It began to rain heavily early this afternoon, and it had not stopped by the time my TEFL class (more on that later) let out around five o'clock. The school is conveniently located about 15 minutes by foot from my apartment; convenient, that is, sans torrential downpour. Not wanting to wait around for the rain to stop, I decided to suck it up and walk home. After all, it was a warm summer rain which, considering the oppressive heat of the past couple days, would be a nice relief. (side note: I can't complain at all about the rain; Argentina is suffering from the worst drought in decades, one with potentially devastating consequences for its agricultural sector, and thus its already struggling economy.)
At first the rain did feel refreshing. Had I been wearing more comfortable shoes, I probably would have skipped my way home, and who knows, maybe even belted out a couple lines of "Singing in the Rain" just to be cool. But after no more than five minutes my dress was completely drenched and weighing me down, and my traction-less-when-dry flats were threatening to be my downfall. So I decided to take my time, as I would be rather be extremely wet than just really wet, bruised, and embarassed.
Within five blocks of my apartment, an old Argentine man with an umbrella came to my rescue. Most people who know me know of my odd obsession with old people, my extensive old people photo collection, and my not-so-secret desire to be an old Sicilian woman. But I'll save that for another day. So when this old Argentine man offered to share his umbrella with me, my heart skipped a beat.
He made some comment about the rain - it was difficult to hear above the cacophony of the city and storm - so I merely replied, Sí, parece un río" (Yes, it seems like a river), referring to the flooded streets. After he made another incomprehensible comment, I answered, as I too often do, "lo siento, pero no entiendo" (I'm sorry, I don't understand.) Upon telling him I was from the US, he began, in broken English, "Ah, yes, I live in New York long time ago. I'm a sailor." Really? Pray tell! He said that he liked New York, but that Argentina was his country, and that he belonged here. He had only returned to Buenos Aires after spending many other years abroad - in Germany right after the "last war" - World War II - and then in Italy. My eyes aglow, I exclaimed, "Italia?! Ma dove?" (Where?) Genova, he replied. I then told him how I had spent a year in Bologna, and he agreed that it was a nice city. "But the best," he continued, "is Sicilia."
He had me at Sicilia. In an unintelligible mix of Italian and Spanish I tried to explain to him that I, too, loved southern Italy and especially Sicilia - the people, the atmosphere, the food (oh, the food!), I could go on and on. Unfortunately by this time we were nearing my apartment. Wanting to stand under a roof, but not wanting our conversation (however little we understood of one another) to end, I began to thank him, explaining that Argentines were so kind and helpful. "Yes, but be careful, they are not all like that." As we reached my door, I thanked him several more times, and with a "suerte" (good luck) he was gone.
That's what I love about old people - in an instant they will tell you their life story, and while this can lead to interminable ramblings or confusion, in my experience these stories, however brief or mundane, have been fascinating and filled with the pearls of wisdom that one acquires over decades of travel, love, loss - life, in a word. And even if these stories really have no point, the joy you can give just by listening is enough to warm you up, even in the pouring rain.
His comment that not all Argentines are kind reminded me of Italians - many of the people you meet in the paesini, and even in cities, are so generous and warm, yet the country's government is rife with corruption and run by dishonest thieves (though I don't want to oversimplify a complex issue). From what my host mother, Beatriz, has been explaining to me, similar problems plague the Argentine government. When you see the best of humanity, or at least its good side, it's a pity to think that lesser beings are often the ones running the show.
There were some other items I wanted to address, but for now a list will have to suffice...
1. I went to the Feria in Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo this Sunday. It's mostly an antiques fair, although artists, vendors selling handicrafts, and street performers also crowd the streets. Plenty of interesting old people; I will be back.
2. I am currently not happy with the food situation in Buenos Aires; the selection of fruits and vegetables leaves much to be desired. Granted, I haven't been here long enough to explore the markets and find the best local verdulería, so I haven't given up hope...yet.
3. My TEFL certification course started yesterday. The first two days have been pretty basic. Today we individually "taught" our peers with a simple 'core dialogue' exercise. It was not difficult, but there was a certain procedure to be followed. While I thought I had this procedure down beforehand, when I got up in front of everyone I botched up most of the steps. Not the best start, but I know that with practice and confidence I'll improve.
4. My blog is quite the eyesore, I know. I hope to take some pictures this weekend to remedy this.