Sponge

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The kitchen sponge soaks up everything. When filled with water, it expands. When squeezed, it shrinks down. It’s completely impacted by its surroundings and is always open to change based on whats happening around it. 

Lately I have been feeling like a sponge. 

This might sound kind of weird. In fact, it does sound kind of weird. But it’s true. 

When filled with water, it expands

No, I’m not talking about gaining weight because of all of the empanadas, tamales, humitas, locro, and wine I’ve been consuming lately… I’m talking about being nourished by what’s going on in my life lately. All of these experiences are making me grow as a person and as a professional. 

I’ve become so close with my friends Kate, Clemence, and Elijah and just feel really happy and loved when I am with them. I’ve been exploring new restaurants in Salta, and have really connected with a ton of salteños. I’ve learned so many random cultural things in the past few days — exactly how to share mate with someone, how to do rock-paper-scissors here, how grades are given in high school (they get an entire grade based on behavior!), good things to say in formal business letters, etc. 

I feel like I am going to be such a better Spanish teacher when I get back to the USA because I feel really well-informed on so many little cultural things that are sometimes quite hard to fully understand. I’ve also been feeling really glad that I have a huge chunk of salteños I can rely on to help me with basically anything. 

When squeezed, it shrinks down

I am a very giving person. If someone asks me to do something, 99.999% of the time I do it, even if it jeopardizes my sanity. I hate saying no. But there comes a point that I’ve been “squeezed” too much — I’ve given too much of myself and can’t shrink down any more because there’s nothing left. I’ve started to feel like that lately. I’ve been trying to struggle staying on top of my grad classes with studying for a big Portuguese exam, being a great friend, cooking, cleaning, staying organized, and planning for my trip that’s coming up in a few weeks. This is on top of my electricity randomly getting shut off the weekend of June 21, starting to apply for Fulbright, and teaching a US culture class at Instituto Franklin. It’s starting to pile up and I feel exhausted much of the time.

Today I finally kind of lost it when another American who lives in Salta who is supposed to be a “professional” and an “adult” tried to take major advantage of me just to get more money for herself. This kind of behavior is completely ridiculous, especially because I’ve already done her a whole lot of favors. I was “squeezed” too much — luckily I have some other people in this city that are actually looking out for me and aren’t trying to take advantage, and I reminded myself that I do need to put my foot down and stand up for myself. Luckily, when you squeeze a sponge really hard it eventually bounces back to its original shape, and after stress eating, a cup of white cranberry tea and an evening spent cooking with my favorite girls from the profesorado program, I’ve bounced back and am feeling okay again. 

It’s completely impacted by its surroundings

Today when I was walking through town I realized how influenced I am by everything around me. This afternoon I taught English to Lucía, a 17-year-old girl who lives in a beautiful home with her parents, her brother, and her adorable golden retriever Maya. We shared some mate and had a really great class. Her and I get along wonderfully and I look forward to teaching her every time.

I left her house at 6 PM and I went into a Dietética store that sells health supplements and other foods, and was greeted by the friendly owner who offered to put the things I was buying up on the counter for me, asked me if I wanted help with anything, etc. I found trail mix, that white cranberry tea I mentioned above, sesame crackers, and some other things (brown sugar, baking powder, and powdered sugar) all for about $15. 

I then stopped at one of the many fruit carts parked on the street and got a ton of strawberries and mandarin oranges for $8. I swung by a local bookstore and asked about finding some books for my thesis, and the owner was extremely helpful and gave me a lot of great advice. As I left the bookstore, I was just feeling so happy. I smiled and thought about how Salta has such a great mix of adorable small-town self-owned little shops, stores where you can find anything you need, and very kind people. 

It is always open to change based on whats happening around it

I have become so much more patient and understanding since I got to Argentina. I felt that I had grown as a person while living in Spain, but nothing compared to how I’ve felt since I’ve been here. I’m about a week into my fifth month in Argentina and I’ve just become so… Argentinian? The thought of dinner at 5 or 6 PM makes me almost laugh out loud now. When I need to get some stuff I look forward to running errands in the center before 1 PM or after 5 PM, and enjoy the quietness of Salta during siesta time. I love Sundays in Parque San Martín just like salteños and their families do. I don’t get nervous when I think I’m going to be late. I don’t freak out about waiting in line anymore — I just use that time to think. 

It’s life in Argentina and the more I think about it, the more I realize it is going to be very, very hard to leave this country come December. Then again, I’ll just have to be like a sponge — completely impacted by its surroundings and always open to change based on whats happening around it. 

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