Sunday, February 24, 2013

Asbestos – The Hidden Danger in Argentina’s Drinking Water

Until recently, Asbestos, known as Amianto in Argentina, was used to insulate the water tanks found commonly on top of Argentine homes. In the U.S., Asbestos levels in the water supply are constantly monitored by the water department. I was unable to verify whether Argentina's water department checks for Asbestos in their water supply, but I hope they do. Most people I asked (even doctors) were ignorant of what Asbestos/Amianto was or the threat that it represented. Regardless, the water tanks can pollute the water with Asbestos fibers and lead, even if the city's water supply isn't contaminated.
Old water tanks that use Asbestos/Amianto and lead pipes
Asbestos isn't the only health hazard that these tanks possess. The pipes used to carry water into a home contain lead. Over time, this can accumulate in a person's bloodstream and become toxic. 

Asbestos is a mineral found everywhere on Earth. There's no way to escape from it. It's in our air, our food and soil. The biggest health threat comes from inhaling large concentrations of Asbestos over time. Obviously, there isn't much danger of this happening from inhalation, but there are case studies that suggest that Asbestos fibers in the water supply may increase risk of Cancer in the digestive system.

Regardless of whether the risk is minimal or not, there's no reason why anyone should risk their lives by ingesting Asbestos or lead.

So, if you're living in Argentina and you have one of these old water tanks, replace it! I chose the brand TINACOS for my new water tank, but there are other brands you can choose from. You just have to do some research. 

Modern asbestos free water tank
A new tank will run you about 500 pesos (about a 100 U.S. dollars) and another 500 pesos to have it installed. I also recommend that you have the pipes that lead from the water tank to your home purged every twelve months. You'd be surprised how many contaminants build up in one year. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Adjusting To College Life At the Universidad Nacional De Cordoba

When I started attending La Universidad Nacional de Cordoba’s language school, I thought I’d pick the worst college to go to, but I’ve had a week to immerse myself in the college life in Argentina, and I think I may have had a change of heart.
The Language Building at UNC
I’ve enjoyed getting to know my fellow classmates. Since my arrival, I’d been virtually isolated at home. Now, I think I may have made a few potential friends. We’ll see. I’m also glad to get back on a daily routine. Since I haven't had any luck finding a job yet, the very least I can do is go to school. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still think that the English courses should be taught by native English speakers, but at least some of the professors are open to suggestions and corrections when necessary.
The picture on the wall is of Che Guevara - a famous Argentinian resistance fighter
My biggest struggle right now is with the Castilian course. I feel completely lost in that class. The professor is wonderful, but I don’t understand Spanish grammar. I have a terrible time keeping up with the professor. We did a dictation this week. I added an "h" to words that didn’t need them, and I failed to add them in words that needed them. I couldn’t figure out where the accents were supposed to go either. It's these lines on top of letters, similar to an apostrophe that tells the person where the emphasis of the pronunciation goes, so I just added random lines on top of any syllable I thought could use an accent. I also called a female horse a “caballa” instead of “yegua”. I always assumed that the word “yegua” meant a lady of the night. I guess there are two meanings for the word. The official meaning for a female horse is “yegua” according to the professor and the online dictionary.

During the Castilian/Spanish test, I left about 80 percent of the questions blank. I think I would have had a better chance if the test had been multiple choice, but nothing at the university seems to be multiple choice. 
Outdoors lunch area for students. It's extremely well lit at night
Overall, there is still room for improvement at the UNC. For instance, the university could use a career/major advisor department to advise their students on the best way to map out their college curriculum. Unfortunately, I’ve been advised that students have to figure things out on their own at UNC. I’m not sure if this is because the university is free or not, but that kind of sucks.
They could also add native English speakers to their language school, or at the very least, educate their professors better before hiring them. Their attempt to enunciate English words with a British accent is unintelligible, unacceptable and in most instances, laughable. I know it sounds awfully harsh, but it's also the painful truth. 
I know some of the students think I’m full of crap, and I can’t blame them for feeling this way. They don’t have the knowledge, the discipline, or the experience that I have from the States. I can only hope that there is some way that I can influence a change at the university so that it can benefit other students in the future.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nightlife in Nueva Cordoba, Argentina

A few posts ago, I mentioned how Nueva Cordoba was ideal for tourists and expats because it was modern and hip. Well, now, I'd like to show you why it's even cooler at night. 
Nueva Cordoba is filled with dazzling lights, amazing restaurants, some even have outdoor seating, which is perfect during the summer months.
The building at Paseo Del Buen Pastor, the women’s prison turned cultural center, has walls that change color, and water that shimmers with light. It's quite beautiful and relaxing. But it can get crowded pretty fast.
People go out to the caf├ęs and restaurants in Nueva Cordoba to sit and socialize for hours on end, and remember that Patio Olmos shopping center is within walking distance. 
It’s a perfect environment for people of all ages, single, married, married with children, and all walks of life.  
So, whether you're staying in a hotel, a hostel, or renting an apartment, get out there and mingle with the locals, or take a nice stroll through Nueva Cordoba. You'll love it.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Quality of Teaching at the Language School at UNC

After my negative experience at the anthropology building, I decided to go as an observer to the language school at the Universidad Nacional De Cordoba (UNC). The administrator at the front desk was as blunt as a board when she told me that I could enroll as a conditional student, but I needed to have my diploma and transcripts from the States validated by June or I’d get dropped from the career program. 
I wasn’t sure if I’d get all the paperwork done in time, but I knew it wouldn’t hurt to go in as an observer and check out the course curriculum. If anything, 2013 would be like a trial run. Whatever bumps and bruises I experience this year, I'll get a second chance to do it again the following year.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the language school building was much cleaner than the anthropology building I’d visited a few days earlier. 
I had to buy four books for the cursillo, which is a 6-week term that determines if the students are eligible for the career program. Once students pass the cursillo, they can begin the first-year career term. If they fail, they essentially wash out and have two options. One is to either reapply next year, or they can try again as an independent student. The total cost of the books was 125 pesos, which is about 25 U.S. dollars. 
I was excited and nervous about taking my first steps toward a degree at the university, but the excitement quickly turned into disappointment and frustration. 
I had two professors, neither of which had ever traveled to an English-speaking country in their lives. I'm not making this up. They admitted it to me. They had thick accents and an average knowledge of the English language. 

The first professor didn’t have a clue what a double chin was. She told the class that a double chin was someone who has a split or a gash that gives off the appearance of two chins. Then she went on to explain that people in the U.S. and in the U.K. don’t ever use the term “puffy eyes”. I’ve seen enough Visine commercials, which reference the term “puffy eyes” to know the term is used 

Then she corrected a student who stated that the word “seaside” was never used in the English language and that the correct term is beachside. Now, I lived most of my childhood in South Florida. Believe me, seaside is as much a term as beachside. Then the professor claimed that the term skinny was considered a taboo because it’s a slang term and that the correct word was slender. She couldn’t pronounce the word iron correctly. She kept saying I-RON and that’s not the way the word is pronounced.   

The second professor taught phonetics. He was more knowledgeable, but his accent was strong. He stressed that at the language school, British English is the preferred style of teaching over American English. I felt a bit offended by the fact that kept stating that American English was imperfect. Is it different from British English? Yes, but I don’t consider it imperfect any more than I can consider Argentine Castilian an imperfect version of the language spoken in Spain or other Latin American countries. Oddly enough, he didn't mention how imperfect American English was until after the break. During the break, I spoke with him and told him I came from the States. Maybe it's a coincidence, but still... in my opinion, he was rude! 

If this is how the rest of the course is going to go, I’m in for a rough time. I hate correcting professors, especially those that don’t like being corrected, but I can’t just sit there and pretend like they’re teaching the lessons correctly when they’re not. The students seem far more knowledgeable than the professors. It’s only my first day and I’m having some serious doubts about whether this was the right career choice for me.