Written by Jesica Franco on 2012-10-31. Posted in Reviews from Past Volunteers
We all have it, it’s not always that we think about but we do – generalized thoughts about other countries. When I think of a country there always follows a stream of thought about what I believe the country and the people are like. That’s why I decided to reflect upon my own opinions, the general misconceptions about the Argentina, what I thought before leaving for Argentina and what I think now after spending three months in its capital, Buenos Aires.
Before leaving for Argentina I had my thoughts about the country and its people for example the great vineyards and cattle not forgetting the people – wow – they will be beautiful Latin Americans – tall, dark and handsome. But of course it was not all positive, I expected to see a macho culture, where the men were dominating womanizers and a lot of women would be housewives. I also expected to see a huge difference between rich and poor. It turned out that my thoughts weren’t that far from reality, but as it goes for so many things, there are always exceptions and two sides to every coin. So even though Argentina contains a huge country side with vineyards and a lot of cattle it contains so much more. It is such a huge country that it contains all sort of different nature, everything from mountains and waterfall to sunny beaches. At the same time its capital, Buenos Aires, is a cosmopolitan city, clearly influenced by European countries, with everything you can desire from a big city, shopping, great nightlife, parks etc.
Our stereotypes are never perfect and so of course the people of Argentina are not all beautiful Latin Americans who are tall, dark and handsome. Just like every other place there are beautiful people and some who are not so beautiful. But I must say a lot of them have beautiful features both men and women. What turns out to be very true was the prediction that the men will be womanizers, you can’t walk down the street without being approached by men of all ages. In the bars and clubs they will say what they think you want to hear when they are chatting you up, when in most cases it is quite the opposite! It turns out to be a misconception that the women primarily are housewives, obviously there are still a lot of women who do that, and even though the macho culture does exist in Argentina there is also a strong culture for women working as well. It might be the strong European influence, but it seems to me that a lot of women are getting educated and are working more or less equally as the men.
The difference between the rich and the poor neighborhoods is very clear. There is no doubt when you are entering a poor or rich neighborhood. But what I wasn’t aware of is the effort the government here puts into the welfare system, there is free education, and the poor families get support from the government. So although there is a huge difference between rich and poor, the government’s efforts don’t seem to be sufficient enough to create a large “middleclass”. After living in Argentina for three months I haven’t exactly been proven wrong on my preconceptions about Argentina and its people. But now I have a better perspective on everything and how both the good and the bad come together in the everyday life here in Argentina, and don’t get me wrong I love it.
Written by Jesica Franco on 2012-09-24. Posted in Reviews from Past Volunteers
By Lauren Wilkinson After taking a short bus ride from the VG house to La Boca, we were greeted by Johan, one of the men who runs ‘Los Pibes’ and one of Voluntario Global Coordinators. Los Pibes is a community centre in La Boca run by the community where there are numerous facilities including a soup kitchen, library, computer clusters, classrooms for after school, space for boxing training and a radio station. We arrived at about 10am and after a quick tour of Los Pibes, Johan introduced me and Marie to the three ladies we were going to help cook. There were already two volunteers there who we had met previously and who volunteer on a regular basis at los Pibes. We started by washing and preparing the vegetables for a beef and vegetable stew! Once all of the vegetables were ready we let it cook and had chance to talk to the ladies we were working with. They are all very friendly and welcoming and are interested in why we are there and where we are from. In some other volunteer programs talking Spanish is made easier as there is usually someone who can speak English to help fill the gaps. However the ladies knew no English so there was a slight communication barrier; despite this we all seemed to get our points across! Once the food was ready we began serving it to those from the community, we served around 20-30 people within about 30 minutes. They were each given a huge portion of rice with the stew we had prepared and some rolls of bread and to wash it down some orange juice. Everyone who came for food was friendly and wanted to make conversation. Once we had served everyone, we sat down with them and had our lunch (the same as them). A lot of the community made conversation with us, which was a great opportunity for us to practice our Spanish again! La Boca is an area of Argentina which outside of its colourfully painted houses, has quite a bad reputation. Los Pibes allows people in the community a place to go for education, food, warmth and a friendly face. It Is refreshing to see that within a community with many problems people can still come together to look after each other and los Pibes and the people who volunteer there offer exactly that.
Voluntario Global helps local communities by being available to discuss anything that local organizations need, and offering ideas for further change and development.
Location: General Pacheco. Buenos Aires. Argentina