wk 3, entry 4 - LA religion

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Oh Catholic Church.  What a history you have.  I call myself a cultural catholic, as opposed to a practicing or supporting one.  I go to church occasionally, because it is part of who I am.  I do not agree with many things about The Church – some of its doctrines, leaders, and goals – but that doesn’t stop me from finding it very interesting. 

I love going to mass.  Besides the spiritual connection I still feel there, I find that it is a fascinating place to study people and their culture, and to contemplate what motivates people.  Watching the priests, the various lay persons involved in the mass, and then the ordinary church-goers and contemplating why they are all there playing their part – guilt? family-pressure or cultural history? a desperate need or last hope for a cure? dedication to belief? 

At the Catholic Center of GT, I am used to the community there, I know a lot of the people there and have a general idea for what brings a lot of students.

Catedral in Plaza de Mayo was a different story.  First of all – the edificio!  How marvelous and intricate and… wow!  It tells so much about the people who made it (or financed it) and the culture of the times.  The attention to detail and overpowering display of wealth and even power, so much was done for show.  The elegance and aestheticism tell a story of the power and prestige of the Catholic Church at the time and what its goals were, its modus operandi.

The mass was very “old-school,” something I could tell though I understood little of the actual words of the Spanish mass.  Some of the more progressive Catholic Churches don’t require you to kneel, but instead can remain standing during the times when you would normally stand.  I had no doubt that this was not the case in this church.  The boards to kneel on were the most hardcore I have ever seen them – the hardest, flattest wood they could find, only lacking nails to come up from the bottom – to serve the dual purpose of keeping the faithful flock awake and as penance for all their evil sins. 

But by far the most striking feature was the pomp and elegance of the church:  the magnificent sculptures, paintings on the ceiling, large statue of mother Mary overshadowing a smaller, less impressive, crucified Jesus Christ, and everything laden in gold and various finishings. 

Is everyone equal?  Not in this church.  There were two special reserved spots, decked out in all the best finery, raised up above the rest of the pews, in the front, on either side just in front of the altar.  I’m not sure who they would be reserved for, but my guess is for prominent social members who gave a lot of money to the church, or for the president, or for the governor, etc. 

A very thoughtful learning, but also spiritual, experience.

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My first time at an opera - really enjoyed it.  I am glad I read the synopsis beforehand so I had a clue what was going on; the Spanish translation that scrolled by up above the Opera in the Teatro Colón had a lot of vocabulary that I did not know.  I was going to write this blog about the Opera, but there really isn’t much more to say, so I will go into another topic. 

Watching the first world cup match right now, and it is strangely exciting.  I’ve never followed soccer and I’ve never even see a world cup, but being here and learning all about it has made me fall in love with the game:  everyone’s enthusiasm, passion, and excitement have rubbed off on me, and watching those soccer movies in class have made me nostalgic for a game that has never been my own.  The game between Germany and Costa Rica is going as predicted, though Costa Rica had a goal at the beginning that tied it up for a while.  Now it is 3 to 1, we’ll see.  The difference in the teams and level of play is amazing though:  Germany handles the ball between players so well, it seems there is always someone open and they all know where each other are, almost like they are executing pre-designed plays the entire time.  Costa Rica has skilled players, but they don’t seem to be working together very cohesively.  Look at the goals for a great example.  Germany’s started on the outside with a pass back to the middle, a short pass forward, a fake, a cross, and a German player right there to butt it in with his leg (you can hardly call it a kick, he was practically off the ground, which makes it ever more amazing and coordinated).  Cost Rica’s one goal was more or less a break away.  The ball went up high in the air over the German defenders as a CR player was running toward the goal past the defenders and he was able to get it past the goalie - no fancy passing or teamwork.  Germany used 4 players in the pattern, where CR used only 1, maybe 2. 

Game is over now, ended 4 to 2.  I wonder how the Argentina game turned out, last I heard it was 2-0 Argentina.  I think it is so cool how our group will spontaneously start talking about soccer and the games and players and different countries’ chances and abilities, like kids would in states about football, basketball, or baseball.  At the beginning of this trip, you can bet our group wouldn’t be found talking about soccer (except if Brent is around), mainly just because we weren’t that interested in it and didn’t know much about the teams and players.  Now I think most of us are hooked on the game and have learned a little about the good players and the best and worst teams.  How wonderful to have had a bit of Argentina rub off on us, to be able to see so plainly a way in which we were directly affected by living in a different country.

I went to the doctor today to get a signed note saying I have no contagious diseases, required for my Chilean student visa.  I called yesterday and made the appointment and was very pleased with my ability to speak with the office of “turnos” - almost no problems understanding her or her me.  Today at the clinic was significantly more difficult.

It seems to completely depend on the situation.  Sometimes I can get by just fine and carry on conversations, sometimes I feel like an awkward foreigner who doesn’t know any Spanish whatsoever.  I think a lot of it has to do with how the person is talking to me - some people are better at speaking with foreigners.  Sometimes they slow down and enunciate more clearly.  Some people, annoyed that you didn’t understand them and asked them to repeat themselves, repeat the same thing, faster and less clear this time because they are annoyed.  This seemed to happen today with the lady at the main desk of the clínica médica.  I tried to figure out why I was charged ARG$100 instead of the ARG$70 I was quoted yesterday, but I never did entirely understand why though I asked her to repeat herself and explain more clearly.  Oh well, I got the note, and that’s what’s important. 

One thing that surprised me was the cleanliness and efficiency of the clinic.  Maybe it is just because it is an expensive, private clinic, but it was much better than any clinic or hospital I’ve ever visited in the US.  The building looked normal from the outside, but had a nice revolving door and a modern looking reception area on the planta baja.  The elevators!  They were the most modern, nice-looking elevators I have ever seen.  It sounds silly, but they were very impressive.  Nothing was very elegant - but it all had a very clean, modern, new, efficient, practical look to it.  I liked it.  I went up to the first floor, to the clínica médica, and talked with the receptionist there.  She found my reservation, with slight difficulty due to the language barrier, I paid, and she told me to go to room 104.  I walked in and Dr. Waldmann was already there waiting for me.  I think the machismo is getting to me here, because, when I walked in, I thought the woman in the room was Dr. Waldmann’s secretary or just a nurse or something (you know how when you go into  a room at a doctor’s office, usually a nurse attends to you first, before the doc comes in?).  Fortunately, I said “Dr. Waldmann?” - asking for the doctor - and she replied “Si,” at which point I realized that she was the doctor and that if I had said something else I could have been very rude.  

I sat down, she asked me if I had any contagious diseases, I said no, she filled out a piece of paper and signed it, handed to me, and I was out the door.  Beautiful!  My appointment was at 10:45, I got there about 10:30, and was out by about the time my appointment was supposed to start, now that is efficient.  So surprising.  I was really prepared for a third-world clinic experience, dirty and with long lines of desperate looking people, taking hours for me to be seen. 

breeterry says:
I'm glad you are free of diseases. :)
Posted on: Jun 16, 2006