First Week in Vienna

As I have now been in Vienna for a week, I am becoming much more adjusted to my new temporary home.

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I am blessed to have been paired with such a wonderful roommate. Her and I have spent the majority of our time together exploring shops and restaurants while getting to know each other better. It is so wonderful to have someone to share this experience with who is always there at the end of every exhausting day. We have found a really great bakery just down the street from our residence hall. We went there for our first time this morning and are sure we will be frequent customers! We got topfenstrudel and hot chocolate! Yummy!

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We learned that topfenstrudel is a treat that is special to Vienna.

My teachers and site director are also very friendly and resourceful so I have been enjoying being around such wonderful people. There are only four students in my program so we have very small classes and it enables us to cover a lot of material in class. My music history teacher took my small group of four on a tour of the first district our first weekend here. We saw so many beautiful buildings that I never could have even imagined existed.

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I had a little surprise when I opened my violin case and discovered that my sound post had fallen out of place, but this allowed me to figure out the public transportation system quickly as I had to get to a violin maker’s shop to get it fixed. Since then I have met my private violin teacher and he is basically a celebrity around here. He is a very respectable guy who I know I will be able to learn a tremendous amount from and he is an excellent resource as well. As soon as I met him he offered me a free ticket to an orchestra concert he is conducting! I have been having a great time exploring the city, looking in shops, and finding restaurants with my roommate though we have had our share of difficulties adapting. After my first couple of days it seemed as though everything I tried to do was a challenge. Being that I came here not knowing any German there was a definite language barrier. Prior to coming here I never could have imagined just how many daily tasks I would have difficulty with. Normally simple things like doing laundry, cooking, making copies, and getting a grocery cart suddenly become a great challenge when instructions are written in a language you do not understand and the only people around to request assistance of do not understand your language. Many people I have run into don’t speak any English at all. My first morning here I was trying to find the place I was supposed to be meeting my site director at and I didn’t have a phone that worked here and I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English who could give me directions. Since then I have experienced many similar occurrences. When my roommate and I first went to the grocery store we couldn’t figure out how to get the grocery carts loose. There was a chain that connected them all and we couldn’t get it loose so we gave up because we were really embarrassed standing there trying to get a cart, knowing that there is something simple not known to us that everyone else there knew. Instead we were forced to carry everything in our arms so we were walking around with our arms full of groceries and everyone was looking at us funny. Later on we asked one of our teachers what the trick is to the carts and learned that you are supposed to stick a euro in a slot on the carts and then it is released and when you re-connect the cart after you finish shopping, the euro is returned to you. This has definitely been a huge learning experience and I feel much more informed about how things work now than when I first got here, but I know I still have a lot more to learn.

Reina

 

Leaving for Argentina

In just two days I will be on my way to Argentina. Although I have been planning this trip for months, I can’t believe that its almost time to go.

I’m looking forward to immersing myself in Argentine culture, and overall I feel pretty confident about the cultural experience I will have. I expect to have some challenges and misunderstandings– both with the culture and with the language–but I plan on keeping a positive attitude and not getting discouraged. I know I’ll be able to figure out how to fit into the culture, and I know that the challenges I will face will make this a more rewarding experience.

What does concern me is the fact that I will be working in this environment. Since I am doing an internship abroad, my time in Argentina will affect many people besides myself. I worry that if I have a hard time adapting or make mistakes at work there be more consequences for others, whereas any faux pas I make outside of work will really only affect me. However, I hope that by doing my best to communicate and asking for help or clarification when I need it I will also have a good work experience.

Overall I am really looking forward to starting my experience in Argentina!

Stateside Arrival

Ahh the familiar feel of the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. I first stepped foot onto American carpeting at the Atlanta airport. Initial thoughts: So much English spoken and so much diversity! The majority of Spaniards aim to blend in- physically most are of similar skin/hair color and of skinny stature. Everyone sports similarly tame/inconspicuous fashion trends (i.e. scarves, neutral earth tones, NO workout attire of any kind, yoga pants & nikes included). The diversity here in the U.S, however, is notable. There are people of all shapes, sizes, shades, not necessarily conforming to a general style.

Also, I immediately ordered a burrito (of American proportions) and a Corona (now that I was freshly legal at home).

Drawbacks: I immediately noticed how impatient and whiny everyone around me was. Everyone was in a rush. Maybe it was because I was in an airport, but hey, airports are sort of the cross section of the country. Entitlement and instant gratification are not a European norm; my patience and cooperation were definitely tested many times abroad where arguing or being demanding simply will not get one anywhere.

From Atlanta, I flew into Los Angeles and was greeted by my Mom and Grandma. We celebrated her new promotion in the Army- a full “bird” aka a Colonel- with an awesome military ball and change of command ceremony. A proud daughter, indeed. We drove down to San Diego and leisurely made our way back up the Californian coast and a week and half later, arrived in the beautiful beautiful state of Oregon. TREES… that is all.

I had missed the air, the plants, and the abundance of restaurants & cafes. It’s good to be home and I am still accomplishing my list of places to return to since my return. However, now that I’ve caught the travel bug…I’m already planning my next adventures! Thinking of doing a month-long trip somewhere this December… Destination TBD :)

Preparing for Home

Leaving Spain is more bitter than sweet. Four months in this beautiful country does not seem adequate for all of the adventuring I still have left to do, new friends with whom I wish to practice my improved Spanish skills, weekly routines I hate to give up… I was pretty optimistic before my trip abroad. I was ready, emotionally, for new experiences, a new chapter. However, I could not have anticipated how well I adjusted and soaked up all beautiful Barcelona had to offer. Homesickness was not really an issue for my independence and open mind led me to one awesome experience or friendship to another.

 The friends in my program, Carmen & Teti (my host moms), my classes, my weekend travels, my favorite bars… There is so much to be missed. Every aspect of my trip abroad tied together nicely and made for a great social, academic, spiritual balance.

 I do look forward to returning home though; I miss the company of mom and kitties a lot! I look forward to so many foods- ranging from breakfast in general, to Cheez-its, to Taco Bell. I miss my friends, my room, and having a backyard. Really looking forward to cooking and baking again too. My kitchen utensils miss me and my mom is ready to be my recipe guinea pig again :) 

Less than 24 hours

I currently have a break from a project we have been working on and I decided I’d write my last blog entry. Argentina has open my eyes in varies ways. Whether it was listening to the many conversations that happened within the VOX space, seeing the reality of folks living within Rosario in comparison to the outer cities/towns or towns in the northern part of Argentina, interacting with people from different backgrounds and ideologies, challenging myself to see things from another point of view even though it at times was extremely uncomfortable, working with the resources available, and so much more has definitely made me grow as an individual. All of the relationships I established and folks I came across is probably the biggest thing I am going to miss and take with me. I know that it will not end here; now that I will be flying back to Oregon. My wish and intentions are to continue to keep in touch and collaborating with everyone in one way or another. Furthermore, I am going to miss not being able to participate more within the organization. Now that I am leaving, things have been picking up so much more. NOW for instances. We are working on promoting the group and a bar of Rosario and making videos. I’ll literally be working until a few hours before I leave. On another note, there are projects to go to neighborhoods, HIV survey, or an event for the Stonewall Riots that I have been contributing too that I wont be able to be present at the time of the event. I wish I could stay to see how everything turns out, but I am also aware that this day would come.

Going home is a bitter sweet feeling. I am super excited to see my family and friends (now that I am not as emotional as I was last week and am basically in a “okay, lets go now” mentality). I know as soon as I get to Independence, I am going to go eat some Primos tacos and a torta with lots of hot sauce! I have been applying for jobs and have a few meetings and things I need to do right when I get back so that’ll help me in a sense transition back. I think though after that, it’s going to be a process once again getting use to the whole USA culture and how life is over there. Being in Argentina, I was most of the time surrounded by folks who thought and acted much different than what U.S. citizen think and do. As a social science major, I knew where I stood in terms of my view of the U.S.A and being here reinforced that. Now stepping back in, I hope it doesn’t overwhelm me…I’ll be fine though…

I fly out from Buenos Aires in less than 24 hours and will arrive to Portland around noon on Tuesday. I can’t wait to finally be able to drive my car HAHA. But seriously, if there is something i really can’t wait for, it is the food. I CAN’T WAIT TO EAT SOME DELICIOUS MEXICAN FOOOOOOOD!!!

Argentina has been real and welcoming. I thank you Argentina. But my time has come. Oregon, nos vemos en unas horas! 

7 Days Left…

Bueno,

These past few weeks have gone by really, really fast. I didn’t think I would be so emotional and quite in shock that this experience has flown by so rapidly, but…it has. I think as of now, what makes me most emotional is the fact that projects are beginning to pick up at a fast speed within the organization and the relationships I have established with folks have strengthen.

In terms of VOX, lately we have been working on several projects that I will unfortunately not be able to participate at the time of the event due to me leaving in a week. One of the biggest is called, Proyecto ASHOKA. This project is one of my favorites because VOX will be going to neighborhoods outside of downtown Rosario and give presentations on sexual diversity as well as provide the opportunity for folks to get tested for HIV. At least three times a week, we all sit down and go over PowerPoint presentations that talk about topics such as sexually transmitted infections, how to have an effective testing center, how do handle situations that may come about when a person is HIV positive, terminology within organizations and not medical centers, etc. I have been able to shadow in on two different meetings; one with a political party-organization and another with at a health clinic. Both were very interested in collaborating with us on this project and we are due to follow up this week with details regarding the actual day of presenting.

Another project that VOX is working on is in regards to June 28th; known for the police riots at the  Stonewall bar that occurred in New York City back in the 60s. Grupo Jovenes, a sector within VOX, will be putting on a theatrical event in which folks will create a acting piece of the riots. Furthermore, other non-governmental organizations such as Comunidad Trans will be giving the opportunity to present either an acting piece, presentation, or dialogue. We are looking at recreating the theater into a 70s atmosphere with lots of life yet also a space where folks can actively be engaged and critic constructively.

So, VOX is now open for HIV testing two days a week (Tuesdays/Thursdays). These past few weeks we have seen a higher number of folks come in to get tested which is quite exciting! I love having people come to the office whether it is for testing, wanting condoms, or wanting to know more about the organization. On a typical Tuesday or Thursday, we can have from 3-6 people come and get tested. While folks wait, we provide them with LGBT magazines from organizations or businesses we are in solidarity as well give them the opportunity to participate on our HIV in young people survey.

A few weeks ago on May 17th known as International Day Against Homophobia, VOX had an event where we laid vinyl paper at the intersection of one of Rosario’s busiest streets creating a rainbow. This event got lots of attention that day both in Rosario as well as in Rafaela where the VOX team there was as well participating. I remember having to quickly lay the paper, flatten it out, etc all while pedestrians are walking and cars are honking their horns for us to get out of the street. In the end, it turned out SO GOOD! Additionally, we handed out flyers with information regarding the history of International Day Against Homophobia. We were able to get two local news channels cover our event and I was interviewed along with two other VOX members. This was my first time EVER being interviewed by the news and having to do it in Spanish was definitely a challenge. In the end, I did well seeing that random people came up to me afterwards and said they saw me on the news and that I spoke well in Spanish not being from Argentina (they introduced me as an exchange student participating on the event). I was not able to neither see myself nor find the video online…wish I had a copy to show you all haha.

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Furthermore, the people in VOX have truly become a family for me. We have many team dinners where we will laugh at the random things that each of us do to dance around the office listening to Bob Marley or Nicki Minaj to have hardcore, in depth political, cultural, historical conversations ranging from the US government, Argentinian government, psychology, anthropology, music, and the list goes on. These are the times I value so, so dearly. I think one of the main reasons is because I am on a daily bases being exposed to looking at things from a different point of view that I am not always exposed to in the states as well as see true, life changing stories that leave you in shock and in tears at times. Some conversations get me heated, not going to lie, but the fact that we can all converse with one another and everyone will actually listen to you, its seriously amazing to me. I look back and see how shy I was when I first arrived and now I give input more or ask more questions and that came because the folks within VOX opened up and let me in. Just the other day, I was sitting down with them and I received a picture text from my friend back in Oregon with my graduating tassel and I began crying. Not because I was happy I was leaving and graduating within the next few weeks, but because reality has set and I am leaving. I worked hard to establish these relationships and seeing that I am not going to see them every day or at least once a week makes me sad. I know I will continue to stay in contact with folks and collaborate from Oregon, but I am just sad that this whole experience is coming to in an in 7 days. Still, I do have many priorities I must handle back in Oregon and I know that I will someday come back to Argentina or see them either in Oregon or in México, ha!

One a lighter note, we in VOX finally had an Argentinian asado!!! I was so happy because weeks were passing by and I was afraid I would not experience/taste the famous Argentinian meat. Below is a link to a video I create that shows our asado. Note: I made some guacamole and homemade salsa…all of them had never had it before and they loved it :D!

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200644579730232&set=vb.1032477378&type=3&theater

This past weekend, I traveled to the providence of Córdoba. I had planned this trip several weeks back, however I was not able to go due to the nationwide bus strikes. Note, they are so unexpected and no one knew when they would be up and going again. A WOU student studying in Argentina was stuck in the northern part of Argentina for more than a week until she was able to get back…yay for not leaving to Córdoba after they announced their strikes, ha! While in Córdoba, I traveled to Alta Gracia where I visited La Casa del Che Guevarra museum. This was definitely a place I wanted to visit before heading back and I am so happy I was able to make it happen. I learned a lot about Che in my sociology classes at WOU and saw pictures from his childhood home and knew that I had to see it with my own eyes. Below is a link to a video I created while visiting the museum:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200678351374502

I was in Córdoba for a total of 2 days, 1 night and stayed at a hostel known for young folks staying there and partying. Well, it was fun let me tell ya! They made an asado for dinner, had music, TV, people from Germany, France, Columbia, Argentina, and even a guy from Colorado. We all hanged at the hostel and then went dancing to one of the biggest gay clubs in ALL of Argentina, club Zen. The club was huge and packed! They played electronic music to pop to reggaeton and so forth. I only stayed about an hour and a half though because we did not head out until 3 in the morning and you’d think I’d be use to going out late now that I am on week 10, but no, still not use to going out so late!

One more week left…I still have souvenir shopping to do, say my good byes, eat/drink at my favorite bar, go dance, wrap up some projects, get mentally prepared to be back in reality, etc.

Wish me luck!