Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Coming Home: Life After Study Abroad

Being home has been great and well, weird. It's a bit like walking back into a life that isn't yours anymore. Despite how it felt, people moved on with their lives while I was gone. My sister's belly has gotten so big! My brother has moved into his own place. Even the animals have gotten chubbier. While at first it was a bit disorienting, it's now become more and more evident that things won't be the same way that they were before I left. Because not only has everyone else changed, I've changed and that's a bit hard to deal with.

Sharing some Argentine culture with my family!
Luckily, the usual boredom that accompanies returning back from an exciting trip abroad will be short 
lived, because I have so much to look forward to! With a baby on the way, a million friends to reunite with and my final semester of school fast approaching, I have no shortage of things to do. 

One of the biggest things that has come with coming home though is the questions! Which believe me are not a problem because I could blabber on about Argentina for hours (oops already do!). But there are some really common questions I get that I know find hilarious because they seem so obvious after having lived and breathed the Argentine lifestyle for four months. So I decided to address the most common questions I get!

Question 1: Did you just stick out everywhere as an American?

Like most big cities, Buenos Aires is a total melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. But it turns out that Argentines, at least the ones in BA are generally very "white." Like the United States they are a country of European immigrants and the majority of the indigenous people were marginalized and live in the rural areas. So, in short I didn't really stand out from the locals that bad, until I started talking that is!

Question 2: Did you just eat Mexican food all the time?

I did a post previously on the most common foods I ate in Argentina, but generally it was a little bland in flavor compared to what I'm use to (lots of Mexican). Not to say it wasn't good but sugar and salt were the only spices we really used.

Also it was SO MUCH BREAD. Pretty much everything was breaded or involved bread in the meal. Now I love bread just as much as the next girl but it took it's toll. Besides bread, every meal included meat and a lot of it. Argentina is not a vegetarian friendly country!

Question 3: Did your family speak English?

If you haven't seen some of my previous posts, you should know that I adored my host family. They were a huge factor in making it an incredible experience. Fortunately, my host mom spoke English which allowed me to have more in-depth conversations about the culture, politics, history that would have been impossible with my limited vocabulary. But I spoke to my host Dad and sisters only in Spanish which was great practice!

Overall, I was surprised at how few people spoke English in the city. In the tourist areas it was pretty common but once you venture out you are probably on your own with whatever Spanish you can speak.

Now that it's done I'm excited to get started with my next adventure! As of right now the plan is to go to Spain/Italy? this summer. I've also applied for a Fulbright Grant to teach English in Malaysia but that wouldn't be till January 2015, if I get it. Even though I'm not totally sure of my future right now I'm excited to see what happens!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Fair Well Argentina

In just a few hours I get on a plane to leave for home. I'm feeling such mixed emotions I don't even know what to say. It's that bittersweet feeling of being happy to go home but know that you're leaving the place that has become a home. In a rare moment that I don't have words to express what I'm feeling I've decided to just put pictures of my favorite memories. Disfruta (enjoy). 

Making music videos with these girls.
Finding this girl again after 10 years.

Getting shushed in a museum

Hiking in the Andes

Hanging out with tigers

The countless selfies JJ took on everyone's phones.

Swimming in the ocean when it was 50 degrees out.

The multiple attempts to break in at Recoleta

The fear is real.

Seeing this in real life!


Feeding a baby tiger.

Everything about this night. Oh Mendoza.
Family dinners, even by flashlight

So many things happened on this trip and we all changed so much. It's clique but studying abroad taught me so much about myself. I'll never forget you Argentina! Now just wish me luck that my flight all goes well this time!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Chau Chicos!!

Before coming to Argentina I had thought about all the amazing things I would do, the beautiful sights I would see, and the adventures I would have. I never really factored in who I would be sharing all of those experiences with. While I think I prepared myself to miss my family and friends back home, the fact that I'll be going home is always in my mind. What I didn't think about was all the wonderful people I would meet and all the relationships I would make during my time abroad.

Taken by the guy with a broken arm, hilarious.

Today I said good bye (though not forever!) to my gang. It was a bittersweet moment because as much as I want to be home, I don't want to lose all of these people. Over the course of four months we've shared so much more than what usually happens between friends I've had for years. Now that this is over, they will be the only people who can really understand what all the name, Argentina applies when we say it.

We've shared countless laughs together and tears too. Together we've watched each other become different people than we were before we stepped off that plane and into this adventure. It's a bond I never expected to be making but I'm so glad I did. There are a lot of great people I've met here that I will probably never see or hear from ever again but I'm happy I got the chance to meet them. I hope that they got as much from our relationships as I did from them.

Gotta love our gansta poses.
Even if my group never gets back together again, though I really hope we do, I just hope they know how much I love them. We're a family and they helped make my experience here in Argentina what it has been. At the end of the day I don't think I'm going to remember the frustrating times but rather the great times and the bond that we created.

I thought I would come home from Argentina more experienced about the world and with memories of cool places I saw. But it turns out I'm coming back with something so much better, a whole new set of people to love!

So if you're reading this, remember it's not chau it's nos vemos because we will see each other again!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We took care of the body.

Just in time for halloween one of the strangest and creepiest things I've done to date happened with my host family in Entre Rios. It involved opening a real coffin, dealing with a skeleton, and black trash bags. Believe me, it's just a strange as it sounds!

For the background of the story, we were spending the weekend at my host grandma's casa in Concepcion del Uruguay, Entre Rios. This house has been in the family for a very, very long time and they've had the same neighbors for all of that time also. About 3 months ago the man who lived in the neighboring house passed away. Instead of burying people in the ground like we do it the states, they put the caskets in wall crypts and they also don't embalm the body so you can sometimes smell them decomposing which is disgusting! The man's daughter, who now owns the house lives in the US currently and asked my host family if they could do a big favor.

Because Bob Ross
Like I said, they are buried in wall crypts that must be paid for, like rent, to keep your family member there. The daughter didn't want to have to pay for 2 crypts when she could just combine them into one location so she asked us to go and move her grandmother's body into the same crypt as her dad. I ASSUMED that meant that we would need to move to coffin to a new area, but then we had to stop to pick up black trash bags and I got a little worried...

We went to the cemetery and got some of the employees to open up the mother's crypt. The brought along a shove and a broom which made me even more worried than I originally was. The pulled the coffin out and laid in on the ground then pried it open with the shovel rather ungracefully. With no gloves they reached in and began pulling out the bones and shoving them into a black trash bag. I saw the skull and a foot that hadn't decomposed for some reason. It was a train wreck you couldn't look away from. I should also note that my family was a freaked out as I was this whole time.

After they picked through the decomposed remains of the fabric and wood they decided they had gotten all of the body and wiped their brows (EWWWWW) and knotted up the bag. They then opened the son's crypt and shoved the bag in beside the coffin, thank god they didn't open his!

It was just so disrespectful and gross and weird. That's also why I have no pictures, I didn't want to add to the disrespect we were already doing this woman. Her name was Argentina, which I found kind of funny and she died in 1958. Hopefully she doesn't come back to haunt us.

After that we were all kind of in shock as to what we had just saw and went to visit the grave of my host mom's father and some other relatives. As we were doing this we saw the three men pushing past a cart with the remains of the coffin on it. A piece of the once white but now brown and gross fabric flew off onto the path.

It was the most bizarre experience I've ever had in my whole life. My host family told me that, that is NOT a common thing and it was extremely freaky to them also but at least I have an awesome story now!

It's one of those things that just makes me say, only in Argentina!!

Happy Halloween!!! Celebrate extra hard for me since Argentina is silly and doesn't celebrate the best holiday of the year.


Why begging me to kiss you doesn't work.

One of the biggest things that's put a damper on my time here in Argentina is absolute lack of respect men have for women (generally, there are exceptions). I understood before I came here that guys would act differently than at home. They would be more aggressive and forward. I thought I was okay with that, I mean how bad can it be? They just think I'm really hot right? Well turns out it's significantly more bothersome than I thought it would be. I previously wrote a post about street harassment in Argentina, here. But for the moment I would like to talk about the lack of understanding that no means no.

First, I'll give you my little anecdote that brought on my need to discuss this. While I was having a lovely weekend in Iguazu we met some local guys that seemed really cool. We agreed to go out to a club with them. Luckily they didn't speak a lick of English so we could tell each other if we felt uncomfortable really easily because they couldn't understand.

The night was great for a while we danced in a pretty non-sexual way, compared to dancing in the states. I mean the majority of the time you're a good foot or two away from your partner. At some point during the night the guy I was dancing with tried to kiss me. I pulled away and he apologized, perdon, perdon lo siento! I told him it was okay and continued to dance.

The second time he tried, because if at first you don't succeed try, try again, I told him that I didn't feel comfortable kissing someone in a public place. In retrospect that was a bad choice of words but cut me some slack because I had to explain it another language.

When it came time to walk home is when things got rough. (Note: I in no way whatsoever felt threatened or unsafe, if I had I promise that I would have gotten away!) We had a good 15 minute walk back to the hostel, normally the same distance I walk to school everyday, expect this felt like hours.

As soon as we exited the club the guy attempted to kiss me again which I deflected. He then argued with me the entire walk home about why I wouldn't kiss him. I told me that I didn't feel comfortable making out in the street with a perfect stranger and that in the states that's not how we do it (which could possibly be a lie, but oh well!). I just kept repeating that I was classy and didn't want to kiss a guy I didn't know.

He countered that in Argentine culture that was how you did it and we're in Argentina. He also repeatedly called it a "gift." I'm try to give you a "gift." I hope I don't need to explain to much how disgusting this rhetoric is to a female.

Just because it's a part of your culture in no way justifies forcing yourself on girls. What if I kicked him between the legs and then explained that, that was "just American culture" so he should deal with it? Sexual habits are a personal choice that may be influenced by your culture, but are not dictated by it.

Then we come to the a kiss is a gift comment. So now I'm suppose to rejoice that I have been given the gift of your mouth on my face! As a woman I should feel "lucky" that you are willing to kiss me because it's such a great honor. Thanks, but no thanks.

After we made it back to the hostel, I slammed the door in his face when he said that the reason I didn't want to kiss him was because he was indigenous. (Because yes, I'm racist and that's why I didn't want to accept his wonderful gift to women.) I was disgusted for his behavior ruining a perfectly wonderful evening and found out my friend had been battling a similar situation about not wanting to spend the night at the other guys house.

The most ironic part of all of this is that if he had simply accepted it when I said I didn't want to kiss him time, I probably would have at the end of the night when we were back at the hostel. But the way he completely disrespected my choice to say no just made me disgusted with him. What he didn't seem to realize was that there is an inverse relationship between how many times you ask to kiss me and how likely I am to actually kiss you.

So why is this such a big problem? He just wanted to kiss me right? I shouldn't be overreacting. WRONG!!! This is a perfect example of what rape culture is. The idea that when a girl says no she doesn't really mean it. While I'm not accusing him of being a rapist, the fact that he just couldn't accept no about a kiss can only lead you to believe that he probably wouldn't accept no about sex either.

Assuming that I must want him because I'm a female and we are all just dying for men to offer to make out with us, shows a sharp divide that many men have about perception and reality. They can't seem to perceive no for what it is, a no. Women aren't as complicated as they seem to think. If I wanted to kiss him I would have, simply as that. But when I said I didn't want to he should have dropped it and respected my choice.

If you have to beg anyone to do anything sexual with you then you are perpetrating rape culture and disrespecting our right to choose who we share our body with. So the next time a girl politely declines to kiss you or go back to your room stop asking or she may slap you and go off on a rant about rape culture, which I totally would have if I had the vocabulary to explain it in Spanish.

Moral of the story is that anything but enthusiastic consent means stop trying! Lucky for me, I didn't feel like the situation was threatening and had other people around me. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation and in anyway feel threatened don't be afraid to make a scene or get out. Believe me, I'm not against simply screaming at a dude to go away if he isn't taking a hint. Always worry about your personal safety first!

Have you had a similar experience? How did you choose to handle it? Let me know!


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Iguazu Falls!

One of the biggest attractions in Argentina is the chance to see the waterfalls at Puerta Iguazu, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I'll first warn you that pictures in no way can do justice to the spectacular sight that is the waterfalls. It was probably the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. A must see if you ever find yourself in the area.

We had just went under that!
The down side of this trip was that we had to ride a bus for 20(!!!!!) hours to get there, semi coma. It was quite a long ride but definitely worth it. Plus I had my friend Alicia, the only other girl who can talk as much as me, along for the ride!

Alicia and I!

We got there in the early afternoon so we didn't have enough time to do the whole park that the falls are located in that day. Also we were pretty worn out and gross feeling from the bus ride over. So instead we walked around the small town of Puerta Iguazu and got lost. One of the first things we noticed was that people are so much more friendly than what we usually get in Buenos Aires. I imagine it's just a city thing. But while we were trying to decide what beer to get, because they didn't have Quilmes (which if you've ever been to Argentina is shocking because that's ALL we drink), we meet a nice guy named Eduardo that wanted to hang out with us later. We told him we could get drinks at the bar at our hostel later. The best part was he didn't speak a lick of English so we were forced to use Spanish.

A view of the lower trail from the upper!

Some other people we met during our stay was a hilarious older woman from England named Shelia that just thought American's English was weird, a super sweet Australian couple that didn't know any Spanish, and some locals that worked as rangers in the Park.

At the Falls on Saturday, we decided to just go all in and do the all inclusive package. I mean we're only here once and in reality it wasn't actually that expensive ($50 American). It included a 30 minute safari ride through the jungle (you could choose to do this in English but we did it in Spanish because kind of the reason we're here), a boat ride to go underneath the falls on both sides of them, and then a peaceful ride in a raft down river to see the wild life.

The Devil's Throat, it was so big I couldn't get it in one picture!

Going underneath the falls was amazing. There is no view more impressive than that and everyone was screaming like it was a rollercoaster. During the raft ride we got to see an alligator, monkey's, and a tucan, all wild! I've never actually seen animals like that in their natural habit and there's just something about it that makes it so much better than a zoo.

Coati! It will steal your food and has no fear of humans
That evening we were exhausted and a bit sunburned but since it was our last night there were couldn't turn down the offer to go try out a new boliche (club) with the park rangers we met. They also couldn't speak any English at all which lead to some major confusion on my part. One of them Peheun (he's from the Yucatan Peninsula, in Patagonia, so that is not a common Spanish name, it's definitely indigenous) was try to explain his job to me which I didn't quite understand. I thought he said that his friends and him caught jaguars and made them pets. What he was trying to say was that they tagged jaguars with trackers to research where they weren't and help prevent poaching and them getting hit by cars, much better!

No words needed!

Among our little gang was the two rangers, Peheun and Julio, and a lovely Colombian guy and a French guy that works at the hostel. We were quite the eclectic little group. The boliche was super fun, we danced reggatone the whole time. Except when the YMCA came on and I was the only person that knew the right hand motions. It was also interesting that we were the only light skinned people in the whole place. Besides Buenos Aires, people look much more what you would imagine a South American to look like. We definitely drew attention for a bit when we walked in though. It was not a tourist spot and to far from any hostel for travelers to probably just wonder in. It was nice to hear real Spanish music and not all the Rhianna remixes they always play in the clubs in Buenos Aires.

Overall our trip was amazing and exhausting. I now have a bit of a tan, got to talk solely in Spanish for quite a while and saw one of the seven natural wonders of the world!

If you're ever in the area we stayed at the Marco Polo Hostel which I HIGHLY recommend. It was very affordable but made it very easy to meet people and the staff were extremely friendly!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Weekend at Mar Del Plata

In honor of Cristobal Colon Day this Monday we had long weekend. As much as I would like to go into the irony of it all, especially in South America where many indigenous people are still oppressed I will instead just tell you about my lovely trip!

I've been dying to go to the beach and convinced my friends that, despite the not so warm temperatures we should try to do it anyway. Mar del Plata, meaning Sea of Silver was a lovely beach city. Because we were there in the off season it was pretty quiet and much cleaner than Buenos Aires. While I really enjoyed the city, there isn't much to do besides the beach, especially if it's not summer time.

I had just accidentally soaked my pants.

The temperatures ranged between low 50- 60s most of the weekend only getting hot (72) on the day that we were leaving. But we didn't let that stop us! While Argentines in winter coats watched we got into our bikini's and ran into the freezing (REALLY REALLY FREEZING) ocean. It probably wasn't the brightest idea, but I don't seem to be sick yet!

It's much colder than it looks!

Because of the weather and lack of other activities we spent a lot of time at the hostel, which was really fantastic! The owner was super nice and genuinely helpful. She spoke both English and Spanish and we spent a good couple of hours chatting about politics, economics, and the US with her. She also let us sat past check out time so we could go to the beach one last time before we caught a bus back to Buenos Aires. If you're ever in Mar del Plata I would highly recommend the Hotel Pergamino, it was a great experience.

It was super foggy Sunday.

We cooked all our meals, had some great life chats, and slept on the beach. All in all it was a fantastic lazy weekend!

Alcohol and Rape: Intoxication Doesn't Equal Consent

In light of the massive outrage over the story of Daisy Coleman I thought it would be appropriate to discuss a very serious flaw we have in our logic concerning rape. Daisy is a girl from Maryville, MO that was allegedly raped, dropped on to her front lawn in freezing temperatures, and then harassed to the point of having to move. Her alleged rapist was let off the hook entirely, with no explanation. While this story is most definitely tragic, it's not the first of it's kind. A common factor in this particular case and many others in alcohol and what that means towards your consent.

But let's talk about what the fact that she willing drank alcohol means in terms of her being raped.... NOTHING.

Unfortunately, this may actually be a radical idea, that a female choosing to drink alcohol in no way makes her at fault for her rape. To often we hear the "she was asking for it" or "she shouldn't have been drinking" as ways to justify men's horrific actions against women. During the Stubenville trial the defenders of the men convicted held the fact that the girl chose to get drunk as reason enough for it to be okay to sexual assault her.

Maybe you're having your doubts. You're not sure if it can really be rape if a girl voluntarily put herself in that position. But let's think about the implications of that thought process. Essentially that means that as a female I shouldn't drink alcohol because then I'm putting myself in a position to be raped. I shouldn't wear revealing clothing because I'm asking to be raped. Hell, I shouldn't leave the house because then I put myself in the way of men that may attempt to rape me. While it seems dramatic it's exactly what that ideology applies. We have a word for it and it's called rape culture.

Our society has a major problem of deeming women as the reason behind their sexual assaults. I'm not meaning people that are radical, chauvinist extremist but everyday people who would probably say they consider women as completely equal. Rape culture, the ideologies that help to blame the victims for their assaults, is something so engrained in our society it's nearly sub-conscience.

We instantly try to rationalize a reason for what that girl could have done to protect herself. Why do we never stop and ask why we even need to worry about protecting ourselves?

I won't walk down dark alley's alone or get into a strangers car or accept a drink from someone I don't know, but the problem is that, that isn't enough. Rapists are not psycho's or creepy old men, they're men that you may feel comfortable around. They're boys that you thought were cute. They're someone you know. Over 2/3rd's of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Just let that soak in.

The question shouldn't be what did she do wrong, but rather what is society doing wrong in that so many men can't understand why having sex with an intoxicated or otherwise girl is wrong?

Instead of teaching me how to "protect" myself by essentially limiting my personal freedoms, why aren't we teaching men how to not be the criminal.

I shouldn't have to be afraid to have a drink because someone may take advantage of me. I live in hope of the day where I can drink, dress, and go where I want without living in fear that someone may take that as my consent their sexual advances. While sometimes that seems hopeless, it can only happen if we start the conversation and change our ideology.

So rather than saying "no means no" let's start saying, ONLY YES MEANS YES. Anything less, is not consensual. I don't have to say no for a man to realize that having sex with a highly intoxicated person is wrong, that should be a no brainer.

Honestly, I could go on about this for days but I'll leave it at this. It breaks my heart that I feel so compelled to explain why this is a problem and I look forward to time where it is universally understood.

Most Sincerely,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pilgrimage to Lujan: First 60km Walk

Many of you are probably completely confused as to why the heck anyone was walking 60km (almost 40 miles) and have no idea what I mean by pilgrimage. So I'll briefly give you the basics of why 2.5 million people intentionally did this to themselves this weekend.

Argentina as you may already know is a predominately Catholic country, the current pope is actually from Buenos Aires (love you Papa Francisco!). Like many other Catholic countries Argentina has a patron saint, Our Lady of Lujan. You may have heard of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patron of Mexico.  Every year a pilgrimage is made from Buenos Aires to the small city of Lujan in celebration of the fest day of Our Lady of Lujan. The purpose is not to raise money or protest, it's more about spiritual enlightenment and personal sacrifice. 

Our Lady of Lujan

My host parents are both devout Catholics and do the walk every year, though they've never finished the whole thing. When they asked me to go I thought it would be an interesting experience and also a really cool insight into my own personal Catholic faith. But I had no idea how hard it would be. 

Starting at 12PM in the afternoon we began walking from Buenos Aires with thousands of other people. We were organized into groups with our churches and each group carried a statue of St. Lujan. On the cart holding the statues were loud speakers over which they played music, lead prayers, and asked trivia questions during the walk to keep people entertained. 

Just a constant stream of people.

The first few hours weren't too bad. People were gathered on the street cheering for us, traffic was stopped as thousands of people swarmed the streets, and there was an overall sense of excitement in the air. We had 5 "check points" at which we stopped and were given snacks, water, and had the opportunity to rest our feet for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, these check points were about every 3 hours or so and were about 6-10 miles apart. 

By about 7PM it was starting to wear on me, not only physically, but mentally. My left foot was killing me and I could have sworn I had a blister on the bottom of my foot, but nothing was there. I chalked it up all being in my head and decided to keep going. At every check point you have the option of riding the bus to the end point to meet everyone. 

By 10PM I was dying. My foot was in so much pain I had to bite my lip to keep from crying. I could see that everyone else around me was also not feeling their best so I just smiled and responded bien! each time they asked how I was doing. I didn't want to be a baby. That last hour was the longest of my entire life it felt like. I just kept thinking, just around this bend we'll get to stop. Just go a little further you can make it.

We finally reached the next check point in La Reja at 11PM and had people there to rub out our sore muscles. I had a lovely little boy named Manuel that knew a few words in English. My brain was just to exhausted to even attempt to process Spanish at that point. I was done. There was no way in hell I was going to keep going for another stretch of 3 or 4 hours. I knew I was at my breaking point and I needed to just stop, even though it was embarrassing to see people much older than me continue on. 

Once on the bus, I immediately passed out into a coma and didn't wake till we were in Lujan at 6AM the next morning. Going to mass outside the beautiful Cathedral with hundreds of thousands of other Catholics, limping, and dragging themselves along was amazing. People were just so overwhelmed with the emotions of the moment. That they had made. It was a beautiful thing to see. 

This was packed full of people.

When I got back home I checked out my feet more closely and realized I had a blister larger than a quarter on the sole of my left foot, no wonder it hurt so bad. Also several of my toes were bleeding from chaffing and I still haven't regained full feeling in my left pinky toe (3 days later). I'm glad I stopped when I did, 20 miles was plenty enough for me. 

I get that a lot of people can't understand why this was so important or spiritually enlightening. My friends and classmates definitely didn't. But I think it was the fact that this wasn't a cultural experience for me as much as it was also a religious experience. It was testing yourself and faith along side of 2.5 million other believers. Something I'll probably never get a chance to ever do again. 

While there is no way I would ever do this again I'm glad that I can say that I did. So if you're ever in Buenos Aires around the beginning of October consider checking it out. 


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lujan Zoo and Petting Tigers!

In the United States the most exciting things my weekends usually consisted of was a trip to Half Price Books and a cafe, definitely not the case in Buenos Aires. This Saturday I got to do something that I definitely wouldn't have been able to do at home, or anywhere in the US I'm pretty sure. I got to pet and feed (just milk) real life, full grown tigers. It was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my

It practically poses for the picture.
The zoo in Argentina that allowed us to do this was located in the middle of nowhere about 1.5- 2 hours away from the city center of Buenos Aires. I'll be honest, the bus isn't super fun because you're not guaranteed a seat but it only costs $AR15 which is like less than $2 so I can't complain. If you're wondering what bus, you take either bus 57 or 11 that says Lujan on the front. Just tell the driver to take you to Lujan Zoo and they should know what you're talking about. It also only costs $AR150 ($25) to get into the zoo which gives you access to all the animals and a free camel ride. The only extra things you would pay for is food. It's completely worth it's insanely cheap price.

Giving a tiger a belly rub!
While petting the tigers was beyond amazing, the rest of the zoo wasn't quite so stellar. The animals cages were extremely small and had way to many animals in one pen. It looked more like a persons back yard than a zoo. They didn't look malnourished but the horses, llamas, and the other animals shoved in with them could have definitely used a little help. Their fur was dirty and matted and they were cramped in an over crowed pen.

Can you find the random camel?

People also claim that the animals, the ones you touch at least, were drugged. I'm still not sure if I think that's true or not. They did seem very sleepy and lethargic when we were petting them though. An hour or two later after they were feed and we weren't allowed to pet them anymore, they seemed much more active and playful. The zoo claims the reason the tigers, lions, and bears are so calm is because they are well feed and are raised with dogs. Seeing a tiger and a dog rough house is quite a sight.

Just hanging out in it's cage.

Unfortunately, it rained very heavily before we got to ride camels and touch the elephants. The zoo didn't close because of the rain, but nearly all the workers left. It was completely deserted, just us and the animals which was kind of cool.

This llama was all in my business

Before petting the tigers, something I'll probably never get a chance to do again in my life, I thought I would be really scared. But they were really more like oversized cats that were tolerating your presence. The ones to watch out for were the llamas roaming around wanting food. They would get right in your face!

Managed to get this beautiful shot

While I'm not sure I completely approve of the zoo's conditions it was an absolutely incredible experience. I can add tigers to the list of exotic animals I have petted now, along with dolphin's the summer before last. I hope this isn't the last of my animal adventures (hint, hint Kale Turner).


Friday, September 27, 2013

What I LOVE about Argentina

Living in a foreign country definitely has it's challenges. I didn't realize quite how different living in a place was from simply visiting or vacationing there until I did. Argentina and I have had a lot of ups and downs. Some days I hated it here and I just wanted to go home, while other days I was in complete amazement at how wonderful it was here. Well though I still have about 6 weeks left I've decided to make my decision on Argentina and the truth is I love it.

I think the relationship you develop with your new country of residency is very similar to the relationship you have with your family members. You love them. But sometimes you just can't stand them. In the end though you always know in your heart that they are special to you. So in light this I decided to share with you what I love about Argentina and will dearly miss when I'm back home in the USA. 

5. Balconies Everywhere!

So this is probably a strange thing to love, but I love it anyway. Every apartment has balconies and many people put flowers and plants on them. When it comes time to water them people don't really have much regard for others that have to walk below them. This leads to the occasionally thinking a rain cloud has happened just over you. So it's important to walk closer to the building to avoid dripping from the edge of the balcony. 

I think I love this because it's just so unexpected and comical. It startles me from my thoughts and usually makes me laugh. I guess it's just a part of city life but I've grown to kind of like it. 

4. Dog Walkers

The dog walkers are the most entertaining thing I think I've ever seen. Usually, they are walking between 10 and 20 dogs at a time of all different sizes. Why so many people living in a city choose to buy large dogs I will never know. The best though is when they run into another dog walker and it's just a chaotic mix of a million dogs barking at each other and tangling in each others leashes. I think someday I would like to do that job just for how hilarious I would look. 

3. Tea Time

At first I totally hated having to wait for dinner till 9PM. Well I still kind of do because I'm starving by then! But tea time makes it so much better. Between 5-7PM everyone goes to take tea with each other either in their houses or the cafes and just catch up on their day and life. 

What a lovely practice! Socializing and making time for friends is very important in Argentina culture and I think it's just a wonderful thing that I wish happened more frequently in the US. 

2. Dulce de Leche

What can I say about Dulce de Leche that hasn't already been said? Basically it's the most delicious substance ever. It combines my love of candy, carmel, and spreading those things on food all into one fantastic treat. I'm bringing loads of this home and I'll be happy to share! Until I get down to my last jar of course... 

Heaven on a spoon.

1. The Passion 

My most favorite thing though would have to be the passion of the Portenos. They are seriously so passionate about everything they do. Of course futbol is a very big deal in their culture but it's not the only thing they get heated about. Ask anyone about Evita Peron, the current President Kristina Krichner, or Sarmiento/Rosas and they will give you their opinion like it they were personally there for whatever happened. 

In the US we are very passionate about our country, our holidays, and yes we get excited or upset about our politicians. But it doesn't come close to the way Argentine people feel. There are Presidents and politicians I very, very much dislike (here's looking at you Todd Akin). But regardless of how much I dislike them I would never wish ill will on them because at the end of the day they're people and it's just politics. I don't think the same can be said here in Argentina. A friend of mine actually heard a Porteno say that he was glad Eva died of cancer. That's pretty crazy to say! Especially about a political figure that wasn't even alive at the same time as him. Argentines are great people, they just get very into what they feel. 

So there you have it. My favorite things about Argentina that I don't feel like I'll find, in quite the same way anywhere else in the world. Of my love/hate relationship with Argentina I've finally decided on love. 



Monday, September 23, 2013

Let's talk about my host family.

After nearly 2 and a half months living here I can now say that it truly feels like home. Everything that once nearly brought me to tears with frustration (please take note that I'm just a crier in general) like ordering or asking directions has now become simple. In fact I think I've become more comfortable doing things alone and asking for help here than I ever was in US. Having a wonderful family also helps that immensely.

I know I say this all the time but I just can't talk enough about how great my host family is to me. I really, truly feel like I am a member of the family not just a student they are taking care of in exchange for compensation. We laugh at dinner when I accidentally say a dirty because of my miss pronouncations. We get very intense about what's happening in our soap operas, which I vaguely understand now!

From our music videos!
And my host sisters come to my room all the time wanting to make music videos and watch movies. When it's rainy out we curl up with blankets and popcorn and have a Chucky marathon. My youngest sister, Paloma wraps herself around my arm and asked every 2 minutes. Ahora? Ahora? Maybe I'm not doing studying abroad the right way because I don't spend all my days going out and seeing new things and partying at the boliches. But for me, having a family I can call my own in Argentina is something that will stick with me for a lifetime. These are the kinds of people that years down the road I imagine I'll still be talking to and that will bring me back to Argentina again to visit them. They're more than a host family, they're my family and I'm already dreading having to leave them so much.

We can do this ALL DAY
I can't wait to see my own family and sometimes seeing how happy the girls are when their dad gets home from a trip gives me a pang of wanting to see my own dad. But the way that I am hugged and treated just like a daughter or a sister makes the whole experience so much better and easier.

It would be pretty easy to treat your host family as simply a home to stay in while you're on your out of the country adventure. But I think it's a great opportunity to add new people to your list of family. I can say that about not only my Argentine padres and hermanas, but also my Argentine grandparents that I love.

While it's not the easiest thing in the world, really trying to have a connection with your host family can be life changing and take your experience to a whole new level. Instead of staying in your room sit in the kitchen or living room or where ever they gather. Help out around the house, by doing the dishes in the sink when you have a minute or helping with clean-up even when you aren't asked. Your willingness to be a full member of the family won't go unnoticed or unappreciated.

But I think the most important key is to ask questions and listen. They're probably a host family because they want to share their culture with you. Give them an opportunity to do so! I know more about my host parents history, views, and what's going on in their lives than I do most other people. They're the best tools for learning you have so don't waste it.

I apologize for once again going on a giant rant about my family but they're just soooo wonderful and they have made a huge impact on my experience here!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lost in Translation: Argentine Culture

Sorry I haven't updated in so long, life has been crazy. This week is also midterms which means I'm halfway done. Crazy!!!

Now having spent over 2 months living the Argentine life there are somethings that are just incomparable to American culture. When trying to explain their significance I just can't think of anything that is as universally important in the United States. So I thought I would share a few of these things with you, because they're really quite interesting!


Mate (pronounce mah-tay) is a strong sort of herbal tea drink that is a defining feature of Argentine life. As my host Mom says, mate solves everyones problems. Essentially it's a cup filled with ground tea leaves that you pour hot, but not boiling (that's important) water over. Then you drink it through this straw/spoon contraption. Personally, it's a little bit on the bitter side for me. Though I like the dulce mate, which is sweet.

Mate Being Shared: Source

What makes mate so special is that it is a drink to be shared. Typically you make a cup of mate and then everyone drinks from the same one. It's not strange to share it like sharing a group cup would be in the US. You also drink it generally all day long. I think that mate is the reason that Argentines are also able to stay so thin while eating basically all carb meals. Drinking mate curbs your appetite and keeps you from snacking throughout the day between meals, like many Americans do.

It's common to see people walking around caring their thermoses of hot water and mate cup in the smaller towns, though not as common in Buenos Aires. It's a drink that has the power to bring people and families together and though I'm not a fan I think it's a really great tradition.


This one is a bit of a dead horse, in that most of us already know of Latin American's passion for soccer, so I won't go on long. But I don't think I realized how different their love of soccer here is then our love of say, American football in the United States. Sure we all sort of know that there are teams and a ball is involved, but chances are if you're not a sports person, like my mom, you don't know players, team names, or any actual facts. 

Lionel Messi: Source
But here you know who the players are like you would know who the President of your country is, regardless of if you like the sport or watch it. The players are treated like celebrities even long after they retire which is something that is pretty rare in the US. We just don't really have a single sport that has quite the same cult following. Even I can identify some of the players, which is more than I can say about most American athletes. Above is Lionel Messi, a player from Argentine who is supposedly the very best in the world. 

Eva Peron

I've briefly mentioned Evita Peron before when I posted about Recoleta Cemetery where she is famously buried. I would highly suggest you look this women up because her story is just extremely weird and fascinating. She was the wife of former President Juan Domingo Peron and has became all but a mythological person in Argentine history. Her supporters have claimed that she's a martyr, though she died of cancer, and said that she performed miracles after her death. 

Evita: Source

People today still have heated opinions on whether or not she was as great a person as they say. I can't really think of any woman that has had the same impact and causes as much emotion in American history. Essentially, she helped her husband start the Peronist political movement which was the party of the labor workers. She loved the people and would personally help all the labor workers with their financial and personal problems. She was loved like an idol by them and that power continued on after her death. 

Basically, her embalmed body was seen as a symbol of Peronism and therefore the opposing military regime that took over tried to dispose of it. But, everyone (no really) kept falling in love with the corpse and obsessing over it. She died in 1954 and was not returned to Argentina and laid to rest until the late 1970s. It's a pretty interesting story. 

But regardless, there is no person in US I can possibly think of that had that kind of influence over people, even after death. The fascination with her physical remains is a macabre, but really interesting part of Argentine history that is interesting to discuss with an Argentine person as they will have mixed opinions. 

So there you have it. Some of the many things that simply don't have equal counterparts in American culture. They're things you can read about, but you can't quite understand until you experience them first hand here in the country and I'm so lucky that I've been able to!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

I'm Not Adventurous: Finding Myself in Argentina

A couple days ago I got a new roommate in my host parents house (she’s totally great!) and we were just talking a little bit about ourselves and our lives back home and I said, “I’m not really adventurous.” It wasn’t until I said that out loud, in a foreign country that I realized how silly I sounded! Turns out, all these things I thought I wasn’t or couldn’t do are completely incorrect. I’ve always said, I’m not adventurous, I can’t learn another language, I’m scared of heights and daredevil type things. All my life those things have generally been true. I’ve stayed close to home and always been the “that looks like a bad idea” friend, until now.

Source: Pinterest

Mistake #1: I’m not Adventurous

HELLO, I’m 5,000 miles from home in a country where I don’t really speak the language living with strangers for 4 months. That is quite a leap from small town country girl. It pretty cool to see everyone pinning and tweeting about how it’s on their bucket list to do something crazy and I’ve done it!

Mistake #2: I can’t learn another language

I have always been convinced that I am language challenged. After years of Spanish classes making absolutely zero progress in my knowledge of the language I was convinced that my brain just didn’t work that way. Argentina was my last ditch effort to learn. Someday’s I say I don’t really know Spanish I’m pretty bad at it, but then I realize that I carry on full conversations with strangers all the time here. When I think about it I actually know a lot more than I first did when I got here 2 months ago and that’s pretty incredible.

Mistake #3: I’m scared of heights and daredevil activities

I have a pretty big fear of heights and a lot of things involve heights or seemingly less than safe and secure situations. But, that didn’t stop me from climbing a mountain in the Andes with my friends, on our own, no tour guide needed. Sure my heart skipped several beats when I would look down over the side of our roughly foot wide path, but it was exhilarating. I conquered a fear I’ve been carrying for most of my life! Flying probably counts on that also.

These past 2 months abroad have changed me and taught me so much about myself I would need a book to explain it all to you. It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve transformed from a shy, Midwestern girl to someone that can talk to virtually anyone and do anything on my own with confidence in English or in Spanish.

But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to not hold myself back by saying what I’m not or what I can’t do. Because as it turns out I usually can and am! I’m sure I’m not the only person that’s thought these things so I hope this inspires you to test your own limits!


PS. I have new articles up at Travel Go Girl and a guest post at Finding My Virginity!