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

Under The Skies of Patagonia

Time May 30th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi all, and pardon the tardiness of this post.  I just couldn’t be bothered to write a blog last Friday, and then I felt guilty about it so hashed one out over the weekend, but I didn’t want to post it until the next week, so I could at least stay somewhat consistent with my schedule.  Anyway, I miss you all, thanks for reading, blah blah blah, etc.  

Where we last left off, I was just about to head to El Calafate, which is a tiny, quirky little tourist town in the Patagonia region of Southern Argentina.  I was only there for a few days, and it was one of the shortest out-of-town trips that I had taken while in Argentina.  However, it was probably my favorite.  Patagonia is a landscape unlike any I had ever seen before in my life.  It defies description: it is both a high-altitude steppe, a glacial valley, a striking mountain range.  As Walt Whitman might say, “It contains multitudes.”  It is stillness, it is chaos, it is majesty.  As I flew in, I was glued to the plane window with my new Mexican friend/flightmate, unable to take my eyes off the colors, the contours, the vastness.  There’s a reason why people creating unceasing poetry, music, and art about this place.  There’s a reason it has inspired countless hikes, adventures, and an internationally famous clothing brand.  Patagonia isn’t really like anywhere else.  It is an untainted, unpretentious place.  It doesn’t need to be told how striking it is.  Patagonia is a kind of beauty that deserves to remain unbothered.  

So, naturally, I came barging in, dragging with me a crew of international students (Americans, Germans, Mexicans, Italians, and a Spanish girl). Like everything beautiful and perfect left in the world, the tourists flock there.  El Calafate, despite receiving a pretty hefty crowd of people each yeah, manages to still seem undisturbed and tranquil.  And boy, was that a blessing after Buenos Aires.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still adore my beloved BsAs, but after so much time spent in a city this semester, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to get away from the bustle.  When I stepped off the plane on the Patagonia runway, the air was clean, crisp, and quiet.  Buenos Aires isn’t a terribly smoggy city, but I forgotten how lovely cool mountain air was, especially after so much time spent in smoke-choked alleyways.  It reminded me of home, of my mountains, of my favorites places in Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington.  

Just that in itself would’ve made my trip down South Worth it, but the fun hadn’t even begun yet.  Our hodgepodge crew of international students and our travel agents checked into our hostel around 3 in the afternoon, and then we spent the rest of the day exploring before our big glacial hike the next day.  Some IFSA friends and I went down to the nature reserve (which had been recommended heartily by my folks), and we spent the afternoon wandering around the beautiful and well-kept reserve.  We snapped photos, bird-watched, got spooked by some wild horses, and skipped stones on the glassy face of Lake Argentino.  For a landscape oft-soured by contentious weather, our still and peaceful afternoon was a cool massage from the chaos of Buenos Aires.  Later, we dined on Patagonian Cordero and some spectacular Malbec, and after dinner some friends and I wandered around the streets of the town and looked at the stars.  As Crosby, Stills & Nash would have us remember, “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand why you know came this way.”  After so much light pollution in Buenos Aires, the Southern sky was particularly spectacular.  However, we had a massive and exciting day planned for the following day, so crashed early in preparation for that.

The next day was simply spectacular.  I really don’t even feel as though words can describe it.  Or pictures, for that matter; and even though I’m including some of my favorites for y’all to get a glimpse of what I saw, I don’t really know if I can adequately express what made my day in El Parque Nacional de los Glaciares such a magical experience.  Perhaps it was the hoarfrost that lay just so on the trees, rocks, and grasses that zipped past us on our bus ride into the park.  Perhaps it was the event staff playing “Thus Spake Zarathustra” as we first glimpsed Perito Moreno, the 3rd-largest and fastest-growing glacier in the world.  Maybe it was colorful scars in the mountain that the glacier had carved out during its recession post-Ice Age, or perhaps it was the blueness of the massive wall of ice that loomed out between the peaks and the forest.  From the wind-kissed boat ride to the crampon-laden glacial hike to the Andean condors that kept us company to the whiskey with glacier ice, it was the kinda day that I hope to remember forever.  I felt grateful, alive, vigorous.  To anyone reading this that was involved, in any part, in getting me to Argentina, to Patagonia, to this glacier, I thank you so deeply.

And now, I’m back in the city.  Have been for a little while actually.  It’s honestly grown on me so much, and each day I’m here I feel exponentially more comfortable.  My Castellano is improving so much, I spend more quality time with my host family every day, I’m meeting cool and new Argentine friends, and it seems like every time I leave the house I run into a new and fun experience.  From watching the final of the Champions league in a crazy pub in San Telmo to discussing the finer points of Argentine modernist cinema over a cup of coffee, this place keeps both my intellect and my enthusiasm sated.  Yes, school is amping up as all my friends gallivant into summer vacation, and I was super bummed to miss my friends graduate, but I’m happy here.  I love it here.  And I don’t wanna go back, at least not yet.  

Besos,

Dylan

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Lemons, Dedos, and Water: My Adventures in Uruguay

Time May 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey world, and thanks for tuning in.  I hope things are going well for you, wherever you may be :)  I’m sure you’ve all been quivering with anticipation since my first post where I mentioned Uruguay, and so now, after long last, I shall finally write about it.  

HOWEVER, my one disclaimer is that the pictures that you will be shown are not mine, and they have been shamelessly stolen from sites on the Internet.  I took some lovely photos while I was in Uruguay, but managed to lose my phone on one of our many bus rides, so all of my photos were tragically lost. That said, though, I’m going to try and include photos of all of the places that I went, so you can get an idea of my visual journey.  But anyway, on to Uruguay!  Dale aventuras!

Uruguay is a gorgeous (albeit a tad bit more expensive than Argentina), peaceful, and fun country, and it is only a quick jaunt over the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires, making it a popular destination for many Argentinians with the means to travel there.  IFSA had set everything up for us (and very generously too, I might add), and as this excursion was one of the three times that the entire program group got together (the other two times being orientation and our closing ceremony), it was pretty fun to see everyone in the program who I hadn’t seen in a while.  We had all come a long way from our overwhelmed selves during orientation, and I enjoyed hearing of everyone’s unique scene in Buenos Aires.

Our boat silvia-ana745x cruised across the river, fueled by caffeine and the excitement of 80+ American students, and we were in Uruguay in no time!  From the dock we hopped on a couple of big buses to our first stop: Colonia!  Our host and program director, Mario Cantarini, had generously offered his house for us to stay and frolic, and that afternoon was probably one of my fondest memories of my trip so far.  Mario’s “house” is a boutique hotel/lemon farm/place so beautiful I could see myself getting married there, and it was only a few blocks away from a beautiful beach on the Rio Plata ima1 Heaven.  We feasted on emapanadas, choripán, fresh fruit, pie, artensanal bread, and some of the most delicious meat I had ever eaten.  We splashed around in the pool, played soccer on the hotel’s front lawn, and then cooled off by sprinting down to the beach and jumping into the river.  At the end of the day, we bussed into the center of town (Mario’s place is on the outskirts) to check into our hotels for that night.  

Colonia has a ton of history and is a World Heritage Site, and we took a tour to check out some of the old (they’ve been around since the 1600’s) buildings. colonia-uruguay The town was super safe, quiet, and peaceful.  Stray dogs (who are neutered by the city so that overpopulation doesn’t run rampant.  Fun fact) run around, barking at cars, and the air buzzed with the sound of birds and insects.  Some good friends and I feasted on paella and jazz music, and then went down to the river bank for stargazing, fireflies and good conversations.  After the breakneck pace of Buenos Aires, the peace and quiet of Colonia was cool water to my parched and chapped nerve-endings.  

The next day, we were up early again to scamper off to Punta del Este, which is one of the biggest resort towns in the area, and was much more built up and touristy than Colonia.  modopuntadeleste Argentine author Rodolfo Rabanal describes it thusly: “Los turistas se marañan sus calles peninsulares durante el verano. Pero en invierno, edificios telar vacío, como si en los talones de una alerta atómica, mientras que barrido gaviotas y cormoranes negros que anidan en las grietas de mejillones rellenos de caminar por las calles” (“Vacationers snarl its peninsular streets during the summertime.  But in Winter, buildings loom vacant as if on the heels of an atomic alert, while scavenging seagulls and black cormorants that nest in mussel-filled crannies walk the streets.”)  As we were there in the fall, the streets were mostly free of the snarling vacationers, and it was a pretty odd experience to wander the hotel-laden streets that seemed to offer everything except people.  

We certainly, made the most out of Punta del Este, though.  IFSA (praise be unto Them) put us up in some sweet digs that were equidistant from three different beaches, and they also paid for some spectacular restaurant meals of fresh calamari, fish, and carne de vaca (the former two are some delicacies that are uncommon in Buenos Aires, and they were happily welcomed by my palate).  Punta del Este has some gorgeous beaches, the Dedos de Punta del Este, and some very fun beachfront nightclubs.  la_mano_de_punta_del_este_toma5_big Shenanigans, surfing, and silliness ensued for the next few days, among which included: Bodysurfing in torrential rain, meeting a professional-level breakdancer and dancing with him and a club, and spending a lot of time in the complimentary hotel bathrobes. Before I knew it we were back on the waterbus to home sweet Buenos Aires.  It had been an amazing adventure in a gorgeous country, and despite the comparably terrible exchange rate, I can’t wait to get back to Uruguay.  But, until then, there is always LOLLAPALOOZA (see my next post 😛 )

I hope you enjoyed this blast from the past, and I assure you that one day I’ll catch up to what I’m doing currently.  Classes have been excellent so far, though.  I’ve watched a truckload of excellent peliculas, spent many an hour toodling around on REAPER (a free sound-editing program) building “sonic stories”, and have met a bunch of fascinating and diverse South American students.

Besos,

Dylan  

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