By Nancy Wang
My most cherished memories of my trip to Córdoba, Argentina are the of the friendships I formed. I would like to contribute a whole blog to introduce them.
My Host Family
I lived in a nice household in the center of city Córdoba with two lovely women, María and Martha, and a Siamese cat, Iara. They spoke only Spanish and knew a few words in English, but the language barriers did not hamper us from becoming closely connected and enjoying our limited time together.
María was an awesome cook. I loved all the Argentine and western food she cooked and I always surprised everyone with how much I ate at every meal. I loved to intrude into her kitchen and ask about every dish being cooked despite my limited vocabulary. My favorite dish was beef cooked with potato, which though looked plain, was incredibly delicious.
Martha knitted hats, scarves, shawls, decorations, bags, etc. for living. She was a true artist. With unbelievable creativity and boldness, she combined various colors, materials, and methods to create a room of unique works.
I would share my experiences with María and Martha eagerly, though with broken sentences, when Martha was knitting with Iara on her lap, or when everyone was sitting around the dining table having meals or a cup of hot tea at night.
My Work Friends
Veronica, the founder of the equine therapy center, was the person I worked with every day. She was such an energetic and loving person and greatly impacted people around her. She gave me a huge hug and kissed my cheek when we first met. Although I was too nervous even to understand the simplest question of “where are you from?” (partly because the Argentine accent of saying “¿Dónde sos vos?” instead of “¿Dónde eras tú?”), she did not blame me for my poor language ability but instead assured me that she was good at explaining things and would take good care of me.
And she did. She not only taught me everything I need to know about taking care of horses but also introduced me to Argentinian culture and always acknowledged my contributions. Looking at another volunteer who had raised horses since she was little and could speak fluent Spanish, I realized how much extra work I brought to Veronica. But she was always patient, always positive, and always friendly. I was lucky to meet her.
Young Men and Women at “English and Mate”
(Mate is a traditional drink in Argentina)
In Argentina, people work late and rest late. I normally had dinner at 8 p.m., went to sleep after 1 a.m., and woke up at 9 a.m. After work, I went back to center Córdoba a little past 8 p.m. and still had the evening free time to myself.
My favorite evening event was called “English and Mate.” Every Tuesday or Thursday night from 7-11 p.m., a group of people came to the corner of a bar, met new people and chatted. The first two hours was in English and then people switched into Spanish. There, I met a group of young men and women, mostly local, who were eager to learn another language and about a broader world. At first, I was afraid or was too tired to go and talk, but when I had to leave Córdoba, I only wished I had gone more.
People spoke various levels of English. Some could barely form a sentence, were too shy to speak out, and would constantly seek their friends to help when I tried to talk to them. Others shocked me with their English-speaking abilities, and then shocked me even more when they told me that they achieved this just by months of coming to this activity and talking to people. Many of these young adults might not have the resources my family provided me to learn English, but they thrived with the thirst for knowledge. I might have taught them a few words in English; they shaped my view of studying.
In addition to the language itself, the topics we talked about were always interesting.
My first day to the event, I met a man who pointed to his friend’s Huawei phone and claimed that they were spied on by China and the U.S. I had to have a long debate with him, in which I explained from the beginning the economic development of China, as well as the politics of some countries. I was tired, satisfied, and surprised at the same time that I could have such a deep conversation with a person I just met.
My favorite topic to ask about was a person’s major and their work. I was talking with someone with whom I started the conversation by asking about soccer. When I learned that he studied economics in college, I asked eagerly what he thought about the high inflation rate in Argentina. The exchange rate of U.S. dollar to Argentine peso almost doubled in a year. I saw homeless people on the street and had heard friends from Buenos Aires talking worriedly about it. But this person told me that he moved to Argentina from Venezuela, where the exchange rate could double in a day! Then he explained to me what life was like there.
I was very grateful to have this opportunity to share stories with these people living on the other side of the earth. The experience was drastically different from my daily life and was memorable for a lifetime.