There really is no other way to put it except that there’s just SO MUCH of everything in my life right now…so many new experiences, new friendships, new lessons. But I’ll try to make my thoughts relatively organized.
Hernandarias (Fri. 4/25)
On Friday I traveled to Hernandarias, a town about 1.5 hours away from Parana. One of the students at the university teaches English part time at her old high school there, and she had asked me if I would come visit her students and share a little about the US. I brought along with me 2 Spanish/English dictionaries to donate to the students (who by the way have almost no English resources and would very much appreciate any donations!) as well as a CD of popular music and photos of my family, pets, friends, fun places like Disney World, etc.
I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful my experience was at the school. These students had never met someone from the US before, and they were so excited to try out their English and ask me questions about everyday life in the states. There were signs around the school saying “Welcome Jen!” and every single class bought or made me a gift! I was so moved by their kindness. The sincerity and good will of all the people that I’ve met here just astounds me. No matter how little they have, they give from their heart – and that matters so much more than the monetary value of the gift.
I spent some of the time speaking in English so that the students could practice, but I spent most of the time speaking in Spanish since they only know very basic English. I made sure to tell them that I was still learning Spanish, and I asked them to correct me a few times. I wanted them to realize that just because I spoke English didn’t mean that I was perfect. I felt a little guilty that they thought so highly of me without even meeting me simply because of my language and nationality. So I wanted to give as much as I could to them as they were giving to me in terms of sharing my culture and experiences. We talked about how hard it is to learn another language and what kinds of things they liked and didn’t like about English. They were also very interested in the kinds of foods that I like in the US, and I made sure to ask them about their favorite foods in Argentina as well. Food is an incredible topic. I dare you to try to find a person who would have nothing to say about food. Good food is something that’s shared across all languages and cultures ;)
Overall, I had a fabulous time talking with the students and teachers. I’m so incredibly grateful for being placed in Parana because it’s given me the opportunity to see how average people live in Argentina. Just like foreigners often have misconceptions about Americans based on movies and books, so many foreigners to Argentina think that the country IS Buenos Aires, but there’s so much more to appreciate than just that one city. And this trip to the tiny town of Hernandarias was just one of those experiences.
An Argentine Wedding (Sat. 4/26)
About 2 weeks ago I joined the friendliest and most enthusiastic gospel choir that I could ever have imagined. On Saturday, we sang at a wedding here in Parana. It was my first experience at an Argentine wedding. The first difference I noticed from weddings that I’m familiar with in the states is that it took place at night (around 10pm). I found out that this is traditional for weddings here. Also, all the guests waited outside the church until the bride and groom arrived separately. Then they went inside to be seated. I like this because it’s like they’re greeting the couple and showing their support before the ceremony even begins. Another thing I noticed is that the ceremony was short and sweet. The couple met at the alter; the priest talked about the importance of marriage as a sacrament; the bride and groom said “I do;” the priest pronounced them married; they kissed; and last but not least, they exchanged rings. Then it was over! It couldn’t have been more than half an hour.
I know I’m completely jumping the gun here, but every single girl can agree with me that you can’t go to a wedding without thinking about your own “future” wedding (hypothetically speaking of course, Mom). And this one was EXACTLY how I would like mine to be someday. The simple but beautiful bows on the church pews and the short ceremony that focuses on the commitment of the couple is just what I’d love. It just seemed perfectly simple and beautiful to me. Ok, I’ll stop gushing now. But the main point is that once again I saw how much you can appreciate something by just keeping it simple. I think we’ve lost a little bit of that sense of “simplicity” in the states…but maybe that’s just me.
Well, there’s so much more to tell, but it’s getting late. More soon!