Sunday, March 31, 2013

Our One Year Wedding Anniversary

We just celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary, and it feels unreal! It seems like only yesterday that I boarded a 6 train from the Bronx with the love of my life and his family, and headed to city in Manhattan. 

It’s been a hectic twelve months! We’ve said goodbye to our friends, our families, and our country to start a new life in Argentina. We’ve experienced a rough adjustment period in a place where the rules, customs, and people are completely different. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly been a picnic, but through it all we’ve had each other and that’s what counts. 

Since we’re on a budget, we couldn’t very well go to a fancy restaurant or buy a bottle of champagne. So, we decided to go to places and experience things we knew we'd enjoy the most. Our first stop was at McDonald’s for breakfast. This was kind of crazy because we had overslept, and only had an hour to get there before they switched to the lunch menu. We took a cab to Patio Olmos and rushed upstairs to the food court just in time

By the way, they don't serve bacon, or pancakes for breakfast, which seems utterly ridiculous for a McDonald's not to offer. Anyway, after we enjoyed our McD’s breakfast, we went upstairs to explore the bowling rink. It was a little too early, and we didn’t have anyone else to bowl with, so we decided to head back down. On our way there, we saw one of those photo booths where you can take crazy pictures and add a fun background to them. Taking photos in those booths has been our thing ever since we met twelve years ago. We've taken photos in rest areas, zoos, Disney World and the M&M store. So, we couldn't pass up a chance to take one here in Cordoba.  
Once we were done clowning around, we window shopped for about an hour. My spouse bought himself a perfume that’s in the shape of Cinderella’s glass slipper. He’s always been a huge fan of the Disney princesses, as well as perfumes and body splashes in general.

Then we walked around downtown Cordoba for a little while. I found a video store near Starbucks, which had a decent selection of DVDs. You’d be surprised how rare that is in Cordoba. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Best Buys around here. After searching and searching, I was able to buy the latest "Resident Evil" movie on Blu-Ray. I had to check to make sure that the DVD wasn’t bootleg. About 99 percent of the DVDs and Playstation 2 games in Cordoba are bootlegs and won’t play on my systemsSo, I was relieved to find a business that sold genuine discs. The owner was even kind enough to give me a poster of the "Resident Evil" movie for FREE. 
Afterwards, we went to see a movie. Films have always been our thing. We used to watch about two movies a week when we were living in Orlando, Florida. We didn’t go as often while we were living in New York because they were a bit more expensive, but we tried to go whenever we could. We saw "Haunted House," the Marlon Wayan movie that spoofs "Paranormal Activity". We didn’t expect it to be a popular hit in Argentina and we were right. At most there were eleven people besides us. Five of them walked out. Even subtitles can’t capture the wacky African-American humor and attitude of the film. So, it didn’t surprise me that two families left, dragging their kids out as if they’d accidentally stumbled into an adult theater. Of course, my spouse and I were laughing our butts off throughout the film because we got all the jokes. 

When we left the theater, we were stunned to find that all the shops had shut down. We were scratching our heads and wondering what was happening. It was only four in the afternoon on a Saturday! Why were all the stores shut down? We could have blamed it on the siesta, the afternoon break that most Argentinians take. However, the downtown area doesn’t usually shut down during the siesta. So, we assumed that the shutdown was related to the religious holiday. 

This is what a weekend of shopping looked like for us in New York. Clearly you can see the difference.
With nowhere else to go we decided to head for the one Chinese restaurant we were able to find so far. It was a bit of a walk, since the restaurant is located on the outskirts of the downtown district. When we got there, the restaurant, along with practically every other restaurant and store in the area, was closed. We were a little bummed because we had promised ourselves that we’d find a place to eat that served something other than lomitos, empanadas, pizza, pasta or barbecue. It’s not personal, but you can only eat the same thing for so long before it gets boring. Unfortunately, Cordoba doesn't offer much international diversity when it comes to food like they do in Manhattan or practically anywhere else in the States. Even the two restaurants we found that served Mexican food in our neighborhood, put an Argentinian twist to their plates, essentially ruining it. So, we were left with no other options than to go home and make our own meal. 

Despite the setback with the restaurant, my spouse and I had a great time, but we definitely want to plan something even more special for our second anniversary next year. 

Oh wait! Did I mention? We celebrate two anniversaries. One is for our wedding in March. The other is for the day we got together, which is in November. If you add those two anniversary dates with Valentine's Day, birthdays, and Christmas, you wind up with one giant hole in your wallet. Until next time! 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Reasons The UNC Language School Should Leave Teaching English to the Natives

I've spent the last seven weeks attending classes at the language school at the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, and I’ve been going out of my mind because of the incompetence of the professors here. Their failed attempts to mimic a British accent makes it difficult to decipher what the hell it is they’re trying to pronounce.

The textbooks have several errors in the simple present and past-present sections, but the professors follow the textbook blindly, probably because they have no idea what they're doing.

I actually had a teacher’s aide attempt to tell me how to pronounce the word chocolate. The man can’t even speak English properly. It’s extremely difficult not to get upset in these courses.

My spouse actually joined me as an observer for a couple of weeks. He was stunned by the unintelligible pronunciation of the professors and the various mistakes in the textbook too. After a while, he got so upset and frustrated with the professors that he chose not to go with me anymore. 

The professors have virtually no knowledge of the history or culture of either the U.K., or the United States, which makes explaining slang terms and the different ways to pronounce words almost impossible.

I stuck around long enough to try the final exam of the “cursillo”. The instructions for each section were completely unclear. I took it twice and they failed me twice. I was able to see the exam when they gave me my results. They marked things that were correct with an x. If it hadn’t been so laughable I would have cried.

I had to write a sentence with the word "news", but in the form of a countable noun and an uncountable noun. I couldn’t write a sentence with the word news as a countable noun because it isn’t possible. The only way the word news becomes a countable noun is if you alter the word to something like newspaper, which I had to explain to them, but they simply rolled their eyes at me.  

Then there was a short passage about the city of Cuzco. In the passage, it stated that tourists can travel amongst ancient roads and colonial buildings. Then, on the true or false options, there was one statement that said, “Tourists can travel amongst ancient roads and modern structures.” I circled that this statement was true, but they marked it wrong. I fought with the grammar professor and a teacher’s aide, but no one would agree with me. 

I was also marked wrong when I had to identify the antonyms for words like bored and selfish. For bored, I chose excited, but they claimed that was wrong. For selfish, I chose selfless instead of unselfish. I checked several dictionaries. Excited is one of several antonyms for bored. Selfless is a near antonym for selfish and, according to my College English Comp teacher back home, it’s perfectly acceptable.

Then I had to write a short story about a terrible experience on a bus. I was marked wrong because I wrote the sentence, “I will never ride on a bus again.” The professor marked the sentence in red letters with a big x, a circle, and three question marks because I wrote on, and not in a bus. Seriously? You ride on a bus, not in a bus, I argued, but my argument fell on ignorant ears. 

But just to prove to you I'm not crazy. This is the piece of an article written by the Miami Herald, a reputable South Florida newspaper. Notice how they used on a bus, not in a bus.
Click on the hyperlink if you want to confirm the source of the article. 
They also told me they didn’t like any of the sentences I wrote because they were too complex. I’ve never attended a university where too much knowledge was bad. The grammar professor stated that my critical thinking skills are too advanced for the cursillo, and that this is the reason I was having a hard time passing the exam. Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous in your life? Not only am I a writer, a damn good one too. I’ve written novels and blog entries. I’ve always excelled in reading comprehension back home. I explained to my college English comp teacher from the States how I was marked on the exam and she agreed with me. I only wish there had been some way I could have flown her here to explain it to these incompetent professors.

Recently, a Facebook friend, who is a fourth-year student at the language school for English translation, wrote the words, getten (I guess he meant getting), rainen (I guess he meant raining), and scramballed (I guess he meant scrambled), in one of his posts. This student told me he wants to work for the British or American consulate someday. I didn’t have to heart to tell him how difficult that would be with such poor grammar.

Now that this seven-week nightmare is over, I’m starting to think that when I do officially apply to the university next year, I'll choose psychology as a career program. In the meantime, I’ll have to get my U.S. diploma and transcripts validated at the Ministry of Education in Buenos Aires, but that’s a headache for another blog entry.