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Helloooo EE.UU.

Time July 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Sunday, July 8–No puedo creer

7.01 am

I’m not ready.  Not ready to be here.  Not ready to not wake up in the city.  Not ready to hear English.  Not ready.

I cried on the plane watching the lights of Buenos Aires disappear behind me.  Not bawling, just a few tears.  But now that I have arrived in Atlanta 10 hours later, it feels like the last 5 months might have just been a dream.  20 weeks of ups and downs.  I don’t like how cheesy it sounds, but studying abroad has really changed me.  The things I used to focus on don’t seem as important anymore.  I’m not saying I’m not still excited to go shopping when I get home, but I’m more focused on financing my trip/potentially moving back to BsAs than buying a new pair of wedges.

It didn’t really hit me as real until I was waiting in line to board the plane behind a giant group of teenage Americans. (and it still hasn’t really kicked in that going back isn’t definite…yet) But they were probably around 15-16 years old and it seemed like there were 100 of them. all talking, mostly complaining, in English and just being the epitome of obnoxious Americans.  The idea of going back to that made me sick to my stomach.  I wanted to tell them to calm down and quit complaining, but I didn’t want to talk to them in English and give it away that I’m American too.  So instead I walked around their giant group and let two Argentines in front of me as the line finally started moving.

But thank god when the girl who ended up sitting next to me responded to me in Spanish after I asked her “de donde sos?”  funny thing was, she’s from New Jersey, but is living in Buenos Aires now.  She said she was relieved when I spoke to her in Spanish bc she was afraid I was with the group of kids.  She was probably the best plane friend I could have asked for, because, for one, she wasn’t an obnoxious American, and also she had been through the same thing as me a couple of years earlier after she studied abroad in the city.  Instead of giving me a weird look as I began to tear up, she gave me tissues.  After having met so many (not obnoxious) Americans like her in Buenos Aires, it makes my dream of moving back seem more tangible.  We exchanged information and I told her she might be getting a facebook message soon from me freaking out with reverse culture shock.

Sitting in the Atlanta airport, I’m already overwhelmed hearing English everywhere.  It’s not as easy to zone out on as Spanish, so it’s kind of giving me a headache.  Good I’ve still got some of the good Argentina ibuprofen (I think it’s prescription strength).  I just called my mom and left her a message in Spanish bc I don’t wanna do it yet.  I don’t want to speak English and be one of them.  I was fine speaking English with my plane friend because we knew Spanish was an option.  For some reason, that was more comforting.  But now, it’s kind of scary because it means I’m here to stay.  And I don’t want that right now.

I’ve been excited to come back to the warm summer on the lake since the cold started in BsAs, but now that the time’s finally arrived, the cold is looking that much better.  But I can’t lie that I am still really excited to see my friends and family.  and to eat a giant salad. with jalapeños.  and to not have to spend money every day.

I don’t know what to think right now.  It’s all just weird.  just got to go day by day, I guess?

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rainbows, monografías, and winter in July

Time June 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Sunday, June 24 

So I know it’s been like years since I’ve written anything, but that’s obviously because I’ve been doing everything!  haha Or at least that’s what I’ll say my excuse is for now.  But yep, I’m still abroad!! Still in classes!  It’s like I go to high school in the northeast or something when they don’t graduate until nearly July.  poor kids.  (in AR, we were free in May, but the majority of Tulane kids thought I was crazy when I told them that bc they’re all from up north)

Realtalk though, I have done a lot of awesome stuff over the past howeverlongit’sbeen and I’ll give y’all a little taste of that with some pictures and videos below!

Buuut the reason I’m finally getting around to writing this old thing again is obviously because I have other more important things to be writing.  So of course, I choose to write about my life rather than my 12-page human rights paper (monografía).  The paper’s chugaluggin along, but it’s definitely been a struggle to remember what it’s like to do homework, other than reading and writing papers with a 2-pg limit.

Which brings me to one of the most bizarre things about studying abroad in a different hemisphere–it’s WINTER here!! Which means while all of my friends at home are running around in bathing suits and sundresses and not in class, I’m here bundling up, still in my boots, and taking finals.  Hilarious sidenote: one of my friends from home, who will remain unnamed to prevent embarrassment, messaged me that she was jealous that I was going to come back so tan.  I had to remind her that I’m a little bit further down on the map, so the 30-40 degree weather hasn’t been so conducive to loungin in my bikini. 😉  But even though I should have expected it, well I did expect it, it’s still weird to actually live in the opposite season during this time of year.  However, the weather lately has been gorgeous and in like the 50s-60s so it’s perfect for explorin’ and doing fun things.  Thank god I have so much free time to do just that…oh wait, just kidding :( haha but my time is coming! I just hope it’s still as pretty when I’m free to enjoy it!

That’s one sad thing about not having done much throughout the semester–everything is piled on at the end of the semester, which happens to obviously coincide with the last two-three weeks before we all go back home.  So, I CANNOT wait until this coming Thursday at 7pm, which is when I will officially be donezo with the semester.  Right now, though, it seems like years away because I still have papers, presentations, and exams between now and then.  I’m so excited to be able to do fun things and just enjoy my last few days in the city.

One of my good friends here turned 21 Friday, which is sadly not at all a big deal here.  haha But at least we made it as big of a deal as we could.  Saturday night, I brought her over some goodies and a couple of bottles of champagne for our mini-celebration.  I wish we had videoed us trying to open the bottle…First, she struggled with it because obviously she should pop it for her birthday.  But she wasn’t having much luck, so I wisely took my teeth to the plastic pull-tab.  I thought I might lose an eye, but I was very careful and only pulled on it with my teeth until I could get it with my hand.  haha and I still have both of my eyes.  So then I handed it back to her right before the plastic strip was completely off so she could pop it…as she pulled it hard and carefully aimed away from both of our faces, the strip came off clean, but no pop! so anti-climactic! so theeenn, I took another shot at it and realized it had little slots to push it off, so I handed it back to her to make the final effort and get the POP!  Of course, it wasn’t budging, so I took another shot at it and it slowly started easing out.  I was wiggling it up and out slowly but surely and was ready for it to just slide off unexcitingly, when it finally decided to shoot out like a bullet, luckily at the ceiling and not at my face.  Obviously we both screamed at the top of our lungs like we’d been shot and then died laughing at how ridiculous we felt.  It did actually terrify me though! hahahaha and luckily her host mom wasn’t home and no neighbors came to ask if anyone had died.  So we enjoyed the bottle of champagne and then went for a late dinner (11pm) which is pretty normal here for Saturdays.  I found a 30% off deal for El Estanciero, which is a parilla–steak/grill restaurant, over in a semi-swanky part of the city.  So we ate amazing steaks and drank a delicious red wine that we had never tried before and talked about how weird it will be to go home.

I’m ready for it to feel like reverse culture-shock when I get back to the US.  Like, hearing so much English is just going to be weird.  I heard these guys saying some kind of rude stuff in English the other day on the bus, and I almost died laughing when an Argentine told them to shut the **** up (in English) and be more mindful of what they say in public.  Obviously, when I do speak in English, I’m aware that there are a lot of people here that might understand me, but when I get back to the States, it’s just going to be bizarre knowing that everyone understands me.  Also, it’s going to be harder to tune people out.  hahaha Like, in Spanish, if I want to listen to what people are saying, I can, but it’s a lot easier to just focus on my reading on the bus/in a park and not listen to everyone around me.  In the US, everyone’s louder and harder to tune out.  :)  It’s little things like this that I think will really take me by surprise the first few weeks when I get back.  Which is why I’ll be writing at least one more blog post (maybe more!) about those strange little/giant changes.

In the mean time, enjoy my pictures from barrio chino (chinatown) and Iguazú!

 

super market in barrio chino (chinatown), BsAs, Argentina

Cataratas del Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina

Cataratas del Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina

Las Cataratas del Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina

Puerto Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina

Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

so I bought it for the pretty packaging, but they turned out to be somethingsweet-covered peanuts. glad I’m not allergic!
barrio chino, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

super market in barrio chino: so much fresh seafood!

Cataratas del Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina

 

 

 

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Back in the saddle

Time May 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 Sunday, May 13 – Back in the saddle

 

Happy Mother’s Day to my mommy at home in Arkinsaw!  I’m going to do the dishes tonight after dinner for my host-mom as my little gift to her, even though it’s not an Argentine holiday.  But apparently today is Mother’s Day in Uruguay, too.  haha just not here

I am beyond excited to say I have been feeling a zillion times better since my gran quilombo with the pneumonia.  I’m not getting tired nearly as much after walking around more and more every day.  I still take naps every other day, but I think that’s probably just my normal tiredness.  haha  I’ve been doing Pilates and feel really good, but I’m still a little iffy about trying to run again.  I don’t want to run in the chilly air outside (not sure my lungs would like that too much), so maybe I’ll re-join my gym.  Or maybe not.  haha We’ll see.

But today I went with one of my friends to the Feria de Mataderos, which was a big fair of artisan stuff in Mataderos, a barrio basically on the opposite side of the city from where I live.  We were really proud of ourselves for getting there without trouble after a little over an hour on the bus.  It was sooo cool, as you can see in the pictures.  There was live music, dancing, booths set up in every direction that had every kind of mate gourd ever, jewelry, clothes, A LLAMA and his mini-horse friend, leather out the wazoo, tons of amazing-looking food, and I don’t know what else.  I got some of my gifts to bring home checked off my list and for super cheap!

the llama!! and his mini-horse friend

live music at the Feria de Mataderos, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, BsAs, Argentina

a metal wine-holding gaucho!

 

Along with today’s adventures, I’ve been getting back in the swing of things as I’m feeling better.  It’s so nice to be able to enjoy the city again!  I conquered one of my biggest study-abroad fears and got my hair done!  And the guy was hilarious and actually did an awesome job!  But I almost got my tips dyed…  After he looked at me kind of funny and pulled out the color book, I was super confused and asked him to confirm that “desgaste” meant cortar–to cut.  Apparently it doesn’t.  It was ridiculous and we both got a good laugh out of it.  I told him at least now he had the best story of the day about the silly American girl.  But after that was cleared up and he offered to shave my head (another word I didn’t know before), he ended up doing exactly what I wanted and I taught him a couple of funny words in English too.

We found real HOT WINGS in BsAs!! and they were actually spicy!

 

Last weekend I went with the human rights concentration kids to an estancia (basically the country) in the province of Buenos Aires (not the city).  It was another IFSA-sponsored event, so we obviously ate some ahhmazing food and the accommodations were awesome.  We left early Saturday morning for the two hour trip and came back Sunday night.  Even though it was just two days, it was the perfect amount of time to get all the fun/relaxing stuff in.  But we still all wanted to stay and study abroad on the estancia drinking wine all day and eating like kings.  hahaha It was a pretty chill trip and we didn’t really have much organized activity as much as just options to do cool stuff or to just relax.  Because I was still feeling a little ill-ish from the pneumonia, I opted for mostly chill time to catch up on reading.  But I did go canoeing in the lagoon on the estancia!  I’m not really sure of the definition of a lagoon, but this body of water was barely more than a super stretched out/glorified puddle.  So it was really wide and could have passed as a mini-lake from just looking at it, but once we hopped in the canoe and started “paddling” it was basically like pushing off land the whole time.  I think the deepest it got was a solid three feet.  Even so, it was hilarious how much effort we were putting into it because somehow there was still a current/wind that we had to fight once we got off shore.  But it was really fun to get out of the city for a hot second and have a relaxing couple of days.  This coming Saturday I’m going to Pilar, a city outside of BsAs, with the exchange program group from the Universidad del Salvador.  They have another campus there and it’s supposed to be really pretty and relaxing too, so I’m really excited for that.  And we’re going to have an asado–aka a BBQ with tons of meat! yaummm  :)

learning a dance at the Estancia

 

feasting at the Estancia

 

learning the proper mate form at the Estancia, Chascomús, BsAs, Argentina

 

the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

canoeing in the laguna at the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

our little cottage at the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

This past Wed. in my human rights research class we went to the  Instituto Espacio para la Memoria, which is where people were brought and tortured during the dictatorship from 1976-1983.  It’s this gated area with a lot of different buildings that don’t seem that incriminating.  A lot of them were disguised as office buildings during the dictatorship so as not to draw suspicion.  It’s located right off of a main avenue on the edge of the city, which was eerie to think about how that must have functioned when people were being brought there to be imprisoned and tortured.  It was hard to imagine that we were in the exact same place where so many people ‘disappeared.’  There were bits and pieces of testimonies on display in the main building that we toured, and they really gave light to the horror that only handfuls of people survived.  They spoke about their complete lack of freedoms.  They were unable to go to the bathroom at their own will.  They were hooded and shackled/handcuffed and not allowed to talk to the others around them.  They were packed into rooms where they sat for days, weeks, or months (sometimes even years).  Some testimonies spoke of the radio that was constantly playing on full volume at all hours and the lights that were always on.  Their sense of their surroundings was completely controlled by guards.  It’s scary to think that almost nobody knows how many people were packed into the rooms at a time because they weren’t able to see the others.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside of the building where the ‘disappeared’ were kept, but I do have some pictures of the artwork and quotes from some of those who were released/friends and family.  I could go on for days about the dictatorship, or what is called the Dirty War in the States, but I’ll hold back for now.  I’ll let the pictures/quotes speak for themselves.

 

Artwork about the memory of the dictatorship

 

one of the buildings where the disappeared were illegally held and tortured"Lo único que les pido, si les queda algo da valor, es que digan dónde están los cuerpos" The only thing I ask of them, if they leave anything of worth, is to say where the bodies are. --Charly Pisoni from H.I.J.O.S.

 

"Es fuerte verlos entrar esposados, cuando hace más de treinta años la situación fue al revés y ellos llevaban a nuestra gente esposadas." It's powerful to see them handcuffed, when more than 30 years ago the situation was the opposite and they brought our people in handcuffs. --Cristina Muro, from a group for Families of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons

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One expensive bracelet

Time April 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Friday, April 20 – One expensive bracelet

11:50 pm-at home stay in bed, CABA, Buenos Aires, Argnentina

Where do I begin?  It’s probably been over a month now since I last wrote for my blog, which means that I’ve been really busy and pretty lazy about writing.  But there’s no better time than now to do a little re-cap of what’s been going on because I’m on house arrest for the weekend so I don’t have much else to do.  You’ll understand better in a minute what I mean by house arrest ( that might be putting it kind of harshly), but I was recommended not to leave the house for the weekend and it has nothing to do with being in trouble. :)

From here, I’d normally want to fill y’all in on my adventures in Mendoza, El Tigre, going to the theatre, asados, rugby games, kayaking, rafting, horseback riding, wine tours, classes, my internship, and all the other stuff that I’ve done since I last wrote.  But I’m not going to talk about the fun things, because, right now, that’s not the most pertinent thing going on here for me.  I’ll attach some pictures of all of these things and hopefully be up to putting in more detail later.  But right now, I’d rather talk about what has been probably one of the best/worst experiences for me in my living/cultural experience in Buenos Aires.

IFSA sponsored outing: sci-fi play

BsAs sunset

This morning around 9am, a happy bearded man (not Santa! hehe) came into my room, speaking English!, saying that he had heard about how pretty I was but didn’t realize I’d be such a natural beauty.  hahah what a flattering way to wake up, no? He came complete with an entourage of four or five others, and after asking me where I’m from (Arkansas), told me that he actually knows Bill Clinton and sees him when he comes to BsAs.  Aside from the flattery and kindness and popularity, this wonderful man gave me the best news I had heard in a while: that I could leave the hospital in a couple of hours.

Backing up a week, last Friday I was sitting in a park a few blocks from my house reading my book and waiting to go to my doctor’s appointment.  I scheduled it to follow up on a skin allergy I had and also to get some kind of decongestant because my head was full of pressure and I’d been coughing for the past week and a half-ish.  But as I was just sitting in the park, I started to feel this discomfort in my mid/upper left side of my back and I just couldn’t sit comfortably with it.  I assumed it was just a muscle cramp or something, but since it seemed to be getting worse as I walked to the doctor’s office, I let him know about it anyway.  He listened to my breathing and checked up on everything and then said I was good to go.  Since it was still a nice afternoon, I decided to walk home instead of figuring out which bus to take.

By the time I got to my apartment, though, the discomfort had changed to pain as I continued to cough on my way home and throughout the night.  My host mom recommended that I stay home to rest that night, and I agreed because I was only feeling worse (even though it was a Friday night!!).  She served me dinner in bed because, though I was still in good spirits, it hurt to get up out of bed and walk around with the pain.  I took some ibuprofen and had a stash of cough drops, and I remember, for maybe 15 minutes or half an hour, I felt like I was getting better and was really excited and even thinking about calling my friends to see what was going on.  But, after that freak incident of feeling well, the pain came back with vengeance and had spread to the middle of my back and a bit in my lower chest, and it began to be more in sync with my breathing and coughing.  It was difficult sleeping that night because it had become hard to breathe without pain, so I slept until around noon the next day.  I got short of breath walking to the kitchen to make a bowl of cereal that I picked at for a while, not having much of an appetite while my mind was focused on the pain.

I went back to bed for the day, hoping to sleep off the pain to later be woken by my host mom who came in my room almost hysterical because I apparently was really freaking her out.  I couldn’t lay flat anymore because it hurt too much, so I had shoved my blanket behind me and struggled to find a position without pain.  My host mom insisted that we go to the hospital because I was only getting worse, but I was afraid to go and didn’t want to because I had run out of cash after paying for the doctor the day before, and obviously hadn’t been able to go to a bank since then.  But she said she couldn’t just let me stay there in pain, so around 5:30pm we got a taxi to the ER of the Hospital Aleman (German Hospital), a private hospital on the list of recommended places by IFSA.  My host mom was such a doll because she, without question, put the initial expenses on her credit card.  I have insurance through the program, so it all would be refunded, but she definitely did not have to do that for me.  We waited for the doctor, and when we finally were able to go in after maybe 45 min, I let my host mom do most of the talking.  The first round, I got X-rayed and struggled to take a deep breath as they requested.  They told us we had about an hour before the X-rays would be ready, so we went to a cafe across the street.  I ate for the first time since my cereal that morning (by then it was around 9pm), and my host mom’s friend who lives only a couple of blocks away came to keep us company and brought me a sweater.  I’m really lucky to have had my host mom be such a big support during all of this because it definitely would have been a struggle without her.

So after wasting enough time at the cafe, we went back to see what the doctor had to say about my insides.  Seeing basically nothing exciting, he sent me in for a CT scan and blood work.  Because my insurance is for travelers, we had to pay for everything beforehand and just keep receipts to file for the refund later.  So when we were going up to pre-pay the CT scan bill, I told my host mom she couldn’t pay for it because it was around $500USD, and I didn’t want her to have to pay so much.  We went back to talk to the doctor about it because by this time I was kind of freaked out about all of the expenses and how much the insurance would cover, but he said it was absolutely necessary, so my host mom said she couldn’t not do it for me.  So I went to get the CT scan, which was absolute hell having to lay down flat because that was when it hurt the most.  Then we went back to wait to discuss the new results with the doctor, me pathetically hunched over and crying off and on from the pain and the stress, and my host mom running around asking everyone who worked there different things to make sure everything was running smoothly for me.

Because they originally thought I had pneumonia (because that’s what all the symptoms pointed to), the doctors were really confused when again nothing different/exciting showed up on the CT scan results, which they said normally never fail to show the signs of pneumonia.  So this time around, the doctor requested a different kind of CT scan that would show the contrast of my insides by injecting some weird stuff in my IV.  But when we went up to pre-pay for this one, I was super freaked out by now because I knew it was going to be around the same price as the first one, if not more.  When they told us the final bill for this round, it was just under $1,000USD.  I told my host mom no way, and this time she actually agreed because she was afraid her credit card would max out and it wouldn’t work to pay for it anyway.  My pain was just getting worse as the time was going on because I was having to walk back and forth for the tests, and I was only getting more stressed about my host mom spending so much money on me.  So when she suggested we call the IFSA directors to help us figure out what to do, it was a big relief.  For some reason, I hadn’t even thought of that before because I didn’t think that it was really that serious.

But I whipped out my emergency numbers card that they gave us during orientation, and we called Mario, the head of everything IFSA in BsAs.  My host mom talked to him first to explain what was going on, and then she passed the phone to me.  I was reluctant to take it because I could barely hold back the tears from pain/stress/being scared out of my mind because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.  But Mario surprised me by talking in English to calm me down and to tell me that the insurance would cover all of it.  This came as a great wave of relief, because I was afraid that they would only cover $500, which we had passed a while back.  So, I guess word was spread to Daniel, one of the program directors, because he showed up within the hour with a giant stack of cash from the IFSA office to pay for the next CT scan.  It was definitely a relief to not have to think about the money anymore.  When I was in the CT scan the second time around, with an IV in my arm and in pain because I was laying flat again, they injected something that hurt A LOT to make the picture come out in contrasted colors (or something like that).  But with pain on top of pain, I started shaking and crying in the tube.  When I finally was let out, I think I might have scared Daniel and my host mom because it probably looked like I had been in a torture chamber (which is what it felt like, at least).  This time they finally took me back to an observation bed to wait for the results so I didn’t have to go back in the waiting room.  The final test they took, and the easiest, was just a pee test, which turned out to show more than anything else had before.  They decided I had a urinary tract infection, which to me really didn’t make sense because it didn’t burn when I peed (sorry if that’s TMI), and I couldn’t see any way that that was related to the pain in my back.  The only thing I fought for was to get stronger painkillers than just the ibuprofen they were about to send me home with, but other than that, I was more than ready to get out of the hospital.  So Saturday night around 2:30am, we finally taxied home after picking up my antibiotics and painkillers at a 24 hour drugstore nearby (all of which Daniel/IFSA paid for).

Over the next few days, my host mom was the best nurse ever, constantly checking if I needed any food and just coming in to talk and see if there was anything she could do to make me more comfortable.  But, I know she could tell I wasn’t getting any better because I barely had any appetite, I only felt decent enough to talk if I had taken a pain pill within the hour, and I would get out of breath getting up just to go to the bathroom.  The pain was unbearable, but with the pain pills, at least it was slightly dulled enough so I could breathe a little better and maybe sleep for a bit before it came back to wake me.  I stayed in bed like this at home all weekend and into Tuesday early afternoon, when Mario and Daniel from IFSA came to check up on me and see if I was getting any better.  I guess they could tell that little had changed for the better because they insisted that I go to see a doctor right then.  Getting up and moving around was the last thing I wanted to do, but I couldn’t resist either because all I wanted was the pain to go away.

So Daniel cabbed back to the hospital to pick up the results from my all of the tests from Saturday, and Mario and I took a taxi back to the doctor I went to see originally on Friday.  I had to walk at such a slow pace because I got out of breathe so easily, that I joked with Mario that I felt like a granny, trying to keep the mood light even though I was slightly terrified.  After having spent 9 hours, NINE hours, in the hospital, only for them to send me home to feel worse, by this time Tuesday, I was scared they wouldn’t figure out what was actually wrong.  But when Daniel arrived with the paperwork, we all went in and as soon as Dr. Sarquis saw that we were there, he waved us back.  He went through the routine checkup tests, checking my blood pressure, heart rate, etc., but when he got out his stethoscope and asked me to take a deep breath to listen to my lungs, I teared up with the pain of trying to perform such a simple task.  He immediately sent me to get an X-ray, and one of the nurses brought me a fleece jacket as she directed us down the hall.  The X-rays were also gruesome, as they wanted me to stand up straight and push my shoulders back to take a deep breath, which seemed like one of the hardest tasks in the world at the time.  Mario and Daniel waited patiently and, with the nurse, they all walked me back down to Dr. Sarquis’s office.

There, Sarquis told me that he was sure that I had pneumonia, but he only was able to detect it because they had taken an X-ray from the side.  He said that it didn’t show up like normal on the front X-rays, which made more sense as to why they didn’t see it Saturday night at the hospital. Just to be safe, Dr. Sarquis still wanted a CT scan to confirm it.  The attentiveness and personal service that I received at his office was incomparable to anything I had gotten before.  He made the same tests that I had done at the hospital on Saturday in 9 hours happen in maybe 90 minutes.

Even so, no amount of attentiveness could have prevented what happened while I was in the CT scan, but it was their great service that helped me recover from it.  As I said before, laying down flat was an absolute nightmare; so having to do the CT scan flat on my back was no exception.  The pain was unbearable, but I wanted to be sure that they got everything right so I could finally start to feel better.  But after laying down for maybe a minute, I started shaking and tearing up from the pain.  I was laying flat with my arms stretched above my head and the tube around my chest when I began coughing, which I couldn’t control, though I wished I could because it only made the pain worse.  As I began coughing, I was unable to breathe through my mouth and my nose was stuffed from crying, so I couldn’t breathe at all.  I was holding my chest trying to stop coughing to catch a breath, and the doctors came out to see if I was ok.  I could barely muster up the words in Spanish to say I couldn’t breathe and that I had to sit up.  They quickly pushed the button to get me out of the tube, and as I sat up I continued coughing and bawling and shaking, trying to get some air.  They brought in tissues, water, and an oxygen mask to help me regain some sort of composure.  I remember a male nurse walking by the room with the door partially opened, and when we made eye contact, I could tell from the look on his face that I probably looked as terrified as I felt, as I was wheezing and shaking with tears running down my flushed face.  After that incident, they didn’t try to take another scan, but rather told me to sit and rest for a few minutes with the oxygen mask still on.  When I came out to walk back to Dr. Sarquis’s office, Mario said I looked like a different person after having the oxygen.

When Dr. Sarquis came back into the room, they had a bag full of medicines and hand sanitizer and tissues for me.  He told me that he thought the best idea from there was to admit me to the hospital so I could get better faster, seeing as I got out of breath just getting up to go to the bathroom at home.  Having an IV with the antibiotics, he said, would speed up my healing process a lot.  Being that it was Tuesday and I had already missed my class from the previous Thursday, I was concerned about how much class I would be missing.  But I also knew that I wanted to get rid of the god-awful pain sooner rather than later.  So we loaded back up with all of the new X-rays and CT scans and information in a taxi back to the hospital.  With Mario’s help, I slowly walked down to the ER, trying to keep my breath.  It didn’t take too long for us to see a doctor, but when we did, she seemed almost offended that we were coming in to refute the diagnosis they had previously made.  She coarsely asked where the report was when Daniel showed her the new X-rays, and getting upset that the hospital’s pride was getting in the way of my treatment, I struggled to tell her that, because I’m obviously in need of urgent care, they probably didn’t have time to write up a report in the past half an hour.  After she looked over all of the results and consulted with other doctors, she came back in a much nicer mood to show me to the observation bed of the ER where I would be staying until a private room opened up.  Little did I know how long I would be staying in that hot, uncomfortable bed.

Though I absolutely hate needles, after they got the IV in me, I was beyond grateful for it.  They gave me a drip-bag of some sort of painkiller, and, for a few hours, I felt like I had been healed and was ready to go.  Mario and Daniel kept me company in between organizing everything with the insurance and the hospital to get me into a private room.  The dinner they brought me was a lovely piece of baked chicken and white and orange mush, which they told me was potato and pumpkin purée.  Even though all I had eaten all day was an apple, my appetite was not rushing back at the sight of this food.  I picked at the chicken and decided the mush served better for artwork, so I shaped it into a lion instead.  Mario told me I was horrible, but it was obvious that we both were happy to have the mood lightened and pain-free for a bit.  After entertaining me for a while, Mario and Daniel had to get going since it was getting late, which was probably for the better.  Not long after they left, the painkiller began to wear off and my fever and the pain in my lungs came back full throttle.  I remember the worst thing about the fevers I had at my sickest was how hot my face would get while my hands and feet were frozen.  I could feel the heat radiating from my head, even in my eyes.  And as soon as the fever broke, I was in cold sweats.  Obviously it wasn’t too comfortable sleeping in the same clothes and sheets after going through that a couple of times before they started my antibiotic drip.  I struggled to sleep after the pediatric ward down the hall quit crying and in between people moaning or puking on either side of me.  Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of sleep the first night in my glamorous emergency room bed, with its plastic-covered mattress and pillow that looked/felt like it was made out of a chunk of wall insulation.

The next morning, my hopes were high to be moved into my own room, where I could take a shower and not have to walk down the hall carrying my IV bags just to go to the bathroom.  Mario and Daniel had put in so much effort to get everything cleared away between the insurance and the hospital to be sure it would be paid for, and now all was good to go.  Aside from the minor(aka HUGE) fact that there weren’t any beds available.  The hospital was overpacked.  And my spirits were shot down a little more when we found out that someone else had come in after me and was going to be getting the next available bed in front of me.  The director of the hospital even came to personally apologize and explain to me later that day that, because it is a private hospital and they receive donations, certain people have to have priority when they come in.  I understood his intentions in speaking with me ( he also said that they are doing all that they can do, but not all that they would like to do), but it was slightly upsetting that I was being pushed down the ladder just because I wasn’t from the right family.

Aside from the horrible food which happened to be the same thing again for lunch and dinner, during my second day in the ER bed, something happened that I think I will never forget.  At the time it was pretty traumatizing, but looking back now, I think all I can do is laugh (in horror).  Some time during the day on Wednesday, the bed to my right had been cleared out for about the third or fourth time since I had been there, and it had kind of become my entertainment to see who would be next.  But this time, they took the whole bed out to get the next patient, which I hadn’t seen happen before.  When they wheeled it back in, it was occupied by a very old lady who didn’t move at all and was laying there with her mouth slightly open and eyes closed as they were wheeling her down.  Maybe I was a little over attentive, but I was getting really bored and uncomfortable sitting in bed attached to an IV all day, so I had to find something to distract myself.  I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hear much through the hanging sheet dividing us for a while until her daughter came in.  I didn’t see her daughter at first because I had given up on that for entertainment, until I was just around falling asleep for a nap and I heard the daughter’s voice trying to talk to the old lady.  She sounded really nice, but either way I was kind of annoyed that she was being so loud when all I wanted was sleep.  On top of that, I never heard a verbal response from the mom the whole time.  What I did hear was more guttural and scary sounding.  At one point, I think the doctors came in to give the old lady a nebulizer, again when I was trying to sleep, but after this started, sleep was the last thing I wanted to do because I was sure I would have nightmares.  Everyone was talking a lot and the nebulizer sounded really creepy, but the worst noises came from the old lady who still hadn’t responded in words to any of the people talking to her.  This might sound bad, but the best way I can describe the noises is in comparison to The Exorcist.  It was really scary to hear and not really know what was going on.  This obviously only made me want to get out of that hell even more.  Also, I soon realized that, though she had sounded nice through the curtain, the daughter was not so friendly.  While the doctors would come in to do stuff to her mom, she would stand back to where I could see her, and at one point I offered a sad smile when we made eye contact, but she quickly look away angrily.  Also, when my phone slid off my bed onto the floor of her side of the curtain, I assumed nobody was there to help because I didn’t hear anything.  I had to wait several minutes for a doctor to come by to help me because I couldn’t reach it with my IV in my arm.  But after the doctor helped me, he went over to talk to the daughter, and I realized she had been there the whole time, meaning she had to have seen it fall.  I wasn’t really upset, as much as frustrated, because I couldn’t do a lot for myself, and she was in no way willing to help.

But the phone incident gives a good example of how that second day and night went in the ER bed.  To get up to go to the bathroom, after a certain hour of the day, it would be useless to wait for a nurse to pass by to help me get my IV bag down, because they never passed by.  So I would wiggle up onto my knees in bed to reach the hanging bags to get them down, and then carefully wiggle my way back around so I could get out of the bed to walk down the hall to the bathroom.  I remember at one point feeling absolutely miserable, and I’m sure it showed on my face, while I was sitting in bed during the day.  I needed to move the incline of the bed back down, but, of course, the control didn’t work unless you pushed on the plug a certain way, which I obviously couldn’t reach.  While I was struggling to figure out what to do, I remember two different nurses walking by and glancing at me, but not taking the time to stop when I attempted to ask them for help.  Eventually, someone finally stopped to help, but I think the ER nurses/staff just weren’t used to attending to someone who is there for a longer period of time like in the private rooms.  That evening before my second night in the ER bed, after getting my IV down myself to go to the bathroom, on my walk back from the bathroom, I asked my doctor, on the verge of tears, if they could possibly change my sheets since I would be having to stay there a second night.  She obviously said of course, and that was the fastest I’d seen any of those nurses get anything done.  So, I struggled through another night in the ER, trying to catch a couple hours of sleep after the babies quit crying and before the people around me started hurling up their guts again.

Around 6am Thursday morning, a nurse came to check on my IV and change the drip bag.  When he realized that I was flinching when he moved it, and I told him that my puffy, red arm that I could barely move indeed did hurt, he checked the needle and the area around it and told me it was infiltrated(?). (I thought I heard him say infected, because that’s what it seemed like to me, but when I said that to a doctor later, he quickly corrected me and said it had to have been infiltrated.  Mind you, all of this was in Spanish…)  So he left for a minute and then came back with a syringe full of something, and I was horrified that I was going to be stabbed again.  I asked him with huge scared eyes what he was going to do with that, and, thank god, he said was only going to inject it into a line that was attached to the IV.  But, just as I was feeling relieved to not be getting any more new holes in my arms, that relief was quickly taken away by the burning of whatever it was that he injected.  I winced as tears rolled down my cheeks, and he said he was sorry but that it should help with the swelling and pain.  The red swelling that had been growing above the IV did cool off a little and seemed to quit growing, but it still hurt like hell to move my arm.  I had even taken off my ring that I normally wear on my right hand because my fingers had gotten so puffy with all the liquids they were pumping in me.  I ended up having to ice my arm for the rest of the day after another nurse decided it best to just take it out.  It took around a week for the soreness and redness to go away and now I can finally straighten my arm out again without pain.  Just another adventure in La Guardia (ER) of Hospital Aleman.

However, Thursday morning was made much better with the news I thought I’d never hear: there was a private room available!! FINALLY! Even so, it was still kind of bittersweet because I thought as soon as I got up there and took a shower, they’d tell me I was good to go home.  However, when a cute male nurse came down the ER hallway to take me in a wheelchair to my new paradise, I was still grateful to get out of there.  He asked me a few questions about where I was from, why I was in the hospital, etc., but when I told him I had been in the ER for the past three days, he looked at me in awe.  So, I’m sure when he saw how excited I was to be in my own room, he didn’t think I was that crazy.  I told him it was like paradise compared to downstairs.  Another cute male nurse came in to check on my IV before I could finally take a shower (the first time in about three days), and he decided just to take it out because I was attached to empty bags anyway.  He came back later after I had showered to put in another IV in my other arm, but after having it in all day and nobody coming to attach a bag to me, I finally asked a nurse and they said I didn’t actually need it anymore–another unnecessary hole :( but at least this one didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the other.  Backing up in the timeline a little bit to the best shower of my life, after flooding the bathroom and a little bit into the room the first time I left the water on, I figured out how to work the shower without making a river, and it was absolute heaven.  All of the soap/shampoo/conditioner provided by the hospital smelled like different kinds of fruit/candy.  And once I was squeaky clean and in the lovely hospital gown, I was welcomed by Mario and Raquel.  Raquel brought nail polish so I painted my nails and she painted my toes for me because it was still difficult for me to bend that far over.  I’m pretty anti-feet, so I really appreciated that from her :)  After a nutritionist came in to ask me what I like, the comparison to the ER was only made that much more drastic when they brought in my lunch.  It was practically a four course meal: delicious vegetable soup, some kind of salad with ham/tomatoes/green beans, the main dish of some kind of meat with amazing sauce and rice, and for dessert a puff pastry with chocolate sauce.  This time I didn’t eat all of it because I couldn’t fit anymore in my tummy, not because it looked/tasted worse than baby food.

I spent Thursday sitting on the couch visiting with Daniel, Mario, Raquel, and my host mom, as they all came and went.  Some nurses came in to check my vitals a couple of times, but it was strange because for once I was pretty much being left alone.  When Mario first came in and saw that I hadn’t touched the bed, he joked that there was no point in getting a new room if I wasn’t even going to use it.  But I stayed away from the bed for as long as possible because I had already spent plenty of time sitting in one and it was the last place I wanted to be.  I’m not sure why, but sitting on the couch felt like a freedom/luxury that I had been deprived of for so long.  Simply the fact that I had options of where to sit and could walk around a little bit made it again that much better than the ER.  While Daniel, Mario, and I were watching some news program, Daniel and I looked over to see that Mario had dozed off.  Daniel joked that they were going to charge us double if someone else was sleeping in the room too.  Later in the day, a specialist came in to do some kind of fancy massage on my lungs that made me cough up some stuff (gross, I know), which actually felt better than having it stuck in my lungs.  But overall, the day was peaceful to finally be able to enjoy a little bit of quiet, watch some TV, and even be able to open the window to the beautiful jungle-like hospital garden with giant trees all around.  I could hardly tell I was still in the same building.

Thursday night, I slept much better, though it was still hard to get to sleep.  This time though, it was because it was hard to get comfortable and I was only kept awake by my own coughing.  I finally didn’t have to listen to the exorcist or babies or puking.  I even fell asleep to a movie on TV in English, which seemed like such a luxury.  Even so, I still didn’t get much sleep because the last nurse left my room around one in the morning, and the first one Friday came in around 7:30 to change my sheets.  Even if I could have slept well, it still wouldn’t have been for long.  But it just amazed me that after being in the room less than 24 hours, they came in to change my sheets without me even having to ask…a different world from the ER.  After I took a shower and crawled back into bed to try to sneak in a nap, another nurse came in with my breakfast.  I poured some juice and then started to fall asleep, until I was again awoken by another nurse with my antibiotics.  She insisted that I eat, so I took a bite and then shut my eyes again.  This game kept going on until we’re brought back to the beginning of this story with the happy man waltzing in speaking in English.

Soon after he came and gave me my prescriptions for two different antibiotics and a handful of other things, my host mom arrived to take me home.  I thought I would be so excited to finally get out of the hospital, but in the cab on the way home, everything just seemed so overwhelming and with every bump I was reminded of the pain in my chest.  Though I was a thousand times better than when I was admitted to the hospital, I soon realized that I was nowhere near well.  I was out of breath after walking the half-block to our apartment building.  I got to googling and talking to friends and found out that it can take several weeks to be completely healed after pneumonia.  I was going to easily tire for a while because my lungs still need time to get back to normal.

So, when I called my dad sobbing about an hour after I got home, begging to come back to the U.S., he made me realize something I hadn’t thought about before.  Obviously I knew I was emotional because the whole experience had been really stressful and scary, but he told me I just needed to rest because I was clearly sleep deprived.  Even though I knew it, I didn’t think about how little sleep I had gotten over the past four days.  I talked about it later too with one of my friends: I guess hospitals aren’t like you see in the movies, with people sleeping all the time.  My dad was beyond correct when he said hospitals are the last place to get good rest, but because I had been in bed the whole time, I hadn’t thought about it like that.

Today, Sunday the 29th, over a week out of the hospital, I am finally starting to regain hope for what I can do after I get better.  I have spent the last week mostly in my room, watching a lot of Mad Men on Netflix and not feeling so well, physically and mentally.

Monday, I went back to the hospital for my checkup.  Raquel came to get me in a taxi, and after a few hours at the hospital to hear that everything is progressing well, but that it’s still going to take a few weeks, I went to the IFSA office to talk to Mario.  I was basically dead-set on packing up and going home, and Mario could see that.  He was sad that I was so sad, and he told me it would ultimately be my decision, but he thought it would be better to wait it out a little bit.  He let me call from the office to my study-abroad advisor at Tulane, who I ended up talking with for quite a while.  Though my advisor, Josh, was telling me exactly what I didn’t want to hear, he really helped me at least take a step back before I jumped on the next plane home.  He reiterated that nobody here wanted me to leave, and that if I do stick it out, it’ll only make me that much stronger in the end.  I guess my pride got in the way a little bit after hearing that, because I didn’t want to feel like I failed at studying abroad.  hahaha

Even though everyone I talked to, my parents and advisors included, said that it is ultimately my decision and that  they understand why I would want to go home, I think it came down to my own disappointment in myself that I think I would have if I didn’t put in more effort to at least attempt to stick it out.  If I went home after two months with nothing to show of it but a bottle of wine from Mendoza and a mate gourd, and ended up wasting a whole semester, I think I would end up being disappointed in myself.  So, even though in the IFSA-sponsored cab ride home Monday from the office I almost fell asleep, and I didn’t feel up to going to my classes this week, I am going to do my best to take my time, but stick it out.

After all, I might be able to visit in the future, but my time now is already paid for, so there’s really no reason not to stay.  It is getting colder, which sucks because I hate the cold, but my tomorrow I’m Skyping with my stepmom to go through my closet and get a couple more things that they are going to send down to me.  I still want nothing more right now than to be home in the Spring weather, but I can finally see fun after sickness.  hahaha kinda corny, I know.  But maybe having a little bit more of my clothes here and a bottle of hot sauce will suffice for now until I can start enjoying myself again.  Last night (Saturday), I went out to eat with a couple of my friends, and probably ended up walking a total of six-ish blocks, and I didn’t feel like I was completely going to die when I got home!  I was definitely tired, but I saw an improvement from this past Monday.  I know it’s not going to be the easiest journey, but at least now I am ready to take it on.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that Mario calls me most days to check up on me, and he even invited me to come back to his Colonia plantation for a weekend (remember from one of my first posts?), which I am definitely going to take him up on.

I guess that’s all for now.  I wonder if anyone will actually read this whole thing… But for those of you who do, thanks I guess, and I hope I don’t scare anybody too bad.  I’m just here to share my experiences. :)

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Pre-Studying

Time March 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

16:44- Café Tolón, Palermo Alto, CABA, Buenos Aires, Argnentina

This is going to be a recap of all of my adventures from the last couple of weeks, so I’m gonna try to organize it by adventure so I can keep my thoughts a little organized too. I think I’m going to start writing a little bit every other day as fun stuff happens, just because I feel like nobody really wants to read the giant posts (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t…) jajaja Así que, empiezo:

Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia, Uruguay:

The last place I left off was right before our IFSA-funded trip across the Rio de la Plata to a little town in Uruguay called Colonia.  We hadn’t even been in the country two weeks before we were hopping the border.  As if it wasn’t cool enough that I’m living in one of the biggest/coolest cities in the world.  But this trip was the perfect counterbalance to the slightly overwhelming transition from small-town, Arkansas (where I’m from/spent most of my break) to the hustle and bustle of the big city.  Colonia is a slow-paced small town on the Rio de la Plata that caters to tourism and a safe, relaxed lifestyle.  The hotel room I shared with two other IFSA girls was possibly the best of all of ours, not to say they weren’t all amazing.  But we had two personal balconies overlooking the street and the bar next door, a beautifully tiled bathroom complete with bedét, and three beds.  LeeAnn (another girl from Tulane) and I played rock-paper-scissors for who got to sleep alone in the queen-sized bed, and the other two each had a twin-sized bed.  I won! :) Not to say we spent that much time actually sleeping in them… The majority of the trip was planned out by IFSA with a city tour, a beach trip, lots of delicious free meals, and, the highlight, the trip to Mario’s ‘plantation.’ Mario is the director of IFSA here (I think?  I’m not exactly sure of his job title, but I know he’s in charge of big stuff. jaja)

But we had all been hearing about this infamous trip to Mario’s house in Uruguay since we got to Argentina.  I had heard a little about it from my host mom, and between a couple friends, we had a picture of its magnificence all painted out in our heads.  And, as it turns out, The Casa de los Limoneros, as it’s called, did very well at living up to our expectations.  The place was designed by Mario’s partner who is an architect, and it doubles as a hostel. It was absolutely amazing; I don’t think I can do it justice by describing it, so I’m definitely attaching pictures.  But we had lunch there (more like a feast) of a traditional asado, with chorizo (sausage) and delectable steaks and pork and I’m not even sure of some of the things we ate.  But it was all absolutely delicious.  Then after lunch, once we were all full to the brim, we changed into our swimsuits to hang out by the pool.  jajaj so that probably doesn’t give you the best mental picuture, but it was still basically paradise, at least for me because I wasn’t there to impress any of my American IFSA friends. :)  Just as we were starting to feel a little less full, Mario and his friends/(possibly family?) brought out the tortas (desserts). Dios Mio. I thought the meal was amazing, but the desserts just reaffirmed the excellence of the whole day.  jaja ok maybe a little dramatic, but still, they were delicious: one, a bread pudding that was more flan-like was absolutely to die for.  I told Mario’s partner that in New Orleans we make bread pudding with rum, and lots of it; he thought it was a grand idea! :) also, there was dulce de leche out the wazoo, tons of fresh fruit, and a torta de apples.  Have I mentioned yet that dulce de leche is everywhere on everything?  We were joking that it probably wouldn’t be bad on a steak… maybe pushing it, but why not? jajaja

the pool! Colonia, Uruguay

Punta del Este, Uruguay:

Our tip in Colonia was from Wednesday to Friday funded by IFSA, but a lot of us decided to take a bus to another city past Montevideo, about 4 hours away, called Punta del Este (literally Point of the East) for the rest of the weekend.  After three days in Colonia, I was ready to see a little more action;  to put it in perspective as to the crowds the two cities were catering to, Colonia has only one boliche (dance club) that isn’t consistently open, whereas Punta del Este has tons to choose from that are full of Argentinos and other young travelers.  So, we enjoyed our relaxing in Colonia but were definitely ready to see more people our age.

My friend Brittany and I took a later bus form Colonia and ended up getting to Punta del Este around 11pm, to be welcomed with a parade!  I’m not exactly sure what the holiday/event was, aside from the arrival of the americanas (jajaja chiste!), but it was so awesome to see so soon after missing Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  Even so, it was more of how I picture Carnaval in Brazil, with women wearing pasted on jewelry-clothes and covered in glitter as the dance down the street.  Luckily nobody ever sleeps and places never close anywhere in the Cono del Sur (obviously an exaggeration, but, maybe almost true), so we went to dinner at midnight and watched the parade from a table outside at a little fast-food cafe.  The one downside about Punta del Este was that most of the prices were more equivalent to what you would pay in the states, like most of the restaurants would be around $15USD for dinner, which seemed outrageous when we had gotten used to almost always less than $10USD for anything.  But we were able to find a delicious little empanada place down the street from our hostel that had empanadas for only $25uruguayos, which translates to a little over a dollar a pop.  Aside from the mini-carnaval, we also were there during a surf competition, which was pretty cool.  We spent most of Saturday on the beach, but it was so full of people, it was kind of hard to tell what was going on with the competition.  But the better side of the competition being in town was the people it brought.  jaja There was a group of surfers staying in our hostel too, so we obviously made friends with them.  We all went out around 2am (because that’s when things are just getting started) and danced at a few different boliches.  I love to dance, so that obviously was a lot of fun,  but the best part, I think, was after we left and we all went to the beach to walk around and put our toes in the water.  It was just surreal: am I really “studying” abroad right now?  But now, after struggling with registering for classes that start this week, I’m a little bit closer to the studying part.

  

Mini-adventures, here and there:

Taking a step back, I forgot to mention the trip to a milonga (a tango dance club) that we had the night before leaving for Colonia.  Another IFSA-funded dinner/event, I went with the group for my concentration in human rights that I’m doing here through IFSA.  We had pizza and got to take a class on the basics of tango!  It was so cool to learn a little bit about it, and absolutely mesmerizing to watch the two instructors dance it.  It’s just such a sexy and serious dance, but at the same time they made it look effortless and smooth.  I hope to find somewhere nearby to take some dance classes in tango, salsa, merengue, etc.  I took a couple of classes when I was in Costa Rica a few years ago, and it’s one of the best ways to meet people and, obviously, it’s so fun!

Random things I didn’t expect: ~there are tons of McDonald’s here!  And some of them are 24hrs, some deliver, some have a whole separate room for the McCafe, because they’re all about cafés here (there are literally like 15 on every block) ~they spend a lot of money on clothes.  The shopping is awesome (I’ve seen Armani suits, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Lacoste, Nike, Swarovski jewelry stores, Zara’s everywhere, and tons of little boutiques), but a lot of the stuff costs a lot more than what I would normally pay in the states.  Even so, there’s so much cute stuff!  Also, millions of shoe stores, and the average pair of shoes is over $50USD (and that’s right now when everything is on sale: changing from summer to fall/winter) ~At the mall near my house, there’s a TGIFriday’s…odd? ~There are a lot of Starbucks and the prices are around the same. ~The streets are nicer here than in New Orleans. ~People are beautiful.  I’m 5’11” and blonde, so I obviously stand out, but less than I expected, and kind of for different reasons.  The majority of the women are very thin, and they’re obsessed with Pilates, which I love too. jaja But there are a lot of taller people here too, and some blondes, but most aren’t naturally blonde, so I guess I still stand out.  Men dress well, too, so it’s always nice in the mornings on my way to IFSA class to see all of the modelesque men in business casual attire.  I don’t know what it is here, maybe something in the bottled bubbly water, but they somehow have figured out the perfect mix of european features and culture to make an absolutely beautiful and fascinating city.  ~semi-strange thing: they like never drink the tap water, even though it’s perfectly clean and drinkable.  Water in restaurants is always bottled (a lot of times in glass) and you have to ask for it to not be bubbly.  I haven’t decided yet if I like the bubbly water, but it’s kind of fun because it’s more exciting than normal water.

On another random topic, this past Wednesday: #1 I saw a lady carrying a ferret on the street… normal? #2: I saw my first paro, or strike, which was a pretty big group of teachers and supporters, I believe, who were marching because they don’t get paid enough in the schools.  They actually stopped traffic on one of the larger streets, and Brittany and I were eating lunch in a cafe watching it pass.  #3: I was walking home around 7:30/8:00 pm and, though it’s completely normal for here, it still took me by surprise that most of the restaurants I passed were just opening and getting ready for the dinner crowd, but I don’t think I saw one person out eating dinner.  Dinner time is 9pm or later, and they stick to it!  jajaja  Actually I had dinner last night (a Saturday) at an Indian restaurant around 11:30/12:00, and when we left around 1:00am, we weren’t the last people there.  I don’t know if I like it better, or if it’s just different, but it is kind of nice to have so much more of the day to do stuff without having to worry about being home for dinner at 7.  #4: The lights went out in my whole apartment building, and several around us.  It was right around dinner time (so 9pm-ish), and my host mom was preparing the food and then all the lights went out.  We lit candles and it wasn’t a problem, but the strange part was that it was only a few buildings.  The ones across from us still had light.  My host mom was explaining to me how the electricity is supplied to the buildings on three different circuits, I think, but it was still just kind of confusing.  jajaja But she called the electric company after about an hour, and literally less than a minute after she got of the phone the lights were back on; she said that the company had no idea the lights had gone out.  jajaja

This past Thursday was full of awesome, too.  After my Castellano class at IFSA from 10-12, I walked around a bit and then finally stopped in this little bar/tavern/restaurant to have lunch.  For the equivalent of about $12USD, I had a beer, bife de chorizo (which basically means steak), salad, and fruit salad for dessert.  But this wasn’t any normal steak; it was like the best thing I’ve ever tasted.  Pre-Argentina I heard from basically everyone that the steak will be awesome because this is the beef capital of the world; and I didn’t doubt them, but my dad can make a mean steak.  But this was just in a class of it’s own.  There was this magical sauce on it and it was perfectly cooked and basically it was just awesome.  But then to make the day better, I met up with a friend to go to the Plaza de Mayo to see the Madres who always march around 3:30 there for their disappeared children.  But Thursday was also a national holiday, Women’s Day (what a great idea, no?!), so there was a lot more going on in the plaza having to do with women’s rights and the topic of abortion, which is illegal here.  It was really cool to see how proactive they are about things like this.  There were tons of news stations there and people just filming the event, too.  It was just unreal to be there and semi be a part of it.  But then to make the day even better, my friend and I walked to a palacio de something where you can go to the roof (or I’m assuming it’s ok, because we did…) and see the whole city.  It was breathtaking.  Also, we both realized how much of the city we haven’t seen.  It’s so huge!!! Dios mio.  Then, on our way home, we stopped in a really cute leather shoe store that was having a super sale, but sadly there wasn’t anything that exciting in my size because the place had already been picked over.  The last really cool thing to make my Thursday was the conversation I had at dinner with my host mom.  I told her that I had gone to the Plaza de Mayo to see the Madres, and she surprised me with her own account of the genocide.  She was in med school at UBA when the disappearances started.  She said she got pregnant with her first son and had to drop out of school, which she said more than likely saved both of their lives.  She had lots of friends that disappeared during that time.  It’s so scary to hear of that first-hand.  It was women just like her, that were in the University that were the ones who were getting abducted.  The government didn’t have to have reason; they would just take people if there was even a slight possibility that you were against the government, and being in the University was excuse enough.  People her son’s age are the ones who were taken when they were babies from their moms and adopted, often by government families.

Women's Day in Plaza de Mayo

Concentration: Human Rights

I had a meeting with my advisor for my concentration in human rights this past Friday at a cute little café in Palermo, and we discussed what internship I want to do for the semester.  We talked about the structure of a few, and instead of choosing what I originally thought I wanted to do working with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo or a social/political rights group, Luti (my advisor) made me fall in love with two different organizations, which are a bit of a 360 turn from the other two.  The other two are a lot more informal, but I think their form of work will be a lot more fulfilling for me and for what I’m studying.  My first choice is a group of Bolivian immigrants that work for immigration rights, I believe, and it’s largely composed of people of indigenous heritage or from the more rural areas of South America.  I’m really excited for this because I’m really interested in the indigenous populations of South America, and being in the super-europeanized city, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to see or participate in this sort of activity.  My second choice is a co-op that employs youth in la Boca, which is a super-touristy barrio, but also home to a very poor population.  The co-op employs kids/teens in making alfajoritos (mini-alfajores, the delicious treats I talked about in my video!) that they sell to tourists in the area.  This internship reminds me a lot of the type of work that I did through Manna Project International in Ecuador, where the actual work you’re doing doesn’t matter as much as the outcome and the overall point of it.  This seems like a great organization made to help these kids get off the streets and give them an opportunity for employment and, ultimately, help make their futures better.

Patio Gastronómico, Mar. 10, Avenida de Mayo:

 

Yesterday, a friend and I went to the Patio Gastronomia down next to the Plaza de Mayo.  It was a really cool event with tons of little tent/booths set up for a wide variety of countries with food and information about their countries.  There was so much food!  I ate a little fried something with chicken in it from the Brazil booth, a hotdog/sausage from the Germany booth, and some amazing cake thing from a booth for a country that I don’t think I know of in English (or at least I couldn’t figure out the translation from Spanish).  There were people dancing and they gave out awards (not sure exactly what for) but Perú, Japan, and Germany all won something and the people who went up to accept the awards were dressed in traditional clothing, which was so pretty!

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Welcome to the Good Air(s)

Time February 28th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I didn’t feel like typing a ton, so I tried out doing a video… Hope it turns out ok!  Also, I’ve got some pictures of what’s going on so far.  On the 29th, we’re going on a trip funded by IFSA to Colonia, Uruguay, which is a small town that’s apparently very picturesque/historic.  So I should have some good pictures of that for later!    

 

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Mardi Gras beads

Time February 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have only ever kept a journal/diary sporadically throughout grade school, writing about once every other year about my parents getting on my nerves or the latest boy band scandal.  So this whole blogging thing is pretty new to me…

With that said, I hope something I say in this journey is useful/entertaining to one of my millions of fans. (haha…hopefully a couple people see this?)  Or at least you get a laugh.

But going off of my subject line, I go to school in New Orleans; so, with one of my favorite Mardi Gras parades, Muses, kicking off the season last night, it’s definitely been heavy on my mind.  My stepmom even made red beans and rice last night. yummm  My friends have been telling me I’m crazy for leaving in the Spring, and I know exactly why, but that’s just the way it’s worked out.  Either way I knew I wanted to go abroad.  And after my potential Fall program fell through, I just sprang for it. in the Spring.  hahaha (get my joke there?)

Bad puns aside, knowing all that I am missing in New Orleans right now is only making me more anxious and excited to actually BE in Argentina!  I’ll admit, Spring in NOLA is a magical time of year: Greek pledging, Mardi Gras, Crawfest, magnolias blooming, live music on the quad every Friday, Relay for Life, Spring Break… Sometimes it seems like we don’t really go to class much in the Spring, especially with so many holiday breaks (yes, Mardi Gras is a break-worthy holiday) and having classes outside on the quad every other day.

I did get to go back to school for a bit for sorority recruitment in January, though, which was so much fun.  We got a great new pledge class!   Spring in NOLA

But it was so weird being there during the semester without having to go to class.  The only classes I went to were at the gym.  But I can’t complain!  I am grateful to have gotten that break because life at home in Arkansas has been making me a little stir-crazy.

One of my best friends from Tulane who just got back from her Fall semester in Buenos Aires has been beyond helpful in answering some of my ridiculous questions and calming some of my irrational fears.  I was relieved to find out that I don’t have to be able to carry 4-5 months on my back.  Packing is probably one of my biggest obstacles.  I’m so good at talking myself into bringing the most useless things.  So it has become kind of a ritual for my best friend from home to come over and talk me out of packing my whole closet.  Luckily she goes to college close, so she’s coming home for the weekend to be my moral packing support.

I’ve been reading Don Quijote en español and watching every Argentine movie on Netflix’s insta-watch, but even as the days count down it’s still a little surreal.  I am beyond ready to get there and start my adventures, but I know I’ve still got to cross all of my t’s and dot my i’s (and pack my giant suitcase that still doesn’t seem big enough).

Next Tuesday while all my friends are trying to make it to Zulu at the crack of dawn, I guess I’ll finally be more concerned about catching the Sube (I think that’s what the public transportation system is called?) than catching beads!  Can’t wait!! Zulu parade 2011

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