Week 1: La Semana Loca
One week ago today, I was sleeping comfortably in my own bed. Since that time, I have traveled approximately 6403.86 miles by plane, stopped in 3 different cities, and met over 50 people, without seeing a single familiar face. In a matter of hours, I also changed time zones, changed seasons from the middle of summer to the middle of winter, completely changed my diet, stopped exercising regularly, and varied my sleeping habits. All of these factors combined, it is easy to understand why I woke up feeling pretty terrible this morning. I am looking forward to finally settling in and re-establishing a routine in which my body can understand!
Buenos Aires was a great experience, but I cannot be happier that I chose to study in Mendoza rather than the capital city. Buenos Aires is SUCH a big city, and with consideration to where I was raised, I was pretty overwhelmed. Nonetheless, we saw some beautiful churches, as well as some distinct neighborhoods, including San Telmo and La Boca, the neighborhoods in which tango originated. Another highlight was visiting the Casa Rosada (pink house), where the president works, and the cemetery of Evita Perón, a very influential figure in Argentina in the 1940’s and early 1950’s.
We also had several orientation classes with our Mendoza resident director, José. I have been so impressed with the organization and thoroughness of the IFSA staff during this first week. It is as though every part of every day has been well thought out and flawlessly executed (just for the record, I am not writing this blog to endorse IFSA in any way; I am just extremely grateful of all of the work that has gone into the planning of our transition from home to a foreign country, and the eagerness of the staff to help us in every way possible.).
Thursday night was a whirlwind of emotions. As I stepped on the plane to fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, it finally hit me that I was about to meet my new ‘family’ in which I would (hopefully) live for the next 5 months. I say “hopefully” in parenthesis, because the first month is a trial period. After the first month, if either the student or the family is not happy with their new living arrangement, then the student has the right to change families, and the family has the right to kick the student out of the house.
The two days that I have had with my new family have been awesome! My family consists of a mom and a dad, a 10-year-old brother and an 8-year-old sister. They have hosted several students in the past, and they have been so patient with my rusty Spanish and my cluelessness to the city. My room is twice the size of my room back home, and I have my own bathroom for the first time in my life! One wall of my room is made almost entirely of glass, and there is a door that opens to a small patio and grassy area with a lemon tree, filled with fruit. A small yard separates my house to my host mom’s sister’s house, where she lives with her two daughters, ages 21 and 24. One of the greatest surprises Thursday night was that the sister (my “aunt”) is also hosting an IFSA student! It is nice to have someone close with which to figure out the micro (bus), and to be able to go out without having to walk/take a taxi alone.
This weekend has been pretty quiet, and I have played a LOT of Uno with my little ‘sister’. We have also played a couple of other games, and watched some quality television (Disney channel, of course!). Although it sort of feels like I am babysitting at times, I have found that playing with her is a great way to practice my Spanish. She is brutally honest when my sentences don’t make any sense (haha), and she knows when I am just pretending to understand her (To my defense, that girl speaks a million miles an hour! Especially when she gets excited or upset…). Family dinner is constantly a struggle for me. Not only do we eat around 10pm (which is pretty close to my bedtime in the States!), but by dinner time, I am exhausted from trying to speak/understand Spanish all day. It is quite a game to try to figure out what my family talks about over dinner. They all speak at the same time, which adds more challenges. I hope in the next couple of weeks, it will become easier to understand what is going on around me! I have been relying a lot on body language and tone to figure out what is going on, but I hope to really comprehend what is being said.
Our Spanish class begins tomorrow (Monday) and I think that our other university classes start next week. I have been warned several times to be patient with class registration in Mendoza, and that the arts/music department is especially chaotic and disorganized. I could go on and on about this first week in Argentina, but I think I will save some for my next blog! Saludos a todos!