I Love Argentina

Hello to all! Wow, it’s been awhile since my last update. Sorry for the long absence!

I have now been in Argentina for 2 months. Classes have finally been decided upon and I have settled into a regular semester schedule…well, regular for Argentina. I have class Mondays and Wednesdays from 1pm-5:30pm. Tango: Culture, Identity, and Gender, Cine latinoamericano, then Avanzado A, a spanish grammar class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have Arte Argentino Contemporaneo at 1pm, then only on Tuesdays a Tango dance class from 2:30-4pm. The classes are tough, mostly because all but one are in Spanish. I’m doing really well at understanding people speak in Spanish, but I am struggling a lot with speaking still. I’ve gotten to a wall in my spanish. I am neither getting better or worse, and both my English and Spanish skills have become quite basic. I can barely even speak ONE language now. Everything is all mixed up. For example: I was walking with my friend who has a beautiful little peace sign/heart tattoo on her shoulder. I was walking behind her and said, “Sam, I keep putting my eyes on your tattoo. It looks so cool.” Yea, I forgot the word “looking.” It was bad. So as of now, I am still struggling through the barriers of learning a language and taking each day at a time. Some days are better than others though. Some days I don’t speak Spanish at all, others I can’t stop thinking about it and speaking to people…it’s a very exhausting and strange experience.

We do get Fridays off, which is Awesome! Last Friday, the roomies and I went to explore a little part of town La Boca (the colorful buildings part).

Image

At the top of an Art Museum in Boca!

Image

Beautiful girls! Sarah, Tajel, and Lizzie!

Image

Just being a statue.

 

However, the bus ride took almost an hour and half. So we had a lot of time to think and look out at the beautiful city as we drove by it. I think during this bus trip, I realized that I could live in Buenos Aires. Not just study abroad, but actually stay here. The city is so full of history, passion, life, new and old, colors, nature, and every kind of person and thing imaginable.

One thing I noticed about this city is that there are very few laws. I mean, I’m sure they’re there, but I have yet to see many cops, let alone one pulling someone over or giving a ticket. The driving here is absolutely CRAZY. They are really Good drivers, but they drive Super fast and however they want. There are no lanes and yellow light ALWAYS means speed up. Sometimes even a red is just a caution sign to be weary when driving through it. The sidewalks are all broken with chunks missing and sticking straight into the air. I usually trip about 4 or 5 times just walking on the streets. There are also just panes of glass on the sidewalks…some broken. Not sure where they come from…but basically, I keep my eyes down and watch my feet as I walk. We’ve started rating each other and how good are trips are…that’s how common it is. There are also skateboarders, dog walkers, and wires poking out of buildings or hanging from above. However, even though it’s a Very dangerous city in these ways…I LIKE it that way. I feel like in the U.S. people are kind of babied by all the rules and caution that is taken. We have such an anti-injury, sue anyone that hurts us mentality, that no one is responsible for themselves. Here, you HAVE to watch out for yourself. You have to be smart and Aware. No one walks and texts because you CAN’T. No one just steps out into a street because you WILL be hit by a car. No one doddles about getting on the bus because the driver will LEAVE, even if you have one foot in. You have to be aware, smart, and quick in this city. And even though the lifestyle is fast, and yes, dangerous, they also know when to slow down. Friends go out for coffee in the afternoons to just sit and chat for hours. Meals usually last 2 or 3 hours because people are enjoying each other’s company while enjoying their meal. They get up late and start work maybe by 10am? They stay out late and party for Hours. These are the things I LOVE about Buenos Aires. I also love its enormity. It really is HUGE. I could spend years here and explore every weekend and still not see all the parks, cafes, and shops. There is no way anyone could get bored here.

Back to weekend activities…so Friday we went to Boca, and Saturday was a quiet day. I was feeling a little homesick and missing friends and family, so I walked through the city to the Cat Gardens (the Botanical Gardens…but it’s where all the cats live, haha). I sat down on a bench, listened to my music, and had a cute Calico friend jump on my lap and stay with me for awhile. It was very peaceful, and I made a new little furry friend!

Sunday, however, was quite the eventful day! It was Dia de la Memoria. It is a celebration of the end of the dictatorships of the 1970s in Argentina. During this decade, thousands of people disappeared from school, their homes, even the streets for speaking out against the government. This day was in memory of the missing people, or desaparacidos. I have NEVER seen so many people in my life. For several miles, one street was blocked off, going from Plaza Congreso to Plaza de Mayo. When we first walked into the crowds, I was overwhelmed by the smells of food, smoke, and humans. The sound of drums, trumpets, and stomping filled my ears and shook my chest. Bodies were pushing past me and papers were thrust at me. All I could see were painted faces, costumes, masks, and COLOR all around me. Our little group had to keep looking back and counting each other because we kept getting separated. And it was so Loud! We could barely talk, so we had to keep a close eye on each other. Here are a few photos I have from the event (they don’t quite capture the Grandness of it, but they say more than I could explain):

Image

The flags of all different types of organizations and groups of Argentina. People had flags supporting Evita, protesting the current government, or anything else they could think of. The passion of these people is amazing!

Image

I can’t quite read their shirts…but I think they are saying they’d rather die than live in silence, or be silenced by the government.

Image

A sign with many of the faces of the desparacidos of the 1970s.

Image

The marching of the flags…

Image

Beating the drums! There was music Everywhere.

Image

Dancers performed in the streets.

Image

They set off smoke bombs with the colors of Argentina.

It was just another once in a lifetime sight to see. I seem to be having a lot of those. And this was one that I will never forget and that touched me greatly. To see such passion and heart from a people is a rare sight. And I don’t think anything like this happens in the U.S. The amount of people here in support for the desparacidos, who for many are unknown, but for others, still remember the horrors of those times was unbelievable. These people remember.

Sunday ended quietly…but definitely spurred something inside of me. It was an amazing day and showed me again why I Love Argentina. I hope by reading this…you too can see what an amazing place this is.

 

Advertisements

Spring Break in Mendoza, Valparaiso, and Vina del Mar

OK. So I have a lot to catch everyone up on! As I mentioned in my last post, I spent my Spring Break traveling across the entire continent of South America. From the beautiful wine country to Mendoza to the coasts of Chile and the hilltop city of Valparaiso.

We went off on our adventure last Friday night and took a 16 hour bus ride to Mendoza. Luckily the bus was at night so we were able to sleep most of the way. Tajel and I were at a different hostel than the rest of our group, Taylor, Jen, and Sam, so we went our separate ways to get settled in. The hostel wasnt too bad. We were in a room with 4 other people, on bunk beds. The only thing gross were the bathrooms….so we didn’t shower too much. But the place felt safe and the desk people were nice enough. That day, we just walked the city and explored the streets.

Image

The fountains of Mendoza had all been dyed red for the wine festival.

But on the second and third day we took an hour bus ride to wine country and rented bikes and just biked down this one Long road that had wineries all along it. It was Beautiful! We went to 2 wineries the first day and about 4 the second. It was HOT, and we biked probably 10 miles in total, but it was definitely worth it! The tastings were Cheap! (Around $5 per winery for usually one BIG glass or three smaller tastings).

Image

Biking through the Argentinian wine country.

Image

On our bikes ready to wine taste!

We drank A Lot of wine and biked all day. It was Really fun! My favorite was the Sav Blanc from Trapiche. But their most famous was the Malbec of course. I believe they export to the U.S. So anyone interested should look it up!

Image

The group wine tasting and enjoying eachother’s company.

Image

A photo I took of the orchard behind the winery and one of our Many wines we were able to taste at Trapiche.

On Wednesday morning we got back on a bus to Vina del Mar in CHILE! Going over the Andes was beautiful and very Very slow. Customs was a hassle, but the ride was nice and fun to look out and see the mountains of rock go by.

Image

The beauty of the Andes!

When we arrived in Vina del Mar we settled into our hostel, which we were all together in, and which was really nice! Not many people were there because the hostel was brand new. We were also only 3 or 4 blocks from the ocean! So we quickly settled in then went out and walked to the beach which was SO beautiful. Vina del Mar reminds me A LOT of San Diego and La Jolla. Its a very fancy, big city on the ocean.

Image

Welcome to the beach city of Vina del Mar!

Image

Getting some sun our first day in Chile.

We stopped at a cafe to eat and then went out later to a Karoke bar, which was SO fun and ridiculous. Our group sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” and everyone Loved it. Haha. American and British music is Very common down here actually. The next day, we lazily got up and then made our way to the lovely city of Valparaiso which was only a 15 minute train ride away. As soon as we arrived, we walked into this big plaza by the pier and docking area.

Image

Innocently taking a photo…before the action began.

All of a sudden, in the plaza came a big group of young students holding a sign that said something about their University. They were playing music and yelling too. So, we thought this was a parade or festival and we went over to check it out. Then people started Really yelling and whistling at something coming down the street. When we rounded the corner to see what they were yelling at we saw about 20 men in full army gear walking in front of a tank!! It scared the living daylights out of me. They were carrying clear barrier shields and were wearing helmets and everything. The men came into the plaza and started blocking off the streets. Our group got a little frightened and started backing away. The students just kept yelling at the army guys…who were now growing in number all around us. THEN, the tank pulled into the plaza and started using a Huge water gun on the top to shoot at the crowd. It was Really crazy and people started running down streets with the army guys chasing after. At this point, the 5 of us were sitting on the steps of a building in the plaza and just watching. We watched the students run down the streets and then the soldiers started throwing tear gas at the students! It was Awful! We were downwind too so we got it all in our faces which stung our eyes and made us sneeze a lot. It was just a general pain across the face…I can’t imagine what it was like to be closer!

Image

A PEACEFUL student protest.

Image

Here comes the army…

Image

Spraying water on the crowds…

Image

The soldiers chasing down the students…RIGHT in front of where we were sitting.

Luckily it started to calm down and the people dispersed and the army went away. We learned later that the education system in Valparaiso is awful and unfair. There is also a huge distrust and anger towards to the police…so protests usually end in violence. It was a shocking sight to see though. We left after to get lunch before our tour started at 3pm. We then took a guided tour from a guy who went to UCBerkeley actually! He is part of a program that does tours for tips and just takes anyone who wants to go and shows them some of the best sights of Valparaiso! It was one of the BEST tours I’ve done. They payed for our little bus rides and elevator ride which is a system the city has because its so hilly. So they have air elevators that lift people from the lower parts to the higher parts.

Image

Stair cases were common on streets because of the hills everywhere.

It was really cool! Valparaiso is SO unique and amazing. It’s the graffiti capital of the world actually. It was very colorful with old buildings and houses built from the port to up in the hills. It looked like a small town in Italy. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. I want to go back SO badly. Especially since we only had 2 days there. So put that on a place to visit!! Chile was beautiful and cleaner and nicer than Argentina too. And the people we met in the streets and talked to were also A Lot nicer. Except for our first hour there, I fell in Love with Chile.

Sitting on some of the unique steps of Valparaiso.

Sitting on some of the unique steps of Valparaiso.

Made it to the top!

Made it to the top!

Walking the hills and admiring the street art.

Walking the hills and admiring the street art.

DSCN1017

It was EVERYWHERE.

It was EVERYWHERE.

Even on the stairs...

Even on the stairs…

Some of the houses looked a little scary though...

Some of the houses looked a little scary though…

The view from a window in Pablo Neruda's house.

The view from a window in Pablo Neruda’s house.

Finishing our long tour with a Pisco sour made especially for us!

Finishing our long tour with a Pisco sour made especially for us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a Great vacation spot…but I am still glad I chose Buenos Aires to study for 5 months in. There’s a  lot more to do in the city. But I fell in love with Valparaiso for sure. Actually, on Friday we went up to Pablo Neruda’s house. Throughout his life he mostly lived in this house where he wrote his poetry. The views from his house were Amazing! We took the little tour and learned a lot about him and his love for Valparaiso.

Our last weekend was mostly bus rides. Friday night we bussed back to Mendoza, which took WAY longer and customs was a mess. People were being rude and wanted paperwork we were never told to have. It was awful….but we got through finally. But the usual 6 hour trip took 10 hours! Then the 5 of us literally sat in a park, and ate in Mendoza and that was it. We were so tired. Then that evening we got on another bus and took the 16 hour bus ride home. We hadn’t had a home or place to shower for 3 days in a row…so it felt Really nice to be back home in BA. But what an amazing trip! This was such a unique and special trip that I will remember forEVER. I spent an amazing week with a GREAT group of people in beautiful parts of the world. Thanks for letting me share my travels! Up NEXT: First week of school!

A day in the life of Avery

Hello to all! Sorry my posts have been getting farther and farther apart. To be honest, there really isn’t much to update on. I’m settled into life here and just living my life as an Argentinian. My intensive spanish class ended today! We had our final this morning and I think it went very well! And next week is our spring break…where Tajel and I will be going to Mendoza(wine country) and Valparaiso in CHILE with some friends from our program! Long bus rides…but it will be Very fun! I will blog about that when I return. Sarah will be staying in Buenos Aires, but we got a new roommate last night and they will have fun together discovering and playing around in the city for the week I’m sure. BUT I have yet to post photos about my day to day life. So here is a regular day for me in Argentina:

Around the corner in the front door, and this is the living room and the dining room is next to this.

Around the corner is the front door, and this is the living room and the dining room is where I am standing.

Down the hallway...the front door is the one on the right.

Down the hallway…the front door is the one on the right.

Continuing down the hallway we come across another living room. Behind that far door are the bedrooms and two bathrooms we share.

Continuing down the hallway we come across another living room. Behind that far door are the bedrooms and two bathrooms we share.

This is the room Tajel and I share. My bed is on the right.

This is the room Tajel and I share. My bed is on the right.

The bathroom that I usually use...

The bathroom that I usually use…

And this is me pretty much every morning with my toast and coffee on the balcony.

And this is me pretty much every morning with my toast and coffee on the balcony.

We have a little balcony where we eat breakfast...this is the view.

The view from the balcony where we eat breakfast…

Welcome to Universidad de Belgrano!

Welcome to Universidad de Belgrano!

It's just one TALL building.

It’s just one TALL building.

My classroom for the last month and teacher up front!

My classroom for the last month and teacher up front!

And this is me most evenings enjoying a glass of wine at a cafe with mis amigas.

And this is me most evenings enjoying a glass of wine at a cafe with mis amigas.