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Hotsprings, Hiking, and Hangliding (and wine): One Heck of a Good Time in Mendoza

Time July 14th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Guys: traveling is so so cool.  I know this is not a new observation, and I’m sure that as humans we have been exploring and pushing the boundaries of our known worlds at least as long as recorded history.  But I’m finally discovering this feeling for myself, and it’s wonderful.  The bug is real (the travel bug that is), and after my most recent trip I’m already planning on how I’m going to scrounge up the funds for another adventure.  Maybe I’ll just become a wandering minstrel…

On this travel note, last weekend, I went to Mendoza with two of my best friends here: Ali and Morris.  They’re the best.  However, the timing wasn’t, considering the trip was planned for the weekend before all of my parciales (FINAL EXAMS), so my trip was going to eat into some pretty important study time.  But, since we were taking Omnibuses to get there, this meant had a 15 hour drive to hit the books.  

(Plus, now that I’ve finished all of my parciales, I would like to report that they went SWIMMINGLY.  This note is for you, parents)

Yet despite the small cloud of academic worry that hung over us, we entered the weekend with high hopes, and we were not disappointed.  Not in the slightest.  Mendoza was, though not as visually striking as Patagonia or Salta, the best place I have traveled to in Argentina.  I was in heaven.  

Mendoza is gorgeous, a mix between the Sierra Nevadas and Napa Valley with a hearty dose of the Andes Mountains thrown in.  The weather was absolutely perfect; mid-sixties without even a hint of anything less than sunshine.  Is it even winter here?  We hiked all around her foothills while breaking every rule that I’ve ever learned as a hiker (we didn’t bring enough water, we didn’t tell anyone where we were, we went slightly off-trail, and we had no real destination or plan on getting home).  We also paragliding off the summit of Cerro Arco, and spent an afternoon perusing the many parks, fountains, and a few of the art museums that the city had to offer.  

Mendoza is delicious; I had probably the one of the top 5 desserts in my life (a chocotorta, in a splendid restaurant called El Mercadito), as well as some delicious wines, salsas, and liquors.  One day, we did the popular bike-wine tour; we took a bus out to wine country, rented some bikes, and spent the day tasting some of Mendoza’s best offerings.  We went to big wineries (LaGarde), small wineries (Carmelo Patti), organic wineries (Pulmary), and places with everything in between (A La Antigua).  

Mendoza is tranqui.  For a large (9.5 million people live in the city and the surrounding area) place, Mendoza doesn’t appear overly bustling in massive.  People smile more than they do in Buenos Aires, and the city pretty much shuts down every afternoon for a siesta.  It was a winning combination of the exciting buzz of a metro area with the comforting feel of a smaller town.  We also took a day trip to the Cacheuta Hot Springs with some British friends who we met at our hostel, and it was a day of fantastic food, peaceful soaking, and striking views.  I couldn’t have asked for a better last day in Mendoza.  I couldn’t asked for a better trip to send off my time in Argentina.  

If you want more of Mendoza, you can check out some pics below.  They’ll tell you more than my words could.

Also, on a separate note, I couldn’t really have asked for a better hostel than Hostel Mora, the hostel that happily housed us in Mendoza.  (Cue shameless plug here).  Hostel Mora served us breakfast to-order every morning (fo’ freee), which included EGGS (something that they never serve for breakfast here, and I had been missing), dulce crepes, fresh fruit, and a variety of pastries.  But, in addition to that, I adored the folks we that we met and spent time with at the hostel.  There were Alex and Becca, an American couple who were traveling the world after Alex sold his startup company.  Nick and Charlotte were a British couple who had been traveling in southern South America and were freaks about soccer.  Remy was an Australian girl my age who had be traveling for the better part of the last 5 months on her own, and had just spent a few weeks in Brazil at the World Cup.  And, of course, best for last were Oli and Dan, a pair of best friends from London who were on a gap year in South American and became our best friends in Mendoza.  They were a hilarious one-two punch who are low-key social media celebs.  Between shenanigans in the hostel, a dinner adventure, and quality times with a waterproof camera at the hot springs, we certainly made some great memories together.  I hope that I can visit them in London one day. In my experience, hostel dwellers are by and large pretty cool, but these ones were the best that I’d met so far.  It made me want to travel more.  

Now, I’m back in Buenos Aires.  I survived my examenes finales, have fanatically supported the USMNT with random gaggles of Americans throughout the city, and am starting to get sad about leaving.  As of now, I have 5 days left in Buenos Aires.  What the hell.  Also, my summer job just fell through due to restructuring in the company I would’ve  been working for, so after this stint as a blogger ends I’ll be officially unemployed.  Looks like Craigslist is about to become my best friend. 

Keep it real, stay classy, and take care.  I’ll write again soon.

Dylan

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Empandas de Salta: Photos

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

Whoops!  So sorry I forgot to post the pics I mentioned in this post.  Check ’em out here :)

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Empanadas de Salta

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

Geez, I’ve certainly been traveling up a storm recently!  When we last left off, I had just returned from the Argentine Patagonia (check my story out HERE), and I barely had time to catch my breath in Buenos Aires before gearing up for my next trip, which was to the city of Salta in the extreme Northwest tip of Argentina.  My friends and I scored a sweet deal on the travel and accommodations with the same travel agency that took us to Calafate, and after kissing my host family goodbye (it seems as though I had just said hello to them), I was on a plane to the high-altitude deserts and rugged Andes Mountains of the north.  

Before I had left, my host Dad took me aside and advised me that Salta was famous (food-wise) for its empanadas, tamales, and wine; and he urged me to try all three.  So, after landing, dropping our stuff off at the hostel (and saying hi to the kitten that lived there), we set off in search of delicious and authentic Salteñan food and drink.  Our trusty Lonely Planet app steered us towards a restaurant called Doña Salta, which, while kitschy (the waiters dressed up like Gauchos), had extraordinary food and wine.  I sampled the empanadas (which are more like empanaditas; they’re pretty small in the Salteñan style) with delicious dried meat only found in Salta, and enjoyed my first bites in a long time of  tamales (yum!).  I also had Locro, which is a lamb stew popular in the Northern regions of Argentina.  The food was all rich and hearty, which proved to be a theme for all the food that we ate that weekend.  It seemed appropriate for chilly and mountainous region in which we found ourselves, and my tummy certainly didn’t mind.  We told ourselves we would crash early that night since we had a tour planned at 7 the next morning, but since we are silly college students who were stoked to be in a new city, we naturally didn’t sleep much that night (note: this is a very consistent theme for this trip, and I probably averaged only four hours of sleep a night #restandrelaxation?).  

The next morning found us excited if a little exhausted, and we had barely shook the sleep from our groggy eyes before we had hopped onto a combi (a giant van-type vehicle for carrying larger groups of people) and began our photo adventure to Cafayate, which is a wine town tucked into the nape of the Andes.  We had a van photo/food/informational tour planned for each day, and each tour that we took had a different mood depending on who our fellow riders were. Today, the mood was ENERGY.  We were with a crew of middle-aged women from Mar del Plata (shoutout to the first city that I ever traveled to in BsAs) who liked to have fun!  That day was the birthday of one of their members (Ramira), and I lost track of how many times we sang “Cumpleaños Felíz” during that drive.  We also saw amazing vistas, drank yummy pink wine, enjoyed some llama empanadas, and I bought an alpaca sweater.  The women were wonderful company, they were tickled pink that we were American but spoke comfortable Spanish.  We ended that day with quick stroll into a canyon for our last photo stop, and while we were there a ukelele player took full advantage of the acoustics of the canyon with a few tunes, which inspired our new friends to dance wildly and sing along.  Then, the ladies from the sea gathered us all into a circle and we prayed for Paz Mundial.  #blessed.  What an amazing day.  

Day two (Saturday), however, was the one we were all waiting for, the (longggg) day trip to the Salt Flats of Jujuy.  After staying up way too late the night before (again) with our new friends from the hostel, we crowded into a new van with a new crew and hit the road for the Salt Flats.  If yesterday’s theme was energy, then today’s was absolutely adversity.  The day started auspiciously enough; we met some cool new friends who were staying in Tucumán and took some enthusiastic photos with us next to the Train to the Sky.  However, after one of our first photo stops, our guide couldn’t get the car in gear (basically every vehicle is stick-shift here), and he turned to us and explained that without the ability to shift gears, our car wouldn’t be able to drive.  We had no radio, no cell service, and no idea what to do.  Our guide, fortunately, happened to be a mechanic, but after taking apart the whole front panel of the The mood of the group rapidly began to sour until another combi trundled along and we were able to flag it down.  After about an hour (from when the car broke down to the end of the tinkering), our driver had jury-rigged the gearbox cables together with a piece of wire from the toolkit that the other combi had.  And that jury-rigged system lasted the ENTIRE 12 hour day, including some really rough driving.  Color me impressed.  But broken-down autos aside, that Saturday was also obscenely windy, and the towns that we visited were all out in the open and duuusty.  By the time we finally pulled up to the salt flats, most of us were tired and ready for the attraction that we had traveled so long (about a 5.5 hour drive thus far) to reach.  However, the flats were absolutely worth it.  We braved the wind and took a ton of goofy photos, and afterwards we hopped in the car and passed around some mate.  Between the excitement of the salt flat and the mateína, the mood and morale definitely improved.  Still, we were a ways away from Salta when we were at the Salinas, and it was a long haul back home.  When we finally made it back to our lodgings, darkness had long since fallen, and hostel food had never tasted so good.  

Finally, for our last day, our van tour promised us a trip to Cachi, which is another tiny mountain town that is known for both its goat and having spawned a former Argentine president.  To get there, we drove up a winding mountain road that offered spectacular views of a cloud-cloaked Salta.  The were cacti everywhere, and between the hardy desert plants and the color of the soil, I felt like I was in Tucson, Arizona (a town I know and love).  On the drive up, our affable (my personal favorite) guide introduced us to the mountain tradition of coqueando, which means the process of chewing coca leaves.  While each leaf contains a minute amount of cocaína (yes, the stuff in cocaine, but it’s more like caffeine than anything else in the leaf form), our guide assured us that people chewed these leaves the “help with the digestion”, before opening his mouth and cramming about 500 leaves into it.  Oh well.  However, our guide also asked if anyone in the car (which was populated today by a bunch of retired Argentines.  We, like every other day in Salta, were the only Americans in the car) if they wanted to perform music with him at the restaurant in Cachi.  Someone volunteered me (granted, I would have volunteered myself if given the chance), and before I knew up I was perched in front of a crowd of elderly Argentines singing Creedence Clearwater Revival (I forgot a verse but just made up the words in English and they were none the wiser).  I also ate goat for the first time.  Fantastic day.

And then, a god-awfully early morning flight later, I was back in Buenos Aires with some fantastic memories (and a lot of homework that needed doing) under my belt.  Once again, I felt incredibly lucky to travel, and I had spent the weekend with some of my favorite gringos that I have met during this program.  Plus, we were all photogenic and avid photographers, so between the 6 of us we probably took about 1000 photos.  I assure you that I made sizable cuts to get to the 88 photos that I’m posted here.  What a fantastic weekend.

Now, I’m in Buenos Aires and World Cup fever is in full swing.  I’m writing this while watching Colombia beat Greece and doing my best to balance academics with soccer (soccer might be winning).  It’s hitting me a little harder each day that I only have 3 weeks left in this fantastic country.  Definitely not ready to leave.  Not yet.  I no doubt will write some overwrought and unnecessarily verbose reflection when I end my days here, but until then, I’ve still got some more adventures.  Mendoza this weekend!  See you on the other side!  Dale, vamos!

Dylan

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Under The Skies of Patagonia

Time May 30th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi all, and pardon the tardiness of this post.  I just couldn’t be bothered to write a blog last Friday, and then I felt guilty about it so hashed one out over the weekend, but I didn’t want to post it until the next week, so I could at least stay somewhat consistent with my schedule.  Anyway, I miss you all, thanks for reading, blah blah blah, etc.  

Where we last left off, I was just about to head to El Calafate, which is a tiny, quirky little tourist town in the Patagonia region of Southern Argentina.  I was only there for a few days, and it was one of the shortest out-of-town trips that I had taken while in Argentina.  However, it was probably my favorite.  Patagonia is a landscape unlike any I had ever seen before in my life.  It defies description: it is both a high-altitude steppe, a glacial valley, a striking mountain range.  As Walt Whitman might say, “It contains multitudes.”  It is stillness, it is chaos, it is majesty.  As I flew in, I was glued to the plane window with my new Mexican friend/flightmate, unable to take my eyes off the colors, the contours, the vastness.  There’s a reason why people creating unceasing poetry, music, and art about this place.  There’s a reason it has inspired countless hikes, adventures, and an internationally famous clothing brand.  Patagonia isn’t really like anywhere else.  It is an untainted, unpretentious place.  It doesn’t need to be told how striking it is.  Patagonia is a kind of beauty that deserves to remain unbothered.  

So, naturally, I came barging in, dragging with me a crew of international students (Americans, Germans, Mexicans, Italians, and a Spanish girl). Like everything beautiful and perfect left in the world, the tourists flock there.  El Calafate, despite receiving a pretty hefty crowd of people each yeah, manages to still seem undisturbed and tranquil.  And boy, was that a blessing after Buenos Aires.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still adore my beloved BsAs, but after so much time spent in a city this semester, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to get away from the bustle.  When I stepped off the plane on the Patagonia runway, the air was clean, crisp, and quiet.  Buenos Aires isn’t a terribly smoggy city, but I forgotten how lovely cool mountain air was, especially after so much time spent in smoke-choked alleyways.  It reminded me of home, of my mountains, of my favorites places in Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington.  

Just that in itself would’ve made my trip down South Worth it, but the fun hadn’t even begun yet.  Our hodgepodge crew of international students and our travel agents checked into our hostel around 3 in the afternoon, and then we spent the rest of the day exploring before our big glacial hike the next day.  Some IFSA friends and I went down to the nature reserve (which had been recommended heartily by my folks), and we spent the afternoon wandering around the beautiful and well-kept reserve.  We snapped photos, bird-watched, got spooked by some wild horses, and skipped stones on the glassy face of Lake Argentino.  For a landscape oft-soured by contentious weather, our still and peaceful afternoon was a cool massage from the chaos of Buenos Aires.  Later, we dined on Patagonian Cordero and some spectacular Malbec, and after dinner some friends and I wandered around the streets of the town and looked at the stars.  As Crosby, Stills & Nash would have us remember, “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand why you know came this way.”  After so much light pollution in Buenos Aires, the Southern sky was particularly spectacular.  However, we had a massive and exciting day planned for the following day, so crashed early in preparation for that.

The next day was simply spectacular.  I really don’t even feel as though words can describe it.  Or pictures, for that matter; and even though I’m including some of my favorites for y’all to get a glimpse of what I saw, I don’t really know if I can adequately express what made my day in El Parque Nacional de los Glaciares such a magical experience.  Perhaps it was the hoarfrost that lay just so on the trees, rocks, and grasses that zipped past us on our bus ride into the park.  Perhaps it was the event staff playing “Thus Spake Zarathustra” as we first glimpsed Perito Moreno, the 3rd-largest and fastest-growing glacier in the world.  Maybe it was colorful scars in the mountain that the glacier had carved out during its recession post-Ice Age, or perhaps it was the blueness of the massive wall of ice that loomed out between the peaks and the forest.  From the wind-kissed boat ride to the crampon-laden glacial hike to the Andean condors that kept us company to the whiskey with glacier ice, it was the kinda day that I hope to remember forever.  I felt grateful, alive, vigorous.  To anyone reading this that was involved, in any part, in getting me to Argentina, to Patagonia, to this glacier, I thank you so deeply.

And now, I’m back in the city.  Have been for a little while actually.  It’s honestly grown on me so much, and each day I’m here I feel exponentially more comfortable.  My Castellano is improving so much, I spend more quality time with my host family every day, I’m meeting cool and new Argentine friends, and it seems like every time I leave the house I run into a new and fun experience.  From watching the final of the Champions league in a crazy pub in San Telmo to discussing the finer points of Argentine modernist cinema over a cup of coffee, this place keeps both my intellect and my enthusiasm sated.  Yes, school is amping up as all my friends gallivant into summer vacation, and I was super bummed to miss my friends graduate, but I’m happy here.  I love it here.  And I don’t wanna go back, at least not yet.  

Besos,

Dylan

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Double, double Cultural Boil and Trouble

Time May 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I was gonna write a different blog post today, likely something trite about how much time and have left in Argentina (answer: not that much eeek), and how I should be consistently conscientious (stuff I referenced a bit in THIS post) while I am here to get the most out of my abroad experience.  It would’ve been straightforward, mildly (psh, more like SUPER) interesting, and safe. 

But I don’t want to write about that today.  I’d rather write about what’s been actually perturbing me lately, much more than my efforts to be a well-behaved cultural traveler.  What’s been perturbing me lately has been culture shock.  Culture shock, aka the buzz-word of every study abroad program story ever, is defined by our friend the Webster Dictionary as, “the feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to.”  However, Noah Webster also never left the United States, and while he was a brilliant revolutionary thinker (and also certainly never contributed the phrase “Culture Shock” to the lexicon that now bears his name), he had no experience with this sensation first hand.  So, for his posthumous (RIP Noah) information, and for yours, I would like to explain what culture shock means, at least to me.  

First, let me start with the word, “Shock.”  In my case, it’s a misnomer.  It wasn’t as if one day, out of nowhere, all of my doubts and fears and petty annoyances about living in Argentina came crashing down like a lightning bolt from the heavens; and as I lay smote between the calles, the denizens of the Whitman Off-Campus Studies office cackled at my dismay between cries of “I told you so!”  No no, nothing like that.  It’s more of a Cultural Boil, really.  This feeling is subtle: tough to quantify, and can sometimes take a while to kick in; but by the end of it you’re in hot water and you’re not really sure how you got there (even if the signs were all there).  One day, it’s the feeling of inadequacy as I fumble through a foreign language while trying to do something as simple as tell the bus driver my destination.  The next day it’s stepping in the dog shit that laces the streets of downtown Buenos Aires.  Today, it was getting sandwiched between two smelly people on the bus while yet another politically-charged protest spilled into the streets of my route, hopelessly clogging traffic and thus causing my commute to turn to a standstill.  I was en route to change money on calle Florida so that I could pay for an excursion onto a glacier in Patagonia (my weekend destination, because my life here is still unreal), and despite having had a pretty good day up until that point (see the preceding parenthetical statement), I all of a sudden felt overwhelmed by everything.  I almost wept, just because it was all just so damn different and so damn obnoxious.  WHY did the people had to protest about every little thing in this country?!  All of these grassroots political parties want the same stuff, and it’s not like rioting in front of the Casa Rosada every freaking week is going to make the president see you in a better light.  And WHY was I crammed into this crowded bus to go get swindled by a sleazy merchant and then go wait in line so that I could pay something that I could do by credit card if I were at home!?  WHY don’t the people walk faster in this country, HOW should I be expected to get to class on time if the commute is always this chaotic, WHAT do I need to say so that the people here don’t look at my foreign self as though I were a beetle, and WHERE can I find a decent cup of coffee (most of the coffee here is rubbish)?!  WAAHHHH!!

ahem.  Pardon me.  Give me a second to collect my aching mind.

Alright, we’re good.

After my deluge of feels subsided, that’s when I realized I had been well and truly culturally boiled.  It wasn’t fun, but I think it was actually a super necessary part of my abroad experience, especially since I wasn’t really expecting it.  Despite a childhood in which I was unable to leave on a week-long backpacking trip without crying myself to sleep every night because I missed home (this was at age 14, mind you), I’ve recently become a person who embraces new experiences, thrives on change, and is comfortable with pursuing multiple different passions.  To me, studying abroad was a natural extension of my curiosity, and I couldn’t imagine how people could ever get fed up with the experience (especially someone who is lucky enough (as I am) to live in a house with a family and hot food and running water and internet).  I had read many of my friends’ blogs about culture shock (shoutout to my pal Rachael Barton’s post, especially), and while I had enjoyed learning of their insights, I never really took it much to heart.  “That sort of doubt and annoyance is for other, less adventurous people” quoth I, “and I’m never going to feel anything like that.  Besides, Argentina is too fun!”  And I was right, to an extent, but I also had no idea really what to expect.  

See, culture shock is different for everybody and for every situation.  I absolutely adore Argentina, pretty much every day here is fantastic, and because I was so happy here I assumed that culture shock (a presumed “sad thing”) would never catch me.  But cultural shock isn’t happy, nor is it sad.  It’s a realization, a state of mind that caught me in the middle of an everyday discomfort that made me realize how (despite my high level of comfort in this city) unfamiliar every damn thing was.  However, it is a necessary realization, and one that I am honestly grateful for, because so many people live their whole lives without realizing the unbelievably vast amount of culture that exists on this planet.  Therefore, today was a learning experience for me, and while I definitely wanted to Skype my family and hug my fat cat again today, I also took a step towards realizing the beauty that lies within the innumerable bits and pieces of culture that separate the Argentines from me.  

Gosh, it feels good to write this out.

Yes, I still hate how misogynistic the men here can be.  Yes, the commutes can absolutely suck.  Yes, I sometimes just miss having the familiar twang of English wash over me as compared to the constant rush of oft-indecipherable Castellano.  And yes, today these differences all got to me in a pretty emotive way.  But I wouldn’t trade these feelings for blissful happiness, or really anything else, because without these realizations, I would never have realized how many new things I am absorbing during my time here.  After all, sometimes it takes a shock to get the heart beating again.  

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Snapshots of Buenos Aires: Some Brief Observations on Argentine Culutre

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

Hey all.  I hope that life is treating you so well.  Congrats to everyone who has finished school for the year, and to those of you that are still mired in exams, good luck!  It’s a little bizarre to see all of these “end of the year” updates roll across my Facebook page, because I am still completely tucked into the warm underbelly of school over here.  People are busy taking finals and I just finished my first round of parcials (midterms).  That’s the result of not starting class here until the end of March (haha suckahs), but while I was jubilant whilst on my long winter break, it’s gonna feel less stellar knowing that all of my friends are on break and having fun adventures while I’m still in school.

Oh wait.

Who am I kidding?  I’m in Buenos Aires!  Classes here are so cool and interesting!  I’m going to have a lunch meeting with one of my favorite new Argentine directors! Everyone day is an adventure!  I’m going to Patagonia next weekend, and Mendoza soon after!  Life is grand!  Exclamation points!

Anyway, sorry for that outpouring of overwhelming exuberance.  Things have been really awesome here in the last few weeks.  The weather is getting cooler (thank GOD), which makes it prime for running.  I’ve been running a lot here lately; it’s not only a cool way to explore the parts of the city closer to me, but I’m also training for my first half marathon (WHAT!?) in June.  But as well as providing me a break from homework and a good physical workout, running gives me the mental space to reflect on the uniquely Argentine things that I continue to notice everywhere I go.  

I haven’t really talked much about the plethora of things–big and small–that differentiate Argentina from anywhere else that I’ve been, but I figured now would be a good time to bring it up, as this subject has occupied my mind on many a run.  Basically, I’ve been thinking a ton about what it means to be an exchange student in a foreign land (much more cogitation on this subject will be in my next post), and I’ve come to the (albeit not 100% certain) conclusion that the biggest thing that I want to focus on during my remaining few months here is to consciously engage with my environment as much as a possibly can.  

It’s so easy to check out and get into a routine of not being mentally engaged.  On the bus, the subte, or the short walk home from a bus stop, it’s very easy for my mind to blearily wander when it should be consciously focused on where I am.  The best way that I’ve found to fully absorb a new culture is not to throw yourself willy-nilly into what the locals do, but instead to actively observe and think about what differentiates the Argentine culture from mine.  

So, that said, I’ve compiled a lil’ list of things that the Argentines do.  Some are certainly similar to behaviors that I notice within other cultures, but every one has a unique porteño flair.  

  • Fathers and sons have a very special relationship.  On the street, it is typically the fathers walking with their kids, and it is common to see Dad’s showering their sons with physical and verbal affections (or physical and verbal punishment, given the situation). Young boys are always very excited to see their fathers, and during dinners at my house it is a common scene for my host brothers and Dad to loudly debate soccer while my host mom and I sit idly by.  I don’t know if it extends from the inherent culture of patriarchal masculinity here, or from some other source, but there is a strong bond between fathers and sons that exists here.
  • The streets have lane lines, but they aren’t really used.  It’s a free-for-all out there in the streets of Buenos Aires, and I’ve certainly had some seemingly close shaves while hurtling around the crowded and chaotic calles in a taxi.  Motorcyclists rub shoulders with massive collectivos, backfiring engines are a common sound, and horns are used so regularly they start to lose their punch.
  • Café culture.  There are cafés everywhere here, and despite providing customers with caffeine and other stimulants, they exude a very mellow vibe on the patrons.  People don’t rush here, especially when coffee is involved.  In Buenos Aires, if you’re 15 minutes late to a meeting, you are on time.  The excuse, “I’m sorry, I was enjoying my cup of coffee and I didn’t want to hurry through it” is not only valid, but expected.  People here give coffee breaks an almost holy level of respect, and the options for fueling up are definitely abundant.  My favorite is City Market, in San Telmo, which is about 3 blocks from my university.
  • Slow-moving, fast-talking people.  Yes, as slowly as the people here may move (on foot, mind you.  The cars all just haul ass everywhere), they speak as though they were reciting the terms and conditions of a product on a radio advertisement.  Now, my castellano is improving at a solid clip, but there are times when a local speaks to me and I have no idea what they just tried to say.  The accent and the speed of their words turns Spanish into an alien tongue.  It’s pretty wacky.  Also, speaking of aliens, that brings me to my last point for this post.  
  • Subtle racism racism.  This is a slightly uncomfortable topic, but it is one that I have run into a fair bit and I’ve spent a lot of time discussing.  Argentina, and especially Buenos Aires by extension, is a pretty racially homogenous country.  Almost everyone is white, with western European ancestry, so we all kinda look alike.  What this leads to, though, is racism towards any sort of difference.  There is a solid portion of people here who have Chinese and other East Asian blood, and for some reason a massive proportion of them work in grocery stores.  So, the Argentines just call the grocery stores “Chinos”, which is the same name they use for any person of East Asian descent, Chinese or not.  

Gosh, here I go again with a massive text-heavy post.  And I haven’t even talked about Lollapalooza yet (which I did promise).  So, I’ll briefly summarize Lolla here, and then just post a bunch of pictures.  

Lolla was incredible.  I saw some of my favorite bands (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ellie Goulding, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Phoenix, Lorde, and much more), and the energy was so amazing, I could’ve sworn I could physically feel the emotion from the crowd.  Argentine people go kinda crazy at concerts, and while I almost got trampled at the Chili Peppers mosh pit, I have also never felt anything as energizing as singing along with a crowd of almost 60,000 people who were all just out of their minds with excitement.  Plus, the venue was gorgeous and I met a bunch of new friends from all over the place: the States, Venezuela, Spain, France, and Argentina.  Even though getting home was a bit of a struggle (imagine these 60,000 people cramming into busses after the show and that might give you an idea of how hectic it was) I am so so glad that I went.  Pics are here.

Well, thanks for sticking with me again, and I’ll talk to y’all again next week.  Now, time for a run!

Besos,

Dylan

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Lemons, Dedos, and Water: My Adventures in Uruguay

Time May 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey world, and thanks for tuning in.  I hope things are going well for you, wherever you may be :)  I’m sure you’ve all been quivering with anticipation since my first post where I mentioned Uruguay, and so now, after long last, I shall finally write about it.  

HOWEVER, my one disclaimer is that the pictures that you will be shown are not mine, and they have been shamelessly stolen from sites on the Internet.  I took some lovely photos while I was in Uruguay, but managed to lose my phone on one of our many bus rides, so all of my photos were tragically lost. That said, though, I’m going to try and include photos of all of the places that I went, so you can get an idea of my visual journey.  But anyway, on to Uruguay!  Dale aventuras!

Uruguay is a gorgeous (albeit a tad bit more expensive than Argentina), peaceful, and fun country, and it is only a quick jaunt over the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires, making it a popular destination for many Argentinians with the means to travel there.  IFSA had set everything up for us (and very generously too, I might add), and as this excursion was one of the three times that the entire program group got together (the other two times being orientation and our closing ceremony), it was pretty fun to see everyone in the program who I hadn’t seen in a while.  We had all come a long way from our overwhelmed selves during orientation, and I enjoyed hearing of everyone’s unique scene in Buenos Aires.

Our boat silvia-ana745x cruised across the river, fueled by caffeine and the excitement of 80+ American students, and we were in Uruguay in no time!  From the dock we hopped on a couple of big buses to our first stop: Colonia!  Our host and program director, Mario Cantarini, had generously offered his house for us to stay and frolic, and that afternoon was probably one of my fondest memories of my trip so far.  Mario’s “house” is a boutique hotel/lemon farm/place so beautiful I could see myself getting married there, and it was only a few blocks away from a beautiful beach on the Rio Plata ima1 Heaven.  We feasted on emapanadas, choripán, fresh fruit, pie, artensanal bread, and some of the most delicious meat I had ever eaten.  We splashed around in the pool, played soccer on the hotel’s front lawn, and then cooled off by sprinting down to the beach and jumping into the river.  At the end of the day, we bussed into the center of town (Mario’s place is on the outskirts) to check into our hotels for that night.  

Colonia has a ton of history and is a World Heritage Site, and we took a tour to check out some of the old (they’ve been around since the 1600’s) buildings. colonia-uruguay The town was super safe, quiet, and peaceful.  Stray dogs (who are neutered by the city so that overpopulation doesn’t run rampant.  Fun fact) run around, barking at cars, and the air buzzed with the sound of birds and insects.  Some good friends and I feasted on paella and jazz music, and then went down to the river bank for stargazing, fireflies and good conversations.  After the breakneck pace of Buenos Aires, the peace and quiet of Colonia was cool water to my parched and chapped nerve-endings.  

The next day, we were up early again to scamper off to Punta del Este, which is one of the biggest resort towns in the area, and was much more built up and touristy than Colonia.  modopuntadeleste Argentine author Rodolfo Rabanal describes it thusly: “Los turistas se marañan sus calles peninsulares durante el verano. Pero en invierno, edificios telar vacío, como si en los talones de una alerta atómica, mientras que barrido gaviotas y cormoranes negros que anidan en las grietas de mejillones rellenos de caminar por las calles” (“Vacationers snarl its peninsular streets during the summertime.  But in Winter, buildings loom vacant as if on the heels of an atomic alert, while scavenging seagulls and black cormorants that nest in mussel-filled crannies walk the streets.”)  As we were there in the fall, the streets were mostly free of the snarling vacationers, and it was a pretty odd experience to wander the hotel-laden streets that seemed to offer everything except people.  

We certainly, made the most out of Punta del Este, though.  IFSA (praise be unto Them) put us up in some sweet digs that were equidistant from three different beaches, and they also paid for some spectacular restaurant meals of fresh calamari, fish, and carne de vaca (the former two are some delicacies that are uncommon in Buenos Aires, and they were happily welcomed by my palate).  Punta del Este has some gorgeous beaches, the Dedos de Punta del Este, and some very fun beachfront nightclubs.  la_mano_de_punta_del_este_toma5_big Shenanigans, surfing, and silliness ensued for the next few days, among which included: Bodysurfing in torrential rain, meeting a professional-level breakdancer and dancing with him and a club, and spending a lot of time in the complimentary hotel bathrobes. Before I knew it we were back on the waterbus to home sweet Buenos Aires.  It had been an amazing adventure in a gorgeous country, and despite the comparably terrible exchange rate, I can’t wait to get back to Uruguay.  But, until then, there is always LOLLAPALOOZA (see my next post 😛 )

I hope you enjoyed this blast from the past, and I assure you that one day I’ll catch up to what I’m doing currently.  Classes have been excellent so far, though.  I’ve watched a truckload of excellent peliculas, spent many an hour toodling around on REAPER (a free sound-editing program) building “sonic stories”, and have met a bunch of fascinating and diverse South American students.

Besos,

Dylan  

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I Seen A Rainbow Yesterday (pt. 3 of 3 on Iguazú)

Time April 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello again.  Thanks for bearing with me as I bombard you with a deluge of dumb Iguazú reflections (kinda like the waterfall bombarded me with water AYYYO (I need to stop)).  If you want to read my other reflections on the falls, check them out here and here.  I have since returned to the wonderful city of Buenos Aires, and am now contentedly typing this up in a lovely cafe in Palermo whilst drinking a delicious café con leche.  Life is rough.

It’s also Easter Sunday today, which is a pretty big deal in a city that is overwhelming Catholic.  Folks call it Pascua, but the bunnies and chocolate eggs are as big a deal here as they are in the States.  However, my host family didn’t really do an Easter Egg hunt so much as we just ate a bunch of chocolate and talked about why rabbits are a symbol for the rebirth of Christ (My host dad posits that it is because rabbits are very fertile, and thus a good symbol for birth…).  Then, we got dressed up all fancy and went me out to an Easter asado, so between that and my copious chocolate consumption I feel contentedly stuffed.  Three cheers for food.

ALSO I HAVE PICTURES FROM IGUAZÚ.  Feel free to Czech ‘em out.  Please excuse the terrible picture quality; I was using the “camera” feature of my video camera because I forgot to charge my actual camera before I left for the Falls.  Struggz.

Anyway, here’s a few more Iguazú reflections comin’ your way.  

The Garganta At Night: Three Haikus about my favorite waterfall of the lot


Spraycano:

Darkness drops, wind stops

nothing keeps the spray away

raincoats necessary

(This was inspired by the amazing amount of spray of water the the Garganta generated when I was there. During the day it isn’t too much to deal with because there was a stiff breeze, but at night the wind drops and the spray turns into veritable rainshowers)


Moonbow:

Light is dimmer now

Rainbows have turned to moonbows

Shyer, but gorgeous

(I saw a moonbow in the water vapor)


Brightness:

Long exposure leads

to the illusion of day

but why hide the night?

(My dad took some long exposure photographs of the falls with a 25 second lens exposure, and it looked like daytime when they came out.  Pretty cool lights up our world, but sometimes we can bring too much artificial light into our daily lives)


Aaaaand here’s a BONUS Haiku! 


The ancient belly

of Earth spawns priceless jewels

My belly, less so  


Thanks, everyone, for putting up with my silly artistic venture.  I had a truly wonderful time at the falls, and I there’s still so much more I could share, but I have to move on and talk about other parts of my life.  Stay tuned for more current updates next week!  You are all awesome for reading, and feel free to facebook, email, or comment if you want to say hi.

Besos,

Dylan

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Birdsong Alarms and Waterfall Kisses (pt. 2 of 3 on Iguazú)

Time April 21st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi all, and welcome to Part Two of my Iguazú (I missed the accent on all spellings of this word in the first post.  Lo siento mucho) reflections.  Since this is my second part, I’m going to write not ONE but TWO short-story type reflections (oh boy oh boy!).  One will be about a birdwatching trek through the jungle that I took with my folks one early, cloudy, and beautiful morning; and the other is about a chilling venture under the waterfalls on a powerboat.  I hope you enjoy!

PS – Pictures (and maybe even VIDEOS) are coming with the 3rd post; I’m still figuring out how to download the information from the video camera that my host fam (they are the nicest people ever) lent  me.  So, until then, enjoy some cool Argentine music.

Birdsong Alarm

My father’s voice pulls me from sleep with all the gentleness of a punch to the gut.  I relinquish my grip on unconsciousness with great reluctance, my grogginess temporarily overshadows my fast-growing excitement.  I crave a birdsong alarm to fully rouse me to the present tense.  Fast forward.  A large grey truck under a large grey sky, with green to our sides and red beneath our tires.  The English spoken by our guides has both graceful lilts and awkward stumbles that bely the Castellano underneath.  Wheels stop.  The doors slam shut.  Pause.  The air is thick with song, our shoes thick with red clay.  The guides speak the language of the forest.  They are comfortable here.  To them, each song has a name, each name a body, and through the lenses of our binoculars, sounds materialize in the shape of small, feathery animals.  A toucan, a hawk, a woodpecker, a flycatcher.  The names are almost as bizarre as the songs we hear.  Time races ahead, and the sun melts the cloud and any signs of tiredness.  We are roused, eager, soaking up the rainforest.  Tiger ants trundle tepidly underfoot but our eyes are on the heavens, looking for the messengers of song.  The South American rainforest may be dying, and we are culpable of the murder.  But today, the world reeked of invigoration. Today was an exercise in life.  And to think I wanted to sleep through it.

Waterfall Kiss

The

           Stairs

                         Down

                                   To

                                         The

                                                 Dock are

                                                                      Uneven

                                                                                        and winding.

We board.  The multilingual chatter of the tourists is drowned out by the ululations of nature.The water rushes, the falls roar.  

Up close, the whitewater is massive and unforgiving.  Why didn’t I bring my raincoat?

Suddenly,

D

E

L

U

G

E

And then it’s gone.

It was only a kiss, and I am soaked to my bones.  Remind me to never date a waterfall.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed.  Part 3 should come in a few days!

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El Garganta del Diablo (pt. 1 of 3 of my musings on Iguazu)

Time April 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Again, I’m about to begin one of my post with my seemingly obligatory “sorry this blog is late blah blah blah” remarks, but this blog is especially late, and I really am sorry that I took so long between updates (this is directed to the approximately 4 of you that actually read my blog regularly).  Anyway, this week;s reason for tardiness is that not only have my classes have amped up quite a bit, but my folks (2 of my ~4 regular readers) have come to Argentina and I’ve spent a lot of time during the last few days with them.  We’ve gone out to lovely dinners in Palermo and with my host family

 It’s been so wonderful to have them here, and having them around definitely makes me remember both how much I miss them and how grateful I am to have been raised by them.  I went out the other night with my parents and some of my awesome new Buenos Aires friends, and I was described as, “the average of my mom and my dad.”  Whatever that means, I’m lucky to have any part of them at all.

But sappiness aside, what having my parents around really means is ADVENTURE!  My family loves to take crazy trips together, for this trip the plan was to spend some quality time in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, Iguazu Falls.  This place is like nowhere else I’ve ever been, and it makes my creative juices start to pump nonstop.  So, in light of the falls, for the next few posts, I’m going to eschew my typical stream-of-consciousness blog style, and instead present to you “Writings from Iguazu”, where I’ll post a new poem or bit of prose (or “Poem-like Creation”) from each day that I am here.  Sound like fun?  Good!  Here’s day one: “El Garganta del Diablo”.

(Author’s note: Due to the necessary approval process of my employers, these blogs will likely not be published exactly on the day that they were written, so I’m sorry about the incongruence.  Just for completeness’ sake, I was in Iguazu from the 12th to the 15th of April.)

(Author’s note 2: I know I promised y’all Uruguay, and I assure that Uruguay will be my next post following my artistic stab into recounting my experience in Iguazu)

El Garganta del Diablo:

There is nothing quite like the feeling when you stand over the throat of the devil.  The wind is his voice, rushing past you, through you, tugging at your hat as well as your heart and gently imploring you to, “come just a biiiit closer”.  The water is his blood.  It rushes and roar around you, their power both inspires you to live fully and terrifies you of about the possibilities that such a life would entail.  The falls themselves are his body.  I could spend two lifetimes staring at it, my eyes exploring every nook and cranny, perplexed by the constant rhythm and motion.

The throat is a place of abrupt change.  It is a step of a staircase of a giant.  It is flat ground that abruptly becomes a sheer face, and it is the river above plummets suddenly to a torrential pool below.  It is the wind that howls, the edges the beckon, the vistas that capture.  Yet despite its name, the throat of the devil is a place sent from heaven.  Because from within the pool of chaos there forever blooms a rainbow.

Also, for all who are curious, this is the Garganta del Diablo (sorry I can’t post my own pics; my camera ran out of battery and I left my charger in Buenos Aires.  D’oh!)

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Megapost Part Two! (Featuring School, Super-Tango, and Mexican Parties)

Time April 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hola hola a todos, y gracias para leyendo.  Welcome to part two of this week’s Megapost (check HERE for part one), and I look forward to expounding more on this week’s adventures. When I last left you, we had just finished a lovely adventure through the streets of Buenos Aires for St. Patrick’s day.  I had been in Buenos Aires for about 3 weeks, and have absolutely fallen for the place.  I love speaking Spanish, and I can feel my confidence with the language growing.  I love the city, and how there is always something to do and good people to do it with.  I love the people, and the kindness they show to strangers.  And I have been blessed with some pretty excellent experiences in Argentina so far; I’ve been to oceans, rivers, and some of the most spectacular places that Buenos Aires has to offer.

But, like all things, the utter revelry that I’ve been experiencing for here has come to an end, and in the words of Sam Cooke, A Change Is Gonna Come.  School has officially started!  Last week, I had my first classes at the Fundacion Universidad del Cine (lovingly dubbed the FUC (pronounced “Fook”)), and I am welcome this next step into life in Buenos Aires.  The FUC is a small school; only about 1,000 students (including grad students) attend, and it only occupies 4 buildings on a street in San Telmo.  I almost walked past it the on my first day of class.  I dig the small school vibe, though.  It reminds me of Whitman in the sense that you have the opportunity to make really meaningful connections with your professors, and I’m definitely to take advantage of that here.  Out of the four classes that I’m taking (History of Argentine Cinema, Advanced Castellano, Filmmaking and Production, and Sound Design and Orchestration), three of them have only 3 students.  I’m in heaven.

Now, some of y’all who know me might be thinking, “But hold up Dylan.  You’re a physics major.  You like math and natural science and computer science.  Why on earth are you taking an about-face into the realm of Film Studies?  Do you even know what that major is?”  The short answer is: I have no real idea what I’m doing.  But that’s kinda the point.  I didn’t come to Argentina to keep doing what I’m used to, I came here seeking change, and that’s hopefully what I’m about to experience.  I’m fortunate enough to not have to fulfill any major requirements for Whitman while I’m in Buenos Aires, and so the only thing I need to knock out while I’m here are classes in the humanities realm.  Not only do Film Studies classes do that for me, but they’re fun!  My professors are awesome and knowledgable and super cool (my filmmaking Prof has already invited me to play tennis and go climbing with him), and I’m sure that I’m gonna learn a bunch.  Plus, now I get to hang out with artsy film kids who dress cooler than me and have educated opinions on the meaning of life.  And my school has really hip decor.  This is gonna be awesome. [Gallery not found]

And as if it wasn’t enough to have started school such an awesome program (the film studies concentration people here have already taken me out to 2 different meals as part of the “orientation”), IFSA upped the game by taking all the students in the film/literature concentrations (the “Artsy” kids) to an extraordinary concert by the Orquestra Típica Fernández Fierro (Heretofore referred as the “OTFF”, because I don’t wanna type that out every time). It was so so so fun.  The show was in this dive bar in this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that opened into a soundstage.  The program paid for the tickets AND our food and drinks, so I split an excellent bottle of wine with some of my new UW-Madison friends and thoroughly enjoyed the show.  Now, it’s really tough to describe a show by the OTFF, but I’ll do my best (check out the video I linked to really understand).  Essentially, this group plays traditional Argentine tango music, but all the musicians are young and cool and play with unbelievable passion and energy.  It’s like “Apocalyptica” meets tango.  I was in a wonderful musical trance the whole time, and while I watched I reflected on how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to experience so many cool things in such a short amount of time here.

BUT THE FUN DOESN’T STOP THERE OH NO.  I finished classes for the week on Thursday (woo I have a four-day weekend every week woo), so naturally some good, clean fun was in order.  The weekend before, I had met a few other international students from Mexico, and they had mentioned that they live in an apartment near Recoleta and that I should come over sometime.  Well, that “sometime” was this weekend, apparently, as my dear friend Stephanie (yes, this is your shoutout :)  Be stoked) invited myself and some other pals over to this new friend’s apartment for some good old-fashioned shenanigans.  As this is a public blog viewed by both my Grandmothers, I won’t entail precisely what went down, but what I did love about that night was how fun it was to be hanging out with other international students (Mexico, USA, Paraguay) all the while speaking Spanish and swapping stories.  And I was in Argentina!  And it was 5 AM on a Thursday night (Friday morning?)  How cultured can I guy get!? (Well, much more, I’m sure, but I felt pretty darn awesome.)

So now, here I am, the the cusp of another weekend in which I am headed to Uruguay with the whole program (and you can be sure that I’m gonna write about that in a future post), and I’m feeling happy and full of life.  This place is incredible, and while I’m starting to feel the vague hints of cultural separation from the US (mainly I’m just tired of people looking down my nose at me once they realize I’m from the states.  My Spanish is good, okay!), I’m too busy enjoying life here to mind.  Buenos Aires, stay magical.  And to everyone reading this, thanks for making it this far. We’ll stay in touch.  ALSO, be sure to check out part one of my Megapost here.

Besos,

Dylan

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Big Rivers and Overdue Naps (Megapost part 1 featuring Rosario, St. Patrick’s Day, and More)

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

Hey all, and thanks for tuning in.  A lot happened this past week, so I’ve decided to split this week’s post into a MEGAPOST featuring two parts.  This is part one, and part two will be coming soon!

Sorry I wasn’t super punctual with this update.  As much as I’d like to blame my tardiness on either

  1. My last weekend trip to Rosario (And boy, was it a doozy!  More on this later)
  2. St. Patrick’s day (We’re apparently all Irish in Buenos Aires on the 17th)
  3. My first week of classes starting (Ahhhh they are so exciting and my professors are really cool and I made my first movie trailer!)
  4. Long chats in Spanish with my host family that get my head spinning in two languages (the language barrier is starting to crack.  Now, I just have a hard time thinking in Spanish; I’m still translating my thoughts instead of speaking them.)

The real reason why I haven’t had the time to blog is because I haven’t been giving myself enough time for me.

Note: this next section contains nothing cool, fun, or exciting about Argentina, and is instead filled with silly drivel about my life balance.  If that sounds boring, skip ahead to where I say, “Too much exposition aside,” :)

“Me time” is super important to my well-being.  A week in Argentina is often packed with as much sensory overload and adventure as a month in Walla Walla, and while I’m not one to miss a good ol’ whoopdedoo, I hit my wall at a certain point.  As my relatives may recall, wee Dylan would frequently sneak away from the family gatherings to go cuddle up alone with a book (or take a nap), and while I am energetic in groups, I can’t always sustain that kind of energy. I am an unabashed extrovert, yes, but a crucial component to my life is the ability to take some alone time to cogitate, reflect on past activities, and generally just chill out.  This not only helps tame my overwhelming exuberance, but it also helps me process the big questions I strive to answer by living my life; it helps me think critically How and Why of what I do as compared to just the What.

Apologies for yet another personal digression, but the point I’m trying to make is that, while I had several opportunities earlier this week to sit down and hash out a blog, I chose to do other things instead.  I journaled, read, listened to some cool new artists, and took naps (#sorrynotsorry for sleeping on the job).  But now, finally, I feel refreshed, nay, even excited, to tell y’all about my adventures of the past week and a bit.

But yeah, too much exposition aside (HEYO HERE’S THE FUN PART), this week was pretty durn fun.  It began with a trip to Rosario, which is a city about 4 (by bus, which is how the smart, if slightly less frugal members of my group did it) to 8 (by train, which is the way that I and my other thrifty friends endured the trip) hours away from Buenos Aires to the northwest.  It’s beautiful there; located right on the Rio Paraná, Rosario has a gorgeous waterfront, tasteful buildings, and beautiful (like, wowzers) people.  When we were there, one of the main streets was taken up by a group of artists of all ages, arranged in the colors of the rainbow, all painting for the benefit of the public.  It’s also the birthplace of Che Guevara, Lionel Messi, and Argentina’s flag (which is commemorated by a gargantuan momument).

My pals and I had a grand ole time exploring the city.  Check out this NEVER BEFORE POSTED GALLERY OF PICS for some accounts of what went down (it’s woefully small; I’m sorry.  Check out my Facebook for more).

We ate delicious ice cream, watched a roller derby, checked out the birth home of Che, and watched a spectacular sunset over the water, but before all of that we took a trip across the river to one of the many large islands that dot the waterscape.  The rivers down here are massive, they look more like oceans, and the Paraná was (and continues to be) a crucial trade route that spawned Rosario’s popularity as a city.  The beach and the sun were lovely, although the river water was dirty, murky, and probably (editor’s note: DEFINITELY) unsafe to swim in.  Naturally, I splashed around for quite a while (to the horrified looks of the locals), and consider myself lucky to have not acquired some miserable intestinal parasite.  And speaking of intestines, I had my first taste of them!  We went to an unbelievably tasty restaurant in Rosario (we ended up going both nights because it was soo good), where they cooked us Parrilla de Carbon, which is a massive platter of delicious grilled meats and veggies.  However, the meat you receive may vary.  In my case, I supped on steak, chicken, pork, and a bite of intestines, but the other table received bloody sausage, a mound of intestines, tongue, and some sort of gland.  #blessed.  That night, while attempting to enjoy some Rosarino nightlife, I managed to: knock over a drink onto a couple of cute girls, embarrass myself by apologizing in some godawful Spanish, rock out to some music early 2010s music (to the delight of the DJ), and then get myself pepper-sprayed by a power-tripping security guard outside of a nightclub by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Wooo.

But anyway, after Rosario, we returned to Buenos Aires just in time for St. Patrick’s day.  I slept for most of the day (nightlife in Rosario is rough; see above), and after I woke up I had to run some typical Monday errands; changing money, recharging my SIM card, doing my laundry, etc.  To be honest, I almost forgot it was the luckiest day in the world until my host dad reminded me.  He was adamant that I went to one street in Buenos Aires that has a very high concentration of pubs, so I called up some friends and we headed out for a green cerveza or two.  My host dad, of course, was spot on: this street was BUMPING.  There were masses of singing, dancing people, and everyone was spreading the cheer of the Irish.  Apparently, everyone has Irish blood here on St. Patrick’s day.  I learned some new words (“Fondo!” means “Chug!”, apparently), and had a guid auld time.  The two other guys who I was with both have a solid grasp of the language, so I got to speak Spanish all night, which is something I love to do, especially when going out with fellow Americans.  It’s so much easier to become comfortable in a language if you speak it constantly, and most of the time when I go out with other students we speak English because of the varying levels of comfort with Spanish within the group.  It was a real pleasure to feel comfortable enough with the language to blend in with the crowd of jigging Porteños.

Woof.  Thanks for reading this far; this concludes part one of the megapost, and stay tuned for part two (which features my first week of classes, parties with Mexicans, and the urban commuter lifestyle).  You are all wonderful people and thanks for taking the time to keep up with my adventures.

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Rooftop Islands and Raging Oceans

Time March 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

My house here has a terrace on its roof, and sometimes when I find the time (which is never because between classes and errands and cafe time with my new friends I don’t even have time to call my family (sorry, Mom)), I like to sit up on the roof and look out at the world around me. Up high, on my rooftop, I feel like I am a sole inhabitant of a lonely island amidst a vast cauldron of noises, smells, and light.  Buenos Aires is an ocean of sensory overload that swirls around me, and I sit on a wooden stool and take it all in (here are some pics that I took while scuba diving with my digital camera)

.  Yet while I may be the only one on my island, I am not alone in being an islander.  All around me is an archipelago of other terraces on other rooftops, and from my vantage point I can see them going about their lives just as I go about observing theirs.  There is a father with his small son, teaching him how to kick a soccer ball through a 2-foot high goal.  There are a group of young men who come out to bring Quilmes and make bawdy conversation.  Their is an older woman, face wizened by age but her body showing no signs of it, who hangs her laundry on the line.  She waved at me once, and as I waved back I realized something weird: I was just as much a periphery character in her life as she was in mine.  She probably had her own little moniker for me in her world, and our lives certainly had no reason to ever overlap.  This woman has hopes, dreams, memories, and stories that consist of many people and many places, yet for a few brief moments, our respective narratives interacted.  It was a pretty cool feeling to be able to have this sanctuary from the tumultuous ocean of Buenos Aires on my little rooftop island, and to be a part of the lives of those on the islands around me, albeit in a minor way.  I enjoy my moments of sonder.

But enough about figurative oceans; this past week I went to a real one!  It was in a town called Mar del Plata, which is about 6 hours south of Buenos Aires (check out  “My Journey” to see where we specifically went) by omnibus, which is a type of giant bus that many people here use to travel instead of flying.  These buses are typically double-deckers, and the seats fold down into beds and they give you yummy complementary snacks and basically are vastly superior to most US travel buses in almost every way.  But anyway, Mar del Plata was right on the ocean (our hostel was about 4 blocks from the beach!), and it was, in a word, gorgeous.  I have always loved oceans, and having never really lived by one other than in 7th grade, I am consistently drawn to their vastness, power, and beauty.  My group (consisting of my new and awesome friends named Trevor, Morris, Christine, Stephanie, Henry, Catherine, and Ricardo) met up with some other students from my program and practically sprinted to the beach nearest us.   W spent all of the first day at that beach, and I took a lot of pictures

 and went swimming a bit too.  The waves were awesome, the beach art was fantastic, and the sun was to wonderful for words.  It was a good day.  That night, we headed back to the hostel with plans to imbibe in certain legal beverages (which can be picked up at corner stores for unbelievably cheap prices) and then head out for a night of shenanigans and tomfoolery.  It was Carnaval weekend, after all, and the city was bumpin’.  However, after a few valiant efforts to inspire the group to go out, we realized that we were all too tuckered and sunkissed to leave the hostel, so instead we headed up to the roof (yay rooftops!) of the hostel to play guitar, sing songs, and generally have a chill evening of camaraderie.  The hostel put on some cumbia music (link here) and some of us (naturally I was one of them) danced away.  It was a good night, that one.

The next day, we rose around 10:00, enjoyed (?) some complimentary hostel breakfast food, and headed off for another day at the beach.  This time, instead of sticking to the beach near us (which was lovely but crowded), we piled into a colectivo and shipped off down the coast for about an hour until we reached a beach that was (supposedly) the best one in Mar del Plata.  Well, upon first glance it wasn’t too bad, but as soon as we tried to find a spot on the sand to lay down our stuff, the lifeguards shunted us away.  ¿Um, perdon?  Yeah, turns out this beach was private, and we had to walk all the way down to a windswept point until the lifeguard deemed the beach a “public area”.  Not even our best efforts (in both Castellano and English) could sway the beach officials.  Yet despite this beach clearly not seeming the like best one in Mar del Plata (we learned later that the beach we were looking for had been about 5 more minutes down the bus route from us), we had a blast.  The waves were even better than they had been the day before, and my body changed color from marshmallow-esque pasty to slightly-cooked-marshmallow.  We left the beach a little earlier that day due to wind, and since our bus back to Buenos Aires was scheduled to leave the next morning at 7:30, we decided to would emulate the Argentinians, and just stay out until then.  It was a raucous night.  After a delicious pizza and beer dinner at the hostel, we went out to a boliche called Tai-pan, which overlooked the bay and was generally super cool.  Many hours of dancing, a few cab rides later, and NO SLEEP later, we were suddenly on the omnibus back to Buenos Aires.  Most of us slept like boulders, although my nap was cut short by a cute but godawfully loud baby near me who kept crying and screaming like his sole purpose was to undermine the much-needed rest of a terribly sleep-deprived American traveler (mission accomplished, baby).

It was lovely to get back home.  I had missed my host family already during my time in Mar del Plata, and they were very accommodating to my immediate desire to sleep before I told them anything about the trip.  After my nap, we chatted for a while and they told me that Anderson (a Brazilian PhD student who had been staying with us for a while), had left the day before.  Anderson is a wonderful guy, and though we had only known each other for a few days, he had been such a pleasure to converse with.  This last picture is of all of us, and Anderson is in the front on the left next to my host dad.

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Thanks for reading, and I know this post was a doozy.  Stay wonderful, everyone.

Besos,

Dylan

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The Ultimate Macro-organism

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

Hola a todos.  I finally have found the time to sit down and write a blog post, and it’s amazing how overwhelmingly incredible this place is.  I’ve been pretty much going nonstop since my arrival, and between hanging out with my new family, orientation with IFSA-Butler, getting lost in the city, and checking out the boliche (club) scene, I’ve scarcely had time to sleep (which, apparently, is very normal for Porteños (locals).  No one sleeps here, and let me tell you that after coming off of a month of sedentary action, the struggle is REAL).  However, despite my limited z’s, I cannot even begin to describe how much I love this place already.  I’ve said this before, but I’d like to reiterate for the sake of this post: city life is pretty new to me.  Each day, I marvel at how many things there are to discover; new cafes, off-beat streets, hip stores, and bustling squares.  I could live here for 5 lifetimes and still never be able to take it all in.

Now, as some of you may know, I’m the son of two scientists and a pretty big science nerd myself.  So, it may not come as a surprise to many of you that when I finally took the time to sit down and brainstorm  and a process all of the thoughts that I’ve had since arriving, I came to the conclusion that Buenos Aires makes me think of multicellular life.  This city is a gargantuan, massively complicated macro-organism.

It has a circulatory system: My house is in near the city center, in a barrio called Almagro, but I might as well call in Corazón as it provides the vibrant pulse of energy that is carried throughout the city.  Las avenidas (Corrientes, Santa Fe, Córdoba) are the vessels; they carry the lifeblood that stems the beat of the barrio.  Upon these streets, cars rub shoulders with pedestrians who pay little heed to traffic signs, and bicyclists fill up all the remaining space.  Everywhere I look I see people running, walking, or haphazardly zooming around on motorcycles.  The buses run constantly, and the ground churns with the rumble of subways.  The energy of this organism cannot be curtailed into a slow-moving body.

It has a nervous system.  My house has a terraced roof with a porch that overlooks a few blocks, and from my perch on this rooftop island I can see 24 communication towers scattered across various tall buildings.  But cellular communication (consisting of companies called Movilstar, Personal, and Claro, to name a few) comprises only a few of the nerve endings.There are about 100 Wi-Fi networks (all password protected, of course) at any given point within the city, and if you’re out and about and looking for a conduit into cyberspace, you merely need to drop into a cafe, order an empanada, and jump onto the complimentary wifi.  However, the fastest and largest cluster of nerves is the people.  Many locals know this city (or at least their respective barrio) like they know fútbol (that is to say, that know a lot about it), and if you are lost or confused the friendly folks are very willing to step in to help.  The castellano (Argentinian type of Spanish) flows thick and fast and constantly; the streets are constantly buzzing with greetings, salutations, and interjections, as well as casual conversation.

It has a skeleton.  Buildings tall and short spring up haphazardly around me like bones in an elephant graveyard, yet the individual differences between each building does not stop at the sizes.  I look around and see stark white walls jostling for position next to dirty cinderblock; trees sprout up everywhere they possibly can, and a contiguous color scheme between buildings is a heretical idea.  Yet it is the very discontinuity of the individual bones that makes this skeleton so complete.  Viewed separately, sure, one may see chaos, but when I take a step back and view the skeleton as a whole, the incongruous pieces blend together into something complete.

Sorry for the text-heavy post, y’all, but hopefully my words can help you conjure up an image.  Next post, I promise, will be loaded with pretty pictures taken by yours truly.  Now, stay awesome, and thanks so much for reading.

Ciao,

Dylan

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Leavin’ on a Jet Plane…

Time February 21st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Don’t know when I’ll come back again.  Hi all, and thanks again for tuning in.  I’m writing this post today because the time for my departure is almost upon me, and I wanted to update y’all on my travel plans, and talk a little bit about my host family.  Tomorrow, I’m going to board a plane from Denver that takes me to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta I have my 12 hour flight (8 AM to 8 PM) with the majority of my IFSA-Butler Study Abroad group to Buenos Aires.  From there, we are whisked off into the 2nd largest city in the Southern Hemisphere for a few days of a orientation, introductions to our host families, and registration for our classes (as well as much more, I’m sure).

And speaking of host families, my new folks seem absolutely wonderful.  I will be living with a family of four in a lovely house in a nice suburb of Buenos Aires called Almagro.  My host father, Javier Carroll, works for the Department of Justice, and my host mother works for the hospital as a hematology technician.  I also have TWO younger brothers named Julian and Martín, who are both high-schoolers and look like super fun guys.  After growing up with a younger brother my whole life, I can’t wait for more of that experience.  Bottom line; I can’t wait to meet my new family, and I’ll post pictures of all of them as soon as I am able.

My life is about to change in so many ways, and while I’m a little apprehensive, I’m mostly stoked.  After spending my whole life living in some variety of a small town, I can’t wait for some big city life.  Wish me luck, and I’ll for sure send out an update once I land in beautiful Buenos Aires.  Until then, enjoy some quality old school rap.

Saludos,

Dylan

 

 

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Welcome Aboard!

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

Hello all, and welcome to my blog.  This is not the first blog that I have tried to create, but I think that this will be the one that I’ll pay the most attention to.  All of my other efforts at blogging have coalesced into various URLs composed primarily of baseless yammering, and I will endeavor to make this blog something that is entirely more interesting, informative, and (dare I say it!?) fun.  Then again, considering this is my first experience of an extended stay in a foreign country without my family, I bet I’ll have a lot to talk about. Read More »

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