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

IMG_0994.jpg

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 spoof of a 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.

Advertisements

I’m just loco like that

departures board.jpg

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

wild tales poster

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

Clovis’ show

Clovis Pareiko's show
So, Clovis’ opening. It was delightful. His paintings blew me away. I had seen them online but that did not at all prepare me for the punch they packed in person. The color, texture, depth and luminosity were all so brilliant. Photos don’t do them justice, but here goes anyway.
Clovis Pareiko's show
Clovis Pareiko's show
Clovis at his show
The show was at Clovis’ studio in Bushwick, a neighborhood where I haven’t spent much time but have been wanting to explore lately. The studio space at first felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, an industrial wasteland, but actually it turned out to be a couple of blocks from what may be my new favorite spot in the entire city. I wish I had thought to take a picture but I didn’t and it was probably too dark anyway. But this one intersection where five streets met reminded me so much of Buenos Aires where the neighborhood of Colegiales borders Palermo Hollywood. First of all there was so much space that it didn’t feel like New York at all. Individual buildings seemed to have been constructed and/or renovated by the people who owned them to suit their particular needs and take advantage of all that space, rather than by developers working to create a certain style. There was art covering the walls of several buildings, and the non-gridded streets came together in a way that resembled B.A.’s many airy plazas. Plus we sat on a bench outside a chill but classy bar to eat sausages that tasted not unlike the chorizo I had at Miranda in Palermo. And then some guy walked by speaking Spanish, so the fantasy projection was complete.
Google street view saves the day! Bushwick:bushwick
bushwick
meets Buenos Aires:
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Between the energy of the opening and the thrill of finding Argentina in the most unlikely corner of Brooklyn, last Tuesday night was quite an adventure. Bushwick, I will be back…

:( World Cup sadness

before the World Cup game at Porteno

Well, that was depressing. I watched the final World Cup game at a packed Argentine restaurant in Chelsea. After one brief moment of overwhelming elation when it appeared as though Argentina had scored what could be the Cup-winning goal – unwarranted, because it was invalidated as offside – Germany scored the only true goal of the game in the last minutes of extra time. The room I was in fell dead silent. The owner of the restaurant, who had been leading patrons in rowdy song just moments before, muted the TV’s. We somberly watched the Argentine players cry. I felt fairly awkward knowing I was surrounded by people whose disappointment and sadness knew no bounds, while mine would inevitably be forgotten within a day (though my pity for poor Messi lingers on).

One thing that, unfortunately, will not soon be forgotten as I’m sure it will be stuck in my head for weeks: a gleeful chant taunting arch-rival Brazil, which inexplicably was still considered relevant and applicable for the Germany game and hence was sung over and over and over again til I practically knew it by heart.

To wit:

So at least I learned some Spanish on Sunday.

The words:

Brasil, decime qué se siente tener en casa a tu papá.

Te juro que aunque pasen los años, nunca nos vamos a olvidar…

Que el Diego te gambeteó, que Cani te vacunó, que estás llorando desde Italia hasta hoy.

A Messi lo vas a ver, la Copa nos va a traer, Maradona es más grande que Pelé.

(Photo: before the game, when spirits still ran high.)

este fin de semana, vamos argentina!

Keep Calm Y Vamos Argentina

After Wednesday’s nail-biter between Argentina and the Netherlands that was pretty much the exact opposite of the Brazil-Germany game the day before, I am so excited to cheer on Argentina in the World Cup finals this weekend. (That sounds like I actually know something about soccer and/or have unearthed secret Argentine lineage that would warrant a true emotional stake in this game. I don’t, and I haven’t, sadly.)

In celebration of the footballers I have come to know and love – for their amazing skill, awesome technique and adorable camaraderie as much as for their remarkably good looks! – here are some hispanocentric links for your weekend reading. Though you should really just be watching the Cup.

So, let’s start with one about that: This makes my love for Argentina grow infinitely.

And another: Gooooooooaaaaaallllllll!

And finish it off with something completely unrelated that I’ve never thought about before: language isolation among indigenous language-speaking Mexican immigrants to the United States.

Happy weekend!