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One hour drive to EZE airport. 13 hour 45 min flight to Houston. 4 hour 15 min flight to San Francisco. 1 hour 30 min drive to Santa Rosa. And I’m HOME! For a 20 hour journey…it wasn’t too awful. I couldn’t sleep much, but nothing complicated happened and I could watch movies most of the time.

My last week in Argentina was unfortunately a stressful one though. It was finals week Monday-Wednesday. Which all went well and I got A’s in all my classes. Which surprised me quite a bit, but their grading policy is very wish-washy. So I didn’t question it. Haha. Wednesday night we also decided to celebrate Tajel’s birthday (which is TODAY!…but she doesn’t read my blog so I’m not going to wish her happy birthday). We went to a Drag Show at this bar downtown. It was hilarious and the two wo/men were amazing. One was Much more manly than the other, but it was awesome. Afterwards we danced the night away surrounded by the cutest gay couples. Haha. Interesting night for sure, but it was a blast! The next two days were quiet packing days and just spending time in the house. We went out for our last dinner together Thursday night. We had Amazing steak, creamed pumpkin with honey, and grilled veggies and cheese and fries. Yummy!

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We also took some pictures of the family before Sarah and I left. So here is my host family…FINALLY! Haha. The first picture is with our host parents, Alicia and Enrique. And the second is with our housekeeper Gabby and her son, German. We became closer with them near the end. We played cards with German many nights and taught him lots of English phrases. Gabby is the sweetest woman and she was only 24, so we all got along well and just loved her and German! Thank you to this amazing family for all they did!

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Sarah and I had the same flight, so we were able to split the taxi and ride to the airport together. Saying goodbye to my home in Buenos Aires was hard. I will miss life down there a lot. And I will miss the home and the girls I lived with a lot. Driving to the airport I just looked out the window and said my goodbyes. It was hard to leave, but it is also nice to be home.

The first culture shock I had though was going through customs in Houston. EVERYONE speaks English! It is very weird to hear. And as they picked up my bags from me, I automatically said, “Gracias”…and I walked away with the man looking at me very confused. Those quick response phrases will be the hardest change. When I bump into someone I always say “Perdon” or walking through crowds “Permiso.” I also have adapted to saying “Salud” when someone sneezes, but I think I’m going to keep that one because it makes so much more sense to say health to someone rather than “Bless You”…I don’t think the devil steals anyone’s souls anymore when they sneeze. So I think I’ll stick to saying “Salud.” Anyways, my favorite part of the journey was coming into SF and seeing Northern California and all its green beauty! It was quite the view and it looked like home. After being picked up by the wonderful Moore family (Thank you Ruth and Casey!) we drove the familiar 19th Ave through all its traffic and then across my favorite bridge in the entire world. Driving across the Golden Gate definitely made it click that I was home. It was SO beautiful and the sky was clear and warm. It was a wonderful welcome home sight to see. One thing I did notice was how clean the streets and everything seemed. Buenos Aires is very smoggy and their streets are full of trash…which I got quite used to. But driving down the highway I could barely see any trash on the sides. It makes me proud of CA. And I couldn’t stop staring. What a beautiful place we live in! Another funny little culture moment I had was at lunch. We stopped at Boudin to get a sandwich on the way home and when Ruth ordered water for both of us, the waiter just said there were cups next to the soda machine. In Argentina, you have to pay for ANY water you get. The water at restaurants was just as expensive as soda. So for a moment, I was in shock because I could get water…FOR FREE! Haha. Oh the things we take for granted.

There are many aspects of Argentina I will miss…besides just the city itself. I will miss greeting people with a beso (or kiss) on the cheek. People would take time to make sure they gave every single person a beso when meeting a group, and I think that says a lot about the culture. They give individual attention to everyone they meet and create instant physical contact, which brings people closer and makes everyone feel more comfortable. I will also miss the ease of life. Not just because I had less hw and no job. But the availability of things to do in the city was endless. Our apartment was a block away from any bus we needed. The buses ran 24/7, so we could go anywhere at all times and not have to worry about getting home or having someone drive. Every type of food, cafe, or restaurant was only a bus ride away. Our grocery store was several blocks away. We could walk Anywhere! There were so many things that were available for us and I will miss that lifestyle. Unlimited choices for everything you need! I will also miss Spanish. We have a love-hate relationship, but I liked the challenge and the lessons I learned. Before I greeted or met anyone, I’d have to have a moment to think what I wanted to say and then pick the write tenses and everything to use. It was a Lot of work to talk to someone for just 5 mins! But I came to Argentina to work on my spanish and I had an opportunity to use it every day. One special moment I had was my last week in Buenos Aires I went downtown to do some shopping and stopped in a small, dusty antique shop. The only person in there was an older man sitting in the back office all alone. He came out to say hello and when he learned I was foreign, he began just talking to me. I think he was lonely, but we had a great conversation. It was mostly him talking and me listening, but he told me all about his thoughts of the city and the world and people. He’s from Buenos Aires, but he’s traveled all over the world, and thinks New York city is the capital of the world. He seemed to prefer other cities over Buenos Aires…not quite sure why he’s living there. But he recommended several Anthropology museums to me and told me to visit certain parts of Argentina. We had about a 45 min conversation all in Spanish! It was very cool. I have many reasons to go back to Argentina now….not that I didn’t have Many reasons before. I really hope I can continue thinking and working on my Spanish, but I know it will be difficult here. And I can quickly forget things. And even though my speaking skills were never that strong, I can pretty much understand anything…or at least follow a conversation or lecture easily enough. So I think many Spanish films are in my future. Haha.

Other things I will miss (Sarah…I’m stealing some from your list because it was so good. Thank you!):

  • Tripping on every broken sidewalk tile and then rating our trips from 1-10. And only getting a 10 if you stick it.
  • Hunting for peanut butter forEVER and realizing it’s in a store down the street
  • Learning the transit system and using using the Guia-T like a pro
  • Seeing the enormous mausoleums of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever seen
  • Petting lions and tigers and kissing bears at the most unique zoo in Lujan
  • Dancing in the streets and being sprayed with soap during Carnaval
  • Experiencing the quietest part of the city at the Eco-Reserve in Puerto Madero
  • Riding bikes down tiny streets to wineries and getting more wobbly on my bike as the day went on and the more wine was tasted in Mendoza
  • Getting the BEST tour of the most colorful and beautiful city in Chile
  • Drinking wine on the beach and being surrounded by a pack of dogs that protected us
  • Spending the day soaking in the sun and people watching while reading in a park in Mendoza
  • Empenadas
  • Cafés and bookstores and more cafés
  • Taking the longest bus ride EVER to La Boca
  • Rainstorms and thunder
  • Listening to all the spanish around me and slowly being able to understand more and more of it throughout the months
  • Seeing SO much more than the touristic and pretty parts of this city
  • Listening to a symphonic band play Frank Sinatra in Parque Centenario
  • Getting absolutely Soaked and enjoying Every minute of it in a waterfall in Iguazú
  • Wine, peanut butter and Oreos on the roof of our apartment
  • Wine and movies nights with the girls
  • Being amazed at the throngs of people on Día de la Memoria and feeling the thumping music and seeing the colors and flags bursting out of Plaza de Mayo
  • Watching the sun set and sitting on a crumbling rock wall in Uruguay with friends
  • Seeing the amazing street art on every run-down building or wall
  • Waving to our porteros at the door, hearing the buzzer, pulling the rusty gate to the elevator open, and riding the 9 floors up to our apartment
  • The AMAZING, Wonderful girls I was so lucky to live with
  • Our fat, weirdo dog Blas that would greet us the door or trip us in the hallway
  • Enrique telling us several times not to get married until we were 90
  • The awkward silences at dinner and the “Come fue tu dia” that always broke the silence
  • Arriving from Santa Rosa winter to 100 degree Argentine summer in February, then watching the seasons change from summer to fall to winter and leaving the chill of Argentine winter to the beautiful bay area summer in June

As much as I will miss Buenos Aires, there are also several things I will Not miss. Including:

  • salted salads
  • fried Everything
  • painful trips over the sidewalks
  • Spanish grammar hw
  • feeling like a loud, obnoxious American
  • no gym
  • not having minutes or a working phone and not being able to reach people you’re supposed to meet
  • instant coffee and wonder bread for breakfast every day
  • getting my student visa
  • not having a kitchen!
  • smog and dog poop on the streets
  • old creepy men staring at me

The list of things I will miss is SO much longer. Looking back I can’t really think of many “bad” things. Sure, there were tough times, stressful, homesick moments..but overall I had a wonderful time. As I’m sure you can see over my blog posts. This will be my last post. So I hope you’ve enjoyed my journey and my stories. I will miss every single person I have met on this life-changing journey I have had. I know there are many people I will continue being friends with and many who I might never hear from again, but will remain in my heart forever. So thank you for reading along and I hope this blog can be a reminder of the most amazing 5 months of my life. Thank you Buenos Aires. Besos y Chau! Espero que vuelva un dia en mi futuro. Gracias a todo!

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Happy Father’s Day!

In celebration of this dia de los padres, I dedicate this blog to my amazing, supportive father! Thanks for always being there and helping me through life’s challenges…and supporting anything and everything I do. I couldn’t ask for a better father! I Love you!

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Also, here are some fun sites that show you are in good company with the fathers of the world!

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/natures-10-best-animal-dads/heres-to-you-pops

Warning on this one: Inappropriate language (but most of them are too funny not to share)

http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinlarosa/reasons-to-appreciate-your-dad-this-fathers-day

El tiempo está volando

“Time is flying by.” Less than 3 weeks. 2 weekends. A week of finals. 19 days. I already miss Buenos Aires. I feel like every time we go out into the city, I am saying my goodbyes. I can’t believe how fast these weeks are going. School takes over the weekdays, and the weekends go by so fast it’s already Sunday night and I’m looking back at all the things we did. We have created a bucket list of things we have not done, or want to do again and each weekend we try to check as many of them off as we can. This weekend was quite the eventful one! On Friday, Tajel, Lizzie and I went to a small zoo outside the city (Sarah had some other plans with one of her classes and then some Argentine friends). The zoo is called Parque Temaikén (and a little different than Lujan). Getting there was a bit of struggle, we got on the wrong bus, then didn’t have enough money on our bus cards, then we ended up on another wrong bus, which dropped us off about a mile away from the park, which we then had to walk to. Every time we try something new, we always look like the stupid, lost Americans…even after 4 months here. But the park was awesome! It was a wild animal park and aquarium. Luckily, we went on a chilly day, so there was almost no one there. It was a wonderful, quiet day looking at all the unusual animals. Pictures can explain more than I can…

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They had CHEETAHS!! I could’ve watched them forever. We saw them near the end of our visit, and the cheetahs were quite active! They were playing around in the grass, walking up to the glass and rubbing against it, rolling around in the dirt…it was amazing! I definitely got quite excited and couldn’t stop oohing and awwing. But the girls eventually dragged me away and we walked the mile back to the stop and made our way home. That evening the girls and I met up with some friends at a jazz club. We had heard there would be a live jazz concert at this club, so we sat down, ordered a few bottles of Malbec and enjoyed the unusual Argentine jazz. The band included: 2 guitars, 2 violins, a standup Bass, and a Saxophone. No piano. No percussion. They were great though! I think most of it was improv and they were having a blast with it. It was fun to hear!

The next day, we decided to take the tour of Casa Rosada, the official and historical government building. Walking through the streets of Palermo to a cafe, it really felt like fall. We even started singing Christmas songs because it feels like that time of year for us. I still can’t believe it is June.

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After our brunch at a quirky, and colorful cafe, we made our way downtown and listened to the free guided tour through the house (in Spanish of course). The house has a lot of different influences on the architecture and Sarah and I were pointing out different paintings or architectural styles we recognized from our art class. We even got to go into Cristina Kirchner’s office! She wasn’t there though. The building is lit up at night though, so when we walked out of the tour, it was quite beautiful to see.

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Afterwards, we walked to El Ateneo, which is one of the most unusual and biggest bookstores in the world. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but we had gone before, but Lizzie wasn’t here yet. So we had to take her! It really is amazing!

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After much walking, we made it home only to collapse on our beds. We were quite exhausted. We managed to eat some oreos, which is always just SUCH a chore, and watch “Perks of Being a Wallflower” before heading to bed. Lovely end to a long, and eventful day!

Today, we decided to go back to one of our favorite Sunday morning events, the San Telmo street fair. With local artists, street performers, and tourists from all over the world, it is quite the event. I was able to find lots of little goodies to bring back to the family and friends, and also still had money to buy myself a warm, street-made crepe with nutella and banana. Yum!

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It was a lovely and successful day out in the city with friends! On the bus ride home, I couldn’t help but get sad at the prospect of leaving. As much as I am excited to be back home, making my own food, seeing my family and friends; I also know how much I am going to miss being here. Life here is just so unique. Buenos Aires is a special place to me. Being here has taught me so much about the world, other people and cultures, and especially, myself. Even though I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to (like becoming fluent in Spanish…I still have a ways to go before that happens), I have gotten more out of this experience than I could have ever imagined. I know these last weeks will go by quickly, but I know will continue experiencing new things, and appreciating every last moment I have here. Until next time! Chau!

Fall in May

Fall has arrived in Argentina. As you enjoy your blossoming, warm springtime, we are beginning to feel the chill of winter. This past week has been a chilly, windy, rainy week. Which is probably why I have very little to blog about lately. I am a California girl through and through…and so this weather makes me want to stay in my bed, eat chocolate, and watch movies ALL day long. But unfortunately, the responsibilities of life keep me from this dream. However, my schedule here is wonderful, and therefore, allows for much time in my cozy bed. With the weather like this, I have been sleeping in until 11am, getting ready, and starting my school day at 1pm, as it has been all semester. But instead of enjoying the weather after school and exercising or exploring the city, I tend to find myself quickly back in bed after school watching television shows and “doing” my homework. Which usually consists of reading a few pages, or quickly writing a short answer response to a question. Not quite the demanding college schedule I’m used to. Also, not working has been a very strange change in my schedule. Usually at school, I have classes in the morning, and then have some time to relax before going to work all night. Here, I have free time Every afternoon! At first, it was great, but now I find myself huddled in a dark room under blankets and only leaving for dinner time. My laziness has reached an all time high. I have finished all seasons of Parks and Recreation and am currently on the 9th episode of Game of Thrones…which I started two days ago.

However, even though my life has become school and bed…we still try to get out and about at least one or twice on the weekends. Last weekend, the girls and I went to a few museums we’ve wanted to check out. One was for a famous Argentine artist, philosopher, inventor, and everything-elser, named Xul Solar. A fascinating man with a brilliant mind. Afterwards, we went to the house where the most famous Tango singer and movie star of the 20s lived, Carlos Gardel. He was in several movies and sang beautiful Tango songs that are still listened to today. I am also learning quite a bit about him in my Tango culture class. Then, we went to the largest mall in Buenos Aires, called El Abasto. I’m not really a mall fan, but this was Definitely a site to see! It had an entire theme park inside! There was a ferris wheel, small roller-coasters for children, and big, swinging ship, and a whole arcade! It was AMAZING. I felt like a child again while I ran through all the twinkling lights, the smells of roasted candies and nuts, and hearing the clinking sounds of the games. It was SO fun. I have never seen anything like it. It was overwhelming to say the least. Last Thursday night, my friends and I went to see “The Great Gatsby”!! Directed my Baz Luhrmann…who if you didn’t know, directed my favorite film, “Moulin Rouge.” It was quite the film-going experience. Filmed with 3-D cameras, it takes a semi-modern twist on the classic novel. The story line stays true, and the feelings and characters are true to the original story, but Baz uses modern music and a modern “party scene” to re-vamp the classic novel…which I Loved! I thought he did a brilliant job and if you go into the movie expecting this modern feeling, then I think you will love it to. It is a very fun film that I would highly recommend. And of course, having close ups of Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t hurt either. Today, it was raining, so it wasn’t the best day to do things in the city, but we did make it out of the house for a wonderful brunch across town. After an hour wait we finally sat down in a little antique-looking cafe and ordered WAY too much food. I had pancakes with berries and honey with my usual cafe con leche. Yummy!

Tonight, we are going to stay in and bake brownies, pop some popcorn, drink some wine, and watch Pulp Fiction! Lizzie has never seen it…so this is an important night for her (Pulp Fiction is my 2nd favorite movie for those that didn’t know). I’m so glad the girls I live with are very similar to me. Going out can be fun too, but the nights I truly love, especially on cold nights, are those where you are with friends, eating bad food, and watching movies. And yes, I know I can do that in CA too…but right now, it just sounds like a perfect night in Argentina. No matter where I am, being home with friends can be more fun than constantly wanting to “go go go,” even if that’s what you’re supposed to when traveling or spending time in another country. And of course, we definitely want to appreciate our last month in the city, and we are! But we are also appreciating the friends we have here and the fun we can have with a night in. I still LOVE this city, and I want to see as much as possible, but I’ve also slowed down my pace, and am simply living my life in Buenos Aires. There is SO much to do here, but tonight, I am looking forward to just spending some time with my friends.

I hope everyone back at home is doing well and enjoying quiet nights in as well! Sending my love to all!

To put a smile on your face, here are 2 videos I can’t stop laughing about…one for the dog lovers and one for the cat lovers(or sympathizers):

http://www.buzzfeed.com/zefrank/sad-cat-diary

Mom

To all Mothers reading this post:

And especially to MY mom, I wish I could be there to celebrate this day with you. You are an amazing, beautiful, and admirable woman, and I’ve looked up to you my whole life. I LOVE you and hope you are having a relaxing and wonderful day. Thinking of you and wishing you a HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!

besos y abrazos, Avery

Las Cataracas del Iguazú

Hola a todos! I have a fun post for everyone and can’t wait to share my weekend exploring the amazing waterfalls of Iguazú! If you want to know more details…here you go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iguaz%C3%BA_Falls

Ok, so last Friday morning, we got up very early to get to the Buenos Aires airport. We met our CEA group at the terminal, and our favorite leader, Nahuel, gave us our tickets and herded us through security and to the plane. I love CEA trips because everything is organized and arranged…and sometimes that is a lot nicer than having to worry about where to go and what to do. So, this weekend, we were the sheep that simply had to follow the leader. It was a short plane ride, not quite two hours, and once we landed we were directly transported to our hotels to get settled…but not for too long! Because that afternoon, we went to a little village where the indigenous people, the Guaraní, live. We had an adorable guide show us a typical home for one Guaraní to live and also their amazing traps they have created to capture deer and boar.

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After a day of hiking through the woods and learning about the Guaraní lifestyle and being serenaded by a group of women and children, we went back to the hotel to relax before dinner. I have to say, that staying in the hotel was Amazing. I roomed with Tajel and we both got our OWN queen size bed! Both of us looked in the bathroom and noticed that the bathroom was about the size of our room in Buenos Aires. It was Definitely a treat to stay in.

The program came with dinners, so that night we got an awesome buffet dinner with Lots and Lots of veggies! We have been missing vegetables in our diet quite a bit…so we got a little crazy. But it was Oh so yummy!!

The next day: Again, we had an early morning because we were off to the actual waterfalls of Iguazú…which in the native language literally means “Big Waters.” We hiked through the jungle, took a little train ride to different hiking trails, and saw the most BEAUTIFUL sites I have ever seen in my life. This is nature’s TRUE beauty. These falls were actually announced as a part of the New 7 Wonders of the Natural World. Twisting pathways, bridges across miles of water, and climbing hills that overlook the entire falls…it was unbelievable. There are also 700 different species of butterflies there…which were quite friendly. Pictures cannot do it justice, but here are a few that will take your breath away.

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At the end of the day, our whole group decided to do a little something special…we went on a boat that went Into the falls…or as close as we could safely get.

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By the end of it, we were absolutely SOAKED. But it was SO fun and definitely worth it. We actually got to go Into a waterfall! And we had rainbows following us the whole way. It really felt like a dream, it was so amazing. Afterwards though, we were completely exhausted. We all looked a little sad in our dripping clothes, dirty hair, and no energy faces. We walked back to the bus, stopped at one more place where we could see Paraguay and Brasil across the river and then went straight back to the hotel. We showered, napped, ate dinner, watched “Clueless,” and went back to bed. I don’t think I could’ve handled anything more than that. But what a memorable day!

The next day was also a fun, but much more relaxed day. We had to get up early Again…but then took a two hour bus ride to this small ranch in the middle of the forest. We rode horses, took wagon rides, went fishing, or for some people, simply sat by the pool all day. We were also fed an Amazing asado lunch, which is basically Lots of grilled meat. SO yummy!

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After our afternoon on the ranch, we went back to the airport and flew back to our home in Buenos Aires. This weekend was a GREAT break from the city. We have been so accustomed to the rush and bustle of the city, that to be in nature for a few days was Wonderful. It was so peaceful out there and it truly was one of the most beautiful places in the world. A fairytale land. We got to see a new part of this amazing country I am falling in love with. Flying back into the city was also special, because it felt a little like coming home. I know I’ve only been here for 3 months, but Buenos Aires will always have a special place in my heart. I am such a lucky girl! Chau for now!

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Carmen

“Love is a wild bird that no one can tame. It is useless to chase it if it won’t play the game.”
 
Last night, the roomies and I had an evening of Opera. But before I discuss the evening, I have to share our adventure of buying the tickets first. Last weekend, we took the underground train, called the Subte, downtown. We knew the famous theatre was called Teatro Colon, and it is in a very famous plaza. And the theatre itself is quite famous. It is one of the best in the world and is known for having perfect acoustics. The building is beautiful, but so are ALL the buildings around it. 
 
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This photo is off Plaza Tribunales…and yes, I stole it off the internet. But the building you see is NOT Teatro Colon…and you will soon learn why this is important.
 
So, we arrived at the Plaza and looked around for an amazing, old building. The first one we saw, for some reason, we had already previously been told was Teatro Colon, and so we just went straight up the stairs without evening thinking about it. It had big columns, looked impressive. It had to be a theatre, right? Wrong. We walked in and there were metal detectors and guards standing at the door. But even THIS didn’t make us realize we were in the WRONG building. So instead of using common sense, I went up to the nearest guard and said, “Donde esta la boleteria?” Which means, “Where is the ticket office?” Confused, the man asked me what I meant. And then I continued by asking, “Where can I buy tickets for the opera?” Chuckling, the man gently lead us out the door and said we were in the wrong building…that we wanted Teatro Colon, which was across the street. He pointed to it and said that we were in the Tribunales building. Which is the courthouse and government official building. No wonder they didn’t have a ticket office. So, that was our stupid American moment of the day. Not our finest moment.
 
BUT, it was all worth it, or as they say here “Vale la pena!” (Worth the pain!) because we got to go see an amazing Opera in an amazing theatre for only 40 pesos! Which is about 5 or 6 dollars. However, we bought the tickets for the standing section, which is why the price was so cheap. So the seats where a bit uncomfortable, since we didn’t have any, but the show was fantastic! HUGE cast, great music, and lots of costumes. The opera itself is pretty sad, and little dull with its love triangle and love themes, but we had a great time. Here is a quick look at our evening:
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Outside the theatre on our way to the Opera!
 
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Snuck into the fancy part to take pictures…all dressed up for the show!
 
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It really was beautiful.
 
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I even got to practice my Spanish reading skills! And I understood almost everything!

Uruguay and Regina Spektor

What does Uruguay have to do with a Regina Spektor concert? Nothing. Except, that I did both these things last weekend!

But before I tell you about those activities. Let me update you on life in general. I haven’t posted a blog recently, to be honest, because there has been very little for me to say. Last last weekend was Easter break for us here. We had 6 days to do nothing…and that is exactly what we did. Most people in our group traveled to amazing places in Argentina, like Bariloche, but the roomies and I decided to save our money and enjoy life in Buenos Aires during a quiet weekend. However, we didn’t realize HOW quiet it would be. Everything was closed and many people left the city to visit family elsewhere. So there wasn’t much to do. We did discover a unique Peruvian restaurant that served raw shark and cinnamon pisco sours. Sarah ate cow stomach without knowing it. It was gross. But as our saying goes, “Just order it.” It always is a surprise, which can be fun, but in this case was quite disgusting. Other than that, our weekend consisted of movies, sleeping, and more movies. It was a Great lazy weekend! For anyone looking for movie recommendations, I’ve seen almost every movie on this list and I would highly recommend these movies…Enjoy!

http://www.highexistence.com/25-spectacular-movies-you-probably-havent-seen/

The week goes by slowly, going to school in the afternoons and coming home and doing hw, reading, or watching more movies (Hey, its the college life!) On the weekends we always try to go out and explore parts of the city we haven’t seen yet. Last weekend we found a park that holds a HUGE garage sale/market in it. I got a shirt(seen in the Uruguay pictures below) for 10 pesos! That’s less than 2 dollars. I also found a great ring and sunglasses each for under 2 or 3 dollars. My classes are going well. Nothing too difficult, but still intense because they are in Spanish. So I might not have a lot of outside work, but just sitting in class and focusing is twice as hard, which is exhausting. I’m really enjoying my Latin American film class, but the movies we are watching are VERY intense. They would definitely Never be allowed in my Catholic University in San Diego. But the teacher is very intelligent and expects a lot from us when analyzing the movies, which I enjoy.

Last weekend was fun because on Friday we went with our organization, CEA, to Colonia, Uruguay. I really didn’t know what to expect…but I knew it was a small, old town. We took about an hour long ferry ride across Rio del Plata and were shuffled into a bus for a small tour of the city. The land was beautiful and very green. The water of the river almost surrounded the small town…but it was not the beautiful ocean water I was imagining. It was completely brown. It looked like Willy Wonka’s chocolate river.

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However, the city was beautiful. It felt like a sleepy beach town, but made with old brick buildings and cobblestone streets. There was really not much to do there, so we mostly spent the day walking and enjoying eachother’s company. CEA arranged a lunch for us, which was very disappointing unfortunately. The meal was not great and the service took two HOURS to serve us. But the day ended well with us laying in the grass, laughing, and playing cards. It was a calm day, which I appreciated.

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On the river beach. From left: Taylor, me, Sam, and Tajel.

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The cobblestone streets and old cars of Colonia.

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Trying to be retro…

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Our band photo. From left: Tajel, me, Sarah, Taylor.

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A beautiful sunset after a quiet day in Colonia.

Friday ended quietly as we arrived back in Buenos Aires not until 10:30pm. The roomies and I grabbed some Pad Thai at a busy Thai restaurant, which was something we had been craving for awhile. SO good!

Saturday started off slow, but then in the afternoon Sarah and I had an adventure to go on for our Art History class. We went to a Art Museum to take notes and write about specific pieces. However, we had already been to this museum, and the second story was closed off, so there wasn’t much we hadn’t already seen. However, saturday night was full of excitement! Sam and I had discovered that we were both huge Regina Spektor fans when we met, and lo’ and behold, Regina was coming to Buenos Aires in April!! We jumped on the opportunity and were able to get fairly cheap tickets. So, last Saturday, we grabbed a bite to eat then headed over to the concert venue, which luckily was not far away. We walked into this large open space, with a HUGE stage and lights all along it. There were stadium seats on either sides and several seated rows in front of the stage. We had purchased the cheapest tickets so our “seats” was basically just the large grassy(but now muddy after the rains) area behind the center seats where a large crowd was gathered. Now remember, I am 5’2’…Sam is 5’3″…this was not the best place to be for two small girls. We tried to squeeze our way to the front of the crowd, but they were not having it. So, we ended up standing far enough in the back that the stage was just visible over peoples’ heads. We also found some blocks and plastic tiles that we piled together and stood on. Luckily, there were large screens above the stage that we could easily see too. Also remember, we are in Argentina, so we got there right on time….at 9:30…and then waited, and waited. FINALLY, Regina quietly walked on stage about 10:30. Everyone was cheering and she was just so cute waving and in her child-like voice saying “Hola” y “Gracias” to the crowd of maybe 300 or more people. She didn’t waste any time and sat down at her piano, with her drums and cello accompaniment and went into one of my favorite songs, “On the Radio.” She played lots of my favorites from her old albums, and several new ones I had not heard. She was BRILLIANT. Every song was unique and sounded EXACTLY like they do on her albums. I can’t explain how GOOD she really is. Her voice is so unique and she has such an amazing talent and range of sounds she can do. She ended with my favorite song, “Samson,” and was just so cute. It was definitely a night I will always remember. There was even a girl crying next to me…which I don’t know if she was crying because she was alone or because the music really touched her. I hope it was the latter.

Nothing really else to report, except that this week is our official half-way point of the trip! It feels like I have been here for SO long, so I’m excited that I still have this amount of time left, but I feel like this second part is going to go by quickly. Now that we are getting into more of a routine of school, home, and weekends, I’m afraid time will slip by. But I am trying to appreciate Every day here and live my life to the fullest! But sometimes, snuggling up in my bed and watching a movie can be good too. 🙂 xoxo

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).

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At the top of an Art Museum in Boca!

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Beautiful girls! Sarah, Tajel, and Lizzie!

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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):

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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!

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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.

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

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The marching of the flags…

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Beating the drums! There was music Everywhere.

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Dancers performed in the streets.

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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.

 

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.

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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).

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Biking through the Argentinian wine country.

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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!

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The group wine tasting and enjoying eachother’s company.

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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.

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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.

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Welcome to the beach city of Vina del Mar!

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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.

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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!

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A PEACEFUL student protest.

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Here comes the army…

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Spraying water on the crowds…

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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.

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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.

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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!