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Rooftop Islands and Raging Oceans

Time March 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

My house here has a terrace on its roof, and sometimes when I find the time (which is never because between classes and errands and cafe time with my new friends I don’t even have time to call my family (sorry, Mom)), I like to sit up on the roof and look out at the world around me. Up high, on my rooftop, I feel like I am a sole inhabitant of a lonely island amidst a vast cauldron of noises, smells, and light.  Buenos Aires is an ocean of sensory overload that swirls around me, and I sit on a wooden stool and take it all in (here are some pics that I took while scuba diving with my digital camera)

.  Yet while I may be the only one on my island, I am not alone in being an islander.  All around me is an archipelago of other terraces on other rooftops, and from my vantage point I can see them going about their lives just as I go about observing theirs.  There is a father with his small son, teaching him how to kick a soccer ball through a 2-foot high goal.  There are a group of young men who come out to bring Quilmes and make bawdy conversation.  Their is an older woman, face wizened by age but her body showing no signs of it, who hangs her laundry on the line.  She waved at me once, and as I waved back I realized something weird: I was just as much a periphery character in her life as she was in mine.  She probably had her own little moniker for me in her world, and our lives certainly had no reason to ever overlap.  This woman has hopes, dreams, memories, and stories that consist of many people and many places, yet for a few brief moments, our respective narratives interacted.  It was a pretty cool feeling to be able to have this sanctuary from the tumultuous ocean of Buenos Aires on my little rooftop island, and to be a part of the lives of those on the islands around me, albeit in a minor way.  I enjoy my moments of sonder.

But enough about figurative oceans; this past week I went to a real one!  It was in a town called Mar del Plata, which is about 6 hours south of Buenos Aires (check out  “My Journey” to see where we specifically went) by omnibus, which is a type of giant bus that many people here use to travel instead of flying.  These buses are typically double-deckers, and the seats fold down into beds and they give you yummy complementary snacks and basically are vastly superior to most US travel buses in almost every way.  But anyway, Mar del Plata was right on the ocean (our hostel was about 4 blocks from the beach!), and it was, in a word, gorgeous.  I have always loved oceans, and having never really lived by one other than in 7th grade, I am consistently drawn to their vastness, power, and beauty.  My group (consisting of my new and awesome friends named Trevor, Morris, Christine, Stephanie, Henry, Catherine, and Ricardo) met up with some other students from my program and practically sprinted to the beach nearest us.   W spent all of the first day at that beach, and I took a lot of pictures

 and went swimming a bit too.  The waves were awesome, the beach art was fantastic, and the sun was to wonderful for words.  It was a good day.  That night, we headed back to the hostel with plans to imbibe in certain legal beverages (which can be picked up at corner stores for unbelievably cheap prices) and then head out for a night of shenanigans and tomfoolery.  It was Carnaval weekend, after all, and the city was bumpin’.  However, after a few valiant efforts to inspire the group to go out, we realized that we were all too tuckered and sunkissed to leave the hostel, so instead we headed up to the roof (yay rooftops!) of the hostel to play guitar, sing songs, and generally have a chill evening of camaraderie.  The hostel put on some cumbia music (link here) and some of us (naturally I was one of them) danced away.  It was a good night, that one.

The next day, we rose around 10:00, enjoyed (?) some complimentary hostel breakfast food, and headed off for another day at the beach.  This time, instead of sticking to the beach near us (which was lovely but crowded), we piled into a colectivo and shipped off down the coast for about an hour until we reached a beach that was (supposedly) the best one in Mar del Plata.  Well, upon first glance it wasn’t too bad, but as soon as we tried to find a spot on the sand to lay down our stuff, the lifeguards shunted us away.  ¿Um, perdon?  Yeah, turns out this beach was private, and we had to walk all the way down to a windswept point until the lifeguard deemed the beach a “public area”.  Not even our best efforts (in both Castellano and English) could sway the beach officials.  Yet despite this beach clearly not seeming the like best one in Mar del Plata (we learned later that the beach we were looking for had been about 5 more minutes down the bus route from us), we had a blast.  The waves were even better than they had been the day before, and my body changed color from marshmallow-esque pasty to slightly-cooked-marshmallow.  We left the beach a little earlier that day due to wind, and since our bus back to Buenos Aires was scheduled to leave the next morning at 7:30, we decided to would emulate the Argentinians, and just stay out until then.  It was a raucous night.  After a delicious pizza and beer dinner at the hostel, we went out to a boliche called Tai-pan, which overlooked the bay and was generally super cool.  Many hours of dancing, a few cab rides later, and NO SLEEP later, we were suddenly on the omnibus back to Buenos Aires.  Most of us slept like boulders, although my nap was cut short by a cute but godawfully loud baby near me who kept crying and screaming like his sole purpose was to undermine the much-needed rest of a terribly sleep-deprived American traveler (mission accomplished, baby).

It was lovely to get back home.  I had missed my host family already during my time in Mar del Plata, and they were very accommodating to my immediate desire to sleep before I told them anything about the trip.  After my nap, we chatted for a while and they told me that Anderson (a Brazilian PhD student who had been staying with us for a while), had left the day before.  Anderson is a wonderful guy, and though we had only known each other for a few days, he had been such a pleasure to converse with.  This last picture is of all of us, and Anderson is in the front on the left next to my host dad.


Thanks for reading, and I know this post was a doozy.  Stay wonderful, everyone.




Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata

Time February 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My last adventure with the chicas (minus 1) was to take a relatively short journey to South America’s east coast for some sun and sand.

We’d been researching (sort of) this trip since November, and everyone told us that we should go to a smaller beach town, like Pinomar to avoid the summer hordes. Of course, Latin American life intervened in our plans to plan, and the actual structuring of this adventure took place mostly two days before it happened. Typical. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we had some major trouble booking rooms and transportation. First the usual mess with phones, saldo (pre-paid minutes), and sluggish internet connections. Then, when we finally got the info we needed, we couldn’t believe how pricey the hostels were! Fate and dwindling bank accounts pushed us to Mar del Plata. Although it had been the furthest thing from our intentions, it ended up being a good thing.

The bus to Mardel was about 4 hours, with nice views. Getting back to the campo after hectic BA life (more details on that later) was a real breath of fresh air.

Our first adventurous act was when we decided not to take a taxi to the hostel like most tourists would. No way. We’re traveling pros. We knew by then how and whom to ask. So we took our chances with the bus, even though we’d never set foot in the city before and had no idea where the buses would take us. It was an epic success—we aren’t just awkward outsiders, we’re media Argentinas! The #112 bus dropped us off within a block of our hostel.

Our hostel was the cutest place, by the way. It felt more like a hotel than any other hostel I’ve been to. The staff loved us, and it was the first time I really felt like I was on vacation. And with two girls I adore—who could ask for me?

Mardel had a Mendoza-like vibe because it was quiet and there were convenience stores scattered everywhere… but of course with that classic beach town feel. We liked it right away.

The section of the beach we hung out on was in a bay, which was a new experience for me. The water was so calm with so few waves, you could lie on your back and just float, watching the clouds go by. I was so relaxed I felt drunk on it all. We lived like children: we ate and slept. Rinse, repeat. It was a welcome break from the “real” world.

I loved being able to strut around in a bikini and a t-shirt knowing that my friends at home (and even other friends abroad) were bundled up in layers at that moment.

I managed to sunburn one half off my butt. Moral: ALWAYS USE MORE SUNSCREEN.

Get yourself a good scarf: in a pinch, you can use it as a sarong, shirt, sun protector, emergency stuff sack, and a beach blanket.

We spent one night climbing on the rocks on the far side of the beach. We sat in shared silence and contemplated infinity, the lights of the city dancing on the water like fireflies. Nearby, a couple fishermen sat doing the same. It felt so right for all of our adventures, challenges, emotional swings, and frustration to end in a moment of such deep peace.

All the same, it was hard not to think how close we were to the end of this moment in our lives.

I wanted to feel the sand under my toes, so I headed up the beach alone. The chicas caught up with me later, and I said,

“Oh look. A message in the sand. We had better read it before the waves come and wash it away…”

Some things are more beautiful because they’re impermanent.

As usual, I left everyone else behind and went back to BA early to take care of some other business. (I had originally intended to visit family in Montevideo but it turned out to be more time-consuming and expensive than I had anticipated. Next time!) Settled back into the city…and started bracing myself for some difficult goodbyes.

Previous posts

  1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)
  2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation
  3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”
  4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile