Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I've watched Taken: Personal Safety in Buenos Aires

 Even before leaving the States I've had a lot of people very concerned about my personal safety while abroad. About 90% of this stems from the Liam Neeson movie Taken while the other 10% is based on factual knowledge. But there is no need to be concerned, I've seen Taken and I promise I'm not that stupid. Plus my host dad basically has Liam's characters job so I should be fine.

Liam in action: Source

But in regards to personal safety in Buenos Aires, believe me I've been informed. Basically everything they have told us since we've been here is how to not get robbed. The majority of it is pretty common sense things, don't talk to suspicious strangers, don't flash around money, keep your belongings close, don't go to bad areas alone, etc. There are some other more unusual things to watch out for like different scams to distract you and steal your money, but for the most part it's the same general safety as in any big city.

I bought this purse because it has a clasp and zipper
The neighborhood I live in and that most of the international students live in is pretty safe. My entire block is well lit and surrounded by small shops and restaurants. The best part about a lot of those small stores is that they usually have a police officer or security guard stationed in them at all times. So despite appearances, I actually feel much safer walking around in my neighborhood alone than I would walking around Kansas City Metro alone.

There are a few very simple things you have to do to avoid being a victim of theft (that's generally the type of crime around here).

  • Carry a bag with a zipper and keep it in front of your body in crowds or on the Subway
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of money, but if you have to just put it in separate places in your bag or pockets. 
  • Keep your phone in your bag when you're not using it. 
  • Know where you're going at night and stay on busy streets, even if it's a longer way around. 
  • Pay attention!! This is the number one way you can help yourself!!
Before coming here, I was afraid that because I'm American I would stick out and become a target more easily. But, the people of Buenos Aires generally look like me. I've been mistaken for a Porteno on multiple different occasions. I only get stared at when I'm talking on the phone, probably because I speak extremely rapid English to my family. Blending in isn't difficult. You just have to look like you know what you're doing, even if you're totally lost. 

I'm so glad I wasn't dissuaded from going abroad by because I was scared. While crime does happen and you should be concerned about going somewhere relatively safe, it shouldn't make your decisions for you. As a female leaving the country alone can be daunting and people will tell you not to do it. But I say go with your instincts and go for it!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What I love/hate about Buenos Aires

After being in Buenos Aires for two weeks I think many of us students are reaching the point of the vacation where you decide, this was fun but I can't wait to go home to my own bed. But (un)fortunately we have another 3 months and some odd weeks to go! Now that the newness of BA has worn off I'm starting to develop a love/hate relationship with the place.

Below are a few things that I love and hate at the same time about Buenos Aires:

Public Transportation

Love: How accessible everything is! Being unable has not been an issue at all, and I don't think it will be. I can always walk, take the subway, take a taxi, or the bus (scary for some reason) to get virtually anywhere in the city. In fact, I can take a bus to get anywhere in the country so that's pretty thrilling. It sure makes life a lot easier, most of the time...

The whole subway is graffitied 

Hate: That I have to walk 20 minutes to get to the subway station in the first place. While the subway is accessible it's just not that close to the area that I'm in. The bus system is really confusing still so I haven't used it yet. Also, taxi's are a pain because you have to have some amounts of change (which no one will give you).

Exchange Rate

Love: That our dollar is worth between 5 and 8 pesos, depends on where you exchange it at. It's awesome that our exchange rate is so high because you get more money here than you do at home. Especially when you go to where the locals exchange money at the actual value rate, not the official rate. Who doesn't want more money?

Argentina Pesos

Hate: That you feel like you can spend more. When things seem so cheap, you get into a bad habit of not being concerned with spending money. You probably end up spending more than you intended because you exaggerate the greatness of the exchange. In reality, most things in Buenos Aires cost about the same they do at home. A typical dinner will run you about 80 or so pesos. That's only like 6 dollars so it's not that much. But you have to figure in tip, table service (you automatically pay 12 pesos for that each time), and that you have to buy a drink, even water because it comes in a bottle. After it's all said and done you spend probably just as much as you would have at home.

Night Owl Culture

Love: Classes don't generally start until the afternoon and stores aren't usually open till around 9 or 10. Everything here happens later which for a college student, is amazing. We don't tend to operate on the waking up at 7AM every morning schedule. Usually, girls will get in free to the bars and clubs until 1 or 2 in the morning. If you like partying till the break of dawn, this place is for you.

Hate: I don't like partying till the break of dawn. Personally, I'm usually ready to go to sleep at midnight or 1AM regardless of if it's a weekend or not. Unfortunately nothing really starts before then. Also, even though everything starting later seems awesome, it really throws off your clock. Dinner generally isn't till 9PM or later which means at 6PM you're starving with 3 hours left before your next meal. You can always spot the American in a restaurant because we're the only people eating real food before 8PM.

There are some other things about Buenos Aires that I just hate, like how dirty the city is and the fact that you nearly die on loose tiles on the sideway every day. But generally, I like it. The people are friendly and laid back. Just when you're having your OMG I HATE IT HERE moment, something will surprise you that will make you love this place again.

The funny part is that I think my biggest concerns with Buenos Aires have nothing to do with Argentinian culture or the country, but that I'm just not that fond of big cities. Several people have commented that it's nearly identical to New York City, so don't judge all of South America on my opinion.

Overall, I'm glad I came here. The good and the bad things are all learning experiences. Now, at the age of 22 I think I'm finally learning how to be a grown up!


Monday, July 29, 2013

First Day of Classes in Argentina!

As I walked into the classroom of students for my Basic Spanish class, the third basic Spanish class I have taken in my educational career and surely the last, I was surprised to find that most of the students surrounding me were Americans. At least I thought that they were all Americans. They looked like me, were dressed mostly like me, and were conversing in English.

When the attendance sheet was passed around we each had to write down our country of origin. I happened to be sitting on the far side of the room and got the sheet after the majority of the class had filled it out. To my surprise, there were only 3 or 4 American students in the room besides myself. Filling up the list was Italy but there were also students from Germany, Holland, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. Keep in mind this was just a class of 20 or so students.

Universidad de Belgrano (it's 18 stories tall!)
It was a kind of incredible feeling to not be able to tell the difference between us. Even when we were in the hallway with Argentinian students mingling through, it was almost impossible to separate who was who. There's something special about being in a place where you are just a person, rather than a flag.

As far as the actual class went though, I feel like I'm actually going to learn Spanish this time. The biggest difference is that we have to speak it, out loud, several times throughout the class. In high school and even in college I can count the number of times I was forced to speak Spanish aloud in class on one hand. Even after just one class I can feel more confident, that may also be the fact that I've had to use Spanish on a daily basis. This time around I also am truly willing to put in the work necessary to learn. I think it's difficult to understand how disabling a language barrier is until you personally experience one, from the foreigners end. I hope that after leaving Argentina I can continue studying Spanish and possibly learn more languages (a pipe dream it seems at the moment, but I'm confident it can happen).

Overall, class here is very similar to in the United States. Unlike popular belief, you have to show up on time. You also still have homework and aren't allowed to talk or text during class really. The only real difference is that they use chalkboards instead of dry erase boards.

But my advice to anyone you still has a chance to head my wisdom, take language classes seriously. Don't learn the information for the test and don't be afraid to say it out loud. You sound much less stupid than you think and someday you will regret not actually trying if you don't. You always have the chance to try again, like I am! But this would be significantly easier if I had just put some effort into freshman year Spanish!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Buenos Aires: The Paris of South America

Numerous times I've heard Buenos Aires referred as being the Paris of South America. Having never been in Paris I can't really make a good judgement but if Paris is dirty and full of lovers then they might be on to something.

Tonight on my walk home from my university, I decided to take the scenic route rather than cut through the mall like I normal do. The air tonight is cool but not cold and I was enjoying it. This decision then led me to be waiting at a stop light to cross the street with two 12-year olds that were making out and snuggling while waiting to also cross the street I assume. Or maybe they had just chosen that spot to stop and express their love for each other, it really could be either here.

As I was trying to not look extremely creepy, being the only person standing directly next to these young star-crossed lovers, I realized that Buenos Aires really is the city of love. I also realized that I kind of love it.

Street Art in Buenos Aires: Source

In the US, it would be looked down upon to just make out on a street corner but here it's normal. Couples publicly display their affection all over the place. But also unlike in the US it's generally not lewd or obscene. At least from what I've experienced it's not hands going into the no-no square, just to people sharing an intensely intimate moment.

The chances of these two 12 year olds relationship actually developing into something serious are basically slim to none. But at that moment you would think the were the most in love people in the world. They aren't the only ones either, I've witnessed it several times with adult couples also. Even when you are being hit on by an Argentinian, you would almost believe that they were completely enthralled with you. Though you haven't even spoken a word to them yet.

How I usually feel! Source

There's something to be said about people that can be open with their heart, that can just lay it all out there for the world, regardless of the outcome. As an outsider to this culture, it makes me realize just how cold we as a society really are. We may love each other, even in non-romantic situations, but we rarely choose to physically express it because that goes against our societal norms. It's just really interesting to be immersed in a culture that wears its heart on its sleeve practically all the time.

That's just my two cents for the day. Buenos Aires may not appear to be the city of love at first glance, with the angry driving, graffiti, and dog droppings/trash everywhere, but in the people it's pretty easy to find an abundance of love.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

F Word and Oil Spills

Tonight, when I walked into the kitchen to eat desert I was shocked to hear the Lily Allen song, F*** You playing on the television. Running across the screen was pictures of the shows viewers giving the finger, adults and children alike. While all this is happening, keep in mind that my host sisters that are 8 and 12 are both sitting in the kitchen not even noticing.

I was a little taken back by it all. Even though the use of profanity isn't particularly immoral or terrible for me to listen to, it was the fact that it was playing on regular programming at 10PM on a Sunday. It was just one of those, I don't think I'm in the United States anymore moments.

The host of Periodismo Para Todos

I asked my mom about the show, called Periodismo Para Todos (which means Journalism for All), and she said that for most Argentinians the f word wasn't that bad because they generally had no understanding of what it meant. To them, it's like saying damn rather than something generally offensive to most people.

After I got over the fact that the show's logo was a hand flipping the bird I starting actually watching and found out that it was really awesome. The talk show is on every Sunday night and the host investigates corruption and the truth behind what is really happening in Argentina with the government and other related organizations. In fact, it's a highly respected program and not just a lunatic with conspiracy theories.

Tonight's show was about Chevron/Texaco's impact in Ecuador because they are beginning to drill here in Argentina, and the host wanted to show what possibly could happen here. Though it was all in Spanish I could understand enough and see enough of the visuals to see that it was showing the Amazon river, thick with petroleum. It was absolutely disgusting. Imagine when you see the oil filled puddles on the road, except blown up into country wide proportions.

But seriously, this is awful. Source

All I could think about was how even in Argentina, they are willing to recognize and talk about the damaging effects these US companies are having on the rest of the world. Though we are perfectly within our right to discuss these atrocities on television, we don't. If a river in the United States was quite literally turned black with oil there would be an uproar.

In fact during the BP oil spill people were outraged! Yet, essentially the same thing is happening with Ecuador and we don't give a shit because it's out of sight out of mind.

I really respect the fact that people and newscasters in Argentina demand the truth and demand issues to be talked about. At least with my host family, they are anything but complacent. I really wish I could take some of that tenacity back to the US with me!

So this essentially turned into a minor rant but I think it's just a really interesting comparison between our country and the rest of the world. Also it's another reason living with a host family is great because you get to really understand the politics and social issues of the country. If you made it this far in this post than thank you!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

What it's like living with a host family

First off I should say that this is only an account of my experience with my host family, which I imagine will be a little different for each person depending on them and the family. But there are some general benefits of living with any host family while abroad, which is why I think it's a terrific choice!

Even though I have only been with my family for less than a week I already feel as though I've known them and been with them a lifetime. They are seriously the most incredible people I've ever met. But I mean to be willing to let a stranger that may or may not even speak your language into your home to stay for four months is pretty brave and kind to begin with.

My host sisters Sofy and Paloma and I!

My family is my host Mom, who is the next best thing to having my real mom here with me (I wish she was!!!), Pamela and host Dad Osvaldo, who loves Candy Crush. Their daughters are Sofy (12) and Paloma (8). They are the kind of family you would see on a commercial as the perfect happy family. And all that love they have for each other just radiates on to whoever is around them.

At first the girls were shy but they've definitely warmed up to me. Even though they only speak Spanish I'm learning words by pointing at pictures and objects enough to talk with them. Plus we can bond over things like cute boys on TV and their love for One Direction (they LOVE 1D). I also showed them some 90s Backstreet Boys and they didn't quite think Nick Carter was as lindo as I did.

We got silly pretty fast

I really like that I feel comfortable enough with my family to just hang out with them for the evening rather than feeling like I need to go do something every night. But at the same time I am welcome to leave and do whatever I want, as long as I'm home for dinner.

Dinner is a big deal in Latin culture even though in Argentina it's almost always at 9PM or later. It's the time that all of us students stop what we are doing and head home to sit down with our families and share a meal. At my house, English is allowed at the dinner table, but because only my Madre speaks English it makes much more sense for me to try and say as much in Spanish as possible. After we've eaten we sit and talk for a while till we feel up for dessert, which usually involves Dulce de Leche or ice cream. Last night it was these fantastic thin pancakes covered with Dulce de Leche and sugar. I may just get diabetes while I'm here from all the sugar.

One of the greatest benefits of having a host family is not only that I get to have a family here, but also that you are forced to speak Spanish. And more Spanish than just, I want a coffee and thank you. Because you're living with them you want to be able to communicate with them that much more. I think it inspires a greater passion for speaking the language when you are surrounded by people daily, that you have difficulty communicating with. I know the girls have already helped me a ton.

A family also gives you the opportunity to experience life here the way they do. You eat food they would typically eat and you listen to their music and learn to shop at their grocery store, etc. It gives you an insider's perspective that would be impossible to get otherwise.

Even though living with strangers for four months sounds like a scary prospect at first, it's incredible. It's so rewarding and challenging and hilarious, all at the same time. I couldn't be happier living with anyone else while I'm here. So if you ever going abroad and have the option of living with a family, do it! And choose ones with kids because they will teach you more than anyone!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Culture Shock is Real

Today marks leaving home exactly a week ago. Up until now everything, well besides that whole airport fiasco, has been terrific. I love Buenos Aires. I love the people. I love the Spanish. That is until today when I had a minor moment. Tears were almost shed, but I managed to keep it together.

I was in this cafe 2 blocks down from my house. Being confident in my ability to order stuff now I thought I would chill out there and have some hot tea, because that's what you do for 70% of your day in Argentina, no joke.

At first I wasn't sure if you ordered at the counter or sat down and were waited on. After awkwardly standing there a minute or two, I just sat down. When the waitress came over I said, "Me gustaria te, por favor." And she just stared at me. So I repeated it. Then she said something in Spanish and brought over another waiter and handed me a menu. It seemed like either tea wasn't an option or she didn't know what I was saying but I assumed that meant I should order something else.

I couldn't read anything, but I recognized dulce de leche and just pointed at the thing that said that on the menu. Then I impulsively ordered a caramel brownie because that's what I do when I feel uncomfortable. Seriously, I have bought so much crap because I was nervous and didn't know what I was agreeing too.

That dark deliciousness at the bottom is dulce de leche.

So I ended up with a cappuccino (I don't like anything coffee so that was no bueno) and a huge caramel brownie with whip cream on top and chocolate drizzled over it. It looked delicious and the cappuccino at least came with a stick of milk chocolate and a small chocolate biscotti thing, the LOVE their chocolate here. At this point in the story you think, oh good the that's not so bad.

And it wasn't until I realized I dipped a large portion of my hair directly into the chocolate drizzle which then dripped all over my sweater and my pants. At which point it dawned on me that I couldn't even laugh about it with the waitress because I couldn't explain what had happened.

I can honestly say that the most painful feeling in the world is the inability to communicate with others. Thank God this is something I can fix because it's hell to not be understood by anyone! If you know me, you know that talking is my favorite thing to do. I love to tell stories and jokes and a major part of my personality is missing when I lose the ability to do that.

It occurred to me that I am stuck here in a foreign country for the next 4 months. Even though it's not so long, at that moment it seemed like a pretty damn long time.

I thought maybe I go lucky and had bypassed culture shock because I had made it a week with feeling perfectly at home, but it sneaks right up on you. The comforting part is that it will pass. This feeling isn't forever and it happens to everyone.

My new, more pickpocket proof (hopefully) purse.
On the bright side, though some retail therapy made my day a little better and they even threw in some candy with my purchase!

Notice the adorable little hearts
So if and when you experience culture shock, it's okay. It sucks, but it happens to all of us and we handle it in different ways but you'll make it through. Even writing this has made me feel 100 times better!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Feelings on Having American Amigos in Argentina

Before I came to Argentina, I was very adamant that I wanted to make Argentinian friends, instead of spending all my time with American's. Well, now that I'm in Argentina I've become a part of an adorable little clique of 7 other American students studying here at the Universidad de Belgrano. Pretty much, exactly what I said I wasn't going to do. The hilarious part is that all of them feel the same way. We came here to live abroad and mingle with people that are unfamiliar.

But there are a few barriers in my way to that dream. First of all the language barrier, because it's super hard to make friends when you don't speak their language. Believe me I've attempted this regardless but the conversation usually trails off after you use up your entire Spanish vocabulary in 5 minutes. I should note though that our friend group ranges from absolutely no Spanish skills at all to advanced Spanish so some people can speak with the locals fluently.

Also, it's really hard to just find friends out of nowhere. All of us American's aren't friends because we bumped into each other on the street, (though that is how I met my one Argentinian friend ironically). It's because we have things in common and we were put together by the University as international students. I sort of wish we were in the dorm builds like they do with international students at home. But then again I absolutely adore my host family and it would probably keep me from getting the full experience of living like a local.

So now being here with my American friends I realize that there is nothing wrong with being friends with other Americans. They are going through the same experience as you and can relate to what you're feeling. Also they often times can help you navigate the confusing world of not being able to clearly communicate with basically everyone around you.

The thing that is different than what I originally thought, is that all of the other students I'm friends with want to be friends with locals and speak their language just as badly as me. We're not trying to avoid making friends, we just haven't found them yet.

I think once classes start things may look up, because the more advanced students with have classes with locals and their will actually be some people at the school for us to mingle with. Plus I strongly believe that where there's a will there's a way. After all we haven't even been here a week yet.

The conclusion I have reached is that it's okay to make friends with people that are familiar to you and speak your language, but don't use them as a crunch, use each other to have an even better experience!


PS. I promise to start taking pictures and posting them here soon. Right now it's just so dang cold I don't want to take my hands out of my pockets!

Hayley Spoke (poor) Spanish!

Today is an exciting day ya'll! I was forced to speak Spanish in not one but two places because I was alone and had to figure it out, go me. But first I'll explain what I was doing being by myself, Mom don't freak out I was fine.

It is even colder today than yesterday 0 degrees Celsius! Which to all of you Americano's means it was 32 degrees outside this morning. I had to be at the school for a meeting at the crack of dawn, 10:30AM. Believe me, in Argentina 10:30 is muy early. Luckily when I tried to leave the house in my flimsy pleather jacket from target my Madre stopped me and was like no no no!! Muy frio!! And then she lent me one of her coats to wear to school, she's clearly amazing. They say that in two weeks we'll be over the cold and it will only get warmer. Spring doesn't start till September, but August won't be as bad as now. I cannot wait. 

For our meeting we did a little tour around the area by car, thank God, and ate at a restaurant in San Telmo. I had empanadas because they remind me of crab ragoons only with beef inside and also I couldn't really read anything else on the menu. After that, we walked around the craft market going on in the street. It had lots of cool, super cute stuff to buy, but it was freezing and possibly going to nieve (snow) so we sort of hurried back to the car. 

The program director that we were with dropped us off at a Subte (subway) station and told us where we should get off. Well, she told us to get off at Oscello which is the stop for Belgrano and I live in Palermo. When I got off the subway I wasn't really sure how to get back to my house and I knew that regardless it was quite the walk from Oscello. 

I think flagged down a radio taxi, I'm getting better at that. When I told the driver my address I completely botched it. I said seis, dos, cero and pronounced the street name the English rather than Spanish way. I quickly realized he was confused and showed him my address that I had written down. Then he realized where I meant and ask if I was Americano. I love the way they assume that a foreigner is always American. 

On the way to my house, he was trying to talk to me and I was actually able to respond in Spanish. I told him what I was doing here and where I was from and what career I ultimately wanted to do. It was pretty cool considering none of this happened in English. 

After he dropped me off I walked to a nearby drug store to buy shampoo and razors because I didn't think to pack any. Luckily, it's been cold so I haven't really been tempted to wear shorts. The shampoo and conditioner I found just fine (they sold Pantene and Dove, weird), but the razors were nowhere to be found. When I got to the counter I realized you had to ask for them, joy! 

I'm wasn't sure what the word for razor was in Spanish so I just said razoras por favor? So American of me I know. Ends up that's NOT the word for razor. It's maquinilla de afeitar. So I just made a total ass of myself but regardless the clerk knew what I meant. 

After that I made it back home. But now it seems that I need to go find the Subte (subway) again because we're going to watch the Lone Ranger. I've actually been added to the AIFS, which is a different study abroad program here in Argentina's group, which is super funny. I'm sure attempting to find them is going to be another whole entire adventure in itself!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The First 24

This is being posted a day late due to my lack of wi-fi at the original host family house. 

Hola! I’ve survived my first 24 hours in Buenos Aires, quite splendidly actually and all without even a single tear! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I thought it would be harder/scarier than this. Sure I’ve given many a person the deer in the headlights stare, but it’s been easier than I expected it to be.

People have always told me, about going abroad, that people will know English, which may be true if you go to tourist areas. But I am living in Belgrano soon to move to Palermo which are both residential barrios (neighborhoods).       Tourists typically do not venture out this far so me expecting them to know English is just like if we were expected to know Spanish everywhere we went in the US.

What I’ve figured out is that I should expect just as many people to understand English as people that would understand Spanish in just a regular neighborhood in the US. So not very many people. They seem to know a couple basic words (sometimes). Like everyone on the subway said excuse me instead of saying it in Spanish after they heard me talking to another student in English.

You don’t realize how often you say words like okay and yes automatically without thinking about it. It’s been challenging to force myself to say bien and si instead of English. Though I don’t know very much Spanish at all, muy basico, I have been trying to use those few words as frequently as possible to at least get used to saying them.

The city is very interesting. It’s huge and everyone drives like a maniac. There are no real road rules like stop signs or lights or staying in your lane or tailgating. People kind of just do what they want and honk whenever they can’t. It’s a little scary crossing the street, but I’m sort of catching on.

There is also graffiti EVERYWHERE, even though we’re in a nice barrio. It’s kind of weird. Plus people don’t pick up after their dogs, which is definitely gross.

Today I ordered my first dulce de leche all by myself (well with my friend Crystal telling me what to say right before) but I was pretty proud. By the way, dulce de leche is the most amazing thing I’ve ever had in my whole life. I also exchanged money, in Spanish, by myself (no one can come up with you).

Overall though BA is wonderful and I think I’m going to learn fast because no one speaks English and dinner and breakfast are conducted only in Spanish.

To all of mi familia y amigos reading this I love you!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I'm buying a coat and other things I have learned

So much to mine and every other study abroad student's delight it is mucho frio in Buenos Aires! It's not like I was completely ignorant of the fact that it is currently winter in South America. I knew that, but the internet said (my first mistake) that it was going to like 50F at the coldest and probably in the 60s F. It's much more like 40s F during the day, that's not counting how chilly it is at night. My Argentinian Madre even said that it may snow, for the first time in 50 or so years!!! Just my luck!

Drinking hot Argentinian tea

Besides the weather, there are a few other quirky things about Argentina I wasn't expecting, well actually Buenos Aires specifically. Their Spanish is a little odd as in the ll doesn't make the y sound, think "como se llama," you probably said that like yama. In BA it's pronounced shama. The double ll always makes the sha sound. It's kind of weird at first, but you get over after someone says it to you a few times. 

The next thing I had heard about was the Boleches which are the dance clubs. I knew that they were supposed to be crazy but jeez lousie. They're absolutely insane!! And the dancing is like a weird salsa, techno mix, it's not at all typical Americano dance club dancing. Last night I even managed to order a drink solo. I did fine until it came to paying and I couldn't hear a thing the bartender was saying. Combine loud music with very basic Spanish knowledge and you're going to get a lot of que's back and forth. Talking to another person in the Boleche is the worst. I can get through the "como se llama" and "como estas" but then they say something else and I just give them the deer in the headlights and say uhh "no hablo espanol, lo siento!" 

I can't wait till I know enough Spanish to have conversations. The people here are insanely friendly! Men and women alike want to talk to you and know where you are from and what the hell you're doing in the visa office of Buenos Aires. It's really wonderful truly. Last night on the way home from the boleche we met some Argentinian college students and talked with them for probably an hour about school and learning Spanish and music. It was awesome and something that I could never imagine doing in the United States. 

The view from my window. 

You've probably already figured this out by now, but I am in love with Argentina. It's the most incredible city I've ever been in and it already feels like home. But then again that maybe because my host madre is the most incredible woman in the whole world. I said I loved dulce de leche so she went and got some immediately. We've spent the whole day walking around Palermo (our neighbor) checking out the stores, the mall, the bars district and talking about everything. Most of our conversations are 50% Spanish because her English isn't great. It's crazy that just 3 days ago I was completely tongue tied when anyone spoke Spanish to me and now I'm carrying on conversations partly in Spanish. 

The best advice I've gotten so far is to use what words you know. No matter how few words you know use them. To an Argentinian passing by I probably sound really confusing saying half the words in English and my numbers and other words in Spanish. I've even done it on the phone with my mom. I responded si to something she said instead of yes. I realize that's small, but it's a step in the right direction. It's truly incredible how fast our brains can learn. 

I won't bore you anymore with yammering on about random things. Until my next post! 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It's raining in Houston and other concerns

So instead of writing this post from Buenos Aires as I thought I would I am instead writing while sitting in terminal E of the Houston Airport. In the whole grand scheme of things, it’s not all that bad. Plus it has one of those flat escalator things which are freaking awesome. While I know I should be in Buenos Aires within 24 hours, after last nights events it did not feel like that is going to happen.

            After a lot of laughs and some tearful goodbyes with my family including Greg, Kale, and Meghan who, after all, are practically my family, I waved goodbye and sat down to wait for my flight. Because of thunderstorms in Houston (where my plane was coming from) my first flight was delayed. That delay caused me to miss my connecting flight by 10 minutes, only 10 MINUTES.

            Being the na├»ve first-time flier that I am, I figured I would be rerouted to a plane that would take me to Buenos Aires that evening. But, unfortunately, because there were no more flights out of Houston for Buenos Aires today I was to be put on a plane to go to Newark, New Jersey and fly for Buenos Aires from there.

            This left me with needing to find a room to stay for the night with which the airport was incredibly unhelpful. They gave me a toll-free number to call to get a hotel. I called the number and never got a real person for about 30 minutes so I gave up and booked myself a hotel through the Expedia App on my phone. Then I went to wait for the shuttle the airline said they were calling to take me to the hotel.

            Then it gets even more fun! I sat and waited for the shuttle for about 30 minutes and saw no hotel shuttles but the one for the Hilton. People kept leaving and grabbing taxi’s so I thought I would do the same. While I was trying to flag a taxi the nice man on the Hilton shuttle said he could take me to the hotel, the Red Roof Inn, suggested by the airline.

When I got there, there were a million other people with delayed flights trying to get their rooms. When I got to the front desk the girl working the counter in a trashy outfit and bad red lipstick said they couldn’t find my reservation, despite the fact that I had my confirmation number!!!! They didn’t have any rooms left available and she moved on to the next customer.

Up until this point, I had kept it together without crying a single tear. I thought I had it handled. But this, I could not deal with. I called my mom sobbing because I had no idea what to do at midnight in the middle of Houston all alone. Luckily I saw a Best Western down the road and made my way through the rain, yes it was also raining, over there.

My first lucky break of the night they had a room, which was extremely clean and comfortable. I didn’t even ask how much it was I just handed him my card. I later found out on the shuttle back to the airport that I got the second to last room they had. Almost all the hotels were booked up due to all the flight delays for the weather.

Since then has been smooth sailing, except not having my hairbrush packed in the carry-on. The shuttle picked me up and took me to the airport quickly where I immediately found a restaurant that sold liquor.

If you ever find yourself in the Houston Airport I would highly recommend Ruby’s Diner. Not only was the service and speed excellent, but it was the best hamburger I’ve ever had in my whole life, no kidding. And the margarita was the perfect amount of alcohol to make me feel better. Sitting in that restaurant I wanted to just burst into tears because something good had finally happened.

Now I will be flying to Newark, New Jersey at 4PM and then leaving for Buenos Aires at 10AM Thursday morning. There the real adventure will begin. But, after all, that I’ve gone through already I think I can handle anything they throw at me.