Saturday, August 9, 2008

My experience in Argentina through the eyes of my editor, Laura Cambra

Check out her thoughts in Spanish

or English: 

Mentoring Carly 

by: Laura Cambra

Translated to English by Carly Stingl


Today, after almost 3 months of living in Argentina, Carly Stingl returns to Madison, WI.  Carly is a student in her last year of college, studying journalism at the University of Wisconsin, and during this time, she interned at Living in Argentina.  Being the editor, it was my job to orient Carly, whose objective was to improve her command of written Spanish.  However, the work that one could think of as merely supervision turned into a challenge that, looked at now, was not only professionally enriching, but also personally.

From a professional point of view, those of us who make Living in Argentina push ourselves to offer objective and appropriate information to foreigners about our country.  Because of this, the fresh eyes of a curious, enthusiastic and eager person like Carly is invaluable since it helps us to understand what the interests and needs are of those who visit Argentina. 

From a personal point of view, each time I chatted with her, we touched as much on questions purely grammatical or stylistic as we did on things like when we talked about this problematic and idiosyncratic country, where she forced me to rethink Argentina and revise the past and the present, giving answers to her questions sometimes as simple –or as complicated—as “But why is it mandatory to vote in Argentina?” or “Could you explain to me the conflict between the farmers and the government? or other things more related with everyday life such as “Do all the men really play soccer here?”

Some of the questions were pretty fun.  For example, given that Carly has been a vegetarian for the past 5 years, putting herself into a place where meat is not only nourishment but also falls into the category of national pride was not easy for her.

With an unusually open style and without any preconceived notions, Carly threw herself into conquering this chaotic and overpopulated city, very different from the place she was used to living.  She walked Buenos Aires from one place to another.  She explored bookstores and cafes.  She did interviews in the streets.  She rejected catcalls from the typical “Argentine machos.”  And she even got a DiscoCard to make herself feel like a local and avoid being the common overcharging done to most foreigners.

During her last week in Buenos Aires, our conversations turned to focus on our goodbyes and about her future.  We talked about the possibility that writing takes up a lot of time and space in life.  The next day, she invited me to look at her blog. 

We also talked about her desire to come back.  I asked her why she didn’t think about getting her masters here.  She looked at me quite surprised.  She didn’t think that her level of Spanish would let her get in, and she was not ready for the challenge.  But we investigated a little bit—Thank god for the Internet!—and discovered, somewhat disappointed, that they only accept 25 students per year.

“That’s so few!  How could I ever get in?”  she said to me.

I encouraged her to give it a shot.  Yesterday she had an interview with “La Nación” and something that seemed so out of reach turned into a very real and attractive possibility.  She was happy.  I was too.  Carly will probably keep working with us from the U.S.  The articles that she has written about our country, and more than anything, about Buenos Aires, show her enthusiasm and her passion for journalism.