Tag Archives: Memories

Memory Mondays #7 | School Kiosk

Forgive the poor photo –this was taken with the little cheap camera I had for a short period of time at Catholic boarding school. It was an instant camera, I recall, but I could never afford a second roll of film. Such frivolities would have been unbelievable for me at the time. Now I print photos all the time… 😅 but I remember getting these printed as a kid was a big deal for me because of the cost.

Anyway, pictured is the boarding school’s kiosk. It was a little wooden shack. It also had a window on the side –some kid always tried to buy from there, because the front would be swamped. Sometimes the lady in this photo (it wasn’t always the same one) would let you buy from that window, but they usually just said no and sent you to the front.

This same lady once snatched a toy from my hand to punish me from bothering her too much after she said no to letting me buy from there. I was aghast! I sat under the window crying to myself until she gave it back. I was so fond of that little toy that it’s one of the few things I brought with me to the USA… it probably deserves its own Memory Monday post.

I had very little money to spend at this shop. Twenty five cents in the morning and twenty five in the afternoon. Remember, I would spend the whole week at this school. It definitely didn’t go very far, and since I was a very picky eater growing up (in my defense the school food was revolting) I was often hungry all day at school. Kiosk snacks didn’t offer much of a reprieve at 50 cents a day (that was basically the cost of one candy bar.)

But some things were cheaper. Full disclosure, new photos of this stuff are impossible for me to obtain, so I pulled these from Google image search, sometimes from auctions or defunct online stores.

I’d often get “Maní Con Chocolate” (chocolate covered peanuts):

I remember the feel of the cardboard box so well. Argentinean maní con chocolate always had a carboardy taste to me. I loved it, though.

Another thing that I could buy easily were chocolatines (usually 5 or 10 cents each). Extremely cheap tiny blocks of confectioner’s chocolate. Delicious. Cheap tasting but so good.

Turrones (can’t recall the exact price but extremely cheap) were my to-go if I was starving:

They tasted even more like cardboard, but were filling. I still buy these from Argentinean stores to this day for nostalgia’s sake and they taste exactly like they did when I was a kid. I often have one turrón for breakfast with my coffee.

I almost never got to buy Topolín. It was basically toys and a lollipop. But it was a real thrill to open one. Topolín saw many iterations of its packaging over the years. This is the one I remember best:

A much better “treat and toy” candy was Chocolate Con Leche Jack. It was a little (good quality) chocolate with a neat toy inside, basically a luxury version of a chocolatín. The toy was (in my era) just a weird shape with a colorful painted image on it, but they got fancier later. I prefer the ones I grew up with.

Paragüitas were an excellent treat. It was an umbrella-shaped chocolate. You could stab other kids with it:

There were two kinds of kids: those who sucked on their paraguita to make it last and those who bit into it like animals. I was the latter. Sometimes I still see these, in the USA –an American version which is carrot-shaped and appears around Easter. I believe it is made by Lindt.

I think that’s it –once again, sorry for the poor quality photos. It was the best I could find. 😊

Memory Mondays #6 | Escuela Hogar Maria Jauregui De Pradere

I’m breaking a big rule of mine with the next two Memory Monday posts, by basically grabbing photos from ✨ Le Googlé ✨. There are two reasons for doing this. One, is that I can not ever go back to take these photos myself, to show you. Ordinarily, I would link back to the sources. But the sources are either Google images on the school’s location or rather shady online places that may have stolen them from elsewhere and I do not feel comfortable linking back to.

If any of the photos on this post belong to you, please let me know if I may use them with credit, or if you want me to take them down, and I will oblige with my deepest apologies.

En español por las dudas: si las fotos que usé en este post te pertenecen, por favor decime si las puedo continuar usando dándote crédito, o si preferís que las quite por completo. Me podés contactar a marina@marinaneira.com y con mucho placer lo haré .

I only went to this school for a few years, and only one year as a full-time boarder, going home only on the weekends, but sometimes it feels like it was half my childhood.

I’ll get straight to the point: I was exquisitely unhappy here, unimaginably so. I experienced my first intense bout of depression here, I suffered intense bullying here, mainly from the other girls (it was an all-girls Catholic school) but sometimes even from the occasional teacher. I was called the Spanish equivalent of the R word in class by a teacher once (to the mirth of everyone else) as well as had my stuttering mocked constantly, sometimes by the teachers too.

Being a religious school, the bulk of my Catholic indoctrination happened here, and I was attending it when I began to question and dutifully squash down my doubts (such as when a fellow student was failed on an assignment for mentioning evolution, or when we heard from a teacher that some of the nuns had “redirected” a donation of meat by the Rotary Club meant for us, to themselves. The teachers got in trouble for letting this info leak, too).

The photo below shows the capilla (a small church to which we were forced to go every Wednesday):

When it was very cold, I would sometimes sit in a little alcove of sorts next to the church entrance since it was protected from the wind, and away from other people. There I would poorly play my recorder, cold, hungry and out-of-tune, in a display so pathetic and full of self-pity, that in retrospective it is rather comical. In my own ten-year-old mind, however, I felt like I was living in a Charles Dickens novel, probably some side character in David Copperfield.

These days, novels that in any way “romanticize” poverty or childhood suffering are a no-no, particularly when they have the hidden objective of proselytizing, but back then, I devoured those books, books about orphans, books about the virtue of being unable to have nice things and being happy anyway, and –in spite of my nagging doubts– heavily religious books that professed seeking your comfort in Christianity. All were a refuge. They also heavily influenced the victim mentality I held at the time. 🙃 But I digress.

The two photos below were taken with my camera/by me. Obviously the leftmost one was taken by a schoolmate.

The windows on the second photo are one of the two dormitories. You got an old little wooden wardrobe for your things. The beds were not very comfy. The room was quite cold in the winter. The showers were the worst part, often broken (very little water which sometimes was not heated if something broke). Of course, prayers morning and night were mandatory. And no bedtime stories here. Going to the bathroom at night terrified me.

I should mention that this school used to be an orphanage when it was first built. A lot of what was there was from those days, including the dormitories. There was such a dread in the air of those long rooms for me.

I had almost no friends at this place, and missed my mother the entire week with all the painful longing I could express, despite home life being hellish in its own way at the time (this was after my parents separated.) But as mentioned, I found refuge in books and my few toys, and, of course, in drawing.

If you scroll back up to those photos, next to the drinking fountains you can see a big bush. I often hid there. It was a big, red hibiscus shrub. The many turtles the school kept as pets (and which we kids would give our pencils to bite marks into) also sometimes took refuge there.

This is a photo I took while hiding in that bush, literally the first selfie I took in my life:

There were a few steps like the ones you see below. During recess, little girls would often sit on these steps and chat or play payana (or jacks, as you might know it) with pebbles found on the schoolyard.

Some of these kids did have parents with money but, by and large, most did not, and if you had anything and showed it off, you definitely got the evil eye. You were pretty safe playing with pebbles, though.

It’s hard to write any post about my schooldays that isn’t super unhappy. They were bad times. While I never was happy in school, the years I was at this particular school were the worst, because it was also the worst years of my childhood as far as my home life. Leaving that school basically coincided with life getting better in other regards too.

I remember visiting the school the year after I left for good to go to another school in our new area (which was after 6th grade –middle school in Argentina at the time was done in 7th grade). Meaning, the next immediate year.

I saw my teacher from the year before, whom everyone loved. She was very sweet, though I know I was difficult for anyone to deal with. Still… I’ll never forget running up to her to say hi, and she completely pretending not to know me, staring me down with the most unsmiling face, saying “I don’t remember you” months after spending an entire year with me.

I went back to my mom who was waiting a distance away feeling like I’d had a whole bucket of ice water dumped on me, trying so hard not to cry. I was so confused, I remember wondering if I’d imagined having her as my teacher because I couldn’t believe a teacher would do that –but that didn’t explain how cold she had been.

So yeah, school sucked, I hated this place.

Part of the reason I am so indulgent of my inner child today is precisely that. The little girl you see in these photos would have lost her absolute mind at the life I lead now.

Anyway! In the next Memory Monday post I’ll talk about the school’s candy kiosk –and after that I will try my damndest to make a really happy Memory Monday post that is related to actually happy memories. 😅

Memory Mondays #5 | Smile

Looking at this slightly damaged photo, I cannot remember that day at all –or even the place. It would have been a school play at either late kindergarten or early elementary school. I picked it for today’s Memory Monday for a different reason, however.

My smile here, admittedly, is a little dumb-looking. Keeping my lips together, it shows a hint of my teeth in the corners. It’s not a very cute smile. The thing is, at that time, I didn’t know that. So it’s a completely confident and happy smile, with no worries about how it looks. And even as I had less reasons to smile as I grew into a more taciturn and worried child, I still smiled without any self-consciousness until I was maybe ten years old.

One day, long after the taking of this photo (maybe five or six years later) my mom was taking a different photo of me, and, I’m sure trying to help me have a better picture, she said something to the effect of “smile properly, you look dumb like that”.

It’s one of those moments that stay seared in your mind forever. I remember the thoughts rushing one after the other in my ever-anxious young mind: “How is it possible to smile “wrong”? I’ve always smiled like this. Have I always smiled the wrong way? How does one even do that? Who else noticed that I look dumb when I smile? Why didn’t my mom tell me sooner that my smile looks dumb?”

I remember the picture being taken as I felt as if I’d swallowed a rock —and I still had to smile for it, somehow. I remember my voice, helplessly choking out “I don’t know what you mean, I don’t know how to smile any differently.” I’m sure my mom forgot about this comment in less than a minute; it was without any malice, but I was a very sensitive child.

Eventually I’d learn how to smile “properly”, which meant not keeping my lips pressed together. Still, the self-consciousness never did go away. I think about it every time I take a photo, even selfies, and I’ve become self-conscious of other things now, like my gums showing too much.

In reality, I don’t think my genuine childhood smile is ugly. I wish I could have been given this tip in a gentler way —my mom meant well, and was trying to help me, and was frustrated, I imagine. A lot of years of my childhood were spent in a state of constant stress for my mom. She probably doesn’t even remember saying such a thing.

I think a bunch of my Memory Mondays have grim or kinda sad memories, but I’m writing them from a happy, contemplative place, so I hope they aren’t depressing. 😅 I don’t think this small snapshot of my childhood is anything special, most people have moments like these, right? I still like revisiting them.

Memory Mondays #4 | Having Mate 🧉

I realized before I left on my trip that a Memory Monday would come while I was gone, and another right as I got back, so I quickly pre-scheduled both of them. These will be shorter, but I didn’t want to break my streak.

In the photo above, my dad is giving me mate to sip. Mate is like a tea you drink in a wooden, metal (with wood on the inside), leather or natural gourd, and drink with a metal straw that has a filter at the bottom (this type of straw is called a “bombilla”). Something like tea leaves is packed into the gourd, and sugar is sometimes added. Most people in Argentina drink it with hot water. Some people drink it cold, and in that case it’s called Tereré (a word of Guaraní origin) but we always had it hot.

Mate is pretty high in caffeine, but in general, as soon as you are old enough to sip through a straw, you’ll be given at least some mate. even as a very young child. This is because the ritual of drinking mate, usually daily in the mornings and afternoons, is an important family-and-friends bonding experience, so your parents wouldn’t want to leave you out. Everyone drinks from the same straw and gourd. The gourd is refilled for each person.

A fun tidbit: if you don’t want any more mate, simply say “Gracias” (thank you). But don’t say thank you too early! If you say it when you are returning the gourd to the “cebador” (person making the mate for the group) after just your first one, they will assume you don’t want anymore, and you’ll be skipped in subsequent rounds.

It can feel odd if you are new to it, to be continually served without giving a word of thanks until you’re done –but that’s how it is.

A final note: did you know there is a mate emoji? I used it in the title of this post too. It’s this one! 🧉

Memory Mondays #3 | The Day I Met Pandy

Hi hi, everyone! It’s time for another Memory Monday! I hope your week is off to a great start. I’m extremely busy this week, so I’m going to keep this one short and sweet.

The doggy in the photo above is my little Poodle (or “Caniche” as they are called in Argentina) mix, Pandy, as a very little puppy, just taken from his mom. Pandy was always described as “medio Caniche, medio raza perro” which literally translates to “half Poodle, half dog-breed” which was a funnier way of saying mutt.

Pandy’s dad was well known in our little neighborhood. He was, in appearance and behavior, a scruffy, stocky little gray mutt who was exactly like Tramp from Lady and The Tramp, just a little darker. He technically belonged to someone in the local seltzer water plant, but he was basically a street dog, going all over the place, getting treats, getting into fights, and… siring puppies (lol). He had quite a large territory.

Pandy’s mom was a purebred Poodle as I recall, who belonged to the owners of our local general goods store (almacén, in Spanish –something between a NY bodega and a legit general goods store from the olden days) and her getting knocked up by the neighborhood tramp was a great joke to everyone who knew. The puppies were given away, all finding eager homes.

Ours was one of them. It was a complete surprise. I remember my mom calling me to our patio, asking me to sit down, and placing this whimpering little hippo on my lap. I could not believe it. I was five years old. I could not have been more pleased if a newborn unicorn had been given to me. And I was told he was all my own.

I have a lot of sad childhood memories, partly because I was a bit of a difficult kid (not badly behaved, just… not neurotypical I guess) and because of bad stuff that kept happening to us. As a result I have more vivid bad memories than good ones. But this happy memory at such a young age is one I remember very strongly. I remember my shock, followed by indescribable delight.

It’s a moment that stayed in my heart forever –in particular thanks to this photo, taken at that exact moment, by my mother.

I hope you enjoyed today’s memory. I had fun revisiting it for my blog.

Memory Mondays #2 | First Communion

Last Monday, for no particular reason, I decided to make this post. Later, I thought, why not post an old photo every Monday and talk a little bit about my past?

It will just be a snippet of text, I don’t expect to write a long post every time unless I am feeling very inspired (which I guess today I am). For now, I will concentrate on photos of my childhood or (in spite of the title of these posts) family photos from before I was born. Basically, at least for a while, all photos posted will be from before we came to the USA.

I guess I’ll pick this one to begin (or rather, to continue):

This is me and my dad on the day of my first communion. I was very happy to see my dad, for two reasons: my parents had separated a year or so prior, and we missed each other desperately. We saw each other maybe once a month. Because my home life became quite turbulent after he left, I begged the administrators at the Catholic school I attended to let me be a boarder at the school, going home only on weekends (I was 10 when I asked for this.)

I’m putting the rest of this post under a cut because there is mention of (pretend?) attempted suicide in it. Please do not read further if you can’t handle it (it’s a minor passing mention and not the main point of this post, but the rest of the post gets kinda heavy in general, so, be warned.)

CW: Mention of suicide

Memory Mondays #1 | Where I Came From 🇦🇷

I have a little bit of my past to share with you today. This photo is current, taken from Google Maps the other day, so it looks different (as in: better) than when I used to live here, but this is my old home back in Argentina:

I screencapped it after doing some needed research related to my mom’s immigration process.

This is where we lived for four or so years before we immigrated to the US almost 20 years ago. This house had no running water. Instead, we had a well outside that we got our water from. The bathroom had no door; we had a piece of wood, bowed by humidity and smelling strongly of mold, that we leaned against the doorspace for some privacy. To flush your waste in the toilet, you had to bring a bucket of water and throw it down the toilet to get it to flush.

We had a small water reservoir which hung in the shower stall, and had a shower head attached. It could either heat up a small amount of water or we heated it ourselves on the stove –I don’t remember. but it wasn’t much, so you had to shower very quickly.

In relation to the water, doing dishes was my most hated chore. You had to fill a bucket and wash dishes with water that got progressively more disgusting. 🤮 And cold (even if you warmed it up on the stove, it quickly got cold.)

The house itself was very unfinished at the time. The outside was not painted. The inside looked like this:

The room you see above was our bedroom. I was able to bring a few things you see in this room to the USA, mainly some photos, the partly-visible matryoshkas and the Pokémon figures. Actually, that may be it (as far as the stuff in this photo goes).

The room smelled horribly of mold. The humidity was quite bad. As I’ve mentioned at times before, it was so bad that it would drip water on your face during the night. The walls had holes, which allowed insects from the yard to come inside, such as cockroaches (which I could hear flying around the room at times) and some pretty big-ass spiders.

You can see the backyard below, it was decently big:

Here is a photo of my first dog, Pandy, being let in after it suddenly started to rain. I think it was late and it had been raining for a while. He had his own house, but we let him in because it was raining too much. He was happier than he looks here…

As you can perhaps tell, all our furniture was quite old. Everything we had was used or hand-me-downs as far as furniture goes.

This is the little computer corner. This was my first computer. It was my big present, when I turned 15:

Back then, Internet was really expensive, and new. We had a max of 6 hours a week and even that plan was very expensive. Internet time had to be used wisely, but it was easier to do that back then. I didn’t have internet for a couple of years, so I played a lot of bootleg video games, mostly Sierra games. This was also when I did a lot of the written worldbuilding for Meganeea, which until then was mostly piles of concept art.

That little corner seems cramped and awful looking at the photo now, but I felt very lucky to have it. In general, I think most people would consider living in such a house to be really terrible. But we’d come from living in an awful situation with terrible people, and this was the happiest we were in over four years.

Still, right around the time we immigrated, we’d come very close to losing even this sad-looking place. And I knew too well how much worse it could be, because across the tracks a block away, there was the equivalent of a shanty town. A very, very poor place, and dangerous too.

I just wanted to talk a little about where I came from, now that I am a citizen. I often go on and on about how I feel like a princess in a palace where I live now. I really do. I am glad I was born in Argentina and I am glad I experienced some struggles in my youth. I appreciate what I have all the more.