July 17, 2006

Project Allende Phase II


So you may have noticed that Project Allende and the final destination of Argentina doesn’t quite gel. Why didn’t I call the “Project” Project Guevara and be done with it. Not a bad idea really, but to be truthful the Allende name was not my idea but my travel partner's, Clare’s. I thought it a good name because Clare could do the cultural half and I the political half of the content. Isabel Allende has taken a well earned siesta but Salvador Allende lives on in the página Web http://projectallende.org/ based out of the country that borders his grave; Argentina.

So, what is Project Allende and why has it persisted when the journey of 50,000Km is ended? Well for me the journey was a journey of discovery. In my mind's eye I was also on the lookout for two new things: a new place to live and a new job to do. The truth is in this specialized world of ours there are two requirements for foreign work and they are, (1) local language proficiency and (2) professional qualifications. So stage two of project Allende meant coming back here to Argentina to get my Spanish “on” and get my Political Economics “on”.

I made some small progress in the last seven days and I just wanted to fill you all in as to to where things stand. Last week was my “key” week; “La semana clave”, as I have been referring to it here to the locals. So what was so key? Well it marked the end of my four month long, "Level Three" Spanish for foreigners course at the UBA. Monday was my written, then Thursday, my oral exams. Then this week, today at 12:00PM to be precise, was my interview for entry into the masters in the “Economics of International Relations” so I have some news.

It is as the Californian's like to say "all good". First I got 70% in both my oral and written exams in Level three of “Espanol para extranjeros” so I qualified to begin level four. I enrolled and paid Thursday and began this morning: 60 hours of the subjunctive studied at quadruple speed in just four weeks, if that isn’t Hades then where is?

So what's the good news?

Today Project Allende enters phase II: Attempting to qualify as an International Economist which will take two years, twelve payments of A$400 Pesos and a lot of burnt brain cells, beginning August 7th. I know it will take a lot more but this is a start.

I suppose then I shall have to give in and get a real job?

We shall see. I shall consult with my brother.

Posted by Tony Phillips at 10:06 PM | Comments (13)

July 04, 2006

Allergic to Argentina

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So it was back to my favorite Buenos Aires state hospital, Monday 1:00PM. I took the number 10 from Spanish class downtown to Hospital Fernandez for my long awaited test. Ominous signs declared that the employees were on a partial strike apologizing for the inconvenience. I went upstairs to the allergy laboratory. On the door was a hand-written sign "I will return soon", the doctor.

Great! I thought she's gone to lunch or a union meeting, I checked with a cancer patient, who seemed unusually jolly, and she affirmed. Assuming the position, I went back to studying Spanish, (I hate the imperative!).

About two hours later a lady doctor returned but she wasn't my doctor. She seemed a little flustered at seeing so many people waiting outside her door and explained that our doctor had called her to say she was sick. She asked us what we were here for. It turned out the three of us were there for tests. We were an inconvenience but she took us on. I was first, I entered full of information and forms so she could catch up on my history.

My 'file' was eventually located, (one hand-written card in a box on the desk). I showed her my blood tests and pointed to the value the other doctor had found anomalous CELL DYN 3500 (EOS .650 11.2 %E), seemingly it should be 1% and indicates violent reactions to something? I think of it like an oil change, look at the fluid and it tells you about the engine. She looked at the value, nodded, and started to put little drips of clear liquid on the shaved inside of my forearm. Then came the torture: a small plastic tube with teeth that when twisted under the liquid tore the skin under each drop to let the poisons in. It is winter here so I got the winter drops. If I have big problems now it is probably not pollen as there are no flowers and it is raining.

No I got the bug juice.

15 minutes to wait for a reaction, I called in the next girl on the list, she in turn called the third. We all sat there in the hall one arm held in the other checking our little spots of liquid and — in my case anyway — trying not to scratch!

I returned to my new doctor arm in arm. She looked quite gravely at my forearm and told me in no uncertain terms that I had a 'severe' allergic reaction enquiring incredulously whether I had not suffered in my youth. I did not explain that my youth was held elsewhere where cockroaches were in short supply. She pointed to a chart and I grimaced at the mites and other such beasties, to which, it seems, I'm also allergic.

So what now?

Well I could go somewhere to which I'm less allergic or I can stand and fight. I enquired about health insurance but the doctor assured me it would not cover this anyway. Even if I do run I can't escape dust mite, though I could reduce my cockroach exposure.

Nope, time to stand my ground and take the medicine!

For those of you who have never had allergies there are two approaches to dealing with them. The US approach is the expensive one (go figure! as they say up there). You take prescribed anti-allergy drugs till you die; the brand Claritin is a favorite :) The Argentine way is to reduce the reaction by immunizing your system with the same poison that ails you. Let me illustrate with snake venom.

Take one snake (a poisonous one) and one horse. Make the snake bite the horse. Wait while the horse gets sick then gets better. Repeat process ad infinitum, increasing the number of bites until the horse is no longer affected. Now extract the blood of the horse and filter to produce "serum". When a human gets bitten by the snake, inject the serum into the poor bitten human and wait for recovery, taking care that the human doesn't come down with equine flu, an unfortunate side effect.

No I'm not the human, I'm the horse.

For a year I get to be injected; or to be more precise, I get to inject myself, with ever increasing doses of nasty bug juice till eventually (if I still have an immune system) I won't react when I touch a cat or sleep in a dusty bed.

Joy is mine!

I too risk unfortunate side affects. With my allergies I have had no sense of smell for quite some time. In the less than Germanic sanitary conditions of Latin America this can be quite a plus. Now, however it is time to retrieve my long-lost sense of smell which is both a joy and not.

Oh well, off to the lab to ask them to prepare my bug juice!

Posted by Tony Phillips at 04:08 PM | Comments (6)