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2 posts from April 2014

04/28/2014

"What You See When You Don’t See" by Emma Kemler, Wesleyan University

Kemler Emma

 

 

Emma Kemler, Wesleyan University

One thing that I am saving up my pesos for is theater. There is so much to see here ranging from classical ballets and operas in Teatro Colón to more alternative, experimental theater in small and large theaters throughout the city.

One day as I was walking in m neighborhood I spotted a sign that said “Teatro Ciego” or Blind Theater. I was intrigued, so I looked it up and it was, in fact, theater for the blind, but many non-visually impaired Argentinians frequent this venue. This means that all the shows are performed in total darkness.

Emma blind

”Lo que ves cuando no ves” (What you see when you don’t see)

Of course I decided to test it out with a friend! As a student still learning Spanish, this experience was definitely quite a linguistic exercise as there were no visual cues to help me understand the dialogue. Instead, the sounds and smells in the theater were exaggerated and the audience members were even given caramels to chew and guided into the theater by the touch of actors to make the experience multi-sensory.

Ironically, the show was called “El Infinito Silencio” or the Infinite Silence despite the fact that most of the comprehension was through audition. Perhaps it is to say that silence can be much more than sensory. According to the plot, silence can be emotional (i.e. social ostracism). Going to this show not only made me acutely aware of my existence as a Spanish language learner, but also of the fact that to be blind, or without a particular sense, inverts the meanings and perspectives on what it means to have sensory experiences. In a way, I was out of my comfort zone doubly—I was immersed not only in a local Argentinian community, but also immersed in the blind Argentinian community.

 

A clip on the Argentine Center for Blind Theater (Spanish)

To take this one step further, my friend and I meandered down the same block where the theater was located and found ourselves at a local comedy club that seemed to be a venue right out the of the 1920s—it was a long hall with a tiny stage at one end and tables and chairs lining the rest of the hall. Humor is an extremely cultural concept and about 90% of the jokes and Argentinian slang went right out over heads. In this way, were stripped of our ability to comprehend, or made to be “symbolically deaf.”

What a contrast this night was—we go from being put in the place of the blind to being put in the place of those who cannot comprehend speech! We just smiled, nodded our heads, averted any questions posed to the audience, and laughed to ourselves at the cultural clash we were beholding.

04/22/2014

Spring 2014, Issue I

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Uca

Welcome to Buenos Aires!

We cannot believe how quickly time has passed with our spring 2014 students! Upon arriving, they felt a combination of excitement, anxiousness, curiosity and complete openness to the vast possibilities that Buenos Aires provides. Over the past couple of months, we have watched them explore, question and leave their comfort zones to settle into their active porteño lifestyles.

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Academic Orientation

After visiting university campuses in Buenos Aires and experiencing a busy shopping period with many options for classes, the students have finally settled into their homes and schedules. They are taking diverse classes at FLACSO, UBA, UCA and IUNA and many are even taking this chance to intern and volunteer with prestigious organizations all over the city.

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Cultural Activities

During orientation period, the students participated in a plethora of cultural activities, ranging from workshops and scavenger hunts to learning the tango and visiting a traditional folkloric restaurant. Read on for more details!

Workshops

We understand how difficult it may be for students to enter a new culture in a new country. Our workshops made the transition a bit easier as they allowed the students to openly ask questions and manage their expectations about various issues. We held workshops on housing and cultural situations; public transportation and safety; the particular style of Spanish spoken in this area; reflections on gender relations in the local culture; and, held a chat with former students that have come back to live in Argentina.

Soccer / Museum / Tour (Feb 24)

The students were able to choose from three recreational activities to share with the staff. Some students chose to get their game on in soccer, undoubtedly the most popular sport in Argentina and some chose to reflect at the Buenos Aires Holocaust Museum.

Museo

And, finally, others chose to observe the city’s history through a walking tour in downtown Buenos Aires and San Telmo neighborhood. Each experience was unique in its own way.

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Scavenger Hunt Remix (Feb 26)

As in any great city, one must learn to master public transportation to be able to get around independently. And in our program, a bit of independence is strongly encouraged! During orientation, we walked the students through how to use the Guia T, a local pocket-sized transportation guide, and we put their knowledge to the test in a scavenger hunt race.

Walking tour

Groups of students rambled around the city, stopping and taking pictures at main attraction points. At the final stop, they met with the staff at some of the yummiest pizza places in the city for lunch!

Tango Class at La Viruta (Feb 27)

Buenos Aires is famed for its passionate dance of tango. Dancing arm-in-arm on the streets of San Telmo or in dim milongas is ideal with good company, which is exactly what the students had waiting for them when they met up with staff members at La Viruta for a tango lesson.

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They learned different pasos, or steps, and were told to switch partners every few minutes. Tango is wonderful because it brings people together and this was a great chance for students to bond and meet locals.

Tango

Fuerzabruta (Mar 9)

After a 2-year tour around Brazil, New York, London, Moscow, Greece, Belgium, Holland, Israel, Spain, Taiwan and Manila, Fuerzabruta came back to where their incredible trip started: right here in Buenos Aires.

Fuerzabruta

We took the students to the Cultural Center of Recoleta to experience an incredible spectacle made up of acrobats, aerialists, swimming and music.

Tigre (Mar 14)

In mid-March, the students and staff took a day trip to peaceful Tigre, a beautiful port town in Buenos Aires province, which is adjacent to a delta made up of small islands. We took a train to the port and from there hopped onto a low boat that rode us through the river, surrounded by homes and buildings.

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Tigre

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Our destination was an island, where the students spent the day swimming, playing soccer and enjoying the nature.

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A few hours into our trip, the rain decided to make its way and we headed inside for delicious asado and some valuable hours of bonding, playing truco and learning about the traditions behind mate.

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Our way back to the city was a unique adventure in the rain!

Group Site Visit (Mar 23-28)

From March 23-28, we had various college representatives visit us from a number of U.S. universities: Jonathan Larson from Grinnell College; Arik Ohnstad from Vanderbilt University; Erin Pendle from Georgetown University; Katherin Aldag from University of Illinois at Chicago; and, Pamela Boeck from Oklahoma City University. Representing CIEE were Rachel Daroca and Betsy Parker.

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They had a wonderful time learning about both the Study Center and the city of Buenos Aires. They toured the Study Center, learned about academic offerings, visited the local universities and met several host families.

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One evening, the students, staff and group site visit members shared dinner at a lively peña.

La Peña Los Cardones (Mar 26)

A peña is a bustling Latin American style restaurant in which a group of musicians plays live traditional folklore music while visitors are served dinner.

Peña3

On March 26, the students, staff and group site visit members enjoyed a comforting dinner and live playful music at La Peña Los Cardones. It was a chance for everyone to bond, laugh together and take a peek into the culture of northern Argentina, which many students would be visiting in the following weeks.

Peña

Overall, everyone had a wonderful time experiencing a traditional yet ever-present part of Argentine culture.

Stay tuned for Issue II to read about the trips!

Until then, un beso!