This week is the first full week of classes of fall term 2010 for the Knox campus. Most of the 16 Knox students who decided to spend the current trimester in Argentina have their first midterm next week—of spring term. This means that we had almost a month to get used to the very different Argentine school system and more than a month to roam around this country’s “big city,” Buenos Aires.
I had the chance to spend four months in Latin America (in Costa Rica and Peru) right before coming to Argentina. If you ask me, it’s a different world from Europe and the U.S. And an amazing one too. There are some common principles according to which each country here guides itself: “time is not important,” “seize the day,” “stressing out is not healthy” and “you can do well without much order.” There are also some more than common topics of discussion in every Central and South American country, such as football (soccer), politics, machismo (maleness) and women. The activities that Argentines are really passionate about are politics, nightlife and football.
Even though none of my classes are in the field of Political Science or the like, we are talking about “política” in each of them. However and with whomever you begin a discussion, it is likely that it will end with something related to Juan Perón, the country’s most famous president, and to his wife, the equally—actually maybe even more—notorious Evita Peron. By Jove, people talk so much about them that Perón was even in my dreams last night. Students, immigrants, retired physicians, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living, how old you are or from what social class you come, here everyone has a really strong political opinion. Nobody is indifferent; each person is either a “peronista” or an “anti-peronista.” Not to talk about their strong opinions related to the period of the last Argentine dictatorship, the era of the “desaparecidos”… And it’s not just about opinions; the inhabitants of this country are ready to actively militate for (or against) anything they want!
Nightlife goes on pretty much every day of the week in Buenos Aires. And, like in politics, almost everyone takes part in it. Be it dinner, a theatre show, a movie, a “boliche” (disco) or a concert, the inhabitants of Argentina’s capital are looking forward to this part of the day. People of every age are excited to take part in activities during the night. I didn’t envision my grandmother watching an African dance show. However, many of the people in the room at such a show here were undoubtedly grandparents. What amuses me is that Argentinean parties start when North American college parties end. This is still difficult to understand for some of us, so, breaking this golden rule, we had to enjoy ourselves in a disco surrounded by 16-year-olds with curfews. There are always people on the street and the buses circulate nonstop, which makes Buenos Aires “the city that never sleeps” of the South.
I met a handful of Argentines in Peru this summer, during the Football World Cup. Their happiness at the victory of their national team and their disappointment when it finally lost made me realize that football is serious business in their country. Actually, I was suspecting this even after having heard the story about “Maradona is Dios” (Maradona is God) in Costa Rica (a friendly piece of advice: if you are planning a trip to Argentina and don’t know who this person is, or if you define him only as the former coach of the national team, you might want to reconsider either your baggage of knowledge or your country of destination). Nonetheless, I fully felt the spirit of the Argentine soccer last week, when a friend of mine and I went at the stadium to watch Argentina play against Spain. It was really easy to see the Sicilian roots of most of the people in this country, being more than passionate in supporting their team and in swearing the opposing team’s members.
Even though many of us still don’t feel fully integrated in the lifestyle of this country, we’re trying, we really are. And I know that until the program ends, we will succeed! All we need is some pills for the headaches caused by listening to so much debating (in Spanish), a lot of sleepless nights and the loss of our voices cheering for the Argentine team during football matches.