8. We Are All Stars

Talking about culture, let’s talk about something people usually don’t do when visiting other countries: going to the movies. Of course nobody wants to waste time watching something that could be watched at home. But the point is that here, at least in Buenos Aires, our cinematographic offer is much wider than in many other places. You can find movies from anywhere, mainstream and independent, there are theaters that offer special cycles (by author, by country, by topic, short films, animation, etc) and amazing local and international festivals. Besides, tickets are not expensive at all, and you can always find discounts with some credit card, or buying online, or some weekdays is 2×1.

Honestly, I had never thought about it either. My Norwegian volunteers did. You see, volunteers and students are not regular tourists. They discovered the two: the specially wide offer and the cheap tickets. I just took both for granted, I assumed it would be the same everywhere. Turns out it’s not. Many places around the globe offer only a few mainstream films and/or tickets are quite expensive. So we went to the movies a lot. We even went to a Norwegian cycle at Teatro San Martín (it always has good stuff) and we watched this beautiful film about a train driver who was retiring so he was doing his last round but visiting each place he had been passing by all those years. So sweet.

But there is something else I’m really dying to tell you. I’ve noticed I dropped a few lines but just wanted to get here: I played a role in a movie. Yeaaaah! A real one. We won prizes at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival. How amazing is that??! Huge. First, I’m not an actress. I’m sure I could be. But I wasn’t considering it. I’m a sociologist, mostly an introvert, I don’t like exams and waiting in long lines so I never went to any casting, and I had just arrived back in Buenos Aires with my then recent now ex husband, in the middle of a deep economic crisis with no idea what we could possibly do. It just happened. A friend, who wrote the script, wanted to shoot it with us, all of us, the whole group of friends. We all agreed and then just did it. He directed, and produced and played the main character, another friend held the camera, another one edited, and we all played roles. Nobody learned 1 line. He just gave us general ideas about what he wanted to happen or what we would be speaking about or what was the situation. We wore our own clothes and did our own make up if we wanted (maybe it was just me with some mascara). We enjoyed the whole process. It took us out of the crisis and into our friendship. The result was great, fresh, real, with a hint of sadness in it, but most of all loaded with friendship. It’s not just how friendship is shown, but how it actually IS there. It’s all about friendship and love, various forms of love. When we knew we had won 2 prizes we decided to attend the Festival. So we traveled to Mar del Plata, a seaside city 500km south from Buenos Aires, and we shared a 1 bedroom apartment that belonged to the only friend who didn’t get a part in the movie (I think she didn’t want one, and then regret it, but of course she also came with us). And when we went to the theater, as regular audience, to watch ourselves on the big screen, once the film ended and the lights started to turn on, we heard people whispering “There they are!”, “Those over there are THEM, aren’t they??”. We loved the whole experience. I’ll always be thankful for it.

 

Email me for further info about movies and theaters and festivals miguialoreta@gmail.com

7. Success, Likes & Comments, and 3 Facts

I wasn’t thinking about this but it has just crossed my way and it has to do with cultural shock, maybe in a deeper way, since it has to do with a mix of emotions, perspectives, different realities and circumstances, failure and success and our notions about them.

Someone just posted a Lady Gaga’s phrase about perseverance and resilience, the importance of keep trying not matter what. Then followed by:
– 22.177 likes and hearts and happy faces
– 3 deeper reflections
– 1 person who noticed that Rocky IV had said exactly the same

What strikes me the most is 1 of these 3 deeper reflections. It says something like “I’m fed up with this First World piece of advice which doesn’t work at all in my underdeveloped country”. It sounds pretty resentful, and that’s not the best way to reach the “other half” (not real proportion, I know). But let’s not forget that resentment comes from somewhere, mostly from pain, and where there is pain there is something to be addressed. I have experienced myself and have seen others going through that feeling that says something like: ok, you are living such a different reality that you can not really get what our struggles are, the daily nuances and shades of feelings and small and huge frustrations they carry, the marks they keep eroding in our souls and bones. And I have also been on the other side, saying/feeling: I’m aware of my privileges, I’m trying to help, and this is not some kind of Suffering Contest, ’cause pain, loss, grief and struggling are common to any living creature, in any poor or rich country or position anyway.
Both are legit, and this is my 2 step cultural anti-shock way to bridge them:
1) So what?
2) Please, tell me more.

Step 1 means that, sure, we are all different, the world is not a smooth equity paradise, we can all have different perspectives and realities and circumstances that demand from us totally different doses of perseverance and resilience. So what? Should we just leave it that way? Do we need to fear or resent each other? What if we just listen, even when the other’s voice sounds resentful, or patronizing, or whatever. And here comes step 2: listen. Listen further. Deeper. Listen to more voices. Ask, think, re-think. And keep listening.

It has nothing to do with Lady Gaga or anybody who generously and openly share both their talents and struggles. It has nothing to do with perseverance itself, which is totally recommendable. But there are 2 tricky things about these partly true cliches:
Perseverance (read dreams, goals, motivation, mindset, will power, believing, etc) is super important. But it is not everything and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is always combined with many other factors (both individual and beyond the individual) that weigh in both for failure or success. When people keep trying and trying and trying and it’s never enough, that signals a collective failure, where change is needed. And those people don’t need to be told to keep trying, neither to be sorry for, but their voices to be included in a deeper discussion about our collective failures. That is the other tricky thing: We are always listening to the same voices, the successful ones, accordingly to whatever we consider success at a given moment and place. And while many of them can be very good role models, and they may have very interesting and enriching perspectives, tips and experiences, there are still at least 3 simple facts:
1. There are other voices
2. Successful voices are not representative of the majority or the average, they are just more marketable and entertaining than statistics
3. The perseverant-still-not-successful voices are the ones that can point out where it hurts, where things are not working, where changes need to be made, maybe not where to get but where to start from.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like binary thinking, or that kind of zero sum games, as if things were black or white, or as if we needed to drop that in order to embrace this. I’m all for wider spectrums and richer combinations. And that’s what intercultural experiences are all about.
Let’s just listen to each other without any mutual resentments or prejudices, be happy for each other’s success, attentive to each other’s individual and collective failures, and let’s learn from all of it. That’s why I keep inviting you to visit, and specially to volunteer in my country, no matter if you are Elvis still alive or the worst failure on earth (impossible to measure, don’t worry).

The thing is that since success already gives you a platform from which to be heard, here I’m offering a platform to all the other voices: you are invited to share all your failure and struggling stories miguialoreta@gmail.com
We are listening. Thanks a lot.