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Being Home & Reflections

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

As the new year approaches, I’ve been enjoying home for the past two weeks; catching up with friends, wolfing down pizza and bagels, and indulging in the English music I’ve blocked out the past five months. It was an adjustment going from the sunny 80 degree weather of Buenos Aires to the cold 35 degrees of New Jersey, but it’ll a good transition for when I return to the tundra known as Maine where Bates is located. The biggest shock has definitely been being able to understand random conversations from people I pass on the street. It’s also been a change reading signs- the words simply glazing past with no effort while in BA there was usually some degree of delay from reading the words to processing their meaning.

Post-study abroad slump hasn’t hit me…yet. I’m hoping that staying busy will keep me occupied so I don’t look at abroad pictures for too long. If I get nostalgic, I’ll have the music of Soda Stereo, Gilda, Tototomas, Jorge Drexler and Julieta Venegas to name a few. I brought home my mate gourd and managed to squeeze three bags of yerba in my suitcase, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my addiction somehow! And of course, I have my memories of a time I’m sure will become even more positive as time passes.

At this point looking back, I’m not sure if my experience has necessarily changed me. Rather, I believe it confirmed a few things.

My own privileges. Buenos Aires, and Argentina as a whole may be liberal, but just as it wasn’t the gay capitol of South America I envisioned, there’s always something underneath the surface. My black and Asian friends in my program had to deal with all kinds of offensive behavior and harassment, sometimes beyond simple curiosity or misunderstanding. It wasn’t enough to ruin their experiences, yet it was something they had to deal with nonetheless. And while as a white gay man I would be considered a minority, I didn’t have to take as much percussion when going on dates with men from dating apps than my female peers, or even walking the streets.

Taking risks are usually worth it. I made great friends in my program, but I found that I got other unique parts out of Buenos Aires by either hanging out with Argentine friends, or going to places by myself. Perhaps as a natural introvert it seemed more logical for me to break off, though there were certainly times in the beginning I didn’t want to seem anti-social. Yet in the end, it’s your experience, and it might be your only time in this place. After all, me taking the initiative was the reason I ended up going to La marcha del Orgullo, one of the highlights of my experience. So I would say to go out of your way- it’ll make your trip so much more worth it.

Un monton de gracias for those who have kept up with me throughout my journey! For those who are going to BA in the future or want to know more, feel reach to reach out in whatever capacity.

Un gran abrazo

Dylan

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VIDEO: La Marcha del Orgullo

Time December 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Despite the heavy rain, the march went on..and it was one of the most incredible moments of my time here.

 

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Breadsexuals & Other Gay Updates

Time November 23rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

I realized I haven’t really included much about how being gay has affected my time here (especially since I’m being paid specifically to talk about this). However, this aspect of my life really didn’t impact me during the first half of my experience. As I mentioned before, there is not the same kind visibility in BA as there is in other “gay-friendly” areas of the world. I have only witnessed glimpses when I least expected it- a man on the collectivo with a rainbow pin, or picking up signals from people on the streets with dyed hair. I have seen a grand total of THREE gay couples- in all these instances I wanted to marvel at how amazing this was but I didn’t want them to see I was staring and ruin the moment. At boliches I would sometimes dance with guys. Otherwise, zilch.

This changed two months ago while I was doing work at Bosques de Palermo, and I saw something in the distance I couldn’t believe- a rainbow flag. I almost ran towards the flag, until I saw what it was for- a tent for La Fundación Nacional Argentina LGBT. I talked with one of the organizers, who told me about weekly volunteer meetings the Fundación had every week and gave me the address, I couldn’t believe my luck. Read More »

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VIDEO: Días de Porteño

Time November 7th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

The typical study abroad blog consists of flashy photos and videos as well as lots of sightseeing *all eyes look towards me, yes I know, I know* But in reality, this is only half the experience.

Believe it or not, there’s actual schoolwork! I have finals coming up- one next week and three the week after (pray for me)! If there isn’t a language barrier, there are cultural barriers that you constantly have to navigate. There are the little things often overlooked- homesickness, insecurity about belonging, seeming like you’re having a good time etc. Then there are the positive things- having meaningful interactions with locals, being able to give directions to tourists, appreciating a new part of the city and discovering your new regular restaurant.

However, there are some feelings or ideas that are really difficult to put into words. That’s partially why I make vlogs for particular places in order to better convey how I’ve felt, with the aid of some background music. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing places like Iguazú or Mendoza any justice by simply calling them “incredible” or “interesting”- I’d rather have my audience see for themselves.

Hence I have another video here about my daily routine and some of the sights and sounds I regularly encounter. Like my other videos, hopefully you can get a better idea about how I’ve spent the majority of my time here in BA for what they are.

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All About Foooood

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

La comida argentina, in all its forms, has been one aspect I’ve consistently enjoyed while here, so good I’m dedicating this whole entry to bragging over how good it is. Hope you’re reading this with a full stomach!

Desayuno: The “most important meal of the day” is super light here in Argentina, typically consisting of just toast, jam and fruit. Then there’s coffee. Café or commonly café con leche is served in a smaller quantity than in the states and is actually not as strong, only meant for a morning boost. Nevertheless as a coffee addict, I enjoy it anyway, either at home or at one of the millions of cafés scattered around the city. It is commonly served with two or three sweet medialunas, or croissants, and a small glass or orange juice or seltzer.

Almuerzo: The first real meal of the day is much more filling. Many days I’ll stick with good old pizza– here it can be compared to Chicago style pizza- thicker with loads more cheese. One thing difficult to get used to: eating it with a fork and knife. It felt almost degrading the first time. Something else different- drinks in glass bottles. It’s a nostalgia factor, plus you can taste actual sugar in Coke and 7 Up, though you always pour it into a separate cup to drink from. Some days I’ll eat two or three empanadas, either filled with meat, chicken or my personal favorite cheese and onion. You can find these nearly everywhere and are reasonably priced. Choripán– chorizo meat between two buns. Condiments sometimes put on top but the meat is so flavorful it’s really not necessary.

Cena: the biggest meal of the night, although in the typical Argentine household, it’s typically not eaten until 10 or 11 at night! Thankfully because Marta is older we eat at 8:30 or 9. Still, especially in the beginning, there were times I needed to eat an apple before so I wouldn’t lose my mind. Starting with the most sterotypical- carne! I freaking love it here. There’s not a week that goes by without eating bife de chorizo or lomo at least once. Some of it could actually be comparable to what is served in the states, but it’s so much cheaper here, usually $10-15. Often times at steak houses or parillas, they don’t even ask how you want your meat- the huge slabs of meat will satisfy anyone. Pasta here has much less sauce, but the noodles themselves are often homemade and you can really taste the difference- definitely some of the best I’ve had.

Postre: There is one desert that towers over the rest: dulce de leche. This caramel-like sauce is often so sweet I can’t eat too much of it, although in small quantities is quite satisfying- often inside churros here with a little sugar sprinkled on top…the absolute best! Helado– a national obsession. I didn’t know ice cream was so popular in BA until I came a herredia on every other street. Again, the Italian influence is strong. It’s more comparable to gelato, with a higher quality and more flavorful. Even with a cone, people eat it with these small colorful spoons, another little thing that was strange to me. Nonetheless it is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Miscellaneous: 

Alfajores- small cake-like chocolates available in every café and every kiosk with dozens of different kinds and companies. You can expect me to come to class with three of them stuffed in my pocket to give me quick energy during the day.

Maté– omfg my absolute favorite food I have discovered here. I love it so much and it seems like everyone here loves it too. You can see people drinking this tea in parks, at work, on trains and in class. Maté is drunk from a small cup which is filled about 2/3 with the herb, or yerba, filled consitantly with hot water, sometimes cold water during warmer months. Consumed with a straw called a bombilla, you know it’s good when bubbles appear when you pour the water, a sign of nutrients being released. It has amazing health benefits and apparently more caffinne than coffee, which I can certainly attest to. It’s definitely an acquired taste, especially if you’re drinking it for the first time. Sugar and even an orange slice helps mitigate the inital bitterness. I love it, and I love the whole ceremony around it where people pass the maté cup to each person in a group. I am determined to bring some back to the states with me.

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VIDEO: Mendoza

Time October 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Bodegas, the Andes and QUIET: a great getaway from the chaos of BA.

 

 

 

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Revelations in Mendoza

Time October 10th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | 1 Comment by

My trip last week to the 4th largest city in Argentina was an important one. Way back during the application process for study abroad, I was torn between big city life of BA, and here in peaceful outdoorsy Mendoza. Ultimately I chose BA , yet I told myself I would eventually visit my would-have-been home. I was worried coming here that I would fall in love with Mendoza and regret choosing the dirty calles of BA.

Indeed, Mendoza is an absolutely beautiful city- extremely walkable, with not too much traffic. Every street is lined with trees, currently in springtime bloom, as well as aquaducts with gently flowing water. There are multiple parks like Plaza Independencia and Parque San Martín, filled with open fields, plenty of trees and stunning views of the Andes, only a few miles away. There are plenty of cute cafés and shops. Probably most dramatic is the quiet! Sure there are a few parks in BA but you can always hear the city around you. Here, you actually feel connected with nature. There aren’t too many tall buildings, so you can actually see the sky!  Even the air seemed purer. Life definitely moves slower in Mendoza, although you have hiking, skiing & rafting nearby for a change of pace.

I definitely would have been happy here, yet I don’t regret about my choice. At this point, I have a solid footing in BA, I feel good about my classes, and I have great friends, both American and Argentine. I had never lived in a city before, plus Bates was already relatively isolated, so I’m glad I got this different setting. I’m also glad I’m at the center of Argentine politics with protests and debate everywhere. The fact that I’m still discovering new parts about the city from its barrios to its people also means that everyday is different.

I was accompanied by one of my closest friends from the program while walking around Mendoza. She also comes from a small LAC, with close proximity to nature. We both agreed that we would have been happy in Mendoza, although we’re content with our current lives in BA. We also discussed some of the not so nice things we’ve noticed about our experiences:

Despite getting 15 pesos for every dollar, costs still add up, but it’s obvious that this is more of an issue for some people than others. For some, side trips every few weeks to new places like Mendoza just isn’t feasible. Obviously it’s an enormous privilege just to be in BA on a program like this. Yet especially in the beginning, being social and making friends requires these trips, going out to expensive restaurants and spending lots of money in general. I know for myself I’ve felt pressured to spend more money than I was planning just so I could be social and not feel left out. In the future it would be nice if IFSA held a general discussion around the topic of money so people wouldn’t feel ashamed by having less than their peers.

Similarly we talked about the need to really take advantage of our time here. Throughout the trip, fellow IFSA people have been our go-to people for dinners or to hang out. Some of us have made friends through the program, some I haven’t seen since orientation. Regardless, it can be frustrating trying to immerse yourself in your surroundings when you’re with a large group of IFSA people, speaking English and generally looking very American. Sometimes I actually wish there was a language pledge- perhaps we wouldn’t get to know each other as well, but we’d improve our castellano so much. That’s why I think I’m going to have my own self-imposed language pledge for now on. We’re also more and more comfortable with the idea of exploring alone. Obviously I’ve made wonderful friends here and I’ll continue to go out with them, but if plans don’t work out, I won’t be upset, I’ll survive. We’re only here for a limited time (only two more months gahhh), and we’ll be interacting with Americans anyway once we return. That’s why I intend to take full advantage of my remaining time here and learn as much about the culture, the people and castellano as possible. As Mendoza emphasized, independence is the key.

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Of Course I Have To Talk About Trump

Time October 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

It was on my very first day here way back in July when Marta asked the inevitable question: “Is America really going to elect Trump?”

One of the perks of being abroad is being able to temporarily escape the depressing sociopolitical situation in the states- the shootings of unarmed black civilians, Orlando, government deadlock, and of course, this endless presidential election. Obviously I’m able to follow the news back home online, but with classes and travel it’s not as frequent, and so I can be figuratively as well as literally detached from home.

The average Argentine, however, is consistently connected with what is happening in America. You know that saying that the world revolves around America?…it has some truth to it. Nearly half the conversations I’ve had with random Argentines eventually turned to the U.S. presidential election. People aren’t exactly enthralled with Hillary, but they’re horrified that someone like Trump could possibly occupy the Oval Office. How could it be that U.S. politics have become as dysfunctional as Argentine politics have been for nearly a century? For people here, his flamboyant personality and lack of shame reminded them of Carlos Menem, their president during the 90s who partied with celebrities and drove his sports car as the country spiraled into financial catastrophe. Many predicted the end of America as we know it if he gets elected. A woman in the elevator told me “Please vote for Hillary, for all of us who can’t”

For the first debate I wanted to be around other Americans, so I went to Sugar Bar in Palermo where CNN was being shown on a dozen different screens. It was a surreal experience being in the presence of other Americans speaking English, drinking beer, cheering, booing and fliping the finger at the screens. Some people in my program have talked about getting together on Election Day and getting wasted for the occasion. We’ll either be celebrating our country missing a close one, or commemorating the good 240 year run America had.

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VIDEO: Old Buenos Aires

Time September 27th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

It’s been really fascinating for me is how similar Argentina was to the U.S. at one time, especially in regards to its history of immigration. Visiting el Museo National de Inmigrantes was basically like when I visited Ellis Island in New York years ago. There were black and white photos of European immigrants, the postcards they sent, the dictionaries they studied, and their stories of escaping poverty and repression for a fresh start in The New World…but these people were going to Argentina! As an American who has consistently heard about being part of a melting pot, it was funny hearing that very same narrative here. Read More »

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VIDEO: Iguazú Falls

Time September 19th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Some general advice for those who wish to go:

  1. It’s a lot more expensive than you would think! Accounting for park admissions, overpriced food (buy at the food stores!) and transportation to/from the airport (as of September 2016 there are only taxis and no shuttles even though every guidebook said there were…), you should bring 1000 pesos at minimum.
  2. As you’ll see in the video there are these cute looking animals called coatis freely roaming around. You’ll also notice a shot of a sign warning about them- these things are savage and they have no shame about it. They’ll casually walk up when you’re not expecting it and snatch the food from your hand or on your tray like whatever. Message me if you want to hear about the time my friends and I were attacked by one.
  3. The falls occupy land in both Argentina and Brazil. We were lucky: because of the Rio Olympics this year we didn’t need to have Brazilian visas while visiting since the requirement is still waved until the end of September. Normally though, you do need a visa when you’re crossing the border.
  4. Which side is better you may ask?…I’d have to go with the Argentine side. The Brazilian side is still very cool, there’s just less to see, so if you’re pressed for time you should stick with the Argentine side.

 

And now without further ado, I present the incredible, magnificent, Iguazú Falls.

 

 

 

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The Headaches of Traveling

Time September 14th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

The past weekend I traveled outside BA for the first time since arriving almost two months ago to the famous Iguazú Falls. It was my first trip outside the city, not counting the suburb of Tigre, and despite some bumps along the way, the trip turned out much better than expected.

At home whenever I traveled with my parents, my mom would always be the one to spend hours planning our itinerary, and my dad would be the one to make sure we were always early to our points of travel. Now it was just myself who had to do all those things- reserving flights and the hostel, calculating how many pesos to bring, packing sufficient clothes, sunscreen, bug spray, and accounting for all the little miscellaneous items. I got advice from Marta as well as friends who traveled there the previous weekend, yet it was up to me to put everything into action. This made the week before the trip very stressful planning everything between classes and homework.

I was going with 5 other friends in the program, however, because of our differing schedules we were all arriving/leaving at different times. This made meeting up somewhat chaotic and dependent on Wifi to contact each other.

There was also a moment I nearly missed the whole trip together. My mandatory meeting at Migrations to apply for long-term residency was scheduled for the day of my flight so I had to push my flight for later during the day. However, as a government agency, Migraciones has the same speed as the DMV, so it ended up being more than two hours, leaving me little time to catch my new flight. I flagged down a taxi to speed me to Jorge Newbury Areopuerto instead of taking a collective as I planned. I arrived 35 minutes before my flight, but I couldn’t check in because the minimum time to check in before was 45 minutes…thankfully there was space on the next flight to Iguazú leaving a few hours later. I am not good with rushing and being late, so the whole experience put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day…Yet I was on my way, and from there on everything fell into place. Read More »

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VIDEO: MALBA

Time September 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

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I Took A Pill In Ibiza

Time September 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Homesickness has surprisingly been a nonissue. I think this is mainly because Argentine society isn’t drastically different from any Western society, so I haven’t really experienced a strong culture shock. Aside from being in a city, my daily life has become more structured, similar to if I was back at Bates, with less time to think about home. Plus with social media, I’m easily able to keep up with friends, and with my parents every Sunday through Skype. Occasionally though, there are cracks in my contentment; like once when I was entering my Subte station, I was startled to hear a familiar sound from the Sony store nearby:

“But you don’t wanna be high like me, never really knowing why like me, you don’t ever wanna step off that rollercoaster, all alone…”

For me, music has always been a kind of diary, with certain songs able to bring back memories from a particular time. So hearing that Mike Posner song immediately triggered flashbacks to the months before I left for Argentina; back to dorm room parties, the radio show my friend and I had last semester, and other people back at Bates, making me feel a tinge of sadness. Read More »

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VIDEO: La Reserva Ecológia

Time August 29th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

The lack of expansive green spaces in BA is what initially attracted me to the La Reserva Ecológia. But this isn’t just a typical park. As an ecological reserve, you feel as if you’re literally in the middle of the countryside, in the midst of a variety of trees and vast plains. Away from the bustling city, the contrast is enormous, with only wind whistling through the trees and the intermittent calls of exotic birds to be heard. On one side is the famous Rio de la Plata, extending out into the horizon. On the other side are the modern high rises ubiquitous to the chic Puerto Madero barrio. You are so near the city, yet also far removed. The occasional airplanes flying ahead remind you how close you are to civilization, though in a sort of bubble, adding to the eerie yet intriguing feel of the Reserve. It quickly became one of my favorite spots. Read More »

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Celebrating 21 years of Life in Argentina

Time August 26th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Aaand I’m back. After a hectic, time-consuming shopping period, I finally got the time to write this entry! Basically the past few weeks were spent traveling to 10 different classes and listening to their respective professors give introductions, and then judging by those whether or not I wanted to pursue the class. I also considered factors such as class size and how well I liked the professors. IFSA warned us how the Argentine university registration processes was notoriously disorganized, and that was certainly the case.

Besides castellano, my classes include a seminar about political and social processes in Latin America, a class about contemporary solidarity movements in Argentina, and a human rights class. I’m also taking a film and literature class with a contemporary focus on the 21st century. That class, as well as castellano, is taught at the IFSA headquarters in center of town on Avenida Corrientes. The seminar is taught at La Universidad del Salvador, off Avenida Córdoba a little farther out in Recoleta but nearby a Subte estación. The rest of my classes are at La Universidad Católica Argentina in The San Telmo/Puerto Madero area. Out of all three places, UCA is by far the most modern, though it is an absolute pain to access- if you’re traveling from the center of town, you have to give yourself at least half an hour to cross the Plaza de Mayo (especially when there’s a protest) and then three wide avenidas. I should note that, yes, both universities are very much Catholic, with crosses and pictures of Pope Francis everywhere. According to Lara, the administrations of both are fairly conservatives, although the ideology doesn’t always extend to the professors. Plus the classes I’m taking deal with topics of social injustice, so I assume my sexuality shouldn’t be an issue, maybe, hopefully? Read More »

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Pokémon, Dogs, & Boliches

Time August 11th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

First thing’s first- Pokémon Go has officially arrived in Argentina! On the streets, in parks, on the Subte, I’ve seen sooo many people playing the game. I didn’t even know Pokémon was ever a thing in South America. I specifically remember deciding not to download the game when it first blew up back in the U.S. for I didn’t want to get obsessed with something I could only acquire in Argentina via sketchy means. Even still, petty theft is still something to be cautious about, so I think I’ll wait to have my iPhone out all the time trying to catch Pidgeottos.

Second, I now have an Argentine “sister”. Laura is from the south of the country and has returned from the winter break to continue her studies at a local university. She’s lived with Marta the past two years, staying in the room right next to mine. Ever since the dinner table dynamics have changed, with the conversations livelier and more natural. I really appreciate her presence, not just because she’s friendly, but having lived with past exchange students, she could be a good resource. Read More »

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“Macri Eat #@%!”

Time August 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

It was a typical lunch break during the first week. Myself and another guy in the program were out for lunch when we began to hear a growing drumbeat. Outside the restaurant window we could see traffic come to standstill, before the cars and busses started making U-turns. Once outside, we saw what was holding up traffic: a massive crowd holding blue and white flags, banging drums, and chanting slogans. A minute later, half a dozen policemen arrived on motorcycles. We were only ten feet away so we could hear arguing on both sides when suddenly we jumped at the sound of a gun going off- one of the officers had fired his pistol in the air. We both scrambled away down a side street, also now crowded with traffic trying to escape the turmoil. When we got back to Avenida 9 de Julio, we were stunned at the sight of thousands of protesters holding large blue and white banners in the center of the avenue. This wasn’t just a small scuffle; this was a full-on protest. Later I confirmed with one of the IFSA directors that they were indeed supporters of the previous president Christina Fernandez Kirchner. This wasn’t the first large-scale manifestacion since the current president Mauricio Marci took power in December, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Read More »

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Did I Even Leave?

Time July 26th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Right now I am fairly certain I’m getting stares as I type this at an El Ateneo, the Argentine version of Barnes & Nobles. Maybe it’s because I’m the only one with a laptop, maybe because of the English stickers on its cover, or perhaps my Americaness reeks for whatever reason. Regardless, so much has happened this first week that I thought it would be best to record a new entry. Read More »

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🎵 Hellooo Buenos Aires 🎵

Time July 15th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

As I type this first entry in my kitchen, it’s really starting to sink in that I’ll be on the other side of the equator in a mere few days away. The last few weeks have been hectic with going from task to task with my parents, including withdrawing U.S. dollars, buying last minute clothing, and looking for electronic adapters. But now my clothes, books and miscellaneous supplies are laid out upstairs, ready to be packed. So it’s nice that things have settled down for a bit.

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