Don’t Call My Name, Don’t Call My Name…
Nicknames are a common part of Argentine culture and they are granted in a no-holds-barred fashion. Any distinguishing characteristic will be zeroed in on and amplified. Whether or not your nickname is actually accurate has no bearing on the matter. Some can even border on the offensive. For instance, are you of Asian descent or possess any characteristics that might be considered stereotypically “Asian”? You will be called “chino” (chinese)- whether or not you actually hail from China is of no importance. Do you have a darker complexion? “Negrita” (little black one) for you. Not considered extremely slender? “Gordita” (little fat one) it is.
Based on the previous examples it can be easy to assume that nicknames are meant to be racist and offensive, but this is not necessarily the case. In Argentina, referring to your friend as “little fatty”, as ridiculous as it may sound, does not possess the same negative connotation as its English translation. Rather, nicknames are meant to be endearing and personal.
Obviously this may take some getting used to, as in the United States there is a tendency to not highlight one’s defining personal characteristics when bestowing nicknames and rather focus on personal experiences or habits. To be perfectly honest, in true United States fashion, when bestowing nicknames the whole act is meant to be kept as simple as possible. Thus if your friend has a long name, you simply think of a shorter jumble of syllables that still sounds mildly similar and call it a day. However nicknames in Argentina take a decidedly different route. In my opinion the best course of action is to not dwell on how offensive the English translation of your designated nickname may be, but simply laugh it off and embrace it wholeheartedly. Cultural differences, amiright?
Castaway on Gluten-Free Island
As someone who has been unfortunately cursed by the scourge that is a severe gluten intolerance, I admit that I was a bit apprehensive to study in Argentina. While abroad in Korea last semester, gluten was easy enough to avoid as the Korean diet consists primarily of rice/veggie/meat combos (even their national liquor- soju- is gluten free!). However, as the cuisine of Argentina is heavily influenced by Italy (think pasta, pizza, ect.), I was prepared to survive primarily on a diet of steak and potatoes. Argentina is the land of steak, after all, how bad could it be? As it turns out, the Argentines have found a way to add gluten to that too. One of the most popular dishes is milanesa, which is steak covered in a crispy gluten shell and fried to golden perfection. Buenos Aires is a parade of temptation when it comes to gluten. Bakeries line the streets selling piping hot empanadas (fancy Hot Pockets) and medialunas (mini crossoisants). Surprisingly, despite the abundance of all these delicious gluten-y options, when it comes to celiacs/gluten allergies/gluten intolerances I have never met a more accommodating country than Argentina. They have developed a label that can be placed on all foods that are entirely gluten free, thus nevermore shall I spend hours in the aisles of the grocery store scanning labels for possible poisons and angrily shaking my fist at the sky. The label- “sin T.A.C.C.” (meaning the product is free of wheat, barley, oats, and rye)- is placed on nearly everything, even the most unsuspecting and ridiculous items. Eggs! Salt! Milk! Items I never suspected could contain gluten I now scan with suspicion should I fail to see the handy “sin T.A.C.C.” label affixed to the front. What’s more, Argentina passed a law requiring every restaurant to provide at least one “sin T.A.C.C.” item on their menu. Sure, usually this just means a salad (which is not very appealing to me since I am not a rabbit thus I do not enjoy eating bowls of leaves) but nonetheless I appreciate the sentiment. So never fear, fellow castaways on gluten-free island, Argentina is the ship in the distance that is coming to save you from your sad exile.
Spring Break 2k16: A Descent Into Madness a.ka. The 30-hour Bus Ride Through Patagonia
Two weeks ago, I embarked on a journey into the magical land of Patagonia. I climbed the mountain on the Patagonia logo (Fitzroy!), saw a glacier (Perito Moreno) before the cruel grasp of global warming had reduced it to a mere puddle, and almost hit a few guanacos (llama-cousins) in a car. It was a wild ride to be sure. The middle of the trip was punctuated by the realization that my friends and I had no way to get from Bariloche to El Calafate. Being the broke college students that we are, we settled on the idea of a 30-hour bus ride in between the two cities (anything to save a few pennies!). We left at 7am and arrived the following day at 1pm, with our minds still miraculously sound and our bodies somehow still intact…
7am: Departure from Bariloche. Spirits are high, energy is low. We are the only passengers on the bus. A nap is in order.
9:20am: One friend is awake and begins to stare out the window as though she is contemplating all the decisions that have led her to be stuck on a bus for the next 28 hours. But you can’t beat that mountain view!
11:30am: Driver cranked up the heat to sauna-esque temperatures. We stop loudly squawking in English and resume our napping due to the stuffy atmosphere, which I suspect was the driver’s goal all along.
1pm: The driver begins to play a series of increasingly disturbing movies. First up is San Andreas- Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson at his finest.
1:45pm: Lunch is served. “Potato” puree with topped with a crumbled hamburger patty. A wilted bed of lettuce upon which a single slice of deli meat is resting, gently folded over a pile of shredded carrots. I opt for a Snicker’s bar instead.
3pm: After the thrilling Columbiana, the driver has now selected the classic road-trip movie Prisoners, in which Hugh Jackman captures and tortures Paul Dano in an abandoned apartment. Fun for the whole family.
4:50pm: The bus has slowed down to a baffling 30mph as we cruise through empty stretches of Argentine countryside. Save for the occasional guanaco or ostrich, there is not a soul in sight.
7pm: Due to a national “toilet paper shortage” (yes, that’s literally how our driver explained it to us) our bus bathroom is lacking in basic amenities. Thus the bus makes a much-needed pit stop at the depot in a tiny town. We stretch our legs and play with the local street dogs before hopping back on board.
10:30pm: Dinner is served. Chicken and rice, with alfajores for dessert. The accompanying entertainment is the movie No Escape in which a well-meaning man from the United States in trapped in a nondescript foreign country as they sink into chaos following a military coup. Foreshadowing, perhaps? I kid.
12am: Off to sleep, lulled into submission by the noise of the bus engine and cheap wine (the poor college girl’s substitute for melatonin).
9:30am: Awoken by the porter shaking my shoulder to offer me coffee and a muffin. I wave him off and attempt to wedge myself back into my chair for a few more hours of shut-eye.
12:45pm: Nearing the end of the journey. I take a few last loving looks at the row of seats that has been my home for the last 30 hours before gathering up my belongings and attempting to hide the fact that I fell asleep on top of a chocolate bar and melted the entire thing into the fabric of the seat.
1pm: Finally arrive in El Calafate. We stumble off the bus only slightly worse for wear and rejoice in breathing the non-recycled, mountainous air.
Okay despite my snarky comments, it really wasn’t all bad. The seats reclined nearly horizontal to give the impression that you were sleeping in a real bed. Despite the lack of basic amenities in the bathroom on board, it was similar to one you’d find in an airplane. And although this could just as easily be placed in the “bad” category, they did give you free food! In total, we saved about $150 and honestly there really isn’t a better way to see the landscape of the southern Argentina than by staring through the window of a bus (because you have nothing to do for the next 30 hours).
More Blogs From This Author
<p>My name is Catie Seltz-Drew. I am currently a junior pursuing a degree in International Studies. My semester in Buenos Aires will be my fourth experience abroad following a year in Italy in high school and two previous semesters abroad in Rome, Italy and Seoul, South Korea while in college. I have a passion for cooking and eating; I love learning about a country through its cuisine. After my semester in Argentina, I will graduate from Loyola and hopefully continue to travel and eat my way around the world.</p>