Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wayback Wednesday: Argentine Bike Wreck

From July 1999 to November 1999, I attended a study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I was an International Relations major in college, so a study abroad was pretty much required.  I would finally be able to polish off my Spanish speaking skills!

I arrived in Buenos Aires, after a few weather delays, and I moved in with my host family (familia) on Calle Manuel Ugarte.  My host family was unique.  I had a host mother named Patricia.  She had long blonde hair, obviously dyed, and she loved to laugh at me.  She was married to a man named Rupert, who I never really got along with.  He was my “Step Host Father,” and not the father of Patricia’s two daughters, Paz and Sol, who lived in the house.  Yes, I lived with Peace and Sunshine the whole time I was in Argentina! 

My host family taught me how to play a fun card game, and for the life of me I cannot remember what it is called!  One day I came home for dinner, and she fed me tripe.  I felt like I was going to vomit.  She disapproved of my friends coming over, mainly because they were boys.  In most families in Argentina, the daughters live at home until they are married.  In the beginning, they really made me feel at home, but as time went on they began having problems and stopped taking care of me and their other host daughter, as well.  For me, it wasn’t a problem, because I had a lot of friends whose host families were more than willing to adopt me!

Argentina was beautiful, fun, and a great learning experience.  I met a lot of great people, some of whom I’m still semi-friends with today (via the benefit the amazing world wide web and, of course, Facebook). 

We did a lot of sightseeing.  We saw the cemetery in Recoleta where Evita Peron was buried.

We saw the Obelisk.  I thought it was funny how I went from one city with a monument (Washington D.C.) to another with a similar monument.  Ironic.  Coincidental, or maybe men just really like to build tall, sharp-looking buildings in large cities in order to exhibit their extreme power!

We went to Iguazu Falls. 

We also had school at the Universidad de Belgrano, which meant studying.
One afternoon in September, I left my house on Manuel Ugarte to walk down the block to one of my friend’s apartments.  A group of us were writing a paper for an economics class.  I had walked to this particular friend’s apartment about a hundred times that year, and I knew the route well.  The street was lined by shops and was usually bustling with cars and pedestrians.  Argentineans are not great drivers.  In fact, more than once that year I feared for my life inside a taxi! 

Well, I’m walking down this street just trying to make it to my friend’s house so we can finish our paper, and I see a car just slam into this guy on his bike.  The guy crashes off of his bike, flies through the air over my head and slams onto the sidewalk, almost right beside me.  I was in shock.   The driver of the car that hit him, slams on his brakes, jumps out of the car and comes up on the sidewalk next to me.  He stares at the man, lying and bleeding on the sidewalk next to me.  He then gets down on his hands and knees, sticks his face right in front of the injured man’s face and proceeds to yell at him.  I kid you not!  He yelled at this man that he had just hit.  I was horrified.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  I stood there for a few minutes as people began to crowd around.  They began shouting in Spanish for someone to call an ambulance.  I stood there, watching this man bleed, and then I just looked at these Argentineans who I couldn’t completely understand, and I walked away.

When I arrived at my friend's apartment, he and another friend asked what had taken me so long.  I told them about the incident, but I think they were more interested in just getting to work on the paper at hand.  To this day, I remember every detail of that day.  I remember the bicyclist face as he flew off the bike.  I remember the angry face of the driver.  I remember the ladies coming out of the store, and the terrified looks on their faces.  I remember how I kept replaying it in my head, over and over again.

Such a strange memory and for some reason it stands out amongst my memories in Argentina.  It is a sad memory in a sea of good times.  I will never know what happened to the cyclist or the angry driver.  The rest of my memories of Argentina are somewhat more mundane, like going to Coto, a large supermarket in our neighborhood Belgrano, and eating and studying.  Late nights, drinking and hanging out with friends, and then stumbling into an internet café to email friends from home.  Hours of walking around the city, seeing the bright colors of La Boca, attending a Tango dinner, movies in Recoleta, and shopping at the little markets that would be set up in the parks on the weekends. 

Thinking of this trip makes me yearn to travel again. 

It also reminds me of the nature of humans.  For me, to just walk away from the accident, as if nothing happened.  For the driver to be so angry over something that he did, instead of just admitting that he had done something wrong. 

*Please excuse the absence of accent marks on the Spanish words.  I cannot figure out how to add them!  If anyone knows how, feel free to comment.

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  1. Lauren, what about the guy living in the basement? Or is that a story for another time?

  2. I think I'll write about that another time. I thought about it while I was blogging, but didn't want the post to be TOO long. That was CRAZY though!!!


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