The first month, we were immobilized by the heat. These past weeks, we’ve been pinned in place by rain. I’m glad for Tillich’s injunction to “do nothing now.” Easy advice to follow when one is not leaving the house.
This lack of activity has at least allowed for a deeper than expected exploration of Spanish. My teacher, Laura, comes to the house most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 90 minutes.
I augment these classes by doing the exercises in the improved Duolingo app, listening to Coffeebreak Spanish podcasts (produced by RadioLingua), and reading library books. The tiny library here in Maipú has a series of books for English language students that have a Spanish translation of the English text on the facing page. The series includes such classic English short story writers as O. Henry and Kate Chopin and plot summaries of well known novels, such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
The library books are helpful, but I think my willingness to read 19th century literature puts me squarely in the “keener” category. I’m excited about the three Alice Munro books I picked up to for reading back home. Lucky me, Random House put out new editions of her books in translation with banners celebrating her Nobel prize.
Cooking, yoga and knitting are all opportunities to enjoy Spanish television. I started with cooking shows as I could recognize the words for most of the ingredients. Law and Order is great as both lawyers and witnesses speak clearly and intentionally. Today, I was even able to piece together much of the plot, although I have to admit it was glaringly obvious (did the hospice nurse, a daughter of a doctor who advocates the right to die with dignity, kill someone)
It takes a long time, but I can even conjugate the occasional verb in the past tense, without resorting to pointing behind me! I cannot, however, imagine anyone other than Laura having the patience to wait as I stumble through my sentences
In addition to a Spanish teacher, I’ve acquired an English student. Eugenia is an ophthalmologist who will soon be doing a rotation in Indianapolis on a delicate partial cornea transplant technique in which she is herself an expert, but which she wishes to study further with the surgeon who developed the approach. Her clinical obligations mean she is in Buenos Aires every second week, but when she is in Mendoza, we meet every Tuesday and Friday
Friday last week, we met in the city where Eugenia got her English workout while touring us to some of the more difficult to get to cultural highlights.
Eugenia’s family has been in Argentine for many generations. Her maternal grandfather was the first ophthalmologist in Mendoza and her paternal ancestors were some of the region’s early wine makers. We have especially appreciated being able to learn some of the subtler aspects of Argentine culture and history from someone with such deep roots.
This week, I am back in Maipú. S has gone on a little five-day adventure of his own to Cordoba. The rain is giving him cabin fever and we figure the change of scene will do him some good. While he is off seeing sights, I will, weather permitting, make my way to the modest location we visit most: the gas station where the folks are friendly and the wifi connection relatively reliable. And, on those now rare hot days, where we can get a cold beer. Yup, beer by the bottle (and 26s of lots of hard stuff) for sale in a gas station.
Might seem bizarre, but the cafe is a neighbourhood gathering spot with most the of patrons arriving on foot — and there are the expected laws against driving impaired. Laura reports alcohol related accidents are common, but that she feels a more pressing concern are the numerous untrained drivers who don’t have licences. This, and the condition of the roads, could explain why people drive so very slowly here. (You can usually count on the bulb for the red light being replaced, less likely the yellow or green. So if there is no light illuminated at a controlled intersection, you can somewhat safely assume you’ve got a green light.)
That’s it for my “dear home” report. Postings from Mendoza trip to come.
High on a hill is this monument celebrating San Martin’s victory freeing Argentina from the Spanish colonizer.
The photo has no redeeming qualities other than it provides context for the size of this monument.