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5 posts from October 2013

10/29/2013

"Argentina vs. Peru soccer game" by Josh Taylor, University of Evansville

Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor

Before seeing the game, I knew that Argentines take soccer seriously, but I had no clue about how passionate they are about it.  Being able to watch the Argentina vs. Peru soccer game was an incredible experience.  Not only was this a regular soccer game, but this a qualifying game for the World Cup.  The energy in the stadium was electric; every person was on the edge of their seats the whole game.  I think some didn’t even sit down!  Every time Argentina was able to get the ball near the goal, the Argentines rose to their feet, getting ready to celebrate the goal.  If they didn’t get the point, there was an exasperated sigh of disappointment, but when they did score, the place erupted in shouts.  Every Argentine jumped to their feet yelling “GOL!” at the top of their voices.  Their celebration lasted minutes!  Whenever there was a “bad call”, the Argentines started protesting in the stands and let the referees know that they made a bad call. 

Watching this qualifying game was incredible!  I was able to see how passionate Argentines are about soccer and how much this sport means to them.  Even though Argentina has many different soccer teams, the people were able to unite for one team, the national team, to root for their country.  

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10/24/2013

"A Reflection about my Argentine Host Family" by Jack Suiter, Vanderbilt University

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When studying abroad, of course things one is accustomed to at home in the United States are going to make way for cultural challenges, changes, but most importantly, lessons and personal gains. What makes these adjustments more fruitful is one’s personal desire to invest in the city in which they are traveling – a large part of this depends on how comfortable they are in their living situation and throughout their daily life. During my experience abroad I have improved not just as a Spanish-speaker, but also as a person, forcing myself to expand my comfort zone to grow as a human being. Much of this transformation has been a testament to my extraordinary living situation here in Buenos Aires under the roof of Jorge and Monica Lezica. Both Jorge and Monica did a tremendous job in making my transition as seamless as possible and provided me with a comfortable living environment characterized by a mutual investment in each other’s life. The best example of this can be seen in our nightly dinners, in which we engage in worthwhile conversation and share laughs about topics of the day, and sometimes at each other’s expense – this of course makes me feel at home. Oftentimes their children, José (30) and Maka (28), come for weekly Sunday dinners, which are a great way for me to practice my Spanish in a larger group and get to see a little bit more into the lives of my host family. Just this past Saturday I was able to spend the day in Palermo for mother’s day with the entire family – I’m glad I have gotten the chance to take part in such family excursions. Throughout the day I can always feel comfortable approaching Monica or Jorge with any questions or concerns; in fact, I have been able to have quite personal discussions with both about my life, and more romantic and comedic exchanges about the girls of Buenos Aires and my entertaining weekend adventures. Jorge has been a great help in discussing economic topics of the day as well as lending travel advice while Monica has been diligent in helping me improve my Spanish (and in keeping a marvelously clean and beautiful apartment.) I mentioned to my parents in the United States that in a way Monica and Jorge have served as the grandparents I never had, giving me caring advice and life lessons through conversation and by example. Looking at their amazing, talented and genuine children one can only attest to the compassion and strength of the caring parents who raised them – each family dinner I feel more and more lucky to be living with such amazing host parents. Over the next two months I look forward to sharing more of my life within the apartment. I am confident that after the program ends I will carry on a lifelong relationship with these wonderful people.

10/22/2013

"Growing Up, Five Thousand Miles Away from Home" by Victoria Moroney, Georgetown University

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When I was young, the world was small and beautiful. To you, that may sound trite or simplified, and yet for me, that was just the way things were. My life, and everyone I knew in it, fit into neat little boxes that were easily understood.

The funny thing is, I don’t actually remember much about my childhood. Besides the trivial memories in which my small world was temporarily shaken, my brain remains hazy about those years.

Getting angry with my sister Megan, sticking gum in her hair, and then subsequently smearing peanut butter through it to get it out. Being childishly devastated when I learned that my dad was one month younger than my mom. Feeling guilt when I accidentally overfilled the upstairs bathroom sink, causing our kitchen ceiling to partially collapse. These were the small, harmless (and in hindsight rather comical) events that I considered upsetting enough to destabilize my otherwise balanced world.

It’s telling of the way our minds work that I only remember the details from the memories that I labeled in my head as ‘distressing’. It seems to be a trait of human memory that we can remember and emotionally re-experience events that have caused us distress in the past, while the happy memories slide further and further from our grasp. Is that overly cynical? I’m not sure. But in truth, I’ve realized that my childhood was too good, too idyllic, to remember. It’s no wonder my childhood memories are so sparse.

I used to read the newspaper. It’s funny to think about that now, that a young girl who knew so little about the world would sit down and read the paper. I only ever read the front page and the weather sections, since I couldn’t understand what other information a person could possibly need. And yet, some days, the paper never came. Strange, isn’t it? Yet I never questioned it.  My world was whole, and easily understood. If the paper didn’t come there was no blame to be assigned, nothing strange to wonder about. It just was. I was not raised to question, you see. That is only something I learned later, something I am still working on learning.

Img_3748 8.01.42 PMYears later, I learned that much of the world around me during that time had been carefully constructed by my parents, as if they were trying to build up a big enough wall around me so that the evils of the world could never reveal themselves. My mother confided to me that whenever I was told that the paper hadn’t come, my parents had actually hid it away due to some unsavory headline which my eyes were not ready to see and which my brain was not willing to understand. To this day, I’m not sure what stories were judged too inappropriate, which moments in history I missed because the protection of my innocence was deemed more important than the truth.

I remember coming home from school early on September 11th, 2001, an eight year old confused as to why I had to miss my ice cream date with my old kindergarten teacher. “Your parents will explain everything to you when you get home,” Mrs. Carella said to me.

My mom later told me that she hated that fact that she had to tell me what had happened. As a mother of three young children, 9/11 was something to be resented, not just because of the tragedy in itself, but because it had brought the real world crashing into our carefully built paradise. She was mad because she didn’t want us knowing that planes were actually capable of falling out of the sky, of failing. This was an inconvenient truth to which I was never meant to be privy.

You may shake your head incredulously, reading that. That the thought had never before occurred to me that a plane, a glorified piece of hollowed out metal barreling through the sky, could fall. And yet how would I have known that? My world had never before given me reason to think that was possible. Remember: I grew up not knowing how to question.

I’m not entirely sure when my bubble world began to crack. I used to think it was sometime during middle school, when kids began to talk to each other in hushed voices about secret things that they now knew about yet still didn’t understand. Or if not then, at least in high school, after I had come out of my shell and begun to acquire some life experiences of my own.

Yet now, I’m not so sure.

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Something about being here, in this city of twelve million people, five thousand miles away from home, tells me that I have been in my bubble all along. You see, my incapacity to remember specific memories is not limited to my childhood. It continues to this day, and sometimes I fear that if I didn’t write anything down, my memory would be blank.

In short, I got lucky. Like the waves gracefully rolling onto the beaches of Maine, life has been gentle with me. Just like the slightly worn look of footprints in the sand that eventually get washed away with the rising tide, life has smoothed out the path for me whenever things have gotten a little bumpy. Do you resent me for having it so easy? For being the one to pull the lucky straw? Sometimes I resent myself, if that’s even possible.

As I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day, she made a confession to me. “I hope you don’t mind, but when people ask me how you’re doing in Argentina I tell them you love it, but that you’re definitely out of your comfort zone.” At first, my mind instantly rejects this idea that I, the well-traveled and composed person that I see myself as, could possibly be out of my comfort zone here. I want to respond to my mother, “But I’ve never told you that, I’ve never said that was how I felt.”

But then, in that second, it clicks. You see, my mother is right, even though I don’t want her to be. I am out of my comfort zone here, out of my element, struggling to figure out where I belong in a city and country that is so different than my own. My whole life I have known my place in the world around me. Even going to college didn’t faze me, because I knew what I wanted to achieve and knew that college was a stepping-stone for me to get there.

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However, in Buenos Aires, I don’t fit neatly into the puzzle. I am a foreigner, an outsider, no matter how much I learn about this beautiful country and the people who live inside it. For the first time in my life, I have made it outside the walls of my carefully constructed bubble world.

Coming here has made me realize that although my parents long ago stopped constructing my pretty world around me, I never stepped outside of it. In fact, I took up the reins where they left off, dutifully building walls up around myself that allowed me to feel in control and confident and safe and comfortable. I didn’t understand that before coming here, because I had never known what it felt like to be anything else.

My mother, in all her astuteness, was more right about me than even she knew. Not only am I out of my comfort zone here, but also my Argentine life does not match up to anything in my previous realm of experience. Sure, people are people and cities are cities and at the end of the day we probably aren’t so different, right? That’s certainly what I believed before coming here, and it may well still be true, yet at the same time my life has never been so different.

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Being here is for me is a breath of fresh air. Or maybe, better stated, it’s like a cold gust of wind on a fall day that you weren’t expecting. Chilling, at first, and yet it somehow leaves you feeling refreshed. For me, being here means finally confronting all those newspapers that I never got to read, all the truths I never got to know. Being here means realizing that there are some things in life that will never fall into my realm of understanding, and that that’s okay. Being here is being truly uncomfortable for the first time in my life, and being here is real life, unedited and pure.

Even now, though, I resist this understanding of my time abroad. Despite everything, part of me still wants life to fit into my neat little boxes. Part of me still wants to be the girl who believes that I can be comfortable with anything, to believe that life is easily understood and works out how it’s meant to, as if there were a teleological destiny for all of us.

But reality, I’ve learned, is much messier than that. I have been lucky enough to live a life in which I am able to assert that “everything works out in the end.” However, I’ve realized that saying that is like a slap in the face for all those people for whom life hasn’t gone as planned. The world can be an unforgiving place, and it’s definitely not easily understood. This fact holds true whether you’re in Argentina or the USA or Antarctica. It just took me traveling five thousand miles away from my carefully constructed world to figure out what I had been missing all along.

Cheers to finally being uncomfortable, and appreciating every second of it.

Familia

10/09/2013

FALL 2013, LIBERAL ARTS + URGD, Issue II

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Special Edition! Everything about BA Community Engagement Area

Dear Colleagues, we would like to share this special Community Engagement edition, which reflects not only CIEE Buenos Aires' current social commitment, but also the result of 20 years working with the community. Please, join us in and enjoy these fantastic experiences!

Community Engagement: Introduction to the topic in BA.

The main goal of the BA Community Engagement Initiative is to frame both the community and civic engagement activities developed by students from our Study Center during their time in Buenos Aires. We would like to offer high quality service-activities, in terms of benefits for the community and learning for students, certifying the service excellence and the hours of practice.

According to the Service Learning framework adopted by the BA Study Center, a service practice involves activities in which the acquisition of rigorous learning is strongly related to a planned service action. Thus, the service learning initiatives attempt to develop a service project that entails a meaningful experience for the students as well as a concrete contribution to the organization in which they participate. Below we introduce the volunteer opportunities framing them in Service Learning practices, Internships and Independent Volunteer work.  

Service Learning Seminar

Established since 2005, the Service Learning seminar is the most consolidated opportunity for the students interested in volunteering in the local community. Fourteen students from the Liberal Arts program currently join in this class and obtain academic credits. Students’ commitment combine a weekly service practice in different NGO’S – that includes topics such as Community, Childhood, Education, Human Rights among others – and an hour and a half class session, which provides an academic background to enrich their experience.

Service-learning students have a substantial experience, because the course gives them basic knowledge of voluntary practices on social reality, historical roots of actual issues and the structure of NGOs themselves, to prevent students from engaging in a mere activism or an empty practice. Likewise, the experience requires a reflective framework to assess and optimize their practices. Therefore, the seminar aims to provide theoretical and methodological support to community service practices. In addition, students in the current course have demonstrated an interesting critical view towards the social situations in which the projects of their social organizations are developed and a great enthusiasm for the development of our course.

By Prof. Enrique Ochoa

The main purpose of the service learning class is to give students the theoretical tools and a place where they can reflect on their experiences and to achieve a deeper understanding about the social issues that they are working on. For instance, on October 1, Prof. Enrique Ochoa asked students to work in groups by organizations and make a “slide”, using colored pencils and markers on a poster, talking about positive and negative aspects of their volunteer work. Have a look at this experience in the next video:

 

Proyectos de voluntariado - S&L from CIEE BUENOS AIRES on Vimeo.

Following, we will share some of the current experiences developed within the frame of the Service learning seminar:

Volunteering at Centro Comunitario Barrio Mitre

I usually make the one-hour commute to Saavedra on Tuesdays to volunteer at the Barrio Mitre community center by helping students with English homework, but early last Saturday morning some of the other volunteers and I made the trip for a community tour. Our weekly volunteer work sometimes feels limited to grammar worksheets and games of hangman with the kids, so learning the history and current problems of their neighborhood provided contextual depth to our work and gave us a lot to think about.

Though not officially recognized by the city as one of the 48 barrios porteños, Barrio Mitre just celebrated over 50 years of existence after a concentrated effort to re-build the 6-block area after a huge fire in 1958. We talked about Barrio Mitre’s current problems, and the list is long: frequent flooding, disputes and with neighboring communities (the rest of upper-middle class Pte. Saavedra is famous for mega-mall Shopping DOT), discrimination, their relationship with the city government, crime and violence. Though it was unsettling to see villa-like houses in the barrio on one side of the street and a swanky high-rise on the other, our guide, Lia, told us that many families feel pride and ownership about where they live.

Though we discussed some heavy topics, the tour wasn’t all frowns — we saw some inspiring community activities going on and got to talk with some cool people! We spoke with a recycling workshop, an art workshop busy re-painting a mural, and Lia listed an impressive number of activities and events that go on at the center each week. I headed back to the middle of Buenos Aires with some questions stewing in my brain. What should our role as short-term volunteers at Barrio Mitre be and what goals should we set to fulfill that role? How can we extend our hands beyond the scope of English teaching to empower the kids at the community center? If we expect the kids to learn from us, we must in turn keep our minds open to learn from them and from their community. The community tour was a great beginning step in that exchange, and I hope that as the volunteers solidify our long-term projects and continue building relationships with the kids we can deepen both the learning and the service we are working on! 

by Susanna Jivotovski, Georgetown University

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Volunteering at Intercambios

This semester I get to work with the Argentine non-governmental organization Intercambios as part of the coursework for one of my CIEE classes. Intercambios works with many drug related problems, including HIV-AIDS, rehabilitation and the stigmatization of drug users. I’ve only worked with Intercambios for about a month now but already I’ve been given a few great opportunities. On my first day on the job, I got to help out at a conference that Intercambios hosted at the National Congress. I was able to see a diverse group of people, from journalists to politicians, from all over Latin America discuss drug related issues. I’ve also been translating a lot of interesting documents, like political candidates’ opinions about drug laws. I’ve been learning so much about drug related issues in Latin America while improving my Spanish and I’m excited to continue my work there.

by Hannah Bernard, Grinnell College

 Volunteering at Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora

For the on-site portion of my service-learning seminar, I, along with two other CIEE students, have been spending four hours a week at the offices of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Founding Line. My particular project involves cataloging every document related to Maria Adela Gard de Antokoletz, one of the founders of the organization. Once I’ve collected all the documents, I’m partnering with the National Archive of Memory to photograph them, upload them to an online database, and finally select the most important items to be featured on the Mothers’ web site. That way, we can highlight the work of one of the earliest, most courageous Mothers while also making sure she is never forgotten.

by William Janover, Brown University

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Volunteering at CODESEDH

As part of CIEE’s Service Learning Seminar I have had the incredible opportunity to work with the human rights organization CODESEDH. CODESEDH’s is involved in a number of trials against the former military dictatorship. Their researchers collect evidence, their lawyers serve on the prosecution, and a team of psychologists provides support for witnesses and their families. For my first couple of weeks at CODESEDH I attended the ESMA trial and recorded the testimony of victims of the clandestine detention center. Now my main assignment involves researching information on several scientists of the National Atomic Energy Commission who went missing during the dictatorship. The information I collect from the newspaper archives of the National Libraries is sent to a CODESEDH legal team to help with their case. It as been an amazing experience to see CODESDH play a role in a human rights process that is unique in the world and very fulfilling to do useful work for them.

By Joanna Rothchild, Reed College

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Internships: the newest community engagement opportunities

Five students from the Liberal Arts Program, who demonstrate strong academic skills, are doing internships in public and private organizations where they can achieve a deeper understanding of the subject of one of their CIEE courses and they are gaining professional experience. This semester we offer three positions as Research Assistant at the National Senate which links with the CIEE course International Relations of Latin America, and two positions as a Collaborator writing cinema and literature reviews which links with the CIEE course of Contemporary Argentine Cinema in the Latin American Context and the History and Literature: A Reading of 20th Century Argentina through Literature from the Centennial to the Cacerolazo.

We know it is an important institutional effort to make these arrangements for the CIEE BA Study Center, but we are confident in the students’ commitment and we expect that they will do an amazing job this semester. In addition, these students will not only achieve a deeper understanding of their CIEE Courses, but also make a quality leap in their knowledge of the Spanish language.

Afterwards, we will share some comments of both students and professor about these amazing experiences.

Collaborator at cinema and literature journals

During the Spring 2013 Semester, Carolyn Levine (Kenyon College), a student from the Liberal Arts Program, mentored by Prof. Hernán Sassi, carried out the first internship as a collaborator for a cinema journals. As a result, Carolyn published one of her reviews at Letra Celuloide, which is a magazine of literature and films reviews by PhDs, professors and other professionals in the area. 

This Fall Semester, Carly Wakshlag (Grinnell College) and Molly Zweig, (Indiana University) both students from de Liberal Arts Program, are writing reviews under the guidance of a tutor and sending them to very well-known cinema and literature journals, like Letra Celuloide, Eterna Cadencia, No returnable and Otra Parte. This experience might not be possible without the detailed accompaniment from Hernán Sassi who is the mentor for both students.

Before having been accepted after their interviews and having planned the three publications that they will present, Carly and Molly focused on their first jobs. Before beginning the writing, they learned about the types of articles that should be written, and they read texts from the journals in which they wanted to publish (Otra Parte, Semanal and Letra Celuloide). Then, they presented the first drafts and now are in the process of editing have a final draft of each of their first assignments, which will be presented in their respective mediums in two weeks.

As a initial instance of one of the future jobs of each student (a critical review and an article about literary adaptation), we went to the movies at the Belgrano Multiplex Cinema to see the premier of the film Wakolda, based on a novel written by writer-director Lucía Puenzo. There, we had the opportunity to witness a public interview with the director in one of the official showings of her third film.

By Prof. Hernan Sassi

 

This semester, I have the opportunity to write for a cinema and literary magazine as part of an internship through CIEE where I work closely with my cinema professor, Hernán Sassi, to create movie reviews of Argentine films.  I initially applied for this internship after a few weeks in my New Argentine Cinema class – I have always liked film and enjoyed a film and television class I had taken the previous semester in the United States.  I thought the internship would be a good complement to what I was learning in class and also another way to learn more about Argentina through its film and culture.  Though the work is hard ­– I have never written movie reviews in any language – I am really interested in the movies and improving my writing.

 One notable part of my internship is getting to see special screenings of films.  A few weeks ago, I went with Professor Sassi and another student to see Wakolda, an adaptation of a book about an Argentine family in the 1960s who meets an incognito Josef Mengele, a Nazi perpetrator responsible for performing gruesome medical experiments in concentration camps. Historically, many Nazis fled to Argentina after World War II and went into hiding, only to be discovered by intelligence forces or die inconspicuously.  We saw the movie before it was out in theaters, and afterwards we got to participate in a question and answer session with the book's original author and the film's director, Lucía Puenzo.  While the movie was excellent, the most interesting part was hearing the discussion afterwards.  Many members of local Jewish community, museum curators, and historians who helped Puenzo with this project were in attendance and asked probing questions about the making of the film and its history.  The questions helped me think about the film in a new way and gave me plenty ideas for my review. I am looking forward to seeing what more interesting films the semester holds and improving my Spanish in the process.  

By Molly Zweig, Indiana University

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Research Assistant at the National Senate

Three students from the Liberal Arts Program are working as research assistants at the National Senate. This position encompasses different research tasks and participates on, whenever possible, the commission debates. Students will research a specific topic according to the commission designed. This semester, the students have been working on legislation on de-criminalizing drug use in a specific country – the case chosen this semester is the United States, Canada and Holland – in a comparative perspective with the case in Argentina.

During the past four semesters we have received twelve CIEE study abroad students who volunteered as research assistants in the office of the national Senator for the City of Buenos Aires, Mr. Daniel Filmus . The students, ranging from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, have all contributed international comparative legislation papers that have informed the Senator's policy positions on sensitive and debated topics. Their work is primarily research and writing based, with emphasis on legal documents and media coverage, and their final paper is presented to the Senator in Spanish. The students all meet face-to-face with the Senator, who is the former national Minister of Education (2003-2007) and was once the director of CIEE and pioneer of its CIEE program.

During the first semester, three students (Glory Nwaugbala, Carly Peltier and Casey Jones) evaluated proposed Argentine legislation to regulate the controversial mining sector with comparisons and analyses from different case studies in the United States, Australia and South Africa. Next, a group of students (Michael Migiel Schwartz, Rita Kerbaj and Sumner Becker)looked at the Civil Code reform currently being explored in Argentina by comparing the most hotly debated issues surrounding rules for adoption and reproductive technologies in Australia, France and Canada. The third semester (Leslie Velasquez and Kathleen McDonnell) involved another topic that has been constantly making international headlines, that of the enormous shale oil and gas reserves found in Southern Argentina and the kind of legal framework be needed to regulate the industry. Students looked at what has taken place in the United States, Canada, and Germany to draw conclusions and proposals for the Argentine context. Finally, we are now working with three new students (Peter Cohen, Victoria Moroney and Abigail Arndt) that have begun researching the controversial issue of reforming Argentina's drug prohibition laws by analyzing decriminalization/legalization process in Holland, Canada and the United States.

Diego Filmus, advisor at the National Senate

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One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Buenos Aires were the political posters and ads plastered onto every free inch of space in the city. I quickly became familiar with the names of some of Argentina’s most well known politicians thanks to these posters, and at the same time fell in love with the Argentine political environment that differs so much from what I’m used to in the United States. As a student of political economy, I couldn’t help but notice that politics permeates every aspect of the daily lives of porteños, whether it be discussing elections with a friend over a cup of coffee, debating the government’s inflation policy, or protesting government policies in the streets.

I’m so excited and grateful to have the opportunity through the research position with Senator Filmus to involve myself in the vibrant political life of Argentina. Studying the effects of decriminalization of narcotics (…)  is an incredibly relevant topic, not just for Latin America, but also for the whole world, and I am enjoying researching a topic that has such important implications for the public policy of countless countries around the world, including Argentina.

By Victoria Moroney, Georgetown University

Independent volunteer work: JD Nafziger

Every Monday I go to a neighborhood (Mataderos) on the outskirts of city limits to volunteer at an after school program. The building is made of up several classrooms where all sorts of study help is offered. I help teach three one-hour classes back to back, first an arts and crafts class followed by two different English classes. It is an extraordinary opportunity to work with a diverse level of ages and English levels. I work with as young as 5 and as old a 16-year-old. Some kids only knew how to count to ten while others had a decent base of vocabulary. It’s chaotic at times but always a worthwhile adventure.

By JD Nafziger

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Bonus track! 

Subir al sur

CIEE BA, for the first time, invited and encouraged their students to participate in the Subir a la Patagonia intercultural meeting which will be held from November 27 to December 8 organized by Subir al Sur Program, from SES Foundation, which is a CIEE BA partner organization.

Subir a la Patagonia is an educational experience of social and individual transformation based on social service and the conference between them. It lasts for ten days and during this time; young argentine volunteers and volunteers from other countries of the world come together to work on a community service project designed and self-managed by a social organization, in this case Ruca Nehuen and Subir al Sur during the time leading up to the cohabitation.

Have a look at a past experience…

 

By Florencia Cadorini, Responsible for Subir al Sur program, Fundación SES

 

 

 



10/02/2013

"Playing with Shakespeare in Argentina" by Molly Zweig, Indiana University

Molly Zweig

Molly Zweig, Indiana University

Earlier in the semester, we had the opportunity to apply for several volunteer jobs/internships in Buenos Aires.  I had been enjoying my New Argentine Cinema class and I saw that one of the internship offerings was writing for a Cinema/Culture magazine with my cinema professor, Hernán Sassi.  This seemed like an interesting opportunity and a very good way to improve my Spanish.  I had the interview with Hernán, which wasn’t really an interview as the discussion was in the future tense (“So when you write the reviews, you will be meeting with me weekly,” etc.).  About two hours later, I got the job. 

First thing I learned is that these were not nice, two dedos gordos (thumb, literally fat fingers) up reviews, these were literary, academic, and way beyond my Spanish writing capacity.  The movie I was to review was Viola by Matías Piñeiro, an hour-long film that follows the lives of women in a production of Twelfth Night musings about life and love.  The director mixes the scenes of Shakespeare in and out of the theater, combines Viola Shakespearian with Viola Actual, and loops and repeats scenes and dialogue throughout the film.  I am a big Shakespeare fan, so I was looking forward to getting to study another of his plays. 

How I felt after my first draft of Viola.  (Photo: Katherine Larson.)

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The first draft of my review did not go so well.  Hernán used phrases like, “These ideas do not interest me” and “Perhaps when you rewrite this you can make a new file.”  I have had meetings with editors and professors that have not gone well, but this was a new low—all in Spanish, I was having difficulty understanding everything he said but I knew he was not pleased.  At the end of the meeting, I was told to keep the sentence in which I said who the director of the film was, and one other sentence that we were going to turn into a brand new review.  The diamond hiding in the rough of my review was my quoting (note: not anything I had actually created, just something I took from the dialogue) the following line from Viola as she seduces Olivia: “I can say little more than I have studied, and that question's out of my part.”

This sentence led us to the idea of the value of the copy and how an exact copy of a text can be something new and relevant in a new context.  Hernán recommended I read “Pierre Menard Author of the Quixote” by Borges to add another literary connection to my review.  In the story, Pierre Menard sets out to make an exact copy of Cervantes’ text, and the narrator of the story (Borges?) asserts that it is something new and a new feat of literature.  (You can read the full text of the story in English here). 

With serious help from Hernán, three weeks and countless drafts later, I had something that was close to a movie review.  To produce this 500-word piece of writing, I watched two films, read Twelfth Night, and struggled through Borges in English and Spanish.  I definitely cannot write that well in Spanish, so I really have to thank Hernán for all his help making it sound like an educated review.  Even after all of this work, we still don’t know if the magazine will accept the review.  In our last email, Hernán wrote,  “es una revista cool, y tu reseña es cool” (“It’s a cool magazine, and your review is cool”), so we will see what happens.  I am cautiously optimistic.