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And she’s back

Time December 14th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve been back almost a week now and it is crazy to believe that it’s over. Although I am back home and it feels as if I never left, I am missing the city I came to enjoy so much, the city of Buenos Aires. I am constantly reminded of things from the city and it seems like every minute I am excitedly reaching over to let the nearest person know, “oh, back in Buenos Aires they did this”…or “oh back when I was away I’d always do that”. I made sure to bring home parts of Buenos Aires to share with my family and friends like the classic dulce de leche, alfajores y chimichurri sauce, and of course lots of pictures and stories.

As I reflect on my experience I remember the excitement and anxiousness I had before leaving. How was I going to handle being off in a country who spoke a language I was just barely beginning to grasp? How would I navigate the city I thought seemed so big and scary? Would my host family be warm and welcoming? Would I make friends?

Sure enough, although I may have struggled with finding which colectivo to take, or how to order my books for class, I eventually found my way. I made friends, was comfortable and at home at my host stay and learned to live like a porteño. I was able to travel outside the city and visit Iguazu and Puerto Madryn. I saw a few tango shows and other theater performances. I went to a reggae concert and a percussion concert. I visited many museums and historical sites and famous restaurants. All that I could have hoped to do during my time abroad.

But as great as it is to tell my family and friends of all the fun and unique things about my experience, it is hard, and would be a lie, to explain my trip with a simple “it was great”. Because sometimes it wasn’t great. I dealt with a great deal of street harassment due to my gender and skin color. As a black woman I did not go one single day with out having at least 2 or more men cat call me, or someone stare at me. I was warned before embarking on this trip that I might face these things as a woman of color because “there are no blacks in Argentina”. However, through investigation I found out that this was false. Although many in the city do not believe and may not have ever seen blacks or indigenous peoples, they do exist. I saw them, met them, and engaged with them. And I even wrote my research paper on the history of blacks or afro-argentines in the country and the explicit and implicit tactics in which the Argentine society attempted to silence and erase their presence. And even after writing and presenting this paper, I was still questioned about the validity of my findings, even by professors. It was only until I showed photos of this silenced and hidden community that I was believed, and with great shock.

My identity as black woman greatly shapes my experience abroad, and I cannot separate the things I face abroad from my identity. The majority of students that travel abroad do not happen to be students of color for a variety of factors, which often makes it challenging for those who do go. Traveling abroad is a most amazing experience that grows you, shapes you and challenges you. I have always planned to travel all over and even live abroad. But with this I know that I will face many challenges, wherever I go because of the history, around the world, of oppression and discrimination to marginalized groups, although different in each place. However this will not stop me, it actually motivates me to go abroad to study and learn and research to gain a better and deeper understanding of history, culture and my place in the world. I encourage all to study abroad, but I especially encourage students of color to travel abroad and even more women of color to study abroad. It may come with challenges, and discrimination (which are hard to face, especially if alone), but in my opinion I believe that makes you all the more stronger and wiser.

So when people ask me “how was your trip abroad”, I say it was interesting, it was challenging, it was hard at times, but it was worth it.

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Colonia, Uruguay part 2

Time December 4th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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In the last blog I spoke about my amazing and relaxing Thanksgiving in Uruguay. A day full of sun, food and rest. But we did more that day later in the evening.

We explored the town, a quiet town near the water. We passed along some of the historic cobblestone roads, saw a dance group performing a folkloric dance, and met the neighborhood dogs, who don’t belong to anyone, but roam the streets barking down any car or motorcycle that goes past them. I did some gift shopping and then had dinner with some friends.

After I headed back to my hotel. My two hotel roommates and I got lucky and were able to stay in a private hotel suit, separated from the rest, that resembled a mini apartment, including a stove, fridge, sink, plates and silverware. We watched a movie and soon drifted to sleep.

It was a great first day of vacation in Uruguay. And the next few days we got to spend in another equally beautiful and tranquil part of Uruguay; Punta del Este.

 

 

 

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Punta del Este, Uruguay

Time December 4th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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Punta del Este!!! A great vacation spot, right next to the beach. This is where we spent our last two nights in Uruguay for our Thanksgiving break. The hotel we stayed in was beautiful, with its pool, indoor jacuzzi and spa offers, we were fully relaxed. We had a very open schedule and were left free to explore the town on our own. With the beach within walking distance my friends and I spent both days relaxing under the sun. Unfortunately the wind was terribly strong, kicking the sand and giving us an unappreciated exfoliation, regardless, it was a great time. And I was excited to brag to my friends back in the states about my vacation on the beach, while they spent their time back home in the cold.

For the two nights we were there we were taken to very beautiful restaurants for dinner. The first night I enjoyed a tasty chicken and rice dish, and the second a pasta dish. The final day we were treated to lunch at a restaurant right on the water. It was a great close to my time here, which is almost up.

Although I did not interact much with the people of Uruguay, or fully get a sense of the non-tourist people, food and culture, it was a great experience.

I am now nearing the end of my study abroad experience, feeling bitter sweet. Ready to get home and see my family and friends, but also knowing that I will miss Buenos Aires and the friends I made here when I leave.

 

until next time #AriInArgi

 

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Thanksgiving!!

Time December 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I spent my birthday abroad and now the next holiday abroad, Thanksgiving!!! Although it was not the same as being home, it was an amazing experience. All the students of ifsa were invited to celebrate the holiday with the director Mario in his bed and breakfast in Colonia, Uruguay. We met at the buquebus station, a boat station that would take us to Uruguay. The boat ride was only about an hour long, in which I slept the whole way since we had to meet at 7 in the morning (all worth it!). Once we arrived we were taken in buses to the place where we would have Thanksgiving lunch, a beautiful lemon farm. It was a warm and inviting cozy house in the middle of fields of lemon trees, cute dogs running around, a beautiful pool, perfect for the warm weather, and within walking distance of the beach.

While waiting for the meal we were able to explore the space, go for a swim or just relax. We were provided home made lemonade and choripan for snacks. I was able to relax with my lemonade and talk amongst friends and some of the ifsa staff who also came along. And soon enough we were called to lunch!!

The meal consisted of course of turkey and stuffing along with salad, bread, hummus, mashed potatoes and gravy, warm blackberry sauce, black beans, torta, and a giant stand of a variety of fruits to choose from!

After our stomach were stuffed, I spent my time out by the pool napping and was happily awakened from this nap with the call for desert: an assortment of pies (and although I do not eat pie, I was told they were all delicious!).

After lots of time relaxing enjoying a Thanksgiving like never before we left to go to our next adventure….(to be continued…)

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Afro Culture in a Eurocentric city

Time December 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Despite constantly being told that there is no black community in Buenos Aires, I continued to search for a black presence in the city and found it. Many believe that the city is populated only with european immigrants, however this is not so. Not only was Argentina a slave country, but after what many believe to be the “disappearance” of all blacks in Argentina, due to several causes such as high mortality rates in wars, the black community continues to exist.

There is an afro cultural center in the neighborhood of San Telmo. During my research on the afro-argentine community  I discovered that this barrio held one of the various slave markets in Buenos Aires and was there after a neighborhood in which slaves and later free blacks lived. The afro cultural center here, Movimiento Afrocultural holds events throughout the year, including performances of singing, dancing and more every Sunday during the same time as the San Telmo feria.

During one of my visits to this center I sat in on a discussion of “candombe as a form of resistance”. Candombe, a dance of african origin that africans brought with them to Uruguay and Argentina when they were stolen from their land and forced to South America as slaves, is a very vibrant and lively part of afro-uruguayan and afro-argentine culture that still thrives today.

Along with the afro cultural center there are several other groups and organizations that put on discussions, events, plays and more to bring awareness to the issues of the black community here as well as to celebrate black culture.

 

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Just about 1 month left here

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Wow! Its the last week of October, and November is my last official month here (I leave at the end of the first week in December).

My my how time has flown. It is amazing to think that I when I return home I will be able to say that I spent 4 months in a foreign country. It is only my second time out of the country, but the longest time I have spent outside of the US. And I am very proud of that. Although it was a struggle at the beginning, and even now is still a struggle, I am happy that I am able to get along well outside my comfort zone. This experience has pushed me outside of my safety box to allow me to grow, which is what I wanted most out of this experience. Traveling has always been and always will be a passion of mine, and this experience is part of me living out my dream.

My goal is to travel the world, visit as many countries as I can, have as many experiences as I can. This dream at times can seem impossible. It is expensive to travel, and as a young black woman it is often dangerous to travel. I often think of many of my family members and friends, some of whom have never traveled outside of their own town. Some do not desire to travel, and are comfortable where they are, with what they know, and have known. Others find it difficult because of money, even years of saving might not afford them a trip. And others are afraid, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the challenges and difficulties they might face. I am also at times afraid, I do not come from a super wealthy background, but this is my desire, my passion and I will fight to make it happen. I’ve learned to work hard and save. To search, search and search again for scholarships and help (a lesson I just recently learned after coming here) and always to trust my gut and take precautions when needed; but in all to enjoy life and the world.

There is so much outside of the small towns I grew up in, so many people, new foods, new styles, new ideas that I am eager to learn about. Being here has advanced my drive to explore, and has taught me to push my boundaries. From my experience here I have learned to ask questions. I do not know much about Argentine culture, language or customs, and in order to learn about them I had to build up the courage to ASK. Normally back home, I am a bit timid and would rather turn to Google to solve all my problems, but here not much is on the internet, you have to go out and find the answers for yourself. Second, I learned that its okay to fail. I have become comfortable with looking lost, or out of place and embarrassing myself. It comes along with being in a new environment and with using a new language. Yes I may have said one word when I meant another or asked someone to repeat themselves multiple times until I understood what they were saying to me, but it’s all apart of the process of learning and growing.

 

As far as my spanish….it is not as advanced as I hoped it would be coming out of this experience. However, it is much better than it was before. It is a bit difficult to force myself to consistently speak spanish, because although I am in a spanish speaking country most of my friends are from study abroad programs from the US, and much of Argentine culture includes English; the clothes have english phrases, the food products have labels in spanglish, the movies are American with Spanish subtitles, and most Argentines know a bit of English themselves. It is not as much immersion into the language as I thought I was going to have, and I now realize that it is more on me as an individual to incorporate myself into the language. And so, my plan is, since I’ve been slacking, to only speak Spanish during the month of November, my last month here (better late than never!). I’ll change over my computer as well to help the process and only watch Spanish movies and shows. Hope this can help.

 

Until Next Time: #AriInArgi

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Ballenas y Pinguinos!!

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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Last week I was able to make it to Patagonia in Puerto Madryn!!! It was an amazing experience. My first trip outside of la provincia de Buenos Aires was to go to Iguazu in Missiones, which is north, bordering Brasil and Uruguay. It temperature was extremely hot and I was in the rain forest. However, Puerto Madryn is in the South. It was quite cold and very windy. The landscape was very flat, nothing but flat dry land for miles and miles out. The town is sparsely populated, and on the Península Valdés, there are more penguins than people.

Here I was able to see the ocean, whales (ballenas), sea lions (lobo marinos), penguins (pinguinos), armadillos (peludos), these lama animals (guanacos), vultures and maras (bunny type animals). While on the whale watch, a mother and baby whale came right up close to the boat and the baby popped out of the water right near the boat to say hello. I was so happy that I was able to see these whales. Before coming to Argentina I had heard that the whales here came very close to the coast and were very friendly, I even watched a documentary about whales on animal planet; thus I was very anxious to see if I would actually be able to even see a whale.

I was also able to see a bunch of penguins, almost like a village of them. I was surprised to learn that they lived in this dry semi-desert like landscape. Also, they lived inside of holes in the ground that they made. During the time that I was there, October, is the month were the females have their eggs, in January the eggs hatch, and when the baby penguins are big enough millions of penguins can be seen waddling around. Along with the penguins were hawks, vultures, the llamas, rabbits and other small rodents.

In the town, there was not much to do. It is a quiet, small town with not much of a night life as in Buenos Aires. But most of the houses are close to the beach, if not right in front then within walking distance. And at some points, whales can be seen from the shore and a distance. At sunset the view is spectacular. Such beauty that nature has to offer. I loved being able to see the different landscapes of nature. From the hot, rainforest in Iguazu with waterfalls, to the south, cold, dry, flat landscapes of Patagonia. It is breath taking.

 

Until Next Time: Ari in Argi

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Aventuras en el Tigre

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 

Hola from Tigre! Only an hour or so from the city of Buenos Aires by the Mitre train, Tigre is a beautiful town. I was able to travel here for a day trip with a few friends. It is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city; quiet, small and with a beautiful river in the middle. My friends and I were able to take a boat tour down the river. The river is lined with quaint, brightly colored  houses. My friends and I imagined if we were to live in one of these houses, or spend a summer here, how relaxing it would be, calm and cool, not too much going on, perfect place to have a vacation.

Next, we walked through the various ferias scattered throughout the town. The ferias, which appear in various neighborhoods in Buenos Aires every Sunday, sale a multitude of gifts, trinkets, clothing, purses, and more. On our way traveling through the vendors we passed by an amusement park, close to that of a small Six Flags, and stands selling popcorn, cotton candy, the infamous candied peanuts, and beverages. It was a fun filled day!

Hopefully before our time here ends we will be able to return to check out the amazing amusement park and other parts of the town. Its so close, its a perfect day get away when there isn’t time (or money) to travel outside of Buenos Aires.

 

Until Next Time: Ari in Argi

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A place called Home

Time October 12th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

During this trip I have my share of homesickness, wishing for the comfort of a dinning hall so I do not have to go out and use my money to pay for lunch, or missing the gossip and giggles between my college friends while watching the latest episode of How to Get Away With Murder, however I have made a solid group of friends here that has finally made me feel at home. I have many friends that I have made ifsa study abroad, however along the way I’ve met many others from other study abroad programs, and have linked up a solid group of girls who makes me feel at home. This group makes me feel so at home in a country so distant because we share a similar experience here in Buenos Aires, we are all Black American girls. We are all different and unique and come from different states with different past experiences and likes, which makes our times together all the more exciting. Of course we draw lots of attention, almost causing car accidents by the local Argentine drivers who break their necks to see 4,5 or even 6 or 7 black girls at one time. We can discuss our feelings of anger, disgust, joy, and thrill of being Black in a city where many believe blacks, or at least local afro-porteños do not exist, but they do! (and I will get to that later).

And not only do I feel home with just the American friends I’ve made here, but I have finally also been able to meet some Argentine friends, and Columbian friends. I may struggle through conversations with them, but they are very forgiving and teach me along the way. Hanging out with them has helped me practice my spanish and castellano, whereas when I am among other friends from the states, we tend to speak english. And I am overjoyed that for the rest of my time here and even when I return to the states, I will have spanish speaking pen-pals to help me continue to practice. And maybe even a friend to stay with if I ever happen to return.

Just this past September, I celebrated my 21st birthday in Argentina, in the lovely Iguazu! On the day of my birthday a few friends and I went down a lesser known trail in the park that led to a watering hole in which we could swim, with a much smaller, but still magnificent waterfall. I enjoyed the day, although at one point I did very much miss spending my birthday with my friends back home, and did feel a bit low, most likely due to the extremely hot and muggy, bug ridden hostel we stayed in  (thank goodness for the great pool) and the fact that my phone broke and I was not able to go online to check for Facebook and Instagram birthday shootouts.

Once I returned from my trip I realized I really needed to get going with my research paper for my concentration. I decided to take initiative and start looking up places and events to assist my research on slavery in Argentina and the impact of “negros” in Argentine culture. I stumbled upon one event about afro-latino americano studies, with professors  who shared their research on various subjects such as Arfo-latino poets in the 19th century. And I also attended a presentation on the photography of afro-porteños by Nicolás Parodi, which documented the photos of documentation and ID’s of Black locals from the past, pics of family gatherings in the 60’s and 70’s and current photos of afro-porteños such as that of reggae musician Fidel Nadal.

At this presentation I met another study abroad student who let me know of the location of the African Cultural Center, right here in Buenos Aires, in San Telmo. I went this past sunday with some friends and sat in on a rap and reggae performance, and intend to go back in hopes of finding some more information for my paper, and maybe even someone to interview.

I have realized that for me, feeling at home means being able to talk about, and explore matters of my identity. Being a Black woman is something that I have always had to be aware of growing up in the US with the history that it has regarding women and black people. And everywhere I go this identity sticks with me, it molds me. Others define me by it, and I define my life alongside it. Having found places where I can go and see others with shared aspects of my identity or be able to discuss the experiences I face because of my identity help me feel more comfortable and more at home. Home is not really a stangant, solitary place; but rather the experiences that make you feel like the best you, and this does not necessarily mean places of experiences where you feel the most easy and comfortable, but the places and experiences that challenges you, mold you and push you forward.

Nos vemos! Until next time

#AriInArgi

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Living, Learning and Loving

Time August 26th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It has now been about a month that I have been living in Buenos Aires! I have started classes, I have a job, and I’m starting to become quite familiar with the various neighborhoods in BA. Among the touristy attractions, I have visited the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires), Barrio Chino, La Boca, Teatro Colón, Puerto Madero, el Hipódromo and many of the beautiful parks. And I have also had some fun visiting various restaurants such as NOLA, a cajun restaurant with awesome fried chicken and red beans and rice, as well as visit some cool bars and clubs such as a Hip Hop Club. 

Along the way I’ve been meeting lots of other study abroad students. My next mission is to make some local Argentine friends to hang out with who can show me some of the not so well known places of the beautiful Buenos Aires.

I am looking forward to the next coming month, September, not only because is it my birthday month, but the weather will also be changing. So far there have been many cloudy, rainy days, but next month spring begins! Im excited for all that the warm weather will bring.

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As far as my interest in the lives of Blacks, especially Black women in Buenos Aires, I am doing an independent research study that will be focusing on the history of Blacks in Buenos Aires and the cultural impact they have left on the city. I am just beginning my research but have already received lots of support from friends and program staff who have been giving me articles, links and any info they have that may pertain to my interests. I am very excited to continue on this journey, not only for academic gain, but for personal gain; to explore and analyze how my being fits into a cultural narrative of black bodies in not only Buenos Aires, but Latin America as a whole.

Until next time. #AriInArgi

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10 Days!

Time July 31st, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 

I’ve survived 10 days! And those days were exciting, confusing, overwhelming and tiring.

Within this first week and a half I have  learned about all the many places that one can visit in Argentina, as well as the number of safety precautions one must be aware of when out and about. And along with enjoying the sights of the city such as the Recoleta Cemetery and La Casa  Rosada, I have begun to slowly master the little things. I’ve ordered my first meal in spanish, used the subte (local subway) and the colectivo (bus),  gotten lost (and eventually found my way), ordered street food from a feria, and am learning how to speak castellano (kaws-te-shano); the local spanish dialect. Read More »

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T-minus 3 days!

Time July 16th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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Are there really only 3 days until I leave America to go to Buenos Aires? It hasn’t really hit me yet, despite the fact that my suitcase is spilling over with “you-never-know-what-could-happen” clothes, or the fact that I’ve been up at odd hours of the night reading through the best travel guides mapping out all the “must see” sights. However, I am both excited and nervous to see what this experience has in store for me.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city that has much to offer and I plan to take advantage of every opportunity I have to explore. I look forward to going out to see a Tango, visiting the famous monuments and memorials, and eating the rich food (although unfortunately because I do not eat red meat I’ll be missing out on the prominent bife). And I’m especially looking forward to shopping!

As much excitement as I have towards leaving home to go on this journey, I also have some qualms. First of all, I am not very confident in my Spanish speaking skills and am nervous about getting along in a big city. I recognize that through my academic courses, and the simple fact of living there for several months, my Spanish will improve to a level where I feel confident holding a conversation with a stranger. And from what I’ve read about the people of Argentina, they are very sociable, so finding people around to help me with my conversational skills should be no problem.

But I am also a bit anxious as to what my experience as a Black woman will be like there. The vast majority of people in Buenos Aires have ancestors from Europe and there are very few Black people in the area. I have been warned that I will most likely receive stares and be referred to as negrita. This does not bother me much, as living in America I have faced my share of encounters being the only Black woman in the room, school, meeting, etc.  Although the Afro Argentine population is very well hidden, and basically made invisible, I have done some brief research to learn that they do exist! (Two Afro Argentines to check out are reggae artist Fidel Nadal and Professor of literature Miriam Gomes!!) Because race and gender play such a pivotal role in my life, which follow me even outside of the US, I hope that I can do some personal research about the Afro-Latin@ population of Argentina while there.

The time is quickly approaching and my journey will soon begin. I have a whirlwind of emotions, that I know will culminate into a magnificent story. Ari in Argi, you’ll hear from me soon again!

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