Archive for February 2008
It’s the end of summer here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The air is warm and sticky, but today, it’s pouring down rain. Buenos Aires is about as far south as Sydney, Australia, and Capetown, South Africa.
We’ve spent the last few days visiting with Leo Vartanian, director of LETRA Argentina. LETRA is short for Latinoamericanos en Traducción y Alfabetización, or Latin Americans in Translation and Literacy.
The organization is fairly young, and as its name indicates, is focused on involving Argentines in translation and literacy work both here in Argentina, in nearby countries like Paraguay, and in far-flung locations like Papua New Guinea.
Buenos Aires is a huge metropolitan area with a population roughly equivalent to that of Los Angeles, California (approx. 13 million). There’s a subway system (here called the subte) that we ride sometimes, and the streets are busy with cars, buses, and pedestrians.
The city is diverse, home to immigrants from all over Europe and the rest of the world. So you see last names like Schramm, Bianchi, and Li, but the uniting language is Spanish. Designer pizza is one of the specialty foods here, and all civilized people eat it with a knife and fork — knife in the right hand and fork in the left. It’s really delicious.
This evening, we’re hopping on a bus for Paraguay, where we’ll spend the next week before returning on to Argentina and continuing to Chile.
Today is my third day in Costa Rica. We spent the morning at the Paraguayan embassy obtaining visas for our upcoming trip to Paraguay. The ambassador was very nice and helped us right away, so now I have a multiple-entry visa for Paraguay that’s good for the next seven years! I may never get a chance to use it again, but it’s nice to think that I can if I want to.
The Wycliffe Americas office and the apartment I’m sharing are in a neighborhood called Moravia, not too far from downtown San José (Costa Rica’s capital). The apartment has a nicer shower than mine at home! I’m enjoying new foods like dulce de leche, a thick, caramel-like sauce used in pastries, and tasty Salvadorian pupusas. We get around on foot, by bus, or in friends’ cars.
I’ll be visiting Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile with my colleague Tom Van Wynen, who grew up in Bolivia and (thankfully) is fluent in Spanish. It’s been a bit overwhelming being dropped into a Spanish-speaking environment. I’ve studied Spanish on and off through my life, but always in fairly academic settings — very little real-world practice. So I try hard to understand what’s being said — sometimes doing pretty well and other times not — but I’m afraid to try speaking. I need to get over that and just talk, I guess. Hopefully I’ll be a lot better off by the end of these two months in Latin America.
Anyway, I’m really excited about this upcoming trip to the Southern Cone. We’ll be visiting remote rural Paraguay as part of a sociolinguistic survey team — we think. Plans are somewhat fluid here, so we learn just to show up and see what unfolds. I’ll have sporadic internet access, so I should be able to blog periodically. The adventure begins tomorrow afternoon as we head for the airport.
I’ve taken a break from writing TTB but am now back online as I prepare to leave for Latin America. I’m flying to Costa Rica in less than two weeks, and I’ll spend the next couple of months visiting several countries (including Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile). You won’t want to miss this, so stay tuned!
I’m looking forward to the trip, and to the chance to practice my Spanish!
After the Latin America trip, I plan to spend about three months in Asia and the Pacific, including Thailand, Philippines, Australia, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. I will of course keep you up-to-date all along the way. It’s going to be an exciting year.
Over the past couple of months here in Dallas, much of my work has been “behind the scenes” in web information architecture and user-experience advocacy. But you can catch some of my recently published photos and stories at Wycliffe USA (Literacy for Life and People are Praying for Me) and Wycliffe Canada (Word Alive Spring ‘08 — see “Fuelled by the Past” and “SALT Shakers”).