“The west winds often last too long
The wind may calm down
Nothing ever feels the same
Sheltered under the Kamani tree
Waiting for the passing rain
Clouds keep moving to uncover the scene
Stars above us chasing the day away
To find the stories that we sometimes need
Listen close enough
All else fades, fades away”
It’s been more than a week since I last blogged. I haven’t been crazy busy, but there’s been a lot going on as I start adjusting to life in Mendoza. I’d say this week has been about realizing that I’m not just passing through but that I will be living here for the next few months and I need to figure out how to live here long term. In many ways it feels like the first semester of college, the same uncertainties as I try to figure out a new routine, when I can call home, where I can withdraw money, how I’m going to spend my time outside of class etc. In the interim of transition I’ve admittedly spent a lot of time on my computer in my room talking to friends from home on facebook and watching favorite American TV shows, not the best way to immerse in a new language and culture. The challenges I’m now facing are not short term ones but long term, what will I choose to study here? How much time will I spend with Argentines versus Americans? How will I spend my time outside of class? How will I spend my vacation time? The answers to these queries don’t come right away and my decision changes depending on how confident I’m feeling in the moment. But slowly but surely I’m making progress and learning my way around Mendoza and Argentine culture.
For the past two years I’ve kept a gratitude journal. At the end of every day I write down five things that happened for which I am grateful, such as a meaningful conversation with a friend, or a random act of kindness I experiences. The act of recording these moments reminds me to focus on the many positive things that happen every day, instead of the negative ones, which tend to have the power to stick with us if we let them. Though there have been many moments of frustration and self-doubt this week, there have also been many moments of gratitude, and I thought sharing some of them with you would be a good way for both you and me to look back on this week.
Monday I was grateful for
* Finding a place relatively close to my house to recharge my bus card!
* Checking out the library at the IFSA Butler office and found out they have a copy of Half The Sky (in English)! I’ve wanted to read that book for a long time and now I have the chance! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, or with the global female empowerment movement it helped inspire, I highly encourage you to find out more and watch the documentary (available on netflix)
Tuesday I was grateful for
* Taking the bus for the first time by myself!
* Having a wonderful conversation with my host family in which we discussed family and Judaism among other things. Being able to converse and socialize in Spanish is very exciting!
Wednesday I was grateful for
* A wonderful coincidence! Before going abroad I’d talked to a Brandeis student who had gone to Mendoza last year. She had gotten me in touch with an Argentine friend of hers through facebook who studies at la Universidad Nacional de Cuyo where I will be studying. We’d been talking on facebook a little bit, but hadn’t made any plans to meet up But as I was leaving orientation of the campus, I heard someone call my name. It was him! He’d recognized me from my facebook photo! We got to talking and he is really nice and friendly in person, and I hope I get to know him better, it would be nice to have Argentine friends!
* Seeing the business where my host father works. He sells uniforms to policemen all over the country. He showed me the different floors where the different articles of clothing are assembled, and I really appreciated getting to see the behind the scenes work involved and that my host dad invited me to see that part of his life!
Thursday I was grateful for
* Exploring the campus of la Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, where I will be taking most of my classes.
* Actually enjoying the experience of taking the wrong bus home, resulting in a grand tour of the outskirts of Mendoza, which are actually very beautiful. I love exploring the world by getting lost, as long as I have the time to do it (there must be some greater message about life somewhere in that statement but I’m too tired to figure it out right now)
Friday I was grateful for
*Discovering El Parque Central (Central Park). It’s just a couple blocks north of my house but the city feels so much more open there. I hadn’t realized how antsy living in a city grid was making me until I found myself sitting quietly in the park reading a book. I hope that I can take advantage of this beautiful spot often!
Last weekend and this past weekend both had exciting excursions for IFSA students!
Last weekend was the culmination of La Vendimia, Mendoza’s annual grape harvest. Tourists come from all over the world to join in the festivities as Mendoza honors its tradition of producing fine wine and the labor and sacrifice involved in such an endeavour. I already mentioned that I went to a parade where they threw fruit at us! On Sunday we went to the festival, held in the huge Greek Theatre in the foothills of the Andes. The festival celebrates Mendocinian heritage through traditional dances, as well as other modern performances that are more for the sake of the spectacle. The theater seats around 20,000 people and they have enough demand to put on four performances! The show ended with a fabulous fireworks display that filled up the night sky.
Also, this song was featured prominently in the weekend’s festivities. It still gets stuck in my head.
“A Luján, Las Heras, Rivadavia y Tunuyán;
A Maipú, Lavalle, Tupungato y Godoy Cruz,
San Carlos, Guaymallén, a Malargüe cantaré,
A Junín, La Paz, San Rafael y San Martín.
Tierra del sol y del buen vino…
La de los andes infinitos…
La de las dulces mendocinas…
La que acunó la libertad.
Un rumor de acequias va arrullando a la ciudad,
Que prestó también su colorido a mi cantar.
Con General Alvear y Santa Rosa son,
Por igual, orgullo y esperanza provincial.
Mendoza… Mendoza… Mendoza…
This weekend IFSA took us to San Rafael, about four hours from the city of Mendoza. It’s full of natural beauty and we passed the weekend swimming in a lake, hiking the cliffside, and even river rafting! We also had time to relax at the cabins, and ate lots and lots of amazing food.
But my favorite part was on Saturday night, when we went stargazing and I got my first good glimpse of the southern hemisphere’s night sky. One of the students on the program knew a lot about astronomy and was able to point out notable aspects of the Argentine night sky, such as the southern cross constellation and the magellenic cloud galaxy. The strip of the milky way was clearer than I’d ever seen it, and lying beneath the multitudes of the cosmos a great peace washed over me and reminded me that the ups and downs of my semester abroad are inconsequential in the scheme of the universe, and reminded me to have faith that the universe is unfolding as it should.
It looked a little bit like this (not my photo!)
And now I leave you with the lyrics from one of my favorite Jack Johnson songs. This song depicts the peacefulness I feel when I look up at the night sky. As I go into the shopping period for classes I hope I can hold onto this peace of mind that will encourage me to put myself out there but also to trust myself and to trust the journey that I am on.
“It was just another night
With a sunset
And a moonrise not so far behind
To give us just enough light
To lay down underneath the stars
Listen to all the translations
Of the stories across the sky
We drew our own constellations”