Que Buena Onda

Five months of my stories, traveling adventures, and (some) studying while in Córdoba, Argentina.

December 1, 2012 at 4:45am
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Loose Threads

I’m currently sitting in the airport in Panama City right now, eating breakfast and watching the sun rise. It’s earlier than I’d ever dare to be awake normally, but today is an exception because I’m on my way home.

Very late last night, or very early this morning you could argue, I left Córdoba after five amazing, challenging, and beautiful months in Argentina. I felt happy and sad as I was preparing to leave during my last few days, happy to see all the people and places I left behind in the States and sad to leave behind the people and places I’ve come to love so much in Argentina. The thing that was hard about leaving home to study abroad was the uncertainty that I was walking into - what would everything be like, who would I meet, how bad would I get culture shock? The thing about leaving to go back home - I have some of the same questions: what will it be like? How will I even try to talk about my five months to everyone? And perhaps the hardest question - when will I get to come back to Argentina? That’s the part that made leaving the hardest, the uncertainty of when I would get to return and see the city and country that I’ve grown to love so much. 

Nevertheless, when the time came yesterday night, I was ready. I made a point to go wandering around the city one last time, to visit all of my favorite places and reminisce. I think that’s what helped me the most. It didn’t feel like goodbye, it just felt like another day that I was walking around the city. I’m sure the fact that I won’t be back to walk around La Cañada or to go sit in Buen Pastor will hit me more when I get home, but at least I can hold the memories I have in my heart to get me through until the next time I get to go there.

It’s been an incredible five months, I’ve learned more than I ever could have imagined, I opened my mind, learned to speak another language pretty well (I got straight A’s for all my final grades, so I must be a Spanish genius right?), and became more independent than before. I had a lot of challenges being away from home for such a long time, but I still wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

¡Hasta la proxima, Argentina!

November 17, 2012 at 9:28am
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The lovely time of finals is now upon us here in Argentina. ¡Qué bueno! Not really though. So far I’m one down and three to go. I’ve been attempting to study this weekend, but as I figured, it’s not exactly working out so well. This blog post is a product of my “productive” procrastination. Since I’m so close to going home and nothing but classes, finals, and studying has really happened this week, I thought I would talk about what I love and will miss from my time here in Argentina, and what I love and miss from home while being here. As an attempt to start tying up loose ends and such.

What I love about Argentina:

  • The accents
  • The weekend hippie art fair
  • Being able to drink legally
  • Showing up late to class and it’s okay because the prof probably isn’t there yet either
  • Maté
  • The social culture: everyone meeting up outside to drink maté and hang out
  • Really cheap ice cream
  • Traveling by bus
  • Everything being open late
  • Bakeries filled with medialunas, criollo, and millions of other wonderful treats
  • The history of this city; walking around and seeing beautiful old buildings and churches

What I miss about the states/home:

  • CLU + my friends/community there (Common Ground)
  • Being a vegetarian; eating lots of veggies, fruits, and being healthy
  • My family, my bed, and my pets
  • My mom’s cooking
  • Trader Joe’s and Target
  • Being able to cross the street without fearing for my life
  • Being able to walk around in peace and not get hit on all the time
  • Living where people don’t smoke!
  • Mexican fooooood
  • Fall, my favorite season
  • Driving around (I don’t miss paying for gas though)
  • Riding my bike
  • Attempting to play the guitar
  • Real breakfast
  • Classes in English

November 10, 2012 at 8:57pm
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Buenos Aires, Round Two

This last weekend my friend Debbie and I headed off to Buenos Aires on a rather spontaneous trip. A week before that, my friend from CLU, Tori, had emailed me to tell me that her study abroad program, Semester at Sea (a super cool program where you basically go around the world on a ship during a semester!) was docking in Buenos Aires the coming weekend and that she would love to meet up if at all possible. I checked my bank account, looked at my schedule, and after a few last minute hostel and bus ticket reservations, Debbie and I found ourselves off on a trip to the capitol.

At first I was a little hesitant because the first time I was in Buenos Aires I felt a little overwhelmed, was glad to have seen it, but ready not to go back anytime soon…as in anytime I was going to be here these five months. But I’m so, so glad I made the decision to go not only because I got to see the city anew (complete with cultural understanding and way better language/communication skills than before), but also because it was so awesome to see Tori and hear about her adventures from around the world!

Tori and I with our cool little CLU study abroad bandana, in front of the Casa Rosada, the Argentine version of the White House.

During our three day adventure, we did a LOT of walking around (which was awesome since the buildings are so beautiful), visited the Recoleta Cemetery again and wandered through it’s art fair, went to the Casa Rosada, went to another crowed and yet good art fair, indulged in my favorite ice cream shop Freddo (only found in Buenos Aires - bad for my love of ice cream, good for my wallet/trying to maintain a somewhat normal weight here), saw tango dancers in the streets, and found an awesome little tea shop where I could indulge in some long lost tea flavors and some of the best scones I’ve ever had.

Congreso

Tango, tango! Beautiful to watch, but I still haven’t attempted to dance it since the lesson I attempted to take a few months ago.

Busting street fair in San Telmo.

The most beautiful bookstore in the world!! El Ateneo, an old theater refurbished into a bookstore that supposedly has a rent of $70,000 USD every month. Worth it though? I think yes. I’d like to somehow move in and live there, but seeing as that’s not exactly possible, I settled for drinking a tea on the stage one afternoon when we decided to be classy.

Oblisko, on the avenue 9 de Julio, the largest avenue in the world. We counted, it’s 19 lanes wide!

A little sample of the beautiful architecture we were surrounded by. We stayed in one of the oldest and nicest neighborhoods, Recoleta, and I was so happy just to walk around and look up at the buildings every day. It was as if I’d landed in what I imagine Europe to look like.

In other news, I’m home in three weeks! I’m getting really excited to see everyone back home that I miss so much. Plus, I’ve been in school for about five months now, and even with a lot of vacation time, it’s been pretty tiring to be in school for such a long stretch of time. I’m staying really busy trying to get ready for my finals because they count for a whopping 45% of my final grade…how is that allowed?! Oh well, two more weeks of school stress and then a week to enjoy and do all sorts of last minute things before I leave.

November 1, 2012 at 10:37am
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Also, this song was part of my homework the other night. I found it really beautiful and moving, as it talks about the struggles that Latin America has worked to overcome and the struggles that it’s still overcoming. Since I loved it so much I wanted to share it here, and hopefully you find it as beautiful as I do (there’s English subtitles for you non-Spanish speakers).

10:28am
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La Cumbre + The Beginning of the End

Okay, so I guess the part of the title “The Beginning of the End” sounds a little more morbid than it should, but what I mean by that reference is that today, the start of November, marks the start of my last month here in Argentina. It’s a bittersweet approach to the last month, one where I can’t wait to be home and hug my family, friends, and pets, but one where I also want to stay here, keep speaking Spanish, and live in a different culture. I’m making the absolute most of the thirty short days that I have left here though; I’m busy with the final weeks of school (talk about a million tests coming up), relaxing in the beautiful spring weather, and planning my last trips in the country. This weekend I’m going back to Buenos Aires to meet up with a friend from school! Even though I’ve already been there, I’m excited to go back and experience different parts of the city, see it in a different season, and see it with different eyes and more advanced Spanish.

Springtime really is beautiful here, although it brings some of the strangest weather. Some days it’s warm and absolutely gorgeous outside, some days it’s hot and humid, and some days there’s windstorms or thunderstorms. Whatever the weather is though, I love wandering around the city looking at just how colorful it is with the colors of spring in the trees. They’re all so full of beautiful leaves and many of them have amazing purple flowers.

Such a nice change from when everything was dead and dry in the wintertime!

Last weekend our ISA director Paula came out and visited us. With her, Will and I went to the sierras for the day to a tiny little beautiful place called La Cumbre. As always, it was nice to get away from the city a bit and just see nature. We went to a place called Los Cocos, where there was a beautiful Roman inspired garden. We got lost in a great maze there, and I pretended that we were in the fourth Harry Potter book during the last Triwizard Tournament task, the enchanted maze. Luckily though, the most dangerous thing we encountered in the maze was a bunch of bees, there were no sphinxes or curses in sight. After that adventure, we took an aerosilla to the top of a nearby mountain to get a panoramic view of the sierras. So beautiful! All in all it was a really great day and it was fun to get to see Paula again, after not having seen her since July.

So, I know that’s a pretty short update, but aside from the day trip to La Cumbre and all the tests I’ve been having, I haven’t done too much else here so far. I’m sure that next week I’ll have a lot to say about my trip to Buenos Aires though!

October 22, 2012 at 6:22pm
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(Otra) Semana de Vacaciónes

Last week I got to enjoy yet another week of vacation from classes. The classes are structured in some weird way that some have more hours than others (80 semester hours vs. 45 semester hours) so to even it out the classes with less hours had a week of vacation and the classes with more hours had class. Doesn’t sound like it makes much sense, but seeing as I’m in the lower hour classes, I was on vacation (no complaints there, I assure you). So, here’s some of the highlights from my vacation week:

Vacation started the day that my parents left (really bad timing, we know, but I wasn’t told of all these vacations until after they had already bought tickets). So after two weeks of running around with them, translating, and traveling, I was ready to collapse. So I did. I think I slept a solid twelve hours two nights in a row after they left. And then, I decided to put all those hours of sleep to good use by going out on a Saturday night and…I was out until seven a.m.! I’m actually very proud of myself: it was my ISA friend’s birthday weekend, and his roommate knew somebody where we could get into a club for free, so we went at the early hour of one in the morning and stayed in the club until sometime around six. When we were walking home, dawn was breaking. I was exhausted but proud that I finally stayed out like an Argentine: coming home as the sun woke up. I had a lot of fun out dancing that night; a live band played cumbia at the club and we all got to dance along. It’s fun and upbeat and a nice change from the dancing that happens in the states…

The next day I needed to take it easy, so I went to the park and had a good journaling session on a really incredibly beautiful day. The park was filled with families, friends, couples; everyone together, most drinking maté, but most importantly, just enjoying each other’s company outside.

That night I went to church and met up with some of my friends from the program in the university. I absolutely love this church and I’m so glad I’m finally getting back into going regularly. The people are so friendly, the worship music is the best I’ve ever heard, and the pastor cries every time he gives the message. It’s a really great place to be. After the service, a group of us (Argentines + Americans) went to a nearby bar for some food and beer. Turns out good company, Jesus, and cerveza make for a pretty awesome night.

After a few days of craziness, I had a few days of relaxing before my friend Will and his roommate Cary and I took off for the mountains for a few days. In an attempt to save money by not planning an elaborate trip far away, but wanting to still get out of the city, we made the two hour trip to our favorite little German town, Villa General Belgrano. You might remember this as the same little German town that Will and I went to all the way back in July for their wonderful Chocolate Festival. I’m happy to say I loved it even more going back for the second time, especially in the spring - everything was so green and beautiful! We stayed at this awesome little hostel tucked away in the woods; if I could have, I would have stayed there forever. While there, we just took time to relax, enjoy nature, go hiking, and explore the tiny little town…oh, and buy more chocolate!

After those few beautiful days, we returned home to our bustling city. It’s definitely beautiful here too as springtime is in full swing. There were once trees with pink flowers lining the streets, now those have turned into trees that are beautiful and green, while trees with equally beautiful purple flowers are blossoming in the streets. It really is quite wonderful to have watched the transformation the last few months. A city that looked so dead in the winter is now so alive and beautiful as we head into summer. I’m sure missing my favorite season of all though, fall!

As I’m heading into the last few weeks of being here, I feel as if I’m living in two places at once. I really do love it here so somedays it seems like the time goes too fast, but then sometimes I miss my family, friends, and home university so bad that six weeks seems a lifetime away before I can see them again. However I happen to feel at the given moment though, I’m just trying to remember that the six weeks I have left are all I have of this experience, so I’m still making the most of it. I know in the end the weeks will pass by quicker than I want them to, so here’s to the next adventures ahead of me!

October 19, 2012 at 3:15pm
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Family!

When your parents come to visit you in another country, it’s a lot like when you go home for the weekend when at college: there’s a lot of free food involved. Three weeks ago, my parents arrived to spend two weeks here in Argentina with me! Getting to see them, hug them, and talk to them in person and not over a bad internet Skype call was the most amazing thing. Just as it was when my friend Lisa visited me, time seemed to pass by extra fast.

While they were here, I got a chance to once again show people around my city, which is something I always love doing. I took them to my favorite sites, buildings, and restaurants. But most importantly, we just spent a lot of much needed time together. The whole time they were here I got to practice my translation skills since neither of them speak Spanish! One day they also went to meet my host mom, who speaks no English, so I was the translator throughout that, which proved to be really fun. It really made me see how far my Spanish has come in the time I’ve been here.

While they were here, we also took a trip to Mendoza, the beautiful wine capital of Argentina. Of all the places I’ve been in Argentina, Mendoza is probably my favorite city that I’ve visited. It was beautiful (trees lining every street!), clean, and a lot calmer than the bustling city life here in Córdoba. My parents loved it too, it was a nice break for all of us to get away for a few days. While there, we had the chance to explore a few vineyards, go ziplining in the Andes, and hang out in the beautiful city.

By far the greatest part of having them here was being able to get out of class and go see them. Even if we were just having a lazy afternoon in the hotel, it was great just to be able to be back together with my family. Having them here made me realize how much I really miss my family and friends back home. I was sad to see them go when the two weeks were up, but knew that it would only be another seven before I’d be meeting them in another airport - this time though, I’ll be the one getting off the plane.

Now I’m down to six weeks left here. I’m on another week of vacation, believe it or not! Later on I’ll be posting about the week I’ve had while on vacation. I only have another month of school left, final exams included! That makes me realize that my adventure is close to being over…I still feel like I just got here!

At my favorite lookout in Córdoba…miss you guys!

September 27, 2012 at 8:19pm
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It hasn’t been the most exciting of weeks, I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t a bad week, but after being on vacation for almost a week and a half, getting back into the whole idea of classes (not to mention the idea of waking up super early) wasn’t the easiest. Needless to say, I don’t have much to really talk about. There were a few interesting things, however, so I’ll share those:

1. I got my visa! Finally. I feel like it’s not that important here, but it’s nice to have and even nicer to know I’ll never have to deal with the bureaucratic nightmare process again (it really wasn’t that bad, I guess, just a lot of steps). Regardless: no more visa panic!

2. I took a bunch of trabajo practicos (essentially quizzes) before I went on vacation, forgot about them, and came back to find that I received all 8 & 9 grades, which is great considering 8=B+ and 9=A. Classes here would be so easy here if it weren’t for the tiny detail that they are in Spanish.

3. I found out tonight that even though my Spanish has improved an incredible amount, the language barrier will always be there. For example, I always describe that I live in un suburbio afuera de Los Angeles (to what I thought translated into “a suburb outside of Los Angeles”)…but tonight I found out that the word suburbio translates into the equivalent of what we would call a ghetto. Great. So basically, I’ve been telling everyone I’ve met in the past three months that I live in a ghetto back home. I think I laughed for about five minutes when my new friends told me that tonight.

That’s the highlight of my week so far. Tomorrow is the highlight of my semester because…my parents arrive here! I can’t even explain how excited I am to see part of my family after three months. I’m excited to show them around my new city, show off my new Spanish skills, and travel to beautiful wine country (Mendoza) with them. I’m sure next time I write I’ll have lots of adventures to tell!

September 22, 2012 at 1:59pm
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Welcome to the Jungle

I didn’t think it was possible for me to love this country any more than I already do, but I was proven wrong yet again this last week when my friends and I took a trip to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, Iguazu Falls. I don’t even exactly know what to write in this post because I don’t think I have the words to describe exactly how beautiful this place is. When we stepped off of the bus after another 20 hour journey, I thought somehow we’d mistakenly arrived in Hawaii somehow: the dirt was the most magnificent red color, the air was full of heat and humidity, and everything was so green I could hardly believe my eyes. We were in the South America I’d dreamed of.

The first night we walked around just to get to know the town, and we ended up on this dirt road behind the hostel at sunset. We walked along this path for some time, following the river and taking in the beauty of this tropical paradise.

The next morning we woke up early to get to the falls. We took advantage of the insane discount for Argentines (which we were able to obtain, thanks to our student visas!) and went to the park two days to have time to explore everything. Of the two days we went, both were about 100 degrees with tons of humidity! Even though the weather wasn’t so great, it didn’t stop us from being absolutely amazed at the sights of the falls.

I would like to say that I have a pretty good camera, but looking back through my pictures I know that no camera can possibly capture how insanely beautiful this place was.

In addition to all the beauty that nature had to offer, we also were able to see a lot of wildlife; butterflies were constantly flying at us from all directions (and landing all over us and our backpacks), there were giant lizards, tropical birds…I saw a toucan! But my absolute favorite part was getting to see my favorite animal from my childhood, monkeys, run around the forest floor and swing through the forest canopy up in the trees! I think my childhood is now complete.

On our last day, we took a longer walk along the river to a place called Tres Fronteras, where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. The actual spot where there’s a little monument to the three countries wasn’t quite as impressive, but it was still cool to look out on the river and see Brazil on my right and Paraguay on my left.

So basically, this was one of the most amazing vacations I’ve ever been on. It’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited. But aside from getting to see this place, this vacation was just really refreshing. Throughout the downtime at the hostel and the many hours in the bus, I had a lot of time to reflect on my adventure thus far and think about all that I’ve experienced and how I’ve changed and what I’ve learned so far. Here’s to the last two months of this amazing experience and to my parents being here in a week!

September 14, 2012 at 2:22pm
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Grab your pots and pans, we’re gonna have a protest

Manifestaciónes = protests. Something that are really normal here, for a variety of reasons. I feel like something is always going on here that people are trying to call attention to through protests or strikes. It’s not usually a violent thing like one might think, normally it’s just a group of people coming together for a common cause they’re trying to change. I never really fully understand what the different protests are for, but I think it’s cool that the people here really rally for change when they deem it necessary.

Last night there was a rally of epic proportions. And not only in my city, but this occurred in cities all over the country yesterday. I don’t know much about the situation, but from what I could see last night, the president here, Cristina Kichner (or simply la Kichner as my host mom refers to her, always with malice in her voice) - has a lot of people that don’t like what she’s been doing lately. Take a look at how many people turned out in Córdoba alone:

(I can’t take credit for the above photo, but I found it on the internet to demonstrate just how many people showed up to protest - and that’s not even counting the thousands more that showed up in Buenos Aires)

(My picture from the ground doesn’t even do it justice)

My host mom told me before I left last night that there was going to be a protest, but I had absolutely no idea what a big turnout it was going to be, nor that it was going to be a countrywide thing. I didn’t go out to specifically be part of the protest, it happened more that I was walking by and encountered it (it was kind of hard to miss, after all). I stayed and watched, intrigued, as the protest grow from just the small patio in front of the mall to the entire center being packed full of people, as you saw from the picture above. And like I said, it wasn’t violent, it was more of a family oriented event: I saw families with their little ones towing behind them, I watched old men proudly wearing the Argentine flag as a cape, I saw the youth carrying signs demanding change, and I watched ladies carrying wooden spoons and dented pots, clanging them with a determined look on their face. Even the cars that got stuck in the traffic jam weren’t mad, they were all honking along with the clanking of the pots and pans.

I didn’t participate, I just observed. I feel that I don’t know quite enough about this country, it’s government/politics, and the problems with the president that were being protested to be able to be a fully informed participant. The information I’ve really obtained about the president thus far are the very one-sided daily tangents that come from my host mom - meaning the only information I know is that she’s a crazy witch (no joke, it’s a great laugh trying to translate all she says about the president). That being said, I would want to know more from both sides before participating in any kind of protest for/against a situation, but regardless, I couldn’t help feel a sense of pride watching all these people peacefully gather to try and change something they think is wrong.

If you want to read more about the protest that happened, the Huffington Post has a great article and interesting about it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/cristina-fernandez-argentina-protests_n_1884718.html

So far, the protest last night has by far been the most exciting event of my week, but tomorrow I’m leaving to go on a vacation with two friends to beautiful Iguazu Falls! Excited for a week away from the city (and classes) to go relax in tropical Argentine paradise.