Hey Peter, it's Andrew.
Nice to see you. Love what you've started with this site, it's really given me an outlet to share some of my ideas and ask myself some important questions.
One of these questions I had was why you're still in West Virginia when everyone else is abroad and you claim you're going abroad to Argentina. Of course this sparked a whole other line of questioning about your present life in Appalachia and your prospective, exciting (possibly fake) life that awaits you in Buenos Aires. In no particular order, here are some questions I have for you:
Even exchanging major cities, like I did in trading Boston for Rome, there's inevitably some form of culture shock. For me, it was adjusting the bathrooms in my room that house a toilet, shower and sink in the same tiny space; it was learning that Italians eat almost exclusively carbs; and it was navigating a major European city that has no street signs. What adjustments do you envision having to make in moving from the rolling hills of your adopted state to one of the biggest cities in Latin America?
Argentina is famous for its beef culture. While delicious, it's often reported that foreigners get sick of the "just steaks diet" after a while. How do you think you'll fare up against all the thicc meat the country has to offer?
Not a question, but make sure you give Carlos Tevez a pat on the back for me. The man turned down tens of millions of dollars (quintillions of yen) from the Chinese Super League to stay with his boyhood club Boca Juniors. Who says soccer players are soulless mercenaries?
How fast do you think it will take you to grow a mustache fit for the Pampas? I'll set the over/under at 2.5 weeks.
Perhaps Argentina's most famous export was Rosario native Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Born to an aristocratic family, he is said to have developed his Marxist revolutionary ideas on a motorcycle journey throughout Latin America in his youth. Do you see yourself undergoing a similar ideological sea change? And if so, when can we expect the armed leftist uprising? How about a motorcycle ride through West Va before you leave? Do you think that would yield different results? Please compare and contrast, preferably in a Venn diagram because I'm a visual learner.
Thanks, Dr. Pleats. Hope to hear from you soon.
I was startled when I saw an e-mail with with “no subject” land in my inbox. After bringing myself to open it, I saw it was from you, and everything made sense. You’re a man that isn't defined by subjects, leg mass, or left feet.
Ah, yes. I am still in the rolling hills of Appalachia and have slowly withered away in a place where I don’t know anyone my age, even if an alluring gambling hotspot is less than a mile from my house. They have $2 Budlight and Burger Sundays, something that I have to constantly stop myself from going to.
Living in Morgantown, West Virginia, has prepared me for the tribulations of shifting culture in South America. At Colby, for better or for worse, I am surrounded by like-minded people placed in the middle of nowhere in Maine. Whenever I go home for breaks, it is the complete opposite. Trump signs are still up. I haven’t attended the local motocross competitions. I haven’t gone hunting and I don’t smoke cigarettes with the windows rolled up. I have truly failed to integrate myself into this city; but to be completely honest, I haven’t really tried because I think I’d fail. The closest I got to meeting someone in college was a delivery that I did for an edible arrangement company, where I had to knock on three different sorority house doors before finding the person who needed a delivery—our exchange of “thanks” and “no problem” was spiritually uplifting. Having been abroad in Morgantown for my breaks constantly won’t be too dissimilar to beginning my studies in Buenos Aires. They’re just different flavors; one is a 16-oz 7-11 Mountain Dew Gulp Portable Cup with a pepperoni roll on the side (this is the official state food), while the other is a small glass of Malbec, with a choripan on the side.
Look, Andrew, I’ve been thicc my whole life. I always wanted to have the Roberto Carlos tree-trunk thighs. My mom alway made me buy my clothes in the husky section in elementary school. I can finish a whole pot of rice, beans, and meat in a 30 minute time frame, and gordito was my nickname for a while. I seriously thought about competitive eating at a point in my life. So, am I ready for the thicc meat in Argentina? Since I cannot express my emotional response through writing, this man has to do it for me.
Please stop reminding me of Carlitos. I love that man. He needs to make more cash for his bros in the barrio so give him a break. He’ll be back, at age 42, probably chubbier than Maradona is right now, but still banging in goals like no European soccer player ever would.
Just like Carlitos, Ché was one of my childhood heroes. Here is a photo of me as a young lad with a Ché hat running a marathon, in case you didn’t believe me. I have led leftist uprisings my entire life; a city with three hundred million people won’t be a challenge. I mean, now that Trump is in office, I feel that if I can get the entirety of South America to join my militia, we will overcome and defeat him easily. Besides, he spends so much time in Mar-a-Lago that it is an easy place to get to geographically. We’ll surround him right after he finishes his last meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken eaten with a fork and knife, his Android phone in his pocket, a xenophobic tweet about immigrants still left in “draft” mode. Don’t worry. I’ve already swooned all of these big-time coal barons in West Virginia—what did you think I was doing hastily delivering edible arrangements for Valentine’s Day?
Nice to see you too, Andrew, but I have a couple questions for you:
How have those crusty Adidas shoes held up in those golden-brick streets in Rome? Did Connor Benjamin spill on them while filming himself chugging a 2-oz shot of the Natural?
Do you find that you’ve adjusted well to the cultural changes of Rome? Are you actually speaking Italian? Can you give Totti a kick on the backside for me? Have you found love? Maybe, after we graduate, we can accomplish that dream of playing for Alabama’s marching band, but have you picked up any new habits while abroad?
I look forward to your response.
I'm glad you found the time in your busy schedule to get back to my original email. LOVED the Pete Weber video; there's a reason he's been called the bad boy of bowling.
On a separate note, I can't know for sure, but I'm pretty confident that we're making journalism history by pioneering the "two-way interview via email chain" interview. It's one of those things where you remember where you were when it happened and I, for one, couldn't be more proud of us.
That said, your first question is a silly one. The Adidas Marathon 88s are holding up just fine and have proved to be quite versatile. They're reasonably comfortable and still just stylish enough to get by in the haute couture streets of Rome; they're even safe from Connor's slow, deliberate beer-chugging methods. Furthermore, I could argue that the shoe is really on the other foot, Peter. Per your snapchats, it seems that you recently bought a new pair of Adidas Sambas. Is it possible that you were jealous of my (and Chase Goldston's, R.I.P. in peace) fly Adidas sneakers? Please get back to me on that.
I think I've adapted pretty well to the cultural idiosyncrasies of Rome. People go out much later and more frequently here. I also have found that I have much less schoolwork while abroad so I can no longer hide behind my usual excuses for foregoing bar night at Colby.
My Italian is coming along slowly in part because I spend much of my time with Americans who speak very little Italian. However, I recently joined a local soccer team whose players speak almost no English. That's put more pressure on me to improve my Italian so that I don't mess up drills during practice (all "clean out your locker" jokes apply here).
I'll admit that I'm not a huge Totti fan, either, but the fact that he's played with only one club since his debut in 1992 is one of the crazier stats in soccer.
Some new habits from abroad:
With the way my bathroom is structured, I now brush my teeth in the shower every day. Odd sensation.
I have to watch soccer later in the day now. Honestly, I think I like waking up and watching some footy early in the morning than having to wait until Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I literally have no idea what to do with myself between the hours of 8:30am to 12:30pm on the weekend. I'm forced to either catch up on sleep or explore Rome and experience a foreign culture. It's bullshit.
Also takeplug has given me an outlet to write about whatever nonsense pops into my brain. So yeah I'd count writing long-winded emails to one of my friends at college/new boss as a habit I've learned abroad.
I'm interested to hear your first impressions about Buenos Aires, that is if they have internet access at that kind of latitude. I guess that leads me to my main question I have for you that I've thought about for a bit: How does wifi work?
We are at the cutting edge of modern journalism right now. How does it feel? What does it smell like? How does it taste?
I would never be envious of your low-grade Adidas kicks. At least Chases’ have heart. Yours makes it immediately obvious that you enjoy formations like the 3-5-2 and spend afternoon after afternoon reading Barstool.
I have also been struggling with the late night culture of Buenos Aires. The other night, I was out until 3:45 (Yeah, I drink) and got home thinking that my host mom would be worried about me. In fact, she wasn’t even home yet. I was completely flexed on by a sixty-six year-old woman and I’ve only been here for a week. I was, the one and only, idiot abroad.
Wifi-pronounced weefee in some Latin American cultures-just uses radio frequencies to send signals between devices in the Gigahertz range. Interestingly enough, much of the Wifi here is as slow (not necessarily in a bad way) as the cultural nuances of the city. For example, one can sit in a cafe for more than several hours having only ordered a small espresso. Everything starts two hours later than the scheduled time. Since Argentina has roots in Italy, I’m sure you’re experiencing some of the same differences than that rapid-fire culture that we have over in the United States. Do you enjoy it as much as you enjoy the slow-build up style of my beloved La Liga?
I was thinking about that article you wrote (you know, the one about that Pogba guy). Where did you come up for the inspiration for that? Did it pop up when you hit a ball into a channel in Italy? Or rather, was it brewing in your head for a long time? It went so viral that a U13 Baltimore Bays coach retweeted it. We’ve fucking made it.
All the best,
Dearest Dr. Pleats,
I'm glad you're acclimating well to life in Buenos Aires. Feel free to call/text/email me if you have any questions about Latin American culture or need to translate any words in Spanish. I'd be happy to help!
This email chain we've got going feels kind of like when you're a really young kid and you've just discovered Play-doh. It's super cool that you can mold it into anything you want but you're not sure if you'll end up making a sick blue dragon or if you'll get bored and just start eating it. I'm excited to see what kind of dragons we can make.
Your comment about the relaxed pace of Italian culture compared to La Liga play is really pretty insightful. Both are much slower than the Northern-European style emphasis efficiency and speed. The local sandwich shop takes ages to put together a simple order- nothing is hurried and everything is deliberate. The final product is of course a delicious panino of prosciutto, mozzarella, pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes. This is much like how Spanish soccer teams will allow Barcelona all the time and space they need to score, producing some absolutely exquisite goals.
The idea for the Pogba article came to me one day when I noticed the dearth of fire flames takes on takeplug. For a website whose name quite literally means "a place that provides takes", it seemed only right that I tried to add one of my own. I won't talk it up too much but I just wanted to throw some chirps at Man United and write something funny. The article was the product of that.
It's interesting that you bring up playing balls into the channel here in Italy. This past week, the Italian club I've been playing with had our first real scrimmage at practice. I was marooned out at right wing back and was excited to Get Stuck In ©. The first few times I got the ball, I attempted to play it forward down the sideline, as I'd been instructed back in the US and A. After my third try, my teammates started giving me shit in Italian, telling me to play the ball backward and switch play across the backline. An utterly alien concept in the NESCAC, I had to recondition myself to play a different brand of soccer here. Now that's cultural immersion.
What can we expect out of Peter Barkey-Bircann's latest takeplug piece? Can you find a Soundcloud rapper who's so under-underground that we're his or hers first listeners? I'd also love to hear if you have any travel plans in Argentina/South America.
Here's a video that you might enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iphqdyydiUs
Thanks for the kind offer. I already get corrected by my host mom, so I don’t need your Spanish tutoring. Maaaan, what are dragons, anyways? Who knew that this is where it would take us? Who knew that those two injured boys in the training room freshman year would make it this far?
I love the analogy of build-up soccer to a panino. It makes me wonder, though. What would the sandwich equivalent of counter-attacking be? A burnt Bratwurst held together by two beautiful pieces of Italian bread, poorly replicated by American chefs? I’m happy to hear that your Pogba article was a response to the dearth of fire-flames on takeplug. It has been the most viewed take we have published, complete with a Vogel reference. I’m humbled. I’m glad that you’ve reconditioned yourself to play a different style of soccer—it’ll be so nice to have it be completely useless next season when those channels open up and you cock that right leg back.
Honestly, I’ve been a little disappointed in myself. I thought I would write more consistently, but I’ve been struggling to get into a rhythm. Having dinner at 9 pm and acclimating to a new group of people (no Wii Golf) has been devastating for my writing abilities. Plus, I find myself in between two languages; I write Spanish words in English notes. I just spent a week in Paraguay, a country with seemingly no other tourists. It was harrowing. Unemployment rates are extremely high and the country was recently ruled by a dictator. However, the people there were inspiring, a testament to the strength of human spirit in peculiar places. Inflation is absurd. I paid $120,000 for a dinner the other night. I got a Paraguay jersey (authentic) for $18 USD. How is this feasible? Speaking of that, have you noticed anything going on in Rome that isn’t shown in those corny study-abroad flyers?
Sorry for the delay. It’ll never happen again, my friend.
Pleats, MD, PHD, MFA
Dear Mr. Bircan't,
It's nice to know that you're still alive. I was getting worried that you had actually become a guerrilla fighter in rural South America and denounced the decadence of your friends from the North. But I'm happy to learn that the first thing you did when you got back to Buenos Aires was to write to me. It's the little things.
Your trip to Paraguay sounds like it was quite eye-opening. I'd only read about the unemployment and overall economic hardship there since the fall of the dictatorship, but to experience it is another kettle of fish entirely. It's funny you should mention the lack of tourists there because nearly everywhere I've been in Europe has been crawling with them.
As for Rome, the city is facing something of a crisis of identity at the moment. The municipal government is bankrupt, choosing to spend its resources to preserve the historical sites that bring in tourist dollars. As a result, rents in the city center have exploded, forcing Romans into the periphery of the city. Here's a quick stat for you: since 1970, the population of Rome has been more or less the same at 2.7 million, but the area of the city is 4 times as large. It's like when you squash an orange and all the juice that was in the center spreads out everywhere. Rome has to decide who it should accommodate-is Rome for tourists or for its residents? So far, it seems the answer has been tourists.
As a tourist myself, I've really enjoyed my time in Rome. It's kind of crazy that I really don't have that much time left abroad: I have spring break in three weeks and then I go home three weeks after that. I guess time flies when you're having fun writing nonsense emails to your friend halfway around the world.
Anyway, if this is our last email of this groundbreaking journalistic experiment then know that I've thoroughly enjoyed disagreeing with you about all things soccer, chirping each other's footwear choices, and learning about the similarities between West Virginia and Argentina.
-Peter Barkey-Bircann & Andrew D'Anieri