4. The Bidet: Many of us saw the bidet in the hotel rooms and immediately thought it was a urinal. Nope, they definitely use these things and are found in every household. We even had a lesson on how to use one, thanks José for demonstrating with his chair. To be honest, I still don’t think any one of us have actually used it since we’ve been here.

Lost, a boliche in Buenos Aires packed at 4am.

Lost, a boliche in Buenos Aires packed at 4am.

5. The Argentine Lifestyle: Get used to: eating dinner around 10-11pm, eating steak for almost every meal, coming across people who think of vegetarians as people who just don’t eat steak, and then Thursday through Saturday, get your party pants on and head to a bar until 2am and then start the night off at a boliche (what they call the discotecas down here). Then be prepared to stay there partying until 5 or 6am. When they party, they party hard . The nightlife is insane here, as you can see in this picture from one of the boliches in Buenos Aires.

6. National Beverages: Argentina has a few signature drinks they are known for. One is Mate, an herb drink that they sip out of a small gourd with a special metal straw that filters out the tea. This type of tea is by far the most popular past time to drink in the afternoons, and has become a ritual in households. The first time I tried mate, I thought I was drinking earth through a straw, it is definitely an acquired taste. It has a very organic, unsweetened natural tea-flavor and is very relaxing. Their beers are very good too, they have Quilmes, and then a beer that is home to Mendoza is the Andes beer. I prefer the Andes to the Quilmes, it is just a bit darker and stronger but both very refreshing. Their most famous drink though, is their Fernet and Coke. Fernet is this medicinal-smelling italian liquor that is most commonly paired with its side kick, Coca Cola. Before the two beverages were paired together as a signature drink though, fernet was not popular at all, they used to give it to children for an upset stomach. But its popularity grew once the duo were paired, and by a storm took over the late nights of Argentina. One big plus to this drink is that it doesn’t cause a hangover the next morning, I bet you’re asking for your Fernet and Coke right now. The first time I tried it, I thought I was drinking a pine tree through a straw, and yes funny how there’s a trend going on here with forestry drinks. You’re probably thinking all they do is strain their trees and plants and make them into drinks and somehow enjoy them, but I promise, once you acquire a taste for the two, you will wonder why we don’t have such drinks in the States.

7. Mullets: Yea, I had to save this one for last. I kid you not, there was a slide in our power point orientation session dedicated solely to mullets warning us about getting haircuts here. As long as we were confident enough to communicate to our barber that we did NOT want a mullet, then we would in good hands. It is very common here in Argentina to have a mullet, and the styles vary; there is the traditional mullet with the slightly longer hair in the back, then there is the normal haircut with that one braided long rat tail in the back. Not gonna lie, but mullets scare me. They are just not supposed to happen.

And this was just the first week and a half. We haven’t really experienced much culture shock, but rather just this new different lifestyle that is actually starting to grow on us rapidly. We also haven’t even started school yet and I feel like our entire Argentine lifestyle transformation won’t even start until we are fully immersed with the school routine and mixing and mingling with other Argentine students. Hopefully our study abroad group won’t be too attached to each other by the time school starts because I think the city of Mendoza could use a break from being bombarded by 40 gringos all at once asking for a Quilmes beer or Fernet and Coke.

SU Student Shares Story Of Stay in Danish Hospital

Please Wait Here And Be In Pain To Be Treated.  Courtesy of Georgia LoSchiavo.

Please Wait Here And Be In Pain To Be Treated. Courtesy of Georgia LoSchiavo.

With possible change in the health care system and an insurance reform bill in the process, many are looking at other nations for examples. Most countries in western Europe currently have a universal health care system. One of these nations, Denmark, is the temporary home to Southwestern student Margaret Durham. Unfortunately, upon arriving in her new home, Durham suffered an emergency and was brought to the local hospital. Though there were many challenges faced during her first day in a new country, Durham did not need to worry about paying any hospital fees. Following is the story of her first couple of days in Copenhagen, Denmark:

While on the airplane I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic I was prescribed before I left the country. There was some swelling in my throat and I began having a little bit of trouble breathing as the plane was descending.

The first responders met me at the airport gate and did basic preliminary procedures, such as giving me oxygen and taking my blood pressure. Then the first responders for the ambulance and the EMTs arrived and took me to the hospital.

Denmark offers emergency transportation and the EMTs then took me in an ambulance to the hospital ER.

I arrived at the ER on a Saturday morning and I was the only patient in the ER for several hours. The nurse brought me food herself and helped translate the one item of paperwork I had to fill out.

All of the health professionals with whom I interacted (2 first responders, 2 EMTs, 4 nurses, and 4 doctors) were extremely helpful, efficient and attentive. I felt very well taken care of.

I shared a quite large room with two other patients. Each patient section was separated by a removable wall-like divider.

I was able to leave the hospital Sunday morning after being admitted the previous morning. I spent a little over 24 hours in the hospital. I would have been discharged after only 3 hours except that I had a second occurrence of swelling and difficulty breathing.

The Danish government payed for my care in full. I even got 2 days of an anti-swelling prescription medication for free. This is not typical (usually one would have to pay partially out of pocket for prescriptions), but pharmacies are not open on Sundays and my doctor wanted to make sure I could get the medicine.

I only had to fill out one short form about my emergency contacts and everything else was handled entirely by hospital staff.

Discharge was not rushed at all. I didn’t have any papers to sign or fill out. The doctor just came and talked to me, gave me the meds, asked if I had any questions, and then let me go (after giving me directions to the metro station).

The medical equipment was equal to that I’ve encountered in US hospitals. The main difference was that rooms were typically shared with other patients (although this is fairly common in older US hospitals) and a few amenities were missing (such as tvs in each room) probably to reduce the cost of a hospital stay.