I finally made it to the National Library (getting sick seriously ruins everything) and found this statue that I’d last seen on our first week here during the city tour. The library itself is somewhat cool with a design somewhat like the UC San Diego library, just slightly less pyramid-y and more boxy. The statue is Eva Peron, one of the legendary figures of Argentina who worked with Juan Peron in the fifties to fight for workers rights and win the vote for women. I think she’s super cool, we finally got around to studying her in my Latin American cultures class which is why I also visited the Eva Peron museum awhile back. I was slightly amused by the fact that the museum was trying to emphasize everything she did for Argentina and really paints her as quite the feminist, and yet can’t resist also including the outfits she wore during all of the different speeches she gave regarding different programs. Talk about oxymoronic.
The other cool thing about the library is that it’s situated right next to the museum of language and books. This is a super kid friendly museum, far more kid friendly than adult friendly in my opinion. They had this red line going through the whole museum, in addition to hitting all of the different exhibits in the museum, the line had fun elements included, some parts they had to pretend the line was a balance beam, some parts would have a break in the line kids would have to jump over, these parts had three dimensional lines the kids had to crawl under and jump over. They have all the fun. The museum was very cool though, with a screen that had a bunch of different words floating around and when you touched one it would pop up the definition and give you the option of printing out a coupon with the word and definition on it. The upstairs exhibit included a room for kids and a room with all of the books that were banned during the military dictatorship. The basement also had a really fun exhibit on language, in addition to poems and artwork involving words (including a street map with streets written in Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish) there was a game you could play to see how good you were at selecting false cognates between Spanish ad a variety of other languages. I aced the Spanish-English one.
Because we went to Ushuaia, we missed the API tour of the congress building. Luckily, the tours are free and occur twice a day on Fridays so my friends and I headed over and toured Congress. It was actually a really fun and we got to find the third of seven flags that were taken to the Malvinas with soldiers in the 80s and returned, never having been touched by the English. In an attempt to rally support, these seven flags have been placed by the president in seven different locations around the city. It’s become a bit of a game to find them all, one is here, one is in Casa Rosada and one is the Malvinas Museum. I have no idea where the rest are. The influence of Eva Peron and Juan Peron can be seen in Congress as well with each getting their own dedicated “sitting room” outside of the senate and assembly. Walking through the tour we were also given a lecture on how bills become laws etc., and afterwards my friends commented that they felt as though we had just received our seventh grade lesson on how the US government works.
They also have one room with this really incredibly high chandelier. It’s hanging from a cord that goes up 260 feet to the very top of the spire. This was just like a main meeting room, but it’s a very impressive chandelier.
On our last trip to ESMA (that old detention center with the Malvinas Museum that I can’t seem to stop talking about) we stumbled upon their Armenian Genocide museum. Argentina is one of the countries that does acknowledge the existence of the genocide so they have a small display honoring the victims for the hundredth anniversary. This cabinet held artifacts from the genocide with a description of “The Politics of Memory, Truth and Justice” written on the wall in the background. This is a genocide I don’t know very much about, so I was glad to have the chance to read the information and watch their video about it.
My friend and I have been trying to visit the mosque in Buenos Aires for weeks now, somethings just always seemed to come up. But we finally did make it there and joined their two hour tour to see the place. It’s a huge community center with only half of it holding the mosque. The other half is a bilingual (Arabic-Spanish) school for kids. What I found really interesting during our tour is that while we were in the school, our guide stopped and spent ten minutes explaining the difference between “Muslim,” “Arab,” “Arabic,” and “Islam,” so that we would understand that the school was open to everyone and taught the students Arabic but was not a religious school. When we went over to the mosque I found that the tour was much more relaxed than those that I’d been on in the Middle East. Not only were women allowed into the main prayer room without head scarves, we were allowed to stay and watch the men pray. I’ll admit it felt very strange to me, as if we were committing a cultural faux-pax. I suppose that’s because in the Middle East it 100% would have been. My favorite part of the tour, however, was when our guide went to the front and sang part of the call to prayer for us. It was one of my favorite things to hear in the Middle East and I was glad to hear it again and have the translation provided afterwards by our guide.
That evening my friend and I went to a “Popular Arte Museum” because they had a blown glass crystal exhibit that I expected to be rather cool. I wasn’t so impressed by the crystal, but we were impressed by other parts of this museum. This cloth was just covering the wall, and it was just so great.
The other part of the museum included a very cool exhibit on wooden art done by artists in the area. There were wooden paintings, little wooden dioramas, all sorts of statues, instruments and a whole wall of masks. The masks were probably my favorite, most of them were animals, but a few were human looking so I tried to mimic the expressions.
#datcitylife: When I first arrived in Buenos Aires my friend and I went to a feria and chatted with a few of the vendors in Spanish. After the conversations, we always had a feeling of euphoria as though we’d just completed something absolutely incredibly. It was as though we’d run a marathon and completed it. Maybe we’d walked a couple times, but we’d reached the end successfully, and it was a great feeling. But the longer we stayed in Buenos Aires that became very common place. We chat with venders at ferias, we chat other students at school, one time I had a ten minute conversation at a bus stop with a woman about her son in Boston who is a music teacher (but he’s returning to Buenos Aires soon after being away for seven years). So it wasn’t all that unusual when a guy came up to us today in La Boca asking if we wanted wrist bands to get into some clubs for free in the next few nights. With finals coming up we politely declined but continued chatting with him about Buenos Aires. He mentioned that he was Cuban and goes there often to visit his family, I mentioned that I was going to Cuba soon as well and asked if he had any advice or recommendations for me. That of course led to a ten minute conversation about Cuban politics, sadly we had to leave after that and he had to get back to work. But there really wasn’t any feeling of euphoria, just happiness that I’d gotten to talk to someone about Cuba and pass sometime while our friends shopped. But then, on the subte going home a man was chatting on his phone nearby and I understood every word. Ever since I arrived here I’ve had a lot of trouble eavesdropping on conversations that I can only hear one end of, the lack of context generally leaves me very lost. But today, for the first time, I realized that I had been able to follow his conversation and understand every part of it. Obviously I didn’t have to whole story, but I understood as much as I would have understood in English and it felt awesome! About two months in I realized that the learning curve after a certain point in Spanish gets very very steep (for math nerds you can sort of picture a step grid). I’ve been coasting for awhile and hearing his conversation it felt like I’d gotten over a bump and I realized exactly how much my Spanish has improved since I came here. And that’s a great feeling.