Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Road Trip!

Today I’ll be talking about…

I. The Great Argentine Road Trip
II. La Difunta Correo
III.               La musica de la semana
IV.               El vocabulario de la semana
V.                  Previous Posts
VI.               Coming soon


I. The Great Argentine Road Trip


As lovely as Mendoza is, it’s impossible not to want to escape it every now and then, especially with those Andes always in sight. So, once upon a weekend, some friends and I decided it was time for The Great Argentine Road Trip.


We decided to head to THIS COOL PLACE, camp a little, see some dinosaur bones, hike, frolic in the sun, etc.


We rented a car, with the stunning and talented Lisa (AKA the only one who knew how to drive stick…but still una grosa*, of course!) behind the wheel.

By the way, for anyone who just can’t get enough of our adventures in Mendoza (so…me and my friends, I guess, jaja) you can also get Lisa’s perspective from her blog here. She’s hilarious.

Things to know about car rental in Argentina:
-Certain places rent to 21-year-olds, certain places only rent to … well, I’m not actually sure what age, but older.

-Gas  = very expensive in Argentina. Keep that in mind.

-Car = small inside! Pack light.

-In case you forgot, Argentine drivers are INSANE. What is a lane? What is a turn signal? What is a speed limit? Who cares? Also, one way roads spontaneously become two-lane roads with no warning or signage. Just another part of the adventure.


And, of course, it wouldn’t be the Great Argentine Road Trip if not for…

a) Getting lost. (But not too lost. We figured it out.)


b) Being a little misinformed.


The Argentine estimate of how long the trip would take?
3-4 hours.

How long it actually took?
6-7 hours.

Maybe we weren’t breaking the speed limit enough.
We had a really great time all the same. We spent 90% of the ride playing “name that song” and singing along. That might sound lame, but that was one of my favorite parts, especially when our sort of shy boys started singing too. We also played car games such as “four-legged animals,” in which you compete to see which half of the car can count more four-legged animals on their side of the road, and spent time sharing funny memories and life stories with each other.


c) Being lied to by the weather report.


The broadcast said we should expect sun… so of course we got rain and mud. Unfortunately, this meant we couldn’t get into the park because all the tours are done in cars, and the cars can get stuck in the mud. FORTUNATELY, we’re awesome and we had a great time anyway hanging out at the campsite.


Lisa made a return trip to Valle de la Luna a couple of days ago and enjoyed the heck out of the park (because it was sunny although rain was predicted…go figure), so I’d say it’s worth the attempt. Hopefully you have better luck than we did in that endeavor, and at least half the fun!


Even though we didn’t do the hiking and exploring that we wanted to, we still got to check out other neat things like…


II. La Difunta Correo


AKA “Our Lady of Perpetual Boob.”


I should probably apologize for calling her that. But, come on guys, that was part of our experience on this adventure!


She’s really called La Difunta Correo, but we started calling her OLPB because, although she died in the desert, her baby supposedly survived by continuing to suckle her breast. Some people look at that and say,
“ = Miracle!”
We looked at that and said,


So, as soon as we read about her in a guidebook, we knew we wanted to go there and take this photo:


I’ve chosen to think that she acted as our stand-in guardian angel during our trip. (We made it to our campsite, after all!) Some people definitely see her as a saintly figure…which is controversial among hardcore Catholics, because of course she’s not official. All the same, real saint or not, whether you’re religious or not, visiting her shrine was a neat experience. Possibly the highlight of the trip for me.


Here’s an excerpt about it from my writer’s notebook, because right now that’s the best explanation I can give of it, even though it’s very chaotic and Falkner-esque…and long:


Covered walkway with tin roof, festooned with red ribbons and license plates—mostly Argentine (black and gray), some Florida, one Texas. Some so rusted down to anonymity that they blend in with the scaffolding. A pair of baby shoes hangs from the ceiling.

On either side of the walkway, a miniature town spreads out. Hundred of shrines, almost like birdhouses. Each one has something written on its side like, “Thank you for the favor I have received / my completed dreams / this brand new car.” Some have full rooms inside (doll houses)with walls cut away to show careful wallpaper, tiny furniture, La Difunta Correo herself lying supine in dresses in various shades of beat-up red and pink. The nameless baby, head blocking naked breast. Some are startlingly headless, exposing the gray plaster inside. One house has a balcony sporting a plastic-wrapped San Juan, who reminds me of a toy soldier. Perhaps to protect her at last in the afterlife, perhaps to keep her company and play house. Most have orange roofs, turnip-colored walls. One has a lawn. One has a covered porch and painted-on windows. Little houses to hold in a single prayer (single-serving containers!) or wish or hope or sigh of relief. An entire town made of prayers—attention to detail worthy of elementary school dioramas.

It’s a town that seems to have been through a lot, in spite of the care and detail given to individual houses. They have been left behind. Loved for one single moment. The tired brown earth, the slant the houses have settled on, the windswept branches—like a tornado or earthquake happened some time ago but the town never quite recovered. The citizens never pulled it together. But it’s not sad, just sleepy, worn out but cheerful and still hanging on. Peaceful. Like a nativity display.

Up the stairs, past the individually engraved plaques of honor and thanks with no real explanations other than “Thank you” and one with a picture of a pair of lungs… to the shrine itself. To the left, a panoply of plastic bottles—mostly clear, some green—as offerings. Lisa was adamant that we bring one for La Difunta too, to thank her for getting us into our campsite the night before.It was a 5 liter jug, but it was empty, which made it feel like a cheap and pathetic offering compared to the others. But she said it was fine because it was a symbol for the promise that all wishes will someday be fulfilled. (Plus it already rained—she’d gotten enough water out of us.) In a corner, racks hung with bales of emptied, compressed bottles tied together.

Into the shrine itself: 2 monoliths, stages dedicated to the woman and child sprawling Madonna-like. His head is rubbed almost bald (pinkish orange paint beneath) by time, wind, and human touch. Brightly colored packets of candles tucked into every crevice, one lying right across her throat like a silent punchline. They look like packages of sweets, optimistically artificial flavors. Death-defying colors. Paintings on the wall casting the woman (still alive! What a tick) in the ethereal light of the moon and premonition. Everyone wants a chance to touch a miracle, hoping a scrap of good luck will rub off. “People have to have hope,” said Erin, who wore the word on a chain around her neck. I think she’s got it exactly right.

Just outside, the site of the ritual, belching smoke to the sky like a furnace, a smelt. A massive hunk of charred wood or maybe rock with hundreds of candles scattered around the base in a forever dripping, melting, crumbling, burning swirl of heat. There’s a semi-hard river of constantly re-melting and re-coagulating wax in different shades of brown. Looks like marble cake or melting candy bars. The far bank of the char enclosure is leaping w raw flames unanchored to wick or wax. It hisses and whispers the story of the legend and of those who have come to bear witness to it. Smell of lighter fluid. Peering over the side of a low concrete wall (more plaques) you can see a drainage gutter choked with a rainbow of candle wrappers. Wrappers lay half-submerged in the wax. Broken bird wing shapes.

Erin lights a candle—it appeared seemingly out of nowhere. She smiles for the camera but after the flash there’s a particular silence that settles over her for a moment, and I think I know who it was for.

We humans need the repetition and mystery of a ritual. We need to burn things and watch them finish themselves down to blackness. We need to recreate death and believe for just a moment that we have tamed it.


So, for at least that trip, I definitely got some writing done. There’s at least a couple poems I could carve out of that mess when I clean it up.



III. La musica de la semana



Sorry, this song isn’t in Spanish either, but this is the one I think of when I think of this trip. I highly recommend it for any road trip-like occasion!


IV. El vocabulario de la semana



Groso/a* – a cool person (also: una copada)

Cheta – I’m still not quite sure how to translate this. Someone who is stylish, popular, and from a high class family is cheta.

Patente / chapa – license plate


IV. Previous Posts


1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Habia una vez en los Andes…


V. Coming soon


The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael



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