When I was in Montevideo, Uruguay, I met another traveler who said he had been to language school in Buenos Aires and recommended it. I figured it might be a good idea to kick start my language skills with some formal training, so I called one of the schools he mentioned—COINED—and signed up for two weeks. I wanted the greatest impact from my time here, so I signed up for the immersive program. That includes four hours of classroom instruction per day (class size of one handful) and one hour of private instruction, also per day, of course. The school also arranged for me to stay with a "host family." I'm not one to throw quotes around willy-nilly, so they are there for a reason. I will inform you as to that reason shortly.
My schedule has gone like so: get up at around 8:00, shower, get dressed, walk about five minutes to the subway (Jose Hernandez station), hop on, sweat, become a temporary sardine, exit the subway about ten stops later—twenty minutes, or so—after it arrives at the downtown station (9 de Julio), walk about ten minutes to the school, take a class with a few other students for four hours, take an hour lunch (maybe) and then take a one-hour private class.
Without exception, my teachers have been excellent. I had one teacher for the first week's primary class—Lucía—and another this past week—Patricio. I had one teacher for the first week's private class—Melina—and three more this week—Marcela, Ciro, and Leticia—all different, but excellent.
The school has issues with scheduling which have made a lot of students upset. This weekend is Santa Semana—a big holiday here—and we're losing a day of instruction this week and and the students who are at the school next week will miss a day, as the holiday goes from Friday through Monday. Scheduling is one of the most complex problems in Computer Science, but there does exist software for it which does a reasonable job of solving it. I don't know how the school does things, but it ain't working so well. A few students who scheduled and paid for the regular instruction and private instruction never even got the private class last week. There was also a lot of confusion amongst the students and teachers about how the holidays would be handled. As it turns out, we paid for five days of classes and got only four days of instruction.
There are also events that the school organizes so the students can see the city and get to know the culture a bit. They need to be more proactive, as I never even heard about the events or knew who was going or when. Apparently, the guy who used to take care of these events was fired some time back. I think that was a mistake.
The teachers are even fed up with things. Some of them are teaching privately on their own time. If any of you needs a good private Spanish teacher in Buenos Aires, let me know and I can give you some names. These folks are excellent teachers and they love what they do.
I just finished my last day of class today. There is so much that I had forgotten since high school and college. I feel horribly inadequate. I feel like I don't understand much and can't say much. This next week, I will be taking private classes outside the school. I'm thinking I'll do a couple hours a day.
Now for the "host family." I was expecting to sit down to dinner each night with a family of four and talk about the kids' school, life in Buenos Aires, and Latin American culture. I was also expecting good meals, as I've been paying extra to receive breakfast and dinner. Well, it's a single lady who's not around much and who just wants to earn an extra buck. The food she provides is total crap. Very disappointing.
The exception to the general lousiness of the living situation is one of the other students staying here. Her name is Sanne and she's from Stockholm, Sweden. She's a sweetheart. She studied for five weeks at COINED and is now volunteering at a house for troubled or disadvantaged girls for several months. We've done a few things around town and had several really good conversations about language, culture, and various and sundry other topics of interest.
This next week, I'll be staying in a hostel called Avenue Hostel very near the school. The benefit of that location is that I'll be downtown. That will make it very easy to see some sights that I've missed so far. Also, I can get together more easily with some good friends I've made at school—mostly Brazilians (there are tons of them at the school). I will take a different subway line to my teacher's apartment for private Spanish lessons than I've been taking thus far. It's apparently an historical line, so that should be interesting.
Tomorrow, my good friend, Edson—a brazileño, of course—and I will be bumming around town. I'll report on that, if I have anything of interest to say. In the evening, I'll be going to some sort of show with a couple brazileñas. Saturday, no plans, yet. Sunday, the brazileñas and I will be going to a futbol game—that's the plan, anyway. We need to figure out if we can get tickets. The game in question is Velez v. River. Stay tuned.
I will check out of this apartment Sunday morning, move directly to the hostel, stay there for one week, then head for Santiago, Chile. After that, Patagonia and Chile for a month, or so.