Testing the Waters -Wk. 1 Reflection

Buen día a todos. Today is a wet and rainy Sunday here in Rosario, Argentina, as it has been for the past two days. The non-stop rain came as a surprise and it feels like I am back in Oregon in the middle of December — or as my friend Nathan and I joked earlier today, the majority of the year. The week began similar to the beautiful and sunny tail end of last week and into the weekend, with streets filled by vendors, shoppers, aggressive drivers, and even a Michael Jackson look-a-like dancing on Córdoba street, attracting many spectators.

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For the interviewing and story development class I am taking here, I had to choose a location that I would write about, interview someone about, and above all else, NOT BORE OR IRRITATE THE PROFESSOR (he wrote this on the board several times in all caps). What came to my mind first was the Plaza 25 de Mayo, which our class had toured and is next to the flag monument (Monumento Nacional a la Bandera). I read a plaque on the statue belonging to “the precursor of Argentine journalism,” Mariano Moreno, who founded Argentina’s first newspaper, La Gazeta de Buenos Ayres, with help from Manuel Belgrano, who not only fought in Argentina’s wars of Independence but also created the elegant, blue and white striped Argentine flag that is celebrated today. This intrigued me and I had an urge to return and visit with the locals to find out why they are so drawn to this plaza as a place to unwind and what significance it has in Rosario. The first time I visited it, two young boys came up to me interested in my camera. I was curious to learn about them and eager to practice my Spanish with them but they seemed to only be interested in whether or not I could spare them some money, so they left.

Here is a picture of Plaza 25 de Mayo:

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The next day in class we talked about the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, who are the mothers and grandmothers of sons and daughters who had been kidnapped, beaten, tortured and who have disappeared during the Dirty War. At the time, the military junta saw the protests by young students and laborers as a threat to their ideals as a conservative, military society and acted as they saw fit. Many of these “desaparecidos” are still missing today and the mothers still march on Thursdays in this plaza, as a symbol of demanding attention and not giving up. The featured image atop this page is of me interviewing one of the last remaining Madres who isn’t in a rest home and still marches today. She spoke with a compassionate heart and a concern that doesn’t falter over time. She has not given up on the past and says that she won’t stop her current efforts.

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After I interviewed her and took her picture, a flood of supporters started pouring into the plaza to march around the statue, while journalists ambushed the Madre with cameras and recording devices. The Madre, Norma, addressed the crowd and expressed her thankfulness to the supporters who came.

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After this event, I walked to the University, where I met with local students to set up times to practice Spanish and spend time with them. Federico, the student I was paired with, is studying environmental engineering. He mostly spoke in English while I in Spanish, a mutually beneficial way for us to communicate and improve our speaking abilities in a different language. The next day, we all went to the journalism and communications school and met with students in the radio program. Several of the students offered me Yerba Mate (a trademark tea beverage of Argentina) while sitting down in the large classroom, as they did with the other students as well. Each week they split up and produce a radio program and a few of us students got to participate in the discussions. Most of the students spoke in English and I made a bold attempt at responding in Spanish as they asked for my thoughts on LeBron James and the Cavaliers taking home the NBA championship, Britain leaving the European Union and also the famed dance of Argentina, the Tango.

Here is a picture of me in the recording studio with the students and faculty:

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After this, I started talking to a student who likes photography and she offered to show me the photography lab where she has class. I went inside and her professor showed Nathan and me how to develop images in a dark room. It was a new experience for me and one that I have always wanted ever since I first gained a love for photography. The photo turned out substantially under-exposed — almost completely black — but my spirit was not broken. With that experience and a delicious ravioli dinner at a cafe across the street from the journalism building, our Friday was over, along with the first full week of classes in Rosario. Although a busy week, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Immersing myself into Argentine culture has been difficult and no matter where I go, I still get asked where I am from. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it just means that I stick out like a sore thumb. I’m being overly dramatic of course but it’s sort of true. And I will admit: I do love the attention that we get from our South American counterparts. Many of the people I’ve met so far not only love the English Language and our pop music, but also … our pizza! Who would’ve thought that a country so highly influenced by Italian culture and food would be enamored by the greasy, American pepperoni pizza. I’m learning something new each day. And on that note…

Nos vemos pronto. ¡Chao!

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