Ohmygoodness. Arrival was very…interesting. We got to the airport around 8 and they airport wasn’t abnormal…I don’t know why I expected it to be different. We went through security and they chose to check me. We walked around and found the bus station but it didn’t leave until 9:30 I think. The bus was very fancy but I made myself stay up so I would go to bed when we got to the hotel. However, we didn’t get to the hotel until about 2 a.m. Anyways, we definitely went right to bed when we got here and woke up kind of early the next day! Had some delicious breakfast! And we’re off to an adventure!
Wake up call! When we arrived In Mexico City everything switched to Spanish which was expected. It was interesting listening to people speaking and not be sure what they were saying. Going through the airport was quite the experience! I was able to keep up with what they said most of the time so that was good and the people were all really nice.
It’s been a super long day after three flights, a bus ride, and a taxi ride to get to our hotel. I can’t wait to go out and explore the city tomorrow! Tomorrow I will really experience the Mexican culture!! Courtney
Like I said in my introductory post, I’m posting all of these long after I was supposed to (sorry about that). However, after my first day (Saturday night, June 15) I did write down everything that happened as far as getting to Fes, so luckily I can just use that for this particular entry, while adding in a few little details.
Just for context, I was to take a flight from San Francisco to New York, then from New York to Casablanca. Then I would take a train from Casablanca to Fes.
So, where to begin? I’ve only been in Morocco one day but it feels like it’s been a week since I left. I actually have to struggle to remember everything. So the first flight was from San Francisco to JFK Airport, New York. Had to get up around 4 in the morning on Friday to get to the airport on time and everything. There was some initial confusion since even though I was taking JetBlue airlines from San Francisco to New York, which is a domestic flight, JetBlue was in the international terminal, so I suppose they go by the ultimate destination (Morocco) rather than where I would be changing flights. Luckily, my dad came into the airport with me to help out, and once we figured out where I had to go and I got my ticket, the rest went off without a hitch. I got some sleep, though it wasn’t very good sleep since my neck was uncomfortable, but whatever.
Then there was JFK airport. That place was a nightmare. Just the sheer size of the airport was enough to make my head spin. As I departed the plane, I realized that the ENTIRE TERMINAL I was in was just for JetBlue airlines!! So I had to figure out how to get to the other terminals, which wasn’t easy since it’s such a big airport. I eventually discovered that I had to get on this “airtrain” thing, so I followed the signs until I got to it. Then I had to look up which terminal Air Maroc (my flight to Casablanca) was in (Terminal 1), and then I jumped on the little airport metro thing (sorry, airtrain) and got there okay.
From there though, I had to get my ACTUAL ticket in order to go through security, which wasn’t difficult, and then I just waited in line for a while and got through security. After that, it gets annoying, though. According to my boarding pass the flight was leaving from Gate 9, which I got to just fine. A flight to Brussels was leaving, so I figured my flight to Casablanca would show up on the screen once that was done (there was no single big screen with all the departures and corresponding gates). However, I check back later only to see a flight to WARSAW pop up. I asked the lady at the counter and she didn’t help at all, so I walked over to neighboring Gate 10 just to see if I got lucky, and it turned out the flight was coming in at Gate 10… an hour late. I actually had a bit of a freak out because I wasn’t sure if I was miscalculating military time and had already missed the flight, but no, it was just late. Then there was this huge line that formed, right next to another line for this Air France flight that kept getting all delayed or something. Point is, EVENTUALLY I got on to the plane, although about an hour later than the ticket said we would. From here it gets worse though. The flight itself was fine, the seats were good, there was plenty of leg room, and the pillow allowed me to get some good sleep. BUT, even after everyone boarded, the flight didn’t leave for another two hours! It sat at the gate for the longest time, then it taxi’d a little bit, then stopped, then taxi’d a little bit, and so on. It’s a good thing I told Driss Marjane (the program director for AHA) I would arrive in Fes between 2 and 5!
Once we landed in Casablanca (and just the view from the plane was great, Casablanca is just miles and miles of totally flat farmlands with Moroccan style manors scattered about), I couldn’t find an ATM, so I just exchanged some money at the booth. I followed the signs that featured a picture of a train. Here was another issue: my computer, as well as the little clock on the flight map on the back of everyone’s seats in Air Maroc, said the time was an hour earlier than it actually was. Add to that the fact that everything’s in military time, and I’m not sure what the heck is going on. Getting the two tickets was a breeze, I just mentioned Casavoyageurs, and Casavoyageurs to Fes to the man in the booth, and he instantly understood. He also pointed to the proper dirham bills I needed to pay him with. At this point, I had set my watch to an hour earlier than the actual time without realizing it, so my watch said it was 8:58am or so. My ticket said the train departed at 10:00am, so I figured for some reason I didn’t catch the next one that would leave in a few minutes and had to wait for the one after. However, just to be sure, I went to where the trains stop, and the train there was the same number as the one on my ticket! So I jumped on board and sat in my comfortable first class seat, and promptly moved my watch time forward an hour.
The ride to Casavoyageurs took a half hour, and the scenery was great. Bright red, yellow, orange dirt and rocks, bright green foliage, square buildings in earthen tones. Two American ladies sat down with me, and it turned out they were headed for Fes as well (and were probably on the same airplane, since they said they came from New York). So we just sort of figured out how to get to the Fes train together, and I tagged along with them. Eventually it was figured out where this train was, so it was a good thing I stuck with them, since I assumed it was at a different terminal! This train was much larger than the other one, and it was in the style of European trains with the booths that seat six people and have doors you can shut. Me and the two ladies from New York just sat in one for ourselves, but just like my experience traveling in trains with my parents in Europe, it turned out we were supposed to sit in an assigned compartment. I wound up sitting in a booth with two women speaking Arabic, a little girl, and a silent middle-aged man with a shaved head. The man silently gestured to available places I could put my baggage (since I just set it on my lap at first), and later silently offered me some Pringles (but I didn’t want any salty chips since I was already sweating like a beast, so I passed up the offer). However, once I pulled out my Moroccan phrasebook, he totally surprised me by speaking to me in English! It turned out he didn’t even speak Arabic at all, he was an Englishman who comes to Morocco a few times a year, because he married his wife (who was speaking Arabic with the other woman) here. I think his parents were Pakistani, but he was born in England. He lives in Birmingham, if I recall correctly. He was a really neat guy, the three and a half hour train ride flew by remarkably fast thanks to the interesting conversation. We covered everything, from the experience of traveling abroad to learning Arabic and the Qur’an to the political and social implications of the housing crisis/economic recession. I also learned he planned to open up a moped garage in Morocco sometime in the near future. I think I won the lottery as far as being randomly stuck with someone on a train for three hours!
As an added bonus, another middle-aged man named Hassan joined our booth after one of the stops, and spoke in Arabic to the Englishman’s wife and the other woman. After several minutes of this, suddenly he reveals that he also speaks English, and he’s American! Well, he has dual citizenship. He lived in Richmond Virginia, then moved to the Bronx, then moved (back?) to Morocco. They were all really nice people, the scenery was amazing, and I was almost disappointed when we finally reached Fes. I said goodbye to Hassan (the Moroccan American) and the Englishman (I only heard the Englishman’s name once at the end of the ride, and I have a really bad memory so I’m sorry if I get this wrong, but I think it was Faru), and departed the train. It seems you can meet some really interesting people on the train to Fes.
Once I got out of the train, I was struck by how much hotter it was with the sun beating down at 2:30pm without the cool sea breeze that Casablanca had (Casablanca seriously felt just as comfortable as California during the summer). I was supposed to meet Driss Marjane, the AHA program director, at the train station. I didn’t see Driss, but I figured since my plane was late that he probably had picked up the other two AHA students and was waiting at the hotel. A middle-aged Moroccan man with a sort of bugged-out eye approached me with greetings in Arabic, French, Spanish, and finally English, and since I was getting a little anxious, I decided I would just trust him since he wanted to taxi me to the hotel on foot (since I had the address of the hotel written on a flashcard, and it was only a few blocks away). My gut and my brain told me not to follow this random, shady-looking man into the city by myself, but for some reason I just decided to go with the flow.
I followed the man through the town in the scorching heat, I was sweating up a storm and I was also freaking out a little in my head since it was just me and this shady guide walking down some dilapidated streets. With what little English he knew, he told me how he had a bunch of American friends, and he kept bringing up the fact that he would take me on a tour of the medina and give me discounts for shopping and the like. I think he also implied that he could sell me some hashish, haha. I turned down all of his offers of course, and we finally arrived at the hotel. It had the right name and was across from a massive McDonald’s, just as described in an email from Driss. I got my leftover dirhams (Moroccan currency) out, and since I didn’t know how much to pay someone for walking me to the hotel, I just asked him how much I should give him by holding out the various bills I had. Predictably he wanted me to give him the biggest bill, which was 200 dirhams (a little over 20 American dollars). Obviously that’s more than I was obliged to give him, but he had ultimately brought me to my destination, he carried one of my bags, and I really just didn’t care at this point, so I gave it to him. Before he left he told me his name (Mohamed) and gave me his right hand to shake. Turned out he had a malformed right hand in addition to his bug eye. I still shook his hand though. He was very thankful for the money, probably since he wanted future business (he wrote down his cell number on the back of my flashcard), but at the end of the day, it’s only 20 dollars, and it’ll go to feeding his family anyway (or maybe it’ll go to drugs, who knows). Either way, no point crying over spilled milk I figure. I don’t plan on getting in that kind of situation again, but I met a pretty interesting character as a result.
Now the next challenge. I walked into the hotel lobby with my two bags and realized I had no clue what to do next. After waiting around I went up to the man behind the counter, who did not speak English, and I just sort of desperately mentioned Driss’s name to see if anything happened. When that didn’t work, I figured I’d ask if he had a phone I could use, since I had Driss’s mobile number on the flashcard. He revealed that the phone in the lobby didn’t work, so I would have to go to a payphone up the street. I found the payphone, but had no idea how to work it, or even if it was still working. Even if I did somehow manage to figure out how to put the coins in it, I don’t think I had enough dirhams anyways. I was really starting to freak out at this point, so I made my way back down the street… And that was when this American comes up to me and asks if I’m Mike.
As luck would have it, I walked right by a cafe where the other two AHA students, both from Portland, Cody and Ahmed, were sitting. Cody was the one who came up to me, and man was I happy to see them. I sat down with them and eventually Driss showed up at the café. We shook hands and then he bought lunch for all of us.
Driss took me back to the hotel, got me my room key, and just told me to meet him back down in the lobby at 6pm. So I got an hour and a half to relax after all of the stress and anxiety. Downstairs Driss gave me, Cody and Ahmed our class schedule, a schedule of all the excursions we could go on through ALIF (American Language Institute of Fes) this summer, and a copy of the homestay info he emailed us earlier. We also met Jenna (I never saw how your name was spelled, so again, sorry if I’m doing it wrong!), an AHA employee who was really nice and accompanied us on Driss’s tour of the New Medina (Ville Nouvelle). The rest of the evening was basically just a tour as we all got to know each other. He showed us ALIF, as well as locations of various ATMs, and he gave a lot of general advice that was good to know. Driss is a really awesome guy, he is totally fluent in English AND French, plus he’s funny, smart, and extremely generous and helpful (you can see Driss in the photo of me in my introductory post… he’s standing behind me wearing a green shirt). We ate at a nice Italian place (all the menu items were in French, so I was lost, but it wasn’t any worse than when I was in Europe with my parents), and then finally we arrived back home after buying some bottled water.
Aaaaaand end quote. Actually it seems I lied in my introductory post, I don’t think I will be able to recount the first week’s events before today (Monday, June 24) ends, as I will only have internet access for the next thirty minutes or so, and I need to use that time to do Arabic homework. Looking back on it, I think I will probably split my first week in Morocco into two or three blog posts, just because there is so much material, and that way I can put SOMETHING on this blog (inshallah) rather than waiting and then just dropping one really big post.
Just because of everything going on during my arrival, and trying to acclimatize to my new surroundings, I didn’t take any pictures. However, I will have a LOT of pictures to share in the coming posts… I’ll leave you with this tantalizing taste of things to come, a preview of sorts… Peer into the gate now, then explore what lies beyond in the next installment of this blog!
My trip to Vienna was quite the adventure. As I had previously never been to another country, or even flown on a plane, I didn’t know what was in store for me. With no flying experience, taking three planes over two days and spending a combined 16 hours sitting in airports was quite stressful. When I finally made it to Vienna I easily worked my way through the airport to the exit where my taxi driver was waiting for me holding a sign with my name on it. I was very happy to see him because I knew it meant I would be to my residence hall where I could sleep and then finally start familiarizing myself with Vienna like I had been waiting to do for so long. When I got to him I quickly realized he spoke no English, meaning we were not able to talk at all during our half hour drive together. The driving style in Vienna came as quite a shock to me after always living in small towns where people are generally safe and considerate on the road. The entire way he drove at extremely fast speeds while leaving no more than a few inches between him and the car in front of him, even through places in town where there were bikers and pedestrians trying to use the road as well! Several times he crossed lanes on a whim regardless of their being other drivers in the lane, at one point shoving a car off the road. While we were stopped at a red light there was a pedestrian in the middle of the road talking to another stopped car through the drivers window and the driver rolled up the window causing the man to come to our car and talk to my driver. They exchanged some words in German that I didn’t understand and then my driver rolled up his window as well and drove off. Shortly after that we arrived at my residence hall where I was to enter my birth date into a lock box to get the key to my room, as I was arriving in the middle of the night after the office was closed. By the time I got to my room I was quite scared to say the least. I suddenly was very alone in the middle of the night in a foreign place with crazy drivers and that was so far all I knew of my temporary home.
On the plane leaving Philadelphia! Destination: London! Excited but nervous!
My arrival at the airport was definitely different than previous experiences of mine. The airplane stopped at a gate that was just off the runway but not attached to the actual airport itself. So they had the passengers slowly getting of the airplane by stairs that were pushed up against the door of the plane. They had to have passengers come off in groups as shuttles came to transport us to the airport. Once I arrived to the terminal I made my way to customs to receive my visa. The line was very long but luckily it moved quickly. I have to say I was pretty nervous about making sure I did everything right but I showed them what they needed, I got my visa stamp, and off I want! Next was baggage claim and I had this very nice English man help me in finding my bag. From there I had to walk to terminal 3, I’ll note that I was in terminal 1, to find my group that was picking me up! This is where I started things began getting difficult and I let it get the best of me. I thought there was a train to transport people to terminal 3 but I was unable to find one and by following the signs ended up walking the whole way there. At this point I realized I might have packed too much because it wasn’t easy for me to transport all of my luggage on my own, but I didn’t have a choice. I eventually made it to terminal 3 but then ran into the next issue of not being able to find my group. This got me stressed and frazzled because the group was supposed to be leaving the airport at noon, and it was 11:45am. Although I knew they would wait for me I don’t like being late for things. At this point I began to panic and breakdown because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have change to work the payphones to call my on-site director. I didn’t have Wi-Fi anymore because I only received it for 45 minutes and I started my time when I arrived so that I could inform family that I made it safely. I had another English man see me struggling and he came to talk to me and attempt to help but that only made me embarrassed since I was tearing up and so I toughened up and told him I would find them! I went to go ask this one group I saw for help because they were sort of watching me put the sign I saw this girl hold up wasn’t the group I was a part of. I went and asked anyways and it turned out it was my group! I finally made it to where I needed to be thank goodness! It turns out at the end of the arrival instructions it said to look for this bag rather than a sign, and the bag was clear as day but I didn’t read that far into my instructions to know that was what I was looking for.
There were about eight other people there and we had to wait for one more before we could leave! Unfortunately, she never showed up and no one was able to find out why so our site director decided we’d leave while one other girl working for the program stayed behind. We then had a van transport us to where we would be staying; most of us were staying in the same dorm except for two other girls who were going to be staying someplace else. We got our oyster cards set up, which are cards needed for unlimited travel on buses and the tube! The tube is the underground train system here! After, we all went to our local pub with our on-site director so we could get something to eat and get any question we had answered which was nice.
Flying all day Friday and then arriving in London Saturday morning was extremely exhausting and after my first day I couldn’t wait to go to bed! I’m excited to see what adventures this trip brings though!
My flight plan took me to Amsterdam before I actually arrived in Ireland. In Amsterdam the airport was chaotic. Picture a large mass of people swarming around made up of all different nationalities. Just from walking two minutes I heard at least three different languages. My biggest concern was finding my terminal. I managed to find it without any problems, although it was on the other side of the airport. This allowed me to walk through the entire airport where, to my amusement, there was a shop named simply “Tobacco, Liquor, Chocolates”. My layover ended up being 5 hours due to snow storms in Ireland. It was snow, in fact, that greeted me upon my arrival.
Once I was off the plan, through customs, and had collected my luggage I needed to figure out how to get on the right bus. Luckily the people in the airport were really friendly, probably having dealt with plenty of lost travelers. I was directed to the right location where I could await the air coach. Once on the air coach it allowed me my first glimpse of Dublin and neighboring towns. I admit to a holding slight misconceptions about places outside Dublin. I knew where I was staying was relatively small in comparison to Dublin and wrongly assumed that it would be farmland or fields of green with a town of course. That assumption was very wrong. While the location where I live is small in comparison to Dublin, that does not mean that it is small. I guess size is relative and when you live in a town consisting of only a college really for the last two years small to you is really small. The streets are narrow and the setup of the streets is completely different. The streets are made up of a lot of one ways and round-a-bouts.
It was easy for me to get turned around especially since street signs are not as popular here. I will admit my poor sense of direction did not help my case. I am just thankful that the people are extremely friendly and were always willing to stop and help direct me. While my misconceptions have been laid to rest it does not mean that I am disappointed with the reality. Ireland is so alive with people. It is hard to put into words what my first look at Ireland was like. How do you describe something that is completely intangible. There is a different feel in the atmosphere here, one that may have been heightened by my excitement, but I don’t think so. I looked around and even just my first casual glance caught sight of the remains of a castle. The castle was situated within the town and seemed to blend into the surroundings, because the town itself appeared to be so rich with history. Maybe that was the cause of the in explainable feeling upon first arrival. All I know is I look forward to fully exploring this beautiful country!
My arrival in Stuttgart, Germany was much like I expected. Navigating any airport these days is fairly easy. Most signs are international symbols, in addition I was able to read the German signs and there was usually an English sign right next to it so there was basically no excuse for getting lost. A very interesting element of my arrival that I didn’t expect was the chatter from the passengers as we got off. Some of it was in German of course, but most of it was in Danish as we had just come from Copenhagen.
The Airport itself was like any American airport anywhere with the exception of the German signs. I didn’t encounter any unusual smells like I did during my arrival in Korea years ago. In just about every way the arrival was much less of a shock to my senses and much less confusing than my first trip to Korea in 1975.
Not long before my departure my wife learned that old friends of ours were living in Germany. He is a Colonel in the US Air Force and I knew that he had been stationed in Germany, but I thought his tour was over and he had returned to the states. It turned out that not only was he still in Germany but was living in Stuttgart! He and his wife picked me up at the Airport. I’m not certain of course, but I don’t think too many study abroad students get picked up at the airport by Air Force officers. They drove me straight to Tubingen and gave me a quick tour of the town, including the castle at the top of the hill in the old part of the town. Then they took me to lunch which was wonderful, but I found that I wasn’t able to finish eating it. My friend pointed out to me “Of course you can’t finish it, its the middle of the night for you, not lunch time!” The jet lag thing hadn’t really caught up with me but it did soon after.
My friends then took me to the dormitory where I checked in. We exchanged phone numbers and they said good by and I went to bed and Crashed for a couple of hours until it was time for a get together dinner with the program director, students, and staff.
In my rush to meet up with my old friends I didn’t take any pictures at the airport on arrival. I completely forgot about that. I did have them take a picture of me at the castle just before lunch, so I’m including that picture.
So my arrival in Mexico was pretty crazy. I left Portland at 7:30 in the morning, arrived in San Francisco at about 9, met up with the rest of the group traveling together, left San Fran at about 1, and finally arrived in Mexico City at about 6:30 local time. I’m not exactly sure what time that would be in Portland, but I think right now there is only a one hour difference.
The arrival at the airport was crazy. We got off the plane and had to fill out immigration forms and customs forms, and we waited in the line for what seemed like forever. Passing through the immigration’s felt great. The man asked how long I planned on staying, why I was there, etc. Getting through the customs check was scary though. There were really tough, official looking people with dogs. Luckily, I was not chosen to get searched and just got to walk right through. Leaving that part, I entered into an ocean of people waiting at the gate meeting people.
I’m so happy that my group of people that I came with was rather big– 9 people! There is a lot to be said baout mob mentality when no one knows where we are going =p We had to wander through the airport for a little while just trying to find the bus station to buy tickets. Everything was in Spanish. Everyone was speaking Spanish. I felt a little like “O my gosh. This is going to be hard.” We did actually make it to the bus ticket window, and we all bought tickets. I totally butchered my Spanish there though. It’s so bad because I know what I should have said, but in the moment, I did NOT say what I meant =p The same thing happened when we were going through “security” to get onto the bus. The man took my bag, asked me a bunch of questions, and all I could do was stand there dumb-founded like I’ve never heard a word of Spanish in my life. UGH! haha “poco a poco” my host family says. “Little by little.” I think it’s just the fact that I’m being put on the spot. I know i’m making mistakes, but that’s ok because that’s how I’ll learn.
The bus ride was about 3 hours. I sat near the front of the bus and the others say near the rear. It was a super fancy bus. Like first class =p They gave us snacks when we got on– chips, a rice crispy treat, and of course, a bottle of water 😉 And the seats had little computers built in that worked with movies or the internet. I didn’t mess around with that too much. I was more ready for a nap. And that was easier because it was dark outside and the bus was comfortable. The bus ride then ended with a cab ride to the hostel that some of us were staying at–this day was probably the longest day and made me take the most modes of transportation ever!
Unfortunately we were an odd number for the cab, and I drew the short straw to ride solo. (SHH, don’t tell my mom =p) Everything was fine. No problems. I was able to some what communicate my destination to the cab driver. O my gosh! Scary taxi ride! Reminded me completely of being in Eastern Europe. They just drive like crazy people. There were no seat belts. I was terrified some of the time =p But i survived! And he dropped me off at my hostel, and I was able to meet the others again =)
I don’t know what to say at that point. It was great to finally ARRIVE somewhere and not have to keep driving. It showed me just a little taste of the language though. And…yea, I’m hoping it gets better! I can’t imagine being in this language shock forever. I feel like the more I get used to actually being here, the better I’ll understand. Right now I’m still trying to catch up with all of the traveling and lack of sleep =p
I’m completely excited to start school tomorrow and start learning more Spanish. I hope all goes ok =) Wish me luck guys <3
(There are no pictures yet because I suck at life and forgot to take some =p Stay tuned!)
Leaving from home was harder than I expected. I really wished I had a few more days to get everything done and talk with my family and friends. I had one of my really good friends take me to the airport, and it was excruciatingly hard to say goodbye. After our goodbye my heart physically ached through the entirety of the security line and most of the way to San Francisco, and then it did so again every time I thought about it for the entirety of my final two flights. As a side note, San Francisco needs to plan their airport a little better; there should be no reason to force someone to go through security again on a connecting flight, particularly when their layover is less than 40 minutes. I had to really hustle and it wasn’t fun.
The flight into Narita was long, tiring, and boring. I hadn’t slept the night before my flights, and was hoping to sleep for quite a bit of the flight. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The only time I slept was after taking my sleep-aid when I already felt like I was ready to sleep, when the flight had about 9 hours left. I woke up thinking “we must be over halfway there”. However, the joke was on me, I had only slept for somewhere around 1-2 hours and were another hour or two away from being halfway there. I didn’t sleep again until about 10 that night, leaving me with very little sleep in a two day stretch.
Upon arriving at the airport the process was pretty straight forward. We had filled out the customs declaration form and the disembarkation card while on the plane, so I just followed the line to the entry point and then went up to the counter, got my residence card, and went down to claim my baggage. After claiming my baggage I wandered out through the duty free line into the lobby and saw a lot of people waiting for their family and friends to arrive. As I walked out past the entrance, I was met by my friend Yumi who had been a foreign exchange student who homestayed with my grandma many years ago. She gave me a great big hug and then we got out of the way of everyone else. She then bought me coffee and got us both bus tickets to take us into Tokyo. On the bus I didn’t even do much looking around out the windows, I was too busy chatting with Yumi!
We arrived near Shinagawa station at a hotel parking lot. We then walked over to Shinagawa station (which I quickly memorized the kanji name for), and holy crap it was busy. Even during a less busy time there was a huge crowd of people crossing the street. It felt like something out of Braveheart, with two huge battle lines rushing toward each other in the middle of the street. Yumi then went over to the ticket machine and bought us tickets to get to Kitashinagawa station and showed me how to use the ticket to enter the station and then exit at our stop. From there we walked to the Shinagawa Guest House where I would be staying the first night.
After stowing my bags we ventured out to find something to eat. I was very tired but was still excited and wanted to spend more time with Yumi while learning more things. After much debate, Yumi settled on eating at an izakaya on the 3rd floor of a building near Shinagawa station. The dining experience was quite interesting and Yumi spent way too much money on food for me. I tried to protest and pay for my own every time she paid for something, but it’s hard to do, she was very insistent. Maybe I’ll learn how to say: “I’m definitely paying and that’s that” in Japanese and solve that problem! Her help was amazing and I was really happy to see her. It doesn’t hurt that she’s stunningly beautiful too.
Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me or take pictures for most of the day I arrived, so the pictures in this post are from the following day.
I am finally in ARGENTINA!!! After a full one and a half day of traveling from Portland to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Houston, Houston to Buenos Aries, and Buenos Aries to Rosario, I made it to VOX Asociación Civil (A.C.).
(Bus station in Buenos Aries, Arg.)
Let me take you all back two days from today, March 20th 2013. I left Monmouth at 6am with no prior sleep in hopes of sleeping during my flight(s). My flight from PDX to LA was 2 hours and went by quick; I actually slept the during the whole flight. LA to Houston was 3.5 hours, but it too was quick. This flight along with my next flight from Houston to Buenos Aries had T.V.s for every seat with access to movies, T.V. shows, music, and games. My flight from Houston to Buenos Aries was the toughest one. I had never been on a flight that was 10 hours!!! I brought a quilt, neck pillow, charged laptop/iPod, book, and had the T.V. movies available for me, however it did not help me much with being in a tight space for such a long period of time. Luckily, I was able to sleep half way through the flight and woke up an hour before landing.
(Somewhere in South America ha!)
Once we landed in Arg. (March 21st), immigration/customs took a good hour or so. After showing my documentations and examination of my belongings, I walk through the sliding doors to a large group of folks yelling taxi’s, omnibus, etc. I had planned prior with VOX A.C. for them to pick me up, but with no phono service or wifi available, I was about to bust a mission and look for Camila & Julio; two individuals whom work with VOX A.C. and are part of Grupos Jovenes. Surprisingly, I was able to find less than 5 minutes after my search. My first reactions were relief and excitement. After traveling for so long, I wanted to finally arrive and see some familiar faces.
At the airport, we went to buy some bus tickets. While waiting in line, I met a young lady from Boston, Lauren, whom was meeting up with her friend in Buenos Aries. She knew very minimal Spanish and asked for both mine and Camila/Julio’s help. After telling Camila/Julio where she was trying to get, she joined us and came along on our mini adventure. We got the tickets, got lost for about 30 minutes, and eventually found the bus and left the airport.
(El omnibus que nos llevo a la capital)
The bus ride to the capital seemed quick, even though it was a 30-45 min. ride. We talked about VOX A.C., shared personal stories, saw lots of high buildings, and we even drove pass La Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace). After getting dropped off at one of the bus stations, Camila, Julio, and I made our way to another bus station while Lauren got a taxi and went her way.
(Snapshot while on the bus. Buenos Aries, Arg.)
We walked several blocks to get to the bus station and note, we had all of my belongings. I was a little nervous walking the streets with my stuff because folks had told me prior to arriving to not have valuables visible due to picketers and in general raising your visibility. Thankfully, we quickly made our way through the crowded side walks and busy streets and bought our tickets to Rosario.
(Forgot the name of this park in Buenos Aries, oops!)
Within 30 minutes of purchasing our tickets, we got on the bus and left Buenos Aries which by the way was another 30-45 minutes just to leave the city. During the bus ride, I practice my first “siesta” (nap after lunch) though I am not sure if it truly counts. All three of us slept for a good hour and a half or so. Once awake, I observed the land and thought how much it resembles parts of the midwest; very flat, green/yellow colors, and parts cloudy. Upon arrival to Rosario, I remember seeing the Rosario Casino, a shopping center, lots of old, vintage looking buildings with a little modern twist, folks driving motorcycles, many small cars driving very fast in-between lanes, and people walking as the sun set.
At the bus station, we got a taxi and made our way to Entre Rios, the street where VOX A.C. is located. This was about a 15 min. drive. When we arrived, Guillermo, the President of VOX A.C., along with a few other individuals were waiting and greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and a hug. I am not going to lie, I was very nervous at this point because I finally was here and it truly hit me; I had a surreal moment.
The first night, Julio and César, another member of Grupos Jovenes, stayed with me. One thing that I have been wanting to try was yerba mate and this finally came true! They served the tea in a traditional mate. Yerba mate definitely is a new taste that I am going to have to get use to. It was quite bitter even though sugar was added. Still, I got one thing check off my bucket list while in Argentina.
Afterwards, we walked around the city for a bit and went to the grocery store to find food to make back at the office. Ironically, we decided to make a Mexican dish, Pollo ala Crema which is my favorite. We ate, listened and exchanged music, had many conversations ranging from the history of the LGBT community to politics to philosophers to pop culture, etc. Note, I am a “native speaker,” but there were times when I had no idea what they were talking about. I let them know however and they would explain things in another manner and slow down when speaking. Also, Julio knows English which helped a lot. By this time, it was around 1 am, Friday March 22nd. We would be waking up early this day for a presentation VOX A.C. would conduct at 9:30am. After unpacking a few things, taking a necessary shower, updating my Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook, I called it a good night and went up to one of the rooms. Thinking that I would be able to fall asleep because I was tired, that did not happen. Argentina is four hours ahead and I was still use to the time zone in Oregon. I laid for about an hour until I fell asleep and eventually woke up at 8am to the busy city of Rosario.