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

Living Life (In Mendoza)

“There’s too many things that I haven’t done yet
Too many sunsets
I haven’t seen
You can’t waste the day wishing it’d slow down
You would’ve thought by now
I’d have learned something

I made up my mind when I was a young girl
I’ve been given this one world
I won’t worry it away
But now and again I lose sight of the good life
I get stuck in a low light
But then Love comes in

How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
But send me the miles and I’ll be happy to follow you Love”

 

After being in Argentina for more than 6 weeks I can now officially say that I have had my first full week of school!!  Go ahead and laugh, it’s funny!  But it’s probably the best week I’ve had here so far.  It’s something I’ve known about myself for awhile but has been reinforced through this experience, I’m much happier when I have a full schedule and I know what I’m expected to do/where I’m expected to be most of the time.  Within those constraints I tend to be more comfortable and, at the same time, more adventurous.  Having a schedule also gives me a sense of purpose as I go about my day.  If this past week is an indicator of how the rest of my time will be in Argentina I’m very excited about the months to come!
For one, I’ve found that over the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of time to take care of myself, but fewer opportunities to give back to others.  Now that I’ve started volunteering at an elementary school, that need to help others is going to be fulfilled (my need to be around children, as well!)  I’m really excited about this opportunity that I was connected to through my program.  I’ll be tutoring and teaching English at a private elementary school that’s just a 30 minute walk from my home! The prospect of leading a class of 6th graders is a little daunting, but I’m thrilled to be in a school environment again and to have this opportunity to gain more experience teaching English as a second language, and to get to know the students and the teachers.
Another exciting thing that’s happening is that now that my classes are starting I’m befriending more local students!  I’m meeting friends of other people in the program and I’m also getting to know people in my classes better.  What’s most exciting is that I’m meeting some really great, grounded people who are interesting and interested in getting to know me better.  The first time someone asked me how to spell my name so they could find me on facebook I nearly jumped for joy!  Also, the other day, someone offered to share their mate with me (a favorite caffeinated drink of Argentines), another indication that I’m beginning to build relationships with people!  It’s still too early to tell how far these budding friendships will develop, but I’m hopeful that I can make at least a few good local friends during the rest of my time here!  If I can, it would be a dream come true!
So far classes are going well, though I actually haven’t done much work for them yet.  The most challenging aspect about them so far is that they can be very long; my literature class is in three hour blocks and my film class is once a week for about four hours straight.  After multiple hours of lecture in Spanish my brain tends to stop processing the words it’s hearing and I start daydreaming of practically anything but what I’m supposed to be thinking about.  Once this begins it can be very hard to tune in again and catch up on the information I’ve missed.  Luckily, I only have to pass my classes, so I’m not terribly worried about my performance in class, but I want to make the most of these opportunities to learn in Spanish.  Hopefully my stamina, or at least my ability to tune in at the right moment, will improve as the semester progresses!
Some gratitude moments from this past week include:
*Visiting a bodega over the weekend with the program and getting to enjoy beautiful views of the Andes mountains, delicious wines and sweet grapes straight off the vine, and a relaxing lunch!
*Discovering panaderías (bakeries) and that you can get delicious rolls of bread for 30 cents a piece!!!
*Understanding basically everything that was said during lunch with my host family!
*Finding an Argentine bookstore and spending an hour reading before buying two books to bring home with me!
*Visiting a first grade class at the school I’ll be volunteering at and having ten six-year-olds surround me asking me questions like “do you speak Spanish?” “How do you say ‘yellow’ in English?” and “There are a lot of sharks in the US, right?”
*A girl from my film class showing us foreign students how to use the photocopier, essential for getting our readings for class!
*Staying out until 3 in the morning in the middle of the week  for the first time in my life, and meeting some great people in the process!
*The IFSA Butler talent show!  It was fun to all get together and discover the hidden abilities of some of our group members!
*Getting lunch in the university dining hall with some of my classmates and having a wonderful time getting to know them better!
*Sitting in on a staff meeting at the school, and getting a taste of the experience of being an English teacher in an Argentine elementary school!
*Going to Shabbat services for the first time since I’ve come to Argentina and celebrating Shabbat dinner with my host family!
*Having the opportunity to try more ice cream flavors! (this time I tried dulce de leche con banana, I think I’ve gone through all the dulce de leche combinations at this point!)
“I do what I can wherever I end up
To keep giving my good love
And spreading it around
Cause I’ve had my fair share of take care and goodbyes
I’ve learned how to cry
And I’m better for that

Sing how far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Send me the miles and I’ll be happy to
Follow you Love

Red letter day and I’m in a blue mood
Wishing that blue would just carry me away
I’ve been talking to God don’t know
If it’s helping or not
But surely something has got to got to got to give
Cause I can’t keep waiting to live”

 

Sometimes I still get tired, or worried, or self-critical.  It can sometimes feel like I’m never doing enough to challenge myself or to make the most of my experience.  I wonder if I’m making the right choices during my time here, I’m too comfortable, or not comfortable enough.  I feel like a “gringa”, a foreigner, who will never fit in and who Argentines shouldn’t waste their time with.
But then I’ll catch a glance at my reflection, in the mirror on the micro, or in glass of a café window.  For a moment, I’m looking at myself in Mendoza, navigating a new city and a new culture, living my life, doing the simple things without a fuss.  In those quick glances I get of myself I seem calm, confident, mature, and unafraid.  And it hits me that I’m doing it! I’m studying abroad in Argentina, speaking in Spanish!  If you told the thirteen-year-old version of myself about the things she’d one day be capable of, she would never believe it!  I realize that simply being here is a huge achievement and, though I should keep trying to challenge myself and test my limits, even the normal moments of walking down the street or waiting for the bus are accomplishments, and I hope I can learn to be grateful for all such moments.
In general, I’m really enjoying the fact that I know my way around the city and the culture better, and my increased comfort in navigating daily life has given me more confidence and enthusiasm, which positively affects my interactions with others, which in turn gives me more confidence and enthusiasm… I’ve also been very lucky to have had many messages of love and support from family and friends back home.  When I try to see myself as my loved ones see me, I am reminded of the kind of person that I want to be, of the way I want to see myself and the traits that I want to embody; to be a kind, caring, compassionate person who is genuinely interested in the lives of others and who passes on love and happiness to the people she meets.  I hope that these are things that people are seeing in me even when I’m in Argentina and the barriers of language, culture, and social inhibition stand in the way.
Thus, the explanation for this post’s song, “Many the Miles” by Sara Bareilles, which I like to call the musical embodiment of my life philosophy.  There are so many things that I want to do, and so many experiences that I want to have, but sometimes my fears/self-doubts/complacency get in the way of me trying new things, or of remembering what kind of person I want to be.  But, I know I’ll never be lost for too long, because the love of my friends and family ground me and remind me of the perspective I want to have on my life’s journey.  I may still have “many the miles” to go before I truly become the person I want to be, but it’s a journey I’m more than happy to embark upon, whether in California, or Massachusetts, or Mendoza.

 

“How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
But send me the miles and I’ll be happy to yeah
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
Been talking to God don’t know if it’s helping or not
Many the miles
Many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
Oh send me the miles and I’ll be happy to
Follow you Love

There’s too many things I haven’t done yet

Too many sunsets I haven’t seen”

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