Who’s the teacher and who’s the student?

Yesterday I left my home, pets, friends, students, and colleagues for a new 6 week adventure in Argentina. I was lucky enough to get a Fulbright grant to teach NMR and metabolomics to students in Buenos Aires. I even left my leather workshop behind, but I convinced my wife to join me! Therefore, for the next 6 weeks, this leatherwork blog will be devoted to my adventures.

The primary purpose of this trip is to be a teacher and to try to teach a fairly new (ok, and fairly obscure to most people) topic to biology graduate students who have not been exposed much to NMR. I made it clear from the start that classes would be taught in English. There are two reasons for this: 1) English is the international scientific language, and every serious international scientist needs to know it to publish papers, collaborate on projects, and participate in international conferences; and 2) I am really bad at Spanish.

I’ll give you an example of my Spanish skill. This morning I actually practiced the phrase before I asked the clerk at the hotel desk “Hola, buenos días. ¿Dónde está el desayuno?” (don’t know Spanish? Try google translate; that’s what I did!). I really thought I had nailed it, but as soon as it came out she started giggling and asked where we were from. She walked us to the elevator, almost pushed a button for us, and we made it to a nice breakfast. It was a bonding experience, and now she is our teacher and friend. When my Fulbright host came to the hotel today, she had a suspicious look on her face until I told her “está bien” (that one just flowed off my tongue, I’m proud to say…!). Later in the day, in front of our new friend and some other native Spanish speaking guests, my wife asked for “una mapa”. Like before, but this time in 4 part harmony, we got a good chuckle as they told us “un mapa”. Who would’ve known that a map is masculine??

Argentina is known for great steaks for a reason!

My NMR students don’t yet know this, but as I teach them science, they will be teaching me Spanish! (We also are signing up for formal intensive classes that will help.) I hope to reach the point where I can have some discussions with the students in Spanish, and the only hope will be that they correct and help me along.

We are all students and all teachers!

To bring in a bit of leatherwork, I’ve been really waiting for this trip. There are some amazing Argentinian leatherworkers (especially rawhide braiders). I think that most people know that they do a pretty great job with the rest of the cow! The dish that I ordered is “ojo de bife”. Just to make certain that I wasn’t making a big mistake, I asked the waiter with a combination of sign and spoken language, combining “¿ojo de bife? with a pat on my back and also pointing to my eyeball. He smiled and assured me that the back was the right guess. ¡Buen apetito!

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