Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Feeling the Homesickness

Today marks the 6th week since I've left home, crazy to think that I've been here for a month and a half already. This realization is finding me with mixed emotions about how I feel about the rest of my 2.5 months I have left. As a general rule, I've always wanted to be very honest in writing about my experiences so I'll just put it out there. I could go home right now and that would be okay. I could pack my bags and say chau to Argentina with minimal regret.

But the thing is, I can't. I'm here for better or for worst till November. The reason I'm feeling so homesick I think has nothing to do with Argentina being bad. I really do enjoy it here and I love all the people I've met. Argentina is a seriously interesting country, both historically and culturally. The thing is that I just really miss my family, a lot.

Charley and I look like twins!

I think it's really hard for anyone else to understand the kind of bond we all have, especially with Aubrey and Charley. All of the other students here miss their families too, I'm sure. But for me their more than just my family, they're my very best friends. I need my relationship and connection with them like I need oxygen to breathe. So not only am I separated from my brother and sisters, but from my closest friends.

I'm almost positive that what's brought all of this on is that, Aubrey had her ultrasound and found out she's having a baby girl!!! (Super excited about that.) This is one of those life events that I feel like I should be there for. My best friend is pregnant and I'm missing it! Luckily I'll be back home in plenty of time for the baby to get their (thank God!).

She did a great job of hiding her belly in this!

I guess part of my problem is also that I spent so much time the past couple of years wanting to escape and go somewhere exciting and new. But what I've found is that I love home so much more than I knew. I love Missouri and cows and squirrels and the fact that I know most everyone. I love that people understand me and that home is only a short drive away. I spent so much time wanting to be somewhere else, that I didn't appreciate where I was.

Traveling is always talked about as one great big, incredible adventure, which it is, don't get me wrong. But, on the other hand, no amount of beautiful sights can replace how wonderful it is to see my whole family standing around the kitchen talking too loudly. I think I thought that I was going to be the kind of person that would want to live abroad for years, returning home occasionally for holidays and visits. But I don't think I want to do that. I don't want to miss out on my niece growing up and my brother starting college and Emy's wonderful moments.

I do want to travel. I want to see the world and even more places. But I want to do it with people that I love and with a home in sight. So what if I'm not as adventurous and crazy as I thought, I have something better, people that I can love.

One of the girls here gave me some really great advice about homesickness that I think really applies right now. She told me that no matter where you go and what you do, home will always be the same. The world may change, but your family will always be there when you get back. That's really what's going to get me through this, that my family is going to be there when I get back!

So now that I've had my moment of moping I'm going to go back to having an amazing time here!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why I really came to Argentina, the food.

I'm only half joking about coming to Argentine for the food. I'm a steak girl and there is no place better to enjoy that in the beef capital of the world. But we actually eat a whole lot more than just beef, though it's pretty common for meals.

Tonight, I had my first meal here that I just didn't like. Which is pretty good considering I've been here for almost 6 weeks (that's crazy to think about). It was eggplant milanese, which is basically breaded eggplant. I've never had eggplant before and turns out I'm not really a fan of it.

I was kinda poking around it on my plate and when my host mom asked if I liked it she instantly knew I was lying. Luckily, she was really understanding about me not liking it and made me some eggs and toast instead. It's so nice that we're comfortable enough that it's not rude for me to say what I like and don't like, because otherwise I would probably be pretty hungry right now!

I've gotten quite a few questions from people about what I eat here. Personally, I think you all have been watching too much Travel Channel because I have yet to encounter any llama brains or livers. In fact, I haven't seen anything here that I wouldn't be able to buy at home really, with the exception of mate but that's a whole other story. So in light of that I thought I would share what some common meals here are. They're basically the same ingredients as ours, just mixed in different ways.

  • Milanese: This is a staple in my house and the ultimate safe move in restaurants. You just can't go wrong with milanese. I probably eat this 3 times a week. It's essentially just beef or chicken very thinly sliced and breaded. We eat it with lemon juice or sometimes eggs on top.

  • Empanadas: This is probably the most widely eaten food here in Argentina. You can find empanadas pretty much anywhere and they're insanely cheap. Like I'm talking $5AR or $6AR which is less than a $1USD. So clearly us college students eat these constantly. They are typically filled with carne (ground beef), queso (cheese), or jamon y queso (ham and cheese). You can buy them from vendors on the street, a bakery, or virtually an restaurant. 

  • Pasta con Crema: We eat a lot of pasta here, the only twist is the sauce. Instead of our typically thick and chunky (sorry Katie) ragu it's a soupy tomato sauce. Usually, you will also pour liquid cream on it also to make a kind of alfredo sauce. It's pretty similar to what we eat in the US, but not quite the same. 

  • Panqueques con Dulce de Leche: This is eaten as a desert and it very thin pancakes, basically crepes covered in dulce de leche (Argentina's version of very sweet peanut butter, caramel) and then rolled and sprinkled with sugar. It's pretty fantastic though it is so sugary it will almost literally make your teeth hurt. Almost all desert involves dulce de leche here and I'm not complaining!

  • Calabaza: This is just the Spanish word for pumpkin, but they eat it constantly here. Usually baked and mashed. It tastes a lot like sweet potatoes. At first I thought it was kind strange to eat pumpkin but I've grown to really like it. 
Those are just a few of the most common things I've eaten here and definitely not all. In general if you want to know what Argentine food is like, it's never spicy, usually involves massive amounts of cheese and sugar, and is never as greasy as American food. It's also almost always made from scratch or fresh because of the easy accessibility of fresh ingredients and the high price of pre-packaged meals and food items. 

While it definitely seems to me that, in general, there are much fewer obsess people here, it doesn't seem like they are at all concerned about health or weight. Diet soda isn't a thing here. In fact diet or fat-free or reduced fat anything is a pretty rare sight. 

I think the difference is that people eat here. They eat large meals at regularly scheduled times and don't have junk food. Because they always know what time the next meal is it seems to be much better planned for it to be home cooked. Which I think makes a huge difference. It's just interesting to see a culture that isn't obsessed with calorie counting and dieting and exercise. 



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mendoza Misadventure: Day 3

Because so many things happened during the Mendoza trip that I want to talk about I'm breaking it up into a three part series. Check out Day 1 and Day 2! 

For our final adventure in Mendoza, we just absolutely had to go horseback riding in the Andes. Through our hostel, we booked an excursion with Los Pingos, a ranch that offered a three-hour horseback tour in the mountains and then an asado (Argentine BBQ) dinner with plenty of wine. To anyone going to Mendoza, I would definitely recommend this, but only if you aren't faint of heart. 

Because our excursion didn't start till 4PM we decided to go see some statues in one of the large parks in Mendoza. Turns out that there was also a huge celebration for Dios de los Ninos going on in the park at the same time. It's basically a celebration of children, hence the name meaning Day of the Children. There were kids and their families everywhere. 

Part of the Dios de los Ninos celebration.
This lead to us starting an impromptu soccer game with some of the older kids. It was incredibly fun and I think that any study abroad student would tell you that playing the sport that defines their culture, with locals is a pretty great experience. We never ended up making it to the statues. 

The most interesting part about the horse ride was that unlike in the United States, they just put you on a horse, experienced or not, and let you go. This lead to some pretty confused participants desperately trying to do what they had seen in the movies to make their horse go. Also, this is why I wouldn't recommend it for anyone with a fear of horses because yours may very well end up running. 

Luna stuck close to her friend Pecky

My horse's name was Luna and at first she didn't seem to want to behave. But after about 5 minutes, she seemed to realize that I had some idea that I knew what I was doing (and I should, after all, those years of riding lessons, thanks, Mom and Dad). 

Unfortunately for some other students their horses caught on really fast that they had no clue what was going on and they kind of did their own thing, unaware of the riders desire to follow the group. 

After a three-hour hour ride, ending in a full-on sprint of most of the horses riders still in tow, we got to sit down to the best meal I've had yet in Argentina. Basically, you eat bread, drink red wine, and eat steak. I think I was in my own personal heaven. 

When the meal was done one of the guachos (Argentine term for a cowboy) serenaded the group in both Espanol and Ingles. By this point the red wine had been flowing quite freely, which seemed to inspire us with the courage to use or Spanish speaking skills. Though it was probably very rough I attempted to speak in Spanish the whole rest of the night, as did all of my friends. 

Some of the girls!

Unfortunately, I was commenting on how much I liked one of the guachos to my friend in Spanish and he definitely understood me. If I had said it in English I probably could have avoided the whole awkward situation. The worst part is that I'm thrilled that he actually understood my Spanish, which means I'm improving!

Overall, the whole day was amazing and an experience I don't think I will ever forget. Mendoza is and will probably always be, my own personal version of heaven. Despite all the mishaps I managed to have. What truly defines your study abroad is not where you go to live, but the things you choose to do with living there. And I couldn't be any happier with my choices. 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mendoza Misadventure: Day 2

Because so many things happened during the Mendoza trip that I want to talk about I'm breaking it up into a three part series. Check out Day 1 and come back to read Day 3!

After dealing with the loss of my stuff, I was ready to get this adventure started. Lucky for me, the group of friends I have found here in Argentina have a major interest in the great outdoors and figuring things out along the way. Mendoza City is about a hour or so from the actual mountains though you can clearly see them from where we were at. One of the biggest things we wanted to accomplish on this trip was going hiking in the Andes.

Asking around our hostel and the tourist information centers, we got a lot of confusing answers. Mostly, we were told we needed to hire a guide go through a packaged program to go hiking. But being the college students we are, we decided that there was no way we were going to pay money just to have someone lead us around.

Heading out!

So we set out on our own and caught a bus to the small town of Potrerillos, located at the base of the mountains. When the bus drops you off, there's not much there. A small information center, a food truck and some empty looking buildings. After speaking with the woman at the information center, we were off. At one point we even walked through someone's yard, they were kind enough to point us in the direction of a narrow walking path that lead up the side of one of the smaller mountains.

Expecting it to be cold, because it's winter here and mountains are generally cold anyway, we were all layered up with clothing. We quickly realized that the steep hike would keep up plenty warm and wound up with practically a second wardrobe in the backpacks we brought.

I'm going to be honest here, I didn't realize just quite how out of shape I was till my friends started deftly sprinting their way up the side of this mountain. I thought I was going to die, but that may have also been the two pairs of pants and 3 shirts and a winter coat I was wearing in probably 65 degree weather.

On top of the world!

The landscape once we reached the top was so beautiful I can't even being to explain it. It was what I imagine heaven must look like. We had a terrific view of the snow capped peaks, the small town, the bluest lake I've ever seen, and the Mendoza desert. And we were standing on the top of it, there is no greater feeling.

After spending about an hour taking pictures and enjoying the view we began to pick our way down the mountain side, during which we completely lost the path. We found our way down eventually and saw a giant storm drain pipe, that we of course had to climb into. Get ready, because this is where today's mishap comes in.

The pipe.
While climbing back down from the pipe, I didn't have the common sense to jump down and away from the rocks and instead slide down them on my butt. About two seconds after doing this, I realized something was terribly wrong. I had ripped nearly the whole seat of my yoga pants open and massively scratched myself.

This is all I could think about!

After laughing for about a good 10 minutes straight about the fact that I just destroyed the only pants I had left on this trip, I caught a break in my bad luck streak and was able to wear one of the extra pairs of pants we had in the backpacks. Thank God we had layered up so much otherwise I would have been in quite the pickle, in the middle of the Andes with shredded pants.

Can't believe I personally witnessed this!

The rest of the day went smooth and as we watched the sun slip down behind the mountains from the shore of a beautiful lake at the foot of the mountains we were near. As an added bonus to my day, I sat next to a very friendly Argentine named Pablo on the way home that made me converse in only Spanish for the entire hour bus ride. Though, it wasn't exactly easy it was easier than I thought it would be to carry on a conversation.

Today was again one of those things that I feel like had to happen to give me more writing material. Because seriously, who else would lose their clothes then rip their only pants while hiking?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mendoza Misadventure: Day 1

Because so many things happened during the Mendoza trip that I want to talk about I'm breaking it up into a three part series. Be sure to check back for Day 2 and Day 3

The Mendoza trip was going to be our group's first big thing to do on our own. Instead of going through the travel agency at our school, we opted to do it ourselves which turned out to be much cheaper. The only problem with doing it on your own is, well that you have to do it on your own. And when it comes to doing things solo in Espanol for me, trouble always follows.

Due to our various different schedules I didn't go with the rest of the group to purchase my bus ticket. A couple days before we were supposed to leave I made the trek to the bus station and tried, unsuccessfully, to book a ticket for the same bus. I managed to get a ticket though for a bus about two hours earlier, so waiting around for them wouldn't be that big of a deal.

Nothing could ruin this.

After arriving at Mendoza, after the 16 hour bus ride I just waited around in the terminal reading a book on my Kindle. Right on time, at about 1PM my friends showed up and we had the joyful reunion that only white girls that haven't seen each other for 24 hours can have. In my excitement, I accidentally left my brand new Osprey backpack my parents had got for me sitting on the bench I was on. After walking for about 5 minutes, I suddenly realized that my backpack wasn't on my back!

The gang hanging out at the hostel, smoking hookah.

My friend Jess and I ran back to the bench I was sitting on only to find nothing there. I had that uneasy feeling that I wasn't going to see it again. We desperately asked in broken Spanish if anyone had seen a turquoise mochilla. In the end, we were directed down the police station to file a report. The officer spoke zero English and seemed really frustrated that we weren't understanding his rapid Spanish. He eventually got someone from the Mendoza tourist center on the phone that somewhat spoke English. They took my name and where I was staying but gave me little hope that my bag would be recovered.

Inside was everything I had brought for the trip, relatively new Chacos (fancy sandals), clothes, toiletries, and my extra money. I thought I was being smart dividing my money up in case I got pick pocketed. But it never occurred to me that I would lose my entire backpack! The bright side was that my passport, cards, glasses and cell phone were all in my purse which I still had. Those would be a lot my difficult to replace than some sandals and sweaters.

The outfit I rocked the whole weekend.

So with only the clothes on my back I decided I was going to still enjoy my weekend regardless! Between a trip to the supermarket and the generosity of my friends I was able to get what I needed to make it through the next 4 days. Granted, I wasn't exactly looking my best in, but that wasn't what mattered.

I had a moment at the hostel when I was about to call my mom and tell her what happened that I was about to cry. I wanted to feel sorry for myself for losing all my cool gear I had bought specifically for coming to Argentina. But that's when it dawned on me. I didn't need all that stuff to make this trip great. While a fancy daypack is more durable than a Walmart bag, it doesn't make my trip any better. I didn't need to be the fully outfitted backpacker to be a backpacker.

My mom also had some really great words of wisdom for me. She said that I'm a writer and what better material could I possibly have than my own misadventures. If my trip went perfectly as planned I would have nothing to write about!

As I've mentioned before, studying abroad continually teaches me new life lessons that I never excepted. In a way, losing my stuff is made the trip better. I've learned to care less about material possessions and more about enjoying the moment, even if it is in the same shirt I've been wearing for the past 3 days. I still strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and if nothing else, this whole mishap has given me some great writing material!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Entre Rios and Voting

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have my host family offer to take me with them to go to another province of Argentina (provinces are similar to states), Entre Rios, so they could vote and visit family. Though it's only about 3 hours away from the busy city we live in, it was like a whole different world. My host mom's family all lives in or around the city of Concepcion de Uruguay, which is really quite lovely if you get the chance. 

The most striking thing when we first pulled into town was that it felt like a different country completely. The trees were different, the houses were built totally differently, side roads were made just of dirt. Unlike Buenos Aires, which has a very New York vibe to it, this place looked like nothing I had ever seen before. Which quite frankly, is probably why I enjoyed it so much. 

Roque, our dog enjoying the indoor courtyard.

One of the first things anyone from Argentina will tell you about Buenos Aires is that it's not what Argentina is like. It's like the equivalent of going to New York and assuming that, that is what the rest of the US is like. No one place can embody the complete essence of a country, but I believe the rural areas can give you a better idea of the culture. 

I remember being confused when I got here at the hustle in bustle of the city and the lack of siesta time that I had always heard about in Latin culture. Well, turns out that the rest of the country does do that! In Concepcion everything, I mean everything except restaurants closed at about 1pm and didn't open back up until 4pm. Banks close at 1pm and don't open back up till the next day! The pace of life here was much slower and much more what I had been expecting to see in South America. 

The reason we were in Entre Rios was not only so my host parents could vote, but was also because it was my host sister Sofy's 13th birthday! Because of this we had a huge party that lasted the whole day basically and involved all of my host mom's 6 sibling family and cousins and family friends, all speaking in Spanish and trying to feed me more sweets. I swear that I ate my body weight in sugar from all the tartas and macaroons and cake. 

The party was One Direction themed!

While getting to meet everyone was great (I'm the first student they ever took there, so yay me!) but it was also exhausting. My brain was trying so hard to keep up with all the Spanish and when I did understand, by the time I had thought up a response it was past that conversation. Also, it's just really intimidating to try and speak a second language (poorly) to a large group of people. But luckily, they were all very understanding and loved using the 2 or 3 words of English they did know to me. 

On Sunday, we went to vote in the senate primaries because the use the schools for the voting polls, voting always happens on Sunday in Argentina. At first it seemed relatively normal, people lined up in their sections got a paper ballot which they took into an empty classroom to fill out. Then they dropped it into a box. The part that threw me off was when I noticed the large amounts of police and military men around, and the unsettling observation that the military guys were holding what looked like older model machine guns...

Now before you freak out (MOM), I asked my host parents about this pretty scary sight. My host father is pretty high up in the military and let me in on a secret. The guns were fake, they just used them as a scare tactic to keep people in order. In reality, Argentina's army was much too poor to actually afford that. Though I felt relieved, I was still a bit uneasy knowing that they felt the need to scare people with machine guns. 

Political graffiti, basically saying that Hugo Chavez lives in all of Latin American and then it says go Victoria, which is the current president's party. Her and Chavez were tight. I thought this was super interesting. 

As the primary results were announced I discovered something else different about Argentina's fledging democracy (only 40 years old), versus ours. There aren't any real competing parties, at least no significant leaders. Here they have Peronists and Federalists, but each of those parties is divided into at least 6 different subsections which seems to make getting anything down pretty difficult. I'll explain in further detail in a separate post but basically, even though it's a democracy people generally think the government is corrupt. In their defense, they have an awful long history of dictatorships and military rule to back up their concerns. But I'll get more into that later!

Overall, I think that if you visit a country you have to see multiple cities to really get a feel for what that country actually is like. Otherwise, you've only touched the tip of the iceberg!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Searching for Love in Likes

Thinking back to seventh grade, when I told my best friend I had fallen in love because of a mutual fondness for Dr. Pepper, I realize that we often time are looking for the wrong things when trying to find love. When you meet someone and go and peruse their social media profiles, you know you all do it, the things that jump out at you most are probably your shared interests. You thing Mumford and Sons are awesome and he also thinks Mumford and Son's is awesome, it's a perfect match!


While it may sound silly simplified to that extent, think about it. How many times have you found yourself having a conversation with a person you may be interested in about just the things you have in common? The shared interest in music, movies, food, all petty and quite honestly meaningless things about them and yourself.

I think a major problem this generation is suffering from, at least in the romance department, is defining ourselves by our interests rather than who you are. Social media and a list of our virtual "likes" perpetrate the problem further.

Shared interests are maybe a great way to get a conversation started or to find an activity to bond over, but we seem to confuse them with the substance that can build a relationship. Unless you are writing a thesis on the impact of The Godfather on the perception of the mafia in popular culture, there is not much about that being your favorite movie that defines you as a person (even though it displays an excellent taste in movies!).

But seriously, Marlon Brando, amazing.

Think of how many millions of people listen to the same music, watch the same movies, and enjoy the same food as you. My chances of walking outside and running into someone of the opposite sex that has watched and enjoyed the same movie as me is extremely probable, and I'm in a foreign country!

The point I am making here is that we should center the conversation around getting to know people's passions rather than their pop culture interests. Knowing what drives a person tells you significantly more about their character than the fact that you both like spicy foods.

That being said, it should encourage you to look for people outside of your general scope of thinking. For example, just because I am an aspiring writer who enjoys 90s pop, that doesn't mean a computer programmer that likes bluegrass couldn't be my perfect match values wise.

So stop defining yourself by what your Facebook page says you're interested in and start going off of what makes you get out of bed every morning, whatever that may be. The change could very well help you find the right places to be looking.

As Always, Stay Classy

Hayley Kiah

What I've been up to.

It seems as though no matter where in the world I am, I have a knack for finding ways to keep myself extremely busy. Before coming to Argentina I thought I would have all the free time in the world because I wouldn't be an RA/Student Senator/VP of Programming again this year (last year doing all of those things was crazy!). But never fear, I've managed to find ways to keep myself occupied by doing what I love doing, writing.

I'm extremely excited to tell you that I am now a contributor for Go Girl Travel Network, which is an online resource for women that travel. I will be writing a monthly column titled International Love: Dating Cultures Around the World. My first article for that goes live next Wednesday. In the mean time I will also be contributing articles as topics come up. You can find my articles here. I'll be sure to give you all the link when my column starts!

Also, on the topic of travel I have been writing articles for Students Gone Global, which is basically a collection of study abroad students blogs. My posts have been more directed at being informative, rather than antecedent based which is why I share them there, rather than here. If you're interested in reading them you can find them here!

I occasionally also post on random blogs and sites when the opportunity comes up. You can read my post on The Study Abroad Blog here. I will also be having a non-travel related article published soon on Finding My Virginity, a blog ran by one of my close (as in we've been communicating via our blogs for the past couple of years) blogger friends. She writes mostly about issues concerning feminism and my post will be discussing the culture of street harassment (aka catcalls). I will let you all know when that is happening.

So that all seems pretty overwhelming when I look at it. Today alone I've written this blog post, the post for Finding My Virginity, and two posts for Go Girl. Now I have to actually write a paper for class that I've been putting off by doing all my fun writing!

As a side note, I have added a tab to the home page of this blog that will have links to all these sites for you to have easier access to them.

Hope you enjoy!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Patience is a Virtue

Patience is extremely useful when living abroad or trying to deal with basically anyone in a foreign language. Before coming to Argentina, I thought I had quite a bit of patience. I mean I could wait for my order to come at a drive thru for a whole 7 minutes and not complain. I could wait in line at Walmart for 10 minutes and not throw a fit. But after living here for the past three weeks I realized that meant nothing!!

Before I get into my rant I just want to clarify that I do still love Argentina. I hate it here sometimes, but I am also learning so much about myself and about how to adapt and be an adult. Sometimes I want to cry and other times I want to just punch the guy who works in the bookstore, but dealing with these emotions has helped me grow as a person and I know will benefit me enormously in the future. But on to my stories.

I have been able to deal with every meal taking an hour or more. I have been able to deal with the elevator occasionally deciding not to work when I need to go to the tenth floor. But what has really rubbed me wrong is trying to buy my school books.

The Taller 4 (read tah-sh-ar cuatro) has become a place of frustration and tears for myself and most of the international students over the last few weeks. Just when I thought I was okay doing everything in Spanish, this place came along. At a normal University, you can go to the bookstore, show them the list of classes you have and have all your books magically appear. Or you can go to Amazon or Chegg or a multitude of other sites to order or rent your books online. Not so in Argentina.

All of our books are literally copied off then bound on these giant copy machines in the Taller 4. So on top of massively contributing to global warming and the killing of trees they deny you the ability to get your books anywhere else. But when you take them your class list and point repeatedly at the class number you need the book for saying "Necesito un libro" like a broken record all you will usually get is a shoulder shrug and the person walking away.

This happened to me twice and the third time I found out they didn't have the book I needed but got no further explanation of how to get it. Nearly in tears and frustrated I left again with not a single book I needed. The fourth time (today) I brought along a friend that spoke enough Spanish to explain the situation. This time they had one of the books I need (though the other I had been trying to get was apparently in the bookstore at the school all along! UGH!!) so I asked to have one copy of it and paid the man.

The cause of all this hoopla.

Then patiently, as always in this infuriating country, I wanted to be given the book I had just purchased. Well, I waited and then waited some more and watched several others come and go. When Morgan (my friend) asked the guy where my book was he just shrugged again and walked away. This happened, I kid you not, five more times before we finally got the manager to speak to us in English. We explained that I had just paid for the book but never got it. Turns out it hadn't even been copied off yet! So after another 20 minutes we finally got my book.

The whole experience was beyond frustrating and made me 20 minutes late for class. I hadn't accounted for it taking 40 minutes to buy a book. The language barrier wasn't even what caused all the trouble this time because Morgan was speaking in Spanish!

Thank God she came with me to explain or I may have been going back for my fourth time to just yell at them in English that they didn't understand. Luckily the whole mess is over and I don't have to ever step foot in Taller 4 again, hopefully.

It was just one of those instances that exceeded cultural barriers and went straight to being rude. I know that my Spanish is bad and I don't understand what a lot of locals say to me. But I'm here to LEARN so cut me some slack and don't ignore me because my Spanish sucks! Geez!!

Okay, that's the end of my rant and I came home to have a nice hot cup of tea and a banana with dulce de leche which made my day exceeding better. Dulce de Leche can fix just about anything.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Recoleta Cemetery: A Maze of Mausoleums

This was supposed to go up Friday, but the wifi was not having it! So sorry it's late, disfruta (enjoy)!

Today, my BFF Jill (remember like that old ATT commercial?) went to Recoleta Cemetery to check it out. Though our origin intention was to go to an art museum we were kind of fascinated with the mausoleums. I'm sure you can see why!

The basic run down is that it's one of the best, most beautiful cemeteries in the world. All the Argentine elite are buried here and mausoleums are still for sale! So if you have the money and the desire you too, can be buried among former presidents and Nobel prize winners.

The biggest draw of the cemetery is the tomb of Eva Peron, former first lady of Argentina and notable women in Argentine history. Her tomb is nothing fancy but her life after death was an interesting one. Apparently her body was stolen numerous times and had to be guarded constantly. After her body was eventually recovered it was put on display in her widowed husband and his new wife's house! How weird is that? It now safely remains in Recoleta, undisturbed.

Eva's Grave

The place was a massive maze of tombs. While there were many that were well kept and had fresh flowers, there were others that looked like they hadn't been touched in years. Which is odd considering the amount of money the family must have spent to buy the space. Those were the most interesting ones and Jill and I even attempted to get inside several but the locks seemed to be the only thing still in tack.

But I think this has been my favorite place in Buenos Aires so far because it was just incredibly beautiful, eerie, and historic all at the same time.

We also visited a beautiful Catholic church on the property and went inside the small museum there!

There are more pictures in my Argentina Facebook album!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

How leaving the country brought me closer to my family.

When I first decided to come to Argentina for four months one of the most common responses I got from people was about running away from my family. Granted most of the people that said that didn't know me well enough to know that I'm extremely close and have a wonderful relationship with my family. I talk to my brother and sister nearly every day. Even when I was living in Kansas City it was sometimes hard to be away from them.

My adorable family, minus Aub.

What I didn't think about really though, was how studying abroad would affect my relationship with the rest of my family, extended not immediate. To be completely honest, I didn't give it much thought. I love all of my family on both sides and truly wish I could see them more. But because I don't see them that frequently to begin with, leaving the country for four months didn't seem like it would be that big of a deal to them.

My very best friend in the whole world. I love you Aub!!

To my pleasant surprise, I think studying abroad has brought me so much closer to all of them. The biggest change is that they know what's going on in my life. Before to find out what was happening to me on a day to day basis they could call or email but that's difficult to do with 20+ people consistently. I guess they could check my Facebook, but I don't post that frequently, and rarely disclose personal details about what's going on in my life. 

But through blogging, I've been able to connect with my family and friends on a daily basis. It's almost as though I'm giving them an insight into my diary. They get to read and experience with me my good days and my bad and know what it's like to walk in my international student shoes. 

Also, since deciding to go on this trip I've been receiving an outpouring of love from so many different people. I received a wonderful message from my Grandparents telling me to push through the difficulties of being abroad. My Uncle told me that reading my blog was like getting a daily newsfeed of my life. Even my Professor's from home have given me their support after reading this blog. It's really just an incredible feeling to have so much support from so many different people. 

Being literally 5,000 miles from home can make you feel lonely at times. But writing about my experiences and receiving feedback from them has made all the difference in the world! Honestly, I wish I started doing a personal blog like this year ago. I have never felt more connected to my family than I do now. 

So I guess I just want to thank you for all your love and encouragement and for reading! I can't explain what an impact it's made on me. And, of course, I love you all very much!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mundo Lingo and Meeting Locals!

I'm sure that I previously mentioned that one of the most difficult parts of being here is that I can't communicate with anyone. While I now know enough Spanish to get by: order food, ask the price of things, use transportation, etc. I still don't really know enough to have a full on conversation with an Argentine that doesn't speak English, which is most of them. But, it turns out there is a place for people with exactly that problem!

Mundo Lingo (mundo means world FYI) is sort of like a social mixer that happens every Wednesday night in the back room of a bar in Palermo. When you arrive you get stickers with the flag of every country whose language you speak. You put the languages in the order of your fluency, so your first language is always on the top. This makes it a million times easier to interact with people because you finally know how to greet them.

It's pretty intimidating to go up to an Argentine and try to initiate a conversation in Spanish when I am barely understandable. But here they are fully aware that you're not from here and you can also talk to people who maybe know a bit of English too.

I say that it's a social mixer because as soon as you walk in people will come up to talk to you. They want to know where you're from and why you're here. I still find it odd when people ask, "why on earth did you come to Buenos Aires." In case you didn't know, it's the second largest city in South America, behind Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. That makes Buenos Aires the largest, Spanish speaking city in South America. What better place than to learn the language!

I meet several Argentine guys that were all in college and could kind of speak English. The kind of part actually made it better because then I was forced to actually use Spanish. I've noticed recently I have a terrible habit of expecting people to figure English out when put in a situation where neither of us understands the other's language. But if I want to learn I better start figuring it out in Spanish!

It would be really awesome if we had groups like this at home. It's such a nice way to meet people from all different places and practice your language skills. Plus now I may actually get some Argentine friends!! (Not that I don't love all my American friends here still.)