12 July 2009

Who is upside-down??

Hi guys,

Sorry it's been so long since I've written! But I bet most of you are taking it easy in the southern summer, right? Well, I'm in the REAL South(ern Hemisphere) and it's anything but summery. The days are short and cold. And I've got homework. Homework? In July??

Speaking of the Southern Hemisphere, have any of you seen the upside down world map? After your eyes begin to adjust to the differences, you realize that your head is upside down! :)

But seriously, what do you notice about the upside-down-map? Which countries look bigger than normal? Which countries look smaller than normal? Which countries do you see on the map that you had never heard of before? What do you think would change about the way the world works if all of our maps looked like this? Why aren't all of our maps drawn this way? I'd really love to hear what you guys think about these questions and about the upside down world map.

My head is still upside down... :)

24 March 2009


I saw this 3-d sculpture/painting on the streets of La Plata, a city an hour from Buenos Aires... It was probably 10 x 30 feet and very powerful. Made me think of the role the flag and the government play in our lives. What do you think?

Your questions - Sus preguntas

Hola Mary Coffman. Me llamo Miguel. Éste es mi cuarto semestre de español. Me gustan animales exóticos de otros paises. ¿Qué es un animal raro que vive en Argentina que usted ha visto?

Hola Miguel, mucho gusto conocerte! A mi tambien me gustan los animales exoticos y vi montones cuando vivi en Costa Rica. (!Justo hoy me estaba acordando de los osos perezosos porque tengo un amigo que siempre come tan lento que bromeo que es un oso perezoso!) Me imagino que Argentina debe de tener muchas especies distintas de los de los EEUU pero hasta ahora solo he visto las ardillas y palomas (pigeons). Pues, estoy en una ciudad! Pero despues cuando mis viajes me llevan afuera de la ciudad, te contare de lo que encuentro. Dale? Tu castellano es muy bueno, escribame de nuevo cuando tengas la oportunidad!
Abrazos, ~Mary~


I hope that your the transition is going well. How have you been accepted from fellow students? What misperception do they have of the US? What misperceptions do the Argentineans feel that Americans have of them? Other than web resources, how easily accessible is news is from the US other than web resources?

Chad Herron, 7th Grade Social Studies
Lake Norman Charter School, Huntersville, NC

Hi Chad and Lake Norman Charter School,

Thanks for the well wishes. I have to admit, everyone has been very welcoming and positive about the USA - even though sometimes the graffiti sends another message. Still, I would say that most people I've met have had an open-minded and educated opinion about the USA. If anything, people here have the misperception that all "yankees" have lots of money. While that's certainly not true, our country is much more wealthy than any country I have ever visited. And many of us benefit from that wealth, which sometimes keeps us from identifying with the people from other countries. It is hard for me to imagine studying without use of the internet or a personal computer, but many people here do. As for resources, the web is your best friend down here! However, that being said, every street corner has a kiosko where they sell all kinds of newspapers and magazines.

I'm not sure yet what our misconceptions might be about Argentina. I think the first one is that we don't know where it is! How can you understand anything about a country, if you aren't even sure where it is on the globe! Argentina, although it may sound like a tropical Latin American country, is actually the closest country to Antartica! Moral of the story: If you want to know about the world, pay attention in Social Studies and Geography class!!!

Abrazos, ~Mary~

My 6th grade geography students at Gray's Creek Middle School in Hope Mills and I would like to ask the scholar-at-large in Argentina a question. We would like to know what aspects of American culture she would like to share in Argentina, and what parts of the culture there she would like to bring back to the States. Thank you for this opportunity.

Brian Ziegler,6th Grade Social Studies
Gray's Creek Middle School
Cumberland County Schools

Hi Mr. Ziegler and students! I'm so glad you asked this question because whenever you go into another culture (whether it's Argentina, Africa, or Myrtle Beach!) you realize certain things about your culture that you may not have known before. Since I am a student here, I am realizing lots of things about the culture of schools in the USA. First of all, it is unfortunately very common to see children on the streets here in the middle of the school day. Often times they are with their parents trying to earn some money. Also, the schools here don't have as many resources as they do in the USA. In my schools in Durham, we had computers in every classroom, big media centers (libraries) full of books, art classes, music rooms with all kinds of instruments - you will not find those same opportunities here. Therefore, if it were possible, the American culture I'd like to share with Argentina would be a culture of resources and opportunities for EVERYONE.

As for Argentina culture? I really admire how passionate the people are. They're passionate about politics, about soccer, about each other, about life. And sometimes even about something simple like buying tomatoes. There is an energy here that comes out in their music, their dancing, their laughter, and their revolutions.

Gracias por las preguntas Gray's Creek 6th Grade... send me more when you get a chance!

Abrazos, ~Mary~

10 March 2009

The letter you've been waiting for!

Hello to all! Attached in this note, I’m sending you warm breezes and soft rains from the sunny south of South America. Although I’ve only been here for a few weeks, Buenos Aires, famous for its tango, heroines, and beauty has not disappointed.

It’s a city envisioned by Spaniards, designed by Parisians, constructed by Italians and lived in by the world. I read somewhere that 90% of people who live in Buenos Aires (called Porteños) have an immigrant grandparent. While that may sound chaotic, much of Argentina’s capital city is actually rather well organized, at least on the surface. A great bus system, along with South America’s first subway, transports thousands of Porteños and tourists efficiently and easily. It’s also notable that Buenos Aires has one of the widest avenues in the world (Avenida 9 de Julio) and simultaneously still maintains some old-European-style narrow streets. Plus, the architecture is so well preserved that each day offers a visual tour through the various styles – classical, art-deco, Parisian, modern, etc. Simply put, it’s the loveliest city I’ve ever seen. Come visit!

My sincerest apologies for not having written sooner. For a variety of reasons, I have spent the last month as a nomad. However, I have finally found a small, silent apartment in the middle of the city. Don’t tell anyone, but I think the building I live in is a home for the elderly and they just rent out a few rooms to us young folk. This is not a problem for me because, as I mentioned, my neighbors are rather silent and plus they are constantly paying attention to the goings and comings of the building – it would be near impossible for a vandal to get past their watchful keep!

Getting established means that I have to begin to live a life of a Porteño. Precisely where touristy-Argentina ends and Argentina-Argentina begins is where things start to get complicated. And by complicated, I mean lines. Lines everywhere. Lines for the bus. Lines at the bank. Lines for translations. Lines for paperwork. The other day at the super market I stood in line for at least 45 minutes to pay for my groceries. When I mentioned that long wait to my Latino friend who lives and works in Washington, DC, his sincere response was, “Oh how I miss Latin America!” To each his own.

Still, lines interest me. In my travels around the globe, I’ve seen many lines. In England, they are the famously sophisticated ‘queues’. In Nicaragua, they are energized and conservational. In Rome, they are more like puddles. In Buenos Aires they appear to just be very long. In the United States when we encounter a long line, we might balk and decide to come back later, or speak our frustrations to the manager of the business. However, I think there is a different mentality here – almost like a general malaise on behalf of the people. Although the line is long, there is not much use in complaining, instead you just have to tough it out.

This is probably a consequence of Argentina’s challenging economic and social history. The difficulties the people of this nation have faced has resulted in a melancholy of sorts. When I was living with a local family for the first few weeks, I noticed that melancholy in the eyes of the abuela of the house. In fact, if you’ll pay attention the next time you see a tango, you’ll see that it is a dance of deep melancholy as well.

However, mixed in with the heavy clouds and heavy thoughts, there are days of clear blue and bright light, and Argentina’s history and future are no different. I am proud to be here, working with the university and the community to develop a more positive forecast.

Thanks to World View for facilitating this awesome opportunity to learn more about the world and thanks to you all for joining in on the conversation.

Write me anytime! Un beso,
~*~ Mary ~*~

PS: I haven´t taken many pictures so I promise to do so and to include more fotos for you next time!!