Aug 31, 2013

A question answered with a quote: Caracas (Venezuela) edition

Update: ... In the best way possible

With that I present to you the Caracas (Venezuela) edition of 'A question answered with a quote'.

"You came here just for basketball? That's crazy!"
Local: What's your plan for 2 weeks
Me: Survive!
Local: You'll be fine. Venezuelans are surviving everyday
Adiasongue Makenda Pamzo (Kikongo: Show me the way to happiness)
Person 1: ... Es psicologico
Person 2: "It's just a dream"
"Si no hay amor, que no haya nada" (Espanol: If there is no love, there is nothing)
I don't know where I'm going but I'm on my way
Take a picture with your mind
I shouldn't just keep telling you where I've been

It's an adventure. And we're all on it.
- A question answered with a quote: Chile edition
- A question answered with a quote: Argentina edition
- A question answered with a quote: Caracas (Venezuela) edition
- A question answered with a quote: Brazil edition
- A question answered with a quote: Ecuador edition
- A question answered with a quote: Colombia edition
- Find my original 'A question answered with a quotes' from Europe

Aug 22, 2013

When words fail: Language and Connection in South America

I knew that the language was going to play a part in my South America experience but didn't predict it to be so pivotal. Most of the quotes I've collected in conversation have been on the topic of language. I've felt isolated with the language barrier before (Solo in Sevilla) and been the odd one out living with bilinguals (a month with Brasilians in Porto) but this feels different.

I'm sure most Westerners would have experienced some disconnect whilst traveling. When you're passing through, one can always manage with commonsense and body language. It only dawned on me upon arrival that South America is the only continent where English isn't the primary bridge language.

The hostels I've stayed at have mostly been occupied by regional and interstate travelers. Its great in some sense because it forces you to interact in Spanish but offers no reprieve if you just want to relate to someone after a day spent being mute in an alien place.

VIDEO: 'Waking Life' (2001) "Words are inert"  
Waking Life (2001)
KIM KRIZAN: Because words are inert. They’re just symbols. They’re dead. You know? And so much of our experience is intangible...
The litte Spanish I know has largely been through 6 weeks of immersion. I've found the best way for me to learn is through necessity, a sense of survival. For some reason the thought of studying turns it into a chore but converting it into a story or discovering things organically seems more interesting somehow. Its a quirk in my wiring.

I've only taken two formal lessons thus far. The first was in a Casa of Creatives in Valparaiso, Chile. I had dinner with the 'Lab 00' collective a few nights previous after a recommendation through a CouchSurfing connection. My second lesson was through Expanish in Buenos Aries, Argentina. I found a flyer in my hostel and was intrigued by the complimentary Crash Course for the first of 5 mini modules. The place offered several packages to cater for the different needs and time constraints of Students. From people who required Spanish for Business or wanted a more immersive Argentinian experience, learning the language whilst perhaps taking Tango lessons and staying with a host family. The school offered a space not only for studying, it aimed to foster a community to better integrate oneself in Buenos Aries.

In case you're wondering how my language is progressing. The night after my lesson, I explained this Simpsons gag to a guapa who spoke no English. Incentive goes a long way ;)

"Psiquiatra infantil: ¿Dónde amigos imaginarios vienen a morir"
In no way did I do a direct translation but I feel I got it across
Ultimately language is about relating to people. Sharing a common language isn't what unites us, its a shared philosophy on life, taste and references. I'd previously only thought about the language barrier through the prism of being understood - ordering meals, getting around or sharing a story. As I've been forced to become even more observant and a better listener, I now see language as a way to better understand.

Find my other related posts here:
 - "The most important things are the hardest to say". The trouble with language 
- A question answered with a quote: South America edition
- Pete Holmes on "getting into it" - People watching, connecting and conversations

Aug 14, 2013

A question answered with a quote: Argentina edition

Argentina has been great as far as improving my Spanish goes. I don't know if my confidence has grown or I've just been luckier with the connections. I've spent whole days with people who've spoken less English than I know Spanish, all you really need is a patient ear.

I've found it helpful to be around confident Spanish speakers who aren't native to the language. They speak slower and talk in a rhythm that mimics how you think. For the most part the travelers I've met during this low season have come to South America to improve their Spanish, usually French. I haven't met too many people who are winging the language. The majority of travelers you find in South America are regional, the language barrier often remains but they're more willing to connect being on the road.

My goal of finding more Spanish quotes is coming together. With that I present to you the Argentinian edition of 'A question answered with a quote'.
If you lose, don't lose the lesson
We're all just DNA and memories
The one thing you can't pay for is curiosity
¿dónde está el perro (Espanol: Where's the dog?)
Derived from "A boire ou je tue le chien" (French: A drink now or I kill the dog)
"Que pais?" (Espanol: What a country?)
Used for any WTF cultural difference
"Chicken with a hand"
Derived from expression "La mujer, el pollo y el marrano se comen con la mano"
(Espanol: Women, chicken and pigs are eaten with hands)
Learning the language is just like Basketball. People worry too much about missing shots
or getting blocked but you'll only learn by being out there.
I didn't need much Spanish with locals,
people bended their mouths to speak with me
sólo sentirlo. luego actuar
(Espanol: Just feel it. Then act)
Selective ignorance is bliss
If you start it [you don't have to wait]
"Today is life. Tomorrow never comes"
The life we see through Tourism is a performance but funnily we get what we want.
- I'm lost but I'm happy
- We're from a small town, there's nothing to do. But we have friends and that's all that matters
Hacese la rata (to skip school)
Espanol: I made myself the rat
- A question answered with a quote: Chile edition
- A question answered with a quote: Argentina edition
- A question answered with a quote: Caracas (Venezuela) edition
- A question answered with a quote: Brazil edition
- A question answered with a quote: Ecuador edition
- A question answered with a quote: Colombia edition
- Find my original 'A question answered with a quotes' from Europe

Aug 12, 2013

Argentina observations: Do you really want to live forever young?

As I looked out the window of a library with a book in a language I didn't understand. The thought dawned on me "WTF am I doing here?". I began pondering a question I hadn't really thought about before, Why was I still around Universities a decade removed from graduating?

4 Observations here might answer why:
'Greenberg' (2010)
ROGER: It's weird aging right, like WTF is going on?
IVAN: I know. Youth is wasted on the young.
ROGER: I'd go further. I'd go: 'Life is wasted on people.'

Watch the 'Birthday scene' here (44s)
The I.Sat Cable Channel
Based out of Buenos Aries, I.Sat is an awesome Cable Channel that plays all over South America. Largely curating Indie fare it was advertising screenings of 'Greenberg', 'Blue Valentine' and 'Somewhere' (2010) during my time there. I grew up on Kevin Smith but have matured to Richard Linklater slacker films. For some reason I've always enjoyed stories of characters in arrested development.

Expression and Comedy
Interestingly the night before the library epiphany I had been invigorated because I had hung around my first Comedians in South America. This was the type of thing I enjoyed doing back home in Sydney. Nerding to Comedy, enjoying Improv and being a satellite around thoughtful artists. I tend to seek independents and the unsung in my art. I was naturally around Universities as it was the hotbed for raw expression and novelty. The upstarts were more experimental and could foster their craft, not yet encumbered by the realities of making a living as an entertainer.

Standup Comedy at 'Dada Mini'. Cordoba, Argentina.
No entienden Español pero we got to hang with the comics afterwards
The local Stand Ups, Juan and Nelson played their characters as an odd couple duo 'La Revancha de los Necios' (The Revenge of the Fools). The taller Nelson was acerbic, commenting angrily on Religion and Politics. His offsider Juan was neurotic and spoke more metaphysically. We discussed girls and the delicate nature of joking about Argentinian sensitivities like the recent Dictatorship, still an open wound. They often referenced their influences, Estados Unidos comic legends Sam Kinison to Bill Burr

I found these Comedians through sheer luck. My Hostel had two French long-termers who attended the Universidad. I've been told a quarter of Cordoba's population were students, one of the highest concentrations in the world. I had assumed both were on exchange but I later found out that one was a traveler like myself. His Sister had lived in the hostel as a student the year previous, he essentially took her place adopting her friends once she left. As he wanted to improve his Spanish, he sat in on lectures, spoke to Professors and made connections despite not being a fee paying student. Everyone seemed cool with it. The Comedians were people he met in his Literature class.

Universities in South America
The Universities in South America have been quite Punk Rock.
In Chile, students occupied Education buildings all over the Country for 'La Toma'. Demanding "Free Education", University activity had been suspended for months as the Government has been at an impasse during this election year.

Interestingly while Argentina wasn't being occupied, the schools I've seen thus far have been adorned with all kinds of protest graffiti. I've thought to myself that South America could never expect to be like the "Grown up" West if their Universities didn't clean up and look professional. Now I realise its a metaphor, maybe "There is no there there".

"Living the dream, Freedom returns to life"
(lyrics from Argentinian band 'Las Pelotas')
Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Ciudad Universitaria de Córdoba

Source: La imprenta de los Pueblos (Prints from the People)
Its foolish to expect Latin America to look anything like the West even if its Political and Economic situation were to click together. It has a fundamentally different psyche, its renowned festivity and vibrancy will inform their destiny. Like all people they seek a base of stability and security but its way of life is for them to define.

'Blue Valentine' (2010)
DEAN: What does potential even mean?
What does that mean, Potential?
Potential for what? To turn it into what?

Watch the 'Somebody's Husband' scene (45s)
Traveling and "running away from Reality"
Being on the road gives you a funny perspective on life. On the one hand you have the tranquility to notice and ponder the things that really matter but you're also blissfully removed from the pressures of daily life. Not unlike a student gathering information for a world they'll soon inherit or a Comedian spending their days crafting observations. The perceived lack of labour is what unites them all, as well as their transience. School is suppose to be a passage, backpacking a phase, comedy a container for burning thoughts.
Then again everything is fleeting. Happiness. Life.

Sometimes tranquilo, other times not: Rafting in Mendoza, Argentina
Its a common expression that travel is removed from reality, as if reality was somehow synonymous with settling or convention. We alternate between being springs and sponges, on the road its largely soaking experience usually with more time to spend than money. For myself it becomes a time for creativity, pregnant with ideas after experiencing so much and living improvisationally.

VIDEO: Greenberg (2010) "Impressed by You" 
FLORENCE: I'm impressed by you.
GREENBERG: In what way?
FLORENCE: You seem really fine doing nothing. You don't feel the pressure to be successful.
(backtracking) I mean, by other people's standards.
Time doesn't have to be a spectrum from immature to enlightened, the needle could just be on that part of the record. To answer the question, I'm around Universities because the moment sometimes brings me there. There was no reason for me to feel ashamed like I did when I initially pondered the thought. I'm a curious person, I must just like being there.

Other posts on being a student and lost in time:
- Bonding and being an honorary student at the SpoHo of Cologne, Germany
- A month with Erasmus Brazilians in Porto, Portugal
- 'Blue Valentine' and when love run its course
- 'Let's Get Real' Episode 5 preview: Black Holes (South America)