By Madeline Blasberg
Today was my first day of school.
I woke up, inhaled a bowl of granola, grabbed my lunch box out of the refrigerator, kissed my mom on the cheek and entered the nonsensical world of Argentine education. Armed with a preliminary schedule of the classes I wanted to try, I walked the two miles to campus, and through the doors of the Facultad de Filosofia y Letras, where the majority of my classes will be held.
After a brief search, I located the board that listed the offered classes, prodded my way to the front of the herd of students, and located the class I was looking for: Teoría Literaria 9–11 a.m. Oh crap. I was already 10 minutes late. Excellent.
But, finding the time was only part of the challenge. Locating aulas (classrooms) is no small accomplishment in this corner of the world. In the entrance lobby to the facultad there is what I believe is a “help desk” tucked away in the corner. I contemplated parking myself in the back of that line and waiting my turn, but then I did a simple calculation in my head that steered me in another direction.
If you multiplied the number of minutes I was already late to class by the number of hours I would wait in line, and take that digit to the power of the number of stares I would get from the creepy men and divide that by the number of people I would ask for directions and who would not understand what I am saying…basically you get me being worse off than I already was. So for the next three minutes I continued to stare blankly at a calendar tacked onto a bulletin board.
Come on, babe. You can do this.
Sometimes when I wake up early in the morning and roll over to peer at the neon lights of my alarm clock, a deep state of confusion befuddles my mind. I strain my eyes to see the lines of neon green, trying to decode the clock’s message. In my delirium, nothing makes sense. I know it’s trying to tell me something; I just have no idea what it is.
Yes. That was exactly what I felt as I stared at the bizarrely constructed 15-page spread sheet “schedule” hanging below the sign that read: Facultad de Letras. I knew it was trying to tell me something… I just had no idea what it was. I had the class name, I had the time, I just had no idea where to find it. Which is when I saw the faint pencil markings in the corner of every box. And when I say faint, I mean faint. They may as well have been water markings. My first thought was: yippee! Room numbers! Two points for team gringa!
But of course, I celebrated too soon. Some of the markings were numbers, some of them were letters and numbers, and some boxes had up to four different numbers. Allow me to illustrate.
- Teoría Literaria: 18
- Lingüística textual: B9
- Cultura y Lengua Latín: 21, 24, 26, B12
Now, would you please explain to me what was going on? Where were the cameras, because I was ready to throw my hands up in the air and surrender. You’ve got me; this is ridiculous. But I have learned that when you are overwhelmed with madness, the best thing you can do is take it one step at a time. AKA ignore the nonsensical mixture of letters and numbers, forget trying to understand how a single class can take place in four different locations simultaneously and just find room 18. Run gringa, run.
After a fair amount of sweating, awkward stares and a friend helping me out, I located room 18 on the third floor. Thankfully, I found the classrooms I needed, talked with my professors, met a couple of students and finally figured out the building’s floor plan. Floor 1: Bs with some numbers. Floor 2: Cs with some more numbers. Floor 3: some numbers going up to 25. Floor 3: Numbers in the 200s.
Yes. I kid you not.
Explain to me again why you would label classrooms if the system is absolutely ludicrous? Because God has a terrific sense of humor.
And although the morning was a bit rocky, I did fare better than some of my friends. Several of them confirmed times and locations with professors the day before, only to find an empty classroom the day of. Several showed up to the wrong classes. Several came to class only to find that their professor had decided to take the day off — for absolutely no reason. And several precious souls woke up early to take what turned out to be a third year course in Latin. Whoops.