Accompaniment was nothing but a foreign word to me before I was a Casa student and now it is something I think about every day. My praxis site was Barrio Argüello on the North side of Córdoba. Barrio Argüello is a poverty-stricken neighborhood where three Salesian Nuns live, providing the community with religious services and afterschool tutoring for the kids. I do not consider myself a very religious person, so the idea of spending 15 hours a week with Nuns who only speak Spanish was daunting, at the very least. I was under the impression that we had nothing in common and I could not have been more wrong.
The Nuns opened my eyes to so many new things and really made me appreciate the little things in life. Most afternoons with the Nuns were spent riding bikes to the local vegetable store, washing dishes while singing to the latest Argentine pop songs and teaching them how to use social media. We had meaningful conversations about why they chose to become Nuns and fun conversations about their boyfriends before joining the convent. They were patient with me as I tried to hold a conversation in Spanish and eager to learn new words in English. We had more in common than I ever would have imagined.
Week after week, the Nuns and the kids of Argüello continued to defy my ideas of what I thought this community was. Going into Argüello, one way I knew I could connect with the kids was through soccer. After the hour of homework time, the kids got 30 minutes to play outside and it was always soccer. On my first day, I jumped into the soccer game. Immediately, all the kids stopped. Samuel, the self-appointed team captain came up to me and said: “Las chicas no pueden jugar fùtbol” (Girls can’t play soccer). I knew that Argentina is a country where gender roles are very defined but I had no idea they applied to soccer, too. That day I stood on the sidelines and watched. The next day, I came back and told the boys again that I wanted to play. This time I got to be the referee in a game where there are no out-of-bounds or fouls. So, I found myself watching from the sidelines again. Day by day I was promoted from spectator to referee to goalie to a starting position on the field. By the end of the semester, the boys would wait for me to finish cleaning the homework area inside to start the game. Little by little, they gained more trust and confidence in a girl participating in what they had known to be an activity for boys.
Looking back on it now, maybe I wasn’t able to teach the kids how to add and subtract fractions, but I was able to teach these kids that girls can play soccer just as well as boys. If I was able to challenge the gender roles and empower one girl to go out and play with the boys, then I left a positive impact on the community of Barrio Argüello.
Jackie is a senior Health and Human Science major at LMU. She studied abroad in the Spring of 2017 during her junior year.