A little Latin dancing

Posted by on May 12, 2013

So we’re calling this entry Córdoba in April: Part Two. It’s a fun topic that I’m excited to write about because of all my pastimes, this might be the one I’m most passionate about!

But before that, I’d like to take a short moment to acknowledge that I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR THREE MONTHS. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling – yesterday, there was a moment that I stood up from my table, glanced around, and truly believed that I had lived here my whole life. I’ve reached a point in my journey here that I’m tranquil overall and looking forward with great anticipation to the viajes ahead, but I’m also very aware that July 31st will be a day that I accept with a smile. (Not a ginormous, thank-goodness-you’re-finally-here smile, but a content smile, nonetheless.) I know that I’ll be just as ready to return home and finish out my last year at Wofford as I was to embark on a life-changing experience on February 10th, an experience that will stay with me forever.

What I’m not ready for are the good-bye’s, and I had my first of many last night. Like I mentioned in my last post, Cynthia leaves for Paraguay today. I celebrated Cynthia’s adventure in Córdoba with her and her fellow apartment-mates Thursday night at a traditional Argentine restaurant called La Alfonsina (pictures hopefully to come!), and honestly thought at the end of the night that I wouldn’t be too affected by her departure. Then she, our chemistry professor, and I shared coffee and medialunas after work yesterday…and I accompanied her to her apartment…where she gave me the most beautiful Paraguayan bag to remember her by…

I completely lost it. Without realizing it, Cynthia had become one of my most significant friends in Argentina, and I’m envisioning the rest of my time in the Facultad de Ciencias Químicas with trepidation. It has nothing to do with the other girls in the group and everything to do with the fact that a friendship forged in two short months is being separated so soon. I enjoyed the routine that we developed together and the easy way we exchanged conversations and cultures. We didn’t always say much, but there was always consolation in shared company. I’m already imagining the possibility of visiting her in Asunción once July arrives.

I’m also incredibly wary of the first week of July taking the rest of my new friends away from me.

Hello’s are less painful than good-bye’s, I’ve found, which is why I can smile at July 31st and the family and friends waiting for me in South Carolina. But I’m much more aware of the countdown now, and I expect that May will be even more filled with fun relational experiences and really trying to immerse myself in Argentina when I’m outside of my bedroom.

Argentine flag that everyone from Casa Colón (plus me!) signed as Cynthia’s going-away gift.

Anyway, on to the fun stuff!

Hopefully the majority of you know how much I love to dance. You may also remember from my last blog the two women at the hostel in Tilcara who took me by the waist and gave me an impromptu dance lesson on the terrace. Since then, I have taken five salsa and bachata lessons and greatly improved my basic step and hip-manipulating technique!

But before I get into those details, I need to share about one of my other best friends here in Córdoba. I met Tim, an exchange student from Germany, completely por casualidad (by coincidence) in a meeting with the international director of the Facultad de Lenguas (Department of Languages). We discovered quickly that we were each looking for a salsa partner to take formal dance classes, so after a ten-minute colectivo ride back to campus, we exchanged numbers and agreed to research possibilities. The rest, as they say, is history.

What was originally intended to be a once-a-week reunion has transformed into a truly beautiful friendship. We’ve made it a point to see each other at least one other afternoon on campus, since our buildings are situated next door to each other, and Thursday night dance classes have turned into a highly anticipated event at the Casa Colón. (Told you in the last post we’d made it back here!) We’ve developed a special routine: I take a colectivo and he bikes to Plaza San Martín, we walk the remaining three blocks to Avenida Colón together, we cook dinner in his apartment, and then we dance the night away!

It’s truly amazing that we even found a salsa and bachata class, because we literally stumbled across it after staggering out of another salsa lesson that was far beyond our expert level. We were just meandering back to Tim’s apartment when we overheard salsa music and saw a guy inviting any passersby to try out the salsa and bachata class he was offering. Out of curiosity, we wandered over and found out that we could attend the first night for free and then decide the next week if we were interested in continuing. We had nothing to lose, so we hung around to discover that we LOVED this class! Pablo and Sandy, our instructors, are two of the friendliest and most energetic people I’ve ever met and do teach really well. Every week, we review what we’ve learned from previous weeks before slowly going through the new set of steps and rotating partners, since we’re seven girls and three guys! The movements occasionally feel basic to me, but I make up for that by focusing on my hips, since most of the girls in the class have this natural, rhythmic sway that feels ridiculous when I attempt it.

Also, since the class covers the Cuban style of salsa, we participate in a group dance every week called la reuda (the wheel). As I understand it, the dance is meant to imitate the phases of the sugar harvest, because beyond the normal moves and changing of partners as we “turn the wheel”, or simply travel in a circle, there are also some motions and sounds that we make toward the center: cosecha (harvest), tirar agua (throw water), and ¡azúcar! (sugar!), among others. It’s a neat exercise and a fun way to de-stress after learning so many new steps.

There are two things that, beyond the fact that I get to learn Latin dance on Thursday nights, I’ve really treasured about this experience. The first is the culture that we experience simply interacting with the other students in our class. Tim and I are the only non-Argentines that attend the workshop, so the others – especially the women – show a lot of affection for us and seem amused by how hard we try every week to learn the steps. (One of the guys, an elderly gentleman, also comments frequently that I dance well for a gringa.) Our instructors also demonstrate a certain preoccupation for our well-being, as evidenced by Sandy’s hug of concern the week after I missed class due to feeling sick. Overall, every night that we gather, there’s the common but nonetheless significant exchange of kisses in greeting and sometimes squeezing hands or elbows to show extra care, and it’s affirming to be embraced by these people every week.

Second, I’ve had the immense pleasure of spending time at the Casa Colón. I’ve mentioned this apartment a number of times in the last few blogs, so now I will explain. Casa Colón is a student residence owned by the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba but located off-campus. The majority of the students – perhaps all of them – aren’t originally from Argentina. There’s Tim and a few other Germans, Cynthia from Paraguay, and students from Spain, Brazil, Chile, and more, bringing the number up to a solid thirty. These thirty students share bedrooms for two, bathrooms, kitchen, and outdoor patio space, and with so many international youth living in one apartment floor, it’s definitely a happening scene!

Just some highlights:

  • A Brazilian girl who occasionally sings American country music (I kid you not)
  • Learning birthday songs from every represented country, in every represented language
  • Authentic German and Mexican food (YUM!)
  • A fiesta de disfraz (costume party) that I, unfortunately, missed while I was sick
  • Going salsa dancing together at the Plaza de la Intendencia
  • Being invited on apartment trips and excursions

And, my favorite, the conversation that I experience every time I meet someone new. (This doesn’t occur only at the Casa Colón by the way.)

“Disculpe, ¿me podés contar la hora / indicar aquel lugar?” (Excuse me, do you have the time / know where such and such place is?”)

“Por supuesto, son las… / Disculpe, no podría decirte.” (“Of course, it is… / Sorry, I couldn’t tell you.”)

“Che, vos no sos de acá, ¿verdad?” (“Hey, you’re not from here, right?”)

“No, no soy.” (“No, no I’m not.” In my mind: “Duh.”)

“¿Entonces sos de Alemania?” (“So are you from Germany?”)

Every time. Without fail. And they’re always so surprised when I say that I’m from the United States after that. I guess that’s what I get for being blonde, blue-eyed, and persistently pale even after three months of Argentine sun!

Well, this concludes part two of my April series. I’ll give you a teaser about my upcoming week: in the spirit of Latin dance, I start a tango workshop on Tuesday night! I couldn’t be more excited to add this new experience to my growing list. ¡Que anden bien hasta la próxima vez! And for my Wofford friends that are graduating very soon: ¡Felicitades, y que tengan experiencias inolvidables por todas sus vidas!


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