Old Experiences, New Processes
This past week, I experienced two every-day experiences for the first time in Argentina: baking chocolate chip cookies with my host mother, and paying a visit to the doctor. The former was a great bonding experience and realization of cultural differences (check out the finish product below!), the latter was something that I was hoping that I would not have to experience during my study abroad adventure (I have pictures of this too, but I will spare you guys this time!)! I had been so careful to pack every medication that I thought I might need, to take major precautions every time I started to feel sick, and to avoid other sick people. My fatal mistake was deciding to sit outside on the patio one evening after class. The weather was perfect, and I was wearing capris. The next morning, my leg was quite itchy, but I shrugged it off, assuming that it was finally mosquito season here and that I needed to be a little more careful as to where I sat outside next time. By the evening, my leg was bothering me more noticeably, but I had on jeans, and I just assumed it was a bad mosquito bite.
When I got home that evening, it was after midnight when I finally pulled up my jean to have a look at the bothersome bite. I was lucky I was sitting down, because if I weren’t, I probably would have fallen down after seeing my leg, swollen and red with a softball-size ring that extended across the better portion of my calf. The inside was dark, with two deep puncture marks close to the center. I had been bitten, without a doubt, by a spider. I waited until morning to see if it would get any better with Benadryl alone. By mid-morning, my leg was burning to the point that it was extremely painful to walk. I decided to stop fighting it and go to the doctor, because I had plans to leave for Santiago de Chile the next morning.
The doctor’s office was extremely easy, compared to what I had imagined. I only had to wait about 30 minutes before a doctor was available to see me. Although the doctor didn’t speak any English, and it was a little difficult to explain to him how the bite had worsened over the last few hours, it didn’t take a lot of speaking after I showed him my leg for him to know that I needed antibiotics for the infected spider bite. I headed out with a prescription in-hand to the university pharmacy, where they gave me the prescribed antibiotics for free! The entire process took less than two hours, and it didn’t cost me a dime. My fear of getting sick and having to go to the doctor here is not completely gone, but I now realize that it’s not as big of a deal as I expected it to be with health insurance, making appointments, figuring out medications in Spanish, etc.
Baking cookies, on the other hand, was a really great experience, and it was even more enriching that I was able to share the evening with my host mom. I taught her how to make oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a recipe that I had found on the Internet. I already had the peanut butter from home (it’s very difficult to come across anything remotely close to the peanut butter we have in the States), and just needed the chocolate chips. I ended up having to go to TWO supermarkets before I finally found ONE lone bag of chocolate chips, half of the size of the bags we have in the U.S. and costing USD $6. But I swallowed the bullet and bought the ridiculously overpriced chocolate chips, and the cookies turned out great! I hadn’t considered it before, but we baked using the metric system weights, rather than the English system volumes. It was a new experience for me to have to weigh the peanut butter, flour, sugar, etc. rather than have measuring cups to measure everything out. On the other hand, it was a new experience for my host mom to accept the fact that I did not want to use rising flour, and that cookies should remain relatively flat instead of inflate like cakes. She also tried really hard to burn the cookies, saying that they were still raw inside because they were soft in the center (even though the edges were dark brown), but I was able to salvage most of them when she wasn’t looking! I thought the cookies turned out really well, and it was so nice to have real chocolate again (they don’t eat much chocolate here in Argentina)! My host sister, on the contrary, told me that she thought they were “okay” but they had “too much chocolate.”
Luckily, the person/family that I was actually making them for loved them, and they disappeared within 24 hours.