Four new places and many different weathers

This past week I have been on a trip. I’m writing today (Thanksgiving) because of homesickness mostly but also because I’m procrastinating finishing up my homework, the devil paper that I have to write about the damn Cuban revolution, which by the the US education system teaches us in a very different way than the Argentine one does. Happy Thanksgiving though, I hope you’re all enjoying your turkey and pie.

This trip started off in Buenos Aires where we took an overnight bus to San Juan, a city in the province of San Juan (no creativity). The bus was nice, they gave us these blankets and some snacks and all that, but it’s impossible to sleep on these busses because they have these pillows that they build in to the seat that don’t correspond to human anatomy and when you lay on them your head gets pushed forward and your neck starts hurting after about 30 seconds. My remedy to that is just to move positions as often as possible until you doze off which sometimes happens and sometimes not so much. Anyway, the province is basically all desert, and I actually did a research thing on it because they have a mining, environmental conflict going on over there (This mining company, Barrick Gold, is basically their entire economy but is also ruining and/or contaminating all the glaciers in the Andes in that areas that are the only source of drinkable water for that province. It’s the classic money vs. future life sustainability conflict that everyone else in the world has). But anyway San Juan is a modest city. It’s pretty relaxed and there’s really not much to do. We stayed in this weird hostel the first night which was basically just a hang out place for the workers college buddies to hang out an watch soccer and drink beer. They were plenty nice though and served us both beer free of charge which they were consumed whole heartedly in a soccer game Lily (the lady I was traveling with) and I knew nothing about. We slept there that night and had plans to head north to a tiny town called San Agustin where they have excursions to this cool national park. So we get up at like 630am literally chug hot coffee and swallow a few croissants whole and head out. The bus was around four hours long and went along these cool hills. There were all these cows and goats along the road (I’m pretty sure caw roadkill is more common than deer roadkill in the US) and these little tiny mountain towns that looked like fun. So we get to San Agustin at like 1130 and wait for our tour which started at 3. The tour was really awesome. It was through this park called Ischigualasto which i have no idea what it means or how to say it. They also call is Valle de la Luna (valley of the moon) because some rock formations look moonish I’m assuming. But anyway it’s this archeological zone that’s really huge and has five different stops of interest. The history of it is that the whole area used to be underwater in the triassic or jurassic or whatever era so theres all these cool rock formations that look different on the first half than the second because some parts were formed by water and others by the air. Also theres a ton of fossils around there and apparently it was a big dinosaur hang out. Here are some pictures:  DSC_0376 DSC_0334 DSC_0397DSC_0312 DSC_0293

So we get back to San Agustin at about 8pm and the last bus back to the city was at 330am. We didn’t get a room at that hostel in effort to save money so we kind of just sat around the hostel until then. That proved difficult because I feel asleep almost immediately on the couch and evidently began snoring in the main area. That’s embarrassing but I guess it was tired and Lily woke me up in effort to save my dignity. Turns out the desert isn’t always warm because that night i swear it was negative degrees. The hostel owner was nice enough to to give me a blanket, I’m forever grateful for that man. So 300 comes around and we get on the bus back to San Juan where we get on another bus to Mendoza. It was a long and uncommonly cold night where neither of us got any sleep– kinda a disaster. So we get to Mendoza at about 11am where we stayed for just one night. The hostel we were at was funny because they smushed eight people in a room that was about the size of two sellery hall dorm rooms. They had two triple beds (incredible height—kinda terrifying) which thankfully I didn’t have to sleep on. In Mendoza we bought wine and went on a kinda long and very ambitious bike ride. It was to the top of a mountain/hill called cerro de la gloria where you could supposedly see the Andes mountains although I think they were lying. Between not sleeping the night before and the 90-something degree weather both of us were very low energy and sweaty. Ended up drinking one of our mendoza wines and I went to bed at like 10.

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The next day we got on another bus to Valparaíso, Chile which as you will see later is probably one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. The bus ride itself was really impressive because we had to cross the mountains, customs i’m pretty sure was at the top of one of them. Going down the mountain was one of the scariest things i’ve ever done though and I don’t have any pictures of it because I was actually holding on to save my life. To get down you have to go down these super curvy roads with really steep drops and also no railings. I was sitting on the top level of the bus in the way front on the right side so when we turned a corner it actually looked like we were off the road. The couple next to me was laughing at me saying that there’s nothing wrong with a little adrenaline but I was like 60% convinced that my life was going to end coming down that mountain. Arriving in Valparaíso was lovely. It’s this little port town right on the beach and built on all these hills, famous for having a Pablo Neruda house. They call it a mini San Francisco and rightfully so because there is not a single flat road. Since it’s so hilly they have all these cool way to get up an down. They have a series of little elevators (really they’re just little cable cars that go up the side of a hill) and all these little slides and pedestrian streets. It was very cool. It’s very touristy but it’s colorful and happy and peaceful and there’s tons of cats all over the place. We met a nice New Zealand couple who had been traveling together for almost a year who we went out to dinner with. My only complaint is that I got bed bugs or attacked by a family of spiders so I left that place very content and itchy. I can’t really explain the city that well, it’s better explained through images so I’ll post a bunch at the end. Coming back from Chile to Buenos Aires was a 25 hour endeavor. Quite brutal I will say. For dinner they served mashed potatoes and chicken with a slice of ham and cheese on it. Which leads me to a funny argentina observation which is that if a food will taste at all ok with ham and cheese on it, they will put ham and cheese on it. Ham and cheese is on everything, it’s really impossible to find a place that doesn’t offer ham and cheese on pretty much any item on the menu. Meats, empanadas, breads, fried anything, crepes, anything. Seriously. It’s everywhere.

So, I got back to Buenos Aires the next day and proceeded to sleep for a day. There it is.DSC_0453

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Mom comes in a few days, so I’ll tell that story in the next couple of weeks.

Gobble,

Jane

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Big City Life (Trynna Get By)

^^ That’s just song lyrics. I haven’t been traveling much lately so this will be my first real blog post about living and breathing big city life. There are many blogs with titles such as #GringosinBuenosAires or #GuidetoBuenosAires or hashtag something else. This is my very own Buenos Aires Survival Guide I suppose. I’ll hashtag it later. I found out recently that Buenos Aires isn’t really THAT big. It’s like half the population of NYC but also I think quite a bit larger in surface area. I’m not actually entirely sure of that but whatever. That was surprising to be because there are SO MANY PEOPLE HERE. I think I know why too, because Argentines have no pedestrian code of walking. The sidewalks are tiny and filled with random street vendors and sidewalk flower shops. Basically every sidewalk is an obstacle course of stores and shops to avoid, homeless people you don’t want to rudely kick, gaggles of preteen with linked arms that you basically have to climb over to pass, a old couple that walks slower than you can crawl and of course the aggressive walker that will push their way through no matter who they have to take down. They have no general rules like, for example, you should usually walk on the right side of the sidewalk, kinda like you drive. Or apologize if you knock someone down, that doesn’t happen very often. I think that’s why Porteños get a bad name because they seem rude in passing, but honestly I’ve only had pleasant experiences when you actually stop someone on the street to ask directions or whatever. They just get in the zone when commuting, but once you take them out of the zone they’re actually a very knowledgable and pleasant bunch of people. Just gotta shake ’em up a little. I think this pedestrian chaos makes it seem like there’s so many more people here. If you think about an unorganized fridge, for example, it seems like there’s no space whatsoever to return the milk back to it rightful place, but if you put all the leftovers in Tupperware and throw away all the crap, you realize there’s like half the fridge open for business. If there was only some kind of mental code for walking, it would feel much more open. But that’s not the way it is an sometimes it take 10 minutes to walk a block and thats just how it is and it’s fine.

Moving on to a different type of transportation: the subway system. I have a very love/hate relationship with the subway system. It’s just as useful as it needs to be, but it’s also not the only way to get around the city since there’s millions of buses. For that reason there’s not tons of lines which means they are SO overcrowded. I have my own set of rule for the subway system.

#1. When waiting for the train to come around, situate yourself in a way that you can get to a door ASAP, and when that train comes, a-line to the nearest open seat. If there are no open seats it means it’s anytime between the hours of 8am and 9pm. You’re SOL and standing, sucker.

#2. When between hours mentioned above, stand directly in front of someone sitting down so that if and when they get up, or the people sitting on either side of them get up, you plant yourself on that chair faster than you’ve ever sat down before.

#3. If a pregnant lady asks for you seat, don’t be the biggest a-hole in the world and give her the seat. This also goes for people on crutches and the elderly. This does no go for the crabby looking business man that’s starring you down or for the over privileged working lady carrying way too many shopping bags. They are gonna be fine, after all you are an exhausted foreigner just trying to catch a break. (I’m a push over and never sit on the subway because someone also snatches the seat before me using before mentioned rules.)

#3. During rush hour (8-930am, 1-3pm, 6-8pm) do not get on the subway.

#4. When on the subway during rush hour, here are a few things to think about:

  • 4.1 You will not breathe fresh air until you exit the entire subway. The air you’ll be breathing is other people exhales and/or not breathing at all. Sorry, I guess.
  • 4.2 People will push you closer to the people around you than you would ever want to be. No only are you close enough to kiss your neighbor, you hands will be in places that you don’t want them to be. Really the rule should just be everybody hands up to avoid the awkward ass touching that happens oh so often.
  • 4.3 It’s summer, that means it’s hotter than heck. You will sweat more standing than you’ve sweat on any run you’ve ever been on, and this will happen on the subway when the dude next to you can see each individual drop of sweat forming on your forehead.
  • 4.4 Wear your backpack on the front of you so the person hugging you from behind can’t look in it and decide what he wants to take without you noticing.
  • 4.5 If you do any of the following things, you smile and say “wow, una LOCURA!”
    • Step on someone’s foot
    • Make awkward long term eye contact
    • End up face to face with someone and are therefore forced to acknowledge their presence.

The love part of subway is they get you places many times faster than buses do because traffic is a real thing. And also buses are really confusing. So that’s how I get around, guess you could say I’m pro sweat and pro awkward confrontations…. I donno. So that’s transportation.

One thing I’ve noticed about women here is that there is an absolute obsession with being thin, and it starts at a very young age. When I first got here I was surprised that the women were so thin because the food they eat here isn’t exactly low calorie low carb type of food. I wrote it off as just really good metabolism, but now I’m starting to realize that the women here are just huge dieters. Tons of young girls are on diets, I’ve met a few 15 year olds on really strict ones. According to some research I did right now, Argentina is home to the second highest rate of eating disorders after Japan. Apparently 12% of adolescents have some kind of eating disorder or body image issue, and according to La Nacion news paper article that I just reading, this all starts around age 11 and lasts until about age 23. I’d really like to know where it comes from, but it is definitely something that I’ve noticed a ton since being here, especially now that it’s getting warm out.

Thirdly, there are so many parks around here that I didn’t know about. I’ve been running a lot more lately with the nice weather but mostly as a procrastination method and I’ve discovered so many nice places. Buenos Aires certainly knows how to do parks. They have these nice blooming purple trees everywhere and fountains and tons of statues that I really like. People are out and about biking and running and tanning and it’s just gotten really super nice the past few days. I feel like I’ve gotten in the swing of things better lately, but I’m excited to get out and travel once I’m done with all my school work (10 days!!!)

This being my last technical study abroad blog, I’ll enlighten you all with a few good stories.

Yesterday I was getting of the subway and i turned the corner looking for the exit. My height is more than most people and I was unpleasantly surprised when I ran into this little lady that was doing the same thing as me I guess (not paying attention) literally head on, front to front smack. She almost fell over than then continued to get very angry at me for not paying attention. Many people laughed. This has happened more than once. There are your funny stories.

Oktoberfestivities

HELLO. I’m here to tell the story of a two day trip that I took to Córdoba where everything good and bad that could have happened did (except no one won the lottery and no one died). Córdoba is the second or third largest city in Argentina. It’s about 10 hours away from the BA (Buenos Aires, Big Apple, whichever) and it’s where all the Porteños go to vacation, but also happens to be the home of Argentina’s Oktoberfest action. Apparently a bunch of Nazis and Italians live there, not sure how that’s working out for them.

A couple friends and I went to enjoy a weekend of sight seeing and beer drinking, but of course, as it always does, sh*t kinda hit the fan a little. We decide to take a bus overnight friday night to make the ride go faster. We book tickets for 11:15pm (2315) to arrive a little after 9am on saturday. Like a good nurses daughter, I bought some sleeping aids at the local pharmacy to be able to sleep and do activities the next day. The sleeping aid I took was a natural sleep aid apparently made of some kinda of herb tea or something hippie like that, so I popped it and tried to get to sleep. About an hour or so later i woke up from my not so deep slumber (I wasn’t sleeping) sweating and nauseous. This was about an hour and half in to this the hour extravaganza so naturally I was paralyzed with terror for what was to come. I’ll save you the details but basically I spent a large amount of the ten hours in the bathroom. Apparently my stomach rejects hippie medicine because I called my host mom and she didn’t get food poisoning from our dinner we had the night before. SO that was that. 9AM the next morning we rolled off the bus and I for one left my dignity and peace of mind on it.

Cordoba’s a really cool city. It’s famous for it’s university so there’s tons of students, young people and cultural things like art and museums and shopping and all that good stuff. It’s also in a cool area and is surrounded with beautiful hilly mountainy hills that are good for hiking (which is something I didn’t do and I regret that). We did walk around the city where we found a really cool market and then ran in to a street singing group. They were an a cappella dobop, romantic quartet with cool instruments and nice suits. They had a huge crowd so my friends and I stopped to listen. One microsecond after we got there they saw us and pointed directly at my face and started singing this romance beautiful song TO ME in front of SO MANY PEOPLE. I of course turned bright red and they started to walk towards me with their beautiful music and surrounded me as tried my hardest to act normal (impossible). What felt like 100 years later they stopped and everyone applauded and it was the most embarrassed and exhilarated and surprised I’ve every been. I had a video of it, but it is gone now, you’ll find out why in a second. Cordoba is also home to Argentina’s big Oktoberfest activity which is what we primarily went there for. Oktoberfest took place in a little village nearby called Villa General Belgrano which is gorgeous and I suggest you all look it up on Google images. It’s totally made to mimic Oktoberfest because all the bars and stores looks all German and wooden and rustic, I honestly felt like I had magically landed in Germany for a second.

We got to the village, and after only a short run in with the cops (no you can NOT drink wine on public grounds in Argentina) we entered the festival. It was SO hot and there were SO many people. The firs half was more family friendly when they had a bunch of different kinds of dances from all over the world and shower and the hammer game where you try to hit it hard enough to ring the bell at the top, but at around 5 or 6 pm, all the blazin’ drunk college kids stampeded in. I’m not quite positive when this happened but I do know that my iPhone and wallet got stolen at SOME POINT between the times of 7pm and 10pm. I’m really surprised I didn’t notice it happening because they had to have been flippin’ around in my bag for a second because they only took my phone and wallet. I have a hat, sunglasses, bus tickets, a bottle of water among other things in there, so it couldn’t have been easy to just grab it and go. Robber are sneaky here. There is some karma in this situation because even though they got my phone and wallet, I didn’t have any identification, not credit card or debit card, I only had about 10$ cash and on top of everything, my phone is a mess. It doesn’t work. There’s no space on it, theres no glass on the back of it anymore, it’s super old and crappy and useless. I just have this vision of whoever took it looking at it and immediately tossing it over their shoulder. No one won in that situation which is why everyone should keep their hands to themselves and back off. That’s the reason I don’t have any photos of this place, the robber took my memories *tearz*. Other than that I had a lovely day and upon my return slept for a week straight.

Since then I have not done much. I’ve been trying to hang around my city more, and also trying to figure out how to study. It’s been really nice weather wise lately since were headed in to summer now, so I have next to no motivation to study. Too bad I have about 300 pages of spanish essay to write and an oral exam to figure out. But hey it’ll all be fine I think. I joined a frisbee league and we had our first could games this past weekend. I did something weird to my leg and couldn’t run so I  hung out of the sidelines and tried to blend in (also impossible). We won too so that’s cool I guess. They’re definitely an eclectic bunch:DSC_0546DSC_0490-2

 

It was also mothers day here a couple weeks ago!! (Mothers day is in the Spring and the seasons are flipped. It took me a while to figure that out.) I had a nice time with my host family that day and substitute daughter.I got Flor, my host mommy, some flowers and a big piece of fruit cake adn then we went to her brothers house and had tea time. The reason I’m bringing this up is because this very trip brought on a wave of anxiety about college because the wouldn’t stop asking me about future plans and jobs and what a Spanish major even is and all this stuff that I get regularly anyway. Somehow this time it clicked and now I’m trying to figure out what my calling in life is before it’s too late and I’m 80 and homeless. All suggestions welcome. My family is pretty though look at them:DSC_0448-2

 

Thats all for now, more later.

 

 

JANE

Uruguay and other guay (cool) news

In the effort to write more I am writing more. I don’t have a ton of interesting news but I have some. As seen in title, I took a little trip to Uruguay. Little in length but not in impact of course. Although I was only there for a couple of days, I honestly think I like it more than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Which is saying a lot because I was deathly illl traveling up and down the coast. This is the deal with Uruguay. It’s like the happy hippy brother of Argentina. Argentina’s like the sad but really interesting struggling artist who has a lot to offer but has wild ups and downs and people either REALLY like it or REALLY dislike it. Uruguay’s the same thing “genetically” seeing as though it’s right across the river and has a lot of the same characteristics. BUT, what you see is what you get, it’s happier the way it is, very stable and although it may not seem expensive, it is very expensive. Like shopping at Urban Outfitters or Free People (hence the hippy brother thing). I will say Argentina’s far more interesting and a way better place to study abroad just because theres way more to do but it’s definitely less stable and maybe a little more scary. Uruguay’s a place that I would love to live or spend a little more time in actually getting to know the people and the places. It’s absolutely beautiful, the people there are incredibly friendly and helpful and it’s actually a pretty interesting place to hang out. So I went with my friend Mina. We took a boat across the river to Colonia (1.5 hours) and then a bus to Montevideo where we took another long bus across the Uruguayan country side/coast to the other side of Uruguay (a little to the east of Aguas Dulces).

map_of_uruguayThe place we went is called Punta del Diablo and it’s a great place to do just about anything. It’s a tiny, seemingly untouched surfer town about 20 miles west of Brazil. It has dirt roads and tiny little shack diners and a beautiful coast. There’s a national park about three miles down the coast called Santa Teresa. Basically no one lives there year round unless they work there because there’s not much there. It’s definitely a tourist town but in the best way. We stayed at this hostel called El Diablo Tranquilo (diablo means devil) and it was just so lovely. We walked in and as hostels are usually filled with loud and drunk and tired tourists, we were surprised to find five italian girls reading by a wood burning fire, two german guys cooking what they called “rice shit” which is just rice with everything imaginable in it and a brazilian dude hanging out on the computer. It was so descriptive of this town. Both Mina and I were pretty sick so I would say this place was where I recovered and if I had stayed in Buenos Aires I would have gone out with friends and ended up with a sinus infection and bronchitis. On saturday I woke up at around 7:30 coughing, went for a little walk, read my book and once Mina woke up we went surfing. Surfing is not easy. The water was freezing and mina’s wetsuit was broken. It was really fun and I guess I learned the mechanics of it all, just couldn’t follow through. Here’s a picture of that.

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Mina and I in front of our lovely Hostel after a morning surf.

Then after that we went for a little (long) hike in the Santa Teresa. It’s basically a mixture of northern Minnesota rocks and pines with amazon jungle where you find weird trees and possibly scary animals. It ended up being probably 10 miles round trip in Birkenstocks walking on sand and rocks. It was fun and beautiful. Here it is:

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Parque Nacional Santa Teresa

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Rock hike over

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More rock hike

That night we hung out at the hostel. I was being lame an felt really sick so we stayed in. The cook on duty came over and offered a homemade cure (chai tea, no voodoo medicine or weird drug potions). It was probably the best chai tea I’ve ever had with cloves and ginger and all these spices that he just whipped up. He was a hippy character (remember what I said about Uruguay). He’s getting this incredibly metaphorical tattoo of a tree that is continuously growing (he adds to it every country he visits). So far he just has the trunk because he started growing in peru or colombia or something if I remember correctly. But he says he’s gonna add branches when he feels he “branched out” and roots when he settles down. Intertwined in the cracks and crevices of his beautiful grounding trunk he has peace signs and little words. Maybe a little much of a tattoo for me. Hell of a Chai though, I will give him that. Shoulda got the recipe

There were some other characters there too. There’s this old man that shows up every once in a while who I talked with for a while. He’s Argentinian and found yoga medicine late in life and is basically a natural nutritionist. He’s 67 and quit drinking, started traveling and ended up somehow in Uruguay practicing yoga and a well followed diet regime of “everything in moderation”. He came and sat with me while I ate breakfast and as I was pumping non gluten free bread, jelly, dulce de leche and plenty of coffee in to my system he was explaining how everything I was eating was going to keep me from getting over my cold and slow me down in the long run. Everything I was eating he says he only eats twice a week to avoid feeling crappy. I should really listen to him but when in Rome, ya know?

The other characters I really only met in passing. The Italian chicks were backpacking/hitch hiking across Uruguay, Chile Brazil and Argentina. They were incredibly beautiful people and made this kickass pasta for dinner out of nowhere (classic Italians). This Brazilian guy was just traveling around by himself, he had come up from Patagonia. Then there was this guy from Cape town who was both so cool and also so weird. He had just got to Uruguay but had been traveling for a long time throughout Asia and Europe before getting to South America. He did the classic dad thing and showed up pictures of his kids and kinda explained why he was traveling and then totally transformed in to Hippy traveler. I asked him why he was in Punta del Diablo and he has we thought it was a good place to practice and train. Turns out by practice and train he meant practice Yoga and “train for life”. Punta is an incredible place to practice yoga, and train for life. I just love how he put it. V funny and v poetic.

Then the next day we got up and watched the sunrise and headed back to Montevideo for the night. Montevideo is exactly like Buenos Aires but smaller.

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Sunrise over the east coast.

So that was Uruguay.

Other than that trip I have very little news. I moved houses, I guess that’s kinda big news. I feel as though I can only complain about one person per post so I’m going to refrain from explaining why expect maybe just that we had a little bit of a personality clash. Not in the violent fighting and arguing and throwing plates at each other way, we just didn’t understand each other and it was uncomfortable for the two of us to be living in the same place. I moved from Caballito to Palermo which is funny because they kinda similar but the feeling is really different.

This is Caballito explained by another blog:

“Caballito is a classy, understated barrio with tree-lined avenues, cobblestone streets and some beautiful parks. It’s well served by the subte and it has no shortage of amenities. Honestly, it’s probably not a place to rush to visit if you live elsewhere in Buenos Aires, but if you choose to make it your home while you’re in Buenos Aires, you might just never want to leave.”

This is Alto Palermo:

“With its family orientation and array of parks, the Alto Palermo area offers a relaxed neighborhood in which to stay. Whilst its connection to the rest of the barrio is obvious, the inner streets feel somewhat removed from the commercialized Palermo Hollywood and Soho. If you want to be close to the nightlife action but far enough away that it doesn’t suffocate you then this could be the place to be.”

Palermo has a bunch of different parts to it and it’s where all the bars a parks and touristy things are. It’s closer to all my things and friends and is just better in a lot of ways. My family is incredible. They actually utilize the family space so it’s comforting and inviting to leave my room. They play music at dinner and don’t mind a messy house. It’s just the mom and 16 year old daughter who’s incredibly sweet, it just feels so much more family and real and less artificial. Plus my room and a secret passageway to the kitchen which is ideal for midnight snacks and allows me to avoid the embarrassment of eating at every hour of the day. It’s been really great.

Here’s a couple of Argentine observations that I think are funny. They can not handle weather. They just don’t know how to handle it. It’ll be cloudy, threatening to rain and people will have their umbrellas already out as if they’re shielding themselves from the possibility of rain. When it actually does rain, it’s awful though. The streets flood and theres a lot of sidewalks made out of loose pieces of stone so you have to be careful to only step on the glued down pieces otherwise you catapult water up your leg and in your shoes. But also the heat is strange. A couple weeks ago it was around 75 degrees and sunny and I can not tell you how many people i was walking around in Patagonia down puffy jackets. In the attempt to fit in I put on a lighter jacket, but could not stop seating looking at these people walking around in winter coats in beautiful swimsuit weather. Very weird. They aren’t very hardy people. Just a funny little thing about people.

I think thats it for now. Signing off.

Jane (which I found out is a really beautiful Brazilian name)

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Hiking in Uruguay.

A little bit of everything

Sorry, I’ve been busy. A month without writing is a lot I guess. I’ve been around mostly just trying to figure this city out. What I’ve decided is that it’s impossible to figure this city out. I’ve come up with some city slogans though that I’d like to pass on to the not-so-liked Cristina Kirchner (aka president of Argentina).

Buenos Aires: Watch your step for dog poop but also have 5 other eyes out for buses, robbers and rabid dogs.

Buenos Aires: Kinda the Paris of South America with some important differences.

Buenos Aires: Where every woman over the age of 50 will dye her hair an awful blonde.

Buenos Aires: The buildings are really nice.

Buenos Aires: Where time is backwards and schedules are stupid.

Buenos Aires: Where dreams sometimes come true but only if you live in Recoleta.

Buenos Aires: Where people traffic is harder to get by than car traffic.

Buenos Aires: Where theres something to do at every hour of the day except at like 3pm when everyones sleeping.

No but actually it’s a really weird city but it’s been growing on me. You just have to know where to go and where to find things and then it’s perfect! It’s a city with a lot of spunk and surprises, which is why it’s such a great place to study abroad for a shorter period of time. It’s such a hectic and loud and distracting place to live that it’s hard to get anything done. Don’t even ask me about homework because I feel like every time I go to do homework I end up getting a beer with a friend or somehow ending up at a park drinking maté or on a bus to the other side of the city to play some kind of sport. It’s complete chaos and I’ve found myself doing stuff or ending up somewhere without even thinking about it. Even going home after a day out is hectic because you can’t just escape under your covers and watch Friends for hours, you have to eat dinner and chat or plan your next trip or sometimes you’ll go out with friends out of nowhere or maybe you’ll end up at a dance club or sometimes a car hits your building (that happened to someone in my program).

These are the things that I have been doing, I will add little things to the things that are more interesting

1. I volunteer occasionally on an organic farm called Pecohue (http://pecohue.blogspot.com.ar/) which is really cool and all of your should read about it if you can. The descriptions in Spanish so here’s a summary: Pecohue is a program that mixes organic and hippy living and social work. So basically they invite a bunch of kids that have either special needs or or are in some kind of issue with addiction or something of that sort. They teach their workers how to live organically, require good working environment, positive attitude and punctuality to their jobs. On the other side there’s a bunch of volunteers who come in like me and the kids that work there have to explain how to do everything to the volunteers and work alongside them. It’s actually a really cool program that encourages mutual learning and good relationships. Plus the people that work there are really cool and most of the volunteers are international students so that makes for good conversation and fun. I do that Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 830-1230AM.

2. I play on a few ultimate frisbee teams. I just had a tournament this weekend and I played 4 games and my body is rejecting me completely. I cant feel my feet or legs or back or arms and I think that has something to do with the fact that I haven’t exercised in about 100 years (days). It’s a fun thing to do here cuz it’s not a popular sport so no ones really that good so it’s more friendly and less competitive. So there’s that.

3. I’m going to class: uninteresting. Except I’m writing a paper about whether Fidel Castro or the U.S had a more powerful version of reporting on the revolution. So my main question is who was able to skew the reality of the revolution in a way that gained more supporters. So in the US’s case it would be talking about different news sources and how we reported on the revolution and how that influence peoples views around the world and then talking about what methods Castro used and how that influence the world. OR SOMETHING ALONG THOSE LINES. Ya dig? (Dad this is mostly directed to you… halp).

4. It was my 21st birthday. I went out and had some fancy drinks and then danced for a while and went home. People don’t care if it’s your 21st birthday here so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

5. I am traveling. I went to a farm and I went to Iguazu falls, both were lovely and I wholeheartedly recommend them. Iguazu is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and I was skeptical of that before I went. Truth is it’s incredible and it totally makes sense. It this incredible series of waterfalls that pour from all sides into this canyon thing. It’s the divider between Brazil and Argentina and I’m pretty sure many US politicians (Hillary Clinton maybe????) came and visited and simply commented “poor Niagra”. CALL THEM AMERICA HATERS but holy crap these falls are cool. Plus they’re nicely placed in the middle of a tropical jungle which gives them a nice vacation feel. Definitely worth the trip.

(JK, it was Eleanor Roosevelt: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1050185,00.html)

As for the ranch, it was a lovely getaway from the city and is technically the “roots of Argentine culture”. Ranches and farm land are all about the Gaucho, or the Argentinian cowboy, although in my experience they were a bit more feminine. We went on nice romantic horseback rides, they sang songs and played music, and served a traditional argentina ASADO (basically a barbecue on crack). They feed you until you cant move and then they top it off with desserts and coffee and after dinner alcohol as always. Also definitely worth the trip especially to escape all that is the city for a few hours!

I also went to Rosario which is a nearby city. It’s home to Che Guevara and it was a nice city. Apparently it’s know from it’s skydiving and drug trafficking.

I’m not sure of anything else in particular that I need to share right now. Here are pictures.

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Rosario. This is where the first argentine flag was raised by some guy named Belgrano. Che Guevara’s from there and so is Messi.

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This is a classic dinner. Meat.

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Gauchos playing music for us. San Antonio de Areco, Estancia La Porteña.

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At the same ranch as the Gaucho photo. Just really cool.

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This is the water that divides Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Those are Lily’s legs. Frontera 3 Hitos, Iguazu.

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Iguazu Falls

I have been here for one month.

Hello! I’ve been here for one month and I HAVE PICTURES finally. Everyday I start liking this place more. I reread my last post and feel like I left you all with a little bit of a bad impression. Everything I said about drivers and gross men is true, but it’s funny how time seems to heal all as I continue to get accustomed to everything. I’ve started creating my own remedies to things that bothered me and now I’m much much happier. For example, I walk around with headphones so I don’t have to hear what people say in passing. This makes things a lot easier to handle because 1. I don’t hear what they say and 2. it certainly gives me the upper hand and I really like the way that makes me feel. About the car thing, I’m just extra careful– I only cross when a big group does and if not, I look both ways before during and after I’m done crossing. Call me crazy but I am not trying to get hit by a car or bike or motorcycle and will do anything to avoid it even if includes contracting some kind of neck problem. Anyway, I suppose that’s all part of the exchange–having issues and then adapting to them as need be. 

As I did in my Spain blog, I feel it necessary to address my height– a popular topic among everyone I will ever talk to. Honestly over the last 20 years, the most repeated conversation I’ve ever had is probably about my height. “Wow, you’re really tall” is something that I have heard more than “Hi, what’s your name”. Honestly I don’t feel all that tall here. There aren’t a lot of tall people here by any means, but I don’t get the same -holy crap you’re inhuman- look that I got while in Spain. There’s a lot of German’s here so it’s not completely uncommon to see a few tall chicas around. Also the tendency for Argentine women to wear ridiculous platform shoes, which some buddies of mine and I have discussed look like Bratz doll shoes, make everyone look taller and me slightly more normal. Other than that my host mom shamelessly uses me and a human ladder and is amazed every time I can get her something on the top shelf. I’m glad I can be of some help. 

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These are shoes that I see everyday on about 95% of women ages 13-65. Most are more clunky and ridiculous.

So school. School has been complete chaos up until literally today. I had a schedule but then I had to change it around because I had nine hours of class one day in three different places and had to change one class for another and just it’s been crazy. Finally I’ve decided on four classes. One of them is called “El Caribe y Centroamerica: Revoluciones Invadidas” which is about revolutions in Central America and the Caribbean and what made them what they were etc. We just got done studying Haiti and are now moving on to Jamaica and Cuba. It’s actually really interesting but my final and only grade is a 20 page individual investigation on a topic of my choice so if anyone has any topic suggestions that would be great (topic choices, words of wisdom, caffeinated beverages, encouragement). I have a different class called America Latina: Procesos e Ideas that I actually have no idea what it’s about but we watched The Mission in class today so I think it’ll be just fine. The other one is called Arte y Politica which is a class about how politics influence art and vice versa and we get to go on a ton of museum tours which is super great, and the last one is just a required Argentine culture and Spanish class.

I’d like to talk about one university in particular and that is the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). La UBA is incredibly special. It’s a public free college for anyone who wants to go but it’s also considered the most prestigious and well known one in Argentina and I’m assuming is well regarded in most of South America. There’s a bunch of different faculties scattered around the city (the one I go to is four blocks from my house) and most are just old factories that they made in to universities (mine was an old tobacco factory at one point). It’s not like attending a college on a campus (the campus is a small patio where student smoke and carry on), the building blends in to the city and it’s definitely not well kept. The building I’m in is falling apart- the toilets don’t work, there’s pigeons flying around the classrooms all over the place, student smoke in class, shades don’t work and it’s just not very well kept in general. Furthermore, people come in to your classes and sell you things– it’s not uncommon for a class to get interrupted 4 or 5 times by student groups and sometimes people just asking for money. These are all things that would never happen a UW for sure, let alone most universities in the U.S. Since it’s a public university, professors don’t get paid much and students are constantly trying to make it a better place to learn. There’s a lot of teacher and student strikes, lots of student involvement, petitioning and arguing. Having said all that, it’s my favorite place I’ve been since being here. It’s so chaotic and wonderful. A bird will land on your table and no one even blinks an eye, students light up in class and the professors ask to bum one, they pass maté around the whole class, they come 30 minutes late to class and the professor greets them with a kiss on the cheek. It’s so chaotic yet so relaxed I just love it. It’s really cool how such a crappy place could attract some of the smartest most dedicated students and the more qualified professors. I give it a relatively large thumbs up…. now to tackle that 20 page paper……

Also I’m taking a figure drawing class so that’ll be fun as well. 

Here are some pictures of interest maybe:

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Sunset in El Tigre- a little town north of the city.

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That’s Lily and Megan

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A cool building and statue in the Center

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Pretty standard dish called Tarta. It’s like quiche without the eggs.

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This is a Church in San Telmo

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Feria de San Telmo- a cool market that goes on for blocks in the old part of the city.

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This guy performs a puppet show to tango music every Sunday at the Feria de San Telmo. He’s really good at it.

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Just a typical street.

That is all for now! I’ll be back.

Jane

two weeks acá

Bueno, I’ve been here for two week (a little more) only it feels more like two days (two very long days). For those of you who don’t know, I’m studying abroad with a program called IFSA which is based out of Indianapolis. There’s about 100 students from all over the United States who have been let loose in Buenos AIres….. basically a shit show but that’s okay. The first week was dedicated to orientation and registration, this week and last week we’ve all been forced to try out many different classes and we’ll have to decide which classes to take by the endish of august. This program, like all big organizations, has its flaws and its successes. It’s flaws are as follows: there are so many universities that we can choose from and it’s incredibly overwhelming. There’s about 500 classes in five different universities that are available to exchange students. We’re expected to try out all the classes we can in two weeks and then decide later which ones we want. In theory it’s a really good idea, but from what I’ve observed is that the students, myself included, are completely and totally overwhelmed, underprepared and freaking out. It’s total chaos, and on top of it all, we have mandatory meetings with IFSA faculty AND a spanish class that we have to take three times a week. Basically I haven’t been at my host mom’s house since I’ve been here. Once this trial period is done life will be easier, but I’ve got another few weeks of total destruction. What the program does well is guiding students to easier classes, classes that are better for certain majors etc. Also they have really great organized outings in the city. We went to a really awesome play called “Fuerza Bruta” that is apparently a thing in New York as well, we went to a really good dinner, we played soccer with Argentinians and we went to a Tango lesson. The tango lesson was completely ridiculous and embarrassing but it was fun and I feel like maybe i can tango for about ten seconds without looking like a total idiot. 

As for the city itself, it’s the same thing. Obviously if you go to New York, Paris or Madrid there’s going to be things that are amazing and there are going to be things that totally suck. To avoid leaving you all with a bad taste in your mouth about Buenos Aires, i’ll start with the bad. I’m going to start with what bothers me most. Los Porteños (men from Buenos Aires) are incredibly aggressive. The culture here is very macho, very aggressive and slightly degrading towards women. Of course I can’t speak for every women who lives here, nor do I know much about Argentinean feminism, but I do know that men on the streets here have absolutely no problem saying whatever they want to you in passing. Some things they say aren’t so bad, but other things are incredibly offensive and very aggressive. It’s not what they’re saying that really truly bothers be, it’s the social concept of it all. They see someone walk by, make comments as if it were some kind of movie or show or picture, and expect no response. It’s as if it’s not a real person walking by that can hear them. It’s a culture incredibly macho in that sense, even people in power stop to tell you how pretty they think you are including bus drivers, taxi drivers and even policemen. From the female side I have unfortunately heard that some women when they go out and don’t get cat called or complimented they feel badly about it. Of course that’s not everyone or probably even a lot of women that feel that way, but since it’s something so embedded in the culture here, if you don’t get yelled at in the streets it’s as though you’re not pretty, you’re not worth it etc. It’s actually been rather disturbing. Other than that Buenos Aires is such a huge city that it’s pretty dirty. No one recycles, there’s trash everywhere and it’s not necessary to pick up after your dogs. (I’ve stepped in more dog poop in the past two weeks than in my entire life). And lastly, traffic is incredibly terrifying. The most common problem exchange student have health wise with Buenos Aires is getting hit by cars. Pedestrians right of way is a concept that doesn’t exist and cars will stop for nothing. I’ve already seen a cat and a bicyclist get hit by cars, and one of my friends saw a women get hit a few days ago, it seems to be something relatively normal.

The good things are plenty. Buenos Aires has so many incredibly cultural opportunities. They are a very passionate and friendly people (except for the men mentioned above). It’s an important city so it has a lot of things like monuments and huge museums, a ton of really awesome history, and a lot of great things to offer– not to mention the night life. This is the city that never sleeps as far as I’m concerned. The other night I took a bus home at 3:30AM (mom don’t freakout that’s considered very early for a saturday night) and besides the obvious college aged kids going to a from parties, there were families, even little kids going home at that time. It’s incredible how late people stay up here on the reg. As for the history, there are a few things that are really cool that I’ve experienced since being here. Tango is obviously one of them that holds so much cultural importance. There’s this cafe called Cafe Tortoni which is a cafe restaurant founded in 1858 where historically talented artists and writers when to hang out and discuss important things, now it’s just a kinda expensive place to get lunch but it’s still pretty cool. Speaking of writers, Argentina is a country very well known for it’s writers such as Borges, Dario and Cortazár among many others that I won’t mention because I don’t know who they are and won’t claim to. Lastly, los desaparecidos. Maybe most of you know about the Dirty War here in Argentina, but it’s something that it very present in the culture. SInce it happened only 40ish years ago, there are so many people living today, including my host mother, that can tell you about what it was like. Las Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo is an organization dedicated to finding children (now adults) that were taken from their homes and given to other families during that time, and is an organization that is still extremely active in the hunt for the disappeared and their families. In fact, today (august 5th) the president of the organization Estela de Carlotto actually found her grandson in a different family (his mother/ her daughter had disappeared) within Buenos Aires (he was the 114 person they found I THINK). After talking to my host mom, many adults around the age 30-40 are often uncertain about their biological families because so many babies were taken to different homes. With that, many economic crisis and a relatively unstable government right now, young people are very active in politics. There are strikes everywhere everyday, many people petition the schools, their jobs, the government–really anything. Again, very passionate people. And finally, the architecture here is incredible, it’s one of those cities where I wish I could walk around looking up all the time. This city is certainly never boring.

However, Buenos Aires is not Argentina. Argentina is a really freaking huge country with an incredible amount of variety. There’s Iguazu Falls in the province of Misiones, a huge tourist attraction that creates the border between Argentina and Brazil. There’s The northwest corner of Argentina which has a more pueblo indigenous feel thats very mountainous and a great place to travel and hike (that’s where I want to go on a solo trip). There’s Mendoza, the land of buen vino and Cordoba, two other big cities closer to Chile, there’s many amazing places to visit in the Province of Buenos Aires, and of course the Patagonia national park (or patagucci, nathan) and Tierra del Fuego which is apparently the best place on earth. I’ve also signed up to WWOOF (work on an organic farm) for a short period of time later in the semester. I’m getting the sense that big city life is annoying for some people as most argentines that live in the city tend to try to leave on weekends. There’s so much to look forward to, I just have to figure out school before I can plan anything. 

With that I leave you. These weeks have been incredibly busy and I haven’t gotten the change to truly be a tourist. Hopefully this weekend I’ll have to pictures to show you all…. if not don’t hate me. 

 

Jane