For the past two and a half months I've been going out with an Argentine girl. She doesn't speak any English, which has been great for my Spanish. Especially for my listening skills. Before, I could speak a bit but not understand much unless it was said at a learner's pace. After a couple of weeks with her I could understand most of what was directed at me. Now, thanks to many evenings sitting around in my girlfriend's room with her roomate sipping mate (pron. mah-tay, a kind of Argentine tea) and listening to girl talk, I can understand most of what is said, not just when it's said to me but also when Spanish speakers are speaking to each other. Well, I can usually understand most sentences but sometimes I'll get lost in the context of what they're talking about. But that happens in English too - you could be in a group conversation and if you tune out for a minute or so you might have to ask "what are you guys talking about?".
Random pic: Sunrise over BA's Rio de la Plata
The relationship itself has been full of ups and downs. From the beginning we fought a lot - mostly over cultural differences. For example, I'm not allowed to audibly fart in front of her. To her, that's something Indians or Bolivians do. Our first break-up was over who should pay for things when we go out - i.e for a drink or a meal. As far as she's concerned, I should pay for everything. This isn't because I'm a rich gringo, she knows I'm not, simply because I'm a guy and she says ALL her past boyfriends have paid for everything when they go out at night. (BTW, I'm her first gringo boyfriend) Now, I'm trying to live off my meagre teaching wages, which hardly allows for one night a week out for myself. So for me, paying for her is out of the question. And, in NZ or Australia (generally) costs would be shared between couples. OK, so the guy might pay for everything during the initial courtship but once we're together costs would be shared. I explained to her that if we're at a bar and I buy a round of drinks, she should buy the next round. To her that was an alien concept. She says she's NEVER bought her boyfriend a drink and the very question of it was offensive enough. Whatever happened to woman's lib? So we broke up over that for about an hour before I said I'd like to change but I can't, that was good enough for her. My local friends here say not everyone here thinks that way and that many girls are happy to share the costs.
Later we had a pregnancy scare - she was convinced she was pregnant due to errant nausea, dizzyness, hunger, and swollen breasts. Well, you can imagine the situation - it's not like we're in love. Well, I'm not. Abortions are illegal here but obtainable. She wanted to keep it, but I told her to hold the questioning until we're certain there is an it. The pharmacy test the next day came up 2 stripes (negative).
She lost her job a while ago, and while she was out of work she got quite depressed as her funds were getting low and she was having a hard time finding another job. I can relate - job hunting sucks, I hate rejection, and I can imagine day after day of rejection would be disheartening. She tearily told me she might have to leave BA and return to her hometown in the country, as the lack of work was getting her down, and I guess her funds were getting low. Fortunately the next day she got a couple of callbacks, and she found a job so she stayed. A couple of weeks later her roommate lost her job too - she'd been waitressing until 1 or 2 in the morning, then had to start again at like 7am the next day. She's a really hard worker, but it must have been too much - she fainted on the job and got sent home. Rather than being sympathetic (especially since she worked her ass off) her bosses told her not to come back. Harsh.
Stencil graffiti. "Kill your boss. Resign"
The usual she loves me/she loves me not game is one of my girlfriend's favourites. One day she decided we were somos amigos (just friends). I never know whether she's joking or serious so I find it's best to be heartless when it comes to her games. I said OK, and proceeded to call up my friends so I could go out that night to look for a new girlfriend. The next day she wasn't too happy but we were still together.
She can be jealous too. Always questioning where I'm going, who I'm with etc. I'm usually too lazy to lie when I should. She'll ask me a stupid question, like asking me if I'd like to sleep with one of my girl friends who I'd just visited. So I'll say yes I'd like to, just to get her blood pressure up.
The main sticking point for me with her is her daily routine. She's a waitress, which means she doesn't finish work until 11pm. But then she likes to sit around sipping mate until 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning. And she'll sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, since she starts work at 4pm. Now, some days I have to start work early, 8.30 or even 7.30 so for me it's impossible. This, combined with my crap diet, has made me look and feel pretty lousy for the past few months. Recently I've bumped into people I haven't seen for a few months and they all say I'm looking unhealthier. So I tried to break it off with her over this, since if she can't change her routine basically we'd never be able to see each other. Well, we were split up a few days and then it was her birthday and we got back together. This week I've started going to the gym in the mornings, and a new diet, eating a lot more, as I've gotta get my mojo back. So we won't get to see each other much, maybe for half an hour or an hour in the afternoons while she gets ready for work. So we'll see what happens. Oh yeah, and I've given up trying to live off my teaching wages - I'm having to dip into my savings to support my new diet. And of course the skydiving (and a new leather jacket) weren't paid for by my wages.
As I said, it's been up and down but I've been loving it. The breaking up and making up characterised by the 'Latin lover' is not just a cliche. It's been crazy, but fun.