Monday, November 22, 2010

It is All Coming to a Close

So with only one week left in Mendoza I am feeling the mixed feelings of excitement to go home, and resentment for leaving this beautiful country. For my last two weeks of the program I am going with three girl friends on a whirlwind tour of the entireity of Patagonia, we are going to make the lovely 36 hour bus ride from Mendoza to Rio Gallegos and then the short hop over to Calafate. Due to our lack in funds we have limited ourselves to mate and peaches for food throughout the trip....maybe some bread and onions as well. After a few days in Calafate and the surrounding towns we are going to make our way back up to El Bolson and Bariloche. We will travel until the 10th, and naturally I leave the 11th so this week is also my deadline for packing up everything I own, which is going to be an adventure in and of itself.

Other plans for this week, we have our Thanksgiving dinner this week, though there won´t be any Turkey, or my family´s tradition of lasagna I am still excited for the great food and the last opportunity to see everyone in our program before heading back to the states. Following our feast, we have planned our final debut at Casa 3 for the final Fiesta Americana. If I haven´t told you about these insanely ridiculous parties, the basic idea is, at the beggining of the semester Dan one of my friends from the program approached one of the local bar/clubs and asked if we could use the space to have a party, we would be in control of the music and we would bring in a crapton of business. Well we did, there were over 300 people at the first party, wayy too many for the space capacity of the club but it was an incredible business deal for the place, they actually ran out of beer at one point I believe. So after that the owners hired us Americanos to plan a huge party every month and we have delivered every month. So as our final fade to black party I am sure it is going to be insane.

Ross is going to celebrate his birthday today as well so we are going to begin with our usual happy hour at Antares, and then migrate to his favorite peruvian restaurant for some fantastically delicious cheap cuisine. All good things in my opinion, I would like to go to all of the cafe-restaurants that I haven´t been to yet, but I don´t think that is realistic or financially smart.

Of course, I will spend at least one day just sitting in the Plaza reading as it has been my daily routine since coming to the beautiful city, and I need to say goodbye to all of my artisan friends that I have come to make over the course of the semester. Yesterday we even kept up the tradition of Sunday futbol in Parque San Martin with the locals which was followed by a trip for some excellent empanadas and gallons of water since it was brutally hot yesterday.

To think of all of the fantastic things I have done here, the great routines and traditions our program has had, it is sad to think it is almost over. I am SO not ready to return to the real world of work and studies and speaking in English.... (maybe i am ready for that last one) But it is going to be a rough transition, I am excited to see all of the people I have missed but it is going to be hard leaving behind everything I have made a part of my life here in Mendoza. The people, the places, the foods, everything that I now feel is a natural part of my life I will have to leave behind. It is hard having friends in the program who live on the opposite end of the country back in the U.S. I guess it will just make a better excuse for having to travel more.

I will definitely be coming home a travel junkie, I can already predict it, I have already started planning my next trip, to the Philippines in the spring, doing service work of course but still it will get me out of the country for a little while. I am just excited to make traveling a real part of my life

(sorry for any spelling errors, my computer is still broken and this one does not have spell check).

San Rafael

I meant to write this immediately after I got back but naturally I forgot, so here goes to the best of my memory (which seems to be fleeting me as of late):

We all woke up at the crack of dawn to meet in Plaza Independencia, and literally it was the crack of dawn we caught the first trole of the day, which is practically unheard of, the sun wasn't up nor were any of Mendoza's inhabitants. However, you did see the scattering couples and groups coming back from their nights at various boliche's still in their short skirts and carrying their heels.

We board the bus and settle into our mid morning slumbers and enjoy the four hour drive to the beautiful city of San Rafael.  We pull in finally to this beautiful wooded area and we all unload and choose which cabana we wanted to stay in, the cabanas were BEAUTIFUL!!! I seriously could just imagine living in one of them for an extended period of time, with a full kitchen and full bathroom and beds everywhere, it was just perfect.

That first day the day plan was to go to the Dique at Valle Grande which is basically a huge damn which has created this beautiful sky blue lake near to these beaches. It was an incredible day and so beautiful we took a ferry across the lake and then all jumped into the ice cold water. We stayed in long enough for our bodies to go numb so the water became slightly bearable and then progressively we all got out and laid out upon the beach to soak up those equatorial rays.

After a lovely day of chillage on the beach we began to make our way back to the bus to head back to the cabanas. We were all pretty much exhausted from the long day of doing nothing so some people took short naps before dinner and others attempted to get the sand out of their hair. I decided a nap was the way to go. Dinner was pretty good but nothing too special, however, the dinner conversation was great our table just got into a huge discusion about politics and the healthcare bill and all this crazy nonsense- it felt nice to actually think for the first time in months, it felt refreshing.

After dinner we all went our separate ways I joined a group sitting on one of the balconies playing some tunes on the guitar and drinking probably some of the worst wine I have ever tasted in my life. It was nice and a beautiful evening, you could see the stars so clearly from where we were out in the countryside. I just wanted to sleep outside under the sky, however the massive amounts of mosquitos disuaded me from doing that.

The next morning we were up and out ready to go on our trek, this was my first experience actually trekking since coming to Argentina, which may be slightly pathetic but it isn´t something I found myself dyingg to do. The sun was out and blazing and there was a bit of a Zonda so it was crazy windy which just made hiking up sand dunes all the more fun. I´ve got to say though hiking up those hills of sand really does point out just how out of shape one is.... maybe should start working on that before rugby season starts up again. Regardless it was great fun and I ended up being one of the first ones to get back to the end so wooohoo for me! I don´t know if i will ever get all of the sand out of my sneakers though, there was one point that we were literally just up to our ankles going down a sand dune. The view from the top was absolutely incredible and there was a little spot also that we stopped at that used to be a raging river, but sadly is now nothing more than a sad looking stream.

When we got back to the camp site the weather began to turn on us, the Zonda was picking up speed and eventually in the afternoon it began pouring (naturally the one time we are out in Mendoza actually doing outdoor activities it rains). So we decided to head back home early just to cut some time out of our traveling.

All in all it was a beautiful trip and I would much like to go to San Rafael again some day if I have the time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some Helpful Hints

It is hard to believe that it is already November, it feels like just yesterday that we were arriving in Buenos Aires fresh-faced and doe-eyed scared out of our minds with no idea what was ahead of us. I figure this post should be more of a list of suggestions, interesting tid bits and warnings for anyone who plans on going to Argentina for study abroad.

First of all the country is beautiful, especially Mendoza, with the integration of urban city life and beautiful parks and plazas and the mountains, rivers and lakes it is literally a mix of every type of terrain you would ever want to see.

The people are not only strikingly beautiful but incredibly kind, most of them want to get to know you and learn the language even if you are a complete stranger.

For ladies: the men here are incredibly forward and most often don´t hesitate to approach you even if simply to say that you are beautiful. If you do come be prepared for the biropos which are the excessive cat calls that you will receive whilst walking down the street. Occasionally men will even slow down in their cars to whistle or call you princess.

The sidewalks are not handicap or shoe friendly, I have completely destroyed the majority of the soles of the shoes that I came here with because I assumed that the sidewalks would all be evenly paved and shoe-friendly.

Weather, during the summer time it is hot during the day, and freezing at night, the winter is cold during the day and even colder at night, it´s a desert so it only makes sense to have absurd weather. It hardly ever rains and it is beautiful and sunny almost 6 out of every 7 days of the week. Apart from the occassional Zonda (warm wind storm) it is almost always pleasant to be outside.

Any food that you think you are going to miss, you will peanut butter is like gold for any American student studying here, some locals will tell you they have peanut butter...they are lying the only thing they have is a disgusting paste that may have been peanut butter a few centuries ago.

Do not overpack, and this I am talking from experience, the first thing my host family said is that of the 9 host students they have had I brought more junk with me than they had ever seen. Granted I am grateful I did, but it is just a pain to have all of it.

Most of the things that many guide books will tell you not to bring i.e. shorts, sandals, sleeveless dresses, don´t listen to them, the style of clothing here is very similar to that of the U.S. they have their hipsters, scene kids, thugs, prepsters, casual dressers, hippies pretty much everything, your style will probably match that of any number of argentine trends.

You will lose a lot of things, whether it is from going out or just forgetting things, you will lose things, so try not to bring too many valuables or keepsakes.

Bring more money than the program tells you to, even though the exchange rate is great here, it is deceiving, you will end up rationalizing a lot of purchases especially at the plaza where the hand crafted things by the artisans are an alluring choice for any self-gifts.

You will most likely spend more money on transportation and cell phone minutes than you will on anything else during your stay in this country, it is a pain but if you don´t live close to everything you will end up using the buses a lot and taxis at night.

Be prepared to eat a lot of meat, they do have vegetarian options sometimes but often times they will assume you still eat chicken (its apparently not considered real meat here). Also a lot of fried foods, and overly salted foods. Don´t get me wrong it is incredibly delicious, just don´t expect to lose weight by coming here, the empanadas and panchos will surely prevent that from happening.
Take advantage of every opportunity to travel, my personal favorite is Cordoba where at some point in my life I may end up living, it is a great city and has some beautiful things to do in the smaller villas right outside of the center.
Be open to meeting new people, some of the best people, and greatest friends I have made here are most of the artisans in Plaza Independencia, you just have to be open to talking to new people and having conversations, it is the best way to practice your spanish and you get to meet some pretty great people along the way.
If you can try to speak spanish within the program, our group is terrible at it and I include myself as well, it is refreshing to talk in English but you will improve so much faster if you talk in spanish.
-For mailing things, they are going to tell you that you can´t receive food or clothing, that is a lie, I am almost positive everyone who was sent either receieved them on time and in one piece it is just super expensive
Don´t rely on the possibility that every family is going to have internet, or wi-fi most of them do not and if they do it is not always dependable, if you want to buy a portable USB modem you should they are good to have anyways, the ones that they will sell to you in the program don´t always work
Things to bring with you:
-gum, the gum here is terrible
-warm clothes but layers!!
-pictures of your family
-spanish-english dictionary
-movies (you will want to watch them since it takes hours to download any online)
-good walking shoes
-camping equipment if you have it, you don´t need it you can rent it from here for cheap
-good going out clothes (for evenings everyone pretty much dresses up in club wear)
-any food you think  you are going to miss a lot
-money belt or something that can hide your money under your clothes for going out purposes and traveling
-bring copies of all importan documentation and any information or numbers you might need i.e. credit cards, bank accounts, health insurance
-don´t worry about bringing a phone with you, most families will give you one or you can buy one for relatively cheap, most phones from the u.s. won´t work here unless you want to spend 5 US dollars a minute
-Bring any medications you think you might need for the semester, they are sometimes hard to find here
I think that is all I can think of for now, just a few things I wish I had known before coming to this incredible country that I am going to hate to leave in less than two months.....


Although we have about a month and a half left of the program the maddness of final exams has ensued!!!! The first of which is my sociological modern history class, which I am more than happy to be done with since it was practically the bane of my existence. With my overwhelming lack of motivation to study and to organize my life and thus keep up with important dates it was only natural that I would assume that my final would be next Monday rather than this past Monday. So in a frantic rush to read all of the 40 readings (most of which were more than 20 pages long) in one weekend our group of extranjero´s decided it would be a fantastic idea to split up the readings into four parts like we had done for the parcial. We proceeded to write up outlines for each reading and share them with the group so that we would know and understand the basic themes of each reading. This would have been a great idea if our procturing professor was going to ask us simply about the primary themes and ideas of the readings, on a general scale.

I suppose you can tell from my tone that I am less than thrilled with the idea of this exam... so on dooms day I arrive to the facultad building early so I can frantically look over the summaries and outlines we had typed up in the hopes that magically everything would just stick in my head. We waited as the first group to go in took a good hour to do what should have been a thirty minute oral exam, so needless to say we were kind of freaking out. Prior to our exam our professor told us we were going to have to take the oral in pairs rather than our group of four, so that is what we prepared for, but alas it is Argentina and they don´t necessarily like to follow through with what they say initially. When the time came for us to go our professor throws us quite the curve ball and tells us we will all be taking the exam together as a group of four. I should have been thrilled that I would have the support of all of my peers but instead I was terrified because the change was so last minute and unexpected (anyone in my family knows how well I deal with change...).

We sit down in our circle of desks and she begins asking us each to choose one reading from the 40 to summarize in detail, it was around this time that my mind pretty much went blank, I could remember not a single thing nor could I remember which titles corresponded with what readings. Double Damn so upon my turn I do as best as I can with what I can remember, and my professor just proceeds on to the next person. Granted it was the most bullshit I have ever said in my life, but it got me through. The second part consisted of our professor choosing a reading for us to summarize. She asks me to explain the major ideas of the reading about Argentine film and culture; which of course I didn´t read because it was completely inconsistent with the majority of the readings we were assigned. To make matters even worse when I asked her who the author of the piece was she just frowned and shook her head and muttered under her breath that SHE was the author and then some other things which went along the lines of stupid ignorant American...

I was dumbfounded and just began muttering a slew of random facts that I could think of about film and how it could possibly be relevant to Argentine culture, not knowing any of the titles or directors of any of the films. Peter (who was assigned to read the lecture) hung his head in shame as I miserably stumbled along my ridiculous summary.

Even though the exam was a filthy mess and I kind of looked like a giant ass we all passed, which is honestly the only thing that matters, I truly don´t plan on ever going to see what my grade was for the exam, I passed and that is truly all that matters.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


So I won't go into ridiculous detail about this past week because that would actually take up an entire book's worth of space, however, this past week my family came to visit me i.e. my grandfather, mother and MY SISTER!!! This was a huge surprise, since that very morning I received a facebook message from my sister's facebook of her telling me that we should skype that night when my mother and gpa arrived because she was sad she wouldn't be coming.

The cute freaks that my family are, decided to surprise me which they seem to enjoy doing, so as I walk into the hotel room to drop off my things and see an awkward looking video camera coming from behind the curtain it took me more than a minute to realize who it was. I was so happy to see her I was crying and probably drooling, I looked ridiculous and they got it all on typical of my family.

The week was spent doing great adventurous things such as  a hugeee asado with my entire extended host family and an extended tour of the city of Mendoza and a trip to the touristy sights like the natural Inca Bridge near the Chilean border, and a beautiful view of the mountains and the huge Volcanoe, a cooking class, and some horseback riding in the Andes! All good fun and of course some fine wining and dining which was to be expected of any visit to Mendoza. I'm almost completely positive that I gained an entire other person this week, and the rigorous excersise routine will begin this coming week seeing as how up until now I haven't been able to get my lazy ass out of bed before 1 in the afternoon I will have to make some adjustments to my schedule.

We spent our last night together with the addition of my entire host family and two of my brother's friends for a good ole' family dinner. My brother made a lovely feast for us including ceviche (fish marinated in lemon) to start off, followed by mashed potatoes or puré and wine marinated lomo and tomatoes, and the finale was a dessert wine with pears soaked in Malbec and cream. It was simply divine, and for once I actually tasted some of the cooking I have heard my host family speak so highly of, the rest of the night included singing and playing of guitars by both my host father and myself, I even got my sister to join and harmonize with me on one of my songs. It was an absolutely lovely night, and it was a sad day knowing that my family would be leaving the next morning.

I keep telling myself there is only two months left until I'm home, but it just seems so much longer than that....

Cordoba AGAIN!!!

So now that I have been worse than awful at catching up this thing I will now try to write shorter posts, more often...though it may be difficult to do seeing as how I no longer have internet... double damn.

A few weekends ago a group of about 12 of us went on our merry ways to Cordoba for the wonderful even that is OKTOBERFEST!!!! We only really planned on going to the festival for one day and then just spending the rest of the days in the city. This plan just seemed to be a lot friendlier on everyone's wallets, seeing as how entrance into the festival was $50 pesos and then each individual beer was $20... which is a tad ridiculous if you ask me. Our day in the festival was incredible, we got on an early bus and took the hour and a half long trip from the center of the city out to Villa Bel Grano, when we got there it was like nothing I had ever seen. There were soooo many people and the little mountain town looked like something out of a fairytale. Everything just seemed so non-Argentine....but in a totally great way.

We drank a fair amount and then it just got to be a little too crazy for me and a little tiring, which I guess is reasonable since we woke up that morning and started off the day with morning mamosas (sp??) which totally perpetuated the American stereotype as our lovely hostel mates noted.

The next day we all just lounged around the city we met some absolutely lovely people at the hostel so we spent some time with them, we even made dinner that night, homemade mexican salsa and guac with grilled chicken and bean and red pepper salad, all of which were absolutely incredible!!! We enjoyed our meal and just spent the remainder of the evening watching movies in the hostel. None of us had the energy to go out and party after the day we had before.

The whole group spent a good four days in Cordoba, and since I didn´t have any classes and had some time to spare, I figured I would stay another day or so in one of my favorite cities of Argentina. My friend Brian who I had met last time I stayed in Cordoba happen to be staying at the same hostel as myself so I figured I would spend the next days with him and some of my other new hostel friends. The next day we meandered to the beautiful park that has a precious little island in the middle of it, it was an absolutely gorgeous day so we spent most of it inside and then went back to the hostel to hang about a little more before I had to head to the bus terminal. My friend Isabelle who I also met last time I was in Cordoba came to visit and we enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine and a dinner made by our new friend Steve.

Isabelle works at the other hostel I stayed at in Cordoba, which I think is awesome. She is from Belgium and has been traveling around for the last 8 months, the hostel lets her stay for free if she works a few hours a week which I think is one of the coolest jobs ever, I think after I graduate I may want to look into doing the same thing, it seems like it would be a great way to meet people, and of course practice my spanish!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I know I am behind on the posting so that means... A MILLION NEW POSTS TODAY!!!

So I figured an appropriate topic for this post would be midterm exams since they are the current topic on my mind at the moment. I figured that as an exchange student the professors might have given us a tad more guidance on the topics of the exams, or the format, or what we should study. But alas no, so for my first parcial that was for ecological anthropology no less I was far from prepared, I had done all of the readings that we were given and had taken notes, and prepared more than I would normally for any exam in the U.S.

I walked into the classroom with a head full of nerves but fairly confidents, and then our professor walks in (late as usual) and she then proceeds to introduce our new professor who will be procturing the exam, the kid looked as if he had just graduated from college, and in fact he had. He is going to be our acting professor since our normal professor would be having a surgery of some sort. So we began the exam after being informed that we would only have an hour and a half to complete the exam rather than the two hours that we had expected. The TA began to read from a sheet of paper our exam questions, he didnt post them on the board or hand out an exam paper, so naturally I began to get a tad more overwhelmed, so I asked one of my friends from the class to see his questions but of course I couldnt read his hand writing, I did the best I could with the questions and began the exam. In the U.S. while taking an exam it is expected for the classroom to be silent, with spaces in between desks to ensure that no cheating will occur, however during this exam all rules seemed to go out the window, people were laughing, talking sitting in groups just having a good ole time.

I decided to just do the best as I could and was able to finish just in time however, one of the other girls from the program, was still on the second essay question when I left, of course that wasnt something to be ashamed of at all seeing how the exam essay questions were so poorly worded and confusing, and not anything we were taught in class I have no idea how I even managed to finish the first question.

The next parcial of doom was in my sociological modern history class. The name alone should have dissuaded me from taking the class but I needed a history credit for the semester. The set up of this exam was going to be a little bit different, we were all put into groups and we had to read a set of four readings, (one of them being 50 pages long) and then we were to have a graded oral discussion based on the selected readings. With only four American students in the class we thought it would be appropriate to be in a goup together, we set on each reading two out of the four readings, so that way in the discussion we would have those two guide the discussion while the other two added in bits here and there based on what they read in the summaries that we had to write on each article. We had the system down solid and we all felt prepared for the oral exam. However, when we got to class and looked at the order of presentation list our group was split so we would be going in pairs...which we had not prepared for.

Peter and Robin were the first group to go, so not only were they not prepared and were totally thrown off base, they also had to be the first group to go for the day. Ari and I waited paciently outside and tried to cram as much information as we could into our heads before going in, while we were waiting Robin runs out of the room frantically to grab our group summaries and tells us its not going well and that she doesnt think they are going to pass. This did absolutely nothing for my nerves, Ari and I continued to cram as best as we could and then it was our turn. Ari and I walked in attempting to humble ourselves and make nice with our professor, which seemed to be working at least a little bit. We sat down in a circle of desks and the exam began, naturally our professor asked us to summarize in detail the 50 page article, which was okay because Ari knew it backwards and forwards, and I knew enough to put in details here and there. From there the exam went pretty smoothly I bullshitted more than I ever have in my life, and we actually passed!!! I had no idea what grade we received but honestly I couldnt have cared less. I was just relieved to have finished.

I will however say that for the first time ever I actually missed taking structured exams like we do in the U.S.
We shall see how long that will last.....

Sunday, September 26, 2010


After our day of epicness we decided a lovely bike and wine tour would be just what we needed to end the week. So we called up our friend Matias who is dating our friend Laura in the program to see if he could save a spot for the four of us to do a tour. He said it would be no problem, and to just get there around 10 so that we would be able to finish the tour around 7 pm.

9 HOURS OF WINE and BIKING, I thought it was a bit crazy but its something I probably would never get to do again, so I figured why not?

We got there ready and full of energy, I had taken a 6 hour long siesta and went to bed early the night before so I had plenty of energy. Not even the fact that I hadn't ridden a bike since I was 12 years old could bother me today. So we hung out and started off the day with a complimentary glass of wine from Matias and we were given our bikes and maps and sent off into the world of wines.

After a slightly shaky start on the bike we were on a roll riding through the streets of Maipu and down winding roads. Our first stop was actually a wine museum, that had incredible pieces such as old wine tools and different things similar to that. This was the free tour with a free wine tasting, so it was pretty much obligatory, the rest of the day we would have to pay for. So we enjoyed our wine and tour and then were off to the next place.

Our next stop was for chocolate, olive oil and liqueur, we walk in and it is beautiful, and warm and the people are just working away on chocolates and olive oil, and there is a counter full of different liqueurs for us to try. Naturally, this was my favorite place; they started us out with bread and olive oil, and then let us try all the different types of cheeses and spreads it was AMAZINGGG, then after that we tried different types of jams and dulce de leche, the dulce de leche with cafe was incredible and they had fruit jams of everything including pineapple!!! Ohhh how I've missed that beautiful taste.

The final event included trying many of the different liqueurs, I tried: Chocolate Banana, Peach, Passion Fruit with Rose, some sort of citrus blend, and then for the final attraction ABSENTA or absinthe, which was the most interesting for sure. In order to take away some of the harshness of the absinthe they caramelize a spoon of sugar using a type of flambe (spelling) technique and then mix it around in the shot glass and then you shoot it as fast as you can. After taking the shot you feel this burning sensation down your throat into your stomach, it isn't entirely unpleasant because after the burn comes this wave of cooling almost as if someone put vicks vapor rub down your throat. They asked us if we wanted to do another one but we all turned it down for fear of what all that liqueur would do to our bike riding technique. Emily and Megan bought the passion fruit with rose and Thomas got some absinthe to take home to the states.

Thomas was hungry at this point so we decided our next stop should be the delicatessen. When we arrived I was simply in awe, it was the most beautiful place I could ever imagine. Normally when I think of a deli, it is usually a hole in the wall with nothing more than a greasy oven and a few tables and chairs. This place literally looked like something out of a fairy tale, with draping vines everywhere and antique looking furniture, it all seemed lived in but yet so pristine. I couldn't afford eating there but thomas helped himself on behalf of us all, the biker special was only 50 pesos but I only had enough to go to the bodegas and not buy anything so I just passed even though I was near to starving. The other meal option was a 125 pesos which is less that thirty bucks but being in Argentina has made me stingy..... 

With our meal we got some complimentary bread with various different spreads which were incredible they even had one with what was supposed to be spicy red pepper but it barely tickled my tongue haha, that is one thing I don't think Argentina will ever get right. 

After we finished up we were back on our way after a little bit of trouble after Emily fell off her bike and slightly broke her bottle of liqueur. We were all fine and just laughed it off but the laughing quickly stopped after we realized how far we were going to have to bike to the next bodega. 

 After about an hour or so of biking we were at our first real bodega of the day, after some mishaps with blocked roads and missed tours we decided to go to the oldest bodega in Argentina, Di Tomasso, this was by far the most interesting bodega, simply because its history goes back 4 full generations and is still in the family. Our tour guide for this trip was so nice and so smart, she could answer every single question we had about the different types of wines. I probably learned more from this tour than I have from any wine tour I've been on thus far. I can now tell if a wine has been fermented in an oak barrel, and I can also tell for how long it has been fermented. I feel like my very own wine aficionado after that tour. The wines were also incredible, only one of the wines that they make are exported out of the country and it is their youngest and weakest dinner wine, the rest of them aren't even exported out of the bodega. In order to purchase their wines you either have to buy them onsite or call in an order, and to have it sent to the U.S. would include incredibly high tariffs.

We figured the last few bodegas weren't that far away so we would bike to the rest of them and then try to hit the beer distillery for some food on the way back so we were just moseying along, when Emily realized she had a flat tire...we were seriously at the furthest point away from the bike shop so we keep going until we got to the olive oil distillery only to find that it was closed!! We didn't know what else to do so we continued walking on our way to the next bodega which was just down the street a little more, thank goodness they were open or we really would have had a problem. We kindly asked the woman to call the shop to send out a new bike and asked if we could buy a bag of nuts because we were all starving. None of us felt like going on another tour or drinking any more wine so the lady told us we could sit outside in the shade at the table so we did and as we were enjoying the beautiful day waiting for the bike to come one by one we all fell asleep. It felt like the entire day had gone by by the time the man arrived with the bike, the woman at the front desk tried to let us know when he got there but none of us seemed able to wake up.

Once we were all up and alive we decided it would be best just to bike all the way back to the shop and just eat when we got home, so we made the long haul all the way back to the shop which seemed as if we had wings we just wanted to get back so badly. We were tired and sweaty and dirty from the dust on the roads, not to mention our bums hurt like nobody's business. We made it back safe and sound after being trailed by a cop on a motorcycle for a good 30 minutes of the ride back, which was slightly disconcerting.

Matias welcomed us back and everyone started clapping since we were the last group to get there and he brought us some more wine as a congratulatory "Thank God you actually made it" not that any of us needed any more wine.

We stayed there talking to the other groups enjoying the company and the music for a good few hours before everyone started to leave one by one. Megan and Thomas needed to leave to buy some last minute gifts before Thomas headed back to the states the next morning so Emily and I decided to just stick around and play ping pong with Matias and his cousin Pablo. It was a great way to end the day even though I was absolutely terrible and had no skill whatsoever. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was almost 1030 so Emily and I decided to head back and go out to dinner to end the day, since each of us were starving we figured we deserved to eat out for our final night of vacation.

After eating and biking and wining all day we decided to just hit the bed, even though we wanted to go out with Thomas for his last night in Argentina, there was nothing more satisfying than just curling up after a full days work and a full stomach.

At least now I have a good idea of which bodegas to go to when my mom and grandfather come to visit in October....but next time maybe we'll drive.


Since Emily and I decided to stay in Mendoza during our extended break and do crazy ridiculous things here we have decided that some of the activities would include; going to a modern contemporary fashion show, getting a random piercing(s), going hang gliding, and doing a bike and wine tour.

So the fashion show was all swell and spectacular as expected, it had some really great pieces including cut out shirts made entirely out of  colored leather and some other super crazy dresses that looked more like pieces of art than something wearable.

Directly following the show Em and I went to the tattoo shop, we decided it seemed more trustworthy than the small kiosks in the galeria, and thank god we did. The shop was great very clean and sterile feeling but of course not perfect, because this is after all Argentina, and we were greeted excitedly by the owner of the shop the minute we walked in the door. Emily only wanted to get one piercing, and I wanted to get two. This decision was rationalized by my insane discomfort with even numbers, if I were to only get one piercing I would have 10 in total and that just would not do, so with 11 in total not only would I have my lucky number but I could feel at ease and balanced. *** Side note these are all on my ears so random family members cease worrying I have no semi-permanent decorations added to my face.

Emily went first because she was a brave soul, I started getting nervous at the idea of needles in my head which has never stirred nerves in me other than adrenaline but we proceeded anyways. I won't go into details about the process but other than it hurt like hell and there will be no more for me ever, so no more worried looks and threats of financial independence from my family.

Once that day was complete the next thing on our list was hang gliding, in Argentina it is called Parapente, which I actually like better it just has a more exciting ring to it. The day before we went to the tourism center which oddly only had one pamphlet on parapente, which I thought was odd and the only help they could offer was to call the number and they would give more information. So we called the number and apparently "they don't do that thing" as they had bluntly stated on the phone in spanish. So Emily and I looked up some other places online and we found a company that could pick us up from our houses and drive us to the top of the Andes mountains all for A$300 which was a great price, and under a hundred U.S. dollars.

As promised they picked us up at the crack of dawn hour of 830 a.m. which on my sleep schedule is completely unheard of, so needless to say I was a tad drowsy. We go and pick up Megan and her boyfriend Thomas from their hotel because they wanted to join in on the fun, and then we were off to the desert mountains. When we got there the guys set up a fold out table with some coffee and mate for us to drink, since I didn't eat preparing as I would for a roller coaster I passed on both knowing it would probably make my stomach hurt. So we sat their anxiously awaiting as Megan was the first to go up, we were able to see her from the ground as only a slight yellow speck in the sky. After Emily, it was my turn, and the nervous adrenaline like energy was starting to build up. I hopped into the jeep and up we went. Looking back on the experience probably the most terrifying part of it all was the ride up the mountain on the narrow, bumpy, dirt road- which was hardly wide enough for the car let alone passing the school children on their hike or the other car coming from the opposite direction, truly horrifying.

However, we made it to the top safely and without any casualties, and it was absolutely beautiful. I truly have never seen something so lovely. You could see the snow capped mountains out in the distance and the entire city. I can't remember how high up we were but Megan said something about 700 km, not that that makes any difference to me.

My flying partner started putting me equipment on and asked if I wanted my instructions in Spanish, or English...seeing as how I would be jumping off a cliff I asked for them in English. He then proceeded to give me the instructions, he said we will wait until I can find the direction of the wind, and if I say left go left, right, go right, and when I say start walking you will walk, and when I say run, you will run as fast as you can run and don't stop running even when there is nothing left to run on. I think my face dropped a little because he gave a little chuckle, and his consoling words of "don't worry, I'm a professional" did little to appease my nerves. We waited atop the mountain for a good 15 minutes or so trying to find the wind, and I asked him what would happen if he couldn't find it, he smiled and said, "with no wind you won't fly for very long..." So....awesome! Great news! Eventually, we found the wind and I started walking and he shouted run and I ran as fast as I could and then we were off the mountain with nothing under my feet except for the distant view of the city and the mountains and the desert. It was stunning, truly.

When we got back down to the ground I felt a little nauseous but my partner said that was normal, and that next I was going to be really hungry and super tired. The rest of the day pretty much fulfilled that prediction. It still feels so surreal, as if it didn't really happen, but it was just such an incredible experience, I would love to do it again.

 I think now I might be ready for skydiving....

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Ok I've said it, I do, I miss home and people and American things.

My friend Emily and I are the only ones in Mendoza this week while the rest of our program is off galavanting around Argentina, because we decided that financially it would probably be better to do more  shorter excursions later in the semester than to do just do one big trip to some place that would be more expensive in the long run. So for our plan this week, we have included, hang gliding, wine and bike tour, piercing, dancing, and at some point going to the largest boliche in South America which happens to be very close to Mendoza.

Last night after a lovely day at a Fashion show in the Museum of Contemporary art and after getting holes pierced into our ears at a tattoo shop Emily and I decided on a relatively low key night at the Irish pub for just a couple of beers and some great conversation.

At some point in the evening we got onto the topic of American culture vs. Argentine culture and basically how we just miss almost everything about the U.S. of A. Under normal circumstances if someone were to ask me what I thought of the U.S. prior to this trip, I would probably come up with a bunch of reasons why are government has failed and how our education system is a wreck among other things. However, being in a new country in a new culture has opened up my eyes to just how amazing our country truly is; and I suppose that may be the point of these immersion programs- to provide opportunities of reflection upon our own home country.

So here are a few of the things we have noticed:
- Diversity or the lack there of in this country, we came to the conclusion that although Argentina is known for its immense number of European immigrants, none of those cultures are truly recognized here, whether it is by the examples of restaurants, or clothing stores, or anything really. In the U.S. we are the stereotype of a mixing pot but every culture is represented in some way throughout the culture, whether it is the overabundance of Chipotle's or Thai food, Chinese food, Vietnamese food, Ethiopian food, we have something truly for everyone. If you came to Argentina with any taste for spicy food you will be sorely disappointed.... it is as if they decided they wanted nothing to do with central america so they banished any sort of spice from the country.
 Also on the point of diversity, there is truly no racial diversity here, I come from the D.C. metro area where literally no one looks the same there is such great, beautiful racial diversity there, but here everyone looks the same or looks like someone else, the styles are almost identical (I will have to put up a montage of the current ridiculous pant styles that are here), it was as if one person said this is how everyone should look and they do.

-Family dining: Emily and I seem to have identical expectations for what family dinners should be. Anyone who has ever come to my house for dinner knows, that your cell phone will be put away, we will never answer the house phone, and the television will not be on during the time we are eating together. Family meals are for family time, you eat and talk and laugh and do ridiculous things, it is the time where you can just sit down and hear about what everyone did that day. Here the television is placed so that they only place you are able to watch it is from the dining room table, it will always be on during meals and everyone will have their phones on the table, and furthermore, proceed to answer them during the meal. One thing I miss more than anything from home is probably our family dinners, they are just the most ridiculous things in the world we end up just peeing ourselves from laughter half the time or talking about whatever current plans we have to change the world or current political issues. I tried to do that here once and it just fizzled out. Half of the time my family doesn't even know what's happening in their own country or near to it.

-Independence: In the U.S. it is typical after high school you will go to a college semi-close to your home but far enough where you would have to live on campus with a bunch of strangers you have never met, after college it is perfectly normal to begin to look for an apartment that you may share with roommates or friends until you have the money and the courage to live on your own. Here it is abnormal to see an adult leave their family's home until around thirty or so, there is really no such thing as a college "campus" with "dorms" or apartment style living, because everyone goes to school and lives at home. Furthermore, spending time on your own is queer I will find myself in the plaza just reading a book and I will be the only person not sitting with a huge group of my peers. Emily's mother will ask her several times in a row who she will be hanging out with, or why she isn't going out with friends, or why she is sitting and reading by herself. The idea of independence here is practically nonexistent. I personally love the ability to just have ME time where I can sit and enjoy being around nobody but myself. In the states it is normal to be practically independent by 20 or earlier.

This may have something to do with diversity but I just miss the food we have in the U.S. I miss having options every night for what I feel like eating that day. Here you have choices of a limited sort, tomatoes with lots of salt, potatoes with lots of salt, some type of meet with lots of salt, pasta with lots of salt and butter or quiche type things called tartas with lots and lots of salt. I think my sodium levels are probably off the charts at this point and it might be part of the reason that I am so dehydrated every day. However, there is great food here, they do know how to cook meet really well and have it so full of flavor but most everything else pretty much tastes the same, even their salads have lots and lots of salt on it. I don't understand but I would love to just have some plain vegetables, raw, with nothing on them.

Don't get me wrong, I am loving Argentina, and there are so many incredible things here. This will be my venting post where I just express how much I miss home and how freaking great America is, truly I will appreciate everything so much more when I come home. I suppose it is about time after more than two months of being here to start to miss home.....a lot.

Look forward to my next postings on hang gliding, and wine and biking... should be an interesting and slightly dangerous time!!

En La Casa de Dios

Ok so I am terrible at keeping up with this thin so I'm just going to give you post by post some highlights of last week.

This particular post is going to be about my church going experience thus far in Mendoza Argentina. Title translations is (in the house of God).

For those of you who I haven't told which may be mostly everyone, every sunday afternoon I go to the parque San Martin, which is this huge park with losts of fields and a zoo and a lake and other alternative fun things to do. I go to this park every week to play soccer/futbol. Which in Argentina, and probably most of South America is an activity that is almost unheard of for women to participate. So naturally I find it thrilling when I can juggle the ball more than some of the guys.

 A few weeks ago I went with some of my fellow Americans to the park and we joined this group of young Argentine guys (which is the normal practice since there aren't enough of us American kids to play a game we normally just join the guys already playing). These guys were so different than the ones we normally play with who show off and hog the ball and rarely pass it unless you are screaming at the top of your lungs. These guys would pass the ball and one of them who seemed older than the other would yell at the boys if they kept the ball for too long, the game actually felt like a game of soccer, rather than a lets-see-how-long-and-how-many-tricks-i-can-do-with-the-ball-until-i-score kind of game.

After playing for a few hours we were all exhausted and decided to take a break under the tree and one of the guy's novia (girlfriend) showed up with tea and soda and cookies and asked if we wanted to join them, naturally we accepted the offer. We all got to talking about ourselves where we were from, what we were studying, and so on. Then I asked them how they all knew each other, because it seemed as if they did. One of the older guys replied that they all go to church together and that after church the boys/guys all head to the park to play a few games of soccer. The conversation continued as we all began talking about religion, which made some of those who weren't really religious slightly uncomfortable so eventually topics were changed.

However, as we were all leaving they asked if any of us would like to join them at church some day the younger kids go to hang out on Saturday nights and then there are services on Sundays, I got excited, because even though I don't consider myself to be the most religious person, I still feel comforted by the idea of being in that kind of family community and honestly I thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know more of the language.

So we all exchanged information of e-mail and phone numbers and facebook and headed on our separate ways. We also had made plans to play the following week and from that point on it has become somewhat of a Sunday tradition.

Which brings me to the actual topic of this post...Church. So Pablo one of the guys from the group called me over the course of the week seeing if any of us wanted to go to a boliche(latin dance club) with them and the guys on Friday nights, since most people already had plans we passed, but I did ask him if I could go to church with them that Saturday and Sunday; he said of course and that he would have Ivan come and pick me up from the Plaza Independencia and show me where to go.

I was excited for my first church experience, and I was expecting that we would get there in what is my stereotypical idea of what a church looks like, and sit around and talk about Jesus and things. However, after about a 30 minute bus ride, I realized that we were heading to Godoy Cruz which is on the opposite end of the city and is known to be a slightly dangerous part of town. We got off at the stop and begin walking down this dirt road and then we turn into this white building and Ivan says, "We're here!" I tried to hide my surprise a little as we walk into what looks like the front yard of someone's house, it is beautiful, but so different from anything I would have expected it has a small court yard and white wash stone walls and a very open feeling to it.

He takes me into the main room with all of the pews and up front is the band practicing, Pablo plays the drums, there are two people who play guitar and then everyone sings. THIS is what I was looking for, and they all began to practice, I kept thinking that it was going to be an actual service so I continued to look around to see where the people were, but no more showed up except for some of the younger siblings or children of the band.

After band practice was over I was just hanging out with pablo and some of the other guys and this little guy who looked about my brother's age was messing around with the electric fender lookalike and I asked him if he would play me a song, and he replied that he didn't know how to play but he wanted to learn. So I told him to come over to me and I picked up one of the acoustic guitars and started showing him a bunch of different chords. He picked them up wicked fast, way faster than I ever did, and so I showed him a couple of songs he could play just using the combination of the five or six chords I showed him. It was so incredibly rewarding to see how proud this boy was of what he was learning and so we just sat around and played together for a while. Then Pablo came back in and I was messing around on the drums and he thought it was a good idea to try to teach me how to play.... FAIL. I can't play drums for my life, I mean I started to get it at one point and then tried twirling the sticks and just made a mess of it all.

After indulging in music for a while we all went into the kitchen to start putting together some potted flowers to hand out to the congregation at the service tomorrow, it was so nice just to be doing something with people around. Especially people who are so kind and welcoming, we talked about all things under the sun, and we had a super intense discussion about religion. I tried to explain to them the idea of unitarian religion, which is something I would like to get involved in, but they had no idea- or it got lost in translation. The youth leader kind of understood what I was getting at, and then we began talking about corruption in the church and how sometimes the relevance is lost when reading the bible or trying to interpret it. This is the kind of interaction I have been craving since I arrived here, just pure deep conversation.

Then we just sat around for a while and before I knew it, it was 1:30 am so we were all starving and getting tired and the youth pastor volunteered to drive us all home especially since there was no way that I was going to wait at the bus stop for half an hour waiting for the bus in the middle of Godoy Cruz. So we stuffed all of us into the van and went on a lovely tour of the city. It was so nice to just be around people that I forgot that we were even in Argentina, it just felt like hanging out with old friends which was a great feeling.

The next morning came wayyy to early though, I had to wake up at about 8 in order to get to the bus stop by 930 (it take half an hour from my house to the bus stop by trole) in order to get to the church by 10. I arrived after a short snooze on the bus and was exhausted, Pablo met me at the stop and walked me over to the back courtyard where all the youth and some of the adults were sitting outside in a circle with their bibles out discussing different passages. I was slightly caught off guard because a) i didn't have a bible and b) i have never read from the bible and c) I certainly didn't have a bible in Spanish.

The discussion was short and then we went and headed into the service which was very much like the Lutheran services at home, lots of singing and clapping and some scripture. We also did this one activity where Jesica put a certain number of dots on random peoples faces, and then we all got into groups with our corresponding dot number and went in front of the congregation and either said an individual prayer or quoted scripture. Before this point, I had been pretty slick about not getting noticed as the new American girl, but one of the women in my group made a point to recognize before we spoke, that we are now an "International Group" and I was then introduced. I suppose it was a good thing that way literally everyone in the congregation could come up to me kiss me on the cheek and welcome me to church.

It was a great experience and I will definitely be going back, I miss my family and the congregation back home and it feels really nice to have that kind of inclusiveness back in my life. It will also be an incredibly opportunity to meet new people and see a different side of the culture. My host family is pretty well off and I live in a really nice area, I think it is going to be good to see all the different aspects of the Argentine culture, as well as meet some really great people, and finally practice more Spanish!!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

An Evening of Epic Proportions

I figured I would spend a bit of time reviewing yesterday evening because it was quite an eventful one.

First thing of the night I went with the fam to see my host sister's dance performance the event was called Estudio Estrella "A Flor de Piel" Flamenco. The entire time my jaw was legitimately on the floor in awe. I for one really can't dance to save my life, club dancing is one thing where I can just go to whatever beat I want, but real choreographed dancing is just beyond my abilities.

A few things to note about the dances however, for one thing no one smiles...ever I think the idea is to show how intense and strong women are but it came off just looking like they were about to spit at the audience members. Also, although overall the dances were incredible there was just one solo dance that I just didn't get... I have no idea what it is called but whatever it is the English translation should be "how to dance with one's clothing," the girl who I believe was the main choreographer seemed to be struggling a great deal to get her flowy flamenco looking train of a dress to move the way she wanted to, and then she began dancing with her shawl but ended up just getting tangled in it. Other than that one dance it was all really incredible, it was like watching STOMP with a latin flair it was amazing!!

After this lovely event I had made plans to meet up with some friends at Casa Usher which is a Jazz bar/club on San Martin and Maipu, I thought I was running late so I decided to take a taxi.... I told the taxi driver to take me to the intersection of Maipu and San Martin, however, I did not specify what side of the city I wanted him to take me and so he assumed I meant Godoy Cruz...which is the least popular destination at night time. Furthermore, not knowing this I get out of the taxi and frantically start calling my friends to see where they were, it was at this time that I realize that not only had my friends not left yet, but I was also on the exact opposite end of the city that I wanted to be. So I ask a friendly looking local for directions and hop on a trole hoping that it would go the direction I wanted, it did but naturally I was too nervous to trust the advice of said local so I get off at a semi-familiar looking stop on the other end of the city. BAD IDEA, not only was it way too late for a young girl to be walking the streets alone, it was definitely not a good area, so I begin to walk towards the direction that I think I'm supposed to be going, and eventually I find the place. However, once I arrive I realize that my friends still haven't left their house so for about an hour or so I pretend to talk on the phone avidly in Spanish as if on a very important business call..... that is what I do when I feel uncomfortable and alone in public places who knows if it's a good idea or not.

After my friends arrive we spend approximately twenty minutes at Casa Usher and then we decide to meet up with some friends who were going to a local(ish) house party of some random Argentine acquaintance.  So we meet up with a group of our Argentine friends who had told us about the party and we try to pile in as many people as we can into the cars we had available. Once we got to the party (which was after a highly dangerous and potentially life-threatening car ride) we finally relax and learn to  have a  great time. The party was totally my scene playing some really great indie-rock American music with the majority of the attendees sporting really wicked hipster garb we seemed to fit right in. So we danced the night away making friends and kind of making fools of ourselves, for the remainder of the evening. So I suppose it was a successful night, I finally relaxed and de-stressed a little bit after the ridiculosity that I had put myself through, but at least I know the city a little bit more... I just hope I don't have to go through the same process next time...