Paradise in the Desert
Several people have been asking me what the weather is like here, so I have decided to dedicate this post to the nature/atmosphere of Mendoza.
Weather: Argentina’s coldest month is July, so we are experiencing the worst of the winter months right now. Although they do get snow (it snowed in the city the week before we arrived), it is quite rare unless you find yourself in the mountains. Mendoza has a desert climate, which makes for frosty, bitter cold mornings (okay, compared to Kansas, or even Virginia, it is not that bitter cold, but it seems cold after coming from humid summer weather in the U.S.!) and warm, beautiful afternoons. When I say warm and beautiful, imagine every day with very little wind, temperatures in the mid 60’s, with sunshine and a bright blue sky. This is how the weather has been every single day since we have arrived (except for the day that I took a lot of pictures and it was a little cloudy, but I swear, clouds are rare!). It is truly magical to have such great weather every day! I think the weather may partially explain why everyone I have met from Mendoza has been in good spirits: happy, friendly, and willing to help in any way they can.
Juxtaposition of water and desert: Unless you noticed the cacti outside of the houses and in the mountains, you would never know that Mendoza was actually a desert. Water is never far away! Firstly, the Huarpe people, or indigenous people of the Cuyo region (where Mendoza is located), created an extensive irrigation system in the city of Mendoza, which allows the water from the melting snow in the Andes to be brought down to the city to water the trees and other organisms. These ditches, called “acequias” run along both sides of every street in Mendoza. (Fun fact: the acequias are sometimes referred to as “Gringo Traps” because foreigners often fall in. Don’t worry, Mom, they are only about 3 feet deep, and when there isn’t running water, there are often rats and trash in the bottom to cushion your fall.) There are plenty of other signs of water in the desert city as well. Fountains are plentiful, especially in parks and plazas, and a large man-made lake is located in San Martín Park. The lake is drained every year for an annual cleaning, so it is currently empty, but it will be filled again in the middle of September (not before the annual “lake rave” though. It seems that everything here is turned into a dance party one way or another!).
Parque San Martín: This park is pretty spectacular. It consists of 971 acres (to give you an idea, Central Park in NYC is 840 acres) and it covers roughly 1/3 of the city of Mendoza. General San Martín Park is completely man-made (i.e. every tree was planted with the idea of creating a park). The architect decided to name the roads in the park after what type of tree lined the sides of the road, which provides diversity throughout the park, but consistency within each given area (see pictures below). The park is home to a zoo, several athletic clubs, a large picnic area, and an amphitheater, just to name a few. My university campus is also located within the park, which provides a beautiful daily walk and makes living in Mendoza feel less like living in a city.
With such beautiful weather every day (even in the winter!), plentiful water sources, and the huge park, it is easy to understand why the city of Mendoza feels like an oasis in the middle of the desert/mountains.
If you have a suggestion for the theme of my next blog post, be sure to comment on the blog and let me know!