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.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

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!

What a beauty.

Hey y’all,

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while; I’ve been caught up, but finally got some time to sit down. Last weekend was a dream come true. I had the opportunity to travel 15+ hours north to the small providence of Misiones and visit the National Iguazu Park as well as meet up with the one of the only LGBT organizations in this providence, LGBT Misiones. Words and pictures can semi describe the beauty nature has. I had never seen waterfalls so big, loud, breathtaking, etc. I was able to see up close La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat), both the superior and inferior view of the Iguazu Falls, ride on a boat and get completely drenched by the warm Iguazu water, was attacked by some of the prettiest butterflies EVER, and met cute, yet very scary coatis. Below are pictures from my mini vaca:

Image

I hated sitting down for so many hours.

Image

Image

Image

ImageImage

ImageImage

ImageImageImageImageImage

Image

Image

Image

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

ImageImage

I also tried for the first time hitchhiking…that was not fun. First off, it was very hot and humid, no one stopped, and the two cars that did pick us up didn’t take us far. This was all after we walked 11 km with one bottle of water for my friend and I. It was an experience, but I am not sure when the next time will be, ha!

Below is a link to a video I made regarding the waterfalls.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200542107488490&set=vb.1032477378&type=3&theater

When we left Puerto Iguazu, we made our way to Posadas, the capital of Misiones. We united with the members of LGBT Misiones for a long night of bonding. VOX Asociación Civil met this org. a few months back and had some interaction prior to this gathering. We literally were with the group from about 8pm until 4am chatting about the history of both organizations, testifying about a rape case that happened to a gay man three years ago in this city and nothing being done about it, the lack of support this org. has seeing how conservative the environment is and distance from other orgs., made dinner together, talked about experiences in traveling, working in social justices spaces, past jobs, participation with the Argentina Federation LGBT, and much more. One would think how could I have the energy to stay up so late after having little sleep on the bus, hitchhiking, and pretty much being drained from our trip to Iguazu. The fact is, I was haha, however, when you are surrounded with people who want to be engaged and time is pretty much a number, you find yourself absorbing that. I was tried, but I was so into the conversations that we happening and how my mind was continuously in a shock, inspired, “um what” state of mind. Below is a picture of the members of LGBT Misiones and VOX Asociación Civil:

Image

My next trip was suppose to be in Córdoba (wont have the chance anymore), however due to the bus strikes, there are no buses traveling far in the country. No one really knows when they will be up and going again, but I hope by this upcoming weekend when I will get the opportunity to visit Buenos Aries and meet members of Argentina Federation LGBT.

Let’s talk about…SEX!

Well, I knew coming into this internship I would be having conversations regarding sex and let me tell you, WE ARE, everyday…or so. Prior to coming, I felt that I was pretty comfortable with my sexuality and talking about it, but I won’t lie, I was a bit timid talking about my experiences or general thoughts regarding sex. For example and no pointing any names, we’ll have in-depth conversations about anal sex, oral sex, S&M sex, heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, trans womyn/men sex, straight men with gay men sex, sex positions, sex in theaters, sex in saunas, chat rooms to find people to have sex, and so forth; quite fascinating!

Some of these topics I have talked about openly with friends back in Oregon and we joke around or what not, but the difference I have in general noticed is the openness everyone has when talking about the various areas. Some of us might make it clear that we would probably not have “this” kind of intercourse or “that” kind. However, at the end, everyone acknowledges that sex is natural and normal for humans and we really have no right to judge anyone for what is socially accepted because sexually is something we all find pleasureable in different manners. It is very diverse and needs start transitioning into not being such a taboo subject where there are “specific” spaces to talk about. Based on my experience, the only spaces I have had conversations about sex are in two courses I took at Western (Human Sexuality and Sociology of Gender), with some close friends, and one or two of my sisters/nieces. I have only once mentioned sex to my parents with the reason that I went to get tested and wanted to start a conversation regarding being responsible and getting a check up. Still, this conversation did not go far because my parents are still getting use to my sexual orientation and gender identity, but that’s another another topic that is for anyone day.

One thing I hope families and individuals can practice more is to not be after to open up, when they are comfortable to do so, and talk about sex. Whether it is talking about the many types of sex, the importance of using condoms, the positivity that sex brings, the nature of sex, and one of the most important, an integral sexual education in and outside of learning institutions.

When I first arrived to Argentina, VOX had presented an investigation regarding Argentina’s Integrated Sexual Education N26.150 law passed in 2006 where every school has to cover sexual education, but has not been truly enforced. They conducted a survey with 13 questions regarding emphasis on HIV, differences between sexual orientation/gender identity, if participants knew there was an Integrated Sexual Education law (ESI), what material was covered in the ESI, etc. and went to various schools/parks and got students (152 participants)/teachers (96 participants) to fill them out outside because VOX was not allowed in the classrooms. There were lots of results and here are a few I felt stood out. There were more teachers who received trainings to cover the material that felt they where not competent enough to cover the areas required in the classroom. Roughly 28% of students did not receive an integrated sexual education while 72% did. Out of those #’s, 44% felt they did not learn much. Some topics students wanted to talk about in an integrated sexual education include violence within relationships, sexually transmitted infections, prevention, and human sexuality. There is a complete PDF file with the data from this investigation for anyone who would like a copy, just hit meh up!

Image

Members of VOX Asociación Civil presenting the Integrated Sexual Education data.

Currently, we are working on a new investigation regarding HIV/AIDs and health within young adults ages 15-30. Some questions within the survey include have you every gone to get tested for HIV, did you receive any professional counseling prior to the examination, how often do you use condoms during intercourse and oral sex, what do you consider the most effective manner for prevention programs, etc. Currently, we have been surveying at el Paseo de la Diversidad which is next to the Paraná River as well as distributing surveys to other organizations. I am not sure the total number of surveys we have collect, but Team Yellow which is myself and Federico, a member of VOX, have gathered quiet a bit a numbers, ha! But so has everyone else hehe :).  I have been enjoying this investigation because it gives me the opportunity to interact with the locals, practice my spanish, be out in the park and enjoy the scenario while staying productive. I hope within the next few weeks or before I leave, we closely look at the responses and generate a presentation from the data collected.

Image

Camilia, member of VOX Asociación Civil, Grupo Jovenes, and RAJAP Red Argentina de Jovenes y Adolescentes Positivos.

Image

First day of surveying.

Image

Federico posing while a group fills out the HIV/AIDs survey.

Image

Some of the folks who collected surveys the first day out at El Paseo de la Diversidad.

Image

Federico and I surveying at El Paseo de la Diversidad.

Image

Contains a condom and list of sexually transmitted infections.

Image

I’m always up to model for the camera.

I understand that everyone has different views on sexuality and I respect that. Everything I wrote has been based on my experiences and understandings.

La Comida

Those who know me, know that I LOVE to cook and eat! However, I have been having some withdrawals from not eating typical Mexican dishes such as tacos, pollo ala crema, carne asada, pollo con arroz, huevos rancheros, or SPICY FOOD in general!!! So far, I have been eating lots of pasta dishes, pizza, burgers/fries, sandwiches, milanesa (breaded thin slices of chicken or beef), bread, empanadas (meat kinds, not the desert kinds I’m use too), veggie pies, and more red meats though I still have yet to eat some Asado. Some of the meats/veggies I’ve most noticed most are olives, eggs, lots of tomatoes/onions, various cheeses, ham, beef, salami, and even eggplant and spinach. Though I have yet to eat something with a lil spicy kick, I have enjoyed trying new foods. I like to remind myself to be open and try everything at least once before making a conclusion. Overall, I do miss jalapeños, salsa roja, and even guacamole, but the food thus far has been delicious and hasn’t gotten me sick, ha! Below are some pictures of dishes I have encounter/prepared:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Another thing I have been having to adjust are when folks eat. Breakfast is much smaller than I am use too. Lunch is around 1-2pm. Around 5-6pm, you eat a some snack with maté. Dinner is not until around 10-12pm. I have been taking advantage of lunch and eat as much as possible because I get hungry every 3 hours and dinner is way too late for me. Also, the cost of food is much more expensive than I am use too. I typically spend around 15-20 dollars (60-100 pesos) if I go out to a restaurant. One thing I love about lunch and dinner is that everyone eats together. Back home, my family and I rarely eat together or even with my roommates. I love that we can have conversations about each others day, highs/lows, any new adventures, etc. In terms of drinking, I have been drinking a lot more soda than usual. We have had bottles of wine, but it has been mostly when we have larger team dinners. We haven’t had beer at the site as a drink, but it is very common to buy several bottles of beer and share during dinner at restaurants.

So, if anyone wants to send me some spice, hollllllaaaa!

I love taking pictures!

This week I decided not to write much, but rather show you all pictures of things that I have done/come my way. They are in no particular order. Hopefully this gives you all a sense of my time in Argentina thus far (ending week 3 on Wednesday, April 10th)…

Image

Mayor of Rosario

Image

Traveled to Santa Fe (Capital of the Providence of Santa Fe)

Image

Fed and I (Team Yellow) got 25 surveys filled out at El Paseo de la Diversidad. The surveys were about HIV/AIDS and health related to folks ages 15-30.

Image

Saw the apartment building where Ernesto “Che” Guevara lived.

Image

Pretty sik restaurant

Image

Panorama shot of the Paraná River 

Image

Had dinner at a not so nice restaurant with Jennifer! She is studying in Rosario and is also a student from WOU.

Image

I will be getting a tour of the museum on the 24th of April.

Image

The mosquitos love me…

Image

Some of the folks in VOX Asociación Civil-Rosario that I work with.

Image

Snapchat from my best friend Rubit, miss you lots. Though we have yet to Skype, I did have a wonderful hour long conversation with her.

Image

Got to attend an important meeting regarding the investigation of the murder of a trans womyn in Reconquista, Providence of Santa Fe.

Image

I will be traveling back to Rafaela this weekend and meeting up with the VOX A.C. team.

Image

Monument for the Argentinian flag.

Image

Outside the office entrance.

Image

Che’s Monument

IMG_2721

 

Loving Rosario :)

Arrival to Argentina/VOX Asociación Civil

Hola todxs,

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.).

Image

(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.

Image

(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.

Image

(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.

Image

(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.

Image

(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.Image

(Yerba mate)

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.

Meño