Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Brief Return to La Plata, Understanding Argentines, Gay Marriage at the End o' the World

It's amazing how much not having a computer (or camera) has hindered my ability to proactively update (which I shoot for every other day at least). For those not in the know, I had my camera stolen at the Retiro train station back in October, which has limited my posting of pics to those nabbed from friends and fellow travelers. But I'm back at my apartment in Rosario and my brother Brent is bringing my shiny new Xmas camera when he arrives tomorrow.

I set off from Mar del Plata in the midst of major flooding throughout the Province of Buenos Aires. It was raining was so hard on the freeway that the bus had to stop several times because the driver couldn't see the road. A brief stop in La Plata to visit my old boss, Horacio resulted in a funny exchange of semantics. In short, I'm staying on as an advisor to Fundación Biosfera to help them follow up on some of the social marketing strategies I developed for TV and radio and will be meeting with the Colombian branch of a U.S.-based NGO when I am in Bogota to foster a partnership between the two.

I mentioned to Horacio that I'd like both a "@biosfera.org" email address and a title to help further the NGO's connections while traveling. I suggested the title "strategic communications coordinator," which he thought was quite boring. "Let's see," he said, "you are planning on working with Art, Diplomacy and Media Communications so we should make that your title." Being that titles in Argentina are quite different (in that they describe your field rather than what sounds most important) I told him I'd marinate on the idea of Program Director: Art, Diplomacy and Media Communications, though we made up some business cards just for kicks.

He also mentioned that my Spanish sounded a little funny as I'd just spent 5 days speaking English with my college buds. I made it a point to redeem myself on the bus ride to Rosario, striking up a conversation about history, culture and politics with an elderly gentleman. While waiting for the city bus from the terminal, I talked to an even older guy who seemed intent on just venting about immigrants. Older Argentines speak a bit slower, which allows me to understand nearly 100 percent of what they say.

Age, location and socio-economic status are big influences on understanding the unique brand of Argentine Spanish. Old people are easy, kids are impossible. Upper class and Academics are a breeze, working class uses so much slang it's like another dialect. In Buenos Aires, the velocity and lunfardo(slang) they use make Porteños the most difficult (though one recently moved into my apt and I can hang). My theory is that the further you get from Buenos Aires (the city and the Province), the easier it is to understand people and the people you meet are a bit friendlier. My favorite example of this are my buddies Fede and Charly from Ushuaia, way down South, who made my first weeks at Biosfera a bit easier by having naturally slower cadence to their speech.

Speaking of Ushuaia, it's  not often that Argentina is the leader of progressive change in Latin America, so check out this article about an gay couple who literally traveled to the "end of the earth" in Tierra del Fuego to become the first legally married same-sex couple in Latin America.

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