Despite some problems at the airport, I finally made it to South America! I spent the first few days in Brazil visiting Marcos in Sao Paulo. His family was extremely welcoming and served some delicious food. They were also all immediately shocked that I wasn't wearing a parka or something, because for them this is winter. But coming from Wisconsin and Boston, 60 degrees doesn't exactly seem to warrant breaking out the long underwear for me... Sao Paulo was like no other city I have ever visited. The entire skyline is filled endlessly with skyscrapers. Even at 9 pm there is still bumper to bumper traffic and these crazy motorcycle riders weave in and out of traffic. I did also get to see the quieter side of Brazil when we went to Marcos's beach house which is located in a tiny town a few hours outside of the city.
Road to the beach
The drive out there is beautiful as well, through mountains and huge forests with a few slums thrown in on the side of the road. The house itself was only a short walk from the water but it was way to wavy and cold to actually swim-- even the surfers were waiting for it to calm down some.
After these relaxing few days I arrived to my homestay in Buenos Aires in a neighborhood called Recoleta. It essentially is the Manhattan of Argentina with many upper- middle class families living in beautiful parisian style apartments. My host parents are Raquel and Juan Carlos and they were both extremely welcoming to me. They speak only Spanish here, which will definitely be nice in improving my Spanish. One of their daughters, Joaquina, also lives here but she is 24 and in her last year of University so she doesn't seem to spend much time here.
Raquel and Juan Carlos also have another daughter that lives in Buenos Aires with her son and husband. She and her son have turned the apartment into their own little day care since all of the schools in Buenos Aires have been shut down as a result of Swine Flu. This is another thing people seem to be extremely worried about. As soon as someone hears I'm from America they want to know if I have swine flu and tons of people walk around wearing masks. My favorite are the people with the mask around their necks, smoking a cigarette-- clearly health is their #1 concern. They also have two maids here from Paraguay who both live in the house as well-- it gets a little crowded at times, but it's still very nice. The whole maid concept took a little getting used to, but it is very common in South America and much different than in the States.
The maid does basic cleaning and housekeeping, but also cooks all of the meals and is generally considered almost as part of the family since most stay for many years. Food here seems like a very different concept. I knew that Argentines ate lots of meat, but I have NEVER seen these kinds of portions. The other night we were served a literal kilo meatball (we asked the maid, so yes, it was actually a kilo)... needless to say I stuck to potatoes and salad and then went out for ice cream later instead haha... Although I have decided that at some point during my time here I need to try asada-- I don't think I can spend an entire year in Argentina and not at least TRY their world-famous steak.
I've also finished my first week of class as well.
Lonely swing. Courtesy of Marcos
The course is taught by a very funny man from Ireland who has been teaching English around the world for about 25 years. He has some very interesting stories. The class consists of fairly common sense material, but it will definitely prepare me well for any situation I might encouter in my actual classroom. There are only 5 other people in my class, and its quite the mix of people. Rachel (a friend of Brendan's, who I knew before I got here) and I are the only recent college graduates.
I also taught my first English class last night. It was quite overwhelming but it went much better than I expected. I taught prepositions to a beginner class. There were only 3 people and they were all very patient and understanding. It was a bit difficult to get them to follow my directions at some points, and they spoke Spanish most of the time but I think for the most part they understood the lesson.
By the end I felt much more confident and I think starting these classes so soon will only help.
I've done a little touring of Buenos Aires between class. I've noticed that dog poop is EVERYWHERE in this city. You have to constantly watch every step or you are bound to end up in some mess. Besides the sidewalk, the city is certainly beautiful. It's a very large and overwhelming city, but I am slowly getting my bearings here. I walked through el cementerio recoleta the other day and almost got locked inside, because we didn't realize how late it had gotten. I've never seen a cemetery like this. It was filled with these massive, ornate sarcophaguses all in rows so it feels like you are walking through a city of the dead. Well that basically highlights the beginning of my time in South America... I've got my second class to teach tonight so I need to go over my lesson plan some more.