Sunday, April 01, 2007

Good Bye Charlie... and other stuff (Helen)

Charlie came and went like the wind. Definately the worst part about his being here was that he went back home. Ken blogged on everything that he did and saw, but Ken didn't mention what a good guest he was. First of all, I was in awe of his stamina. He arrived with some kind of chest cold that I was fairly certain was on its way to pneumonia, but he never complained. Ken kept him on the move constantly - I stayed home for half the activities because I am a wussy - and he just kept going. Also, the walking, walking, walking - if you don't do it all the time can wreak havoc on the feet. I know b/c I spent the first month here with my feet covered in bandaids. We didn't even know Charlie had blisters until practically his last day. And also, he is incredibly low maintenance! He slept on an air mattress on the floor, ate whatever, whenever, and was always happy. He even brought us things we needed from home, and complimented me on my spanish skills! What a saint.

Now for other stuff: We have been here for half of our time now. Like anything, the more you learn, the less you know. I realize how little we know about the people here. Not what they eat, or how weird they are about the coins, or how they dress, but about their social opinions, expectations, prejudices, fears, etc. Our conversations are too superficial, and our ability to evesdrop too limited. One example of unstated, yet understood, behavior is the open display of disobeying the law. They even have a spanish expression for this behavior. But, they do follow codes of behavior, which are too complex for Ken and me to understand in this short amount of time. By contrast, US citizens are rule followers. We drive in the lines on the street and will reprimand anybody who does not do the same. If a sign says to stay off the grass, by god, we stay off the grass! And if somebody else walks on that hallowed grass we yell at them "Can't you read the sign!". We follow laws that we think are ridiculous because it is the law. Occassionally we engage in civil unrest to change a law, because if we don't change it then we have to keep following it. With the exception of big-business, we don't bribe our policemen or local officials. It is against the law. We don't butt in line.


Codes are more subtle, but just as effective. This whole chaotic, seemingly random driving technique, for example, is really a very organized dance with accepted and unaccepted behavior, that appears to have nothing to do with the rules. There are, of course, the codes between gender. Women board the bus first. Seats are always surrendered for older women. On the flip side, women do not look men in the eye on the street. If I came here to find a man and get married, I would have no idea how to play the game.


These are the beginnings of some things I am starting to understand - unless, of course, I am totally wrong.


Chas said...

STOP, you're emBAAARassing me! A little blister on the pinky-toe, so what! And the air mattress -- I saw guys in your town sleeping on the sidewalk. They would give their blistered pinky-toes for an air mattress. And for an air mattress with sheets and a blanky, located in the comfy apartment of dear friends, they would probably venda sus abuelas. (Ok, it was a little tiring walking miles while unwell, but you guys took such good care of me, I'm almost all better now.)

So let me just say right here: thank you SO much, Kerrs, for a really nice vacation.

As for the complex traffic dance, Ken told me the Argentine per-capita death toll on the highways is roughy double that of the US. So if they're dancing in BA, they must be really running amok elsewhere. (unless, of course, he's totally wrong.)

emilyeffinconrad said...

that's because Chas man is effing awesome.

and you are too, Mrs. Kerr.

Kat said...

Helen, this is one of the reasons I miss you so much. You are such a lovely, rule-oriented person! I am so glad that Chas AKA Charlie went there (even though I am admittedly envious). I am sure it was wonderful for you in many ways, but I think, too, you must feel extremely accomplished for your 3 months there.

I hope to meet Charlie in person one day...

love you bunches!

Chas said...

Aw, you're so sweet, EFC!

Chas said...

Hey Kerritos -- do you feel extremely accomplished for your 3 months there?