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World Cup 2014

Time January 5th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

  I never thought I’d be in a country that *almost* won the FIFA World Cup. I also never thought I’d be so obsessed with soccer.

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bittersweet, literally

Time January 5th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s always bittersweet in the end. And literally, in my last few days I made sure to drink all I could of the bitter mate and eat sweet dulce de leche. I packed kilograms of mate, dulce de leche, and my favorite Argentine foods (no wonder each of my suitcases were over 90 pounds), and I learned recipes from my family and friends. Still, things wouldn’t be the same without them.

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costumes and confetti

Time January 5th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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hey again!

Time January 5th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So you might be wondering… where have I been?? MIA for about 6 months, but all for good reasons!!

As my semester in Buenos Aires was wrapping up, it became much busier than I expected. And I definitely had some of the best weeks of my life. When I came back to the United States, I knew I had to write something. Just one blog post… but I couldn’t. To me, writing the final blog post would signify the end. The blog post was much more than a few words about my experience. Rather, it was concrete proof that my experience in Buenos Aires was over. And that was something I just couldn’t face. 

So why can I finally write now? I AM GOING BACK TO ARGENTINA IN 3 DAYS! I received a grant from the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies (LACIS) department at UW-Madison to volunteer. I can’t wait to see my host family and my friends, and I’m so grateful to be welcomed back into my second home.

As I flew back to the U.S., I embarrassingly cried during the flight home (and I like to think I’m usually pretty tough!). Although I was excited to see my friends and family in Wisconsin, I was afraid that I would never return to Buenos Aires. Everybody always warns you about culture shock when entering a new country, but I never thought it would be so tough to return to a culture I’ve always known and loved. During most of my Argentina experience, I felt the strangest combination of emotions. As cheesy as it sounds, I was so happy, and I feared that I would never be this happy again. I think I never realized that we are ultimately responsible for creating our own happiness. As I look forward to these next few weeks in Argentina, I recognize that I wanted so badly to return, and I found a way. Happiness is always around, but sometimes we have to find it.

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bars and boliches

Time August 5th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The nightlife in Buenos Aires was rated one of the best in the world. And I would definitely have to agree. There are tons of options, everything from visiting a secret speakeasy bar, to listening to live jazz or tango music, to going to some of the cute/hipster bars in Palermo, or even staying out until 8am at one of the many clubs or boliches.  

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When I first got to Buenos Aires, I told myself I was going to visit every club in the city. And then I realized that I would have to live there yearssss for that to happen. I have a feeling you could live your whole life in the city, go out every weekend, and still have bars and clubs you’ve never explored. There are just that many options.

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So to talk about a few of my favorites…

Esquina Libertad: Discovered by my amazing friend Helen, Esquina was just a few blocks from our apartments in Palermo. It was more quiet, but 2014-06-27 00.58.05always crowded, and there was such a great atmosphere of colorful art, hipster books and magazines, and an outdoor patio. My friends and I would go here m
ost of the weekends, and I have to say it’s one of the places I miss most. 

Milión: Soooo fancy and amazing. Milión is in Recoleta, one of the most beautiful and oldest parts of the city, and it was converted from an elegant three-story mansion into a bar. From the outside, the bar simply looked like a residential building from Paris or the Upper East Side of NYC. We opened the door, and saw a spiral staircase leading up to a gorgeous marble bar and rooms with tall ceilings and the most elegant decor. All the beautiful couples were on dates, with women wearing little black dresses and men wearing suits. Simply classy and elegant.

2014-06-29 03.50.33Terrazas: I made a bucket list of every place I wanted to go, and I had heard great things about Terrazas. Mostly popular in the summer, the club is filled with outdoor terraces overlooking the water, surrounded by palm trees, a break from the usual city nightlife. 

Kika: I have to include Kika on my list because I went here most weekends. No matter what, Kika was always a good time. I would always end up staying here until 6 or 7am (I have no idea how I made it that long! I kept explaining to my Argentine friends how bars closed around 2am in the US, and how this would ruin my precious sleep cycle 😛 But actually, naps were a must before going out with them)

2014-06-07 01.30.33-1           McDonalds: I’M KIDDING ABOUT THIS ONE. But after a night of going out, my Argentine friends would always want breakfast at McDonalds. And surprisingly, McDons was real classy in Buenos Aires. Like they had cheesecake and macaroons in their dessert section. Once I also walked in with the equivalent of three US dollars, and I couldn’t afford a thing. Dollar menu, where are you!?!!

Overall, the bars and boliches in Buenos Aires were one of my favorite parts of the city. I loved the people, the music, the feeling of simply being alive. I’ve really come to love the music from Argentina and Latin America, especially cumbia, which was originally popular among the country’s lower classes but is perfect for dancing. It has such character, just like the city’s places and people.

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surprise?

Time July 29th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I think the hardest part of my entire study abroad experience, even more so than adjusting to a new culture and a new place, was realizing that I’d eventually have to come home. Of course, I was incredibly excited to see my friends and family. Yet, it was a weird feeling that everything I’ve done for myself these past few months, all the friendships I’ve built and the place I’ve found for myself, would suddenly disappear. More than anything, I was scared that I would never see Argentina again, these people again, this part of myself again.

I wished for more time. I had 18 days left. I remember waking up in the morning, getting ready for class, and casually checking my email. And there it was… an email reminding me that I cannot change the scheduled date of my exam at my university, UCA. The pieces started coming together. Since Day 1 of my class, Psychology of Personality, I thought my exam was June 25th, the last day of class. My study abroad program warned us that the exams may fall after the end date of our program. I looked at the syllabus, and in the carefully organized grid of dates and corresponding assignments, it looked like our exam happened to be on June 25th. Wrong. Veryyyy wrong. One week before, I wondered why the professor stillll hadn’t mentioned the exam requirements. I also wondered why my friends weren’t studying at all for our exam. I was studying frantically and didn’t feel the least bit ready.

I got two of my wishes. Our exam was July 16th, almost a month later. This meant two things: I would have tons of time to study, and I would also be changing my plane ticket. Of course, my parents weren’t too thrilled at my huge mistake, and I felt terrible that I didn’t realize this earlier. Luckily, it wasn’t expensive to change my ticket, and the study abroad program arranged for continued housing with no extra cost for academic conflicts like this. 

I can’t help thinking that it all happens for a reason. This was my favorite class, probably one of my favorites of all time. It opened my eyes to the world, and to myself. I also met my best friends, who I know I’ll stay close with for years to come. 

In the beginning of my program, if I would have known the exam date, I probably would have chosen a different class that ended by the program deadline, just because it would have been easier. Yet, it’s crazy to think how such a small decision can make the biggest difference. I thought of the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (one of my favorites!), where each moment, each decision, influences another. It starts as a random decision. And even though it turned into a pretty big mistake, I wouldn’t change it for the world. But life being what it is – a series of intersecting lives and incidents – sometimes it all happens for a reason.

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live now, write later

Time July 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

so you’re probably wondering… where have I been!? 

unfortunately slacking on writing these blog posts, yet again… but I think I have some pretty good excuses;)

so much has happened in the last month:

a) I stayed in Argentina three weeks longer than expected

b) I became obsessed with the world cup

c) I said goodbye, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do

so why haven’t I written? I realized it was more important to live each moment, and write about it later with a new perspective. It’s cliche, I know, but endings are sometimes the best, and worst, thing we can ask for. they make us realize what we have, and what will so easily vanish with time. 

so here we go, back to the beginning of June…

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almost famous

Time June 16th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve always been passionate about blood and bone marrow donation, and I was so excited to get involved with the cause in Argentina. My study abroad program offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, and one is through the organization Donar Sangre Da Vida, or Donating Blood Gives Life.                                          (If you want more info!! Also feel free to like the page, too:                                                              https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donar-Sangre-Da-Vida/110888178942269)

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Just chillin with plasma, white blood cell, stem cell, and platelet

Just chillin with plasma, white blood cell, stem cell, and platelet

I started by volunteering at a city-wide blood drive. I showed up, having no idea to expect. The next thing I knew, I was wearing a red blood cell costume. DREAM COME TRUE. But actually, what an amazing way to advertise for a blood drive.

I talked more with the head of the organization, Claudio, who is a leukemia survivor himself. He is incredibly passionate about the cause, and with his big heart and novel ideas, I was so inspired simply listening to him. He hosts salsa dance therapy classes for children undergoing chemotherapy, and he’s run almost 100 races and marathons. He hopes to show other cancer survivors that anything is truly possible, and even after the darkness of cancer treatment, there is always a light of new hope and opportunities.

Because I started the Be the Match on Campus chapter at UW-Madison, and conduct research with bone marrow transplant recipients, Claudio wanted to hear more about my experiences in the US. I showed up to talk with him, and the next thing I knew, I was talking on live radio… in Spanish. I´ve had no radio experience, and I’m pretty sure my bone marrow-related vocab was severely lacking. It was still so much fun!! His radio program, hosted every Wednesday evening, is so sweet and entertaining, spreading the word of blood and bone marrow donation throughout Argentina. He hopes to spread his ideas to the US and beyond, and I wish him all the success in the world. I know he’s left a great impact on me, and I know he’ll continue making an international difference. In the meantime, I’m just trying to be famous with my new radio career. Just kidding… kind of.

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the study of “study abroad”

Time June 16th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After all these blog posts, I realized I never described where I go to school here. And yes, I swear I study while studying abroad!!!

One of my favorite parts of the IFSA-Butler program is the opportunity to choose your university in Buenos Aires. We have 5 options, in addition to the courses provided by the program itself, and we get to try classes at the beginning of the semester before really committing. It’s a great way to gain a greater understanding of the public and private university systems and to have a wide variety of learning experiences. When it came time to decide, I had already fallen in love with UCA, or the Universidad Católica de Argentina. It’s located in Puerto Madero, the newest part of Buenos Aires, right alongside the river.

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The views are always incredible. Whether studying under the shade of a tree, watching the sunset from the library, or talking with other students during a break or recreo in class, I am always amazed by the school’s beauty. 

Going from a large public school with more than 40,000 students to a small private school was an adjustment, but I loved experiencing a smaller, closely-knit environment. The professors knew my name on the first day, welcoming me into
the class and immediately adding me to the Facebook group.   2014-05-27 18.00.13In one of my psychology classes, for instance, the students   take the same classes together for five years. It’s amazing to   see  how close they are and how well they work together.

Besides the Starbucks in the university (with dulce de leche frappuccinos… yes I get one pretty much every week), I am so grateful for all the people I’ve met. They’re always asking how  I am and making sure I’m okay. When I look lost in class, they’re always willing to share their notes and make sure I understand. They also share their mate (a tea drink) with me, and I always feel sooo special:) Even though I came as an outsider, I’ve never felt so much like I belong. I have learned a lot from studying and reading, but above all, I’ve learned just how amazing people can be.

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we ran buenos aires

Time June 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

And somehow I got the crazy idea to run a half marathon. I truly enjoy running, but let’s just say it doesn’t always come easily. I’ve never run a real race before. I did the Color Run (a 5K where you are sprayed with paint), but pretty sure that doesn’t count. Yet, my friends and I spontaneously signed up for the Nike We Run Buenos Aires half marathon. We honestly cared most about getting a cute t-shirt… but the race would also give me an incentive to train the months leading up to the race, to explore the city by running, and to work off all of the delicious carne and postre I’ve been eating.

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At 7:30 am, on a Sunday morning (the time you usually get home after going out here), I started running 13.1 miles, 21 kilometers. Live music surrounded the parks of Palermo, and runners lined up to begin. Ten thousand faces, ten thousand runners from around the world.

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While running, I saw some of the most amazing things. I went to a new part of the city that I had never explored. I watched the sun rise, lighting up a beautiful autumn day. I watched complete strangers help one another, sacrificing precious seconds to lend a hand, reminding us that numbers are numbers, nothing more. I watched 80-year-old men sprinting at the front of the group, showing us how it’s never to late to be whoever you want to be.

Additional thoughts while running:   1 – When do we get gatorade?     2 – Where is the fruit?!? Tengo hambre!!!!      3 – Am I there yet!?    4 – Just keep running, just keep running   

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… And I can’t believe I finished. I didn’t walk or stop the entire way. At times, all I wanted to do was quit, to walk, to rest. Yet, I realized that each runner is inspired by something, by someone. Maybe we run to find meaning and accomplishment in our own lives. Maybe we run in hopes of giving our strength to someone weaker. Maybe we run for freedom, for peace, for change. But in the end, despite any differences, we run together.

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the best

Time June 9th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today someone asked me my favorite part of my experience in Buenos Aires, and I guess I hadn’t really thought about this question before. I honestly love everything. I’m probably a little too obsessed with this place…

But, I’d have to say I most love all the people I’ve met, both from my study abroad program and from Argentina. I think back to February, when I was boarding the plane to fly to Buenos Aires. I was running late, my 20 pairs of shoes were tumbling out of my backpack. I randomly talked to some girls, and they became some of my best friends. It’s great to always have someone to study with, to explore the city, to eat at one of the city’s fabulous restaurants, to even have a Netflix night with a bucket of chocolate ice cream.

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I have the greatest host family I could ask for. I love having a large host family, with my dad Pablo, mom Virginia, sister Josefina, and four brothers Fran, Maxi, Mateo, and Pedro. They’ve all been so welcoming, taking me in as a part of their family. My sister and brothers are all close to my age, so it’s been great getting to know the city through them. When it was still summer here, we went on a weekend getaway to Bellavista, a small town outside the city of Buenos Aires. We’ve celebrated Argentina’s numerous holidays together. We’ve gotten to know one another, helping to improve my Spanish along the way. I’ve also spent some quality time, playing fetch and running in the park, with my host sister’s adorable dog Mora. I will be incredibly sad to leave my Argentine family who has been so welcoming, loving, and unforgettable.

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I remember walking into my first class at UCA, or la Universidad Católica de Argentina, and not knowing a single person. I looked around the room, thinking how are all these girls so pretty and put together at 7:45am!? At our recreos, or breaks during our 4.5 hour class, they all began talking to me and asking about my experience here. Since then, I’ve been to their houses, we’ve gone out together, and they’ve shown me the city, from a true Argentine perspective. I’ve also joined a field hockey team through my school (I know, I’m clearly not a hockey star, but I try). I’ve met some of the nicest friends through my team. We’ve gone to team bonding pizza parties, and they’ve taken me to my first ever polo game. I’ve even met some Argentine friends in the bathroom at bars, walking along the street, running around the city. They are SOOO friendly and welcoming, and it’s crazy to think that some of my best friends are from halfway around the world. Los quieroooo!!

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In the end, I’ve realized that the people who surround us leave the biggest impact. They change us for the better. Wherever you are, wherever life takes you, that’s one thing that never changes.

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cada día

Time June 9th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

One thing they’ve told me … it goes by fast.

I can’t believe I only have a month left here.

I’m going to make it the best month possible. I’m going to try to do something new, memorable, exciting each day. I’m also going to try to post each day (big improvement since I’ve been slacking lately!! sorrry!)

I’ve always heard that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, but I don’t think that’s always true. I sometimes think we realize much earlier, but we don’t always take the time to appreciate it. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do. Maybe all good things end, but I’m just grateful they began.

Besos, y hasta mañana,

Jess

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vineyards and vino

Time June 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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Enough said?

Just kidding. But the pictures do tell most of the story. During yet another holiday, some friends and I traveled to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. The city, located close to the border with Chile, has the perfect geographical combination of mountains, lakes, deserts, and city. Everywhere you went the landscape seemed to change. And everywhere you went there was wine. There was even wine in the fountains (well… maybe it was colored red, but not even kidding.)

After the 20 hour bus ride (once again… I try not to talk about this part), we spent the day eating and exploring the city. It was almost like a mini Buenos Aires, with apartment buildings and shops and restaurants along every street.

On the first full day, we rented bikes in a quaint nearby town called Chacras. We biked around the city and through the vineyards, stopping for wine tours along the way (I know, it sounds incredibly dangerous, but somehow these bike/wine tasting tours are really successful). Many of the wine tours were actually included with the bikes, and EVERYWHERE HAD THE BEST WINE! However, I would have to say that my favorite place was the bodega by Carmelo Patti, the cutest man who truly loves his wine and getting to know people from around the world. He is called “the most passionate winemaker in Mendoza,” taking pride in his family’s business. At the end of the day, we also stopped on a chocolate, olive oil, and liquor tasting tour. I tried absinthe for the first time. Yep, I’ll stick to the wine.

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Carmelo and his wine

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The next morning, we took a short bus to the town Potrerillos, which is known for its turquoise lakes and view of Alta Montaña, one of the tallest mountains in the Andes.

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When we got back to our hostel, we went on a sunset horseback riding tour through the mountains. My horse was named Gringo (fitting), and he was the greatest caballo <3

Best of all, after watching the sunset, we rode back to have a bonfire and eat Argentina’s famous asado. It’s basically like grilling out, but instead of burgers you have all different types of steak. Of course, dinner wouldn’t be complete without wine. We spent the rest of the night sitting by the bonfire, as the night was getting colder in the desert climate. People from all over Argentina, all over the world, sang and listened to songs on a guitar.  I never expected to meet so many amazing people, see so much beauty in one city, and of course, drink so much delicious wine.

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leones, tigres y osos… ¡Ay!

Time May 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So you might as well call me Eliza Thornberry. Today I petted – and talked to hehe – lions, tigers, camels, elephants, horses, exotic birds, llamas, and some goat/cow creatures with horns? Yak maybe? Anyway, there were so many animals at the Luján Zoo, which is an hour bus ride from the city of Buenos Aires.

   roarrrr        milk mustache

              tigre        tigre

                 The zoo is basically the best, and most controversial, zoo in the world. The wild animals are trained to let people pet and feed them. The staff really did seem caring and loving toward the animals, but it is amazing/questionable that more people don’t get bit. Okay, so a parrot did bite my cheek. But I’m really just thankful it wasn’t a tiger.

     Caballo       seals!      Diablo bit me

The baby lion and tiger cubs were just adorable! One loved playing with the ties on my boots. I also kissed a camel and hugged an elephant’s trunk. They were both so sweet!! The zoo was, in my opinion, more like a huge farm, with many of the animals roaming around free. The zoo was less “developed” according to US standards, but I think it better for the animals, and all of them really did seem happy!

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While in Luján, we also visited a beautiful cathedral in the center of the pueblo. The town was incredibly small, but it was amazing how it still had a huge cathedral and one of the most famous zoos in the world. It’s amazing how much exists outside the city of Buenos Aires, and all you have to do is look. You can sometimes find the best things where you least expect.

 Catedral de Luján

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when every day’s a holiday

Time May 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

                Argentina does a lot right, especially when it comes to their holidays. Basically there’s a holiday every two or three weeks, in which schools and most businesses close. Families go to the parks to drink mate, play soccer, or rollerblade around the lake in Bosques de Palermo. During April, I actually only had one full week of school (not complaining!), and with so much to do in Buenos Aires, it was great having an extra day to study or explore the city.

                  The holidays this month included: Veteran’s Day, Holy Thursday and Good Friday of Semana Santa, and Labor Day. Best of all, we had a surprise holiday because of a city-wide strike that happens each year. The strike, in which citizens denounce inflation and strive for economic opportunities, closes down all forms of public transportation. The strike wasn’t violent but instead just inconvenient… and also wonderful at the same time. Since the buses and subways are used by nearly everyone in the city, it’s impossible to get to work or school without them or to find an available taxi. To a Wisconsin girl, this “strike day” reminded me of a snow day back home (but with wayyy better weather). The streets were incredibly calm without buses zooming down the avenues. And even despite the transportation inconveniences, the strike was a chance for families to spend time together, having afternoon tea or exploring the parks and museums within walking distance. MALBA, the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires, was open during the strike, so my friend and I saw the photography by Mario Testino and the famous paintings by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The art was so beautiful and creative and the perfect way to end our “strike day.

Frida!!      My beautiful room     Parque

                  Whether traveling or relaxing, I always look forward to the Argentine holidays. Through them, I’ve learned about the country’s history and explored the country’s beauty. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating every week. 

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Buenos Brownies

Time April 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

            After more than a month of living in Buenos Aires, we thought it was time to exchange our tourist identities and become real porteños. Some friends from my program and I somehow had the crazy idea to become the newest street vendors of Buenos Aires.

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Feria

 

            The next thing I knew, we were baking 5 batches of brownies in my    host  family’s kitchen to bring to the market in San Telmo, one of the largest  street  fairs in the city. Each weekend, there are hundreds of people walking  through  the street, buying everything from mate cups, handmade jewelry, to  tasty  empanadas. The vendors simply sit on the side of the street, cheerfully  talking  to those walking by, and some casually drinking wine straight from  the bottle.  The fair is pretty informal, so pretty much anyone who wants to  sell something  can show up without a permit.

 

            So just one day a week, we thought we would become artisans/chefs/vendors/whatever you want to want to call us. It would be a great way to really experience Argentine culture from the other side, not as a tourist but as an actual worker. It would also be a way to get some extra money for weekend getaways, wine, and of course, more dessert. We also decided to make black bean brownies because they’re: a) semi-healthy, b) chocolately and delicious, and c) not common here, so we could stand out at the fair (as if we didn’t already haha).

            After we decorated 40 brownies with almonds, M&Ms, dulce de leche, and honey, we realized we probably needed something to put them in. Most of the vendors have hand-woven baskets or painted trays with signs advertising their products. With many stores closed on Saturday night and Sunday morning, we settled for some flimsy pizza boxes. We then scribbled BROWNIES on the lids. I know, not good, but remember we’re new at this :)

 

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YUM

            First day = success. We sold all of our brownies… and ate some, too. Toward the end of the day, they didn’t look so pretty anymore, so we sold them for only 5 pesos (the equivalent to 50 cents). In the end, we did end up making some money. Even better, we traded our product with other vendors at the fair. We got back massages, mate cups and silver straws, bracelets, dulce de leche and chocolate crepes, homemade granola bars, and alfajores (a mix between cake and a cookie with dulce de leche sandwiched in the middle… unbelievable). And best of all, in a day filled with chocolate and sweets, we met some of the greatest, and sweetest, people along the way.

Hasta luego, Chef Jess

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Notice the chocolate smeared on the box… classy we know

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when life hands you a lemon farm

Time April 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

          And the next thing I knew, I was on my way to Uruguay with 100 others. My three days of class (only Tuesday to Thursday… it’s heaven) flew by, and our study abroad program was hosting a weekend getaway to Uruguay.

            Our ferry was leaving at 7:30am (incredibly early for my Argentine schedule… getting up was rough), but the sunset overlooking Puerto Madera was absolutely stunning. We boarded the ferry, which was not your average ferry. We had first class tickets, so I spent the time lounging in the reclining leather chairs and shopping (aka spraying too much perfume samples) in the duty free stores on the boat.

            We got off the boat, and the next thing I knew I was standing in a gigantic lemon farm. Our abroad program leader, the awesome Mario, owns a boutique hotel in the middle of a lemon plantation, just blocks from the beach. There was a pool, pond, bottles of wine, and just lemons and more lemons. My friends and I frolicked around the plantation, eating lemons raw (umm… probably wouldn’t advise this, but apparently they’re only 24 calories, high in fiber, and have limonoids which help fight cancer!?). We started our lunch with empanadas and choripán, or a grilled sausage sandwich common in Argentina and Uruguay. Then chefs proceeded to grill us gourmet steak and chicken before our eyes, along with salad, bread and homemade crackers and hummus, apple pie, lemon pie, and fresh fruit… obviously including lemons.

La casa de los límonesCan I take him home!?.Lemon picking

            We spent the rest of the day laying by the pool and swimming at the beach. We were staying in the small town of Colonia, and it was such a change from bustling Buenos Aires. That night we had a tour of the city and learned about the historical influences of the pueblo, a town that’s so safe people always leave their cars unlocked and windows open. 

IFSA group

            The remainder of our trip was spent in Punta del Este, a resort city with gorgeous beaches, elegant seaside homes, and upscale hotels and clubs. We spent our days lying by the waves and our nights exploring the seaside bars. And of course, we spent all moments eating. Our study abroad program paid for the fanciest three course meals, and it was amazing to have freshly caught fish and calamari, which unfortunately aren’t too common in Buenos Aires. 

paradisePunta del Este

la playa.

            As we were taking a bus to Montevideo, from where we would take a ferry back to Buenos Aires, I thought how the trip far exceeded my expectations. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I knew there were beautiful beaches in Uruguay, but I didn’t grasp how beautiful they would be. In some cases like this, I think it’s better to have no expectations; to be amazingly surprised; to focus on how things really are, not on how we imagine them to be; to ultimately embrace the present rather than create the future.  

 .MontevideoDinner!

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four countries, four days

Time April 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

          Hola from Argentina! It has been a crazy week of traveling, so unfortunately I haven’t had time to update my blog as much as I hoped — I did take TONS of pictures though! Probably too many if you ask any of my friends here :) These past two weeks have been the best spring break I could ask for. In just four days, approximately 100 hours, I saw four countries including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Argentina:

             My first trip included going to the famous Igauzú Falls on the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. We traveled with UCA PALS, an organization at Universidad Católica in Buenos Aires that hosts trips and other nightlife events for international students. I heard amazing things about las cataratas, or waterfalls, but I never actually had seen pictures before. In my head I pictured it similar to Niagara Falls, but it was far more incredible!! The waterfalls were enormous, flowing with crashing red water that was colored by the nutrients of the river (and sadly pollution, too). We spent the first day of our trip — after the 16 hour bus ride… trying to forget that part :) — on the Argentina side of the falls. There are two main national parks, one in Argentina and the other in Brazil, and they both provide unique sights of the falls. We started by going on a safari ride through the jungle, followed by a speed boat ride in the falls. It was crazy!! One of my friends had a LifeProof case on her iPhone, so luckily we could take pictures and videos as we were going through the falls.

             After we stepped off the boat, we were running through the rainbows (I am not kidding – there were rainbows everywhere!) alongside the waterfalls. I was laughing while telling my friends how I just received a serious email from my caring, loving, yet extremely worrying mom telling me to not fall in the waterfalls. Suddenly, I was walking on the wet stone, amazed by the view below, and I slipped! My friend said she was talking to me, and all of the sudden I was gone, just tumbling down the semi-steep rocky cliff. I luckily only fell about 5 feet down when my feet landed on a rock, and I although I had a little adrenaline rush, I realized I was absolutely fine. My knee was pretty cut up, but besides that I was in perfect condition. A woman kindly ran over to help me up from the hill, where I was laughing from this little incident, but she looked absolutely horrified. I kept trying to tell her “estoy bien, no te preocupes,” but she still seemed far more scared than I was. Anyway, I continued up through the waterfall, still laughing. Only this would happen to me. And I this is the last time I’d laugh at my mother’s emails.

          After this water-fall (haha terrible joke…), we followed the paths throughout the park, and the sights were absolutely beautiful. We ended the day by going to la garganta del Diablo, or the Devil’s throat (frightening I know), which is one of the largest waterfalls with roaring water in all directions. Multiple times I couldn’t even move because I was so amazed. I also was trying not to move too much so there was no possibility of me falling in. Some friends and I returned to the park the next day to walk the paths again, and I realized that these waterfalls would never stop being incredible. We also saw a ton of monkeys (the tour guides promised me monos, and I was SOOO excited when I finally saw the furry creatures swinging through the trees. I swear one even smiled at me).

             Besides going to the falls, we also stopped at las ruinas jesuíticas (also called las ruinas de San Ignacio) in Misiones, a northern province of Argentina. It was really interesting learning about the history of the region and witnessing the indigenous culture that still remains there today. So different from the primarily European influences of Buenos Aires, and I felt like I was experiencing an entirely new South American culture.

             In general, the trip seemed like a vacation from my study abroad vacation. We spent our time laying by the pool in the sunny, 80 degree weather. The nights were filled with tropical fiestas, and it was great meeting other students from across the world.

 Brazil and Paraguay:

             Okay, so maybe I didn’t spend much time in Brazil and Paraguay, but I did see an amazing view of the countries and spend a few hours on the borders. On our last day in Iguazú, we went to el hito de las tres fronteras, or the point where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet.  It was yet another amazing view, and we sat by a small stream that meandered through the woods, overlooking the mixing waters of Río Paraná and Río Iguazú. I also got to use my 15-word Portuguese vocabulary with the Brazilians we encountered. And surprisingly, they actually understood me! But I will definitely be studying before my next trip to Brazil, which I hope is very soon.

             So I think I may be getting a little close to the word limit for these posts, but make sure to look at my next post to hear more about my Uruguayan adventures :)

             Nos vemos,

            Jess

        

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The struggles of Jess

Time March 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hola amigos! Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written. It’s been so busy these few weeks with orientation each day. I’ve been having such an amazing time meeting friends through my program and getting to know the argentine way of life. Even though my first weeks in Buenos Aires have been absolutely wonderful, some challenges are inevitable with living a new country. So here are just a few of them I’ve experienced:

 the subways

The subway system, called the subte, is absolutely wonderful! There are six lines that run throughout the entire city, so it isn’t too complicated to figure out which subway to take. Well, it shouldn’t be too complicated, but I took the subway the wrong direction the first time I tried (and also a few other times, but we’ll just pretend those didn’t happen J). Thank goodness the subways are entertaining: people bring speakers on wheels so they can sing, play guitar or drums, or perform really anything just to earn a few extra pesos. Some of them are actually pretty talented! So in all, maybe an extra half hour on the subway isn’t the worst thing.

 the smiles

As a pretty smiley girl, I would walk down the street, smiling a big toothy grin at the men and women I would pass. Some of them would give me a strange look, and I obviously assumed they were just having a bad day. About a week into our orientation, our advisors explained that smiling at complete strangers often has a sexual connotation. Oops, learned that fun fact a little too late. The people here are genuinely some of the nicest individuals I’ve met, but they have different ways of showing their affection. For instance, most people kiss friends, family members, co-workers, or even teachers on the cheek when greeting one another. It’s such a sweet gesture and wonderful aspect of the Argentine culture.

 the hair

In my past Spanish classes, we never really focused on adjectives to describe hair types. I know the basic colors, but not too much about describing straight or curly hair (I mean there are way more useful vocabulary words, right?). I got a keratin treatment this week to tame my frizzy hair (and to fit in more with the native argentines with beautifully smooth hair), and I googled how to tell the hair stylist that I wanted straight hair. Pelo lacio. I kept repeating this to myself as I walked to the salon. However, I accidentally told the stylist that I wanted pelo de lucio. She gave me a weird look, then smiled and nodded. My hair did turn our perfectly straight, but I suddenly remembered that the word lucio means pike, like the type of fish. I TOLD HER I WANTED FISH HAIR. So embarrassing. Thank goodness she knew what I meant. I probably wouldn’t look the cutest with pike hanging from my hair.

 So those are the struggles for now. And yes, I know there will be many more to come. As I go through these first weeks in Buenos Aires, I keep thinking of the words of one of my high school teachers: “Fail faster to succeed sooner.” Even though my first few weeks in Argentina have been a crazy mix of complicated struggles and unforgettable excitement, I know everything will get much easier with time. And at least these struggles make for great stories.

 Hasta luego,

Jess

 

 

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Sleepless in South America

Time March 5th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

And I’m finally here! I can’t believe I’ve already been in Argentina for a week. Everything feels so new and undiscovered, but another part of me feels like I’ve accomplished so much already. The people here hardly ever sleep, despite going to the clubs (called boliches) until 7am or eating and laughing with family past midnight. Yet, they seem so awake, so alive. I find myself sleeping less, too, but thank goodness you can find café con leche on every corner. Each day is filled with sunny, 80weather and the intriguing sites around the bustling city. It’s no surprise that nobody sleeps much with the excitement and beauty of Buenos Aires.

 As I stepped off the airplane, I was bombarded by first impressions. The people here are some of the nicest I’ve met. On the plane, I sat next to a businessman from Buenos Aires, and he invited me to dinner to meet his wife and kids. On the way to my new home, the taxi driver talked to me about my future career plans and his previous travels. Men are constantly yelling “qué linda” to women walking through the city; it’s not meant in a derogatory way but rather to compliment a woman’s physical beauty. And the people here are absolutely gorgeous. Much like the United States, Argentina is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. The city is filled with some of the best Italian food in the world. Empanadas – a famous Argentine dish of dough filled with meat, cheese, really anything delicious – were invented in Lebanon and illustrate the large Jewish influence in Buenos Aires. The European influences are evident in the historical buildings that fill the city. Yet, the modern architecture adds a unique and beautiful contrast. The city moves forward, yet clings on to the influences of the past. These contrasts define this city, and they help define ourselves. When we seek new experiences, such as studying abroad, we create a beautiful mess of the new and old, the familiar and unknown. Like these cities, our lives are melting pots of our past and future experiences.

 Another first impression: dulce de leche is the best thing to exist. You’ve probably had the Häägen-Dazs ice cream flavor before, but real dulce de leche doesn’t even compare. It’s like creamy caramel that is perfectly acceptable to eat with anything, any time of day. You can put it on fruit, chocolate cake, or croissant-like rolls drizzled with honey called medialunas. Basically dulce de leche has no rules. I put it on my Corn Flakes in the morning. And I may be guilty of eating it straight from the jar. I will likely be taking another suitcase back to the US, filled with 50 pounds of dulce de leche. And I’m not even kidding. It’s that good.

 Final first impression: I LOVE IT HERE. I have met so many great friends through the IFSA-Butler program and have loved getting to know my host family. I have never spoken so much Spanish in my life, and it’s amazing how I wake up feeling more fluent each day. I’ve seen the beauty of the city, recognizing that so many streets remain unexplored. I don’t know where these five months abroad will take me, but I know I’m on my way.

Nos vemos,

Jess

 

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the little things.

Time February 13th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s all becoming so real. A bittersweet mix of endings and beginnings, of direction and uncertainty, of excitement and apprehension. I’ve had countless moments where I’m talking with my best friends, making plans for Spring semester, and forgetting that I’ll be more than 5,000 miles away. 

I think of everything I’ll be leaving behind, but also everything I’ll gain in place. I think that’s where the beauty lies. By knowing that everything will change in a few days, I’ve begun to appreciate the little things at UW-Madison – the snow falling as I walk up Bascom Hill, the convenience of the Starbucks on State Street, and the irreplaceable friendships I’ve formed over the past two years. As the days rapidly approach my departure, I fear that these memories are fading into the distance, and the elusive familiarity is replaced by inevitable change. 

So maybe I’m just being a little dramatic. Besides looking up more about the beaches and nightlife of Buenos Aires, cultural and other historical sites, and beautiful male soccer players, I discovered that there are 37 Starbucks in the city. So basically, since I’ll be practically surrounded by vanilla lattes, I know everything has to be okay for a coffee-lover like me. I’m really looking forward to trying yerba mate tea, and I’m sure the coffee in South America will even put Starbucks to shame.

Even in a new city, I’ll be submerged in the foreign familiarity of meeting new people. I’ll witness the beautiful sites of the bustling Buenos Aires, the roaring Iguazu Falls, and the snow-ridden Patagonia. Just like Madison, the seasons will change (and luckily be WAY warmer). I, too, will change as a person from the experiences that await. This uncertainty I’m feeling, of not knowing where my adventures will lead, is maybe the best thing that could happen. Through my college experience so far, I’ve learned that life revolves around taking chances, around losing one’s footing momentarily, to find strength, success, and ultimately self-discovery. A life without risk is only a life waiting to begin.

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