Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lesson #13: Things are cheaper than the States, but it adds up...

...especially when you fear the public transportation.
I've successfully made my way to school this past week. On Monday we had our orientation and our welcoming lunch, which was very nice. On Tuesday we took our Spanish placement test, and I tested into a lower Spanish than I expected, which was a blow to my idea that I would be successful here. But Pipa "lit a candle" for me, and things worked themselves out. On Wednesday we started class. This class, even though it's a "higher level" than I tested into is too easy because the professor is combining the two levels together and making like a step-up type program. I learned the alphabet and numbers on the first day. Again. For the 80 millionth time. The same goes for Thursday, but at night CEA had a dinner & movie night for us. And today (Friday) I went to a going-away dinner for my friend's roommate who is returning to the USA.

But back to the topic about how things add up quickly when you're afraid of public transportation... I'm such a country girl. So I had my first experience riding the bus (in Argentina, it's the "colectivo," keep that in mind, because that's what I'll call it). I didn't really like it because my first time on, I didn't know that I was supposed to tell the driver how much I wanted to pay/where I was going. I just thought that everyone paid the same price. And there was a line of angry Argentines behind me. Whatever. My second time was okay, but it was quite full, and I got off two stops before I had to (because there are stops just about every 3 blocks).
On Thursday, I took the subte (subway/metro - which I do like) to school like normal, but exited out on the wrong street and got myself really confused. So I asked a police officer for directions, and he pointed me in the wrong direction... So I was almost late for class and had to call CEA Staff for help with directions. On Thursday night, we had our dinner. Pipa helped me use the Guia T (for the colectivo) to find which bus line to take. So I went to the bus and paid, and all that jazz, and it was pretty empty. 20 minutes later, I was the only one on the bus and the driver was ditching me on the side of some road with instructions to go with the old lady and take the 66 bus. I was so stressed and frustrated.
The old lady was so sweet. She got on the next bus with me, and told some old man that he couldn't have the seat so that I could sit next to her and she could help me. And finally we got off together, so that I could change buses again, but I didn't have enough change (colectivo takes only change, which is why people horde it. Then it's even harder to find...), so I ended up hailing a taxi and she told him where to take me. Of course, she gave him an intersection near where I needed to be, but not the exact one (I'm thinking for safety purposes, because that's what I always do). So I got out on this corner and had no idea where I was or how close I was to where I needed to be. I was near tears at this point. I had already been trying to get to dinner for .. an hour. This time I called a different CEA Staff member and told her that I was lost. Response: "again?!" (hahaha). But I ended up getting to where I needed to be. Where I ended up crying and drinking mate (a traditional drink that I haven't acquired the taste for yet).
But whatever.

So, I took a taxi twice yesterday and twice today. Because I fear the bus system.
That's why it's my roommates and my friends mission to get me to understand the bus system so I can use it to my wallet's advantage. The price for a bus ride here is Arg. $1.10-1.25 (so like... $0.45 USD) and the Subte is Arg. $1.10 (so like $0.30 USD).
It's getting to the point though where I buy my lunch in the cafeteria and think that the pricing is outrageous. Today I got a personal pizza and a coke for $19, and was like "$19 are they crazy!?" .. then I have to remember to divide that by about 4, and $5 for a meal doesn't seem that bad...

And, I guess, I'm glad that I'm here, but no one every talks about the sucky parts of study abroad. Everyone just loves it, loves it, loves it. Right now, I'm so frustrated. I'm not where I want to be for Spanish classes at school and I can't get around the city by myself. And I just feel like a guest in this house right now, so I feel weird leaving my room and using things in the kitchen by myself.
I'm sure it's all just a matter of time, and I realize I've only been here for a week, but it feels like longer than that. So I'm just frustrated with myself for not being an awesome Argentine yet, when I know I shouldn't be. Which is the most frustrating part.

Although, (I'll leave this on a good note so you don't think that I absolutely hate it when I'm actually just in a period of readjustment) I haven't gotten hollered at yet by the guys in the streets, which is what they do when they can tell that you're North American. AND a person in the subte asked me for directions. That means that I look like I can fit in! I'm so excited. (The part that separates me is the fact that I can wear a short sleeve shirt in 60 degree weather and other people have on hats and gloves... yeah).


  1. I think a lot of people leave out the "sucky parts" of being in a foreign place because they might be afraid to admit that they didn't know something or screwed things up at first, but the thing is, everyone does/did and if they didn't, it's because they never put themselves out there. I got anxious and stressed just READING about the bus there and how frustrating your experience was, but you know what? You'll figure it out; you've got 6 months, so push yourself just a little bit at a time, and eventually you'll look back and laugh because you'll have it down :) I promise you. And I'm sure the placement thing is frustrating, but I would see if you can move up, and if you can't, you're in that class for a reason; maybe you're supposed to meet someone who's in there with you, maybe it's to gain confidence with your Spanish so you'll progress more quickly with it later, I don't know. But I do know that you'll figure everything out and be able to handle it next time something gets frustrating. Another reason you don't hear about the sucky parts are because in the entirety of a period abroad, the frustrations that were so disappointing and so heartbreaking, even, at the time were insignificant in the scheme of things.
    Also, a t-shirt in 60-degree weather? Girl, you crazy. I miss you, and I hope you show that effing bus who's boss ;)