On Thursday, two important things happened in my life here.
First, I went school supply shopping. Now the last time I learned Spanish school supply vocabulary was in 2003. The last time I taught school supply vocabulary was last year, around this time, at Muskego HS. But I felt pretty ready to conquer this with ease.
A few days ago I found a little shop in Salta that had a good variety of school supplies and was filled with moms and kids going back to school shopping. Good sign. So I made a mental note of its location and I returned eager to pick up my útiles. I walked in and the tiny store was packed again.
I headed straight for the back where I saw binders. After weeding out the ones with Justin Bieber, Boca Juniors, River Plate, and puppies, I found some nice ones with good-quality looseleaf already inside. Score!
The left side of the store has a long glass counter (like you’d see at cosmetics counters at the mall or something). Along the wall, behind the counter are tons of pens, pencils, highlighters, sharpies, other markers, protractors, rulers, etc. Under the glass you can find Post-Its (actual, legitimate Post-It name brand! Score!), staplers, paperclips, tape, and other things. Now the customers are not allowed to go behind the counter… so you have to wait until one of the 2 employees helps you. I was waiting patiently by the counter for a good 15 minutes when I realized that everyone else in the store had a number ticket (like you would grab at the DMV or something). Crap. So I set out to find where the people got their numbers. Alas, there’s a huge sign by the door that says to grab a number with a machine that spits them out. So I grabbed a number and proceeded to wait again.
Finally it was my turn! I was all ready to tell her what I wanted! Then I realized I had no clue what the word was for highlighter. And I told her I needed a grapadora (stapler?) and she stared at me. Luckily I must’ve pronounced post-it correctly because she knew what I was saying.
Turns out a stapler is an abrochadora and I still don’t know the word for highlighter… I just went with marcador and pointing and she knew what I meant. At least I knew the color words? Sigh. So about $40 and an hour later, I had all the basics which I could’ve picked up from Office Max in 15 minutes. Así es la vida.
After the school supply adventure I headed to my first Rotary meeting! I showed up a half hour early because they meet at 10 PM and there’s only so much time you can kill wandering around the city at 9 o’clock at night. They meet at an Italian restaurant that’s next to the Italian Community Center in Salta. I walked in and told the hostess I was there for the meeting and she stared at me and looked at the clock. I told her I knew I was early and she said something, “Yeah… a half hour!” Great. So she directed me to the table where the Rotarians sit and I quickly added my Argentinian cell number to my business cards and realized I forgot my name tag. Oh well.
At about 9:45 Martín, the club secretary showed up and sat down with me. He’s in charge of the International Relations major at the Catholic university here and has been to the US a couple of times on fellowships, etc. He was so, so nice to me and we clicked right away. At about 10:15 the other Rotarians showed up (Ay, Argentina, I need to get used to this being late for everything thing!). I finally got to meet Estela, my host counselor, and 5 other Rotarians. The meeting was smaller than usual, they said, because people are still coming back from vacation, etc.
The meeting mostly consisted of eating dinner, drinking, and chatting about my life more than anything else. It’s super informal, no one wore a nametag (good thing I forgot mine!), and everyone was wearing regular clothes. A couple of times Estela and Martín tried to get everyone to talk about Rotary business but that wasn’t very successful. I talked to them about the club in Milwaukee and they all were stunned at how big of a club it is — a major issue for the district is keeping enrollment up. They told me that a lot of clubs have closed down due to lack of interest and lack of funding, except Tucumán (a city south of here) still has a lot of interest. I’m hoping I can help them with a project of some sort and convince the Milwaukee club to send some funding our way (hint hint to Milwaukee Rotarians reading my blog!!). The Rotarians here are so good-hearted but they told me directly that they haven’t been able to do a lot to help the community because they don’t have the money to do so.
I’m looking forward to the next meeting! All of the Rotarians were so kind. Luciano, an architect and Rotarian talks SO FAST that I didn’t understand anything he said to me, so after a few sentences I stopped him and told him that. They all cracked up and Luciano spent the rest of the meeting talking extremely, extremely slow just to be funny. Can’t wait until I understand him completely when he talks super fast!!