February 07, 2009

Dancing in the streets

The news from home is grim on all fronts -- TBF (aka Clover´s Companion) is going back to the hospital for more surgery, and I am thousands of miles away, but in truth, there is nothing I can do for her in Wonderland, other than Be Properly Scared. I am. I am praying to a God about whose existence I am unsure.

Economic news grows more dire each time Alice signs on to Yahoo. Employment prospects look dim at best for the year. Alice has savings, but Alice, as observed last year, is still adjusting to reduced circumstances. (The exchange rate is so favorable in Argentina that it is cheaper for Alice here than in Wonderland.)

Nonetheless, in Buenos Aires, it is Carnaval, and the porteñonos are, as it happens, dancing in the streets. Wearing elaborate sequined costumes with make-up to match, they are celebrating. It is a joyous occasion here, and I am in need of joy. My flatmates I joined one group, made up of people ranging from toddlers to older men and women (not elderly: if you can dance in the street, elderly does not apply) fiercely contorting themselves in rhythm.

Never before have I literally danced in a city street. When Obama was elected, I wanted to dance in the West Village, but a local cop shushed us while we yelled from the concrete stoop, just as the cars were honking madly, before we could our feet could touch the asphalt. Here, we are welcome to dance in the street.

Buenos noches, Buenos Aires!

I am reliving student life, though in fact I never washed clothes by hand, never tried to iron, never washed a dish, and here I am, seriously lacking in domestic competence, and feeling ludicrously proud of my efforts. The apartment is run down, with a computer that runs Windows 98 and a telephone that requires a card for a local call, and my bed is definitely dormitory quality, if that. But what the hell -- my Spanish is improving, poco a poco, and for three weeks, I get to step outside myself.

The other students are young enough to be my children, if I had any, so I am gaining an interesting perspective on Youth.

Youth runs technological circles around me, though I suspect when I was their age and I lived abroad, I was more completely immersed in the culture around me simply because my time abroad predated the computer age. Cyber connections did not exist. We wrote letters, we sent postcards; occasionally my father sent Telexes from his office.

Daddy liked to know how his princess was managing. His princess was having a blast. Our business Telex name was hotdog, a play on my family name. My brother and I still have email addresses containing that name, to honor my father, who loved every new gadget that came along.

No one here can imagine a Telex, or a telegram. To me, the local internet cafe does seem part of the streetscape, but the cabinets where you can telephone the U.S. still seem a luxury, no matter how commonplace Youth might find them. Alice is a baby boomer, late to the global village. Youth is Gen Y or Z and knows of no other town.

Both Alice and flatmate Youth (a 19-year-old Dutch child-woman) think they are getting a great deal. Youth brings Alice coffee in bed. Alice pays for the taxi to school. Alice has been there, done that, and torn the T-shirt to rags on the rush-hour subway front, an overheated crowd new to flatmate Youth.

Other differences? Youth gets cramps; Alice wanted to sell her futures in Tampax on Ebay. Flatmate Youth instant messages; youth texts; youth emails, youth spends an inordinate amount of time facebooking (my verb of the day).

I, on the other hand, still find blogging a 21st century revelation, and if I want to talk to someone, I don´t want to sit at a keyboard and cripple myself. (Youth willl have to invent great voice-activated software. In 10 years, they won´t be able to type.) Call me old-fashioned, but call me. On the telephone.

Muchos gracias and hasta luego.

Alice, far from Wonderland

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