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That Strange Country Called “Home”

Time February 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Of course, I bawled like a baby on the way to the airport…

 

(“Sorry I’m not very good company,” I blubbered to the taxi driver.

No, por favor. Llora tranquila,” he said. Please. Go ahead and cry. And then he handed me a pack of Kleenex, bless his heart.)

 

By the time I got settled on my plane, I was more or less done sobbing for Argentina and the people I left behind in it. But as soon as I saw the familiar lizard-printed carpet tiles in the El Paso airport, I started to have a mini-panic attack. Put me back on the plane, send me back!! It was amazing how unreal everything felt, though the places and faces were essentially the same as I had left them. And then I saw my mom and my little sister and started crying all over again because I had no idea what to do with myself.

 

In the car, it took me approximately 5 minutes to annoy my mother to death. I couldn’t stop pointing at everything out the window that I hadn’t seen in half a year: “Whoa, Chipotle Grill! We have one of those here! Oh man, and Carl’s Jr. too! Weird! Oh it’s so weird. I never noticed how big our highways were before! Oh, billboard in English—weeeeeeeeeeeeird.”

 

And I’ve stopped freaking out about it, but it’s still kinda strange. I don’t know if I like it or not.

 

Things I missed out on while I was away: Les Miserables, all the media flak about the school shooting, Hurricane Sandy, the release of that catchy Taylor Swift song, my little sister growing two inches.

 

Things I forgot existed and didn’t realize how much I’d missed until I could have them again: my mom’s red beans and rice, huevos rancheros for breakfast, bubble tea, Target, Reeses peanut butter cups, curry powder, free refills, unlimited texting, Pandora.com, Netflix, my kitchen, my bed, wall outlets that already fit my plugs and work perfectly without having to be jiggled around, Arizona iced tea, hot chocolate with marshmallows.

 

It’s safer here. I don’t have to watch my things quite as carefully. Oh, the things we Yankees take for granted!

 

And my dog gave me the best welcome home ever. He was just beside himself wiggling and jumping and running around the yard like crazy. I was so happy to see him it hurt.

 

And all of that’s nice, of course, but at the same time…

 

Where is all the neon, polyester clothing? The thick-soled sandals and beat up, Velcro closure sneakers? Why is there so much open space and no pedestrians?  Why is everything stucco, and where is my brick? Where are all the kioskos, the alfajores, the stars? Why aren’t there any boliches in SoCal suburbia? Why aren’t men shouting at me when I walk down the street? (Am I still a girl?) WHY IS EVERYTHING IN ENGLISH?

 

One of the strangest things for me has been speaking English to strangers. It surprised me just how weird it felt because I spoke a lot of English while I was in Argentina, especially in my last weeks… (oops.) But I realized that it was because English had become an intimate language for me, the secret language I shared with my tribe of loved ones, while Spanish was the public language. I never spoke English to shop owners, public officials, strangers on the street. Here, it’s the other way around.

 

Even the phrase “loved ones” seems to have shifted beneath my feet. It’s not that I don’t still love my old friends, but it’s been more of a process readjusting to them than you might think. Many of my friends studied abroad last semester, and like me they’ve also changed in many subtle ways that even they haven’t finished working out about themselves yet. Last night I had a conversation with one of my friends that went more or less like this:

 

“Why do you always have to do that?”

 

“It’s what I do! I’ve always been like that. It was never a problem for you before.”

 

“Well, now it is.”

 

We’re working on it.

 

As for the rest of my social circle… They’re eager to hear about my adventures, yes, but in a cursory kind of way. People keep asking me big, broad questions with too many answers like, “How was study abroad? Did you like Argentina? What did you do?” and they ask me in passing or in the elevator or in the lunch line. Okay, sure, let me just jam 5 months of life-altering experiences into a 5 second sound byte. No problem. I understand it’s not their fault necessarily—of course they don’t understand my experience if they’ve never been to Argentina, and how else are they going to understand if they don’t ask? But it’s still maddening.

 

A few of my old friends have been to Argentina, and every time I see them I can’t help but call out, “Che boludo, que onda? Como andas?” Giddy with the knowledge that they get it. They know what I’m talking about. I’m starved for Argentine slang and humor.

 

I found out that there’s actually an Argentine store within 20 minutes of my campus. I’m heading there with a friend tomorrow to stock up on mate and alfajores. I’m excited to share Argentine goodies with my friends and explain to them a bit about why these things are special to me. …But it’s not quite the same as breezing by a kiosko with my chicas and talking about our shared daily existence there.

 

…However, as much as I cried and stomped my feet and pitched a fit about leaving Argentina… I realized as soon as I hit the airport that it really was time to leave. I hate the fuss and stress of the airport, but I got a thrill from passing other travelers, overhearing snatches of their conversations, speculating what their stories might be. They could be from anywhere. For all they know, I could be from anywhere, going anywhere. And even better: I remembered that, hey, I’m young, I’m strong, I’m savvy. I CAN go anywhere.

 

I can do anything that I want.

 

The last thing I did in Argentina was to buy myself one last legal drink. (Mostly to get rid of the last of my Argentine pesos.) Turned out it was from Mendoza—nice surprise. :)

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I did a silent cheers to Argentina, to Buenos Aires, to the people I met, to airports, to travel, and most of all…to myself. For all the things I’ve learned and accomplished. For all the things I will learn and accomplish.

 

I had my adventures, I had my fling, and I think I did both of those al maximo. There’s still a big wide world out there, and it’s time for me to get back to it.

 

I’m thinking next stop is India. Japan. Israel. Maybe Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand.

 

Quien sabe?

 

Thanks for reading, everyone. Happy travels.

 

Previous Posts

  1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)
  2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation
  3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”
  4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile
  23.  Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata
  24. The Return to BA
  25. Un Repasito
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Un Repasito

Time February 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When I set off for Argentina, I had a short list of goals. I’d like to take a moment to look back at how I did during my 5 month stay.

 

Visiting the family in Buenos Aires—check.

Visiting my friend in Neuquen—check.

Visiting my roommate in Chile—double check.

 

Hiking in the Andes definitely happened. I took it a step further and climbed up to a waterfall in the Andes.

 

I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done, but I did do some. Finished a few poems (and even translated an old one into Spanish) and did some work on a few short stories.

 

I found multiple Argentine friends to do music exchanges with me, and now I’ve got so much music in Spanish, my poor iTunes library doesn’t know what to do with itself. 1/3 of my music is in Spanish now!

 

Meeting interesting people? Duh. (I should’ve set more challenging goals for myself!)

 

As far as cooking goes, I learned how to make empanadas, flan, and torta de chocolinas; got a recipe for homemade noqui from my host mom; and ate a whole lot more.

 

I think the only thing on my list that I didn’t accomplish (and then some) was tango dancing…and I realized very quickly in the program that a) it didn’t actually interest me that much and b) it’s not a Mendoza thing anyway, it’s a Buenos Aires thing. However, I did learn how to dance a couple different types of folklore, under the light of the moon no less!

 

And I accomplished so many more things that weren’t even on my list:

 

I got drunk for the first time. I had my first kiss. I learned how to ride a bike. I learned how to ride the subte in Santiago and the buses in Mendoza. I watched the sun rise over Mendoza with three girls I love. I watched the sun rise over Rio Plata with someone I didn’t love but definitely liked a lot. I was mistaken for an Argentine. I was mistaken for a Parisian. I traveled alone. I hung around on the beach on both coasts of South America. I’ve rejected jerks in three different languages, and I know about a zillion new Spanish words to explain to them how big of a jerk they are. I danced in the rain, under the moon, in the middle of the street, in a bunch of different clubs, with my chicas, with a drunk friend, with strangers, with old men, with nice guys. I marched to the casa del gobierno in a protest of 10,000+ people. I watched Charly Garcia perform live in Plaza de Mayo. I learned how to sand board, how to find my way in an unfamiliar city, how to take tequila shots, how to speak Spanish in the voseo, how to file an insurance claim, and how to river raft.

 

…Plus a whole bunch of other things I don’t have words for and I don’t want to try to explain.

 

And I made some of the three best friends I’ve ever had. Friends for life.

 

I could spend months talking about all the things I didn’t do–there’s so much to do and see in this little world of ours. There really is. But, ultimately, I made the choices that mattered to me, and I don’t regret any of it. Even if I didn’t get to see every major attraction, I made it count for the ones I did see, and I made a connection to each place I was, each moment. If nothing else, I have a bunch of excuses to return, no?

 

I learned what kind of life I want to lead and what kind of person I want to be: the kind who sees more to the world than just my backyard and the things that directly affect me. I want to travel, I want to learn, I want to explore, I want to challenge myself. I want to be the kind of person who can go with the flow and lets life show me what I can get out of it in the moment rather than only relying on plans and lists, because
a) plans fall through. Then what?
b) Sometimes the things you think you want aren’t the things you really want or need when the moment arises.

 

And I’ve gotten a little closer to becoming that person.

 

Argentina has definitely made me a stronger, more secure, more relaxed, happier person. And I even learned some Spanish along the way. Bonus prize. 😉 Of course, I’ll be bringing home a whole bunch of physical baggage from Argentina (CAN’T HAVE ENOUGH MATE), but the most important things I take home with me are the ones you can’t see or touch. And no one can take those things from me.

 

It’s so interesting to look back on myself pre-study abroad and see how much I’ve changed and grown. And I think it’ll be even more interesting to look back on this point in my life after my next adventure. :)

 

I’ll end with a quote from my infinitely wise and occasionally, secretly sentimental friend Lorri:

 

“Study abroad is not about studying. It is and forever will be about LIFE. And life is what you do and how you handle things when you plans go to ever-loving crap. Focus on living in the moment, because nothing else really matters. The purpose of life is being as happy as possible with each little moment, whatever that moment may consist of. The bottom line is that happiness begins and ends with YOU!”

 

Write it down. Learn it. Embrace it. Live it.

 

Study abroad? MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

 

El ultimo vocabulario

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Dejate llevar – Let it take you. (Go with the flow.)

 

Previous Posts

  1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)
  2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation
  3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”
  4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile
  23.  Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata
  24. The Return to BA

 

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The Return to Buenos Aires

Time February 13th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Buses (again) and public transportation

II. Mi familia Argentina

III. Receta: Torta de Chocolinas / Chocotorta

IV. My Buenos Aires

V. Musica

VI. Vocabulario

VII. Previous posts

 

I. Buses (again) and public transportation

 

When I arrived in BA late on a Thursday night, I was greeted not only by my cousins but also by the two staples of the Buenos Aires weather forecast:

1)      Rain

2)      And okay it’s not really weather, but it can be as intrusive and unpredictable: the subway operators and bus drivers were on paro, strike, meaning that my bus was not able to actually enter the bus terminal and I got dropped off on the median near-ish the terminal.

 

(Keep in mind that I had in tow all of my worldly possessions, all 80-something pounds of it.)

 

It all worked out without too much trouble, and within a few minutes I was able to meet with my cousins, who drove me home to their apartment. But all the same… nothing says, “Welcome back!” quite like rain and paros.

 

On the drive to the apartment, I began to realize exactly how expansive the city is. It just keeps going!

 

Two of my buddies were made fully aware of the city’s size with a sort of rude shock: the taxi from their hostel to my apartment was a whopping 100 pesos. To compare, the most I’d ever paid for a taxi in Mendoza was only 30 pesos. Ouch!

 

Clearly, that wasn’t feasible. That left us with the buses… My cousins were kind enough to leave me with not only a bus guide but also a bus card with about 30 pesos on it. However, one look at the bus guide made my brain want to crawl away and huddle in a corner somewhere. There are SO MANY buses. So, we had a bit of an adventure trying to figure out where we were going and how to get there.

 

And, surprise, surprise, the buses are slightly different here than in Mendoza. There are 3 different rates depending on how far you’re traveling, for one. The bus drivers are more impatient (which I hadn’t realized was possible.) I almost got squashed by the doors of one bus because apparently I was too slow getting on. Jeez.

 

By the end of that day, I was angry at the city. I felt cheated by my lack of understanding of its inner workings. I hated needing to cling to a map like any other Yanqui tourist yuppie. I had learned everything I needed about Mendoza, Valparaiso, and even Santiago by myself with hardly any effort—why was one city suddenly so terrifying and mystifying to me?

 

We finally did figure it out just fine, and I managed to successfully take not one but two Buenos Aires buses in one day by myself, and we got back in time for dinner with the family. (Though the bus ride took over an hour. Good lord.)

 

All in all, I was left feeling very grateful that I hadn’t been living in the capital for the last 4 months and very homesick…for Mendoza.

 

II. Mi familia Argentina

 

However, it’s hard to mope and feel homesick too much when you’re surrounded by family.

 

First of all, let me explain how I ended with family in Argentina that I had never met before coming here:

WWII Lithuania wasn’t the safest place for a Jew to be, so my grandpa left for New York. His brother went to Uruguay, settled down and had a family. (Leaked over into Argentina a bit, obviously.) His daughter is my second cousin. Her son stayed with my dad for about 4 months when he lived in California; they were about the same age. I’m staying with his two oldest children, Camila (20) and Mariano (26), but he also has a 3 year old and a set of 6 month old twins.

 

In spite of my misgivings about the city itself, I knew I had found “home” again when I entered my cousins’ apartment. They’re artsy semi-hippies just like me! They’ve got this great dining room table that they recovered themselves with newspaper comic clippings. Magnets made of old keyboard keys. And they drink actual tea, the kind that you strain through a small metal net, not the kind that comes in a package.
img_3882   img_3883
We’re pretty distantly related when it comes down to it, but we still have some of the most important things in common and we’ve gotten along very well. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the chance to meet them and that I get to claim them on my family tree!

 

In addition to showing me around town and hanging around the apartment together, I’ve had a few fun get-togethers with my family.

 

The first was dinner with the chicas (minus Lisa, who was in Chilean Patagonia, but obviously with us in spirit.) Mariano grilled up the best meat we’ve ever eaten and then played us some songs on his guitar. I was so proud to show off my chicas and their amazing Spanish that puts mine to shame and to show off all my nice cousins. We talked late into the night on Mariano’s dad’s balcony, looking up at the stars. (Stars in the middle of the biggest city in Argentina—say what?)

 

Since Ale and Lorri left the country a week before I did, we had a sort of sleepover/packing party at the cousins’ departamento so that we could spend one last night all together. “Welcome to our hostel!” joked Mariano.

 

I still cannot believe their generosity.

 

About a week later, I brought by another Yanqui friend that I met in Argentina to meet the family. We thought it would be a quick, “Hi, nice to meet you, bye, we’re going to Tigre now!” But little did we know that the family was throwing a despedida lunch for Mariano, who was leaving for Spain the next day. To their surprise, my Yanqui friend ended up swooping in and taking over grilling duties. “They didn’t believe me when I said I knew how to do an asado!” They also didn’t believe me when I said he wasn’t my boyfriend, but that’s another matter.

 

Asi que this apartment has been the place where all the pieces of my heart came together.

 

I also had the strange but nice experience of sharing the holidays with my Argentine family. Mostly the strange part was that it was so hot that I was dripping sweat, we drank cold drinks (or just sucked on ice cubes), and swatted mosquitos. And yet much of the holiday imagery is borrowed from us, like the tree covered in “snowy” tinsel. We drove out to the provincia for Christmas dinner with…my um… cousin-in-law’s (?) family. Lots of people I didn’t know, which was also weird. There were mountains of food, of course. Pionono, matambre , ensalada rusa, and (very atypically) turkey.

 

Around midnight, the neighbors started up with fireworks. (Cue the babies crying, haha.) Then we all got up to give besos to everybody at the party and wish them a merry Christmas. I think I would have thought it was cuter if I hadn’t been so hot that I didn’t want to be touched. After that, they carried the presents out of the house and put them under the tree in the backyard. By this point, my one glass of champagne and the heat had done some gnarly work to my system, and I curled up in the hammock under the tree to take a little mid-party nap. (Tee hee hee.) I was woken up when one of the kids brought my present to me from under the tree, which I hadn’t been expecting. The cousins had gone out and bought me one last reminder of Argentina’s bizarre fashion sense:

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My very own swag pants. Awesome.

 

III. Receta: Torta de Chocolinas / Chocotorta

 

For our family Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) dinner party, my cousin and I made a simple, classic Argentine dessert: torta de Chocolinas (or chocotorta.)

 

As my cousin Camila said, “Chocotorta will never let you down, because it’s easy and it doesn’t have to be pretty or neat.”

Plus, it’s delicious.

 

Ingredientes:

Cream cheese

Dulce de leche

Chocolinas chocolate cookies

Milk

Optional: cinnamon, liquor, chocolate milk powder, vanilla extract, fruit garnish, etc

 

(However, I could imagine some delicious variations with ginger snaps, oreos, thin mints…or any type of cookie, really. Not sure what you’d use as a substitute for dulce, though. Perhaps chocolate? Coconut cream? Pumkin? Lots of fun possibilities, and I’m really excited to play with it a bit.)

 

Metodo:

First, combine dulce and cream cheese in a bowl. (This is to taste, but I think you want a higher cream cheese to dulce ratio.)

 

Next, fill a shallow dish with milk and whatever additional seasonings you want. Soak the cookies in the milk until they are soft but not mushy. You want to take them out just before they start to fall apart and lose shape.

 

In a casserole dish, alternately layer cookies and the dulce/cream cheese mixture. (The bottom layer should be cookies, and the top layer should be dulce/cream cheese.) Garnish with crumbled cookies and/or fruit. Put it all in the fridge or freezer. Serve cold.

Bam.

 

IV. My Buenos Aires

 

Even though I was still in same old Argentina, I felt like I was in a different country than the one I had been in all semester. The architecture of Buenos Aires is very distinctive, for one. It’s also easier to find “Americanized” restaurants, products, and English-speakers, which was all very weird to me.

 

Possibly most importantly and most strangely, Buenos Aires has been the circuit breaker between my life in Argentina and the life I’ll return to back home, between Yona and Paloma.

 

Maybe it’s because I’ve had it in mind this whole time that I’m about to leave. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been hanging around with a guy who has central AC and peanut butter in his apartment. But as soon as I got here I started forgetting tiny, strange details of the Argentine social norms that I know so well and have been using every day all semester. Trying to shake someone’s hand instead of giving a beso. Saying “Gracias,” after being handed mate. What the heck, Yona? It’s not like I don’t know these things.

 

It reminded me of the moment when I realized our Mendocine friend, the IFSA secretary, who the chicas and I tried to emulate in many ways… wanted to be a Yanqui in many ways. We’re trying to be Argentines, who are trying to be Yankees, who are trying to be… So, who’s who anymore? Which identity am I trying to assume?

 

Buenos Aires definitely zigzags back and forth across that line into the blurry gray middle zone too, but it’s still uniquely Argentina. With all its quirky crazy charm.

 

Since coming to Argentina, I’ve seen 3 different faces of the famous downtown Plaza de Mayo: I’ve seen it on an afternoon when the madres de los desaparecidos marched and called out names of their missing children. I’ve seen it at Very, Very Late O’Clock packed with people and choripan vendors, the Casa Rosada alive with flashing lights and live music, for Dia de Dependencia. I’ve seen it decked out for Christmas, with the lush lawn trimmed down and a tree made of recycled materials covered in tarp.

 

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But to me, none of those images represent Buenos Aires. Maybe they should. But my Buenos Aires was a bit off the beaten path, which is just how I like it.

 

I spent the majority of my time in barrio Agronomia, which isn’t exactly central.

 

(The hour+ bus ride meant that I didn’t venture out to the microcentro very often.) Luckily, Agronomia was much more my speed. I had a great time getting to know the neighbors, doing my own grocery shopping and cooking, and pretending that I lived there on that street shaded by hibiscus trees.

 

I will also always think of Buenos Aires as my romance city.

 

I’m still not sure what I want to say about it, but I feel like I need to say something because it was definitely a part of my experience in Argentina. An important one, I think, and a big change for me.

 

However, this is the one area of Things You May Encounter on Study Abroad that I can offer you exactly no advice on. (And who can?) I can’t tell you how to find love. I can’t tell you how to avoid love. I can’t tell you what to do or how to handle it when it’s time to go home. I can only tell you what my experience was.

 

The first pieces of advice everyone in Mendoza gave me was
a) Get an Argentine boyfriend so I could practice my Spanish
but
b) don’t fall in love with an Argentine because he would only break my heart.
Gee, thanks guys. Well, it turned out that none of the Mendocines I met were really my style, so I avoided that problem all together. However, I did meet an American man…

 

Before I left the US, I joked a whole lot about all the men I was going to meet and hook up with in Argentina. But I didn’t actually expect or necessarily want that, and I definitely didn’t see my little fling coming. He wasn’t the type of guy I thought I should be looking for: older, military, American. It was sheer dumb luck, but I don’t think I could have picked a kinder guy to hang out with, and I think it was something I really needed. I had my first real dinner and movie date. We went sailing, a first for both of us. I learned how to kiss. I think I learned a lot of useful things about myself, men, and relationships, but I’m still too emotionally tangled in everything that happened to be able to process it all yet.

 

It lasted about a week all together…and then we had to go our separate ways. He was the last person I said goodbye to before I left for the airport. (And I was almost late because of it. Oops.)

 

“I don’t want to leave,” I whimpered through my tears.

 

Ever the pragmatist, he replied, “I think your experience of the past week has been very different from mine…” Referring to the break-in of his car two days before Christmas and the ensuing paperwork quilombo.

 

“Okay, so I don’t want to stay in Argentina forever,” I admitted. “But I still don’t want to leave…”

 

So my heart broke—colossally, spectacularly. But I’m so grateful that it all happened, and if I could do it all over I don’t think I’d change a thing. And the Yanqui and I are still friends.

 

For those of you who find romance on your study abroad, or wherever you are, that’s the least I could possibly wish for you.

 

V. Musica

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I believe this will be the last time I share music with you guys, so we’re going out with a bang: 2 good bands for the price of one!

 

The cousins introduced me to Onda vaga

(My favorite song starts at 5:02. The comments list each individual song and let you skip between them.)

 

The love interest introduced me to No te va a gustar.

(And here are the lyrics for this particular song.)

They’re from Uruguay, but their musical style is very much like Argentina rock nacional.

(Other good songs: Chau & Memorias del olvido.)

 

Here’s hoping these guys keep you dancing through your day and whatever your next adventures may be.

 

VI. Vocabulario

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Mellizos – fraternal twins

Flequillo – bangs (hair)

Despedida – farewell

Chorro – (slang) thief

Fuegos artificiales – fireworks

Hamaka – hammock

 

VII. Previous posts

  1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)
  2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation
  3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”
  4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile
  23.  Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata
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Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata

Time February 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My last adventure with the chicas (minus 1) was to take a relatively short journey to South America’s east coast for some sun and sand.

We’d been researching (sort of) this trip since November, and everyone told us that we should go to a smaller beach town, like Pinomar to avoid the summer hordes. Of course, Latin American life intervened in our plans to plan, and the actual structuring of this adventure took place mostly two days before it happened. Typical. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we had some major trouble booking rooms and transportation. First the usual mess with phones, saldo (pre-paid minutes), and sluggish internet connections. Then, when we finally got the info we needed, we couldn’t believe how pricey the hostels were! Fate and dwindling bank accounts pushed us to Mar del Plata. Although it had been the furthest thing from our intentions, it ended up being a good thing.

The bus to Mardel was about 4 hours, with nice views. Getting back to the campo after hectic BA life (more details on that later) was a real breath of fresh air.

Our first adventurous act was when we decided not to take a taxi to the hostel like most tourists would. No way. We’re traveling pros. We knew by then how and whom to ask. So we took our chances with the bus, even though we’d never set foot in the city before and had no idea where the buses would take us. It was an epic success—we aren’t just awkward outsiders, we’re media Argentinas! The #112 bus dropped us off within a block of our hostel.

Our hostel was the cutest place, by the way. It felt more like a hotel than any other hostel I’ve been to. The staff loved us, and it was the first time I really felt like I was on vacation. And with two girls I adore—who could ask for me?

Mardel had a Mendoza-like vibe because it was quiet and there were convenience stores scattered everywhere… but of course with that classic beach town feel. We liked it right away.

The section of the beach we hung out on was in a bay, which was a new experience for me. The water was so calm with so few waves, you could lie on your back and just float, watching the clouds go by. I was so relaxed I felt drunk on it all. We lived like children: we ate and slept. Rinse, repeat. It was a welcome break from the “real” world.

I loved being able to strut around in a bikini and a t-shirt knowing that my friends at home (and even other friends abroad) were bundled up in layers at that moment.

I managed to sunburn one half off my butt. Moral: ALWAYS USE MORE SUNSCREEN.

Get yourself a good scarf: in a pinch, you can use it as a sarong, shirt, sun protector, emergency stuff sack, and a beach blanket.

We spent one night climbing on the rocks on the far side of the beach. We sat in shared silence and contemplated infinity, the lights of the city dancing on the water like fireflies. Nearby, a couple fishermen sat doing the same. It felt so right for all of our adventures, challenges, emotional swings, and frustration to end in a moment of such deep peace.

All the same, it was hard not to think how close we were to the end of this moment in our lives.

I wanted to feel the sand under my toes, so I headed up the beach alone. The chicas caught up with me later, and I said,

“Oh look. A message in the sand. We had better read it before the waves come and wash it away…”

Some things are more beautiful because they’re impermanent.

As usual, I left everyone else behind and went back to BA early to take care of some other business. (I had originally intended to visit family in Montevideo but it turned out to be more time-consuming and expensive than I had anticipated. Next time!) Settled back into the city…and started bracing myself for some difficult goodbyes.

Previous posts

  1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)
  2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation
  3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”
  4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile
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The Chicas Take Chile

Time February 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I.            Chile at a Glance

II.            Santiago

III.            Valpo again

IV.            Reñaca

V.            Concon

VI.            Life After Chile

VII.           Vocabulario

VIII.        Previous Posts

 

I.                   Chile at a glance

 

My friends had been planning to visit Chile in November all semester. As much as I wanted to be with them, I resisted for a while because I was afraid of missing out on other travel opportunities. I was dying to travel north to Salta and Jujuy. Unfortunately, I never had the chance. Weather and conflicting travel plans meant that I’d probably die of heatstroke and be doing it alone, so I decided to shelve that trip for another day. I finally decided that Chile was probably worth revisiting, especially because I hadn’t had a chance to do everything I wanted to do the last time. It turned out to be a very, very good choice.

 

It felt really nice to go back. I’m glad that I was able to spend enough time there that I understand a bit of the culture and slang and I can laugh at the jokes that Chileans and Argentines make about each other.

 

After spending a decent amount of time in Chile, I feel like I can say a few things with confidence:

 

-Chileans are terrible at giving directions. Just terrible.

-Chile has cuter cafes than Argentina…but less outdoor seating.

-It has better bread than Argentina, but fewer varieties of alfajores.

-The buses are easier to use

-Clothing is cheaper and more “Americanized”

-It’s a pretty neat place.

 

Someday in the future, I’d like to visit Atacama and Patagonia as well. But for now, I had some fun adventures where I did go.

 

II.                Santiago

 

 

First stop was the capital.

 

I think if I had to live in South America, I’d like to live in Santiago. It’s surprisingly clean for being so large, and it’s got nice parks. It’s got a little of everything, in fact.

 

A week earlier, one of my friends had a piojo mishap (it’s much more common in this part of the world), so we decided that we needed to visit the (in)famous bar, La Piojera. They’re best known for a drink called the terremoto, which is wine + pineapple ice cream. (We also had grenadine in ours.) Worth trying. Even if you don’t want a drink, La Piojera is worth visiting just for the atmosphere. It’s dark and crowded inside, bodies pushing up against you from all sides, and the furniture is vaguely reminiscent of a medieval pub. But the cool thing about it was that you were equally likely to see, a group of preppy girls, a pair of novios, kids who were barely legal to drink, and someone’s grandma all in this one place.

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On the way back to our hostel after exploring the city, my friends and I caught the after-work rush hour. Unlike Mendoza, there is no siesta in the middle of the day, so the work day ended much sooner than we were used to. The result was being jammed like sardines onto the subway—and I was very nearly smashed in the door! Luckily, we all made it with all of our limbs attached. Call it part of the adventure.

 

Valpo Again

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Returning to Valpo was another kind of homecoming. It was the coolest thing to be able to show my friends around and explain how things worked—I really had learned a thing or two on my last visit! Even better, I loved that my chicas, those crazy girls I love, also loved the city I loved.

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We attempted and failed to go to La Sebastiana—the only one of Pablo Neruda’s houses that I didn’t visit. We got distracted by the city and by each other. It was a fair tradeoff, I think.

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One night, we indulged in a luxurious seafood dinner (as opposed to the cheaper version) in Valpo. Quote of the night:

“What’s in this cake!?”

“..MAGIC.”

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IV.             Reñaca

In Reñaca, we went sand boarding. I think it was 2500 Chilean pesos ($5 USD) an hour to rent boards, but that could be completely wrong. It was cheap—I remember that much. And it’s no small wonder: there’s no “board rental establishment,” of course. There’s a lady with a truck and boards in the back. The dunes themselves are plenty big—we were higher than the ocean fog, so we look like we’re in the clouds in all of our pictures. The bottom of the biggest dune was rimmed with old tires—you know, for safety. (Right…)

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One thing you should know: the sand is really, really hot going up. Don’t be tempted to go up barefoot.

 

If you’re expecting snowboarding but with sand, don’t even bother. We had a blast because we were being goofy and laughing at each other, and for us it was very worth it. If you want real adventure sports, go hang-gliding or something else.

 

After that, we bused back down the coast to Viña for lunch and the beach.

 

When we asked people for directions for good places to eat, they directed us to the piers along the coast. …Silly. What restaurants we saw were way too expensive (there were tablecloths and the waiters wore ties, man). There were also churro stands (dipped in chocolate, full of dulce, or both), but that didn’t do it for us either. We ended up walking about 8 blocks inland, where we found the absolute best empanada stand.

 

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The dough was delicious—fried or baked were available. The fillings included everything from corn to mariscos to beef and back. One of mine was full of machas, clams.

 

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Then we did beach things.

 

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When we arrived on the beach, we met up with my US roommate and some other friends from the program that had come with us. Our program friends were getting to know Chile’s alcohol selection. (We did our own thing, being amused at them from afar.) That was all fine and funny until
1) The drunk folk got sunburned
2) Someone’s backpack was stolen

 

It was obvious we were Americans and that they were drunk, so it was an easy target for one Lucky Chilean who made off with $200 USD, an American passport, a photocopy of the same passport, an Argentine visa, and our friend’s ego.

 

Everything worked out in the end, but I think it never hurts to have a few WARNINGS AND REMINDERS on that front:

 

-Never carry important documents in your backpack

-Don’t leave your important documents unattended (or in the care of drunk people)

-Keep your passport and the copy of your passport separate

-If you do any of those things and something bad happens as a result…don’t panic

-Contact the program director

 

V.                Concon

The next day, we went back up the coast to Concon beach to search out a horseback riding excursion. We found the stalls but no horses. Apparently it happens every day of the week…except the day we chose to go. Doh. I feel like it was a Monday or a Tuesday. Try to check beforehand with the hostel, and good luck.

 

We still had a nice time soaking up the sun and talking about our lives. And then, before we knew it, it was time to leave for our next adventure…

 

VI.             Life After Chile

 

Chile was more than just a beautiful place to visit or another adventure for us. It was an anchoring point in our friendship in a very Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of way. For a weekend, Valparaiso was ours.

 

On the bus to Reñaca, with a world of color and chaos whizzing past us, we made a promise to ourselves to return someday to this beautiful part of the world. Together. We decided what we want to do with our lives, that we are unstoppable, that we really do mean that much to each other.

 

I won’t even try to explain, because that moment belongs to us, but it was a big deal.

 

Back in Mendoza, finals came and went like the blink of an eye. Then it was time for me to pack my bags for Buenos Aires…and for the chicas to go our separate ways. Lorri and Ale would be meeting me in BA for a few days, but Lisa was off to Chilean Patagonia for a few weeks of backpacking with her sister. Before we split up, there was one last thing we had to do. There’s a bridge in Parque San Martin, and we closed a love lock around the rail. One key we kept, and the other we tossed into the lake. The lock will remain in Mendoza, one of many tiny symbols of our life there that we left behind, until we return together to reopen it. To end with a bang, we had a party on Lisa’s balcony with the last of our pisco sour from Chile. It ended with us sobbing, of course. Beso’d Lisa goodbye and her tears were on my face. And, because we’re the cheeks, our crying turned to laughter as we made our way down the street back to my house, arms locked.

 

Separate, but connected.

 

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For all the Chile pictures (because I took approximately TOO MANY of almost anything that held still long enough), look here and here.

 

  1. Vocabulario

 

Botilleria – convencience store

Macha – clam

Cabalgatas – horseback riding

 

  1. VIII.       Previous Posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 

15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!

16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest

18. Some tips about Hostels 

19. Student Life in Mendoza

20. Trabajo Voluntario

21. San Rafael

 

Coming Soon:

The Return to BA

Mar del Plata

Goals Revisited

Culture Shock and Life After Study Abroad

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San Rafael

Time January 7th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I don’t think I actually have too much to say about San Rafael, except that it was a good time, a great program excursion, and I have a  lot of great memories from that weekend. I also took a TON of pictures, and I think I’ll let them do most of the talking this time.

 

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The cabins we stayed in + garden

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“Beach”

 

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Hike

 

We also went rafting, but for obvious reasons I didn’t bring my camera for that. The river was pretty mellow, but our guides made up for it with their humor and mischief. (Splash attacks on the other boats, etc.) Also, one of my chicas threw me in the river, which definitely woke me up.

 

For some reason, this seems to be a pattern with us. “Yona, drink this! Yona, kiss this guy! Yona, jump in the river!” And each time I back away kicking and screaming, but end up doing it anyway. Some craziness ensues…and I end up being glad I did it.

 

So I guess the moral of today’s story is never be afraid to jump into the river.

 

Previous Posts:

1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 

15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!

16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest

18. Some tips about Hostels 

19. Student Life in Mendoza

20. Trabajo Voluntario

 

Coming up soon:

The Chicas Take Chile

Mar del Plata

The Return to BA

Goals revisited

The Return to “Home”

 

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Trabajo Voluntario

Time January 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

(Volunteer Work)

One really nice thing about the IFSA program was that they provided opportunities to give back. Trust me, when you’re in a developing country, you’ll be dying to try to help somehow. There’re a lot of problems to be fixed. And, of course, it’s another great way to practice Spanish.

Choices:

  • Recording books in English for blind people studying English literature at Cuyo
  • Knitting blankets
  • Children’s shelter / food collection
  • Environmental workshops with elementary school kids

(And I think there might have been some others, but I can’t remember now.)

You know me by now. Guess which one I picked?

 My experience:

It was time-consuming, like another class. You had to be dedicated because you not only had to wake up early but also because some sessions and initial set-up took precedence over class.

I had an opportunity to travel, but I couldn’t accept it because it conflicted with other plans I had at the time.

My job was basically to give a presentation to a group of kids, like any other Spanish oral presentation for class. Kids were fun to work with. They were very curious about us and where we came from. Hard to understand, but fairly forgiving with our Spanish.

So all in all, it was an interesting and challenging experience. And, when it went well, it was also very rewarding.

 

Another IFSA student and the NGO director strategizing near the soap-making supplies

Another IFSA student and the NGO director strategizing near the soap-making supplies

Kids making soap out of recycled cooking oil

Kids making soap out of recycled cooking oil

Another IFSA student ready to answer kids' questions!

Another IFSA student ready to answer kids’ questions!

 

All of my posts:

Yona – Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Read about students who study abroad on one of IFSA-Butler's programs

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Student Life in Mendoza

Time January 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. My classes this semester

II. A side note on making Argentine friends

III. General structure and organization of Argentine classes

IV. Vocabulario

V. Previous posts

VI. Coming soon

 

I. My classes this semester

 

First, let me tell you PLEASE DON’T STRESS ABOUT TAKING COLLEGE CLASSES IN SPANISH. You’ll be fine. Most of my classes were easier than my U.S. classes to be honest.

 

That said, classes here were definitely a source of stress at various points during the program. I had a professor I could not stand, I had miscommunications and misunderstandings, I was confused about exam dates or even whether I had exams… But it all worked out, and I escaped with a solid GPA. And as long as you go to class, communicate with your professors and the IFSA staff, and keep your chin up, you will too.

 

Two recommendations:

  1. When you try out classes, pay special attention to the professor. If your prof is uncooperative with foreign students, it’ll make your experience much less pleasant. Is your professor easy to understand? Are they boring as mud? Do you feel comfortable asking them questions? Etc.
  2. Unless your home university requires specific types of classes, don’t limit yourself to courses that fall under your major at home. This is a chance to try out a new subject and experiment—especially because the courses that do pertain to your major might not be what you’re looking for or expecting.

 

IFSA students can take classes at two universities in Mendoza:

-Congreso is private. Smaller classes.

-Cuyo is public. Bigger classes, more expansive campus.

 

I took painting at Cuyo and Sustainable Development (philosophy of environmentalism) at Congreso, plus the Spanish class and Regional Development (mostly economic history) with IFSA.

 

Painting was easily my most demanding class…which was really a shame because it was the one class I knew I wouldn’t get credit for at Soka. Not only was there a lot of work (5 large paintings in class plus 12 individual paintings of any size outside of class) but the professor was a bit difficult to understand. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t understand his words or his accent, but that he would say one thing and change his mind later. Oh and did I say professor? I meant professors, plural, because there were 3, and they would each give a different opinion. Oy.

 

At the end of it all, I got a 10/10 (probably mostly because I’m foreign. Doh) so all’s well that ends well. And I got some cool paintings out of it.

 

Still life painting from class

Still life painting from class

lisa in progress

Black and white landscape

Black and white landscape

still life zoom

still life zoom

dream deer

 

Sustainable development was neat because all of the class time was used for discussion, so I had the chance to hear about what people in my age bracket think about environmental issues in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Brazil. …Frustrating because, surprise, surprise, the poor organization of both countries’ governments makes it difficult for them to make change in the way that the U.S. has. (Although most environmental movements out there are modeled after the U.S.’s movements.)

 

What I didn’t like about it was that there was only one grade: an oral exam. No way to gauge beforehand how the professor was going to grade, no way to make it up if you messed up. I did okay, but not as well as I wanted. Moreover, I was disappointed by how abstract the material was. There was no way to apply any of it. What little concrete information there was I already knew from previous classes in the U.S. So, I’m not sure how much I really got out of it other than a few interesting conversations.

 

I was bored silly by Regional Development, to be honest, but I think that was probably the class I learned the most in. I probably would have been better off taking some kind of Argentine history class though. The real problem here was that, although there was a “shopping” period to test out the main section of this class, the “concentrations” within the course didn’t start til later in the semester and so there was no way to preview them. Let’s just say that if I’d had the chance to preview my concentration, I would not have sat through a semester with that particular professor.

 

I really wanted more grammar, writing, and vocabulary from the Spanish class, but there was lots of verbal and listening practice. We also read a whole bunch, which also provided a cultural context.

 

Basically, I’ll tell you that if your goal is to become fluent by the end of your semester abroad…you’ve got to do a LOT of work beyond your classes. The best thing you can do is to avoid the other Yankees in the program and seek out Argentine friends.

 

II. A side note on making Argentine friends

 

And now I bet you’re thinking, “Well, duh, Yona. That was my intention.” Ojo, buddy, because it’s a whole lot easier said than done. First of all, you’re going to be naturally inclined to befriend IFSA kida because a) you’ll see them all the time. Program events, classes. You might even live near them. b) You share a cultural context with them, so you naturally have more in common and more things to talk about. c) Spanish is harder and potentially scarier, and English-speaking friends are a safe zone. If you’re not taking a language pledge of some kind, you might find yourself speaking English without even meaning to just because it’s so much easier and because, gosh darn it, you KNOW full well that these guys speak English better than Spanish.

 

So, be aware that there’s a lot you’re working against in that department and there are a lot of other things to distract you on study abroad, especially if you choose to travel a lot. It’s not all about language and making Argentine friends.

 

That said, it can be done. Here are a few tips to help you out in this department:

 

  1. Be tenacious! It’s not going to be easy, so you’ve got to really want it!
  2. Attend as many cultural events as possible. Get involved in the community. These are the kinds of events where you’ll be likely to meet people you have things in common with and an excuse to talk about them. (Plus be able to actually hear each other, unlike in clubs.) One of my good friends was a music junkie, and she made a couple of good friends at folklore or dance events.
  3. Try to talk to one new person every day or every week, especially towards the beginning of the program. The more you talk to people and put yourself out there, the easier it will be. Just go for it.
  4. Smile! Even if you’re nervous or uncertain of your Spanish ability, as long as you’re friendly and sincere…who wouldn’t want to be friends with you and learn more about you?
  5. Join a study group for class!

 

Now for my confession: aside from my host sister, I didn’t become very close with any Argentines. Sure, I talked to them. I was friendly, I went to cultural events… But I didn’t click with anyone. I didn’t have time to make connections because I had so much else going on! Part of the problem was also that it was very easy to get attention from men… but they didn’t really want to be FRIENDS, if you catch my drift. The women tend to be more standoffish.

 

However, if given the chance to trade my 4 chicas yanquis for some Mendocine amigos… there’s no way I’d do it. I think everything worked out the way it needed to this time around.

 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

 

III. General structure and organization of Argentine classes

 

See what I did there? It’s funny because there’s not much of ANYTHING in Argentina that was structured or organized!

 

Some of my classes were cancelled so many times that I almost forgot I had them. Either the professor didn’t show up or there was a paro (strike) or there was a Monday feriado (holiday.)

 

And, of course, there’s almost never a syllabus. The professor might talk about assignments and never give them. Or vice versa—announce an assignment with very little notice. Essays are much less common than in the U.S. Most of the learning is about memorization of thought, not so much critical thinking.

 

Sorry Argentina, but I’m definitely ready to go back to the college education I’ve become accustomed to, where syllabi are organized and followed to the letter, where final exam dates are clearly announced ahead of time, where grades are posted and calculated online, where the professor always shows up on time, where I have to use my entire brain….It’s been an interesting experience, but I think I’ve had enough of that for now!

 

IV. Vocabulario

 

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Paro – strike. Might be the professors themselves or might be the buses and public transport. Both can result in a class being cancelled.

Trabajo practico – Assignments, more or less. Homework. May or may not be an essay.

Promocional – Classes in which students who attend all class sessions and complete all trabajo practico don’t need to take the exam.

Parcial – midterm

 

V. Previous posts

1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 

15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!

16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest

18. Some tips about Hostels 

 

VI. Coming soon

Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II
The return to BA

Mar del Plata

Goals – accomplishments and compromises

Reverse culture shock

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Some Tips about Hostels

Time December 21st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’d never stayed in a hostel before study abroad, and the thought of staying in one made me a little nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect. After 5 months of traveling around South America, I think I get it now. It’s not necessarily sketchy just because you’re sharing a room with strangers—you might make friends. You might not even end up sharing a room with anyone. The bathrooms, on the other hand, very easily could be sketchy, so brace yourself and put on your adventure boots (or at least some shower slippers.) Keep these handy tips in mind and you’ll do fine.

 

1. READ THE RATINGS.

Tripadvisor and Hostelworld both offer traveler reviews—use them. Don’t just read the good ones—read the worst reviews to get an idea of what you might have to expect. And don’t necessarily trust a place if it has one good review, and only one review. The more ratings, the more accurate the overall rating will be.

 

Common sense.

 

2. If you can, bring a towel. Most places will let you rent a towel, but to save yourself a bit of cash and the weirdness of using a towel that lots of other people have used, make room for one of your own. (Bonus tip: if you’re taking a bus to the city in which your hostel is located, that towel can be used as an emergency pillow!)

 

3. Cook at the hostel, save yourself a fortune. I ate out a lot when I was in Valparaiso just because, hello, seafood, but it really is so much cheaper (and fun!) to cook at the hostel. That said, be aware you won’t necessarily have all the supplies you’d like to have. Simple things like salad, pizza, pasta, and rice are your best bet but can still be tasty and healthy. I’ve done some delicious lentils (just soak them a day in advanced.) For more ideas, you can check out this site for hostel recipes! (Or just do a Google search.)

 

4. Ask about storage, especially if you’re arriving before check-in.

 

5. Don’t sleep in—take advantage of breakfast when it’s offered! (Especially because you already paid for it.)

 

6. The staff will usually know English pretty well…impress them with your Spanish and make friends! I am ASTOUNDED by the number of travelers (especially Australians for some reason) who wash up in these hostels without knowing a lick of Spanish. I’m not quite sure how they survive in South America, to be honest. Either way, people like them make the people that work in hostels super grateful for people who do speak Spanish, and they’re more likely to be patient with you if you need to store your stuff a little longer or something like that.

 

7. Keep your chin up and call it part of the adventure! If you’re afraid of a dirty bathroom rug or slimy kitchen sponge, just suck it up and pay the extra money for a hotel. Your stay in Hostel La Dudosa ( = sketchy) might not be the most luxurious—I mean, come on, it’s a hostel—but it might be one of the most fun if you do it up right.

 

If you want to see some of the places I stayed during my stint in South America, you can check out my Tripadvisor account . Of course, these are by no means the only places available to you. It all depends on when you go and how many people you’re going with.

 

So get Googling, and good luck!

 

Previous posts:

1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 

15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!

16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest

 

Coming soon!

The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II
The return to BA

Mar del Plata

Reverse culture shock

Goals – accomplishments and compromises

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Cordoba and Oktoberfest

Time December 19th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Oktoberfest

II. Cordoba

III. Previous Posts

IV. Coming soon

 

I. Oktoberfest

I feel like now is as good a time as any to assure you all that I’m not one of those people who went on study abroad just to drink. In fact, I’d never drunk anything until coming here. Although I’ve definitely seen the inside of my share of bars now and I did get drunk for the first time in Argentina, I think certain people would even be disappointed with how little I’ve been drinking since coming here. It’s still just not my thing.

 

However, my friends and I couldn’t turn down the chance to check out Oktoberfest, and if it fits into your plans I don’t think you should either.

 

Tips:

-Bring more money than you think you’re going to need, especially if you’re planning on eating there. Obviously, the food is overpriced—wouldn’t expect any less from an event like that. Also remember that if you’re not staying in Villa Gral. Belgrano (1.5 hours outside of the city of Cordoba) you’re still going to have to pay for your ride home! The price of a mug of beer varies depending on how big your mug is, but consider $25 pesos the baseline.

-Make and bring sandwiches so you don’t have to eat overpriced food. I wish we would’ve thought to do that. L

-It rained while we were there. Definitely didn’t stop us from having fun, but it would’ve been nice if I would have a) brought my umbrella b) not been wearing shorts.

 

It was a lot of fun to try all the different beers—there was even a strawberry flavored one—rather than whatever boring thing is cheap and comes in a bottle at your local bar. My buddies and I are all blanditas (lightweights) so we each got something different and shared.

 

The most fun was wandering around and striking up conversations with strangers. There were come characters running around Oktoberfest, let me tell you. And of course, I can’t help but think of one encounter in particular when I think of Oktoberfest…

 

Ahem.

 

I don’t think the internet necessarily needs the full details of this story, but I will share this much with you all: I had my first kiss at Oktoberfest. And he was, of all things, a Yankee, not an Argentine—oh the odds. But it turns out this random stranger I met at a potentially sketchy event (with all my friends watching, by the way) was actually a nice person, and we’re still in touch. It just goes to show that you never know what life will bring your way.

 

Overall, I’d say I had the most fun at Oktoberfest of anyone in our group, and I didn’t even get drunk! I mean, how many other people get to say they had their first kiss in Argentina?

 

II. Cordoba

While in the city, we did a lot of wandering around in the rain and checking out museums. (There are two that operate jointly, so you can either pay to enter only one or pay for both together at a discounted rate.) My personal favorite part was a park with a … an um… Well, I’m still not quite sure what it was, but there were giant, multi-colored circles.

 

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We spent so much time clambering all over those things. Naturally, they also became a graffiti magnet over the years, so I figured it wouldn’t do any harm if I added a few words of my own. Now a little piece of me, my mark, will remain there in Cordoba. Keep your eyes out for that and some “Le quiero a Justin Beiber!” graffiti if you visit.

 

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That night we went out on the town with some friends we met in the hostel. Still one of my favorite boliches in Argentina, I think. But, of course, as with everything else I’ve done here, it was the company that really mattered.

 

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III. Previous posts

1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave 

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 

15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!

16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

 

IV. Coming soon

The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II
The return to BA

Mar del Plata

A few tips on hostels

Reverse culture shock

Goals – accomplishments and compromises

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Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

Time December 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be Talking about…

I. Neuquen

II. How to make empanadas

III. Vocabulario

IV. Musica

V. Previous posts

VI. Coming soon

 

I. Neuquen

 

I spent the first half of my September spring break in Valparaiso, and then I popped down to Neuquen to visit my friend Yamila who recently graduated from Soka. (1 hour stopover in Mendoza between Valpo and Neuquen—just enough time to brush my teeth in the bathroom and change my shirt. Felt like an absolute BOSS at traveling.) Both were great visits, but I never want to spend that much time on a bus again.

 

As much as I enjoyed Chile, it still felt so good to be back on Argentine soil. I hadn’t realized until I’d left how much Argentina had become a part of me, and not just in my accented Spanish. Although Neuquen was about 12 hours south of everything familiar to me in Argentina, I knew I was back “home” when I heard Yamila shout, “Che boludo!” in response to being tackled by a friend.

 

Neuquen probably won’t show up on your list of must-see locations in Argentina—it was pretty quiet—but I’ll say that it was definitely a pretty place. For me, it was the site of a lot of needed reflection on my experiences.

 

More than anything, it was a relief to reaffirm that I really had learned something about Argentine culture and I understood it now. When I first met her and learned she was from Argentina, it didn’t mean much to me–I had no idea I’d be living there for half a year. She could have just as easily been from Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, or Venezuela as far as I was concerned. So, the reality of her life outside of Soka was a complete mystery to me. Between arriving in Argentina and meeting up with her, I had a secret fear that upon talking to her I’d realize that I hadn’t actually learned “real” Argentine things or that I would have learned the “wrong” Argentine things…but there were no secrets and no mysteries. Her Argentina was the exact same Argentina that I was coming to know and love.

 

We spent a lot of time discussing what it meant to us to have traveled (while she was at Soka, she did her study abroad in Japan) and what we learned about ourselves in the process. After living in the US and Japan, she’s not purely Argentine anymore, culturally speaking. She lives in some gray zone in between all of them that will never exist on a map. And that’s how I’ve begun to feel too. I want to keep traveling until my body and/or budget force me to stop, I want to surround myself with people who also like and understand traveling, and I want to maintain a worldview that doesn’t cut off at the edge of my backyard.

 

And I guess that’s some of what they mean when they say you can never go home again.

 

One night we went to classical music concert, put on at one of the congressional buildings because they still don’t have an official concert hall building. (Yamila plays violin, so she had plenty of opinions about that. However, she’s also one of few Argentines I’ve talked to who actually likes la presidenta Cristina Krischner.)

 

By far, my favorite thing we did together was to sit on the bank of the river where she goes swimming every summer, sipping mate.

 

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A close second was making empanadas in her kitchen.

 

However, neither of the high points of Neuquen beat the moment when I came home to Mendoza. GLORY HALLELUJAH I’M OFF THE BUS. (Too bad the next weekend was the one I went to Cordoba—another long bus ride.) Because I got off the bus with a great big green backpacking backpack, hostel representatives came flocking to me, trying to sell me a night in one of their beds.

 

“Thanks, but I don’t need a hostel,” I said to one of them.

 

“Why not?”

 

“I live here, che!”

 

II. How to make empanadas

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I think the recipe on this website explains it better than I can myself right now.  (I tend to use more hand gestures than words when explaining how to cook.) But I can offer you a couple of additional tips.

 

-Empanadas can be fried or baked, depending how unhealthy you want to be. Both are pretty simple—common sense, once you’ve read through these directions, but if you want to be very precise about it you can Google around and find exact temperature settings, how long to leave it in etc. (After using my host mom’s Oven of Death to make mother’s day cookies, I’ve kind of given up on precision.)

 

-You can also get pre-made dough if you don’t want to make it from scratch. Here in Argentina, you just buy the little circles of dough at the store. At home, flattened Pilsbury biscuits give you that flaky, buttery goodness.

 

-This bears mentioning again, even though it’s also included in the linked recipe: use water each time you want the dough to stick to itself. That’s the only real trick to it.

 

– Once you start using other fillings, you’re departing the territory of “authentic” empanadas, but if you like to cook and experiment, I say go for it. There’s not much that wouldn’t be delicious tucked inside an empanada. Here in Argentina, I’ve mostly seen beef (Chile has almost the exact same thing, which they call “pino” and includes hardboiled egg and one whole olive) but you can also find capresse, cheese, ham and cheese, chicken… etc. Once, back home in New Mexico, I had a sweet one with a sugary glaze on top and pumpkin inside. Let your stomach be your guide.

 

-That said, I wouldn’t recommend using salami as a filling. We attempted it and, although they were still tasty, it did a weird textural thing after we fried them.

 

III. Vocabulario

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           Lomo – I believe I’ve told you a bit about this word once before. Well, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It can refer to a) a cut of meat, usually in a sandwich, always delicious. b) A hot bod. c) Un lomo de burro, a speed bump. Turns out it’s because that cut of meat is off the rump reason, which is where all 3 uses come from.

 

Lloviznar – raining lightly (sprinkling, drizzling)

 

IV. Musica

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In honor of Yamila’s Spanish-Japanese culture shock and its intersection with mine, here’s a song about a guy getting his Latin dance on in a Japanese city.

 

V. Previous posts

1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave 

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 

15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!

 

VI. Coming soon

Cordoba
The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II
The return to BA

Mar del Plata

A few tips on hostels

Reverse culture shock

Goals – accomplishments and compromises

 

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CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!

Time December 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Leaving the country again?
II. Valparaiso
III. Viña del Mar
IV. Santiago
V. La musica de la semana
VI. El vocabulario de la semana
VII. Links to previous posts
VIII. Coming Soon

 

I. Leaving the country again?

 

Last spring, not long after I first decided to come to Mendoza, my roommate, Ranya, chose Valparaiso, Chile, and we made plans to visit each other during our spring breaks. Hers fell first, so Ranya crossed the Andes to come hang with me in Mendoza.

 

(Ojo –because of the ferriado, holiday, LOTS of people wanted to visit Mendoza, which meant lots of people crossing over to customs, which meant a 3 hour delay from the predicted arrival time.)

 

I had a great time showing her around “my” city—so reassuring that I understood the crazy mess well enough to explain it to someone else!

 

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Mate in the park.

 

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Also visited the zoo

 

Then, after Ranya left to briefly explore Buenos Aires, the city of Mendoza had a celebration for Chile’s independence in our Plaza Chile. (Argentines and Chileans LOVE to talk crap about each other, but they secretly love each other.) After sampling some Chilean foods, I was more excited than ever to get out of Argentina for a while.

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However, three things made me very nervous about leaving Mendoza:

  1. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of being completely lost and confused by a city again, so soon after I had finally gotten a grasp of Mendoza.
  2. Although I was excited to see my beloved roomie, I was bummed to be traveling without my chicas. Lisa went south to Bariloche while Ale and Lorri went north to Salta, Jujuy, and Tilcara. I didn’t have the chance to travel to any of those places (the time flies so quickly!), but the girls each had a great time and highly recommended their spring break travel destinations.
  3. During Ranya’s visit, I lost my debit card. I had no problem cancelling it and applying for a new one (contacted my mom through Facebook and had her make all those calls for me) but the card wouldn’t arrive for about a week, meaning I’d have no way to get money without Ranya.

 

Debit card or no debit card, friends or no friends, I was off on a bus to Chile as soon as Ranya came back from BA. The journey got off to an interesting start when we bought snacks for the road…but forgot that you can’t bring things like oranges and nuts across the border. The Chilean aduana mean business, and can you blame them when they export so much food to big buyers like the US? But, at the very least, the view through the Andes was pretty nice, even though it was nighttime. The immense silhouette of the mountains beneath a spread of stars… And when I woke up, Chile was waiting for me.

 

II. Valparaiso

 

To get started, here are some hints I picked up while I was there:
-Don’t eat seafood on Mondays (the fresh catch comes in on Tuesday, so whatever’s there Monday has been there all week.)
-For safety reasons, don’t take the stairs at night. Walk up and around the hill or take an ascensor.

Acensores close at 8

-There are stray dogs EVERYWHERE.

 

That said, I feel so deeply in love with Valpo.

They don’t call it the graffiti capital of Chile for no reason. Everywhere you turn, there’s gorgeous (or sometimes not-so-gorgeous) street art. It’s like a treasure hunt trying to spot it all. The entire city is a giant game of exquisite corpse that the whole city has been playing for years. I was geeking out the entire time. The street art also makes it easy to find your way–lots of landmarks. Which is fortunate because the streets aren’t marked too well once you get off the 5 or so streets that make up the plano (the grid) before the hills start. I found my way mostly by following the shape of the road on the map more than by the street names. You´re gonna feel the stairs in your legs, especially if you’re out at night after the ascensores stop and you have to walk all the way up the hill. (And perhaps that’s why Chileans like to brag that they have the best legs?) But the view from the top of the hill of the city lights over the water at night–to die for.

 

The buses are also little different than in Mendoza. No bus card—your change is actually useful and necessary here. The buses are also smaller, and there are more of them. The routes and the pick up/drop off points are also more fluid than in Mendoza.

 

Things I ate:
Cazuela + Pebre + Pisco sour = $8 USD

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Sushi with octopus

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Real raw salmon, real wasabi and ginger, real chopsticks handed to me as the default. I struggled with the, (so sad because there are so many Japanese kids at my school!) but stubbornly used them anyway with a fair amount of success. I’m not sure how authentic the addition of queso cremoso (cream cheese) was, but it was all delicious.

 

Where I stayed:

Hostal la Colombina – $16 USD/night

Not a bad place to stay at all. The owner was actually a porteño—an Argentine!—so it was great to chat with him about “home” because I was missing the Argentine culture badly.

Cooked in the kitchen for dinners to save myself money.

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Veggiesveggiesveggiesveggies!

 

What I did:

Pablo Neruda’s house in Isla Negra. Did not have time to visit the Sebastiana in Valpo itself, oops. Not too worried because I’ve heard it’s the least nice of his three houses. Left in the early AM, came back in time for a late lunch.
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Open-air mural museum: neat but not as neat as most of the amateur art scattered around the city.

 

But by far my favorite part was simply wandering around and getting to know Valpo.

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I’ve literally got too many pictures to upload on my poor wimpy little Argentine internet connection, so I’m just going to attach a link to photobucket later. Especially because I went to Chile AGAIN and took even more pictures. I took pictures of anything that held still long enough!

 

III. Viña del Mar

 

Felt very much like SoCal to me—very different from Valpo’s chaos and color and grit. More expensive. Nice apartments, big American-style mall. Demonstration of Chile’s economy being on the upward swing…especially in comparison with Argentina. Their clothing is much cheaper than in Mendoza because a) It’s not as expensive to ship from the capital to Valpo/Viña as it is to ship from BA to Mendoza and b) it’s all made in China and the U.S.

 

Sunset on the beach + chocolate-dipped churros—the ones I see at home don’t have chocolate!! Some stray dogs started a fight near us :(

 

For more on Valpo and Viña, check out Rachel’s blog with IFSA.  Aside from being quite a nice girl, Rachel’s blog is very informative. She’ll break down everything you’ll need to know about buses, food, the students’ movement, etc.
IV. Santiago

 

Only an hour and a half from Viña by bus. Super easy to get to. I got lucky because the one day it was rainy and gross in Valpo and Viña, it was sunny and beautiful in Santiago.

 

Ranya and I took one of several free walking tours of Santiago and had a traqui day seeing a bit of the city. One thing we learned about that I thought was kind of hilarious was Café con pierna (coffee with legs), which is like the Chilean version of Hooters, but with an emphasis on the legs instead of boobs. I told you—Chileans love legs.

 

Subways—mind-blown. So easy!

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Overall, less character than Valpo! Much like any other city in any other country. Then again, I didn’t have time to see too much of it. I was surprised by how clean it was though, or at least the parts I visited!

 

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Mote con huesillo
Similar eating experience to boba/bubble tea, which was awesome because over the summer I downed that stuff like it was air. It was nice to get it back, sort of. It’s peach juice with a dried peach in it and some sort of grain (barley?) at the bottom. Eat it with a spoon. Sugary, cold, and delicious.

 

Lunch: Caldillo de congrio, inspired by Pablo Neruda! + jugo de chirimoya

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V. La musica de la semana

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I’m sorry that all the songs I’ve been linking you to have been in English… but I have a cool story about this one from my trip to Chile.

 

One night, I started chatting with the owner of the hostel I stayed at, and it turns out he loves Pearl Jam. “One of the best things to come out of your country!” he said. So he whipped out Youtube and pulled out this video.

He pointed to the lead singer. “That’s my shirt,” he said.

 

“Yup, I see it has the Argentine stripes,” I said. “Why did he decide to wear an Argentine jersey in Spain?”

 

“No,” he said. “It’s MY shirt. I took it off, threw it onto the stage, and he put it on!”

 

I stared at him. “Sos un copado!”
VI. El vocabulario de la semana

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Chilean Spanish is infamously hard to understand, not only because it’s very fast and mumbly but because it’s got its own, weird slang. Armed with these words, you’ll be able to survive in Chile no problem.

 

Huevon – You’ll hear this word in Mendoza a lot too, but it’s more Chilean. It’s also very crude—don’t say this to any delicate old church ladies! It’s basically like saying BALLS in English.
Cachai – You know? / Get it?

Po – Doesn’t actually mean anything. (Though a Chilean girl I know back home said that it refers to an indigenous word for “the people.”)  It’s used as a filler, to emphasize, and to further confuse non-native Spanish speakers.

Caldillo – chowder, no to be confused with caudillo, chief.

Chascona – woman with messy hair

Bacán = copado/a

Taco – In Mexico it’s food, in Argentina it’s the heel of a shoe, and in Chile it’s a traffic jam. (In Guatemala Chinese tacos = eggrolls. In Argentina Chinese tacos are wedges. As far as I know, Chile doesn’t have Chinese traffic jams, but maybe I wasn’t there long enough to find out.)

Colectivo – In Argentina, this is just another word for bus. Not the case in Chile. Only micro refers to buses in Chile, and colectivos are collective taxis. There are also regular taxis, which are hardly used in comparison to the taxis in Mendoza.
VII. Links to previous posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave 

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 

 

VIII. Coming Soon

 

Neuquen
Cordoba
The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II
The split up and the return to BA

Home?

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Pros and Cons

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

Today I’ll be talking about:
I. Missing Things
II. Previous posts
III. Coming soon!

 

I. Missing Things

As much as I love Argentina, there are some things that really annoy me about. I wouldn’t say that I feel homesick, but I do miss certain things about the US:

 

-Mac n’ cheese

-Cheddar cheese, period.

-Peanut butter

-How organized and timely everything is

-How most of the population does not have a mullet or dreads

-Tupperware—with lids and everything

-The salad bar at my university, open every lunch and dinner. Spinach, beets, carrots, tomatoes…Whenever I want them!

-How you can text someone just to say hi or goodnight or to have an entire conversation. It’s way too expensive to do that here.

-Getting exact change with no fuss, every time, every store

-Not getting whistled at every time I walk out the door

-How the entire town does NOT shut down for 5 hours every day for siesta. You can go out and buy a replacement toothbrush at 3:30 in the afternoon—even on Sundays!

-How pedestrians have the right of way

-How cheap clothing is

-RECYCLING CENTERS. Recycling bins everywhere.

-A lower level of caution and care is needed walking around on the street. You can wear a backpack without worrying if someone will try to get into it. The streets are super well-lit at night.

-Being able to dry my clothes in a drier if it’s raining outside and I’m out of clean underwear.

-Smoking is NOT ALLOWED INDOORS, and people actually enforce that.

-Organic produce. Wholefoods. Trader Joe’s.

-Classes that promote critical thinking more than memorization of facts.

 

Of course, I’m still going to miss things about Argentina when I go home:

-Alfajores. I think I have a legitimate addiction to them.
-Fernet (Found a place back home where you can get it…But it costs about twice as much, and it’s kind of a pain in the butt. Ditto Quilmes.)
-Cheap, prevalent public transportation. California’s public transportation has some problems, to say the least. People complain about the buses here like nobody’s business, but they’ve been pretty good to me.
-Being able to talk crap/tell secrets in English
-Clothes don’t have to match—spots, stripes, animal print? It all matches here, guys. Swag pants and crazy calzas are normal.

-Getting whistled at every time I walk out the door. Annoying as it is… it’s nice to know I look good! I think I’m going to feel invisible by comparison when I go home.

-Latin music (reggaeton, kumbia, etc) playing in the clubs. Katy Perry, I really don’t miss you.

-Being able to go out as easily and frequently as I do here

-I love how any random guy in a club here knows how to dance at least a little bit. They have rhythm, they know how to do spins, and they know how to maneuver a woman. White guys… er…

-The slower pace of life. I love how, here, you can take your time eating dinner and talk to your friends, even if it takes 3 hours.

-Argentine slang. I do have friends who speak Spanish back home…but it’s the neutral Mexican Spanish. No one will understand me if I say, “Sos un pelotudo chamuyero—andate!” Sad. :(

-Empanadas

-Kioskos

-Being called Paloma, Palo, Palomita

-The number of parks and plazas

-How it’s socially acceptable to make out in a park

-How politically active everyone is. They’re not afraid to share their opinions, to say the least.

 

II. Previous Posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave   

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation 

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?” 

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires 

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro  

7. Trip to Las Termas  

8. Daily life in Mendoza 

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris

 

III. Coming soon!

Chile

Neuquen
Cordoba
The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael
Daily existence in Argentina continued

Chile Part II

Iguazu
The split up and the return to BA

Home?

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Ringo vs. Chuck Norris

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

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Sos mi hombre

II. Vocabulario

III. Previous posts

IV. Coming soon!

 

I. Sos mi hombre

 

You might already know that telenovelas are a big deal in Latin America, and Argentina is no exception. I think Graduados is the best known here, but my host sister prefers Sos mi hombre (You’re My Man.) It plays during dinner, and so it’s become part of my nightly ritual to grill her about the characters and struggle to understand the faster-than-light-speed dialogue. Sometimes I literally only understand, “Hello? …Yes. …son…mate…rollercoaster…thank you!”

 

If you’re curious, you can watch episodes on Youtube. It’s a little ridiculous in the usual soap opera way, but it IS a good representation of Argentine speech and slang, culture (mate, etc), and social expectations. Example: something that throws me for a loop every time is when you get to see the very macho lead male CRY. And in no way does it reduce his manliness. Argentina, I approve. He also sports a cubata, the omnipresent Argentine mullet. Argentina, I do not approve.

 

Last week, I felt like I crossed a barrier. A rite of passage, if you will. Suddenly, inexplicably, I could understand the dialogue. Like flicking on a light. I can’t stomach that kind of TV in the US, but now that I can understand what’s going on and I have a bit of background on the main characters it’s starting to grow on me.

 

Let me take a moment to explain my moment of revelation today when I pieced together all the basic components of the main plot arc:

Man (Rrrrrringo!) meets woman while he’s acting as the security guard at her fancy schmancy house. Awkward problem: she’s about to get married! No biggie. He’s still got lots of love in his life leftover from his last marriage in the form of a very curly haired son. (The kooky ex-wife sometimes takes the kid to the US without telling him, which makes him cry.) In his spare time, when he’s not creeping on his lover’s husband or playing video games with his kid, Ringo spends his time putting out the fires that his lover’s literally psychotic little sister starts, because he’s a volunteer fireman. Oh and he’s also a boxer and has biceps the same size as his head. Casual. All in a day’s work for Ringo. (By the way, his bestest buddy is a lawyer who is also a boxer and also a  volunteer firefighter…and is dating the crazy sister.) Not sure when he sleeps, but who cares.

 

This is when I explained to my host sister about Chuck Norris and how, according to American pop culture, he can do anything. (The in-Spanish example I gave went like this: “Chuck Norris is so strong that he brushes his teeth with a cactus!”) Because I think Ringo is a man of Chuck Norris’s heart. Need a fire put out? Call Ringo. Need your property to be secured and guarded? Call Ringo. Need your car fixed, back rubbed, five star meal cooked, hair cut, house redecorated? You know the drill.

 

It’s kind of wonderful

 

II. Vocabulario

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Telenovela (novela) – soap opera

Amigo con derechos – friend with benefits

Fato – a super crude way to say amigo con derechos (OJO)

Villero – someone who lives in the slums

Personaje – a character in a work of fiction, not to be confused with carácter, moral character or persona, a person.

Cursi – cheesy. (Also see: piropo, chamullo, pun.)

Capitulo – Chapter, or in this case, episode of a TV show

 

III. Previous posts

1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave 

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation  

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires  

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro  

7. Trip to Las Termas  

8. Daily life in Mendoza 

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

 

IV. Coming soon!

 

 

Neuquen
Cordoba
The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II

Iguazu
The split up and the return to BA

Home?

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My Mate for Life

Time November 19th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Yerba Mate
II. Musica
III. Vocabulario
IV. Links to previous posts
V. Coming Soon

I. Yerba Mate

 

If you’re thinking about coming to Argentina, something you’ve probably heard about by now and might be wondering about is yerba mate, the national drink.  If you haven’t and you’re not, you should get on it. It’s kind of a big deal.

 

An Argentine is said to truly become a man the day he decides to prepare mate for himself of his own volition.

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A big moment in the life of the student abroad is being offered mate for the first time, because that basically means your IN. They like you. Drinking mate is generally a group activity, representing friendship and solidarity and all that other good stuff. Everyone sits in a circle. The cebador (mate server) prepares the mate and passes it around to the circle to the left. Each time the mate is sucked dry, it is passed back to the cebador to refill.

 

A few tips to avoid mate faux pas:

1. Don’t say thank you unless you mean, “I’m done drinking mate now.”

2. Don’t move the bombilla. That’s a good way to suck up bits of yerba in your water, which doesn’t improve the experience.

3. If someone offers you mate, it’s in your best interest NOT to turn them down. Just do it.

4. That said, consider yourself warned, because it can have a strong effect on the digestive system. Drink with caution until you know how it’s going to affect your body, and try to eat beforehand/with your mate.

5. When you pass mate to someone else, make sure to do so with the bombilla pointing towards them so they can drink from it more easily.

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Not all mate is created equal. It comes in a hodgepodge of flavors (grapefruit, orange, lemon, peppermint…), with or without palo (which makes is less or more concentrated), and of course there are about 80 gazillion different brand names. It’s all up to personal taste. There are also mate cocido tea packets…but that’s a completely different drinking experience!

 

Mate is the word for the yerba itself and for the container it goes in. Traditionally, they’re made out of calabaza or madera, but they come in all shapes and sizes, including this crazy, not-vegetarian-friendly one.

 

Mate is also known as the student’s drink. I’m sure this is partly because it’s loaded with mateina, a sister chemical to caffeine. It’ll keep you running through the night if you have a paper due. But I think it’s also the student’s drink because it’s the procrastinator’s drink just because preparing it is such a process. The thing about mate is that everyone has their own weird little rituals and superstitions about their preparation.

 

I put together a little video about preparing mate, but it’s not exactly the highest quality so I’ll give you some written notes here:

 

You’ll need:
A thermos full of hot water
Yerba
A mate
A bombilla
Optional: sugar (or honey, or milk, or coffee, or orange peel, or orange juice, or…)

 

  1. Fill your mate 2/3 of the way with yerba.
  2. Shake the mate a little to release excess powder. (Makes the first batch of mate less obnoxiously strong.)
  3. If you want sugar, now’s the time for it.
  4. Tip the mate to a 45 degree angle so that the yerba lies at a diagonal inside. Pour in not-quite-boiling water, taking care not to wet the uppermost section of the yerba. (You’ll lose the flavor faster if you wet all of it at once.)
  5. Give the yerba a moment to absorb the water, then add more if necessary.
  6. Cover the mouth of the bombilla with your thumb (not quite sure why. It’s just what you do) and insert it into the yerba.
  7. Sip from the straw until you can’t get any more water out of it, then pour more water. (Sugar may be added before pouring in more water if you want it sweeter.) After a while, if the yerba has lost its flavor, you can dump it out and start over with a fresh batch.
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One of the coolest moment in my study abroad was when an Argentine, who had her hands full with something she was working on, asked me to serve her mate. High pressure situation: it’s one thing preparing mate for other Yankees who don’t care about traditions and protocol, another entirely preparing it for a real Argentine. I held my breath while she sipped from the straw. “Yes, thank you! Ah, and you didn’t even get the top wet—you’re amazing!” she cried. I died of happiness.

 

Mate is definitely an acquired taste for some, but I absolutely adore it. My favorite is yerba saborizado con peperina, amargo. I get random cravings for it. Drinking it has an instantly calming effect for me—I think I understand a little bit when Argentines are talking about when they say it has a “nostalgic” taste for them.

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For other applications of yerba, you can also look for information about tereré, the hot-weather interpretation of yerba mate.  I don’t know much about it because I’ve never had it—it’s more common in the north—but my sister, who’s from Corrientes, told me a bit.

 

1) With mate, you pour the water then put in the straw. With tereré, you put the straw and then the water.

2) Tereré is traditionally done in all-caña equipment: caña straw, caña straw, etc.

3) There’s a version of it with sprite instead of water—yuck.

 

I’ll leave you with this funny cross-cultural moment from the beginning of the program:

 

2:34 pm

Yona: So, we’re still meeting on Las Heras around 6 to do some shopping, right?

2:36 pm

Lorri: Yes. And I told Micah he could come too. He’s looking for a mate.

 

…What? Oh, wait, yerba mate. Right, got it.

 

II .Musica

 

Julian Mourin has a nice little song about mate. You can also download the entire CD free and legally from him on the same website.

 

III. Vocabulario

 

Palo – stick

Yerba – herb

Bombilla – straw

Saborizado – flavored

Peperina – peppermint

Cedron – lemon verbena

Chupar – to suck

Cebar – to serve mate

Caña – cane

Calabaza – gourd

Madera – wood

Pomelo – grapefruit

Amargo – bitter (without sugar)

 

IV. Links to previous posts

 

I just noticed that these have been a bit off in the last couple of entries. Sorry about that! All the links are here now.

 

1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave  

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation  

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires  

5. Looking Good, Mendoza! 

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

 

V. Coming Soon

 

Chile
Neuquen
Cordoba
The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael
Daily existence in Argentina continued
Chile again
Iguazu
The split up and the return to BA
Home?

I’m running out of adventures here. :(

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Road Trip!

Time November 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about…

I. The Great Argentine Road Trip
II. La Difunta Correo
III.               La musica de la semana
IV.               El vocabulario de la semana
V.                  Previous Posts
VI.               Coming soon

 

I. The Great Argentine Road Trip

 

As lovely as Mendoza is, it’s impossible not to want to escape it every now and then, especially with those Andes always in sight. So, once upon a weekend, some friends and I decided it was time for The Great Argentine Road Trip.

 

We decided to head to THIS COOL PLACE, camp a little, see some dinosaur bones, hike, frolic in the sun, etc.

 

We rented a car, with the stunning and talented Lisa (AKA the only one who knew how to drive stick…but still una grosa*, of course!) behind the wheel.

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By the way, for anyone who just can’t get enough of our adventures in Mendoza (so…me and my friends, I guess, jaja) you can also get Lisa’s perspective from her blog here. She’s hilarious.

Things to know about car rental in Argentina:
-Certain places rent to 21-year-olds, certain places only rent to … well, I’m not actually sure what age, but older.

-Gas  = very expensive in Argentina. Keep that in mind.

-Car = small inside! Pack light.

-In case you forgot, Argentine drivers are INSANE. What is a lane? What is a turn signal? What is a speed limit? Who cares? Also, one way roads spontaneously become two-lane roads with no warning or signage. Just another part of the adventure.

 

And, of course, it wouldn’t be the Great Argentine Road Trip if not for…

a) Getting lost. (But not too lost. We figured it out.)

 

b) Being a little misinformed.

 

The Argentine estimate of how long the trip would take?
3-4 hours.

How long it actually took?
6-7 hours.

Maybe we weren’t breaking the speed limit enough.
We had a really great time all the same. We spent 90% of the ride playing “name that song” and singing along. That might sound lame, but that was one of my favorite parts, especially when our sort of shy boys started singing too. We also played car games such as “four-legged animals,” in which you compete to see which half of the car can count more four-legged animals on their side of the road, and spent time sharing funny memories and life stories with each other.

 

c) Being lied to by the weather report.

 

The broadcast said we should expect sun… so of course we got rain and mud. Unfortunately, this meant we couldn’t get into the park because all the tours are done in cars, and the cars can get stuck in the mud. FORTUNATELY, we’re awesome and we had a great time anyway hanging out at the campsite.

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Lisa made a return trip to Valle de la Luna a couple of days ago and enjoyed the heck out of the park (because it was sunny although rain was predicted…go figure), so I’d say it’s worth the attempt. Hopefully you have better luck than we did in that endeavor, and at least half the fun!

 

Even though we didn’t do the hiking and exploring that we wanted to, we still got to check out other neat things like…

 

II. La Difunta Correo

 

AKA “Our Lady of Perpetual Boob.”

 

I should probably apologize for calling her that. But, come on guys, that was part of our experience on this adventure!

 

She’s really called La Difunta Correo, but we started calling her OLPB because, although she died in the desert, her baby supposedly survived by continuing to suckle her breast. Some people look at that and say,
“ = Miracle!”
We looked at that and said,
“LOL BOOBS OF LIFE.”

 

So, as soon as we read about her in a guidebook, we knew we wanted to go there and take this photo:
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I’ve chosen to think that she acted as our stand-in guardian angel during our trip. (We made it to our campsite, after all!) Some people definitely see her as a saintly figure…which is controversial among hardcore Catholics, because of course she’s not official. All the same, real saint or not, whether you’re religious or not, visiting her shrine was a neat experience. Possibly the highlight of the trip for me.

 

Here’s an excerpt about it from my writer’s notebook, because right now that’s the best explanation I can give of it, even though it’s very chaotic and Falkner-esque…and long:

 

Covered walkway with tin roof, festooned with red ribbons and license plates—mostly Argentine (black and gray), some Florida, one Texas. Some so rusted down to anonymity that they blend in with the scaffolding. A pair of baby shoes hangs from the ceiling.

On either side of the walkway, a miniature town spreads out. Hundred of shrines, almost like birdhouses. Each one has something written on its side like, “Thank you for the favor I have received / my completed dreams / this brand new car.” Some have full rooms inside (doll houses)with walls cut away to show careful wallpaper, tiny furniture, La Difunta Correo herself lying supine in dresses in various shades of beat-up red and pink. The nameless baby, head blocking naked breast. Some are startlingly headless, exposing the gray plaster inside. One house has a balcony sporting a plastic-wrapped San Juan, who reminds me of a toy soldier. Perhaps to protect her at last in the afterlife, perhaps to keep her company and play house. Most have orange roofs, turnip-colored walls. One has a lawn. One has a covered porch and painted-on windows. Little houses to hold in a single prayer (single-serving containers!) or wish or hope or sigh of relief. An entire town made of prayers—attention to detail worthy of elementary school dioramas.

It’s a town that seems to have been through a lot, in spite of the care and detail given to individual houses. They have been left behind. Loved for one single moment. The tired brown earth, the slant the houses have settled on, the windswept branches—like a tornado or earthquake happened some time ago but the town never quite recovered. The citizens never pulled it together. But it’s not sad, just sleepy, worn out but cheerful and still hanging on. Peaceful. Like a nativity display.

Up the stairs, past the individually engraved plaques of honor and thanks with no real explanations other than “Thank you” and one with a picture of a pair of lungs… to the shrine itself. To the left, a panoply of plastic bottles—mostly clear, some green—as offerings. Lisa was adamant that we bring one for La Difunta too, to thank her for getting us into our campsite the night before.It was a 5 liter jug, but it was empty, which made it feel like a cheap and pathetic offering compared to the others. But she said it was fine because it was a symbol for the promise that all wishes will someday be fulfilled. (Plus it already rained—she’d gotten enough water out of us.) In a corner, racks hung with bales of emptied, compressed bottles tied together.

Into the shrine itself: 2 monoliths, stages dedicated to the woman and child sprawling Madonna-like. His head is rubbed almost bald (pinkish orange paint beneath) by time, wind, and human touch. Brightly colored packets of candles tucked into every crevice, one lying right across her throat like a silent punchline. They look like packages of sweets, optimistically artificial flavors. Death-defying colors. Paintings on the wall casting the woman (still alive! What a tick) in the ethereal light of the moon and premonition. Everyone wants a chance to touch a miracle, hoping a scrap of good luck will rub off. “People have to have hope,” said Erin, who wore the word on a chain around her neck. I think she’s got it exactly right.

Just outside, the site of the ritual, belching smoke to the sky like a furnace, a smelt. A massive hunk of charred wood or maybe rock with hundreds of candles scattered around the base in a forever dripping, melting, crumbling, burning swirl of heat. There’s a semi-hard river of constantly re-melting and re-coagulating wax in different shades of brown. Looks like marble cake or melting candy bars. The far bank of the char enclosure is leaping w raw flames unanchored to wick or wax. It hisses and whispers the story of the legend and of those who have come to bear witness to it. Smell of lighter fluid. Peering over the side of a low concrete wall (more plaques) you can see a drainage gutter choked with a rainbow of candle wrappers. Wrappers lay half-submerged in the wax. Broken bird wing shapes.

Erin lights a candle—it appeared seemingly out of nowhere. She smiles for the camera but after the flash there’s a particular silence that settles over her for a moment, and I think I know who it was for.

We humans need the repetition and mystery of a ritual. We need to burn things and watch them finish themselves down to blackness. We need to recreate death and believe for just a moment that we have tamed it.

 

So, for at least that trip, I definitely got some writing done. There’s at least a couple poems I could carve out of that mess when I clean it up.

 

 

III. La musica de la semana

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Sorry, this song isn’t in Spanish either, but this is the one I think of when I think of this trip. I highly recommend it for any road trip-like occasion!

 

IV. El vocabulario de la semana

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Groso/a* – a cool person (also: una copada)

Cheta – I’m still not quite sure how to translate this. Someone who is stylish, popular, and from a high class family is cheta.

Patente / chapa – license plate

 

IV. Previous Posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave   http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=8367#comments

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation  http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=9054#respond

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=9406#respond

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires  http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=9632#respond

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=9663#comments

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro  http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=9983#respond

7. Trip to Las Termas  http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=10129#respond

8. Habia una vez en los Andes… http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=11269#comments

 

V. Coming soon

 

Cordoba
The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Chile
Neuquen
Rafting in San Rafael

 

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Night of the Soccer Game

Time October 19th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, now I’m telling the story of my study abroad out of chronological order because this happened last week and I still haven’t talked about the end of September…but this will be a short, simple entry. :)

 Today I’ll be talking about:
I. Argentina vs. Uruguay
II. Musica de la semana
III. Links to previous posts
IV.  Upcoming posts

I. Argentina vs. Uruguay

 

Practically anywhere you travel outside the U.S., soccer (okay, futball) is a big deal—pseudo-religious—and Argentina is no exception. Therefore, I highly recommend watching all the soccer games you can while in Argentina.

Last Friday was the Argentina/Uruguay game. It took place in a stadium in Mendoza, so of course the whole city went crazy. People selling jerseys and other paraphernalia all over the place. A certain indescribable tension in the air. Tickets sold out in the first hour they went on sale, so my friends and I decided to watch the game in one of the many, many bars on Aristides.

(One of my friends took a taxi to us, and the driver offered her one ticket to the game that he’d earned by driving the Argentine team. She turned it down because she wanted to be with us, wherever we happened to be, rather than alone in the stadium… Silly girl: she should have accepted it and sold it on the street!)

We finally went inside the bar that’s on the corner we’ve been using as a meeting place all semester: William Brown. (Figured the yanquis would use the bar with an Englishman’s name as a meeting place, right?)

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It’s a little pricier than most places, but it’s got a nice ambience. Maps printed on the tables. We had a blast, probably mostly because Argentina won, 3-0. Each time the Argentine team scored a goal, the whole bar was alive with cheering and hugging and table-thumping for two or three solid minutes—just like every movie stereotype. It was such a great feeling to cheer for the same cause as all the Argentines around me, like I was really one of them. (Though some ladies sitting near us kept looking at us like we were complete idiots. I guess we were, but who cares?)

The game ended around 11pm—much too early to try to get into a boliche! So we decided to go bowling, which I hadn’t done since my senior year of high school.

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It was a weird experience because 1) no shoes were rented. I bowled in high heels, like a boss. 2) The pins were manually reset. 3) They gave us three bowls instead of two—maybe because we were just that bad, hahaha. 4) The balls were super small, just the size of your hand, and without the 3 familiar holes. Tricky to get used to. I don’t think any of us actually bowled well, but it was fun!

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By that time we were too tired to dance, so we called it a successful night and went home.

II. Musica de la semana

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Here you go!

III. Links to previous posts

1. Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires  

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro  

7. Trip to Las Termas  

8. Habia una vez en los Andes… 


IV.  Upcoming posts

 

-Road trip to San Juan

-Spring break in Chile

-Reunion in Neuquen

-Trabajo voluntario

-Life of a student

-Trip to Cordoba

 


Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University

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Habia una vez en los Andes…

Time October 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

(Once upon a time in the Andes…)

 

This entry is long overdue, because a) this is still one of my favorite things I’ve done in Argentina so far and b) it happened waaay back in August. Oops. But it’s alright—that just means I’ve been having too much fun to pause and write about it.

 

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Manzano Historico de Tunuyan
II. The moral of the story
III. Musica de la semana
IV. Previous posts
V. Upcoming posts
VI. A special bonus video

 

 

I. Manzano Historico de Tunuyan

 

Our first long weekend in Mendoza, my friends and I had a panic trying to figure out what to do with ourselves. Jose finally recommended that we visit Manzano Historico, because there was going to be some sort of celebration for San Martin there.

 

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San Martin-related activities!

 

Last minute emailing and calling… STRESSMESS. Two tips on that front: 1) Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead! 2) Don’t be surprised if no one picks up when you call during siesta. Derp derp.

 

We finally rented a cabin here for $1500 pesos for 4 people for 2 nights = about $40 USD/person for the entire stay.

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(For anyone wanting to make a trip up, you might like to know that you can fit up to 7 or 8 people in one of those cabins. We also went during the off-season—it’s cheaper in the summer.)

 

I’d say we got out money’s worth.

 

The most obviously cool thing we did was climb a waterfall called the Chorro de la Vieja, a hike guided by the owner of our cabin.

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Although there was no snow in town, there was definitely some up in the Andes. I couldn’t believe it was still summer in the US! In the summer apparently you can hike further up, past the waterfall. I smell a return trip in our near future!

 

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The views of the Andes were incredible. Dazzling every time. No matter what you do, the photos just do not do them justice.

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the view from the cabin window

 

However, as cool as our waterfall adventure was, I think my favorite parts were just hanging around in the cabin. (Which is good, because we were all getting sick that weekend and didn’t have the energy to do too much adventuring.)

 

We did a lot of cooking, partly to save money and partly because we really, really, really wanted salad. We made stir fry one night, spaghetti another.

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Our friend Lisa also taught us how to make chapatti, African fry bread, which she learned how to do in Kenya.

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Possibly the best decision we made over the weekend was to pull the mattresses off the bed frames and put them all together on the floor so we could sleep in a pile.

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The cuddle puddle

 

We were super warm and toasty.

 

Our adventures ended with meeting a new “friend” on the bus, the most attractive Argentine we’ve seen yet. He was enchanted by Lisa’s big blue eyes and ended up giving her a folklore dance lesson in the bus terminal. Hilarity ensued.

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Bad photo, sorry–you’ll just have to take my word for it.

 

Ultimately, it wasn’t a weekend about traveling to anyplace in particular or doing anything in particular. It was about us. It was about spending time together. This was the weekend that really solidified our friendship. I feel like I’ve known these three girls my entire life, and I have no idea how I’ve survived 20 years without them! They were there the first time I was drunk and when I got my first kiss, and there are still countless adventures ahead of us. Argentina is a big & confusing country, and you never know what’s going to come at you next; but I know that no matter what these girls will be there to support and share the laughs. That right there has been the best part of my study abroad so far.

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Here’s a little video about some of our shenanigans.

 

 

II.  The moral of the story

 

1: You don’t have to spend a lot of money or travel super far away to have fun adventures on study abroad. Tunuyan is very close to Mendoza and our trip was very tranquil overall, but it was still definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had so far. What matters is who you go with.

 

2: Don’t buy box wine. Just don’t. If you’re going to spend the money, spend it on the good stuff.

 

III. Musica de la semana

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Ojos de cielo por Abel Pintos
Check out the letras (lyrics) here because it’s a beautiful song.

 

I’d also like to share this song with you, even though it’s not in Spanish, because I think it exemplifies the spirit of study abroad.

Here’s hoping you’re all laying the past and fears about the future to rest and being joyful about the present, wherever you are.

 

IV. Previous posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave) 

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation 

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?” 

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires 

5. Looking Good, Mendoza! 

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas 

8. Daily life if Mendoza 

 

V. Upcoming posts

 

-Road trip to San Juan

-Spring break in Chile

-Reunion in Neuquen

-Trabajo voluntario

-Life of a student

-Trip to Cordoba

-The Argentina/Uruguay soccer game

 

VI. A special bonus video

 

Shenanigans continued. (Embedded below.)

 

We ARE planning on making this a full-length movie, mostly as a record for ourselves. Each moment here has been so beautiful, and I don’t want to let it slip away. I don’t know whether we’ll decide to let it be publicly on the internet, but if we do I’ll post it here for sure as an example of a real experience studying abroad with IFSA.

Because study abroad is about LIFE.

 

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Daily Life in Mendoza

Time September 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This is gonna be a long one, so brace yourselves….

 

Today I’ll be talking about:
I. Daily life in Mendoza
II. Places to check out
III. Things I didn’t expect
IV. Things I did expect but are still weird
V.Vocabulario
VI. Musica
VII. Links to previous posts
VIII. Sometime in the near future…

 

I. Daily life in Mendoza

 

I’m finally settling down into a sort of pattern.

 

Of course, everyone’s schedules here vary depending on what kind of family they live with and what classes they take. But this is what my life in Mendoza looks like so far…

 

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9 am – Breakfast

 

Usually coffee (or tea) and toast with an assortment of cream cheese (ish), jam, and of course, dulce de leche.

 

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I’m already addicted to the stuff and scheming up ways to bring home as much of it as possible.
The past few weeks, breakfast has been happening without me, because I’m such a bum and can’t seem to drag myself out of bed before 11.

 

12:15 am – Scramble to finish getting ready

 

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Quickly eat what host mama left for lunch/dig around for a Tupperware and take it with me, then run to catch the bus.

 

Lunch is most often a tortilla [THIS, not the kind you see in Mexico], maybe chicken and rice, maybe some kind of quiche, sometimes squash with cheese and marina sauce. Something quick and fairly simple. Sometimes dinner leftovers.

 

One of my friends almost always has a burger served on what I call “fris-bread” because it’s perfectly round and hard like a Frisbee. It’s still tasty, but it’s also funny.

 

1pm – Class #1

 

Learn things.

 

3pmBreak

 

Chat with friends, explore. Coffee? Ice cream?

 

6 pm – Class #2

 

Learn more things. Depending on which class, I bus home between 7:30 and 9pm.

 

10 pm – dinner

 

I think my mom is an unusual Argentine, or maybe it’s for my benefit, but dinner is usually the bigger affair at my house instead of lunch. Lately, it’s the only meal we’ve been eating together

 

Midnight – Take the town by storm

 

Definitely on Friday and/or Saturday, possibly on Wednesday or Thursday, my friends and I meet up somewhere in town, maybe go out for drinks, maybe dance. It’s so bizarre for me to go out 2, maybe 3, nights a week, because at home I go out maybe once a month, if that. I don’t have the time or the venues back in the U.S. like I do here. I still don’t drink much—I think I like being able to buy drinks whenever I want more than I like drinking them. It’s just not my thing. I think I spend the most money on cab fare…but even the taxis are super cheap compared to in the U.S.

 

12 pm is “previa” (pregame) time. If you want to dance, nothing really gets started until about 2 am. Let me tell you: if you want to do the night scene, you gotta get serious about siestas. That’s what will keep you going at 4 am when the music is still hopping and you’re maybe not so much anymore.

 

I spend 90% of my time hanging out with three amazing girls from the program or scheming and plotting with them on Facebook. That was’t my intention when I left–I wanted to hang out with only Argentines, blah blah blah. But I’m really grateful to have these girls in my life. When I’m not in class or hanging out with my friends, I’m usually being a total bum, laying around haciendo fiaca (doing nothing.) I go to the park sometimes, because it’s only about a block from my house. Sometimes I also like exploring the city just to find a new cafe or store I hadn’t been to yet. Regardless, I’ve been really, truly enjoying all of my time here so far, so I’d say I’m doing pretty well for myself.

 

II. Places to check out

 

Going out

 

Depending on what kind of scene you’re looking for, you’ve got a few options.

 

Aristides (A. Villanueva on the street signs, turns into Colon when you cross Belgrano) is a street lined with almost nothing but bars, restaurants, and boliches. Lots of good ones, and I could probably write a separate blog entry about my misadventures in each. There are plenty of stores and business that are open during the daytime too, but for going out at night this is the place to go.

 

RumboPerdido (which translates into Lost Way) is another one of our favorites. I think my friend Lorri described it best the first time we went there and too it all in, the haze of smoke, the crush of gyrating bodies, the music… “It’s like a 90’s Latin house party.” It’s a good thing. They play a lot of kumbia, reggaeton, salsa… things like that.

 

Iskra is neat because 1) before 2 am, they sometimes have a live band, a la rock nacional 2) it’s spacious—there’s room to dance 3) they play EVERY kind of music, so if you don’t like what they’re playing you just have to wait 5 minutes for it to change.

 

Chakras is a hassle to get to because it’s outside of the city, but it’s nothing but boliches, a lot of the most acclaimed ones.

 

Ice cream

 

My friends and I learned the hard way that ice cream is one of those cases you shouldn’t buy the cheap-o version. We had an…interesting experience at Grido: the mint chocolate chip flavor there tastes exactly like a trip to the dentist’s office, gloves and all. But, no worries, there are good ice cream places here: Mailho, Perin, and…there’s another up in the sexta seccion, but I don’t know what it’s called. It’s up there though, a little beacon of frozen dairy hope.

 

That’s not even half of what Mendoza has to offer, but I think half the fun is exploring and finding your own new favorite places.

 

 

III. Things I didn’t expect

 

1 – Clothing is dictated by calendar more than the day-by-day weather. I’ve had people stare at me for wearing a t-shirt when it’s 70 degrees outside. “Aren’t you cold?” they ask.

 

“How can you stand to wear a jacket right now?” I reply

 

My host family also thinks it’s weird that I walk around in socks, even weirder if I’m barefoot. They worry about me being cold, constantly.

 

When I was packing, I had this attitude that, if I forgot something or ended up needed something when I arrived, I could just buy it in Mendoza. While that’s still technically true, I really don’t recommend putting yourself in that position with clothing, because it’s not cheap here. Partly this is because it all gets shipped to Mendoza from Buenos Aires, so part of what you’re paying for is the price of gas. I feel like the quality of the clothing is also not as high as the U.S. equivalent.

 

I ended up buying a pair of heels here for $65 USD (the last pair of shoes I bought at home was like….$12), but that’s relatively cheap for shoes here. Argentines have good taste in shoes though, at least.

 

Other clothing trends are a bit more dubious.

 

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Leggings are very popular, especially in crazy patterns, especially with boots. Scrunchies still exist—very 90’s. Fashion here is more…mixed up. I’ve seen shirts with lace AND tie die—so much happening in one article of clothing!

 

2 – Milk and eggs sometimes hang out on the counter for a few hours. You know, casual. In fact, you can buy dairy products on a normal shelf in the store, not always in the cold section

 

3 – The selection of veggies is pretty pathetic looking sometimes at the grocery store. L Sad lettuce. I have seen big, green, luscious salads here. They’re beautiful. But I also have definitely had all yellow-beige meals too.

 

4 – Clothes dry on line.

 

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It makes sense when you think about it, but it hadn’t crossed my mind before I left. So I’m a happy environmentalist…except for when it rains. Don’t let anyone tell you that it doesn’t rain in Mendoza. So, I recommend you bring LOTS of underwear, in case of laundry mishaps.

 

5 – You pay for your ice cream, THEN you claim it, rather than picking it out and paying for it after. We had an awkward moment before we learned that…

 

6 – HAIR. HAIR. HAIR.

So much hair.

 

7 – It’s common for many families to skip dinner (or eat only a light, snacky dinner) Sunday nights. I’m sure it’s because Sunday is also ASADO DAY for most people. Asado = never ending food, super heavy food, and you feel like you need someone to remove you from the table via construction crate. I don’t blame them for not wanting to eat more. Your host family is required to have food for you somewhere, but they don’t have to cook for you Sunday nights. My friends and I have taken it as an opportunity to eat out together. This Sunday we’re hunting down Mexican food if it kills us.

 

IV. Things I did expect but are still weird

 

1 – Food goes right into the fridge, usually no lids, no tuperware, no saran wrap.

 

2 – Guys in clubs don’t understand the words, “no, I don’t want to dance with you, go away.” A guy grabbed one of my friends by the face and just planted a kiss on her. The good news is that most guys here know how to dance at least a little bit and they’re not all grabby jerks, but you might have to drop an elbow on a few people.

 

3 – Toilet paper is almost unheard of in public bathrooms. Some of the best advice I got was to bring hand sanitizer and tissue packs from the U.S.

 

4 – Clubs—you’ll stink like all the world’s cigarettes. Like in the U.S., it’s illegal to smoke indoors here. Unlike in the U.S., nobody cares.

 

5 – Not all Latin American food was created equal. Beans, chiles, corn chips, flour tortillas—that’s what I’ve been trained to expect. Argentine food usually isn’t like that. Think Italian food. And, of course, red meat.

 

V.Vocabulario

 

image-3

 

que garron – That sucks
hacer aguante – (from aguantar, to hold onto) this is what it’s called when a guy tries to set his friends up with your friends in a club so that he can have you to himself.

gavilan – 1) hawk 2) a good-looking, macho man
mina – chick, girl
lomo – 1) sandwich with thinly sliced cuts of beef 2) a hot bod
flaco – 1) skinny 2) a dude, guy, chico (slang)

manzo – (Mendoza slang only) awesome, great

Tal qual = asi es (That’s how it is / Yes, that’s right.)

 

VI. Musica

 

image-2

 

Calle 13 – Baile los pobres

 

This came on in the club last night. Enjoy.

 

VII. Links to previous posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro

7. Trip to Las Termas

 

VIII. Sometime in the near future…

 

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Keep your eyes peeled for entries about:

 

The great Argentine road trip
A student’s life in Mendoza
Trabajo voluntario (volunteer work)
Trips to Chile and Neuquen


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Trip to Las Termas

Time September 5th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Cacheuta

II.Vocabulario

III. Musica

IV. Links to previous posts

 

I. Cacheuta

There are so many, many things to do in this place that it can be overwhelming to plan it out and decide what to do when. I’ll tell you about one day trip my friends and I did at least once, totally might do again.

 

Cacheuta is an itty bitty town (does it even count as a town? I don’t know) about an hour from Mendoza by bus. There’s not a whole lot there, but there is Las Termas hot spring resort.

 

We left for the omnibus terminal very, very early in the morning—7:45—and tickets for the 9 am bus were STILL sold out. As a rule, I’d recommend buying your tickets in an advance for big bus trips. If you’re planning to do it the day of, arrive at least a couple hours before the departure time. We had to kill time until 10 am. Luckily, the Mendoza bus terminal is pretty nice, especially compared to the ones in a few other places I’ve passed through. It’s one of few places I’ve been to so far in Mendoza that sells post cards, for one.

 

The tickets were very cheap–$20 pesos round trip for an hr long bus ride. Entrance to the “water park” was $40 pesos/person, good for the entire day.

 

Completely worth it! The water felt so nice after freezing in the bus terminal all morning, and the view was amazing. I took so many pictures of the mountains.

Half hour massage for $15 USD. The whole time, random American rock was playing on the radio, which I found hilarious. My friend wasn’t wild about her massage, but I was perfectly satisfied with what I got. So, I guess it depends what you’re expecting. You can also get any body part that you can think of waxed while you’re there.

 

I also had an opportunity to rappel for free—turns out one of my classmates at Congreso is a rappelling instructor at Cacheuta on the weekends. I opted out—too tired. But it was nice to see people from class out in the real world, recognize them, and be recognized.

 

There are some cute touristy shops. We learned DO NOT eat sample food in stores. You have to ask for it. Oops.

 

All in all, it was one of the most relaxing days I’ve had here yet. We stayed until about 7pm, got home at 8…then went out again. 😀 La vida Argentina.

 

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II.Vocabulario

Encerar – to wax

Pileta / piscina – pool

Charco -puddle

 

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III. Musica

 

Gracias a la vida – Mercedes Sosa

 

From class, haha. The composer is Argentine, but the woman who sings is Chilean. But I love her voice, and the sentiment sums up how I feel about this entire country.

 

IV. Links to previous posts

1. Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro

 


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A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro

Time August 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. How to catch a bus

II. How not to catch a bus

III.Vocabulario

IV. Musica

V. Links to Previous Posts

 

The buses were the thing I was most afraid of before arriving in Mendoza. Public transportation just stresses me out, always has. But the buses here are very manageable once you work it out. It’s a little chaotic–taking the bus is an art, not a science–but it’s easy enough, and it’s a fast and cheap way to get around.

 

I. How to catch a bus

 

You’ll hear all of this information at orientation, but I’ll tell you about it too.

 

First, you’re going to need to get a RedBus* card, unless you want to pay exact change for each bus ride. (And considering that change does not seem to exist in this country, you’re gonna want to get the card.) The card costs about $A 3 at almost any kiosco. There will be signs on the kiosco advertising RedBus. You can recharge that card as many times as you want—they also do that at kioscos. To use it, you just wave it in front of the sensor inside the bus. Easy.

 

The second thing, which is a bit more complicated, is to figure out which bus you need. There are two important numbers, the group number (1-9 are most common) and the bus number. The buses are also color coded: all group 3 buses are yellow, 5’s are green, etc. You can look up the bus routes (to see which numbers go where you need to go) online, but you can also ask your host family or even IFSA. I got really lucky and the last girl who stayed with my host mom left me a list of all the buses I need. Whoever stays with Susy next will also inherit that sucker! It’s been a life saver. But I’m also really excited that, after being here a month, I don’t really need it anymore.

 

Now you wait for a while. The buses are generally pretty timely (every half hour)…but it takes a little luck. The buses can arrive late, and once or twice I’ve even been on a bus that has broken down. Time to wait again. So, it never hurts to have a book on hand.

 

When you see a bus, it’s time to be aggressive, B-E aggressive! If there’s any chance it could be your bus–because the group number is large but the bus number is tiny–go fast and stick your arm out like you mean it. As in, get in the road (but don’t get run over!) GO!

 

Hop on and hang on. Try to give yourself two free hands if you can to steady yourself, because it can be a bumpy ride. Keep your purse close to you while you’re on the bus, preferably in front of you. Everyone’s heard the horror stories about bus pick pocketing.

 

When you get close to your stop (or streets you recognize) get moving to the back where the button to stop is located. Again, be fast, be aggressive. Be aware of acequias and traffic as you’re getting off.

 

Bus accomplished.

 

II. How not to catch a bus

 

The collective wisdom from my friends and me:

 

Two things you need to know:

 

1) the routes are not circles but lines. If you miss your stop, the bus will not loop back around to it eventually. It’s going to the bus depot.

 

2) WHERE you catch the bus matters, because buses go in more than one direction. Great example: when trying to get to or from Cuyo, OJO, because I know of at least three #3-33 buses, and they all go to very different places.

 

If you do get on the wrong bus, try not to panic. Some way or other, it’ll work out. If you haven’t gone very far/you see non-sketchy streets you recognize, get off and get another bus. If you’re in a scary looking part of town and have no idea where you are, DO NOT GET OFF THE BUS. Just let the bus take you to the depot. Explain your situation to the driver and they’ll help you out, especially if you look foreign and terrified.

 

Bonus tip: Try to keep an eye on your phone minutes so that, in the event of bus mishaps, you can let your host family know you’re not dead, just delayed.

 

When in doubt, ask the driver if the bus goes to/passes/goes near the street you’re trying to get to BEFORE YOU GET ON. I have seen other Argentines do it too, FYI. Everyone gets confused by the buses.

 

Most importantly, enjoy the journey. The micro system is a little confusing, but once you get the hang of it, it’s totally manageable. If you get lost, laugh it off. It happens to just about everyone eventually. Call it part of the adventure.

 

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III.Vocabulario

 

*Red – network

Tarjeta – card

Parrada – bus stop

Micro = omnibus (omni for short) = colectivo

Subir – Get on

Bajar – get off

Tropezar – to trip

 

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IV. Musica

Going with the theme of confusion and getting lost, pleas enjoy this song, courtesy of the one and only Jose.

 

Senal que te he perdido – Adres Calamaro

 

V. Links to Previous Posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!

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Looking good, Mendoza!

Time August 16th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Speaking Spanish
II. Technical Concerns
III. Getting to Know Mendoza
IV. Vocabulario
V. Música
VI. Links to Previous Posts

 

I. Speaking Spanish

I thought I spoke Spanish, and I was ready to speak Spanish…until I actually met my host mom.

I think I finally understood something about one of my friends from Japan. When I first met her my freshman year, I was all sorts of hyper and overexcited to be there at my dream school in California, and so I was talking about 80 million miles an hour. Poor Junko’s eyes were as big as dinner plates. “Sorry—can you slow down?” she said.

“Oh yeah, sure, of course!” I said. And I would slow down…until I got excited about something and forgot again.

That’s how my host mom and I interacted, only I was in Junko’s shoes this time. I guess it’s my linguistic karma.

The first thing my host momma said to me was, “I talk really, really fast, so just let me know if you don’t understand something!” Good luck getting a word in edgewise to let her know though.

However, she’s very sweet, very concerned about my happiness and well-being. She’s also sassy and funny. Plus, her paintings are all over the house, which is awesome. You can check out my host momma’s art here.

All the same, I thought I was gonna cry on day one, even thought host momma was so nice, because I was just so overwhelmed. Not to mention frustrated with my sudden clumsiness with Spanish. I had about 5 minutes to put down my things, and then we hopped back in the car and headed over to one of her many, many friends’ houses. She’s a little social butterfly. We stopped at a bakery first, and all the Spanish was making my head spin. So fast and so mumbly! She told me to pick out facturas, which I think was the single most terrifying thing she could have asked of me at that point. I just didn’t have the mental power to make decisions.

When we arrived at her friend’s house, I was delighted to see two other girls from my program. Our host moms are friends. Think back to Saturday morning cartoons, where the sailor who’s been lost at sea finally washes up on the beach and starts kissing the sand. Land! English! That’s how I felt.
Before I left, I was determined to have mostly Argentine friends and only talk to people from the program when I had to, because I was going to live in Spanish Mode, the end. …Hahaha, that’s cute, Yona. Here in the real world, I am so grateful for English-speakers. Honestly, I overindulge in it, considering I can speak English any time I want in the U.S. and I’m only here for a few months. But sometimes you just need a mental break.

In addition to my host momma, I’ve also got a dog, who knows how to open the front door and let himself out.

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And I’ve got…I guess she’s my host sister, but she’s not related to my host mom. She’s very sweet, patient with my limited vocabulary. I learn a lot of my slang from her, plus advice about boys and alcohol. 😉 She also understands a surprising amount of English (mostly from watching TV, I think, because a lot of it is English shows with subtitles) which is super helpful when I’m looking for the Spanish equivalent of non-dictionary words.

I’ve been here a few weeks now, and I feel very comfortable at my host family’s house. I’m excited to go back to it after a long day of class—it feels like my house. I like my host mom, and I feel comfortable talking to her about pretty much anything. (She has strong opinions about men though, and I’m not sure I agree all the time.) This morning she asked me if I translate in my head when I speak Spanish to her or if I’m thinking in Spanish…and I realized, no, I’m not translating for the most part, I’m just speaking. My vocabulary has its limits, and I still can’t do Spanish too well when I’m tired, but I do speak Spanish here. And I’m fully capable. :)

Mostly.

 

II. Technical Concerns

 

I seriously recommend that you wait until you get here to buy a phone or a converter. First, I was lucky and my host mom already had a phone and a converter for me to use from the last time she hosted. I would’ve wasted my money if I’d bought them myself. Second, in the U.S. they tend to sell converters in packs, and you don’t necessarily know which one you need. Converters are cheap and easy to find at ferreterias here, and if you need a phone IFSA helps you get one.

Things you WILL want are shoes with arch support and nice-looking sweaters. You’re going to be wearing your jacket constantly for a while, so make sure you bring ones you really like.

WiFi may be spotty. Talk to your host family…and pray. The IFSA office has good WiFi though, if all else fails.

Make sure you know how to use your house key before you leave the house. The keys here are large and old fashioned, and the locks are finicky. I got locked out of my house on the first day, with the keys in my hand. :( With a little practice, I’ve finally learned the exact way to jiggle the lock until it pops open. I’m not sure what exactly I learned because I don’t think I’m doing anything drastically different, but there you go.

 

III. Getting to Know Mendoza

 

The prospect of trying to find my way around terrified me. This was my internal map of Mendoza on day three before I walked to Congreso by myself for the first time:

mendoza-1

But finding my way was actually very straightforward. Medoza is a nice place, and I already love it. (I can’t wait to see it in the spring!) Most things are within walking distance of each other. Street signs are marked more clearly than in BA. If you like coffee, you’ll like it here, because if you trip walking in the centro, odds are good that you’ll land in a café.

Traffic is also a little less voluminous here, though equally as dangerous as in Buenos Aires. The “do not walk” sign really means something more like “cross fast and don’t look back!” Still, be careful and be smart about it.

In addition to learning the geography of the place, I’m obviously also learning some things about the culture of the area. Let’s talk about food:

food-pyramid

I’m only exaggerating a little.

Oh, and mate obviously. Tortas and other egg-y things are also pretty big, and so is jam. Tea exists, but if you order just a tea in a café, people worry about you.

You might get Salad, but it might not look like the salad you’re expecting. I’ve had a tomato salad (chopped tomato with lemon and olive oil), a carrot salad (grated carrot with lemon and olive oil)…

My mom can definitely cook, but we also do a lot of reheating of stuff she bought around the corner or something. My momma loves the microwave. It’s still good, mind you. But it’s definitely a big change from the way I was cooking for myself all summer!

However, it really depends on who your family is. One of my friends has a real mixed green salad every night, very little meat. Some families cook really well…and others, well… I’ve heard some funny but tragic stories from other kids in the program.

Brace yourself, basically.

 

 

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IV. Vocabulario

 

Once you hit Mendoza, unfamiliar words start flying thick and fast. You should definitely keep a notebook on hand to help you remember some of them. I’ve got pages and pages in my notebook about vocab, but I’ll give you guys just a few of the most frequently used/confusing ones.

 

Copada – cool

Re – very, super

Factura – pastry

Ubicar – located / to be located (estar)

Varon – boy

Alargador – extension cord

Enchufar – to plug into a wall outlet

Materias – courses

Parciales – midterms

 

Words you thought you knew in Spanish but don’t if you didn’t learn Spanish in Argentina:

 

Avocado = Palta, NOT  aguacate

Corn = Choclo, NOT maiz or elote

Fridge = Heladera, NOT refrigerador

Strawberry = Frutilla, NOT fresa

 

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V. Música

First and foremost, expect to hear a lot of American music here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Call Me Maybe since arriving—there’s no escaping it. Argentine radio is also…full of surprises. One minute you’ve got Lady Gaga, the next it’s a dubstep remix of the Beatles, next it’s an actual song in Spanish, next it’s 70’s rock. All on the same station. So, expect the unexpected.

Here’s a song in Spanish for you to jam out to. My host sister likes this one a lot.

 

VI. Links to Previous Posts

1. Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

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Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

Time August 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Wrapping up things in BA
II. Vocabulario
III. Música
IV. Links to previous posts

I. Wrapping up things in BA

Things were a little less terrifying after the first day in Buenos Aires. We were all rested, and therefore less manic. The lovely folks at IFSA had a bunch of activities for us all over the city.

First, we hit up Plaza de Mayo again:
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We checked out La Boca and Puerto Madera, where the houses are made of old ship parts:

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You can also check a video of some of the murals we saw on the stadium here and another of some street art in Puerto Madera here.

After we had a nice steak-tastic lunch by the mouth of Rio Plata, followed up by, of course, mate:

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We also went to a really neat cemetery where Eva Perron and some other notable people are buried… but I didn’t bring my camera. You’ll just have to use your imagination—or, even better, visit Buenos Aires yourself.

What I’ll tell you about your stay in Buenos Aires is that if you want to go out at night that’s totally available to you…but you definitely don’t have to. I didn’t go out at all in BA because I was just too darn tired, and I wasn’t the only one. Don’t worry about it though, because I promise there’s plenty of places to go out in Mendoza too, any night of the week. Whatever your scene is, it’s YOUR study abroad, so you should do it up how you want to. People are gonna respect whichever you choose.

That said, if you do go out in BA, expect to fall asleep on the bus. And if you fall asleep on the bus, expect people to take unflattering pictures of your with your mouth hanging open. 😀 Part of the fun.

Other things you might like to know about Argentina:

1)  Tips are not necessary for little things like coffee. We made some café owner super happy because we didn’t know that. Tips are expected for a full on dinner though, though not nearly as large a tip as in the U.S. (15% instead of 20%.)

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2) Banks have weird doors. If you want to get in to access the cajero electronico (ATM) You have to swipe your debit card to unlock the door and then quickly open it before it relocks. The door will ignore some cards, like mine, even though the ATM will accept them. There’s a possibility you’ll have to wait for someone else to go in to get the door open for some banks.

3) And you might have been wondering about the cheek kiss… Yes, they really do that. Boys too. They’ll tell you all about it during orientation. Have a look at this video. (It’s also embedded below.)

You learn to like it pretty quickly, or at least I did. Actually, we ran into some other Americans the other day and shook hands, and it felt so bizarre.

And that was about it for Buenos Aires. Next time around I’ll update you about life in Mendoza with all of its insanity and charm. Stay tuned.


II. Vocabulario

 

Preservativo / condon = condom

Mozo – messero – waiter


III. Música

 

Mi Buenos Aires querido – Carlos Gardel

Youtube–> go for it.

I didn’t actually hear this song in BA, but I thought it made a nice farewell to the port city (until December, anyway.) It’s a famous tango song from the 30’s. Enjoy!

 IV. Links to previous posts

1 – Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2 – Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3- “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”


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“Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

Time August 1st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ahem.

Yes, yes I am.

At least two different girls from the Butler group greeted me this way when we met, and I wasn’t sure whether to feel proud or embarrassed of that. I guess it’s nice to know that someone is reading this silliness!

 

DISCLAIMER TIME: this blog only reflects my views and my experiences. It doesn’t reflect Butler or Argentina or Mendoza as a whole. It doesn’t even reflect the people mentioned as a whole.

Just so you know.

This blog is going to be super long, as usual, because a whole lot happened in the space of just a few days.

 

ARGENTINA DAY 1

 

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. The great slog through the airport

II. Buenos Aires – First Impressions

III. Jose

IV. The Payphone Episode

V. Vocabulario

VI. Musica

VII. Links to previous posts

 

 

I. The great slog through the airport

 

Altogether, I had over 24 hours of travel from the door of the apartment where I was staying to the hotel in Buenos Aires. Such a blast.

It finally hit me that I was leaving home during my layover in Atlanta. Georgia struck me as so foreign, even though it’s part of my own country. So green and humid and flat! What is this? Geographically, Mendoza is actually much more like my house.

I gave up on Como agua para chocolate for now and I swapped it out for Eat, Pray, Love. I was a little dubious about the book—I heard it was sappy—but it’s been a good traveling companion to me. Just what I needed. Liz Gilbert basically did her own little study abroad, but in 3 different places. It’s been comforting to read about her struggles and survivals while getting ready to prepare for my own. It’s especially relevant because Argentina is always compared to Italty, so it’s fun to compare her experiences to mine.

It seems like every time I fly somewhere, the people on the first plane never want to make conversation, but on the second plane they do. This was the case for my trip to Argentina. I was so pumped to start talking to people in Spanish in the terminal, and they were pretty pumped for it too. A lot of the other passengers to Buenos Aires didn’t speak English so well, but for some strange reason none of the announcements were made in Spanish even though the flight was to Argentina. So we talked a bunch… And I had the startling revelation that, hey, I can speak Spanish! I hardly knew where all these words were coming from, but it was definitely me and my mouth. Who knew? Of course, I promise I still have lots to learn, but it was definitely a relief to prove to myself that I can speak Spanish and I wasn’t going to outright die in Argentina. The people I met were very nice and had lots of advice to offer about changing my money at the bank, not on the street, and to be careful of street food.

Even though the plane was a large one, I expected to be flying to Buenos Aires solo because I wasn’t on the group flight. However, moments after I took my seat I heard someone talking on the phone in English behind me. When she got off the phone, we started talking and realized that we were both in the Butler Mendoza program. After some finagling, we figure out a happy arrangement to swap seats with Argentines until my new Butler buddy and I were sitting together. …Five minutes later I realized that I wasn’t actually in my assigned seat. I read the numbers wrong. So, I managed to single-handedly mess up three rows of seats that way. Luckily it worked out, but I felt so bad.

Now, here’s a piece of advice for you fine folk. The flight from the U.S. to Argentina is not a short one, and you’re going to have a full day the next day. To make sure you can sleep, you’re going to want to invest in one of these bad boys.  It’s gonna be your new best friend. I did not have one and I slept for maybe 2 hours altogether. The nice part was that I could look out the airplane window and see so many stars—a lovely welcome gift. I missed stars in California. Also, you can definitely start to gauge Latin America’s level of development overall by the number of lights you see below…or, rather, the number you don’t see. It’s a big difference.

II. Buenos Aires – First Impressions

 

Buenos Aires is so much flatter than I anticipated, and pretty green, even in the winter. Lots of trees. Sort of pastoral—we actually saw a horse pulling a carriage. (Though, of course, cars are much more prevalent.) The roads are packed. Compared to Guatemala I think the drivers are less ANGRY but sloppier. I watched a taxi sit ON the dotted line, like it was a lane, no intention of moving over into a real lane.

When we got off the plane, we were all pretty manic. There was lots of fun chaos and awkwardness meeting everyone. Or, trying to. There are some people whose names I STILL don’t know. I was expecting for there to be maybe 20 people including me, but we’ve actually got about 45. Everyone seems nice. Mendoza seems to attract some pretty outdoorsy people. A few people brought sleeping bags. One girl brought a full camp stove set and a tent.

One of the first things we did, in our big blob of gringos, was to look for a “legit” coffee shop. (This wasn’t really too tricky because, lemme tell ya, there’s a coffee shop practically every four feet. If you like coffee, you’ll like it here.) We didn’t have maps yet, so we asked for directions. Or, I asked for directions. It was a pretty cool feeling.

“We are badasses,” I said.

“No, you’re the badass,” said one of the other girls.

Awesome.

We had lunch at our swag-y hotel, courtesy of Butler. Brace yourself, boys and girls, because they’re going to give you a lot of meal for one sitting. Dessert is almost becoming a curse word, because by the time it shows up you are STUFFED and can’t do much more than pick at it. Food is good though, I promise! I also found out that there are three other vegetarians here (and a few others who switched out of vegetarianism to come here.) What the heck—I should’ve stuck to my guns!

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Part of the reason that I chose Mendoza instead of one of the programs that my friends from my host university chose so that I could have a chance to learn about myself in a new context. Who is this girl Yona without her posse around her? Well, lunch conversation brought a few things about her into light: She still talks as much as ever, that’s for sure. Maybe too much, maybe not. She’s kinda funny, and I think I like that about her. She’s a talented person—I can’t blame other people’s lack of skill for making me look good anymore, because here I am in the middle of a bunch of talented, driven people who have many talents I can’t even touch, but I have been praised up and down all day long about my Spanish today. She’s curious and friendly, but she needs personal space. Mostly, she’s still the same girl I’ve always seen in the mirror.

After, another big blob of us went to the Plaza del Mayo to watch the Madres de los Desaparecidos (mothers of the disappeared from the Dirty War) protest. Admired some nice adds for prostitutes along the way—if you’ve been to Vegas you know what I’m talking about. Beware of brightly colored squares of paper! On the way back, we got a little lost, even with our map. Buenos Aires is a lot of city, you know!

You can check out a video of the protest march here.

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I realized that I’m not really concerned about Spanish. My vocab and grammar are a little clumsy… but I can do it just fine. If I need help, I can ask for it. (Porteños, as the fine folk from Buenos Aires are called, walk fast and don’t smile much, but they’re actually friendly and helpful from what I can see so far.) What freaks me out is the city itself, the space. Remember, I’m from the middle of nowhere. I feel out of sort in the city like you would not believe, like I’;m sharing my skin with three extra people, all of them panicking.

Nothing bad happened and we got un-lost fairly quickly, but all the same I was holding in my very first panic-attack by the time we got back to the hotel.

 

III. Jose

 

We got what another girl called “the best orientation ever.” It was exactly what I needed for sure.

Part of what we talked about was homesickness and panic-attacks, and somehow it made me feel better to acknowledge that it was inevitable to have to cope with some of those things during this trip. But this is truly what I wanted. To challenge myself. To learn. To drink mate! This is why I came.

The orientation was delivered by the fabulous Jose, program director extraordinaire—can he be my best friend please? Very kind, sympathetic, funny, open. Exactly what he needs to be, for me anyway. I feel like I’m in good hands. So, yay Butler.

And good thing I’m with a program instead of just bouncing around on my own like Liz Gilbert, because in this moment if it were up to me I would just hide in the hotel room, where I can pretend it’s not all Argentina-y outside. But I’m not going to do that because I can do that at home.

One of the things we discussed was this thing:

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Bidet. I have chosen to avoid it, but if you wanna attempt, I wish you luck.

We also learned about the saying “ojo” y “doble ojo” (accompanied by pulling down the bottom eyelid), which is sort of like “keep your eyes peeled.” Watch out for yourself. Be careful. So, pay attention when someone precedes a sentence with the ojo gesture.

 

IV. The Payphone Episode

 

In your first few days, before you set up your Argentine sim card or buy a cheapie cell phone, you might have to deal with payphones. Pay attention and you’ll have an easier time than I did.

 

See, I had never done this in English before. My mom used to give me quarters as a kid so that I could call her “just in case,” but of course I never needed to, so I never had to learn. Well! I learned, that’s for sure, thanks to a very kind and patient cashier named Hernan. Let me walk you through the steps:

1) Find a kiosco (they’re all over the place—keep your eyes peeled for big glass candy display cases) that advertises “telefono de cabina.” That’s your phone booth. There will usually also be a picture of a phone on the sign!

2) Ask the cashier, “¿Cuanto cuesta para llamar este numero?” You pay after at the front rather than feeding bills into the machine, so you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you dial.

3) Go to booth that the cashier indicated. Those glass ones over there that sneakily blend in with the wall if you have no depth perception at night like me.

4) Dial the number. (And don’t be too sluggish about it like I was.)

5) Talk your little heart out.

6) Go back to the register and pay.

Poor Hernan had to basically do it for me, but now I get it. And he was very, very nice about it. This is one of those cases where being a dork but knowing how to explain that you’re a dork will get you far.

 

 

 

And thus ended dia numero uno en Argentina.

 

I’ll leave you with the hasty message I scribbled to people in the U.S. who were wondering whether I arrived safely or not: In Argentina, not dead, gotta go!

 

 

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V. Vocabulario

 

Buzos – sweat pants

Cazos– tights/leggings

Aceituna– olive

Culpable – guilty

 

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VI. Musica

 

Jose has offered to share his as long as you have a flash drive. Heck yeah!

 

VII. Links to previous posts

 

To make things easier, because I think that after x many entries they get bumped off the face of the earth never to be seen again.

 

1 –

Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2 –

Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation


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Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

Time July 16th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Pre-departure nerves
II. Host family
III. Trip to L.A.
IV. El vocabulario de la semana
V. La música de la semana

I. Pre-departure nerves

Beginning of the summer: “HEY EVERYONE, I’M GOING TO ARGENTINA! WOOHOOOOO!”
Middle of the summer: “Huh. Oh yeah. I’m going to Argentina. Ugh, I don’t wanna drag my stuff through the airport. Whatever. I guess I’m going…”
Two weeks ago:  “Oh dear God I’m going to Argentina. Why am I doing this again??”
Last week: “I HAVE A HOST FAMILY! THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOOOOOOOME!”
This week: “OMG OMG OMG ARGENTINA. WHAT DO I DO WITH MYSELF? LET’S GO ALREADY!”

You know, the usual pre-departure terror-excitement-panic-joy rollercoaster.

Mostly I think I’m jittery about the airport. The airport’s no fun in English, much less in a language I’m still learning. When I went to Guatemala, I remember the airports in Ciudad Guatemala and Mexico being super confusing. :( I’ll also be flying alone—no group flight for me. (You had to sign up for the group flight by early May, but I hadn’t decided on my post-program travel plans yet, so I decided it would be easier to fly solo.) I know I’ll survive…I’m just not looking forward to that part. But after that the fun stuff starts!

 

II. Host Family

I feel a lot better about the idea of launching myself into the unknown now that I know a little about my host family.

I’ll be staying with a single host mom, her 21-year-old daughter, and their dog. I’m so excited about that dog, because then it means I won’t have to miss mine! (I haven’t seen my puppy dog since December 2011, and I won’t see him again ‘til this December.) Apparently, my family likes to paint and take walks, which are both things I love. It also looks like their house is nearby some sort of museum and a park!

It all sounds pretty perfect to me. I’m really looking forward to meeting them! It makes me that much more excited to leave already.

 

III. Trip to L.A.

I took a day trip up to L.A. yesterday, and in a lot of ways it felt like a bit of a test taste of travel in Argentina. I’ve been to L.A. before, but always with a friend to show me around and baby me through all the ticketing and things. This time I went by myself.

I took almost every kind of public transportation possible: train, subway, bus, taxi, and train again.

For the most part, it wasn’t as tricky as I was afraid it might be. The taxi was crazy expensive though. Worse, we got stuck in traffic so I missed the train that I meant to take home. Thankfully, I was able to take another train a little over an hour later (though it meant I got home very late.) I felt like I was doing pretty well if that was the worst thing I had to complain about, especially because I was trying to coordinate plans with 3 different people.

Public transportation, especially the buses, has been one of the things making me really nervous about Argentina, so it was encouraging to be able to navigate on my own. I think it’ll be a little trickier to get used to in another language, but if the small town girl can survive in L.A. alone, what can’t she do?

First stop was Hollywood to meet with one of the other girls from the program.

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Me and Kristy drinking Starbucks in Hollywood

“Are you into bungee jumping and things like that?” she asked.

I laughed. “I can be!”

I don’t think I’ll get bored with this one around. 😉

It’s refreshing to hear that I’m not the only one stressing about packing (even though I’m mostly done with that), forgetting grammar and vocabulary, and everything else about Mendoza. Not to mention it never hurts to have a friendly, familiar face when you’re in a new place!

Kristy and the other girls I’ve chatted with online seem super sweet and adventurous so far, and I think we’re going to have a great time.

Next I spent some time with my friend Luisa, one of the girls that went to Guatemala with me. She’s actually from Guatemala, but she lives in Korea Town. (Talk about multicultural.) We hung out with her little sister and her boyfriend and bounced back and forth between Spanish and English the entire time. It was encouraging to find that I can still pull together a grammatically correct sentence or three in Spanish, and I understood her perfectly clearly whenever she spoke.

I CAN DO THIS, GUYS.

My last stop was a cute little all-organic café in Santa Monica for dinner with a friend who just graduated. She’s already been abroad, so she had lots of wisdom for me in that department. I was so happy to be able to see her because it reassured me that we’ll be able to stay friends no matter what happens to us, whichever directions life pulls us—and, more importantly, that the same should hold true for my other friends. Example: I won’t be able to see two of my best friends at Soka until our senior year, because they’ll be studying abroad spring semester and I’m going in the fall. And then after we graduate… our interests and families will leave us scattered all over the globe. But it’s always nice to have an excuse to visit someplace, right?

She helped me call the cab, and when it arrived she walked me to the sidewalk. We hugged and said our goodbyes (which felt very cinematic since it was raining, haha.)

And then I turned toward the taxi, and I balked. I’d never ridden a taxi alone before either. “It’s just that I have no idea what I’m doing,” I told her sheepishly.

She smiled wistfully and patted me on the shoulder. “That’s part of the adventure, isn’t it?”

I realized she wasn’t going to hold my hand through it. I had to, you know, be an adult and go talk to the cab driver on my own. After all, she’s definitely not going to be there to hold my hand in Mendoza! After I climbed in, I realized that she was giving me something more helpful than what I’d been asking of her: she was giving me permission to make mistakes and telling me she loved me anyway.

Who actually does know what they’re doing anyway?

 

IV. El vocabulario de la semana

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These are words I came across because I needed them to explain/understand something. Maybe they’ll come in handy for you too.

Montaña Rusa – Rollercoaster (literally “Russian Mountain”)

Anfitrión – Host (as in familia anfitriona, host family)

Topo­- can mean mole (the animal) or klutz

 

V. La música de la semana

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My bandcamp.com exploration continues! This time I found a bunch of artists from Buenos Aires, which is super helpful for getting used to hearing the Argentine accent.

Julian Mourin has a sweet and romantic sort of vibe. I like Canción para despertarla (“Song to wake her up”) a lot, and Paja y madera is also super catchy. I highly recommend his album Mate de metal, which you can download gratis (FREE) from bandcamp.

Julio y Agosto are an odd bunch. They’ve got this song called Jorge Luis Enriquez that’s about a narrator who hates everything, including the sun and the beach, which cracks me up. Also gratis.

Chucaro has 2 albums you can download gratis. They’ve got a more energetic sound. Than the other two.

Funny story about these guys: I was half-listening to one of their songs while I did some work when the word “shoshano” jumped out at me. What the heck? I thought maybe it was the name of a place. So I Googled it—no no avail. Finally I realized they were singing “yo ya no,” (“I haven’t already”) only in the Argentina accent. Oh dear.

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