Friday, October 17, 2008

The reflections of a mostly practical girl who had to indulge in a little diva action

Today was a great day. Not only was it an amazing hair day (loving this dry weather of late) but my lesson this afternoon went pretty well. My only student was a 33 year old man named Juan who comes from a very poor neighborhood. He comes to get free lessons and then goes back home and teaches all that he learns to his friends. I taught a vocabulary lesson on how to cook a pasta sauce. The most difficult words for Juan were ingredients and stove. By the end he could tell me the ingredients of his favorite meal to cook (mash potatoes) but I'm not so sure he understood what a stove is.
After class I went to a salon where I had made an appointment to have a manicure. Let's just say that a manicure and a pedicure are very different here than in America. The manicurist brings over her little station that includes a seat for her, a small desk for my hands, and drawers below her seat filled with everything from the nail file to the nail polish. Also, the whole thing is done on the cushions that double as a waiting area. There is no scrubbing, just filing, trimming, moisturizing, and polish. I chose a bonito morrado (pretty purple). The woman after me liked it so much that she had the same color painted on her toes and nails. I spoke to them in the best Spanish I had, which was not much, and the other customer knew a little English. In that way I had a very pleasant time there and even learned a new word: pegar. This word is very versatile. It means to stick (as in are your nails still sticky?), to punch, to kick, and to spank. It is a very useful word to know. I was very surprised however when the woman who spoke a little English had her pedicure done. She just put her foot on the woman's thigh and it involved NOTHING more than a polish. Not even a file or a scrub. I'm not sure if this is because it costs more, or because it is just not done, but the things that could have done to that woman's toes with a cuticle clipper...crazy. There are no massage chairs with soaking tubs here, or maybe there are in very nice places but it is completely normal for a woman to put her foot directly onto her pedicurist's thigh for her polish job.
On my way home I noticed other things that are very different here in Buenos Aires. For example, there were people taking the recycling out of big bins. I'm not sure if they were employed by the government or if they are self employed, but it was quite a system they had going. A man and a woman removed the bottles by hand from the bin and relocated them to a cart while a man in the cart jumped up and down to crush the bottles. Now I know this is all sounding like I am an ethnocentric American who thinks everything in her country is done better, but on the contrary I like the way things are done here. The manicurist and her customer were great friends, and everybody kisses everybody when they see each other. They spoke the whole time and not just about superficial things (from what I can tell). Of course there are many problems with this country and things are very different here but while I note the funny differences in our cultures, I do not judge one as better than the other.
Of course some things never change. On the way home I passed by a very old couple with the woman leading the man by a few shuffling steps. As I passed she yelled back to him "Que!?!" in her old lady voice and he repeated his sentence just as quietly as he shuffled along behind her. Old married couples are the same everywhere you go.
With my inner diva fulfilled and my manicure safely at home I believe I have time to study a little Spanish and to play a few games of backgammon. However, I have also realized that this time of day is the perfect time to work out. There is this amazing gym one block from us with classes in the bottom floor. It’s so small and right on the street. It could also be a great way to learn Spanish. But it’s great because you don't go out till midnight here anyway, and so you don't eat dinner until 10 and so you have this wonderful time after work and before dinner to do whatever you please. So I will go to it!!

1 comment:

Ann Behar said...

Julia I love this post! I love the way you catch the little details about the culture. In a way your descriptions help us see our own culture a little better as well. Keep taking the time to relate these little experiences in your blog--they are wonderful!