Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Tag
It literally feels as though my head is too full of concerns and anger over some things that I have not felt the desire to blog. I truly miss writing but when my fingers hit the keyboard, no words appear on the screen. So I took a cue from a fellow BC blogger, and I decided to share what is on my mind so that I can start with a clean slate. Here are a few of the most pressing worries and frustrations.
*Extra cool points for those who understand the title reference. If not, read about it here.
1) Hurricane Ike
As some of you may know, I’m from Texas, north of Houston specifically. My eyes have been glued to every online storm tracker and news article about this storm for the last few days. I have spoken with my family and they feel they are prepared. But it is hard to be out of the country and feeling helpless to do anything. Although this is most pressing worry at the moment, I will feel better once the storm passes this weekend with hopefully everything being alright.
2) Leaving Argentina
I am leaving Argentina to return to the States at the end of this month. Due to the remaining effects of the events of July, I abandoned my initial project idea for this new idea of creating a council of patients to leverage their self-mobilization efforts. The largest problem is finding a way to institutionalize their meetings given all the challenges that each of the patients faces in their daily lives: work, transportation costs and time. I am trying to find way to ensure the sustainability of the group, but with the time crunch and the logistical challenges, I am not sure how it will end.
3) Nervousness about returning to the States
As much as I was scared to admit it to myself, I am a bit nervous about returning to the States. Aside from the reverse culture shock, which I have been through before without wallowing in it, this will be my return to the “real world” aka full-time work. I have loved volunteering this last year, both for seeing first hand the impact of my work as well as the freedom that I have to put my ideas into action. That will certainly change when heading back to the workplace, but I am trying hard to find a compromise.
4) Frustrations with the government’s response to a flailing economy
Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to bail out dysfunctional, incompetent, and borderline unethical companies? Another major investment bank in need of the federal government to broker a bailout? However, no help for the consumers who have lost their homes due to corporations that preyed on the poor to turn a quick profit with specious financial instruments. I can’t wait for this administration to leave office.
5) Mainstream media’s inability to actually provide balanced and substantive coverage of the campaigns
If I see the phrase “lipstick on a pig” or on any other animal, I might scream. Why is mainstream media apparently incapable of covering issues of substance rather than stories covered to raise ratings and readership? Why is John Stewart better at fact checking candidates and their surrogates? Why, when a presidential campaign decides to silo their vice presidential candidate, does the media not cry foul play?
I feel better already after writing this down.
Living abroad challenges your cultural perceptions as much as the cultural perceptions of the people you meet. I have traveled to locations varied enough to both appear to be from the country that I was in and appear to be a foreigner. More often than not, reactions and comments, positive and otherwise, are spurred by race. In China, I was perceived as a oddity; families asked me to pose in their vacation photographs. In Brazil, people I met assumed that I was Brazilian and did not believe me when I told them otherwise. Policies may actually discriminate against certain nationalities or races.
Race remains an issue in social interactions; the concept of colorblindness is debatable. Political correctness is a cultural phenomenon that changes, depending on location as much as context. Part of being in a foreign country is learning to adjust your sensitivity to racially tinged comments.
1. Ask about what you hear.
In Argentina, it’s common to use the word negro or negra like a term of endearment. In most other contexts, the word is used to describe something or someone who is black. The first time I heard someone call me negra, I thought it was odd they were being so forward. Asking about it made sure there was no misunderstanding due to the language barrier. It also prevented from me being upset about something that is perceived as harmless.
2. Definitely ask if you are thinking about correcting a misconception.
During my first week here, I had lunch with the staff at a local drug rehabilitation center. After a nice lunch conversation, one of the women who worked there asked me if I could sing. I asked her why wanted to know. She told me that once she had heard a black woman sang and she really enjoyed it, therefore implying that because I am black, it is likely that I am a good singer as well. I made a joke about how I sing in the shower (poorly), but told her that I am sure that she enjoyed the performance because the woman was talented. Correcting misconceptions is usually not about lectures and angry reactions.
3. All else fails, consider the experience as a part of travel.
I meet new people, especially patients at the clinic, all the time while I am in La Plata. Not one person I have met has guessed that I am American even though there are several American students here. The perception is prevalent that Americans are white. Of course, there are some benefits to not appearing American, but it is also odd and vaguely frustrating to explain to people that I am not Brazilian or Dominican.
This does not mean that you have to spend time with people who insult you. There are ignorant people all over the world; feel free to ignore them just as you would ignorant people in the country you live in.