Allez les Lions! (Also, Vamos, vamos Argentina!)

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Less than a year and a half ago, I boarded a plane in Dakar bound for New York. As I stepped off the collapsible staircase and through the door of the plane, I realized that I had effectively left Senegalese soil and I had to hold back tears. A few drops squeezed out despite my best efforts and as they slowly rolled down my cheeks, I imagined that I must look like a bad French new wave film.

Before I realized that the cabin crew was 100% American, I apologetically explained to the flight attendant whose eye I had accidentally caught, “Je pars…,” and then I trailed off sheepishly. She smiled at me with the truly soft and sympathetic look of someone who has borne witness to this scene a million times, and she said simply, “I know.” I am not sure she did actually know what I had said, but she knew what my tears meant. I am leaving. I don’t know when I’ll be back. And it feels like I’m leaving a bit of my heart behind.

I thought of that moment on Tuesday evening as I crossed over the East River from Manhattan into Brooklyn. The sun was setting, and New York was at its most beautiful. Earlier that morning I had been briefly and emotionally reunited with the country I hadn’t been ready to leave, and it was wonderful.

That’s all a very melodramatic way to say that I watched the Senegal v. Poland game from a Senegalese cafe in Crown Heights, and I ate Senegalese food for the first time since being in-country, and I heard Wolof and West African-accented French all around me, and when Senegal won I may as well have been in Dakar for all the joy in me and surrounding me.

I am so thankful that New York is a city where you can experience a little bit of the magic of every other country on earth. And it is especially magical at World Cup time.

I’m going back to the cafe on Sunday for the Senegal v. Japan game and what I hope is a repeat of the euphoria of victory. (I won’t even get into the sadness of the Argentina v. Croatia game. I’m hoping for a miraculous turnaround that allows Argentina to advance and Messi to stop looking so forlorn.)

As we go into the weekend, I leave you with a few moments of Team Senegal adorableness.

This is why I ride with Senegal, indeed.

I’m just loco like that

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The chapter we’re studying in my Spanish textbook is called “Ida y Vuelta,” and it’s travel-themed. Yesterday, we split into two groups for an in-class activity in which each group had to come up with a travel adventure plan to present to the other group. Details were to include where we’d go, what we’d do, how long we’d prepare for the trip, and how we’d finance it.

I sheepishly reported to my group that I have a real-life travel adventure plan I am hoping to put into action soon. When I told them what it was, it sounded so much like fantasy that I started passing it off as such to hide my embarrassment. “Primero, voy a ir al Senegal para practicar mi francés, y luego voy a ir al Argentina para seguir aprendiendo mi español, y voy a ir de un país al otro país por, erm… no sé… viajar alrededor los otros países del mundo, quizas?” Which, if I spoke proper Spanish, would translate to, “First I’m going to go to Senegal to practice my French and then I’m going to go to Argentina to continue learning Spanish, and I’m going to get from one country to the other by traveling around the world, maybe?”

We ended up fusing that plan with everyone else’s much more modest travel fantasies (tomar el sol en Florida, conducir por México, viajar a Praga para ver los museos) and decided we would finance our now wildly-untenable trip by working really hard in a restaurant for two months beforehand and selling our travel photos to National Geographic during our trip – which actually sounds much more plausible than the idea of me circumnavigating Africa in-between language immersion stints.

At one point while trying to explain the plan, my classmate asked the teacher, “Cómo se dice, ‘crazy'”?

I piped right up, “Loco!” Because if you harbor a dream as far-fetched as mine, you’re going to know that word in many languages.

[Photo: Fumigraphik]

español no es fácil

studying dog

Last week, I got demoted in Spanish. The teacher spoke with me after class and told me she thought I’d be better off in Level 3 than Level 4, where I was having trouble holding my own, to put it mildly. Even though I knew she was right, and had asked the Spanish coordinator to go down a level before the class even started (to which he encouraged me to stay put, give it a week, and re-assess), it stung to be called out as the one out-of-her-depth kid holding up all the others. That’s not quite how my teacher put it – but in contrast to my Spanish, my English language inference skills are excellent, and that’s exactly what she meant.

Apart from my wounded pride, though, I’m happy to have made the switch. Level 3 feels much more appropriate to my aptitude, or lack thereof. And my new teacher is from Buenos Aires, which is awesome because a. falling in love with Argentina was my inspiration for picking up Spanish again (fifteen years after falling in love with Barcelona was my inspiration for attempting to learn Spanish the first time), and b. Argentine-accented Spanish is the most amazing-sounding thing on Earth and I want to be around it as much as possible (though I will never in a million years be able to replicate it).

In completely unrelated news, here are some interesting reads that I missed the chance to post last Friday:

The moral case for eliminating borders completely 

I so wish I had gone to a dual-language public school. They are on the rise. 

Six travel apps every solo female traveler should have

Studying the Pompeians’ lives, rather than their deaths

Can you imagine flying across the Atlantic for $150 round-trip? It may soon be possible…

36 hours in Buenos Aires (though my 36 hours would be a lot different than the Times’)

Have a good week!

[Photo: Francisco Martins]

Wild Tales

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I went to see “Wild Tales” knowing nothing about it except that Almodóvar was one of the producers, and I love Almodóvar.

Embarrassingly far into the movie I realized it was set in Argentina and not Spain as I had originally assumed. I wish I had recognized the distinctive accents but they went completely over my head until one of the characters said he was on the road from Salta to Cafayate, city names I recognized from my tour book.

Ever since my trip last winter all things Argentine fill my heart with joy, and this film was no exception. But it would have filled my heart with joy regardless of its provenance. It had all the trappings of the best of Almodóvar – dark twisted humor, absurdly over the top sex and violence, flamboyantly flawed characters. Some of it was a little anxiety-provoking but the net effect was glee.

The movie was comprised of a bunch of thematically related vignettes and in the last one I *think* the actor was the same guy who was pointed out to me in a Buenos Aires restaurant as a famous Argentine star. I’m not entirely sure, but I remember thinking the guy in the restaurant looked like a blond Ben Stiller, and this guy looked like a blond Ben Stiller*, and how many blond Ben Stiller lookalikes are there in the world? Either way, I recommend the film!

*…though not at all in the image above. So maybe I’m completely off.

My own personal not-very-dramatic cliffhanger

selfie in the parkMy new miles credit card arrived in the mail and I was thisclose to registering for the NYU Spanish class with it, but nagging doubts held me back. Is it completely stupid to begin studying one language when you are just getting the hang of another one? Will it confuse my brain and ensure I learn neither French nor Spanish effectively? Wouldn’t it be a more satisfying use of $500 to go on a vacation somewhere Spanish-speaking instead? Or to put the money into my savings account towards my immersion sabbatical? Do I have the discipline to attend three hours of class each week after eight hours at work? And will I actually put in the time to do any of the homework when I already spend two nights a week practicing French?

Then there are the misgivings about my nascent plan to spend my winter vacation in Paris. Why on earth would someone with seasonal affective disorder go to a place that’s even grayer and damper than the one where she lives? Shouldn’t sunshine and heat be on my agenda instead? Why would someone with limited funds go somewhere she has been before and did not feel the need to ever go back to? Is it not silly to spend my one week out of town in another humongous town, doing things that are the French equivalent of the same things I do back home?

Both decisions seem like they come down to one central question: Will I allow myself to embrace plans that are completely illogical simply because I really want to do them?

Stay tuned to find out…

(Photo: my most contented moment in Argentina, posted here to remind me that sometimes the best decisions are also the most random ones, made by an inscrutable heart.)

stockpiled links

bathroom readers

Have been meaning to share these for awhile… Luckily none of them are time-sensitive and perhaps they even get better with age. 🙂

Awesome idioms from around the world (my favorite is the Polish one)

Andre in Argentina! (My personal motherlode – French practice & Argentine nostalgia)

Ways (beyond Duolingo) to learn Spanish on your phone

A new (beautiful) French bookstore has opened in NYC

How to be French

This book sounds right up my alley

So does this one about French food idioms