God bless Argentina for giving me the things I love most in life, ridiculous situations and great characters. Teaching English here has been the most hilarious and wonderful experience in the world. Every day provides a great opportunity for some sort of awkward cultural or social faux-pas from either my students or from myself. And I get the opportunity to peer into the lives of cool normal Argentines. Here are two examples -
I'm sitting in a sweeping grand office on the 26th floor in downtown Buenos Aires. The view from the huge windows out of the office overlook Puerto Madero, a very ritzy and modern part of the city, as well as the Rio de la Plata, the river and the ports connecting the city to international trade and travel. In front of me is a thin and fit man with grey hair of about 45 or 50. He is the CEO of an Energy Company, a professional, serious, but charming man.
If you can imagine Billy Bob Thornton at his very best, (looks wise, and NOT when he was in Sling Blade UH-HUH), and ignore all of his weird behavior, (I know this is hard and I'm not doing this CEO justice, but could you just fucking try to imagine this for me?), you would have something close to the man in front of me.
Sort of like this -
He is a very advanced English speaker and is currently reading an article I've brought about a Colombian revolutionary now working in the U.S. He comes to the word "fawning" and asks me to explain it. I do and we continue for a minute or two, but suddenly, he interrupts me.
"Ball licker," he says, out of nowhere.
Now, I'm accustomed to random comments out of left field, my mother is the queen of this. This one truly surprised and delighted me. I let it sit for a minute or two, to really enjoy the moment.
"Is that what you say?" he asks, "for someone who is fawning?"
"Weelll," I say, high-pitched. I try to find better words, but all I can come up with is brown noser. So I tell him anyway, I mean he just said ball licker to me, why not?
I was a substitute teacher for a nice guy at another Energy Company for three weeks. He was about 35 with a wife, one son and another little boy on the way.
One day he showed me a picture he had with him on his phone of his son at the zoo. He was explaining to me very slowly, (his English level was about intermediate), that his wife had recently taken his son to the zoo to ride the carousel, but it turns out the zoo was closed. His son was upset. Very upset.
"This is what happened," he said, leaning over to show me a picture of his son, about 3 years old, clinging to the cage bars of the gate at the zoo, on his knees, with his head thrown back, eyes closed and mouth wide open in an obvious wail of disapproval. This was a temper tantrum, I explained. My student learned two new words that day to use for the next time the zoo was closed or something else wasn't available to his little boy.
It took me a while to realize who this student looked like. At first I thought, this guy is like a slightly less attractive version of Mark Wahlberg. And then I thought, what the fuck is wrong with you?? He is just Mark Wahlberg's brother Donnie!
And there we have it.