Week Four. The end is near, noooooooo!

Week four is just ending and in about 8 days I will be on a plane back home. I still can’t believe that time has passed so quickly.

This past week has been great, just like the rest. The week started off with tango lessons and some pizza. The tango lesson was super fun, and all in all quite a success. I managed to not fall on my face and I had a good time, so I will call it a win.

Friday and Saturday were spent in Buenos Aires. Despite a few bumps in the road (like a 5am Friday morning, 7am construction outside the hotel, tiny hotel rooms, getting ripped off for lunch), I had a great time. We visited a lot of historical sites. We visited La Recoleta, the Boca Juniors stadium, el caminito, la casa rosada, el museo de Evita Peron, and la plaza de mayo. A lot of the things we learned about I already knew but it was to see the local perspective on the topics. There are things, like Evitas death, that I definitely want to research more about. But the highlight was the delicious dinner with an amazing tango show. We got to see amazing dancers, musicians, and singers. It was interesting an interesting experience to see a real tango show. From beginning to end, the tangos and songs told a story.

For Saturdays lunch we got to wander around a less touristy town and we found a great meal and I finally tried the traditional Argentine parrillada. Not only was the food delicious but the service was great.

Today was a pretty relaxed day back home in Rosario. Had a good lunch and walked along the river and bought some presents for my family.

image (10) image (11) I apologize for the flipped images, I can’t turn them.image (12) image (9) image (8) image (13) image (14) tomb in la recoletaimage (15) Continue reading

Week Four: Nearly Done with Classes

It’s been a busy week here in Argentina. On Saturday we watched Germany play Argentina in the finals of the World Cup. I was really hoping that Argentina would win, but sadly that didn’t happen.

Argentina in the final

The rest of the week was pretty fun though. We learned how to tango, and by learn I mean I managed not to seriously injure my partner. The two of us managed to end up looking semi-decent by the end of the lesson which is a big success seeing how neither of us can dance. We also learned how to make empanadas in my Grammar class (favorite Grammar class ever!)

Learning to Tango with my class partner

Learning to Tango with my class partner

And this weekend the whole group went off to Buenos Aires. It was a long trip, I got to wake up at 5 to leave the house. Not much fun there. The hotel we stayed at was pretty lousy also, it was small and cramped and the bathroom didn’t work. None of us were to pleased about that.

We were excited though to go to La Bombonera, which is where Boca Juniors plays. Boca Juniors is one of Argentina’s top two soccer teams housed in Buenos Aires. Even though sports are pretty boring to me, I found it interesting to look around and see it.

Visiting the Bombonera in Buenos Aires

Visiting the Bombonera in Buenos Aires

Afterwards we had lunch in the Boca Barrio, where Boca Juniors is originally from. It was a lot of fun, and I got asked a strange question. This man walked up to me and asked if I was from Sacramento because he recognized the symbol on my hat. My hat has a Decepticon symbol so me and the two students I was with were really confused. It wasn’t until later we realized he thought it was a Sacramento Kings hat.

Visiting the Boca Barrio.

Visiting the Boca Barrio.

After visiting Boca, we all went to the National Cemetery in Buenos Aires. It is huge. You need a map to find anything in this place, including the exit. It is about two city blocks of mausoleums, there are street signs to help you orient yourself when walking around.

I managed to find Evita’s grave which was cool, before getting myself lost by taking a side street. Luckily I found my way out so that they didn’t have to send security to come get me when it closed…

One of the graves in the National Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

One of the graves in the National Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

After that trip we went to a tango show. This was a full three course dinner that was very well made. Following that was a two hour tango performance with dancing, singing, and instrumental scores. It was a beautiful representation of the history of tango and I wish I had managed to get more pictures of it.

Dinner and a tango show.

Dinner and a tango show.

This morning was not pleasant. I shared my hotel room with two other girls from the program, and one went out to party last night. She came back at 4 am drunk, which was not the problem. The problem came after that. She took my house keys for my host house and gave them to the consigner because for some reason it made sense. So I woke up this morning and panicked because a) my host mother is out tonight so I needed those keys because no one was there to let me in and b) if I lose them, every key in the building needs to be changed.

Luckily I got my keys in the morning, but the panic at 8:40 in the morning was not a good way to start the day.

After that excitement we took a tour of the city. Below I have one of my pictures of Plaza de Mayo which is the most important plaza in Buenos Aires. On one side is the presidents building, and on the other is the national cathedral which was incredible to see.

This is also the plaza famous for the protests during the Dictatorship when the Madres de Mayo were searching for their lost children.

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, surrounded by many important buildings and where the Madres de Mayo demonstrated.

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, surrounded by many important buildings and where the Madres de Mayo demonstrated.

After that we were taken to a tourist side street where we got lunch and explored. That’s where the picture with the plastic guy came form. Apparently he’d a character in a comic strip here, but I’ve never heard of him before.

Me with a comic strip character.

Me with a comic strip character.

The day finished with a tour of the Evita Peron museum. It was a beautiful building with interesting exhibits. But what really caught my attention is the fact that Evita is like a saint here. It’s one thing to hear about it, but another to encounter. All in all, a very good trip and I’ll be sleeping in tomorrow for the first time in three weeks!

Portrait of Eva Peron.

Portrait of Eva Peron.

Week Three: Vamos Vamos Argentina! Vamos Vamos A Ganar!

On Saturday Naomi and I went to Independence Park, which is two blocks over from my house. The entire park is about ten city blocks put together and was gorgeous. While just walking around looking for stuff to do, we ran into these little guys!

Little ponies I saw in Independence Park

Little ponies I saw in Independence Park

After walking around for a while we found the Argentina Municipal Museum. They were so excited two Americans wanted to look at their museum, they even took us to a special exhibit that’s usually closed to the public to show off! They have Meradona’s jersey there along with some old jerseys of Messi which I was enjoyed.

Outside of Rosario's soccer museum

Outside of Rosario’s soccer museum

After the soccer museum, we met up with Katerina who wanted to try Argentine McDonalds. Here, it’s considered pretty high quality food, and their McCafe was an actual café! Overall it was pretty interesting to see how different it was compared to the McDonald’s in the US.

Somehow Argentine McDonald's looks better than McDonald's in the US...

Somehow Argentine McDonald’s looks better than McDonald’s in the US…

I got to watch Brazil loose amazingly to Germany. When I turned on the tv, I had to double check the score to make sure I was seeing it right. Losing 7-1 in the semifinals? An incredibly embarrassing moment for Brazil. And while they host the World Cup on top of it! We all felt pretty smug that the US has only lost by 1, whereas Brazil was destroyed.

On Wednesday I played soccer in the park with a couple kids from the university. I turn out to actually be pretty good! Afterwards we all went to a bar to watch Argentina play the Netherlands to advance to finals.

Watching the Argentina game!

Watching the Argentina game!

In case you didn’t know, Argentina advanced. We lost it in the bar, everyone was jumping up and down hugging each other and screaming. Then we went with everyone else to party in the streets. There was basically a parade of people heading towards the Monumento de Bandera where a massive party was taking place. We all joined in the party, dancing and chanting along with everyone else. Even more amazing they set off fireworks!

There is no better time to be in Argentina than during the World Cup! This is the first time in twenty years they’ve advanced to the finals so it’s very exciting! I can’t wait until they win!

Vamos Argentina! Party at the monument!

Vamos Argentina! Party at the monument!

Well, today was a bit difficult. I had three tests today and was pretty fried once all was finished. So afterwards I went to the Cathedral in Argentina to pray for good grades. Just kidding, I’d been planning on heading inside since week one.

It was gorgeous, a wonderful experience. They just recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Cathedral which was great to learn about while there. I was quite pleased we made it all the way down to see it.

Image from the Cathedral in Rosario.

Image from the Cathedral in Rosario.

And tomorrow I get to go see the other religious site of Argentina-the soccer stadium!

I found a video on youtube that explains my feelings on the entire World Cup. It was done by John Oliver, so not only is it informative, it’s also pretty funny.

Week Two: One of the Best and Hardest Things I’ve Done

So this week was rather exciting. Our site offered a ride on the Panema River, which I took them up on. It was cold but rather exciting to be sailing and seeing all the different houses around us. Some houses were really well maintained while others were beginning to fall apart. Once again I was stuck by the difference of wealth inside the country. While on the boat Alex and I met a kid who spoke fluent English. He had a lot of questions about America’s political system so we had an hour discussion with him. It was interesting.

On the Panema River with Alex and Naomi.

On the Panema River with Alex and Naomi.

Houses on the river.

Houses on the river.

The next day Naomi and I went to a flea market, and in the afternoon we met up with Alex to get a coffee. While walking to meet Alex I ended up on tv. This guy came up to me and asked me if it was alright if he asked some questions. Hoping to practice my Spanish I agreed. Next thing I know, I’m in a Messi jersey giving an interview on how wonderful the Argentine soccer team is!

On Tuesday we all went to a sports bar to watch the Argentina game, and went nuts when they won. But that was nothing compared to the USA game that night. It was the single most patriotic thing I have participated in ever, no doubt made even more so by being in a foreign country. We sang the national anthem twice, chanted USA every couple of minutes, along with another chant of “I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!” And yes, the all caps was necessary. We were that excited. Of course, the US lost and the bar owner gave us all free shots for mourning. It was amazing.

Watching the US game with the other Americans.

Watching the US game with the other Americans.

And of course, today is the fourth of July so we all went out to a bar to celebrate the independence of our country. The national flag monument here is lit up red white and blue, but I didn’t take a picture because to get there I would have to walk through a very sketch part of town. It would not have been safe, so instead I went with my friends to a restaurant and had a steak for America.

Celebrating the 4th of July!

Celebrating the 4th of July!

However, not everything about this week was happy. Yesterday we went to the Memorial Museum for the Disapeared during the dictatorship that was only about 20-30 years ago. It was hard to get through the museum, the pictures of the missing are haunting. The hardest part for me was to look at pictures of children who had been killed/kidnapped during this time. Many of them still have not been found. We heard a story that happened about a year ago of a young girl who lived in Spain. At age 24, an old man came to talk to her and she learned something shocking. Her parents were not her biological parents. Her mother and father were two of the disappeared (it is used as a noun here) and the grandfather knew her mother was pregnant. The people who raised her tortured and killed her real parents before kidnapping her and fleeing the country. How do you live with that information?

The children of the Disapeared.

The children of the Disapeared.

Even worse, in the building across from our university, they used to torture and execute Argentines during this time. When I look in the windows for the basement I can see the torture rooms, it is chilling to walk by this reminder every day. I can’t fully explain how horrifying it truly is to be constantly reminded of this when I go to class. Once again, I’m struck by the differences between the US and Argentina. It’s hard to think any country could do this, and their motto “nunca mas” reminded me heavily of WWII. (It means never again). Not only that, but the burning of un-approved books and the concentration camps also pounded this in.

In this building, they tortured and killed many Argentines. I see it every day on my way to school.

In this building, they tortured and killed many Argentines. I see it every day on my way to school.

So while I am in a beautiful country, I am constantly reminded of the horrors it committed on the way to and from school every day. And I think this experience will make the biggest impact on me from my time in Argentina.

"These crimes only exist in a society that refuse to see"-quote from the Memorial Museum.

“These crimes only exist in a society that refuse to see”-quote from the Memorial Museum.

First week in Rosario.

I can’t believe tomorrow will mark one week in this lovely city. This week has been exciting and different. It has been a slight challenge to become accustomed to the different dialect of Spanish spoken here, even considering that I am a native speaker.

I did not post upon arrival because I was having computer issues, so I will describe what my arrival was like. When I landed at the Buenos Aires I was a bit overwhelmed and confused. But everyone was informative and I was able to find the bus I was looking for. There I found 15 other students that were all headed to Rosario and were in the same program that I was. They all seemed to know each other so I was a bit shy at first, but it didn’t take long to make friends. Rosario is a big city with tons of traffic, but it grows on you. It’s funny that I don’t feel like I expected to feel. That is, I wasn’t nervous or afraid, instead I feel like i’m family in a familiar city. I guess this is because people from the program are nice and my host family is awesome.

My host family is an older couple who are possibly the nicest people I have ever met and incredible cooks. Every night at 8 we have dinner and talk. They are very proud to be Argentinian and love their city. Just last night after dinner they showed me pictures of Argentina and told me of all the beautiful places I must see while here. They are also interested in knowing what Salem and Oregon are like.

In my short stay here I have seen beautiful architecture and other sights. I have visited el monumento de la bandera, Parana river, and several plazas (which are very abundant here). I have seen stunning artisan work and have enjoyed delicious local cuisine.

 

I am excited to learn and explore Argentina and hope that five weeks is enough to fully experience Rosario.

My first week

Well, the first week in Argentina is complete and I made it through! Quite honestly I spent most of the time exhausted from jet lag and classes but over all it went pretty well. Classes aren’t difficult, but long. The hardest class I have is Spanish grammar level 2 and that is only difficult because she explains it in Spanish so we don’t know what’s happening. It’s getting better, but still.

My first day in class was one of the worst things I had ever faced in my life. I woke up with a mild fever, more like a summer cold, and a pounding headache before walking to class. At first I thought it was just dehydration, but after chugging bottles of water at the university and it not getting better, I realized what it was. The smoke from Rosario (smog and cigarettes) was causing the headache. Once I realized what caused it, I could live with it. For our History of Soccer class we went to a sports bar to watch the game on the tv there. Argentina was playing Nigeria and it was a huge deal.

Kids were let out from school early to get there to watch the game. People were painted white and blue, flags were everywhere, and you could feel the excitement in the air. Even though I felt like I was going to puke, when Messi scored the first goal I was out of my seat screaming with everyone else in the bar. It was chaos. And when Argentina won, the owner set off fireworks.

Watching Argentina win while checking how the USA is doing during the World Cup.

Watching Argentina win while checking how the USA is doing during the World Cup.

After that, a couple of the students and I took a walk down Cordoba street before heading back to the university for evening class. The next day we had class, and out grammar teacher took us on a two hour walk where we be-friended two stray dogs who joined our pack of kids. Then, the mature adults we are, we decided to play in the park with the dogs before heading back for soccer class. This time we had a lecture then watched the end of the Germany/USA game. We were going nuts, about 20 Americans screaming at the screen while these poor Argentines were trying to eat lunch.

Today we had a fun excursion after class. We were given a walking tour of Rosario, told the history around Cordoba street, and showed where the pedestrian walking streets were. Not only that, but we also walked to the National Flag Monument (Monumento de Banderas) where the Argentine flag was originally created. We passed by a cathedral, which I am going to return to take pictures of soon, and walked through the Monument which leads to the river. It was gorgeous, a massive project. To give a rough estimate, it was about the size of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Me at the National Flag Monument in Rosario.

Me at the National Flag Monument in Rosario.

I went home after that because the day was over, and found out that we were having a fiesta tonight. It turns out today is my host mother’s birthday and her family came over. I met her son, daughter-in-law, brother, niece, nephew, and nephew’s girlfriend. Her son also brought his daughter, so it was the entire family there. There was a ridiculous amount of food and it was all amazing. We had empenadas, tostitos, and pizza which is apparently a treat in Argentina. After we had chocolate tarts with champagne and they kept trying to give me whiskey.

During the entire fiesta, the nephew kept asking me questions in English which I had to respond to in Spanish. This is what the night resulted in, he has decided when he and his girlfriend get married they will honeymoon in San Francisco. They announced they would stay at my house for five weeks because I was staying here for five weeks. I told them they needed to talk to my mother, because it wasn’t my house. My host mother chimed in saying my father wouldn’t like me living with strange Argentine boys even if they were married. The nephew’s plan? Show up to my house in drag and pretend to be a girl. I’m pretty sure this entire thing was a joke, but don’t know enough Spanish to be entirely sure.

The highlight of the night was when I was trying to explain what a forest fire was, and all they got was forest. Next thing I know, the entire table is yelling “Run Forest run!” while I try to figure out what just happened.

My host mother (Monica's) birthday party.

My host mother (Monica’s) birthday party.

At the Host House

I made it to my host mother’s house. Her name is Monica and she is a very nice woman, however she does not speak any English what so ever so communicating is a little bit difficult right now. I figure after a couple of days it will be better, I at least recognize basic commands. It’s the full length conversations that are getting to me. She seems like a really nice lady (it’s only been a couple hours though) but strangely she doesn’t want me to really help with anything around the house. She has two children who are moved out and married, so I think she enjoys taking care of someone. I offer to help of course, but she refuses.

My room in my host mother's house.

My room in my host mother’s house.

The house is a bit away from the university, so I’ll have to walk in the morning for a while to get to classes which means I get to wake up early. Yay! I was originally going to take four classes here, but after talking to the professors here they convinced me to take three. Their argument is 16 credit hours, when you meet every day for class, is a bit ridiculous. Even with three classes I’m in school until about 2 o’clock. Also, Monica bought me a phone for my stay here. It’s a pay as you go phone, mostly so I can call her if I need to. I just showed up and there it was ready for me to use. Tomorrow she’ll be taking me down to the store where I pay to use it so I can talk to the other kids in the program.

I’ll try and post something tomorrow about what the classes are like here.

Argentine phone Monica bought for me.

Argentine phone Monica bought for me.

At the Ariston Hotel

I finally arrived in Rosario, and what an adventure it was. I got to wake up at the lovely time of 5 o’clock am to get to the airport by 6. My flight was at 7 and I wanted plenty of time to get to my gate. My taxi driver, a sweet man who spoke limited English and indulged my terrible Spanish, escorted me to the check in line so I wouldn’t get lost. From there it was pretty easy.

When I open up the window, this is what I get to see.

When I open up the window, this is what I get to see.

I got through security pretty well, the security officer just stared at me when I tried to take off my shoes like I was a very special snowflake. But still I managed and got into the waiting area. They loaded us onto a bus to take us to the plane, a tiny little thing, and I then proceeded to sleep through the entire flight. After I landed I took another taxi to the hotel, and again the driver was very nice. He kept asking me questions about California and I tried answering them as best I could but I think I just confused the poor man.

Everything worked out on the check in, and I went up to my room where I slept for about three hours before a girl from my program, Naomi, came in. We’re going to be sharing the room with one other person, Laney. After that, Naomi and I left the hotel with two other people and we went out for dinner at an upscale sports bar called Las Palmas. I split a sandwich with Michelle, something called chorizo which was delicious. Jason, the other person with us, wanted a beer but what came wasn’t a small bottle. No, this one was about the size of a liter of coke.

 

Dinner, chorizo,  with the other study abroad kids.

Dinner, chorizo, with the other study abroad kids.

Dinner with everyone at Las Palmas.

Dinner with everyone at Las Palmas.

 

The most exciting part of the meal wasn’t watching Mexico beat Croatia at soccer. It was when all of a sudden during the meal a parade walked by us. About fifty kids who looked to be in college with drums and signs, all chanting the same thing as they walked by. It was bizarre but really cool. Again, looking at the buildings around me is strange. Half of them are upscale and modern, while the others are old and slowly falling apart. The pavement looks alright from a distance, but it is broken up in a lot of places. Also, during our walk, we learned that dogs do their business on the sidewalk and the poo is left behind.

 

Random parade outside the restaurant.

Random parade outside the restaurant.

 

Well, after lunch we returned to the hotel for a quick evening meal as we met the entire group for the first time. Little sandwiches and empanadas were out for us to eat as we talked to our future professors. My Spanish must have been up to their standards because none of them laughed in my face. Once the reception finished I went on a walk with Laney and two other girls. Isamar is from WOU and I think the other girl is named Lauren (not sure on that one). We went to the Argentinian Wallmart where I got shampoo and body wash before walking down the main avenue of the town. It was gorgeous surrounded by trees and beautiful buildings. We were out for about an hour, and during this I learned one important thing.

Argentinian’s have no fear when it comes to cars. People were running around the street, one guy nearly got hit. There were no turn signals, lot’s of honking, everything was really fast and the four of us just watched in a kind of horrified awe. It was a little terrifying. The strangest thing is that there was this one juggler we saw, who when the light turned red ran into the middle of the street and began to perform. When the light turned green the cars would go and he would run through the cars back to the street. It was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen in my life.

Taking a walk on the main avenue in Rosario.

Taking a walk on the main avenue in Rosario.

Tomorrow I meet my host family and have orientation, so I’ll try to update after that.

 

First Night in Argentina

I got off the plane to Buenos Aires, and at first it seemed like no one was there. That might have had to do with the fact that the flight landed at 8 in the morning. Well, as soon as I got through the international check there were people everywhere. Swarms of people just talking and laughing, getting their bags, walking into stores. Being surrounded by that much Spanish was overwhelming, I forgot everything I knew and just stood there for a solid minute before moving on.

Baggage pickup was very nice, in a completely unexpected way. There were just lines of people waiting, some for baggage, some for customs, some I didn’t even know why they were there. All my bags came through which is always a relief and I met someone in line in the same situation.

Relaxing in Atlanta before my ten hour flight.

Relaxing in Atlanta before my ten hour flight.

Her name was Ashley, and she was studying in Cordoba, Argentina for the summer. We quickly bonded as being the only two people who did not speak fluent Spanish in the near vicinity (she is from Scotland, and I am from the U.S. in case that was apparent already). We both enjoyed knowing there was one other person who had no idea what was happening around them.

Customs gave me no problems, they let me go pretty quickly. And then I entered the horde. I thought the international terminal was bad in EZE, but when I left it the rest of the airport was just packed with people. Once again, the shock of that many people just made me shut down a little before I got help.

This help came in the form of a taxi company. The woman who booked my cab (which was only 20 dollars in US dollars) wrote out directions to the money exchange. She then waited for me at the booth the entire time it took to complete the transaction before escorting me to my cab driver. That’s what really struck me in the airport, how wonderful and nice everyone was. Everyone was so pleasant and it was great. If they had all been super cranky I’m not sure what I would have done, especially at the hotel I’m staying at. They were all so wonderful, putting up with my mangled Spanish and helping get me checked in for my flight tomorrow. This poor guy, one of the concierges, had to help me for two hours because I couldn’t figure out how to work their computers.

I loved the ride over from the hotel. I spent the entire time looking out the windows and just studying how different the trees around me were. They are similar enough to California trees to be comforting, but just different enough to draw attention. I haven’t seen any birds yet, but they are loud out there. Another thing I didn’t realize was how humid it is here, it just feels like it should be raining at any second.

What really struck me though, and what is going to stick with me, was the strange mash of buildings on the drive. There were some ancient churches we drove past that were absolutely gorgeous tucked right up against state of the art soccer stadiums. Ranches sit right next to golf courses, a stunning white cathedral sits across from my hotel right next to an actual hovel. One of the walls was caving in, chickens and horses were running around it, and standing above it is this display of wealth. This striking mismatch shocked me. From my window, there’s a perfect example of this. A brand new soccer stadium sits proudly, while next to it is a concrete bridge for pedestrians that looks to be slowly falling apart.

One of many such projects I saw on my drive to the hotel.

One of many such projects I saw on my drive to the hotel.

My hotel in Buenos Aires.

My hotel in Buenos Aires.

 

And while I feel that these are important to point out, it was some of the ruins that really had a chilling effect. On the drive to my hotel, I noticed there was a little cute picture of a police man that said 30km. He appeared again at the 20km marker and counted down to something, I just wasn’t sure what. In about thirty seconds though I found out. The remains of a police check point was what I saw, the glass broken and burn marks on the concrete. I don’t know what it is from, and it happened to fast to take a picture of, but it was enough to make me curious about why it was so damaged.

But what really made my night was dinner. So the only restaurant is this really nice fancy one. And it was the only place I could eat tonight so I went. I felt so bad for the manager, here he is trying to keep it all fancy as people are there with their dates and families. I went there directly after getting off the plane. So its been about two days since I showered, my hair is disgusting, and I have no makeup on. I am sitting in his fancy restaurant eating a delicious meal looking disgusting while he tries to deal with it. It should not have been as funny to me as it was. Must be the lack of sleep.

A really nice place where I had dinner.

A really nice place where I had dinner.