The Expats: Aidan and Shane Wall

Aidan Wall
Born: Redwood City, US
Age: 11
Likes: Football, rugby

Shane Wall
Born: Redwood City, US
Age: 9
Likes: Digging for bugs

Do you remember your first day in Argentina?
On my first day we got to the airport and I remember we were trying out the Argentine food. We took a taxi to our home and the taxi driver mentioned that Argentina was playing an international soccer game that night. So my dad tried to get us tickets to go. We ended up going to an Argentina game, they were playing Chile and won 4-1, and we had a really good time.
Shane: Me and my mom went to the house and we checked everything out. Then we went to a little bakery with Aidan and dad. I was really tired as we had been a day and a little bit on a plane.

How did you feel the day before you left the US?
I thought, “oh no I have to go to a foreign country, and have to make new friends, and meet new people, and leave behind all the friends and family I had behind.” Once I got here, it seemed better than I had thought it would be.

Was your biggest worry leaving your friends?
Yes, because I could already speak some Spanish. So that wasn’t my problem as my dad had told me that most of the schools were bilingual and that they would be able to understand me if I messed up.

What did you think when your parents said you were moving here?
They brought it up a few times, like do you want to go travelling to South America for six months? But I thought it probably wouldn’t happen. Then they told us a few months a go and said “well guys, what do you think about this?” In my head, I was thinking “you’re joking.” I didn’t really want to go as I was happy in school but now I think it was good.

Did you have a leaving party?
Sort of. In the middle of the summer we went swimming and had all our friends over. We said goodbye to everyone then, but that was before school started. When it was my last day of school, they all did everything really special for me.

What was the first day of a new school like?
It was really scary but the teacher guided me through the stuff. It was scary because I didn’t know anyone there.
A: All the kids were breaking down the doors to see me as they all wanted to test out their English on me. After a few weeks, they learned that I could speak castellano, so it all died down and we started speaking in Spanish. I thought it was better when we spoke in Spanish so that I could improve.

What are the differences between your schools?
It’s a lot smaller here. And it goes on for a lot longer. In the US we have school until 2.30pm but here we go until almost 5pm. I prefer school here even though it’s longer as we do more fun things here.
S: We’d have quite a few schools really near each other and there’s one school right next to ours with the same amount of pupils. There’s 16 students in my class. We do mathematics, and something called catequesis. I don’t know what that means. It’s like this book with a lot of stuff in it, but I never had a book. Somebody let me borrow his book, and it had all of the subjects in it, in different chapters. It had everything.

What are your best subjects?
In San Francisco, it was history, but here it’s English! I’m pretty much top of the class. I got excellent and very good or more in my tests.
I went to Spanish classes with a Mexican woman as my mom had already prepared me for it. She was very nice and lived a few minutes from my house. My brother went about five times, and I went for a few months.
S: I’m not very good at writing as I can’t spell the words correctly in English. My favourite subject is maths.

What are the differences you’ve experienced?
What’s been different for me is the Spanish. I was expecting that I’d have a very difficult time understanding what they say. At first I couldn’t speak at all and now I can speak it fluently. At first when I’d say something wrong the kids would always correct me.
S: It’s soccer for me. They use bad language when they play. If someone destroys your soccer game, kicking the ball, they use bad language. Like boludo. If we do that in San Francisco, then we get into trouble.

Who do you support?
I support Boca. In the Untied States I’d heard of Boca before, and here I realized that it’s so huge here, Boca versus River, and there’s always huge rivalries. Most of the kids from my school are River so I decided that I’m different and I know about Boca from before, so why not be from Boca? In my grade of 37 there are five of who support Boca.
S: They think we’re cooler.

What kind of food do you like here?
I like medialunas, and Rocklets and French fries, but I don’t like dulce de leche. One time, we went to an allergy place, and one of the shots said milk. So I don’t drink milk, and I don’t like some stuff that’s really milky. And they told me dulce de leche is really milky. I’m a tiny bit allergic to it. I like pork with apple sauce but they don’t have it much here.
A: I like the meat here but here you have to ask for it to be undercooked otherwise they’ll burn it. As they like it different here. I like bondiola with papas fritas. My second favourite is milanesa. They don’t have it in the United States, because I don’t think they’d like it too much. I like chicken as my grandma always made chicken stuff for me, and milanesa has breaded stuff on the outside.

Where do you live?
S: In America it’s only us in our house but here in our apartment people can come to our door. It’s a lot noisier with all the windows open so you can all hear all the dogs and all the people shouting.
A: A lot of people have a city house and one in the country where they go all summer, and have a pool and lots of activities, and do sports. People don’t work here in the summer. I prefer to live in a house but I prefer the city where you’re always going out.

What are your summer plans?
A: We’re going to be travelling around so I expect to see a lot of beautiful cities and landmarks. We’re going to Iguazú, Rio de Janeiro and Salta. I expect to see lots of countryside and old-fashioned towns.

Are you looking forward to leaving the city?
S&A: No!
A: I prefer the urban with all the noise and I just like the city.
S: It’s too noisy though and I can’t sleep. There’s cars, and dogs barking.

How do you keep in touch with your friends?
A: Through Skype. We videochat with them online. We also do a blog and all the kids back home look at it. It has pictures and we write about what we are doing here. We usually update it once every two weeks. My teachers back there show it to the kids.

What will you miss about Argentina when you leave, apart from friends you’ve made?
A: I’ll definitely miss the diet. I love how they eat. They have snacks and I especially like all the meat they eat. They don’t have as many sauces and vegetables. It’s plain stuff and that’s what I like.
S: Yeah, my dad tries to make all fancy stuff with Italian sauces which are gross. I’ll miss the kioscos, because they have them in every block. I ask my parents for my allowance to spend it there. In America we get two dollars but here we get 10 pesos.

End-of-term report card
Magdalena Ortiz de Ries Centeno, general director of Colegio Río de la Plata where Shane and Aidan Wall have studied for the past two months, talked to the Herald about the brothers and give the bilingual school’s take on educating them briefly.
She says: “We are used to taking on foreign students. Groups of families send their children to us, often because the Ministry of Education or embassies have recommended us so that they can continue learning English. We are used to people from Brazil, the US and sometimes from England.
“Generally they come and stay for one or two years and become like our students. In the boys’ case it is different as they were just here for two months.
“What has been interesting is that they have been really interested in knowing us and getting to know the culture. That meant the two boys were really happy to be here. We also tell our pupils to be open-minded and so it was fun to see us speaking in English and the boys speaking in Spanish.
“Our philosophy is to be open-minded and most of our books are American. Our library is filled with English books and I travel at least once a year to learn things from other countries. Perhaps what this family noticed, and felt comfortable with was the way we interacted with them for these reasons, plus we are a small school.
“They took part in everything, sports, parents’ meetings, gym, the concerts and they felt. like they were students for years.”
After spending time with the siblings, one topic of conversation I personally noted was how they missed their friends in the US, so how did they adapt to the new school?
Ortiz de Ries Centeno says: “They had no problems. In general, adults have more problems adapting than children. In general students don‘t. We’ve had students who didn’t speak a word of Spanish or English in secondary school. We’ve also had a Chinese student who went to her Chinese school on Saturdays, and it was a great experience for all of us.
“These boys are especially friendly and I realized in the first interview that they wanted to stay that same day. The following day, they had bought the uniform, a pencil-box and were ready to start school. That was a bit unusual as they were very comfortable. In fact, once or twice we had to call in their parents for an interview as they were too confident! At the end of the day it was a way of gaining acceptance within their peers, proving they were spirited and not shy.”

Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on December 18, 2011
Photo by Mariano Fuchila

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *