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“Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

Time August 1st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ahem.

Yes, yes I am.

At least two different girls from the Butler group greeted me this way when we met, and I wasn’t sure whether to feel proud or embarrassed of that. I guess it’s nice to know that someone is reading this silliness!

 

DISCLAIMER TIME: this blog only reflects my views and my experiences. It doesn’t reflect Butler or Argentina or Mendoza as a whole. It doesn’t even reflect the people mentioned as a whole.

Just so you know.

This blog is going to be super long, as usual, because a whole lot happened in the space of just a few days.

 

ARGENTINA DAY 1

 

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. The great slog through the airport

II. Buenos Aires – First Impressions

III. Jose

IV. The Payphone Episode

V. Vocabulario

VI. Musica

VII. Links to previous posts

 

 

I. The great slog through the airport

 

Altogether, I had over 24 hours of travel from the door of the apartment where I was staying to the hotel in Buenos Aires. Such a blast.

It finally hit me that I was leaving home during my layover in Atlanta. Georgia struck me as so foreign, even though it’s part of my own country. So green and humid and flat! What is this? Geographically, Mendoza is actually much more like my house.

I gave up on Como agua para chocolate for now and I swapped it out for Eat, Pray, Love. I was a little dubious about the book—I heard it was sappy—but it’s been a good traveling companion to me. Just what I needed. Liz Gilbert basically did her own little study abroad, but in 3 different places. It’s been comforting to read about her struggles and survivals while getting ready to prepare for my own. It’s especially relevant because Argentina is always compared to Italty, so it’s fun to compare her experiences to mine.

It seems like every time I fly somewhere, the people on the first plane never want to make conversation, but on the second plane they do. This was the case for my trip to Argentina. I was so pumped to start talking to people in Spanish in the terminal, and they were pretty pumped for it too. A lot of the other passengers to Buenos Aires didn’t speak English so well, but for some strange reason none of the announcements were made in Spanish even though the flight was to Argentina. So we talked a bunch… And I had the startling revelation that, hey, I can speak Spanish! I hardly knew where all these words were coming from, but it was definitely me and my mouth. Who knew? Of course, I promise I still have lots to learn, but it was definitely a relief to prove to myself that I can speak Spanish and I wasn’t going to outright die in Argentina. The people I met were very nice and had lots of advice to offer about changing my money at the bank, not on the street, and to be careful of street food.

Even though the plane was a large one, I expected to be flying to Buenos Aires solo because I wasn’t on the group flight. However, moments after I took my seat I heard someone talking on the phone in English behind me. When she got off the phone, we started talking and realized that we were both in the Butler Mendoza program. After some finagling, we figure out a happy arrangement to swap seats with Argentines until my new Butler buddy and I were sitting together. …Five minutes later I realized that I wasn’t actually in my assigned seat. I read the numbers wrong. So, I managed to single-handedly mess up three rows of seats that way. Luckily it worked out, but I felt so bad.

Now, here’s a piece of advice for you fine folk. The flight from the U.S. to Argentina is not a short one, and you’re going to have a full day the next day. To make sure you can sleep, you’re going to want to invest in one of these bad boys.  It’s gonna be your new best friend. I did not have one and I slept for maybe 2 hours altogether. The nice part was that I could look out the airplane window and see so many stars—a lovely welcome gift. I missed stars in California. Also, you can definitely start to gauge Latin America’s level of development overall by the number of lights you see below…or, rather, the number you don’t see. It’s a big difference.

II. Buenos Aires – First Impressions

 

Buenos Aires is so much flatter than I anticipated, and pretty green, even in the winter. Lots of trees. Sort of pastoral—we actually saw a horse pulling a carriage. (Though, of course, cars are much more prevalent.) The roads are packed. Compared to Guatemala I think the drivers are less ANGRY but sloppier. I watched a taxi sit ON the dotted line, like it was a lane, no intention of moving over into a real lane.

When we got off the plane, we were all pretty manic. There was lots of fun chaos and awkwardness meeting everyone. Or, trying to. There are some people whose names I STILL don’t know. I was expecting for there to be maybe 20 people including me, but we’ve actually got about 45. Everyone seems nice. Mendoza seems to attract some pretty outdoorsy people. A few people brought sleeping bags. One girl brought a full camp stove set and a tent.

One of the first things we did, in our big blob of gringos, was to look for a “legit” coffee shop. (This wasn’t really too tricky because, lemme tell ya, there’s a coffee shop practically every four feet. If you like coffee, you’ll like it here.) We didn’t have maps yet, so we asked for directions. Or, I asked for directions. It was a pretty cool feeling.

“We are badasses,” I said.

“No, you’re the badass,” said one of the other girls.

Awesome.

We had lunch at our swag-y hotel, courtesy of Butler. Brace yourself, boys and girls, because they’re going to give you a lot of meal for one sitting. Dessert is almost becoming a curse word, because by the time it shows up you are STUFFED and can’t do much more than pick at it. Food is good though, I promise! I also found out that there are three other vegetarians here (and a few others who switched out of vegetarianism to come here.) What the heck—I should’ve stuck to my guns!

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Part of the reason that I chose Mendoza instead of one of the programs that my friends from my host university chose so that I could have a chance to learn about myself in a new context. Who is this girl Yona without her posse around her? Well, lunch conversation brought a few things about her into light: She still talks as much as ever, that’s for sure. Maybe too much, maybe not. She’s kinda funny, and I think I like that about her. She’s a talented person—I can’t blame other people’s lack of skill for making me look good anymore, because here I am in the middle of a bunch of talented, driven people who have many talents I can’t even touch, but I have been praised up and down all day long about my Spanish today. She’s curious and friendly, but she needs personal space. Mostly, she’s still the same girl I’ve always seen in the mirror.

After, another big blob of us went to the Plaza del Mayo to watch the Madres de los Desaparecidos (mothers of the disappeared from the Dirty War) protest. Admired some nice adds for prostitutes along the way—if you’ve been to Vegas you know what I’m talking about. Beware of brightly colored squares of paper! On the way back, we got a little lost, even with our map. Buenos Aires is a lot of city, you know!

You can check out a video of the protest march here.

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I realized that I’m not really concerned about Spanish. My vocab and grammar are a little clumsy… but I can do it just fine. If I need help, I can ask for it. (Porteños, as the fine folk from Buenos Aires are called, walk fast and don’t smile much, but they’re actually friendly and helpful from what I can see so far.) What freaks me out is the city itself, the space. Remember, I’m from the middle of nowhere. I feel out of sort in the city like you would not believe, like I’;m sharing my skin with three extra people, all of them panicking.

Nothing bad happened and we got un-lost fairly quickly, but all the same I was holding in my very first panic-attack by the time we got back to the hotel.

 

III. Jose

 

We got what another girl called “the best orientation ever.” It was exactly what I needed for sure.

Part of what we talked about was homesickness and panic-attacks, and somehow it made me feel better to acknowledge that it was inevitable to have to cope with some of those things during this trip. But this is truly what I wanted. To challenge myself. To learn. To drink mate! This is why I came.

The orientation was delivered by the fabulous Jose, program director extraordinaire—can he be my best friend please? Very kind, sympathetic, funny, open. Exactly what he needs to be, for me anyway. I feel like I’m in good hands. So, yay Butler.

And good thing I’m with a program instead of just bouncing around on my own like Liz Gilbert, because in this moment if it were up to me I would just hide in the hotel room, where I can pretend it’s not all Argentina-y outside. But I’m not going to do that because I can do that at home.

One of the things we discussed was this thing:

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Bidet. I have chosen to avoid it, but if you wanna attempt, I wish you luck.

We also learned about the saying “ojo” y “doble ojo” (accompanied by pulling down the bottom eyelid), which is sort of like “keep your eyes peeled.” Watch out for yourself. Be careful. So, pay attention when someone precedes a sentence with the ojo gesture.

 

IV. The Payphone Episode

 

In your first few days, before you set up your Argentine sim card or buy a cheapie cell phone, you might have to deal with payphones. Pay attention and you’ll have an easier time than I did.

 

See, I had never done this in English before. My mom used to give me quarters as a kid so that I could call her “just in case,” but of course I never needed to, so I never had to learn. Well! I learned, that’s for sure, thanks to a very kind and patient cashier named Hernan. Let me walk you through the steps:

1) Find a kiosco (they’re all over the place—keep your eyes peeled for big glass candy display cases) that advertises “telefono de cabina.” That’s your phone booth. There will usually also be a picture of a phone on the sign!

2) Ask the cashier, “¿Cuanto cuesta para llamar este numero?” You pay after at the front rather than feeding bills into the machine, so you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you dial.

3) Go to booth that the cashier indicated. Those glass ones over there that sneakily blend in with the wall if you have no depth perception at night like me.

4) Dial the number. (And don’t be too sluggish about it like I was.)

5) Talk your little heart out.

6) Go back to the register and pay.

Poor Hernan had to basically do it for me, but now I get it. And he was very, very nice about it. This is one of those cases where being a dork but knowing how to explain that you’re a dork will get you far.

 

 

 

And thus ended dia numero uno en Argentina.

 

I’ll leave you with the hasty message I scribbled to people in the U.S. who were wondering whether I arrived safely or not: In Argentina, not dead, gotta go!

 

 

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V. Vocabulario

 

Buzos – sweat pants

Cazos– tights/leggings

Aceituna– olive

Culpable – guilty

 

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VI. Musica

 

Jose has offered to share his as long as you have a flash drive. Heck yeah!

 

VII. Links to previous posts

 

To make things easier, because I think that after x many entries they get bumped off the face of the earth never to be seen again.

 

1 –

Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2 –

Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation


Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University

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Airports, Visas, and more!!!

Time May 24th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi all,

I hope this blog finds you well. As the weeks progress finals are approaching; however, I will not be dedicating this blog to venting all about exams, but to tell you more about my recent experiences.

Before anything I have to tell you all about my adventure I took to the States on May 13th. I left on the 13th of May to go to the USA just to walk at my graduation on May 14th. After walking at my graduation that same night I was back at Boston Logan thinking, “this isn’t right I was here a few hours ago.” It was even more tedious when I had to wait 10 hours at Heathrow Airport for my connecting flight to Cairo. All in all it was good because I finished my 700 page fun read I had picked up at the same airport 2 days before. Nevertheless, the entire, crazy adventure was worth it, I was able to see all of my friends and family and of course experience the thrill of walking at my graduation!!!

Anyways, back to Egypt. Some funny things that happened at the Cairo airport was the constant question of where I am from when I go through immigration and customs. I hand the person my US Passport and they ask me where are you from I say, “America” the question that follows is, “no, no, before, your first citizenship,” I reply “US” then they ask “and your father where is he from?” and I say, “America” and “your mother?”, “America” and then they finally understand that I am not Egyptian, I only look like one. I  think they ask me all of these questions so that they know if I have to have an entry visa or not. Speaking about entry visas, it is so easy to get an entry visa for Egypt. I was all worried because I had always had my entry visa before leaving America, I would send my passport to the corresponding Egyptian consulate in New York and they would stamp it and everything. But I found out that all you have to do when you get to Egypt at least if you hold an US passport is to stop at one of the four windows there are of banks in Egypt, pay 15 dollars and they give you a fancy sticker and that it is. I mean the entire process took me less than 30 seconds. I handed the man the money and before I knew it I had a visa in my hands. I had to ask him if that was it. Well now you all know the secret. I hope you have enjoyed my wild adventures and my quirky recounting of what happens inside the Cairo Airport.

Until next time.

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