Distance makes the heart grow fonder, so they say. I didn’t really anticipate a period of “re-falling-in-love-with-Salta,” but that seems to be happening. A lot of the things that pissed me off about Salta at the beginning are now honestly the things that make me say “Wow, I love this city.” On top of the stuff I’ve always loved, of course.
At the beginning of my time here, I always made a trip to Super Vea, Carrefour, or Jumbo when it was time to grocery shop. I think I was scared to shop in the little stores, kioskos, around my apartment because you have to tell them what you want and they get it for you from behind the counter. Linguistically this is clearly more challenging than going to the big supermarket and just wandering the aisles on your own. But now that I know the (Argentine) word for all of the groceries I usually by, I really enjoy doing my shopping entirely at the little stores near my apartment and have found them to be significantly cheaper. Of course, I do still go to the big grocery stores once in awhile to get specific things that aren’t sold around my apartment (shredded cheese, chicken breasts, and tortillas). But I’ve loved getting to know the little shop owners in my neighborhood.
Being in Bolivia and Peru made me completely appreciate how phenomenal the bus system of Salta is. It’s cheap and the routes are fast, consistent, safe, and well-planned. On most routes the bus comes every 5-10 minutes from 5 am to midnight, every day of the week. I never feel like I’m going to be pick-pocketed and the busses are quiet, well-maintained, clean, etc.
Being in Lima reminded me of how insane big, big cities are. I am SO glad I chose Salta because it’s a city but feels like a town. I walk basically everywhere when I don’t take the bus and really enjoy it (except when it’s freezing out, of course).
Knowing where to do basically everything. I am so adjusted to Salta that I know where I need to go to do basically everything. I know the cheapest place to make copies, where they can scan documents, a bunch of places to re-load my bus card and pay-as-you-go cell phone, where to get the cheapest and freshest produce, where all the bus stops I need are, where the good restaurants are, where to buy peanut butter, etc. It’s amazing how much of a difference this tiny stuff makes in every day life.
Friends and Acquaintances
Knowing people. When I got back to Salta it was really refreshing to be able to walk into my portuguese class, around my university campus, around the english institute, into my favorite cafes and restaurants, etc. and see familiar faces. My doorman, the secretary in my post-graduate office, my favorite waiter at my favorite café, my favorite produce lady in the market, etc. All these people make such a difference in my life here even if they don’t know it!
I am starting to freak out because I only have 4 months left here. Time has gone by so incredibly fast. I cannot believe it! However, I have good news!
I picked a new thesis topic and I have already made amazing progress on learning background information, making contacts, setting up interviews, etc. I am going to be studying bilingual education in the Wichí indigenous community in the NE part of Salta province, wayyyy up in the corner where Salta meets Chaco and Formosa and Bolivia and Paraguay.
There are THOUSANDS of problems with bilingual education in Argentina and I don’t know what I’m going to focus on yet. But I do know that I am very excited about my research, about doing observations in the community, and about spending a lot of time in the schools up there.
And one more bit of VERY exciting news!
I am applying for a Fulbright grant to Bolivia, and because the Bolivian government will only allow Americans to be in the country for 3 months, Fulbright suggests you pair your application with another country in the Western Hemisphere. Well, I’m picking Argentina so that I can spend more time in the indigenous community and finish the research for my thesis. I’m picking Cochabamba, Bolivia so that I can learn from the leading institute for bilingual education in South America (where I was supposed to go for my Rotary scholarship!). I will spend 3 months there learning from them and doing observations in the Quechua community, and then spend the rest of the time in the indigenous communities of Salta province to finish my research. My hope is to create a “guide” of sorts for the teachers and their aides so that they actually have a little information on best methods for bilingual education. I REALLY hope I win the scholarship because it would be amazing to be able to help the community with educating the Wichí youth!