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Home Again

Time August 5th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“I’ll find my way home

on the western wind

to a place that was once my world

back from where I’ve been

And in the morning light I’ll remember

as the sun will rise

That we are all the glowing embers

of a distant fire”

 

Hello, world!

I am writing this blog post from California, USA!  After nearly five months of traveling I have finally made it home.  My final weeks in Argentina and the past few weeks coming back to the US have been a whirlwind so please excuse the long pause between posts, hopefully this one will make up for it!

 

My final weeks in Mendoza were spent preparing for finals and spending time with friends, both American and Argentine.  Some of my best memories from this semester happened during this time.  One of which was an unforgettable adventure in the mountains of Villavicencio with my argentine friends to celebrate being done with classes (well they were done anyway, us Americans had to take our finals the next day!)  Villavicencio is like the “Crystal Geyser” of Mendoza, it’s the area where the water comes from and there is a lovely hotel that’s been closed for decades.  We passed the time by drinking mate, having a picnic lunch, singing  songs from “Dora the Explorer” (we discovered that in Argentina, Dora teaches English, so the songs are completely reversed, where us Americans sang in Spanish, the Argentines would sing in English!) and “bushwhacking” our way up a mountain and back down again.  

 

Me in the mountains

 

It was one of those days when I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have made good local friends, the conversations and the experiences that I’ve had with them are unlike anything else I experienced in Argentina.  I plan to stay in touch with my “amigos mendocinos” because having friends who will help you cross cultural divides are true blessings. 

 

Another “fun”  memory from my final weeks was studying for finals.  Well, this wasn’t actually that much fun, but I didn’t have to go through it alone, which made it better.  I took two class with the program and two classes through the university.  The finals for the two program classes were both simple presentations in Spanish, easy enough.  The university finals were a little less straightforward.  First off, there was the challenge of figuring out how to register for the final exam, as we foreigners were taking our finals at a different time than the regular students.  As my Argentine friends explained, typically you study for another 6-12 months before you take your final, resulting in an interesting phenomena where you are studying some classes while attending completely different classes.  Luckily, I didn’t have to do that, but unluckily I had to take my final exams a week after classes ended.  And, as I soon found out, both my exams would be oral.  I knew my professors would go easy on me because I was foreign and I also knew I was taking these classes pass/fail but the thought of my grade being dependent on my Spanish speaking skills was still not my first choice.  A further complication was that it was unclear exactly how I should go about studying for my finals.  My film final was on all of Argentine film history.  My Argentine lit professors gave me a list of seven full-length books to read for my final.  Oh, and I had both of these finals within 12 hours of each other!  There was no way I could prepare like they expected me to.  So I, like the other foreigners in my class, just tried to get a general idea of everything that we might be asked about, and we tried to prepare one thing that we could talk about in depth. Fortunately, our finals went more smoothly than we feared.  Though we didn’t know the answers to all their questions, our professors could tell we had studied and had a general knowledge, and passed us all.

 

Within 6 hours of my last final, I was reunited with my mom!  I actually took all of my finals in the time it took her to travel from Palo Alto to Mendoza, crazy!  It was incredibly special to be able to show her my world for the past few months and I will forever be grateful that we got to share Argentina!  Our days were incredibly busy after that, I ushered my mom from one meal to another, introducing her to everyone I possibly could that had impacted my time in Argentina.  We also adventured in the mountains and enjoyed a wine tasting together!  

 

Mom meeting the students I worked with!

 

 

Wine tasting!

Meeting my friends

Our three days in Mendoza was like putting the semester on speed through, and was a wonderful way to reflect and to say goodbye to all that my time in Argentina has meant to me.  Like many of my goodbyes from Brandeis at the end of the school year I was hurried and preoccupied by the logistics of traveling, in this case further complicated by an impending bus strike that threatened our plans to make it to our next destination, but I’ve found the heightened sense of anxiety also allows me to live my final days fully and with a keen awareness of all that makes the place I’m leaving special.  In this case it was without a doubt the people that made saying goodbye so hard.  There was many a tearful, or rather “nearly in tears but have to stay as stoic as the Andes or we’ll all break down” farewell.  My last day in Mendoza there was a farewell lunch run by IFSA hosted at a wonderful restaurant on the 14th floor of a building with gorgeous views of Mendoza.  As José, the director of the program, spoke to us, just as he had at the beginning of the semester, I was struck by the fact that I had made it, I had survived a semester in Argentina, and not only that, I’d had wonderful experiences, made friends, and grown as a person.  I was overwhelmed by a sense of pride, awe, nostalgia, and gratitude for this experience that was already beginning to seem like a dream.

 

The entire group

 

I finally broke down after my host family said goodbye to me at the bus terminal and left me and my mom with our three and a half suitcases in front of our bus to Salta.  As always my mom was incredibly supportive and understanding of my sadness and general moodiness over the next several days!  

 

Then began Mom’s and my great Argentine adventure!  It was so strange to be traveling with my mom after spending 4 months without any familial assistance whatsoever!  But exploring Argentina together was also a wonderful way to be reunited.  Our first stop was Salta in the north of Argentina, after a 20 hour bus ride.  We stayed in a lovely hotel (one of the perks of traveling with family!) and spent the next several days exploring the city, which has a much more indigenous feel than Mendoza.  Highlights of Salta include a gaucho parade, the views of the city from atop cerro San Bernardo (accessed via gonodola ride), the delicious empanadas and a fascinating museum which (controversially) displays the preserved bodies of three Inca children sacrificed and left on a frozen mountain top centuries ago, surrounded by many artifacts which offer incredible insight to the Incan culture.

 

Gaucho on a cell phone!

 

View of Salta from the top of the gondola

 

 

Emapanads salteñas!

 

After that we hopped on a plane to Iguazú near the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.  The area is subtropical and very different from anywhere else we’d been!  We spent an entire day visiting Iguazú Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world.  We had been told that, due to flooding, some of the walkways were closed, so we were unsure what the experience would be like but we were simply blown away by the scope and beauty of the falls.  Because of the flooding even more water was flowing than usual and we were lucky enough to come on a sunny day which meant that we were graced with a stunning rainbow wherever we went.  

one of the many gorgeous butterflies

We also did a boat ride that drove us right up to the falls, and the force of the pounding spray gave me a total adrenaline rush!  Mom and I were both reluctant to say goodbye, but luckily we had another amazing hotel awaiting us, they even gave us a free welcome drink when we first arrived!

 

 

 

 

 

Our hotel!

 

 

Finally it was time to return to Buenos Aires, where I began my adventure so many months before.  It was a bit of a shock to be back in a huge city, and my aversion to it helped make me more ready to return to the US.  But we made the most of our few days in the city, we went to the Malba, an art museum that was hosting a fascinating Japanese artist, and we also made it to El Ateneo, a stunning bookstore in an old theater.  Another visit to la recoleta and some last minute shopping completed our adventure and on July 13th at 4pm we got in a cab for Ezeiza International Airport.  

 

La Casa Rosada

 

Art Museum

 

 

 

El ateneo bookstore

After a week of traveling I was tired and felt completely ready to be heading home, so saying goodbye to Argentina wasn’t so bad.  I slept well on the plane and felt even better after my first Starbucks Chocolate Chip Cookie in Houston’s airport!  It felt weird to be speaking to strangers in English, though! 


At SFO I was greeted by my very enthusiastic sister and father, and it was wonderful to be reunited once again.  The rest of the day was spent unpacking and sharing photos and stories with my family, and I attempted to make mate for the first time by myself!  My family definitely prefers it with sugar 😉

 

A great welcome home hug!

Mom and Dad sporting the gifts I got them!

 

The past few weeks have been a surprisingly easy transition back to North American life.  The beauty of the Bay Area and the ever-present sense of calm I feel here certainly help.  Also, I was able to get a job for the rest of the summer and I am relishing in having a purpose and being able to feel helpful every day.  It has been a bit more challenging than I would have liked to adjust to the need to be on time and the standard of productivity Americans hold, but I’m loving it at the same time.

 

Coming home is always strange because, though some things from my travels stay with me, I also ease back into the rhythms of home life and it can almost feel like I never left.  The past few months are already developing a haze around them in my memory.  But pieces of my time in Mendoza are staying with me.  For one, I feel more confident in myself and in my ability to express myself.  Struggling to converse in Spanish for so long makes English conversations seem ridiculously easy.  I also feel more comfortable speaking in Spanish.  The few times I’ve come into contact with spanish speakers since I’ve returned home I’ve eased into conversation nearly as easily as if I was speaking English.  I think this new confidence to be able to express myself in Spanish is one of the biggest gifts I’ll take away from my time in Argentina.  Though my Spanish is not as perfect as I’d hoped it would be, what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and perhaps that’s even more important.  

 

I’ve also come to appreciate a little bit more the blessings of living in the United States.  I don’t take as many things for granted anymore.  Things like technology, safety, nutritious food, organization, and confidence in the impact of citizens on this country future.  I now better understand that the world is a big place with much diversity in culture, language, and experience, and we are all connected and all impact the future of this planet.  

 

It will remain to be seen how this experience affects my future, but I’m already feeling more inclined towards working with immigrant populations, now that I have a better insight into the struggles they face and the helplessness one feels in a new place.  

 

For now, I plan to enjoy the rest of my summer at home with my family and my friends, and I’m very excited to return to Brandeis for my senior year!  Another adventure awaits me! 

For now, I leave you with the song that started it all, and that inspired me to be “lost but not afraid”.  I like to think I “see with new eyes” after seeing a different way to live and to think, and I hope that you do, too.  My wish to you, my dear readers, is that you find a way in your life to become “lost but not afraid”, whether through traveling or trying a new activity, or doing something scary.  It is when we leave our comfort zones that we realize how much we are truly capable of and in what ways we can impact the world.  And if I can do it, so can you!!  

“We’re gonna trip the light

We’re gonna break the night

And we’ll see with new eyes

When we trip the light

 

We’re gonna trip the light

We’re gonna break the night

And we’ll see with new eyes

When we trip the light”

 

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The Adventure’s winding down…

Time August 5th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“I get lost in the beauty
Of everything I see
The world ain’t half as bad
As they paint it to be
If all the sons,
All the daughters
Stopped to take it in
Well hopefully the hate subsides and the love can begin
It might start now, yeah
Well maybe I’m just dreaming out loud
Until then…

Come home
Come home
Cause I’ve been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
Right now there’s a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I’ve ever known
Ever known
So come home
Oh”


It’s been more than four months in Argentina, and this is my fifteenth blog post!  I’ve written more than 100 pages since arriving in Argentina.  I guess I’ve had a lot to say!  


I haven’t spent a lot of time going back to read what I’ve written, but just skimming through my past blog posts, I can see how much my perspective has changed over the course of the semester.  At the beginning, Argentina was one, big scary adventure.  I knew absolutely no one, and no one knew me.  I didn’t know what was expected of me, or what I should expect of myself.  All of this was both exciting and scary, there were days when I surprised myself with what I was capable of, and other days when all I wanted was to be surrounded by something familiar.  Over the past few months I’ve met people, made friends, and tried to build a life for myself here, a life that fits in with Argentine culture, but that is true to who I am at the same time.  


To my surprise I’ve been extremely successful at this!  At this point I feel surrounded by a community of supportive friends, I’ve found things to do that I find fulfilling, and walking down the street is no longer a scary thing.  Mendoza doesn’t feel as much like home as Palo Alto or Brandeis do, but it’s become a livable place for me.  So, while on the one hand I’m excited to return home to the people I’ve known all my life, the thought of giving up the new home that I worked so hard to build for myself fills me with sadness.  I know that I will carry the experiences I’ve had here with me when I return, but I also know that there are things that are unique to this place, that I’ll be leaving behind.  But I’m not sure what will come with me and what will stay behind, and that’s a little scary, too.  This is what I hope I can remember even when I’m back in the states:


* to reach out to newcomers, wherever they’re from.  One small act of welcoming kindness goes a long way when you feel alone


* to use my Spanish.  Listen to the radio, watch telenovelas, strike up a conversation.  I don’t want to forget the fluency I’ve gained here, I want to always feel confident in my language skills


* to try new things, even if I’m scared.  I hope that I remember that nothing can be as scary in the US as it would have been in Argentina, where I’d have to do it in Spanish!  If I can do it in South America, I can do it in an English speaking country

 

* That I’m capable of more than I think I am.  When I have moments of doubting myself I hope I can look back on my time in Argentina as inspiration to keep going


* to not stress so much.  Being here has taught me that punctuality and organization isn’t as important as we all think it is.  Though Argentina takes it a little too far in the opposite direction, I hope I can remember to not let worrying about doing everything on time dictate the course of my day and instead, focus on enjoying the moment


Study abroad has been both similar and different to what I thought it would be.  Some things that were different is I thought that study abroad was like traveling abroad; that I would constantly be going from one adventure to the next.  Instead, though there were plenty of adventures, there were also many days of simply being, with nothing that I needed to accomplish.  Also, unlike a vacation, where you can often put aside many of your needs until you get home, I had to learn how to live long-term in a new environment and how to make that lifestyle self-perpetuating.  That requires a different mindset than the one of an adventurer, and one I wasn’t anticipating, but I’m grateful I’ve learned to use.  


Also, I expected it to be much easier to immerse myself in Spanish.  Sometimes I was on my own or with other IFSA students, which didn’t help me learn Spanish, and when I was surrounded by Argentines I found it much more difficult than I anticipated to follow what was being said or to insert myself in the conversation.  And if I was able to follow what was being said I often got tired and reached a breaking point where I craved English again.  I did have a moment when I felt my conversation skills “clicked” into place, but it came surprisingly late in the semester and this feeling of comfort would come and go.  As a result I’m leaving Argentina with my language skills not quite at the level I’d hoped they be, but that’s ok, it’s just a reason to keep practicing, and maybe travel abroad again someday!


I also was surprised by the lack of purpose I felt here, which I’ve previously mentioned.  Especially at the beginning I struggled to find things to do which would give my time here meaning.  Studying didn’t take up nearly as much time as I was used to, volunteering didn’t start until the second month of the program, and it also took time to build friendships with people.  However, over time these things got easier, and it taught me the importance of staying patient and holding on to a positive attitude.  Often my worst moments of homesickness or anxiety were followed by the best experiences of my time here.  Also, looking back on my experiences here, I see how often a small connection would eventually lead to some of my favorite memories from here.  By holding on to optimism and by trying to have my first reaction to everything be “yes” instead of “no”, I slowly put down roots among mendocinos and among my IFSA friends as well.  


As I write this I barely have one week left in Mendoza.  The next days will be full of studying for my finals (supposed to read eight books in Spanish one week, now the work begins!), spending time with my friends, and preparing for my mom’s visit, she will be arriving on Tuesday and I will get to show her around Mendoza and travel around Argentina with her before going home.  I know the rest of my time here will go by quickly, and like in my favorite One Republic song, I can hear voices calling me home.  I know it’s nearly time to return to the “real world”, but before I go, I hope that I can truly cherish and appreciate the gifts that my time here has given me.  And when the time comes, I hope that I can turn away from Mendoza with acceptance and contentedness, and happily look towards home.


“Everything I can’t be

Is everything you should be

And that’s why I need you here

Everything I can’t be

Is everything you should be

And that’s why I need you here

So hear this now…

 

Come home

Come home

Cause I’ve been waiting for you

For so long

For so long

Right now there’s a war between the vanities

But all I see is you and me

The fight for you is all I’ve ever known

Ever known

So come home

Come home”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeuIMeSShvQ

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Not Alone

Time June 24th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“Mother isn’t here now

(Wrong things, right things)

Who knows what she’d say?

(Who can say what’s true?)

Nothing’s quite so clear now

(Do things, fight things)

Feel you’ve lost your way?
But–

(You decide, but)

 

You are not alone

Believe me,
No one is alone

(No one is alone
Believe me)

Truly”


Hello, all!  It’s that time again, time for me to update you on my life here in Mendoza.  But as I sat down to write this blog post I had trouble coming up with many concrete things to tell you.  Because the past few weeks haven’t really been about seeing or doing new things, they’ve been about connecting with the people I already know and gaining more comfort in my daily life here.  After having been here for three and a half months life has to take on some semblance of normalcy or I wouldn’t be able to function.  I’m finding that, though I enjoy going on adventures, I can’t have them be my everyday life, I need something more reliable to fall back on, and I need the assurance of being around people who I trust.  Luckily that’s starting to take shape for me here.  

 

For some time I’ve had very good friends in the IFSA program who I could go to to complain about cultural differences or to seek comfort from in a weaker moment, but those relationships have continued to deepen in the past weeks and I’ve grown closer to even more of my IFSA friends.  As the weeks go by I realize more and more how grateful I am to have a community of fellow study abroad students who will understand what I’m going through when no one else will, and to remind me that I’m not crazy, or stupid when words and cultural differences don’t translate.  On top of that I feel extremely lucky to have spent the semester with a group of such interesting, kindhearted people.  In many study abroad programs exclusive cliques form quickly and people keep to themselves but everyone in our program has been open and welcoming to everyone else, and it has made this experience so much better.  So, thank you, my IFSA friends!  You’re awesome!

 

A hiking adventure

 

out for drinks!

I’m also excited to say that I have Argentine friends as well!  Though schedule differences and social inhibitions have prevented me from spending as much time with them as I do with my friends on the program I make the time I cherish every moment I do have with them.  Some of my best moments in Argentina have been spent at bars chatting with my amigos argentinos while we wait for our beer, pizza, and peanuts to arrive.  Spending time with locals is the best way to learn the language and learn about argentine culture.  Communicating with foreigners is not the easiest of tasks, and my Argentine friends have all demonstrated immense patience and encouragement towards me as I strive to make a connection.  One example is when we all played pictionary one night and the argentines let us consult them if there was a word we didn’t know, or even pick a new word if we couldn’t understand what it meant. I’ve come to not take that willingness to get to know another person for granted, I am so grateful for the Mendocinos who, despite the difficulties, have stuck around long enough to get to know me, and for me to know them.  My argentine friends, you are the people I will remember long after I forget the name of the best empanadería or the color of the bus I took to class every day, I hope you know that every act of kindness you gave me fueled my heart anad soul and made me feel more accepted and safe in this new place.  ¡Muchas gracias, mis amigos, ustedes son fantásticos!

 

Invited out for Lomo sandwiches

 

Invited on a hiking adventure!

 

Another turn of events is that my host parents came back from their trip through Europe and Israel.  I’ve been so happy to have them back in the house, things are more interesting when they’re around, I have more opportunities for conversations in Spanish and I have more people I can ask for help.  An interesting result of their  absence is that I can markedly see how my language skills have improved by comparing the ease I have in communicating with my host parents now versus when I first arrived.  Also, I can see that I’ve gained much more comfort in fitting in to my host family and determining what is and is not expected of me.  It’s not as hard for me to speak up for myself or to ask clarifying questions.  It feels good when I can tell that I’m growing and learning from this experience, and it reminds me to be proud of everything I’ve accomplished in my time here.

 

Despite all of this, I still have days when I can’t get the words together to say what I want to say, or I get unnecessarily frustrated about a cultural difference, or I’m just tired and don’t feel like I’m making the most of an opportunity.  But I guess those moments are just a part of life.  I try to remind myself to focus on the good moments I’ve had here and the growth I have experienced, and remind myself that  it makes all the not so great moments worth it.

 

One of the hardest things right now is still feeling very purpose-less.  In the states I feel like an integral part of my community.  I can help others and I can offer words of wisdom, and I know that I am appreciated and valued.  In Argentina, it’s much harder to have those moments.  Because of the language barrier I can’t always offer words of comfort or advice, because of cultural differences I don’t always know how to help or how to make myself useful.  Sometimes I feel like it doesn’t matter to any Argentines that I chose to live in their country, they would have gotten on just fine without me being here.   And, though that makes sense, their lives have been going on fine before my arrival and will continue to go on after I leave, the thought that I’m not a significant part of any Argentine’s life is a surprisingly frustrating one.  But that frustration has made me realize an important part of myself; I need to be needed to feel fulfilled.  I think that partly explains why I’m drawn to teaching and why I like it when people rely on me.  Here in Argentina it’s harder to find moments to teach and to be relied upon but there have been some and they are some of my most precious memories from my time here.  

 

One of the best things about IFSA-Butler’s study abroad program is that it gives us the opportunity to volunteer in the community.  There are many options, including recording books in English for blind students, sewing blankets for the hospital, working at a center for people with special needs, or working with children.  I chose to work with children because after only one month abroad my lack of regular interaction with children was already getting to me.  I lucked out even further by getting the opportunity to teach English at a local elementary school.  Getting to explore my interest in teaching and English language learning all in a friendly welcoming school setting?  Yes please!! 

 

The school I worked at is actually a Spanish-Italian bilingual school, and they additionally instruct in English as a third language.  I spent most of my time in the 6th grade because they were the most advanced and therefore able to get the most out of the presence of a native English speaker.  I was given the opportunity to basically teach the class on my own some days, and other times I tutored students one on one or evaluated their progress.  I also spent a lot of time collaborating with the English teachers, sitting in on meetings, lesson planning and problem solving.  I loved every minute of it.  It wasn’t just the opportunity to see the workings of an Argentine school that was so wonderful, but the familiar community it created for me.  From spending many hours helping at the school where my mom teaches in California, and in other schools in Massachusetts for my education classes, I’m very comfortable in the teacher’s lounge, and it was so nice to find a similar community here, it’s a language I can speak and a space where I feel that I have something to contribute. 

 

 

 

Me and my wonderful students!

 

All the teachers that I worked with were wonderful, but I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to work with Anabel, who is the director of the English department.  Anabel was extremely welcoming and supportive of us IFSA volunteers and, furthermore, was eager to learn about us as well as share her experiences.  Being able to communicate with her in English also made it much easier to express my ideas to her and to form a strong connection quickly.  Though I understand the value of connecting with Argentines in Spanish, the opportunity to connect with an Argentine in English was such a relief and helped clarify a lot of my confusions with Argentine culture, and it has been greatly appreciated!

 

Our wonderful directors!

 

As a thank you for our work at the school, Anabel took us to La Difunta Correa, a shrine in San Juan that honors a woman who died in the desert while searching for her husband, but miraculously saved her baby’s life by continuing to breastfeed him for days after she’d died.  Ever since, Argentines have worshiped her as a saint and ask her for things like protection while traveling, success in their endeavors and a healthy family and home.  Legend goes that if La Difunta Correa grants one of your prayers you have to leave her a token of your gratitude, or she may become vengeful.  As a result, the hill on which the shrine is located is covered with offerings of gratitude.  Thousands of model houses dot the land as well as less conventional objects such as plastic hard hats, hub caps, and plaster casts.  Half of the Argentines believe in this fervently while the other half think it’s completely crazy.  Whether you believe or not, It was fascinating to see all the things people have brought to La Difunta Correa over the years, it gives you a tiny insight into their lives.  It’s nice to think that each of the many objects there represents a good turn of events in someone’s life.  Though I may not believe in La Difunta Correa, I’m definitely a fan of finding a way to express your gratitude for the blessings in your life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 As the weeks go on, and I get a little more tired from being abroad, I find myself seeking more of the things that connect me to home, one of which is musical theatre.  That, and the Tony awards last week make the lyrics from this song from my favorite musical, “Into the Woods” especially pertinent to the events of the past weeks.  Even in my lonely moments, I am not alone, and even when I feel like I’m not making a difference, I am, just by being present, and being myself.  In the coming weeks I hope I’m always aware that I’m not alone and that I remember to cherish the connections I have with my friends, both near and far.  

 

“You move just a finger
Say the slightest word
Something’s bound to linger
Be heard

 

Someone is on your side

 

No one is alone”

 

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What to Expect When You’re in Mendoza

Time June 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“I’ve been winding

Down the same road for days I’ve seen

The coastline going both ways

Some days are perfect

Some just simply could not get worse

Some days it’s all worth it

Some days this life is nothing but a curse

And I wonder who will break

First…

 

I am small

I feel like no more than nothing at all

But when I lose sight of daylight

And my darkness falls

I’ll be strong

And if not now it won’t be long

From when I lose sight of daylight

And my hands are week

and my soul is tired

Oh I’ll give my love from the inside out

From the inside out”

 

Hey, all!

 

I’ve wanted to create a blog post for awhile now detailing the little things that make living in Mendoza a different experience, but I’ve found it’s hard to sit down and write it all out!  But here’s what I’ve got so far,

 

When in Mendoza:

 

*Expect the sidewalk to be uneven.  And expect to watch out for acequías

 

 

 

*Expect the street lights to be no indication of whether it is safe to cross the street

If you wait for the light to be green everyone will pass you by, and if you cross when it’s green and a car is making a right turn that car will NOT wait for you!

 

*Expect to not see any strollers, parents carry their infants everywhere

That pink bundle is a baby, and a scene such as this occurs at least seven times a day.  Also, enjoy the view of the “Mr. Dog” Hot Dog restaurant!

 

*Women, expect men to stare at you honk their horns at you and even shout comments such as “¡hermosa!” or “¡Hola, bonita!” These are called “Piropos”  and are a part of the machismo culture here.  Most women I’ve talked to don’t like it but they cope by ignoring them and walking straight on by.  I’ve more or less gotten used to it by now, and I am pretty good at being oblivious to the fact that stares and honking horns might be directed at me.  However, as a modest-looking brunette, I don’t attract nearly as much attention as my friends who are blonde or asian or stand out in some other way.

 

*Expect Dulce de Leche to be in every single dessert.  Seriously, they throw it into everything!

 

Alfajores:

Cakes:

Ice cream (the best!!!):

Chocolate:

 

*Expect there to be no Peanut Butter.  Ever.  Why does this make me so sad?


*Expect there to be no freshly baked Chocolate Chip Cookies, and expect to have difficulty finding brown sugar when you attempt to bake said Chocolate Chip Cookies by yourself!

 

*Expect to be stared at if you eat food “on the go” besides candy bars and chips, it is not common to see someone scarfing down an apple or even sipping a cup of coffee on their way to work.  Eating is for mealtimes with the family.

 

*Expect to see stray dogs walking the street.  These animals know how to take care of themselves, but they can be crazy!  I’ve seen them charge at cars, and they have the tendency to follow me and my friends when we’re walking for blocks and blocks.  Mendocinos tend to feed and pet stray dogs they see but I try to stay away from them!

 

*Expect to see full families out and about on the streets at midnight and later.  I honestly don’t know if children have bedtimes here

 

*Expect to see shoes like this:


 

 

 

and this:

 

 

and this:


 

and this:

 

 

 

and this:

 

 

*Expect there not to be toilet paper or soap in public bathrooms BRING TOILET PAPER AND HAND SANITIZER WITH YOU EVERYWHERE

 

*Expect to see random protests when you’re walking down the street.  Just keep walking, you’ll never know what they’re for anyway!

 This line of policia is for a soccer match, but you could have fooled me!

 

*Expect to greet everyone with a “beso” a touching of the cheeks and a kissing sound (you don’t actually kiss their cheek) It’s like shaking hands in the US except much more prevalent.  You kiss someone hello before you even ask them their name!


*Expect everyone to have a strong opinion about politics, especially about “la presidenta” Cristina.

 

*Expect to not see people drinking regular water often.  It’s more common to see people drink  “gaseosa” soda, or “soda/agua con gas”, carbonated water

 

They look like this and are indispensable in an argentine home:

 

 

*Expect germs to be less of a concern.  People use their used forks and knives to cut off new pieces from the serving plate and don’t wash their hands nearly as often.  Also it is still rude to not kiss someone when you greet them, even if you’re sick

 

*Expect to eat dinner at 10:30 at night, and expect parties not to start until 1 or 2 in the morning and go until sunrise.  I still haven’t figured out when Argentines sleep (siesta?)

 

*Expect to hear “vos” instead of “tú” and words like “boludo” and “che” and expect to hear Spanish spoken with more intonation than you’ve ever heard before!

 

*Expect to drink mate!  It’s an Argentine tradition that has endeared itself to me.  There is a whole culture around drinking mate and many rituals around its preparation and the way it’s served.  Serving Mate even has it’s own verb in Spanish “cebar”

 

*Expect to not have a drying machine.  Most families hang their clothes to dry

 

*Expect to have a cellphone that looks like this:

 

BUT GUESS WHAT IT HAS AN FM RADIO BUILT IN!!!!

 

*Expect people to be late, or for plans to fall through.  As the director of our program said, “Time isn’t money here, anything that was supposed to happen today can happen tomorrow”  There are good and bad things about this mentality, it makes it harder for things to get done, but it also makes for a more laid-back lifestyle!


*Expect cashiers to always expect you to have change, and to be very frustrated if you give them a 100 peso bill for an item that costs 30 pesos, or ask you to buy more things instead of giving you change.  Maybe this has to do with the status of the economy, but I feel like having a lack of change is a strange problem for a country to have!

 

 

Never ever go to a kiosco with only these, they will glare at you!!


*Expect to never figure out the micro system.  The bus I have to take to and from class has two different routes, one takes me to the university, the other doesn’t and there are four plus routes leaving the university, only one of which will take me home


Check out my friend’s Tumblr blog for more typical Mendocinean experiences!  It is a true masterpiece: whatshouldwecallifsamendoza.tumblr.com

 

In other news, IFSA classes were cancelled last week, so I passed the time with some of my closest friends on the program having a “staycation week” in which we reveled in our Americanness.  It was awesome

We explored the Hiatt Hotel, the fanciest accomodations in Mendoza:

Fancy staircase


We found the only Starbucks in Mendoza, located at the Palmares shopping mall 35 minutes out of the city


Excitement!


Where the movie theater is also located; we had popcorn and saw “El Gran Gatsby”


(We were the only people in the theater, and halfway through the film got stuck in the projector and the frame BURNED away!!!  But the sound kept going… Oh, Argentina)

 

We baked Chocolate Chip Cookies (used my mom’s recipe, but we couldn’t find any brown sugar!!!  WHAT?!?!  They still turned out delicious, though!)


(For future reference: three months is too long to go without Chocolate Chip Cookies)


Chocolate chip cookies and café, a new discovery!


We baked challah on Friday, using my sister’s recipe again and it turned out amazing!  I’m turning into a pro!

Thanks, friends, for helping!  You are excellent braiders!


Forgot to get a photo of it right out of the oven, we ate it so quickly!


The past week or so It’s felt a little bit harder to be here in Argentina, part of me is ready to go home and be surrounded by the familiar places and faces in the US that I cherish.  Part of why I’m feeling this way might be because I just hit my three-month anniversary in Argentina, which is the longest I’ve ever been away from home.  Life feels different here now, I’m not eager eyed and looking for adventure and immersion like I was when I first got here, I’m better adjusted, I’ve made friends, but I’m also tired, and grateful to get through the day’s classes and come home to English on the internet.  So these next two months will be interesting because it will really be uncharted territory.  Will I get a second wind and do more than I think is possible, or will I settle into a fairly comfortable routine, counting down the days until I get to come home, or perhaps something in between will occur?  


So far it’s been a balance.  For example, Saturday, I was feeling pretty crummy.  I tried to run some errands which each went wrong in turn, I ran out of credit on my phone, I ran out of money in my wallet, and Argentina’s disorganization was getting to me.  On top of that, I realized very last minute that none of my friends would be able to go on the group trek that we’d been planning on attending, and which I had really been looking forward to. All little things, but somehow they built up into a wave of frustration and I came home and cried.  But, the next day, I moved on.  I decided to go on the group trek anyway, even though it meant navigating the bus terminal on my own and then putting myself out there (in Spanish) to meet new people on the trek.  The prospect of entering that situation completely alone really scared me, but I did it anyway, and I am so glad that I did, because I got the chance to hike in the Andes mountains and I also met some really nice Argentines and had some really great conversations in Spanish.  

In the mountains, sharing lunch with some new Argentine friends!


I consider myself to be timid and slow-to-warm to new experiences, and I’ve always really admired those people who just go out there and try something new on their own.  On Sunday, all of a sudden, I was that person, and that realization was very powerful.  Going on my own to a hike in Spanish is not something I could have done at the beginning of my time abroad; I’ve grown during my time here, in ways I’m not even aware of until a moment like this shows me what I’m capable of.  So even though I know I’ll have more moments of homesickness before I return to the States, I know I’ll have more moments of growth as well.


I leave you with the lyrics from one of my favorite Sara Bareilles songs, “Inside Out”.  It reminds me that, even when I’ve had a bad day, I’m burned out and I feel small, I have to keep doing what I always try to do, share my love and my good heart with others and making the choice to keep loving and hoping, even when I’m scared and tired, makes me powerful.  

I’m sending that love to all my readers as well, and I hope that you find the strength to give your love “from the inside out”, too!

 

I am small

I feel like no more than nothing at all

But when I lose sight of daylight

And my darkness falls

I’ll be strong

And if not now it won’t be long

From when I lose sight of daylight

And my hands are week

and my soul is tired

Oh I’ll give my love from the inside out

 

From the inside out

 

Take your best shot

Here I stand

Heart in hand

Fearless I’m not

But I am what I am

And I know what I’m not

And I know enough to know it’s never

Gonna be much more than weather

Can’t drive me away when it’s only rain

 

From the inside

 

It’s only rain

 

From the inside

 

It’s only rain

 

From the inside

 

It’s only rain

 

From the inside

 

From the inside out

 

I am small

 

From the inside out

 

 

I am small”

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Update!

Time May 22nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down 
By the enemy 
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing 
Bow down to the mighty 
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue 
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live 
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in 
Show me how big your brave is 

Say what you wanna say 
And let the words fall out 
Honestly I wanna see you be brave 

With what you want to say 
And let the words fall out 
Honestly I wanna see you be brave”


My sincerest apologies for the long delay in blog posts!!  Know that I haven’t abandoned you dear readers, its just that I’ve been busy with my life here and haven’t had the time to write the update I think you all deserve :) But things have been going very well for me these past few weeks.  Here are a couple highlights:


*Following what’s going on in my classes better, I even raised my hand and made a contribution in my film class last week!  I explained the technology behind green screens (not very eloquently but they got my point) Classes here are different, there is definitely less pressure to pay attention and to work hard.  I’m not held accountable for nearly as much in my classes here as I am in my classes at Brandeis.  Also, students here may not take their final exam for a class for months after the course has ended, so they have plenty of time to study the material.  However, the language factor makes the classes challenging enough, so I’m grateful for the easier workload!


*Going to a free salsa class where I actually learned how to dance a little better, and met some interesting people!


*Having a lot of interesting conversations with members of my host family and with my Argentine friends, about everything from life values and cultural differences, to movie plots and food preparation!  I’m very grateful that my Spanish is at a point where I can ask difficult questions and understand complicated answers, it makes my experience here much more educational.  


*Building good relationships with the people who work at the elementary school where I volunteer.  I do one on one English tutoring as well as help lead the 6th grade English class. I’m finding it more challenging than I anticipated to teach English in a way that is truly valuable, I have a tendency to use words that the students don’t know yet, or I’m tempted to speak to them in Spanish when they’re struggling because I can.  But each week I’m learning more and I know this information will be very valuable when I go back to the US and work with English Language Learners there!


*Finding some nice parks and plazas to go running and to read outside.  Sometimes I just need to get out of the house, and having favorite spots near my house helps a lot!


*Getting pizza with my friends two celebrate being in Argentina for 2 months!  It both feels like a long time and a short time to be in another country, but I’m grateful to have more time to enjoy my Argentine experience!  Also, pizza in Argentina is really good!  


*Befriending a group of Argentines who have invited a group of us to drink mate, and to have an asado (barbeque).  They are really cool, interesting people and I hope to keep getting to know them better!


*Going to a Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence day) celebration in Mendoza with my host dad!  It was really cool to hear Israeli music in Argentina, and to get a better senese of the Jewish community here, it reminded me a lot of my Jewish communities back in the states, and made me a little homesick!


*Our program director, José, bringing back peanut butter from his trip to the US!  Peanut Butter doesn’t really exist here (dulce de leche all the way!) so I miss it a lot!


*Having an interfaith dinner with some of my friends!  I made challah, a Jewish bread eaten on Shabbat, on my own for the first time. My friends loved it, and we had a really interesting discussion about holidays and religions over home cooked food!  I love all things interfaith, so I was really excited about getting to have an interfaith experience here in Argentina!


 

*Discovering the wonders of coffee (I’ve never been a coffe drinker until I came to Argentina, now I don’t know what I would do without it!)


* Random acts of kindness that make a huge difference, like the guy who sensed I was trying to get to the university and told me I needed to get off the bus now or I’d end up in the middle of nowhere, or the Argentines who walk me through every step of photocopying a book from the library or preparing for an exam, or who invite me into their homes and their lives.  Each small, positive interaction I have goes a long way in making me feel more comfortable and less like a stranger to this city.  They may never know how much I appreciate their kindness, but I’ll try to show my gratitude as much as I can!


Finally, a big highlight of the last few weeks was my trip to Chile last weekend!  I went with three other girls from my program, one of whom had actually lived in Chile in high school.  We spent two days in Santiago and two days in Valparaiso.  I really loved both cities, but Valparaiso blew me away.  It’s just endless hills and hills of colorful houses, think San Francisco times ten.  We saw a lot of the sights, Pablo Neruda’s house, La Moneda, el Mercado Central, but we also did a lot of wandering around, and shopping!  I have most of my souvenirs purchased now, and about half of them are for me :) 


But also, traveling to a different country for the first time without any kind of adult supervision was really empowering, and my ability to make new friends in a new culture and accent in only a few days made me feel like I’m capable of a lot more than I thought.  It inspires me to keep travelling and having new experiences.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I came back from my trip pretty wiped out, so this week has been a bit more low-key to help recover.  But starting next week I’m ready to get back out there and push my comfort zone a little more.  I’ve done more during this adventure than I thought possible but I still have two months to go and I want to see how far I can go!


I leave you with the lyrics from the new single by my favorite song artist, Sara Bareilles, “Brave”.  This song is already one of my all time favorites, I love its message of putting yourself out there as you truly are and letting your voice be heard.  It’s a lot harder to “say what you want to say” in a new language and culture, but little by little I’m learning how to speak my truth, and learning to surround myself with people who will hear it.  


“And since your history of silence 
Won’t do you any good 
Did you think it would? 
Let your words be anything but empty 
Why don’t you tell them the truth? 

Say what you wanna say 
And let the words fall out 
Honestly I wanna see you be brave 

With what you want to say 
And let the words fall out 
Honestly I wanna see you be brave 

I just wanna see you 
I just wanna see you 
I just wanna see you 
I wanna see you be brave 

I just wanna see you 
I just wanna see you 
I just wanna see you 
I wanna see you be brave 

I just wanna see you 
I just wanna see you 
I just wanna see you 
I wanna see you be brave 

I just wanna see you 
I just wanna see you 
I just wanna see you”

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Living Life (In Mendoza)

Time April 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“There’s too many things that I haven’t done yet
Too many sunsets
I haven’t seen
You can’t waste the day wishing it’d slow down
You would’ve thought by now
I’d have learned something

I made up my mind when I was a young girl
I’ve been given this one world
I won’t worry it away
But now and again I lose sight of the good life
I get stuck in a low light
But then Love comes in

How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
But send me the miles and I’ll be happy to follow you Love”

 

After being in Argentina for more than 6 weeks I can now officially say that I have had my first full week of school!!  Go ahead and laugh, it’s funny!  But it’s probably the best week I’ve had here so far.  It’s something I’ve known about myself for awhile but has been reinforced through this experience, I’m much happier when I have a full schedule and I know what I’m expected to do/where I’m expected to be most of the time.  Within those constraints I tend to be more comfortable and, at the same time, more adventurous.  Having a schedule also gives me a sense of purpose as I go about my day.  If this past week is an indicator of how the rest of my time will be in Argentina I’m very excited about the months to come!
For one, I’ve found that over the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of time to take care of myself, but fewer opportunities to give back to others.  Now that I’ve started volunteering at an elementary school, that need to help others is going to be fulfilled (my need to be around children, as well!)  I’m really excited about this opportunity that I was connected to through my program.  I’ll be tutoring and teaching English at a private elementary school that’s just a 30 minute walk from my home! The prospect of leading a class of 6th graders is a little daunting, but I’m thrilled to be in a school environment again and to have this opportunity to gain more experience teaching English as a second language, and to get to know the students and the teachers.
Another exciting thing that’s happening is that now that my classes are starting I’m befriending more local students!  I’m meeting friends of other people in the program and I’m also getting to know people in my classes better.  What’s most exciting is that I’m meeting some really great, grounded people who are interesting and interested in getting to know me better.  The first time someone asked me how to spell my name so they could find me on facebook I nearly jumped for joy!  Also, the other day, someone offered to share their mate with me (a favorite caffeinated drink of Argentines), another indication that I’m beginning to build relationships with people!  It’s still too early to tell how far these budding friendships will develop, but I’m hopeful that I can make at least a few good local friends during the rest of my time here!  If I can, it would be a dream come true!
So far classes are going well, though I actually haven’t done much work for them yet.  The most challenging aspect about them so far is that they can be very long; my literature class is in three hour blocks and my film class is once a week for about four hours straight.  After multiple hours of lecture in Spanish my brain tends to stop processing the words it’s hearing and I start daydreaming of practically anything but what I’m supposed to be thinking about.  Once this begins it can be very hard to tune in again and catch up on the information I’ve missed.  Luckily, I only have to pass my classes, so I’m not terribly worried about my performance in class, but I want to make the most of these opportunities to learn in Spanish.  Hopefully my stamina, or at least my ability to tune in at the right moment, will improve as the semester progresses!
Some gratitude moments from this past week include:
*Visiting a bodega over the weekend with the program and getting to enjoy beautiful views of the Andes mountains, delicious wines and sweet grapes straight off the vine, and a relaxing lunch!
*Discovering panaderías (bakeries) and that you can get delicious rolls of bread for 30 cents a piece!!!
*Understanding basically everything that was said during lunch with my host family!
*Finding an Argentine bookstore and spending an hour reading before buying two books to bring home with me!
*Visiting a first grade class at the school I’ll be volunteering at and having ten six-year-olds surround me asking me questions like “do you speak Spanish?” “How do you say ‘yellow’ in English?” and “There are a lot of sharks in the US, right?”
*A girl from my film class showing us foreign students how to use the photocopier, essential for getting our readings for class!
*Staying out until 3 in the morning in the middle of the week  for the first time in my life, and meeting some great people in the process!
*The IFSA Butler talent show!  It was fun to all get together and discover the hidden abilities of some of our group members!
*Getting lunch in the university dining hall with some of my classmates and having a wonderful time getting to know them better!
*Sitting in on a staff meeting at the school, and getting a taste of the experience of being an English teacher in an Argentine elementary school!
*Going to Shabbat services for the first time since I’ve come to Argentina and celebrating Shabbat dinner with my host family!
*Having the opportunity to try more ice cream flavors! (this time I tried dulce de leche con banana, I think I’ve gone through all the dulce de leche combinations at this point!)
“I do what I can wherever I end up
To keep giving my good love
And spreading it around
Cause I’ve had my fair share of take care and goodbyes
I’ve learned how to cry
And I’m better for that

Sing how far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Send me the miles and I’ll be happy to
Follow you Love

Red letter day and I’m in a blue mood
Wishing that blue would just carry me away
I’ve been talking to God don’t know
If it’s helping or not
But surely something has got to got to got to give
Cause I can’t keep waiting to live”

 

Sometimes I still get tired, or worried, or self-critical.  It can sometimes feel like I’m never doing enough to challenge myself or to make the most of my experience.  I wonder if I’m making the right choices during my time here, I’m too comfortable, or not comfortable enough.  I feel like a “gringa”, a foreigner, who will never fit in and who Argentines shouldn’t waste their time with.
But then I’ll catch a glance at my reflection, in the mirror on the micro, or in glass of a café window.  For a moment, I’m looking at myself in Mendoza, navigating a new city and a new culture, living my life, doing the simple things without a fuss.  In those quick glances I get of myself I seem calm, confident, mature, and unafraid.  And it hits me that I’m doing it! I’m studying abroad in Argentina, speaking in Spanish!  If you told the thirteen-year-old version of myself about the things she’d one day be capable of, she would never believe it!  I realize that simply being here is a huge achievement and, though I should keep trying to challenge myself and test my limits, even the normal moments of walking down the street or waiting for the bus are accomplishments, and I hope I can learn to be grateful for all such moments.
In general, I’m really enjoying the fact that I know my way around the city and the culture better, and my increased comfort in navigating daily life has given me more confidence and enthusiasm, which positively affects my interactions with others, which in turn gives me more confidence and enthusiasm… I’ve also been very lucky to have had many messages of love and support from family and friends back home.  When I try to see myself as my loved ones see me, I am reminded of the kind of person that I want to be, of the way I want to see myself and the traits that I want to embody; to be a kind, caring, compassionate person who is genuinely interested in the lives of others and who passes on love and happiness to the people she meets.  I hope that these are things that people are seeing in me even when I’m in Argentina and the barriers of language, culture, and social inhibition stand in the way.
Thus, the explanation for this post’s song, “Many the Miles” by Sara Bareilles, which I like to call the musical embodiment of my life philosophy.  There are so many things that I want to do, and so many experiences that I want to have, but sometimes my fears/self-doubts/complacency get in the way of me trying new things, or of remembering what kind of person I want to be.  But, I know I’ll never be lost for too long, because the love of my friends and family ground me and remind me of the perspective I want to have on my life’s journey.  I may still have “many the miles” to go before I truly become the person I want to be, but it’s a journey I’m more than happy to embark upon, whether in California, or Massachusetts, or Mendoza.

 

“How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
But send me the miles and I’ll be happy to yeah
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
Been talking to God don’t know if it’s helping or not
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
Oh send me the miles and I’ll be happy to
Follow you Love

There’s too many things I haven’t done yet

Too many sunsets I haven’t seen”

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Adventuring to Patagonia

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

“I discovered the secret of happiness is learning how to glide

I discovered the secret of happiness is just enjoy the ride

Don’t let the journey be tainted by pride and

I discovered the secret of happiness is not to mourn the past

I discovered the secret of happiness is not to run too fast

You can still beat them by coming in last ‘cuz

The secret, the secret of happiness is

I discovered the secret of happiness is not be afraid

I discovered the secret of happiness is all illusions fade

Don’t fear the future, you’ll just be delayed ‘cuz

The secret, the secret of happiness is living in the now

Living in the time it takes to blink I think is how we meant to be living”

 

A lot has happened since the last time I posted!  I’ll try to fill you in as best as I can.  The first couple of days since my last post were spent finalizing my schedule and deciding on classes.  I will be taking four classes this semester, and I’m actually more excited about them than I thought I would be!  In addition to the mandatory Spanish language class run by the program, I will be taking Argentine Literature and Cinematographic Communication, as well as a class on Regional Development offered by IFSA-Butler.  I was uncertain about how difficult it would be to do well in university-level literature classes, but both my professors and my classmates have been very helpful and I feel confident that I will pass.  It also helps that there are other IFSA students in all of my classes so we can always help each other out if we ever feel lost.  

 

After a half week of classes it was time for Semana Santa, or Easter break!  It felt weird to be going on vacation when classes had barely started but I wasn’t complaining!  The thirty five IFSA students broke up into smaller groups to travel, some went to Chile, some went to Salta, and the rest went to the Bariloche area of Patagonia, among them myself.  I traveled with four other IFSA students and we stayed in a hostel in Bariloche for five nights and used it as our base to explore the area.  

 

But first we had to get there.  Though Americans don’t always realize it, Argentina is a big country and the only way for us to get to Bariloche was to take a 17 hour long bus ride.  Luckily it was by far the nicest bus ride I’d ever been on.  The bus had seats that reclined to about 130 degrees and included full service breakfast lunch and dinner with drinks and snacks.  In addition to that there was a constant stream of cheesy movies to keep us entertained and even a game of bingo in the morning!  There were also beautiful views to enchant me as we reached our destination.

 

 

Party bus!

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Bariloche.  The city itself felt like a wonderful mix of San Francisco’s chill air and hilly streets, Lake Tahoe’s ski resort feel and what I must imagine the charm of a Swiss Alps village would feel like.  Bariloche is known for its chocolate and as we were there during the week before Easter giant chocolate easter eggs abounded (and they all became half off after Sunday!).  There was even a giant chocolate egg in the city square which they broke apart on Easter Sunday and gave away chunks!

 

 

Lake Tahoe?  No, Bariloche

 

San Francisco?  No, Bariloche.

 

San Francisco?  No, Bariloche.

 

 

Giant Chocolate Egg!

 

More Chocolate

 

 

In addition to exploring the charm of Bariloche we also spent a lot of time in the natural beauty surrounding the area.  We went on two day hikes, one on our first full day and another on our last day (I needed that long to recover from the first hike!)  The first hike we did was to refugio frey, 15 miles round trip and a 2,500 ft ascent, the second was to laguna negra and was 17 miles round trip and 2,600 ft ascent.  I soon fell behind my companions on both hikes but I relished in the solitude and the opportunity to be surrounded by nature and the sense of accomplishment I felt when I reached the top was unlike anything else.

 

Refugio Frey:

 

 

 

 

 

Laguna Negra:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also explored the area in other ways, we went kayaking on one of the lakes, rode horses on a trail around one of the mountains, and took a gondola to get a stunning view of the area.  The stunning natural beauty of el parque nacional huapi made me think of Yosemite National Park, my favorite place in the world.  Being surrounded by such pristine lakes, mountains and forests gave me a sense of inner peace and gratitude for the opportunity to be on this adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another plus of the trip was my first experience staying in a hostel!  I loved getting the chance to meet other travelers from all over the world, with fascinating stories to tell.  I had discussions with other Americans studying abroad and other Argentines but also Venezuelans, Canadians, Australians, Germans, and quite a few Israelis as well, so my Hebrew came in handy!  Hearing about the experiences of other people who are putting themselves out of their comfort zone to explore a new place and a new way of life inspired me to come back to Mendoza energized and ready to make the most of the next few months. 

During the week in Bariloche I also learned to relax a bit and go with the flow, more so than I have since I’ve got here.  I’ve been so preoccupied with safety and not embarrassing myself through a language or cultural faux pas, but this week I was reminded that studying abroad is about living in the moment and learning from your mistakes, and that messing up isn’t always such a bad thing.  I leave you with another song from the musical Daddy Long Legs, one of my favorites, “The Secret of Happiness”.  In the coming weeks I hope that, amidst the craziness of life abroad I can remember to live in a state of peacefulness and gratitude, and be reminded of the things that truly matter in life.  

 

“I discovered the secret of happiness is following my will

I discovered the secret of happiness is that we can run that hill

Happiness comes when we learn to be still and

The secret, the secret of happiness is

The secret of happiness is clear

The secret of happiness is near

The secret of happiness is here”

 

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One Month

Time March 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

“I am in a foreign world
they speak a language of their own
nobody knows where I have come from, daddy
I can’t help but feel alone

I am in a foreign world
I am different, I am strange
I know that I should try to fit in somehow 
but I don’t I think that I can change

and I know you won’t believe it
but I just want to be like other girls
wear pretty shoes like other girls
write a literary masterpiece
for scholars to peruse like other girls”


I have now officially been in Argentina for more than one month.  As usual, it both feels like I’ve been here for longer and shorter than that.  Shorter because I feel like I haven’t done nearly a month’s worth of things since I’ve been here.  Longer because the time when I was sitting in my room preparing for this trip feels like a lifetime ago.  I both feel like I’ve accomplished so much, yet that I’ve hardly done anything with my time here.  Perhaps because my greatest accomplishments have been little things like going to the grocery store or striking up a conversation with an Argentine, nothing that would normally be on a traveler’s checklist.  I’ve also had a lot of downtime, as besides IFSA’s Spanish language class I haven’t had anything I have to do.  Also the city shuts down for siesta from 12-5 which is the time I’d normally be up for exploring. This month has been about learning how to live in a new country with a new language and trying to establish a new normal for myself. That has been somewhat complicated by the fact that my class schedule isn’t pinned down yet.  So I still don’t know what a typical week here will look like.  


The registration process itself has been very busy and confusing.  On my first day of class none of my professors showed up because they were on strike, and then on Wednesday I showed up to a class that had actually been on Tuesday.  Despite these quirks, I thought I knew what classes I was taking as I need two Spanish literature classes for my major and the university only offers two literature classes this semester, but I just found out about a film class for which I can also receive credit, so I have to visit that class on Monday and then decide.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my ability to follow what is being said in class though following the content has been a little bit harder as I’m unfamiliar with the authors being discussed and I haven’t received syllabuses yet so I can do the reading beforehand.  Also, at this point I don’t want to put too much work into a class I might not take so I’m waiting to decide on my schedule before seriously pursuing this information.  All the uncertainty reminds me on my first semester at Brandeis when I spent a week and a half deciding on my final class.  At the time it was the most stressful experience I’d had at college so far and I was seriously worried about finding a good class before too much time had passed.  Though the same emotions of discomfort at uncertainty exist, I’m not super stressed out by my current situation.  I know it will all work out and I’m not worried about making up the work.  Amazing what a couple years of life experience will do.  In fact, I’ve had many experiences here that are very reminiscent of struggles I’ve faced in the past, but I find myself dealing with them all in a calmer manner than I have in the past. Knowing that I’ve gone through similar experiences before and they worked out in the end gives me the self-assuredness to get through these familiar challenges with less stress.  Sometimes it feels every experience of my life up to this point is coming together to help me navigate the situations I face.  In any case, it’s a nice way to be reminded that I’ve grown and changed since I was in high school or since I first started college, and by the end of this experience I will have grown and changed in many more ways.


A common theme since I’ve been here is experiencing an initial terror upon having to do something new, but after I do it once it becomes as natural as if I’d done it my whole life.  One such example are the micros, the buses, which I have been promising to explain to you.  


The first challenge is figuring out which bus you need to take.  Buses are divided two ways, first by their grupo, a big number above the front window of the bus, and then a smaller number indicating the route, (which is then further specified by the landmarks it stops by, which can change the route significantly) 

The 4 is the grupo number the white square in the glass has the bus number and the route, have fun trying to read it, though!

 

Once you find your bus there you might still need to find a different bus back as the buses go in circles and will not go back to the spot you picked it up at, instead it will go to the bus depot.  There are some websites to help you figure it out, but also personal experience is the best teacher.  When you find your bus you find the stop closest to you and wait there.  Lots of buses will go past you that don’t stop at your stop, you have to keep an eye out for the bus you need and then when you see it you need to flag it down, sometimes by stepping into the street.  Usually you won’t be able to see the small number in time to flag down the bus, so if you see a bus from the grupo you need, flag it down and then ask the driver where it goes.  When in doubt just ask the bus driver, even the locals get confused and ask about the bus route all the time.  If you do miss your bus just wait for  the next one, they usually come every 10 or 20 minutes so it won’t be long.  Once you’re on the bus you swipe your card and if you’re lucky sit down, or if there are no more seats you stand and hold on to one of the railings.  This is my least favorite part because I can barely reach the railing and with all the starting and stopping and turning it’s hard to feel sure that you won’t topple over!  Also, you’re trying to keep an eye on you belongings at the same time this is going on.  When you see your stop you have to make sure that you’re at the back of the bus and can press the buzzer to let the bus driver know you want to get off, otherwise he’ll probably just keep driving!  If you do miss your stop or take the wrong bus altogether, get off if you know where you are, if not take the bus to the depot and wait for another one heading back into town.  It may sound crazy but after a month this has almost become second nature to me (almost).


I’ve also become an expert at walking the city.  I’ve walked at least a mile and a half every day I’ve been here.  Mendoza is an interesting city to walk around because there are always so many people out and about from all different walks of life.  Also as I don’t know many people yet I’ve found it to be one of the best ways to get a sense of life here.  Certain streets have become so familiar walking them is now routine.  The Bruno Mars music blasting from the record store and the smell of kettle corn on la Avenida San Martín have become regular parts of my commute to and from downtown Mendoza.  

 

 

 

 

 



I’m a little behind on my exploration of the night life here.  I got sick last weekend which kept me from going out and the busyness of course registration has made me hesitant to go out on a week night, knowing I might not get back until 6 in the morning!  But I’m hopeful that I’ll become a little more adventurous soon!  Other upcoming adventures include going to Bariloche in Patagonia for Semana Santa this Wednesday night, where I will be for five days before returning to get back to starting my classes.  I’m also looking forward to celebrating Passover here, it will be my first time that I won’t be home for my family seder, but I’m excited about experiencing Passover in a different country!


As I write this it’s a Friday afternoon and I’m sitting on my host family’s patio.  I definitely woke up with a case of the Friday blues, which I’ve found I tend to get every Friday no matter where I am or how busy I’ve been.  But being in Argentina, the melancholy that comes with the exhaustion of a long week hits especially hard.  Though I am enjoying my Argentine adventure so far, I also long for the familiar, to go out to Boston with my Brandeis friends for one afternoon or to go on errands in Palo Alto with my mom.  Though I am making new friends and have met some truly wonderful people here, I sometimes wish to be surrounded by the people who know me best, with whom I don’t have to try to be anything at all.  It isn’t English or America that I’m homesick for, I’m homesick for the familiar, and people who make me feel the safest.  I don’t want to go home, I just want to make this new place feel familiar and safe.  I don’t know if that will happen in four months, but I’ll try.  


As I continue to try to fit in to this strange new world, I am reminded that, though I can adjust to my new surroundings I cannot change the person who I intrinsically am.  Putting myself out there is not going to become easy and staying out until 6 in the morning is not going to become my idea of a great time.  I want to do as the Argentines do and as the other people in my program do, but I also want to do this Argentina thing my way so I can get the most out of this experience for me.  I think conflict between making myself comfortable and stretching my comfort zone and trying new things is going to be a constant one this semester, as well as the conflict between wanting to be cautious and careful but desiring to meet new people and try new things.  “Like Other Girls” from the musical Daddy Long Legs encapsulates my feelings perfectly.  I want to be like everyone else but I want to be myself, and I want to live a simple life but I want to do the extraordinary.  If anyone knows how to do that let me know, if not, I’ll keep trying to figure it out for myself :)


Until next time!


“I am in a foreign world
I am different, I am strange
I know that I should try to fit in somehow 
but I don’t I think that I can change

and I know you won’t believe it
I just want to be like other girls
get all dressed up like other girls
Be a scientist, a motorist, a suffragette, a methodist
a fabian, a freudian, the class valedictorian
or what else heaven knows
like other girls
like other girls
like other girls”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYPXd7P6Yus

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Settling in

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

“The west winds often last too long
The wind may calm down
Nothing ever feels the same
Sheltered under the Kamani tree
Waiting for the passing rain
Clouds keep moving to uncover the scene
Stars above us chasing the day away
To find the stories that we sometimes need
Listen close enough
All else fades, fades away”

 

It’s been more than a week since I last blogged.  I haven’t been crazy busy, but there’s been a lot going on as I start adjusting to life in Mendoza.  I’d say this week has been about realizing that I’m not just passing through but that I will be living here for the next few months and I need to figure out how to live here long term.  In many ways it feels like the first semester of college, the same uncertainties as I try to figure out a new routine, when I can call home, where I can withdraw money, how I’m going to spend my time outside of class etc.  In the interim of transition I’ve admittedly spent a lot of time on my computer in my room talking to friends from home on facebook and watching favorite American TV shows, not the best way to immerse in a new language and culture.  The challenges I’m now facing are not short term ones but long term, what will I choose to study here?  How much time will I spend with Argentines versus Americans?  How will I spend my time outside of class?  How will I spend my vacation time?  The answers to these queries don’t come right away and my decision changes depending on how confident I’m feeling in the moment.   But slowly but surely I’m making progress and learning my way around Mendoza and Argentine culture.

 

For the past two years I’ve kept a gratitude journal.  At the end of every day I write down five things that happened for which I am grateful, such as a meaningful conversation with a friend, or a random act of kindness I experiences.  The act of recording these moments reminds me to focus on the many positive things that happen every day, instead of the negative ones, which tend to have the power to stick with us if we let them.  Though there have been many moments of frustration and self-doubt this week, there have also been many moments of gratitude, and I thought sharing some of them with you would be a good way for both you and me to look back on this week.

 

Monday I was grateful for

* Finding a place relatively close to my house to recharge my bus card!

* Checking out the library at the IFSA Butler office and found out they have a copy of Half The Sky (in English)!  I’ve wanted to read that book for a long time and now I have the chance! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, or with the global female empowerment movement it helped inspire, I highly encourage you to find out more and watch the documentary (available on netflix)

 

Tuesday I was grateful for

* Taking the bus for the first time by myself!

* Having a wonderful conversation with my host family in which we discussed family and Judaism among other things.  Being able to converse and socialize in Spanish is very exciting!

 

Wednesday I was grateful for

* A wonderful coincidence!  Before going abroad I’d talked to a Brandeis student who had gone to Mendoza last year. She had gotten me in touch with an Argentine friend of hers through facebook who studies at la Universidad Nacional de Cuyo where I will be studying. We’d been talking on facebook a little bit, but hadn’t made any plans to meet up  But as I was leaving orientation of the campus, I heard someone call my name.  It was him!  He’d recognized me from my facebook photo!  We got to talking and he is really nice and friendly in person, and I hope I get to know him better, it would be nice to have Argentine friends!

* Seeing the business where my host father works.  He sells uniforms to policemen all over the country.  He showed me the different floors where the different articles of clothing are assembled, and I really appreciated getting to see the behind the scenes work involved and that my host dad invited me to see that part of his life!


Thursday I was grateful for

* Exploring the campus of la Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, where I will be taking most of my classes.

* Actually enjoying the experience of taking the wrong bus home, resulting in a grand tour of the outskirts of Mendoza, which are actually very beautiful.  I love exploring the world by getting lost, as long as I have the time to do it (there must be some greater message about life somewhere in that statement but I’m too tired to figure it out right now)


Friday I was grateful for

*Discovering El Parque Central (Central Park).  It’s just a couple blocks north of my house but the city feels so much more open there.  I hadn’t realized how antsy living in a city grid was making me until I found myself sitting quietly in the park reading a book.  I hope that I can take advantage of this beautiful spot often!

Last weekend and this past weekend both had exciting excursions for IFSA students!  

Last weekend was the culmination of La Vendimia, Mendoza’s annual grape harvest.  Tourists come from all over the world to join in the festivities as Mendoza honors its tradition of producing fine wine and the labor and sacrifice involved in such an endeavour.  I already mentioned that I went to a parade where they threw fruit at us!  On Sunday we went to the festival, held in the huge Greek Theatre in the foothills of the Andes.  The festival celebrates Mendocinian heritage through traditional dances, as well as other modern performances that are more for the sake of the spectacle.  The theater seats around 20,000 people and they have enough demand to put on four performances!  The show ended with a fabulous fireworks display that filled up the night sky.  

 

 

 

 

Also, this song was featured prominently in the weekend’s festivities.  It still gets stuck in my head.

 

“A Luján, Las Heras, Rivadavia y Tunuyán;

A Maipú, Lavalle, Tupungato y Godoy Cruz,

San Carlos, Guaymallén, a Malargüe cantaré,

A Junín, La Paz, San Rafael y San Martín.

Mendoza,

Tierra del sol y del buen vino…

Mendoza,

La de los andes infinitos…

Mi tierra, 

La de las dulces mendocinas…

Mendoza,

La que acunó la libertad.

Un rumor de acequias va arrullando a la ciudad,

Que prestó también su colorido a mi cantar.

Con General Alvear y Santa Rosa son,

Por igual, orgullo y esperanza provincial.

Mendoza… Mendoza… Mendoza…

Mendoza!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rJfpPwSJVs

 

This weekend IFSA took us to San Rafael, about four hours from the city of Mendoza.  It’s full of natural beauty and we passed the weekend swimming in a lake, hiking the cliffside, and even river rafting!  We also had time to relax at the cabins, and ate lots and lots of amazing food.  

 

 

 

 

But my favorite part was on Saturday night, when we went stargazing and I got my first good glimpse of the southern hemisphere’s night sky.  One of the students on the program knew a lot about astronomy and was able to point out notable aspects of the Argentine night sky, such as the southern cross constellation and the magellenic cloud galaxy.  The strip of the milky way was clearer than I’d ever seen it, and lying beneath the multitudes of the cosmos a great peace washed over me and reminded me that the ups and downs of my semester abroad are inconsequential in the scheme of the universe, and reminded me to have faith that the universe is unfolding as it should.  


It looked a little bit like this (not my photo!)

 


And now I leave you with the lyrics from one of my favorite Jack Johnson songs.  This song depicts the peacefulness I feel when I look up at the night sky. As I go into the shopping period for classes I hope I can hold onto this peace of mind that will encourage me to put myself out there but also to trust myself and to trust the journey that I am on.


“It was just another night

With a sunset

And a moonrise not so far behind

To give us just enough light

To lay down underneath the stars

Listen to all the translations

Of the stories across the sky

We drew our own constellations”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AOQ9jXC6iE

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Journeying

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

“The glow that the sun gets
Right around sunset
Helps me realize
This is just a journey
Drop your worries
You are gonna turn out fine.
Oh, you turn out fine.
Fine, oh, you turn out fine.”

As of tonight I will have been in Mendoza for one week, but in so many ways it feels much longer than that!  I’ve had a lot of free time to relax and adjust to my new surroundings, yet each day still feels long and full of new experiences and challenges.  Some of the things I’ve had to do so far; using the buses here (not an simple task, more on that in a future post), learning how to register with the US Embassy and apply for my student visa, find ways to withdraw money and buy toiletries and other things I need, successfully lock the door and the alarm before leaving the house, take my Spanish placement test for our required Spanish language class, pick up the new vocabulary, verb conjugations (vos!) and adjust to a new accent, among many other things!  I’ve come to realize the little things you have to figure out in a new country can be as challenging as the big cultural shock issues they warn you about before coming, because the frustration of no longer being able to easily complete a simple task of life that you once took for granted can take a toll on your self-esteem, if you let it.  But the confusion of all these smaller tasks will fade away in time as I become used to a new way of doing things.  

I’ve had two big excursions from the past few days.  The first one was on Thursday morning.  I joined some of the other members of the group on a hike to climb el Cerro Arco, one of the smaller mountains in the foothills of the Andes.  It’s at an elevation of about 6,000 feet, and though we were already pretty high up where we started, we still had a long, steep climb ahead of us!  The hike took a little longer than we expected because we got off of the bus one stop two early and had to walk an extra mile to the trailhead, but I didn’t mind, I just considered it part of the adventure!  When we did make it to the trail it was uphill the rest of the way.  I kept thinking we were near the top, but there was always just one more switchback to go.  Plus, it was hot!  I think it got up into the 90s that day.  We took a lot of breaks in the tiny spots of shade that we could find, I don’t know what we would have done if there had been no places to cool off on the trail.  Despite the challenge it was a beautiful climb, with breathtaking mountains surrounding us, a stunning view of the city below and the occasional paraglider floating above.  When we did make it to the top I felt more accomplished than I have in a long time, and we enjoyed the view for a while before heading down.  

 

See the hill on the top left corner?  We’re going there.  You can see the path carved into the hill

 

I was really grateful for moments like this on the hike, when the sky was so blue the color seemed to pervade everything and it took my breath away

 

Paraglider!

 

Resting in scraps of shade

 

At the top, looking down at how far we came

 

I made it!!

 

The view from the top


Last night I went with some of the other group members one of the festivities for La Vendimia, Mendoza’s annual harvest festival. La Vía Blanca is a parade with floats and lights and people throwing fruit at you (yes, you heard that right!) that showcases each district of Mendoza Province and their nomination for La Reina de la Vendimia (Queen of the Harvest).  Being at the parade, surrounded by so many other people and all the sights and sounds of the festival was one of those “Oh my gosh, I’m in Argentina” moments, and I was so excited to be a part of it.  Being there participating in such a quintessentially Mendocinean event, I think I was the happiest that I have been since I got here, and was once again, a reminder to be grateful for the opportunity to live and study here for four and a half months!  I also went out for ice cream with some of the people on my program after the parade, where I tried two new flavors of ice cream (crema del cielo, kind of like cotton candy, and torroncino, a lemon cookie flavor) and proceeded to have an interfaith discussion with some of my fellow program members!  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the other people on the program, they are all interesting, interested people, and I look forward to many more wonderful conversations with them over the course of the semester!

One other update is that my Spanish language class started on Friday and I’m in the highest class.  I’m looking forward to having a class dedicated to improving my language skills, all the Spanish classes I’ve taken for the past two years have been focused on literary analysis and not on grammar or vocabulary.  It looks like the class will also expose us to more of Argentina’s culture, so I’m hopeful that it will be a great way to supplement the rest of my Argentine education here!  

I’ll leave you with the wise words of Andy Grammer’s song “Keep Your Head Up”.  Among all the successes I’ve experienced in this first week there have also been a lot of moments of self-doubt or worrying about the future.  When abroad I think all the emotions you normally feel are exacerbated, the successes feel amazing and the frustrations are crushing.  When I’m in those lower moments I hope I can keep my perspective and remember that I will soon be happily enjoying another moment of success.   

“Only rainbows after rain
The sun will always come again.
It’s a circle, circling,
Around again, it comes around,

But you gotta keep your head up, oh,
And you can let your hair down, eh.
You gotta keep your head up, oh,
And you can let your hair down, eh.

I know it’s hard, know it’s hard
To remember sometimes,
But you gotta keep your head up, oh,
And you can let your hair down, eh.

Keep your head up, oh,
And you can let your hair down, eh.
Keep your head up, oh,
And you can let your hair down, eh.
Keep your head up, oh,
And you can let your hair down.
I said oooh”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LMVJ2xd1g8

 

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¡Bienvenidos a Mendoza!

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

“tengo una cita pendiente con mi soledad,
para ver quien soy cuando nadie esta mirando.
tengo una cita pendiente con la mujer que soy,
no la que fui hace tanto, ni la que ven los demás”


(I have an appointment with my solitude

to see who I am when no one is looking

I have an appointment with the woman I am

not the one I was not so long ago nor the one that the others see) 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyR0RVtTMyM


I have now been in Mendoza for four days, but it feels a lot longer!  I’ve been spending the time settling into my new home for the next four months and getting to know the city a little better and learn what the expectations will be for the program.  


Also, I got my luggage back in one piece the following morning, in case anyone was worried! :)


I have a host mother and host father and a host brother and sister as well, who are both in their early twenties.  They have all been very friendly and welcoming to me and happy to answer any questions I have.  The other great thing is that they are Jewish!  I’m really looking forward to learning more about the culture of the Jewish community here and how it differs to that of the Jewish community in the Bay Area or at Brandeis.  Also, when I mentioned that I usually am home for Passover to help my mom with the seder, my host mom told me that I could help her with her seder this year!!  I think I’ll like that a lot.  

The house is very nice, my favorite thing so far is that we have a nice patio in the back where we’ve had all our meals since the weather’s been so warm. 


I have a very nice room as well.  It’s small but it’s in the corner of the house so I can have alone time if I need it.  Also, I have my own bathroom so I don’t need to worry about disturbing anyone if I need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night!  Another plus is that the wi-fi works very well here, which will allow me to stay better connected to the outside world!  

 


As a result of living with a host family I’ve been surrounded by more Spanish in the past few days than I think I ever have in my life.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I understood a lot more than I thought I would at the beginning of my time.  Some of my family members have even commented on it, “¡pero vos hablás muy bien!”  When a native Spanish speaker is impressed by your language abilities, then you know that you’re doing OK.  That being said, it’s still hard to understand sometimes, especially when everyone is speaking around me at the dinner table about someone I don’t know or are using words specific to Argentina that I’m not familiar with (there are a lot of those!!) but I’m learning more everyday and eventually I hope that I can follow every conversation without difficulty.  

 

Some examples of some new words I’ve learned already:


In Argentina, you don’t say “maíz” when you’re talking about corn, you say “choclo”


Also, “fresa” isn’t strawberry, it’s “frutilla”


Instead of using “tú” to talk to say “you” you say “vos” and you conjugate slightly differently (instead of “tú hablas” you say, “vos hablás”)


This might not be true of everyone in Argentina but when my host family is talking about someone in the third person you put an article before their name.  For example if someone wants to say “Rebecca is coming, too” you say, “La Rebecca viene también” aka, “The Rebecca is coming, too”  This has confused me a lot, sometimes people are talking about me and I don’t even realize it!

Another funny story with language has to do with the words for “hot” and “cold” here.  In Spanish, hot is “caliente” and cold is “frío” so a lot of faucets have just a C and an F, the C marking hot water and the F marking cold.  This is something I already knew and was prepared to deal with.  However, the faucets in my house have english labels, “Cold” and “Hot” both in fancy script letters.  Problem solved, I don’t need to worry about Spanish!  The only problem was not hot water was coming out of the faucet.  Maybe it just takes a long time to heat up… a really long time.  Then, I saw my host mom fill a glass of water from the faucet that said “Hot”.  When I asked her about it, she laughed and said that the faucet labeled “Hot was the cold water and the faucet labeled “Cold” was the hot water!  She supposed that the workers who installed the faucets didn’t know English and mixed them up, probably assuming the faucet with a C stood for “Caliente” and the script H in “Hot” kind of looks like an “F” for “Frío”.  So, the point is, if I want hot water I have to use the faucet labeled “Hot”!  

This is for Hot Water 

This is for Cold Water

Other things to know about Mendoza, there are acequías, or open gutters through which water flows through the city.  These are also known as “gringo traps” because the gringos (Americans/foreigners) often fall into them on accident!  It’s hard to tell from this photo but they are really deep!!


Also, keys looks like this


The other students from the program and I have met up a couple of times so far for orientation activities and to hang out.  Yesterday we had an open-air bus tour of Mendoza, especially San Martín park, which is like the Golden Gate park of the city.  We also went up “El Cerro de la Gloria” where we saw this awesome statue and got fantastic views of the Andes mountains and of the city below! 

 


There are so many trees here.  In the park each street is named after the trees that line it.  This street is called “los plátanos”

and this one is called “los palmeros”, can you figure out why?

The group has also met up a couple of times to hang out in the evenings but it’s been a little difficult because we don’t all have cell phones yet and I live far away from most of the other students so we can’t walk together, and it’s not safe to walk alone at night, though all that will get easier once we can communicate through phones and we know our schedules and the city a little better.  Last night we went to a concert at one of the plazas celebrating the city’s Italian heritage, it was a lot of fun!  I’ve realized that being with the other group members gives me confidence that I don’t have when I’m with my host family.  Remembering that my friends are going through the same adjustments that I am and that we can all help each other to figure things out makes me feel less alone and less like an ignorant tourist who doesn’t always know what’s going on.  In both my homestay environment and my environment with my peers I’m trying really hard to go with the flow and not worry about how everything is going to work out, and instead have faith that whatever needs to happen will happen when it needs to.  

People have told me that studying abroad can be the loneliest time of your life, and I think I now understand what they mean.  It’s not exactly that you’re isolated from people, it’s that your cut off from so much that is familiar and that is a part of your identity.  I am making friends and learning a lot but sometimes I just want to hug my friends from Brandeis or laugh with my sister, or get an answer to my question in English instead of Spanish!  Though this is a scary experience, it is also a good opportunity to learn more about who I am when I’m far from the support system I’ve come to take for granted, and that process will, I hope make me a stronger person. So, though it’s scary, as Julieta Venegas says “mejor me voy a donde sea”, it’s better for me to go wherever I might go.  I’ll keep you posted on my discoveries!

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Settling in.

Time February 26th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“No tengas miedo de mostrarte 
tal y como eres es mejor así” 


(don’t be afraid to show yourself

as you are, it’s better that way)


The blog posts are coming very frequently in the past few days because so much has been going on, but I’ll probably slow down on the number of posts as my routine gets a little more regular.  


Since my last post I spent two days in Buenos Aires and then arrived in Mendoza and met my host family!  Besides a few bumps along the way, everything has gone very smoothly, and most importantly, I’ve adjusted to all the changes very smoothly, and even when things haven’t gone perfectly, I’ve been able to go with the flow and stay positive.


Speaking of things that haven’t gone smoothly, as I fill you in on my first full day in Buenos Aires, it seems that my camera deleted all my photos from Friday!  I’m not quite sure what happened but I didn’t take any masterpieces so I’m not upset, I just hope it doesn’t happen again.  If anyone has any suggestions as to what might have happened let me know!  (the only thing I can think of is that I accidentally didn’t tell my camera to import all my photos and then told my camera to delete all the photos on my camera?)


So, Friday we played tourist for most of the day.  Our tour guide, Alejandro was excellent and  answered all our questions about Buenos Aires and Argentine culture, half of the time in English the other half in Spanish.  On Friday we visited la plaza de mayo, the main plaza by la casa rosada, the Argentine version of the White House (la casa rosada means, “the pink house”).  

 

Not my photo 


La plaza de mayo has been the location of many demonstrations over the past decades, including one that initiated the beginning of Peronism and the weekly demonstration of the mothers of people who were “disappeared” by the government during the dirty war. 

 

Here you can see the plaza and la casa rosada together (Also not my photo)


For lunch we ate at a lovely restaurant outside of the city with a beautiful view of el Río de la Plata, the very large river that lies north of the city.  From our viewpoint el río looked more like el mar!

 

 


The view of Buenos Aires from near our lunch spot!


In the evening we had more orientation (this time all in Spanish!) in which we covered cultural differences to be aware of, such as less of a sense of punctuality among Argentines and kissing each other in greeting.  The presentation was very thorough and I hope will help me be aware of possible causes of culture shock in the next few weeks!


In the evening I went out to dinner with some of the other group members and had my first taste of wine from Mendoza.  It was the best wine I’d ever had, I’m super excited to taste more of it!!  After dinner we took a cab to Palermo, a downtown area, where we people watched and got some ice cream (they had so many flavors that I’d never heard of, but I got dulce de leche con brownie, a winner!)  Navigating the city without a guide in the evening gave me a boost of confidence that I can find my way around Argentina even without someone to hold my hand every step of the way.


Sunday was our final day in Buenos Aires, we packed our suitcases and boarded the bus to go to La Recoleta, which is full of mausoleums of famous and wealthy Argentines and is Evita Perón’s final resting place.  While we were there I ran into a family speaking Hebrew so I went up to greet them and tried to speak in Hebrew with them.  I did ok, but my brain was totally not ready to be in Hebrew mode and I had trouble thinking of the right words and was left feeling very confused for the next hour or so, even going back to Spanish was difficult!  But it was exciting to hear another language familiar to me.  Despite my difficulties the family said my hebrew was very good and that if I stayed in Israel for a couple of months I’d pick up the language in no time! :)


La Recoleta:

 

 

 



Also, check out this cool tree by the Recoleta!!

 

 

 


After a little more sight seeing we headed to the airport where we got ready to board our flight to Mendoza!  The most notable thing about the airport was that the security was much less intense, we just had to put our bags into a screener and walk through a metal detector, no issues with liquids or having to take off shoes.  However, I must have let the lax rules go to my head because I forgot to take my cell phone out of my pocket when I went through the metal detector!  That certainly caused the machine to go off!  


At the airport:


 

Boarding our flight!


The flight to Mendoza went well, I slept for a fair amount of it.  When we arrived in Mendoza we all excitedly filed into baggage claim to retrieve our things before meeting our host families.  While most of the members of our group retrieved their luggage quickly, I and several other members of our group as well as a fair amount of other passengers, waited for 20 minutes with no new bags appearing.  Finally they told us that the plane had been to heavy to bring all our bags over and that our bags would arrive on the next flight from Buenos Aires in two hours and they would deliver them to our houses.  Though under normal circumstances, this information might have freaked me out, I calmed myself by reminding myself that I had all my important items with me (passport, computer wallet) and that if somehow I never got my bags back I would just have to buy new clothes and get toiletries.  Next came the part where I had to explain what happened to my host sister in Spanish, that was a little more difficult, but I did it without many problems.  


Here’s my first view of Mendoza!

 



This post is getting long so I’ll stop here, and fill you in on my host family in the next post!  For now I’ll leave you with the lyrics from my favorite Julieta Venegas song “No hace falta”  

The message of “sin temores”, without fear, is one I’m trying to embody over the course of this experience.  Things are new and different but that doesn’t mean that I can’t handle them, and “sin temores es mejor así”, it’s better without fear.  So far, I’m proud of how I’ve handled the many new situations I’ve encountered and I’ve realized that I’m capable of more than I thought.  Wish me luck as I continue to strive to be lost but not afraid!


“Sin temores es mejor así

Sin palabras es mejor así

Sin temores”


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_–PyKOwGUI

 

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First Days

Time February 22nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“What’s new Buenos Aires?
I’m new, I wanna say I’m just a little stuck on you
You’ll be on me too”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7oh4dXEAr4


As I write this I am finishing up my first day in Argentina!  It’s hard to believe that less than 48 hours ago I was nervously packing for this trip!  I still can’t quite believe that I’m in Argentina, partly because I haven’t seen much of the city yet, we had free time to explore but I chose to stay in the hotel and rest because I know tomorrow will be very busy!


To backtrack to Wednesday, my flight from San Francisco to Newark went well. I had to wake up at 5:30 in the morning but I was able to sleep on the flight.  When I got to Newark I had five hours before my flight so I walked around to help with my nervous energy and spent a couple of quality hours in the bookstore.  I realized I must be near the gate when multiple people walked into the bookstore speaking Spanish with an Argentine accent, my first taste of the language that I’m about to be immersed in!  But instead of going to the gate, I went to the group room where I was able to meet a few of the other people on my program.  We were all nervous and tired but excited to meet each other and anxious to arrive.


We met more people on our program at the gate, and we all boarded a huge airplane for the 11 hour flight to Buenos Aires!  I was sitting next to a girl on the program so we had plenty of time to get to know each other.  I passed the time on the flight talking to my neighbor, watching TV shows on the personal TV screen, and listening to music and trying to sleep.  Though I was not very comfortable I got a fair amount of sleep in, more than I was used to!


First View of Buenos Aires!


When we landed in Buenos Aires we went through immigration fairly quickly but then waited in line for customs for nearly an hour!  Luckily I was standing near other people on my program and I passed the time by talking to them!  We even started speaking to each other in Spanish to practice.


Finally, we got on a bus and headed to our hotel in the heart of Buenos Aires.  I nodded off on the ride over but I still got some good views of the city:

 

I’m sharing a hotel room with two other girls on the program and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well in the past few 24 hours.  My general impression so far is that I really like all the people on my program.  Most of us chose Mendoza because we wanted a slower paced environment and we’re excited about both the academic experience and the cultural opportunities we’ll have in Mendoza as well.  I hope I continue to get to know these people better because I think we have a lot to offer each other as we embark on this new experience together!


Happy to be in a hotel room!


We also began orientation today and met José, our program director.  He seems really nice and very helpful and knowledgeable.  He already threw a lot of information at us about what we’ll be doing in the next couple of months that I’m still processing but he’s also giving us the practical information that we need to know to make our transition to Argentine culture as smooth as possible.  One of the big pieces of advice he gave us is to just relax and go with the flow and try not to get frustrated, all of that’s a part of the growing experience.  He also said that starting tomorrow we’re only speaking in Spanish! 


At dinner that philosophy was put to the test when my roommates and I came down four minutes late and found out that everybody had already left for dinner!  Luckily the restaurant was just around the corner so we walked there ourselves.  My first reaction was to get anxious about not being a part of the group and having “messed up”, but I reminded myself that in the scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal and a couple of minutes later we rejoined the group and all was fine.  We ate at a restaurant called “El Cuartito” a famous pizzeria in Buenos Aires.  



The pizza was delicious but different than any pizza I’d had before.  They put olives and other strange toppings on the pizza and the cheese was very liquid-like and creamy.  Dessert was an experience as well!  One of the options was “queso y dulce”, cheese on jellied sweet potatoes.  It was much better than I expected!  

 

(not my picture)


There was also flan, ice cream, and bread pudding, which all had to be tried with dulce de leche (caramel sauce) which I’m told is a staple here!  We were sitting near our tour guide, Alejandro so we got to ask him lots of questions about Argentine life and hear his recommendations of things to do and see while we’re in Argentina!


Now I’m back in my room!  It’s been a full day but tomorrow will be even busier!  We’re visiting some famous sites in the city and then have more orientation in the evening, followed by a late dinner and free time at night!  I hope it all goes as smoothly as today has!

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Packing

Time February 20th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit

Right to the top

Don’t hold back

Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check”

The past few days have been filled with preparing and packing for studying abroad!  Lots of last minute shopping and struggling to decide what to bring.  Over the past few years I’ve come to find that packing is stressful.  It’s stressful because you have to make a lot of decisions at once, based on what you think the future will be like (what you’ll need, when you’ll need it) and then you have to figure out how everything you decide you need, (or decide you don’t need but you really want) can fit into a suitcase that is inevitably just barely big enough to fit it all.  

This is what packing looks like

Envisioning what a study abroad experience in Latin America is going to be like is really difficult if you’ve never been on one before!  Though I’ve talked to people who have been on the program and read the packing guide that IFSA Butler sent, I found myself deliberating over a lot of decisions, “Will I need this?  Will I regret taking up space with this?”  My usual attempts to be easygoing and not worry about the future were seriously challenged when it came to these practical questions.  But if most of my anxiety about this trip stems from not knowing what it will be like, then I should be much calmer in a day!

Even now with all my stuff packed it doesn’t feel like I will be on a plane to Argentina in less than 24 hours.  Lots of friends and relatives wished me well today.  I could tell they are all really excited for me to begin my adventure, though, right now, I’m having trouble sharing in their enthusiasm.  My reality tomorrow will be so different from the one I have been living for the past few months at home, it’s difficult to imagine.  Though I know I’m ready for the change, it doesn’t always feel that way.  

But whether I’m ready or not, “it’s time to begin”, like in the song by Imagine Dragons.  I may feel like the future will be completely different from anything I’ve experienced before, but I also know that if I stay true to myself then I have nothing to fear.

Next time you hear from me I’ll be in Argentina!


“It’s time to begin, isn’t it?

I get a little bit bigger, but then I’ll admit

I’m just the same as I was

Now don’t you understand

That I’m never changing who I am”


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sENM2wA_FTg

 

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Counting Down the Days

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

“What will this day be like? I wonder.

What will my future be? I wonder.
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh, what’s the matter with me?

I’ve always longed for adventure
To do the things I’ve never dared
And here I’m facing adventure
Then why am I so scared?”

I will be leaving for Argentina in exactly one week!  I’m starting to get more serious about getting ready to go, I’ve created a to do list and I’ve started to think about packing (think being the key word here).  Every day I remember something else I need to take care of before I depart, it feels like I have to get my entire life packed up before I leave!

But I’ve learned that I can’t spend all day thinking about studying abroad, if I do that I begin to feel just the slightest bit anxious and stir crazy.  So I’ve done a lot of fun things in the meantime.  Last week I went to volunteer at the school my mom teaches at.  I always love helping out there because the staff and students are so friendly and welcoming to me and always appreciative of my help.  Also, as someone who is considering a future in teaching the more experience I get in a classroom setting, the better prepared I’ll be for a future career in education.  I also was able to visit three of my friends who go to college locally, it felt really good to step foot on a college campus again and once again be surrounded by people my age.

My other excitement from this week was this past weekend I went to visit my sister, Deborah at her college, Whitman, in Walla Walla, Washington.  It was my first time there, and Deborah showed me around the campus and the town, and introduced me to her friends.  Besides loving the chance to spend some more time with my sister before I leave, the trip also gave me back a greater sense of self-confidence.

By successfully navigating unfamiliar surroundings and meeting many new faces, I reminded myself that I’m capable of a lot more than I sometimes give myself credit for.  When I returned home from my trip I realized that over the weekend I had entered “independent Rebecca” mode without even realizing it, I hadn’t needed help calling a taxi to the airport or figuring out how much to tip the driver, I didn’t need to call my parents when I was confused about which terminal my flight was leaving from, and I didn’t need help getting my things into the car when my parents picked me up.  I even successfully translated for a Mexican passenger on my flight, which made me feel better about my Spanish skills! (The flight was continuing on to Guadalajara and they had placed a non-English speaking person in the emergency exit row.  The flight attendant needed someone to explain to her that she had to switch seats because the people in the emergency exit rows needed to understand English, and I volunteered!)

Another exciting thing that happened this weekend was that I received my host family assignment!  Having that information felt like a huge relief, somehow just knowing where I would be living and with who helped everything feel a little less uncertain.  It looks like I will be living with a couple and their two grown children.  It also looks like the family is Jewish, which I wasn’t expecting, but will definitely make the transition easier (at the very least it will give me a good way to get connected with the Jewish community there!)

All of these experiences over the past week have helped me to visualize myself being successful on this semester abroad, and reminds me to have confidence in myself and my abilities to adapt to new surroundings and make the most of new experiences.  I’m once again starting to think that this adventure might be fun.  :)

I leave you with the lyrics from “I Have Confidence” a song from one of my favorite musicals of all time, The Sound of Music.  I rewatched (for at least the 20th time) the movie over winter break.  Everytime I watched this movie growing up I gravitated my focus towards one of the children, Gretl or Marta when I was younger, Luisa or Liesl as a teenager, but this year when I watched it I found myself identifying with Maria for the first time, especially in this song, as she tries to prepare herself for the uncertainty that lies ahead.  Like Maria, I’m beginning my preparations for my journey with a fair amount of hesitation, but I can also remind myself that this is a challenge I’m ready for and through this experience I will achieve more than I think I can.

 

“It tells me all I trust I lead my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence in confidence alone
(Oh help!)

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!”

 

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My First Post!

Time February 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“If all the days that come to pass

Are behind these walls

I’ll be left at the end of things

In a world kept small

Travel far from what I know

I’ll be swept away

I need to know I can be lost

and not afraid”

 

Hi!

This is Rebecca DeHovitz, logging on to her first blog post of her study abroad adventure!  Over the next five months I will be studying, living, and traveling in Argentina through IFSA-Butler’s Mendoza Universities program (http://www.ifsa-butler.org/universidad-nacional-de-cuyo.html) I will be living with a host family and directly enrolling in a university in Mendoza.

One of my main goal for the semester is to improve my Spanish.  I didn’t learn a second language until I began Spanish in my freshman year of high school, and then I realized that I had an affinity for languages and that I had a passion for mastering Spanish.  I watched TV shows and read books in Spanish for fun and my skills improved at a fairly rapid pace but my conversational skills have never been as good as I would like them to be, and I’ve found it difficult to improve them within the context of a classroom.  I really hope that after this semester abroad I’ll be able to consider myself fully bilingual (ie if there’s a situation you need me to handle in Spanish I can handle it!).

Another goal for this semester is to learn more about Argentine culture, and therefore gain more appreciation for diversity and become more understanding of cultural differences.  As someone interested in the humanities I like to think of myself as someone who always tries to learn about and appreciate the diversity of our world, but I have not had very many opportunities to put that universalism to the test.

Finally, I hope that this semester helps me gain independence and confidence in myself.  The summer before my senior year in high school I traveled in Spain for a month.  The experience of living in a foreign country independent of my parents helped me in so many ways, and to this day I look back on that month as one of the most formative of my young adulthood, and I credit it as the experience that made me realize I could attend college on the east coast, thus pointing me towards Brandeis and all the amazing experiences I have had there so far!  I know that the next few months will hold challenges for me and I know that it won’t always be easy to be living in a foreign country far away from so much that I’m comfortable with, but, if this experience is even somewhat as formative as my trip to Spain was, it will be worth it.

Right now, I still have more than two weeks to wait before I leave (my flight is February 20th).  I’ve had to explain my presence in California to a lot of family friends who give me a funny look when they realize I’m at home in the middle of the semester!  It’s been a long winter break, I’ve already been home for nearly a month and a half.  The transition from college life to family life is challenging enough, but the prospect of another imminent transition to study abroad life has thrown even more anxiety into the past few months!  However, I’ve found ways to stay productive and keep busy.  I’ve been lucky enough to visit friends who go to school in the Bay Area, and I’ve been able to babysit and help out at my synagogue.  There have also been lots of doctors appointments and errands to run before I leave!  I’m trying to take advantage of this time before I depart to brush up on my Spanish, I’ve been trying to watch some movies from Argentina, and recently was directed towards an Argentine telenovela “Lobo” about a man who is a werewolf.

Sometimes doing these things to get ready feels good, but a lot of the time it just reminds me of the reality of living in a foreign country and makes me nervous!  And I know I still have some time before I leave, so I don’t want to work myself up too much before I go!  So I try to balance it out by being gentle to myself and reading my favorite books and watching my favorite TV shows.  It’s all in a delicate balance, which I know will soon be upended as I embark on my journey!  When I get nervous I try to tell myself that I am stronger and more capable than I give myself credit for, and that it will all somehow come together once I’m living the reality of being abroad.  I also remind myself why I want to do this, that this is something I’ve wanted to do even before I started college and that all of the best experiences of my life were preceded with lots of nerves.  In this way I’m able to calm myself down, but the cycle begins again the next day, and I’ve still got 14 days to go!

In the meantime, as we’re both waiting with anticipation for my adventure to begin, please enjoy this video at the top of this post!  For those of you who don’t know, Matt Harding has traveled around the world dancing badly, encountering many amazing sights and meeting different people along the way.  He has several videos now documenting his wanderings, but in this latest video he choreographed a dance which he then included citizens from all over the world.  I love how through his videos Matt has shown us that the world is not as big as we might think and that the power of music and friendship can unite people across the globe.  The song, “Trip The Light” has become one of my favorites; I especially like the line “I need to know that I can be lost and not afraid”.  I hope that I can be lost but not afraid on this journey; lost, so that I learn and discover things I never knew to search for, and I hope I can do that from a place that’s not afraid, but rather embracing of this journey I am on!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pwe-pA6TaZk[/youtube]

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