Why Some Guy In Argentina Probably Thinks I’m a Prostitute

Greetings, people in my computer! It has been months since my last blog post (bad hedgehog), but I’m finally breaking my not-writing-nonsense-on-the-internet streak. As such, here is more nonsense for you to read on the internet.

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I’m not sure if I’ve ranted about this yet, but the public transportation system in Córdoba is awful. That might make me sound like a spoiled American, but you’d only be half right: I’m spoiled because I got to use the super efficient transportation systems in Berlin and Shanghai before experiencing the bus system in Córdoba.

Which is awful.

I’m not exaggerating. One of the first things my host brother told me when I arrived was, “You’re going to hate the buses here.”

In my four months there I never found a bus schedule anywhere. People just seemed to accept that the bus will show up when it shows up. If I was calculating how long it would take to get somewhere, I learned to add an hour to wait for the bus. I had a class in Nueva Córdoba, about an hour away from where I lived, so I had to leave two hours early to make sure I showed up on time.

This makes going out a nightmare if your friends live with different host families scattered throughout the city and no one has a car.

Pátio Olmos, the shopping center in downtown Córdoba, ended up becoming our main meeting place because all of the bus lines passed through there. It had plenty of open space and was surrounded by street vendors, kiosks, and open markets, so it was a decent place to be if you had to wait for someone to show up.

It was on one such occasion that I found myself waiting at Pátio Olmos. I had left my house an hour early and the bus had showed up almost right away, leaving me with about 40 minutes to kill before my friends were supposed to show up. I decided to walk around and look at the street vendors while I waited.

I probably walked around Pátio Olmos and through the Plaza de San Martín at least twice. I didn’t stop to buy anything, but I had fun just looking at the things people were selling. On my third lap around, one of the street vendors came up to me. He was about my height with dirty yellow dreadlocks and a long gray trench coat that looked like it had been run over a few times. He was selling a bunch of hemp necklaces and bracelets from a blanket spread out next to the sidewalk. He asked if I was lost.

I shook my head no.

He said that he had seen me pass by a few times already and asked what I was doing. I told him that I was waiting to meet some friends, and that’s when he noticed my accent, which triggered the usual round of “De dónde sos?” (Where are you from?) and “Hace cuánto tiempo llegaste acá?” (When did you get here?)

I had been in Argentina about three months by this time and I was already getting tired of having to answer these questions every time I opened my mouth in public, but I was in a peaceful mood and I had nowhere else to be. I decided, sure, I guess I can talk to people while I wait.

After I told him that I was in Argentina attending a university, he got this sly look in his eye and said, “Has conocido algún argentino?”

I thought this meant, “Have you met anyone from Argentina?” That seemed like an odd question, considering that I had just told him I’d been there for three months. Who did he think I was meeting, Lithuanians?

He kept looking at me with that sly glint in his eye while I was trying to figure out if I had missed something, so I just blurted out, “Sí, muchos!” (Yes, lots!)

His eyes widened. He immediately began asking me a bunch of sex questions, grinning the whole time.

Fortunately, right at that moment one of my friends happened to walk by. I yelled his name, which I think startled him. Then I turned back to Creepy Street Vendor Guy and said something along the lines of, “MyfriendishereIgottagobye,” and then I grabbed my friend by the arm and dragged him away.

For those of you who don’t know, Spanish has two genders, masculine and feminine. When talking about people, the feminine form is only used if all the people being referred to are female. If not, the masculine form is used. The word argentino can mean both “person from Argentina” and “man from Argentina.” My friend (who is from Mexico) later explained to me that the verb conocer can mean both “to meet” and “to know,” which includes the biblical sense.

So what Creepy Street Vendor Guy actually asked me was, “Have you had sex with any Argentine men?”

To which I responded, “Yes, lots!”

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