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Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
Guys: traveling is so so cool. I know this is not a new observation, and I’m sure that as humans we have been exploring and pushing the boundaries of our known worlds at least as long as recorded history. But I’m finally discovering this feeling for myself, and it’s wonderful. The bug is real (the travel bug that is), and after my most recent trip I’m already planning on how I’m going to scrounge up the funds for another adventure. Maybe I’ll just become a wandering minstrel…
On this travel note, last weekend, I went to Mendoza with two of my best friends here: Ali and Morris. They’re the best. However, the timing wasn’t, considering the trip was planned for the weekend before all of my parciales (FINAL EXAMS), so my trip was going to eat into some pretty important study time. But, since we were taking Omnibuses to get there, this meant had a 15 hour drive to hit the books.
(Plus, now that I’ve finished all of my parciales, I would like to report that they went SWIMMINGLY. This note is for you, parents)
Yet despite the small cloud of academic worry that hung over us, we entered the weekend with high hopes, and we were not disappointed. Not in the slightest. Mendoza was, though not as visually striking as Patagonia or Salta, the best place I have traveled to in Argentina. I was in heaven.
Mendoza is gorgeous, a mix between the Sierra Nevadas and Napa Valley with a hearty dose of the Andes Mountains thrown in. The weather was absolutely perfect; mid-sixties without even a hint of anything less than sunshine. Is it even winter here? We hiked all around her foothills while breaking every rule that I’ve ever learned as a hiker (we didn’t bring enough water, we didn’t tell anyone where we were, we went slightly off-trail, and we had no real destination or plan on getting home). We also paragliding off the summit of Cerro Arco, and spent an afternoon perusing the many parks, fountains, and a few of the art museums that the city had to offer.
Mendoza is delicious; I had probably the one of the top 5 desserts in my life (a chocotorta, in a splendid restaurant called El Mercadito), as well as some delicious wines, salsas, and liquors. One day, we did the popular bike-wine tour; we took a bus out to wine country, rented some bikes, and spent the day tasting some of Mendoza’s best offerings. We went to big wineries (LaGarde), small wineries (Carmelo Patti), organic wineries (Pulmary), and places with everything in between (A La Antigua).
Mendoza is tranqui. For a large (9.5 million people live in the city and the surrounding area) place, Mendoza doesn’t appear overly bustling in massive. People smile more than they do in Buenos Aires, and the city pretty much shuts down every afternoon for a siesta. It was a winning combination of the exciting buzz of a metro area with the comforting feel of a smaller town. We also took a day trip to the Cacheuta Hot Springs with some British friends who we met at our hostel, and it was a day of fantastic food, peaceful soaking, and striking views. I couldn’t have asked for a better last day in Mendoza. I couldn’t asked for a better trip to send off my time in Argentina.
If you want more of Mendoza, you can check out some pics below. They’ll tell you more than my words could.
Also, on a separate note, I couldn’t really have asked for a better hostel than Hostel Mora, the hostel that happily housed us in Mendoza. (Cue shameless plug here). Hostel Mora served us breakfast to-order every morning (fo’ freee), which included EGGS (something that they never serve for breakfast here, and I had been missing), dulce crepes, fresh fruit, and a variety of pastries. But, in addition to that, I adored the folks we that we met and spent time with at the hostel. There were Alex and Becca, an American couple who were traveling the world after Alex sold his startup company. Nick and Charlotte were a British couple who had been traveling in southern South America and were freaks about soccer. Remy was an Australian girl my age who had be traveling for the better part of the last 5 months on her own, and had just spent a few weeks in Brazil at the World Cup. And, of course, best for last were Oli and Dan, a pair of best friends from London who were on a gap year in South American and became our best friends in Mendoza. They were a hilarious one-two punch who are low-key social media celebs. Between shenanigans in the hostel, a dinner adventure, and quality times with a waterproof camera at the hot springs, we certainly made some great memories together. I hope that I can visit them in London one day. In my experience, hostel dwellers are by and large pretty cool, but these ones were the best that I’d met so far. It made me want to travel more.
Now, I’m back in Buenos Aires. I survived my examenes finales, have fanatically supported the USMNT with random gaggles of Americans throughout the city, and am starting to get sad about leaving. As of now, I have 5 days left in Buenos Aires. What the hell. Also, my summer job just fell through due to restructuring in the company I would’ve been working for, so after this stint as a blogger ends I’ll be officially unemployed. Looks like Craigslist is about to become my best friend.
Keep it real, stay classy, and take care. I’ll write again soon.
This past week was a nice transition back to Mendoza from Peru (a post on that later). For one thing, I had two friends from Brandeis visit me on their way to Buenos Aires (both studied abroad in Bolivia and Peru). I can’t even begin to explain how nice it was to have familiar, Brandeisian faces in Mendoza! We caught up over cena (empanadas and pizza with mucho queso, surprise surprise) and helado. We also talked about the differences between Northern and Southern South America that are extremely interesting. I think I’ll also dedicate a post on that later, as well.
Then last night, one of my non-program friends had her birthday. Attending the party made me think of how easily we came together…..all of us were scared and nervous for our experience abroad, and somehow, we quickly formed friendships and a ‘foster family’, to replace the ones we have back home. I also met a couple of Argentines and I surprised myself by blabbering away in (perhaps incoherent) Spanish, and it seemed that the other person understood me. Yay.
When it was time for cake & candles, the song was recited in Spanish, then Portuguese, French, and calls for Korean (me) and German were made. It was a moment that made me think of how much I’ll miss this semester. And how much I’ll miss being able to practice Spanish, meet friends from other cultures, and the fact that an occasion involving two people can multiply to include the entire exchange (and others) network.
While I sort through the hundreds of pictures I have from Peru, I also leave you with some pictures from the wine excursion that IFSA took us in April!
Sigh. Three more weeks in Mendoza. Someone tell me where the time went?
I didn’t feel like typing a ton, so I tried out doing a video… Hope it turns out ok! Also, I’ve got some pictures of what’s going on so far. On the 29th, we’re going on a trip funded by IFSA to Colonia, Uruguay, which is a small town that’s apparently very picturesque/historic. So I should have some good pictures of that for later!
Part of the Oxford experience is visiting the old haunts of Tolkein and Lewis; drinking warm beer in cold pubs that smell of wet leather and wood, and taking long walks through damp gardens full of bees and butterflies. Another part is doing work. That’s it. There are no fancy adjectives I can tack onto that, and certainly no butterflies. There’s just me, the books that I’ve scoured every one of Oxford’s accessible libraries to find, and that never-ending white page with the blinking cursor.
I say all of this not to entertain, but to remind myself of the hard parts so I’ll think twice lest I want to repeat the experience for graduate school. I know from experience that the long hours spent staring at a computer screen have a nasty habit of fading out of memory, while all night parties and busty British woman seem to do the opposite. Oxford is hard, difficult work, and… ah, who am I kidding? I love it here. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The trick, I think, is figuring out how to balance the two 3,000 word essays I have each week with fun. I’ll take time to do the essays, to write about Yeats and the occult and the gyres and the significance of the metal bird in the poem, “Sailing to Byzantium,” but then I’ll go out and enjoy the country and the culture. If I lived to read, living would be called reading. It’s not. It’s called living.
Tonight I went to an invite-only event called “Drinks with the Master,” a sort of welcome ceremony for visiting students and incoming Freshmen. They had forgotten to make me one so I drew my own: “Kenneth Gould” it said under an artfully redesigned St. Catherine’s logo. Under that I wrote my major, “English.” It occurred to me after that people might think I was English, which I’m not, instead of thinking that I study English, which I do. However, I thought it was silly to ask for another nametag to replace the one that I had gotten as a replacement for another so I stopped overanalyzing the situation and just went inside.
At the door, a smartly dressed gentleman offered me a choice of white wine, red wine, or apple juice. I asked him which wine was better, to which he responded that he didn’t know, to which I responded why not, to which he responded that just because he had a British accent he was not an expert in the luxuries of high society. That was news to me. I took a white. Then a smartly dressed woman thrust a silver platter under my nose.
“Beef and ale or chicken and tarragon pie?” she asked, referring to the two varieties of mini puff pastry on the tray. I was going to ask her which was better, but then just took a beef and ale. I barely had time to look at it before the master showed up at the front of the room and commanded my undivided attention. This was the man in robes I had seen shouting Latin in the dining hall. Surely he had something interesting to say.
“Hello all,” he said. “Thank you for coming. As I was saying yesterday, this year’s Freshman class seems like the best in a long time. Thank you for coming. Goodnight.” Then he left, and his aides took my wine glass and ushered me outside. They seemed to consider taking my puff pastry as well, but in the end they let me keep it. I ate it thoughtfully. It is one thing to advocate that one take full advantage of life, but sometimes life has other plans.
I’m 6 weeks in to my adventure abroad. I’ve gotten to do some pretty fun things recently and I’ve seen home sickness rear its ugly head.