I don’t really know how to start this post because there’s too much to talk about. So here we go, forgive me if it’s random.
When I was still in the US, my program director at Universidad Nacional de Salta (UNSa), Ana María, told me that she was going to set up a meeting on Saturday, February 9th at her house. The day finally came and I found my way to her apartment in a part of the city I hadn’t been before. I showed up outside the gate 10 minutes early so I awkwardly waited 10 minutes before ringing the bell (NO ONE is early here. Except me.). She answered and told me she would be right down. A lot of things were rushing through my head, mostly what she was going to look like.
You know how when you only talk to someone on the phone and via e-mail you make up an image of what the’re going to look like in your head? It’s just like when you read a book and then the movie comes out. And you’re all like…. WHAT? They look like that? That’s totally not what I pictured.
I need to get a picture taken with Ana María sometime but that hasn’t happened yet. Anyway she has short (like Halle Berry pixie cut short) jet-black hair, is thin, pretty light skin on the Argentinian skin-tone scale, and has a raspy smoker voice. Totally not what I pictured but whatever. She brought me up to her apartment which is huge and super nice. Shortly after, all of the professors from my graduate program showed up to her apartment and we all sat around her kitchen table with alfajores and a typical Argentinian cookie, sandwiches.
The reason we had to do this is complicated. My graduate program started in August 2011. I’m here in February 2013. I was able to make special arrangements with Ana María, and I am doing every class the other students already did as an independent study. All of the other people in my program are teachers full time, whereas I have lots of free time. So it works out just fine!
So the other professors told me about the classes they taught, gave me the materials I would need to complete the course, gave me their contact information, etc. I’m doing one class per month and should finish all of them by September.
Unfortunately, somehow in all the chaos of moving halfway across the world, I kind of forgot that I was going to be a graduate student here. I also didn’t completely think through the ridiculous amount of reading that comes along with a graduate education. Multiple it by 2 because it’s all in Spanish and that’s not my native language.
It’ll only get easier, right? My first actual class started last Friday, on the 15th. They’re graduate seminars which mean they meet on Fridays from 4-8 PM and Saturdays 9 AM to 1 PM and 2 PM to 6 PM for a couple of weekends in a row. On Friday I got to the classroom at UNSa around 3:50, about 10 minutes early (typical), and literally no one was around, not even the professor. I found Laura, who works in the graduate office and is in the graduate program, and she laughed and told me to expect people by 4:45. The professor showed up around 4:10 and people started to slowly filter in. Including a dog. Yeah, a dog. My classroom is on the 3rd floor of an academic building so it’s hard to say how the dog showed up. But it just kind of laid down along the wall and took a nap. Eventually they called someone to get the dog out, but it was pretty hilarious.
Eventually Ana María came in to “presentar el curso” and it was basically a lecture about how people in the program aren’t taking the classes seriously, and the professor of the last class (in December) is still waiting for final papers to be sent to him. Great, good start.
But in all seriousness and on a more positive note, my class is super interesting and I really, really love the professor.
Just like in Spain, though, when a class starts at 9 AM it actually means that most people are there by 11 AM. The long stretch on Saturday can get kind of tedious, and I was cracking up because the cafe/restaurant at UNSa wasn’t open for us on Saturday (the other students don’t start class until March). So the teacher started freaking out (full blown panic) about what we were going to do to get coffee during our breaks. People started offering to go back to their houses to get their coffee makers and thermoses. I just sat there laughing to myself, happy that I had brought coffee in my travel mug (sometimes being a gringa comes in handy?).
We never did resolve the coffee issue. But everyone survived.