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New goal

Time July 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Back in Buenos Aires, I give you the details of my wonderful trip to Salta and Jujuy. Although I did not have my great IFSA friends to accompany me, not having my wonderful IFSA friends also helped open other doors for me. One of the things I wrote as feedback for my program was that there was not enough integration for us with Argentines. Without the integration, I felt that my Spanish faltered as well. On the first day I arrived at the Salamanca hostel in the city of Salta, I was met with a big backpack in the other bed of the room I was sharing. I was excited to meet this girl, but I left the room to tour the beautiful and simple city. In the city, I saw the adorable feria artesenal, a fair of artesian, handmade, typical goods. Next to the fair, there was a park which I walked through.

A bit farther off, I was met with the plaza, Plaza de 9 de Julio, with its beautiful monuments, surrounded by cafes, shops, restaurants, town council, cathedral, museum, and hotels. I had a wonderful café con leche and walked around the plaza, taking pictures. I proceeded to explore the beautiful and spiritual cathedral in which there were people gathering for mass. Lastly, I went to the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña (Museum of Archeology and High Mountains). I’m not particularly interested in seeing tall mountains in a museum, but was told the museum left an impression and went anyway. To be honest, the majority of the museum was nothing too amazing. However, the exhibition of the mummies of the children who were sacrificed in an Incan ritual was amazing. Though the exhibition had an eerie feel, learning about what happened so long ago was impacting especially in the midst of a developed Argentina. The children of high status and prestige (who had purposely molded conic shaped heads) were chosen for a ritual in which they were put to sleep and buried in incredibly high altitude in mountains of Salta and Jujuy. Unlike Egyptian mummies, these mummies were not artificially preserved, but remained because of the temperature of the mountains and the pressure of the altitude.

Anyhow, when I got back to the room, I said hello to Kata from Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina. That night we got empanadas from the nearby restaurant and chatted. The next day, I went to the beautiful path following the tren de las nubes or train of the clouds. We went to Santa Rosa de Tastil, a small town of 12 people, with solar panels, and another small museum with a xylophone of volcanic rock and another natural mummy. We went to Pumamarca to see the seven colored mountains, and Las Salinas Grandes, or great salt mines. All the while, in a small truck, I chatted in Spanish with the tour guide, Gonzalo, and Bibiana a woman from Rosario. I also chatted in English with Maggie and Claire, two friends from Ireland. That night, I actually went out to dinner with Bibiana after exchanging email addresses and phone numbers. I had llama ravioli with pesto, which was absolutely divine. The following day, I had a tour again with Gonzalo and Claire and Maggie.

The places we went were amazing and are incredibly important as places of nature, grandeur, and visual enigmas. But, the people I met and had the experience with are what will really last. The pictures of the mountains will stay on Facebook. But I will really remember an incredible day with Bibiana, two with Claire and Maggie, and our conversations. In fact, being able to speak in Spanish with Bibiana and Gonzalo, translate some for Claire and Maggie, and then proceed speaking in English with Claire and Maggie was an amazing experience and realization for me. So much more Spanish was spoken than when traveling with friends, and I really got to know people that I couldn’t have had I been with IFSA friends.

IFSA friends, I love you so, but with or without the program’s last week was phenomenal. Traveling alone has really opened my eyes to who I am socially and what I really want from this program. All the other goals I had in the beginning of the program were important. But the one I prioritize now is forming meaningful relationships.

Mural in the Feria de Artesenales in Salta

Sculptures in a park in Salta

Cathedral in downtown Salta next to Plaza de 9 de Julio

Inside the cathedral

Maam Museum of Archeology and High Mountains, Museo de Arqueología y Alta Montaña

Maggie and Claire in the tracks for the Tren de las Nubes

Me on the same tracks

Me with the mountains

Cactus

La momia the mummy in Santa Rosa de Tastil

Llama figurines

Santa Rosa de Tastil solar panels

Maggie Claire Bibiana and I eating lunch

Llamas

Me at the Salinas Grandes

Salinas Grandes pools of water drying for salt

Highest point of the mountains

Again

Pretty wall in Pumamarca

The seven colored mountains in Pumamarca

Coffee with Bibiana in Pumamarca

At the Tropic of Capricorn

The lady’s skirt, a beautiful pink red mountain called a skirt for its shape

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Goodbye to a Sticky Program

Time July 10th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Though my trip here in Argentina is not yet over (I am staying an extra six weeks in Buenos Aires), I feel I must make the last entry a formal goodbye and review of my wonderful experience with the IFSA Butler program.

I must say that the program did a wonderful job of selecting great individuals as students and as professors and advisors. As I had mentioned in the first entry, I don’t know what I would have done without Daniel, Griselda, and Goyo from the program. Not to mention Patricio and Laura. The professors (mine at least) were phenomenal and just incredibly good people, caring and nice. Darío and Max who taught Latin American Literature, Alicia, Argentine History, and Victoria and Cruz, Castellano, truly helped me learn and accommodate myself in this new environment.

We all had different goals coming into the program. Some wanted to do the most traveling possible and see everything. Some wanted to stay in the city and get the most from Buenos Aires. Some wanted to improve Spanish as their number one goal, and others wanted to have fun with fellow IFSA students. Some wanted to make a few intimate friends, and others wanted to get to know more people. All of us had multiple goals, but we all had different priorities too. I didn’t really know what my priorities were. I wanted simply to do everything. And now that the program has passed, I am glad I didn’t prioritize my goals. My friend Lillian had the goal of truly interacting with Argentines and thus improving her Spanish and integrating herself into the culture. She found a group of Argentine ultimate frisbee players, and became really good friends with them. Some of my friends wanted to really enjoy the city with IFSA friends. My friend Noah didn’t come with on the trips with friends to Mendoza and Iguazu. He stayed in Buenos Aires and really got the most he could out of the city. As I look back, I am glad for all of the experiences I have had, and have no regrets.

Being from Korea, I have a different experience studying more or less abroad in America and studying abroad here in Argentina. Though I do identify myself with America, I also feel very distant at times. I thus had a wonderful time getting to know both Americans and Argentines (and English and German and Swiss and Irish people) through the IFSA trip. One of the things that was so impacting was my stay with a host family. Susy and Juan are so kind and now so dear to me. Thankfully I have yet some time until I have to say goodbye to them. Additionally, it was a pleasure to get to know Lucia, Kata, Bibiana, my professors, Daniel, Griselda, and the list goes on. I don’t have to say goodbye yet to them. But I did have to say goodbye to my precious IFSA friends. Even though English was my first language and I have lived more years in America than in Korea, I have the classic Asian-American-identity-crisis sometimes (though in this case it would be a quasi-Asian-American one). Being with great people in a great place, also with new people and in a new place, really helped me understand better how I want to interact socially. Thus (with my tendency to overreact) a highlight of the trip was when my friend Katy from the program invited me over for a proper Thanksgiving. It may have just been a friendly offering, but for me, a proper Thanksgiving invitation, not even the real thing yet, really made a difference. It was really a sign that the program meant not just one experience with people I would never meet again, but a program that would stick with me, with people I felt comfortable enough around to spend a holiday like Thanksgiving with.

Katy, Lillian, and Ashley on the first day of orientation eating our rushed kiosk lunch.

Amelia, Ashley, and I at orientation dinner at Pizza Piola.

My table with friends at Pizza Piola

Aron, me, and Katy at the steps of the cathedral in la Plaza de Mayo.

Sara and I on the first day of classes.

Andrew with his glass of milk.

Taylar and Calvin chatting.

Andrea, me and Carrie in a Caballito night out.

Lillian, me and Katy

Kelly, Carrie, Amanda, and Bridget

Lillian being weird with Noah

Joking with Noah and bread

Me, Katherine, Ian, Alyson, and Emily

Ian, Alyson, and Emily

Nicole and I taking a food break from the Feria in San Telmo

Rahoul, Andrew, me, Nicole, Ktharine, Hannah, Hannah H., Emily at La Bomba de Tiempo.

Lillian at Cumaná.

Emily, Andrea, Tara, Taylar at la Catedral for tango.

Me stalking Lillian.

Us being chaotic at the beach in Colonia.

More chaos.

Lillian, me and Taylar

the boys

The girls

Lillian conquering Justin

Justin and Lilli

Me and Taylar

Me and Hannah

Katy and I

Colonia

Colonia, Uruguay

Me stalking Katy

Me, Ashley, and Carrie

Jenny

Sam and Taylar

Me, Carolyn, Jenny, Grant, Sam, and Taylar

Taylar and Lillian in deep conversation.

Celebrating Katy’s birthday

Happy Katy

Pretty Lilli

Grant, Spencer, and I in Montevideo, Uruguay

Jenny, me, Ashley, Katherine, Jenny, and Nicole at Milión in Recoleta, B.A.

Me and Justin posing with a guard at Casa Rosada

History class excursion with Argentine PhD history students.

Me, Lilli, Ashley, Justin, and Laura at a modern ballet show.

Calvin and Colbi

Jessica and I at the Feria de Mataderos

Ka (our Peruvian friend), Sean (living with Taylar’s host family), Sara, Jessica, Taylar, and I

Me, Colbi, and Jessica

Me, Noah, and Jessica

Noah and Grant

Me and Jessica

Calvin

Me and Taylar

Aron, Andrew, Calvin, Jessica, Carolyn, Sara, and Hannah

Carolyn, Katy, and I

Calvin, Andrew, Aron, and Carolyn at the Iguazu Falls

Hannah, Calvin, and Katy

Dinner at Iguazu

Carolyn, me and Jessica

Karen and Ann

Ann, Sara, and I

Silhouettes of Katy and Andrew at the Malba museum

Katy, Carolyn, and Aron

Andrew and I

Andrew, Kelly, Colbi, Jessica, and I with las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo

Me, Jessica, Colbi, Kelly, and Lucia

Stalking Taylar in Mendoza

Colbi and Jessica

Sam

Me

Jessica, Sara, Colbi, Calvin

Katy and Sam

Me, Sam, Taylar, Katy, and Carolyn

Grant and Carolyn in the Andes

Andrew and our guide

Sara

Grant and Carolyn with Tom, Will, and Dylan

Taylar and I

Me, Taylar, and Katy

Andrew, Carolyn, Me, Taylar, and Katy

 

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Rollercoaster Travels

Time July 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Saturday night, I left Buenos Aires after saying goodbye to the majority of my fellow IFSA students, whether it be during the last day of classes or Saturday at and after dinner. I proceeded to leave with a group of ten to travel to Mendoza for an amazing trip, which was partially recounted in the last entry. From there, I had to say goodbye once again early Wednesday morning as my friends hopped into taxis and I proceeded to pack up to leave for my first real travel trip alone, first to San Juan and La Rioja and then to Salta and Jujuy.

You could say that I am traveling alone to Argentina, but in reality the IFSA program takes care of its students so incredibly well that I never really felt alone. I was always with my host family, friends from the program, or directors of the program. You could also say that I was alone studying in America, but this again is studying in an official college where things are always so well organized and where I speak my first language. And the list goes on. I’ve been to many countries, but always with a group and well-organized plan. Never have I traveled alone simply to do touristy things. But after my experiences during the last few days, I must say that I seriously advise you to do it. Go, and go alone. So I’ve had such drastic experiences in this week or so of traveling that I must try to recount to you everything, the good and the bad.

First of all, you already know that I had a wonderful time in Mendoza not only with my IFSA friends, who are of course, divine, but also with random people who I had the pleasure of meeting. Now, with the great experience behind me, I set off on the bus ride (extremely exhausted, especially after a day of horseback riding during which I fell off my horse – a story that should soon be told) to San Juan. After the more or less three hour bus ride during the entirety of which I slept, I woke up excited to see San Juan and La Rioja. I had wanted to visit the province, not for the city, but if for nothing more than La Valle de La Luna, or the Valley of the Moon. With portions in San Juan and also in La Rioja, my host mom told me it was like a “mini Grand Canyon” and that it was absolutely divine. I arrived at my hostel in which I had an amazingly big room in a sunny terrace with a queen sized bed and private bathroom to myself – a huge difference from the shared 12 person room without a key, bunked twin sized beds, and a shared bathroom. I was extremely happy. I called my best friend to tell her about my excitement and keep her updated. I proceeded to the hostel front desk to start my day and pan out my schedule.

From this point on, I was to be met with a complete unexpected turn of events, una hira, as they would say here in Argentina. It was Wednesday morning, and the front desk told me that there were no excursions to Valle de la Luna until Friday. I had already had plans to be leaving for Salta for the continuation of my travels by Thursday night. Frustrated, I asked about other excursions or activities that were being offered. Again, the only options were Friday. Despite the wonderful start, there simply were not enough people staying in San Juan, a smaller city compared to Mendoza and Salta, for excursions to be happening. I asked about any private excursion, but this would have costed me the entirety of the the rest of the trip as well as a few more weeks in Buenos Aires. I could not afford to have a private excursion to this place, despite its beautiful name and my imagination. So I wandered around the city of San Juan, extremely chiquitita (the cutest way I know of saying small) for the day. Grabbed a big and wonderful lunch, some chocolate in a kiosk while walking back to the hostel, and passed out on my wonderful bed. Of course this bed would turn out to be perhaps my worst enemy.

The room in the terrace also lacked heating. I proceeded to sleep from about five in the afternoon until the next morning without being able to wiggle a single eyelash. I just passed out. When I woke up, my body felt of ice. There simply was no heating in the room. Despite the three layers of blankets I had unconsciously wrapped myself in during the middle of the night, my body was extremely cold. I was shivering. I must have been extremely tired just from the non-stop excursions and going out lifestyle pattern from the few days in Mendoza and the few days before in Buenos Aires while trying to make the most of time with IFSA friends. I had also been slightly stressed about saying goodbye, and it had finally happened without any big bash boom or fireworks. So I accept that I slept about 15 hours and woke up shivering from the cold. Of course, I would catch a cold.

Though the previous day, I had called about ten travel agencies in and about San Juan to ask about any excursions happening, there had been only false promises to call me back. I had nothing to do for an entire day. I took my time catching up on social life on my laptop (though I must say it was incredibly refreshing not to have internet service so often), chatting up the hostel staff, trying to figure out property insurance policies for my stolen/lost camera, and Skyping family back in Korea. I then proceeded to go to Dique Ullum, or the reservoir Ullum. I thought that I may as well make the most of what I have got. I was not going to ditch my plans in Salta in order to make the excursions work in San Juan, though I had thought about it. After a very pleasant conversation online with a IfSA friend about positive attitudes, I proceeded to make myself leave the hostel and be a tourist.

I was so pleasantly surprised at the Dique Ullum. After the thirty minute colectivo, bus, ride to what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, I got off and was met with dusty wind blowing into my face. When I could open my eyes, I saw a beautiful and big pool of water surrounded by mountains. Starving, I knocked on the closed door of the only kiosk around. A girl came out and told me that it was open. I ordered the only food I could and a big bottle of water. Eating tosatadas alone with a wonderful view, freezing in the wind, with a bunch of stray dogs surrounding me was quite an odd experience. After gulfing down the food, I walked down to the reservoir and took a bunch of pictures. With so much fear (this newfound fear of heights which annoys me, amplified from the fall from the horse) I basically crawled onto the edge of the reservoir. There, I proceeded to meditate for as long as my out-of-balance mind would let me. I crawled back onto steady land and hiked over the mountains overseeing the reservoir and the freeway in my slim converse (which are basically the only shoes I wear here). By the time I got back to the kiosk, it was time for the bus to come and right on time I took the bus to go back to the hostel. Freezing cold, the view was nothing compared to the amazing mountains I would see in Salta and Jujuy and probably nothing compared to Valle de la Luna. But it was amazing nonetheless. It was an absolutely divine experience. The experience of course includes me buying pastries for dinner on the way back to the hostel.

Now, I am in Salta, going on excursions to Salta and Jujuy and meeting so many different people. I am met with such a different experience once again. I will update you promptly on the wonderful experience I am having here. But I have really realized that even the experiences that seem horrible (San Juan, for me), end of being really great. You have to drop all expectations, and make the most of what you can. Resting a day, catching up on sleep, catching up on virtual social life, and getting a view of a great reservoir, was perhaps not the best use of my time and money in San Juan. At the same time, it was completely necessary for my mental and bodily health. I cannot wait to tell you about all the exciting and wonderful experiences that never cease on this trip in Argentina.

(Photos are from a borrowed host mom’s camera)

In the city of San Juan, the look out tower.

Dique de Ullum

Selfies at the reservoir

I took so many pictures there!

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A lifetime, decades, or a single dinner

Time July 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

You guys remember a Karen from Switzerland, whom I mentioned a few entries ago? I had met her and an Ann from Germnay on the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls with my friend Sara from the IFSA program who has a British passport. Well, I randomly ran into Karen at the lobby of the hostel in Mendoza that my friends from the IFSA program and I stayed at for a few days during the beginning of our last week. I was so pleasantly surprised with the random encounter.

Karen, a few other foreigners, and our group went on a horseback riding excursion in the Andes mountains that same day. It was very nice to meet so many people and get to know them in such a short amount of time. That day and the next night, I met Mary from France, Ana from New Zealand, and a Kayla from Ireland. This happened just from people I could meet at the hostel. Not to mention that I had also met Franco and Maria from Argentina who work at the hostel.

The last night in Mendoza, our IFSA group met three boys, Dylan, Tom, and Will, from England who we ended up eating dinner with and getting to know. They played the guitar for us, we sang along, they introduced us to their English accent, we to American accents, and the list goes on.

At dinner, I also met some people with amazingly random ties to my past. I met an Andy from England, who had worked at some point in a Korean academic institution called hagwons in Daejeon, the city I was born in. I had also met a Matt with a girlfriend who attended the same elementary school I did in Brookline, Massachusetts, a town I grew up in.

Perhaps we will never meet these people again. Perhaps we will stay in touch and be able to meet again some day. The amazing experience of simply getting to know them and having a great time is enough for me. I actually did end up having amazing and somewhat personal conversations with some of these people. Traveling with an open mind and trusting in others seems to be a perfect combination for a great experience and great relationships. It was a great time getting to know people with different objectives for traveling than fellow IFSA students, though my IFSA friends are pretty great. Whether these relationships last a lifetime, decades, or a single dinner, how meaningful they are are up to us.

The vineyards

Wine production

Me with barrels of wine

Jessica, Sara, Colbi, and Calvin wine tasting

Katy and Sam

Twirling the wine glass to air the wine

Me, Sam, Taylar, Katy, Carolyn

Olive tasting

Sweets and licor store

Asado for dinner

Horseback riding in the Andes

Grant and Carolyn

Andrew and our guide

Sara at dinner with tissue roses made by the English boys

Will, Grant, and Carolyn at dinner

Taylar and me

Tom and Dylan from England playing the guitar for singalong time

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Let’s be nonchalant

Time July 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Let’s be nonchalant by

After five weeks, I finally felt like I made some meaningful relationships, which if you remember was one of my goals for the program. Because our sixth week of the program is essentially free for us to travel or explore without hindrance on our schedule with classes, last Friday was essentially the last day for us to meet all together as one big group. With plans to travel during the entirety of the following week, I was anxious to have to say goodbye to most of my fellow students.

With a gathering planned by IFSA, all of us met at a bar called Bar6 in the chic part of town, Palermo. I was so bundled up and antsy about saying goodbye, that I bopped around the bar talking to everyone and saying my informal goodbyes. With my camera, to which I was extremely attached to, I took pictures of and with basically everyone. I had even organized a dinner for all of the students in the program for after the gathering. The dinner ended up falling through, my camera ended up being pick-pocketed, and I didn’t actually make my formal goodbyes with most people.

After the reunion at a bar close to Bar6 that a group of us went to, when I realized that my camera was missing, I had a breakdown. After a countless number of friends comforted me, I realized that I had missed the entire point. Being stressed about saying goodbye wasn’t going to make saying goodbye any easier or more meaningful. Also, saying goodbye properly wasn’t going to make my experiences with people any more meaningful either. The meaningful experiences and memories would be remembered, not any last-minute-posed-for-photo. Though still upset about the loss of my camera which really meant a lot to me (For some babies are actual babies, cars, or houses. For me, my baby was my camera), I have come to appreciate more and more the meaning of memories as memories in our heads and our imaginations, as well as our entire experiences instead of stressing about goodbyes.

In addition, having to travel without my baby for more than a week, though difficult, also made me realize the importance of being in the moment and of taking in the experience physically. With my camera, I had been attached to creating beautiful pictures and documenting every moment. But, I had only been partially experiencing the moments when I was constantly attempting to take pictures. And so, from every bad event, comes a lesson learned (or a few). Also, on a minor note, I had property insurance which I purchased before the trip. A very good idea. A must: buy property insurance! Also, take extra care of all your belongings, especially in a city like Buenos Aires.

So, toodaloo folks (I say nonchalantly)!

Soy

P.S. No photos!

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Advice! (hopefully not too pretentious)

Time July 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After a few weeks on this amazing experience abroad, I began to feel not so amazing. The experience of  a “double-abroad” experience (as one of my friends who I confided in coined) was beginning to take a toll on me. Many people on the program went through breakdowns or moments of extreme homesickness. It felt good to know that I wasn’t alone, though it didn’t to know that so many people were not their happiest. I never thought that being homesick would affect my performance socially and academically. But, I found that I had trouble finding any type of motivation, and simply wanted to sleep all the time. We can leave the specifics out of the way. Though incredibly cheesy, the difficult emotions I was feeling did help me realize some things about myself that I hadn’t known before. These realizations have truly been helpful and I hope will continue to be helpful.

Many a conversation with fellow IFSA friend, Lillian, taught me much about experiences abroad and internal emotions. If I were to make a concise list of my conclusions from these conversations in relation to homesickness, here is a list of advice to all you future or current study abroaders:

1. Don’t call home. Though this might sound counter-intuitive, but interacting more with your homeland or those you love may remind you how much you miss it. I realized that I had been Skyping friends and family back in Korea and the states much more than usual and listening to them tell me about home and happenings.

2. Confide in someone from your program. By talking to people, whether you know them well or not, you will form stronger relationships with them. They will feel comfort in knowing that you trust them, and by trusting someone, you will gain confidence in the program. And, the person can help you with your emotions by listening and perhaps even giving advice. Seems like a win-win situation to me.

3. It’s okay not to be okay. Let yourself feel down for a while. Don’t feel more guilty for feeling homesick. I don’t know about you, but after I felt homesick, I felt guilty for feeling homesick and thus became even more depressed. My advice is to allow yourself to feel however you are feeling. That doesn’t mean that you should use your homesickness as an excuse for everything! But know that it is okay to feel homesick.

4. Always be on the lookout for positive energy. Try to surround yourself with positive people and with activities that make you happy. Give yourself motivational pep talks and try try and try again to stay positive!

5. Stay busy! Schedule your days so that you don’t have too much time to think or to let your mind dwell. Make sure that you aren’t physically drained, but don’t pan your days with free time. Even the empty hours plan out with theater shows, cafe talks with friends, or random city walks with friends. Take advantage of wherever you are and stay busy.

So that was my list of advice that I could have learned from the first weeks I was feeling down in Buenos Aires! Feel free to leave additions or doubts in comments.

Yet another blog with love, Soy.

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Significant Insignificance

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

A few weekends ago, I made a trip with some friends to the Iguazu waterfalls.

The weekend didn’t start too well: I missed the bus ride, waited four hours at the terminal for the next one, took the 18 hour bus ride alone, couldn’t get my cell phone working, and thus couldn’t find my friends who were already in Iguazu.

But as I staggered into the park, desperate to finally have some social interaction after spending the equivalent of a day alone, my phone finally began to work, and easily found my friends (perhaps the happiest moment of the trip) just in time to go see some of the beautiful waterfalls.

One of the best things of the trip (besides being able to see the magnificent waterfalls) was meeting new people and having moments of coincidences. By moments of coincidences, I am referring to the seeing the same people that you know you’ve seen before. The first day at the falls, a French man in a bright orange jacket asked me about directions. The next morning on another bus, I saw the same man sitting a few seats from me. The second day, on the way back to the hostel, we met a French couple who I later spotted back near the hostel, and another girl who ended up sitting across from me in the bus back to Buenos Aires. At dinner the first night, we met friends of friends and friends of friends of friends and all had a good time. The following day, Anna from Germany and Karen from Switzerland went to the Brazilian side of the Iguazu falls together with Sara Zaidi from the program with an British passport and me with a Korean passport. We spent a fantastic day together making wonderful memories at one of the most beautiful places that I’ve had the luck to visit.

The falls were an incredible sight. Water fell from all corners of my vision, blending with the white and blue of the sky. The mist caused by the falls, the sheer size of them, the beautiful sunlight hitting the perpetually changing surface of the water were breathtaking. Perfectly shaped rainbows reminiscent of those that I drew as a little girl appeared everywhere. The grandeur of everything couldn’t be captured in one look or one photograph. It couldn’t be captured, ever. Blinking felt like a waste of time. Not only was the view amazing, but also the sound just as amazing. The boat ride that takes you into the falls is also an overwhelming experience. The sound of gushing water like a flood was coming from sky, and at time, the sound of water simply trickling was amazing. All of the senses had to exist together at once. Simply existing in the near presence of something natural and so magnificent was amazing. Just thinking about it makes me excited.

Thus, Iguazu is a must. Especially if you are ever in Argentina. Being in their presence makes you wonder of the greater and deeper questions in life, as well as appreciate the smaller things and being in the moment. But you also feel like part of something so much greater, and that feeling of insignificance feels so significant.

Aron, Andrew, Calvin, Jessica, Carolyn, Sara, Hannah, Katy

Katy and Carolyn taking selfies.

Carolyn, Katy, and I

Calvin, Andrew, Aron, and Carolyn

Andrew doing the opposite of what the sign says.

Hannah, Calvin, and Katy at dinner.

Everyone together at dinner.

Carolyn, me and Jessica.

Karen from Switzerland and Ann from Germany.

The Argentine side of the falls taken from the Brazilian side.

Rainbows everywhere.

 

Me at the bottom platform of the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls.

Again.

And again.

And last time.

No words.

!!!!

Taken from a boat.

Me on the boat.

Another from the boat.

Rainbow from the boat.

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The real Buenos Aires

Time June 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A few Saturdays ago, another important day (though not a national holiday), we had had a field trip for the Argentine History class with a group of Argentine history PhD students. Because we always speak in Spanish and try to befriend Argentines, like good study abroad students, the encounter was nothing new.

We went to Casa Rosada, the Pink House, or the Argentine equivalent of the White House. We also visited Museo Bicentenario and had pizza at a famous place, Las Cuartetas.

At the lunch, Lucia Gimenez, a 22 year-old high school history teacher came and chatted to the people at the other end of the incredibly long table our group was occupying. (We had already been speaking in Spanish to one another, so talking to her was easy.) She was bubbly and chatty and easy to befriend. After really becoming friends (becoming Facebook friends), we chatted online some, exchanged phone numbers, and decided to meet again. The location was Plaza de Mayo on Thursday afternoon. When my friends, Kelly, Colbi, Jessica, and Andrew, and I arrived, our jaws opened wide. Right outside the subte (subway) stop, there was a line of police officers barricading a road with a demonstration happening on the other side. There was green smoke from the group of marching protestors, the CGT (The General Confederation of Labor) as well as fireworks and the firing of blanks to make loud noises and cause commotion. Before Lucia mentioned to us that the demonstration was completely safe and that nobody would get killed (yes, I did ask), it was difficult to stay calm. This protest last week was combined with the weekly circling of the Plaza de Mayo by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, who are protesting for the recognition of and more action by the government for their disappeared loved ones from the dictatorship or the “Dirty War” from 1976-83. In the midst of all the commotion and chaos, Lucia sneaks in at once truth and irony in her comment to us: “Bienvenidos al Buenos Aires verdadero Welcome to the real Buenos Aires”

This “real” Buenos Aires seems to be getting ever so real, with the current escalated protests by the CGT. In fact, our program received a detailed email from the U.S. Embassy warning to be cautious yesterday of the demonstration by the CGT and other possible labor groups. Demonstrations seem to be highly common in Argentina, and though they are usually non-violent (says the U.S. Embassy), they are all the while scary to the common foreigner. While I was in no need to go visit the warned protest yesterday, I am glad I got to see the lower-key one last week. Caution and safety are key to anything, but so are experiences. I’m glad I got to see in person and experience a part of the real Buenos Aires.

Green gas, blanks, and fireworks from the CGT protests.

Andrew, Kelly, Colbi, Jessica, and I pose with two of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.

 

Me, Jessica, Colbi, Kelly, and Lucia

Madres de la Plaza de Mayo and their weekly protest

Police on one side of the CGT protest

Pizza lunch with Argentine History classes and Argentine History PhD students at the famous La Cuarteta

Alfredo Bettanin, “San Martín, Rosas, Perón”

Painting of Juan and Eva Perón with a casing of the dress Evita wore posing for the painting.

Army marching band preparing for commemoration of the bombing of the Plaza de Mayo on June 16, 1955.

Overhead shot of Museo Bicentenario.

Group photo of everyone from the excursion.

Christina’s office – Argentine equivalent of the U.S. Oval Office.

Me in a pretty room in Casa Rosada.

Ceiling details of the same pretty room.

Stain glass detail in Casa Rosada.

Museo del Bicentenario

Casa Rosada staircase.

Me in the Casa Rosada balcony.

Fellow students, professors, and PhD students enjoying the guide of Casa Rosada in front of a painting about Gauchos.

My friend Justin and I posing with one of the Casa Rosada guards.

Casa Rosada – Argentina’s Pink House is their equivalent of America’s White House (though the president doesn’t live there)

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¡Soy Soy!

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

My name is So Yeon, said together like Soyeon, pronounced Soyuhn, and punned So, yawn! But people (especially those from Spanish-speaking countries) call me Soy. Yes, like the bean and the sauce. And yes, I do say “Soy Soy” in Spanish when first meeting people. If you thought of that before you read it just now, don’t think you’re too clever. I’ve heard the whole gambit, so good luck with getting me to react to anything you come up with.

So you may have been able to guess that I am Korean from my name. I’m not actually an American, though you would never know unless I told you. I speak English like a native, because I kind of am a native. I lived in America for longer than in my own country, South Korea, and though my permanent address is in Korea now, I’m living in America on Wellesley College campus as a student. And at the moment, I’m living in Argentina on the study abroad summer program by IFSA-Butler.

I’ve been studying Spanish since my first year of high school, and since I’ve just finished my first year of college, it’s been a little more than five years. Spanish had at first been a replacement for a French class I couldn’t take, but now it plays a significant role in my life. I’m here in Argentina to improve my Spanish, learn new things, make great memories, experience Argentine culture, and meet incredible people. This laundry list of clichés speaks the truth.

I’ve actually been a horrible blogger and haven’t posted anything yet. And now more than half the program has gone by. But, for now, my memory and journaling habit will have to help me with the recaps that will have to take place of the live, in-the-moment blogging. Don’t despair too much; my recaps will be fun reads (you can trust me) and I’ll soon be writing as in-the-moment as I can.

So for this first recap, I’ll bring you the most recent tidbit of gossip.

Daniel, our program director, creepily tries to win people over. He makes people want to be his best friend. He uses his giddy laugh and perpetual smile just make people anywhere in somewhat near proximity think they’re happy. He’s notorious. Let’s be honest, that perpetual smile can’t be real. Along with Griselda, our academic advisor, and Goyo, our activities coordinator that may be a student crush, they are the three musketeers of student advising and of happy goofiness.

Just Daniel casually on the see saw with IFSA student Sara

And of course there are so many more people including all my fellow students and many of the advisors and professors. You’ll soon hear about them all. Muahahaha.

The boys all together

And all the girls.

In my clichéd list from above, you saw that meeting new people is one of the reasons I’m here in Argentina. Meeting new people can be tough. You don’t know what these people are thinking about you. They could be zoning out and admiring your sense of style or be truly listening to what you’re saying. It’s tiring to put on your meeting-new-people face and not being completely yourself. Especially when you are meeting people from places and backgrounds that you are not used to, it’s hard to know what to expect. It’s been pretty great so far, and you can see all the students on the program from the picture above. But meeting new people can be so rewarding with lasting friendships and memories. Especially when people are as wonderful as they are here, not much can go wrong.

Soy

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Korean Karaoke

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

June 20th was the national holiday here in Argentina. The day of the flag or flag day, whichever you prefer. Accordingly, this national holiday celebrates the country’s national pride and one of its revolutionary heroes, Manuel Belgrano.  And of course to help us better understand Argentina’s national pride, IFSA took us to a magical place where dreams come true: a ranch.

In all seriousness, ranches or las estancias have been an integral part of Argentine culture for quite some time. Cattle and agriculture have played and still play a very large role in Argentina’s economic policy and social structures, affecting cultural factors like food (they eat a lot of meat) or fashion (they wear a lot of leather). So the trip to the estancia was a unique and quintessential experience, a must-do for every tourist who really knows what they’re doing. That’s why I wasn’t expecting: 1) peacocks in a farm, 2) boys so interested in a game similar to bachi ball, and 3) breaking a swing in a playground in the ranch.

I also wasn’t expecting any Korean karaoke.

But, the world doesn’t revolve around my expectations, and decided to surprise me. Our majestic lunch in a huge dining hall with servers and performances began. We stuffed ourselves with the complementary bread and garlic-y good sauce before anything from the menu actually came out. We then proceeded to eat chorizo (amazing sausage), sdlfkj (essentially blood sausage), grilled chicken, and steak. Because we all have separate stomaches for desserts, we also had some flan and coffee to top it off. This of course, is after we had a beef empanada and some mate tea. And of course we had some more mate tea and some fried pastries after lunch. Because our stomaches are made of nylon and can stretch eternally (something my grandma always says to my grandpa).

While I am shamelessly eating a shameful amount of food, there is in fact a performance happening on stage. It started before the meal when everyone stood up and sang (or lip sang) the Argentine national anthem. It continued with different types of dances and music from all of Argentina. It featured our beloved Griselda Lopez and her beautiful voice. Then the man singing makes a shout out to all the different countries that people in huge dining hall are from. He proceeds to ask for a Korean to come up on stage. My only fear is singing. So when he tells me I’m going to help him sing a song, I start to freak out a little bit.

But then he starts to sing the most famous Korean folk song ([youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkM_LXUCMeA&feature=related [/youtube]), and I am so surprised. How does he know the lyrics? After he finishes the first bit, I sing the melody and hear my friends. Throughout the whole 30 seconds on stage, I can’t believe I am singing a Korean folk song with an Argentine man in an Argentine ranch. My fame ends when I leave the stage and return to my seat. So was the Korean karaoke.

The more typical activities of the day, such as a gaucho horse performance and a brief empanada and pastelita cooking lesson, were relaxing and fun. The performance was perhaps one of the more culturally educational activities, giving us a sense of the gaucho culture that characterizes the more rural areas of Argentina. Riding the galloping horses, the performers had to catch a hanging ring on their mini spear-like object for a kiss from the audience (the prize used to be a bride). Well planned, like every IFSA organized trip, we got on the bus at once exhausted and satisfied.

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Me, with IFSA friends Noah and Jessica at the estancia (and with Andrew attempting a photo-bomb)

Gauchos attempting to get a hanging ring through their “spear” for a kiss from the audience.

Me, and IFSA friends Colbi and Jessica at lunch

Our lunch table watching the various folk dances on stage.

Singing the national anthem.

Donkey at the estancia.

Learning how to make empanadas and pastelitas.

Audience intently watching the gaucho horse show.

 

A gaucho intently explaining horse traditions.

 

Two IFSA friends walking and beautifully estancia scenery.

 

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