Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

I just got home from celebrating my host parent’s nephew’s birthday. I think he is 16, and that his birthday was Friday. It was really fun and I finally met their exchange student, who I actually have class with! She didn’t come for the intensive month in February which is why I hadn’t met her (at her house) yet. We had pizza, empanadas and cheesecake. They have a precious Siamese cat, Indio, who has very cute crossed eyes. He curled right up into my lap.

San Antonio de Areco

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

This past weekend my program took a trip 2 hours outside the city into the countryside to San Antonio de Areco. The day we went was a national holiday, their version of Labor Day. We took a bus the two hour trip and then walked about 30 minutes threw a quaint little town to a park where we could hear an announcer in the distance and saw LOTS of cars parked. As we entered we saw a huge riding ring for horses and a herd of 300-400 horses running in the ring. All around the ring people had set up their areas with traditional grills, chairs, and food- it was clear this was an all day activity. The people were all dressed in traditional gaucho or countryside attire- tall riding boot, big leather belts, button up shirts, berets or for the women boots with ponchos or the same outfit as the men except with a skirt. It became blatantly obvious that this was not a tourist event, but a traditional and authentic Argentine activity. We were close to the only non-gaucho people there. People not only stared- which is now normal to us- but they would stop walking to gawk or just slow down. We always say we feel like zoo animals but this took it to a new level. Despite not fitting in at all we still walked around the market and found a place to watch some of the events.

The first event had 10 gauchos (cowboys) on horseback, they were holding the reigns of a second horse which had a bell around its neck. There were 10 other horses which had been trained to follow the sound of that particular bell that followed along behind. So for the competition all the horses were mixed up and the gauchos had to be the first one to round up all ten of their horses. As the gauchos were announced the announcer also stated where they were from and it became clear this was a HUGE deal for people of the countryside as gauchos had come for all over Argentina just to compete. The winners also received cash prices and I think there may have been betting on the winners on the side.

The second event was like a traditional rodeo. They had three poles in the ring which they tied a wild horse to and then a gaucho tried to ride it for a certain time period- until the bell. This reminded me of home, haha. These horses were absolutely crazy and could jump ridiculously high. Unfortunately this was not a safe sport and we saw two people get hurt. The first was kicked in the knee and taken away in an ambulance and the second was riding a crazy horse when it flipped and essentially landed on top of him- miraculously he got up and walked away. I was glad they had several ambulances there on stand-by.

Besides watching the events we ate some traditional Argentina asado- DELICIOUS. I had a sandwich of chorizo (sausage) and then Alfredo got a huge plate of other cooked meat. They just gave you the meat on a big platter still on the bone. Luckily Alfredo asked and for a price they cut it up into pieces that we could pick up and eat. They don’t even marinade the meat- maybe a little salt and cook it over an open fire or coals and it turns out SO GOOD. I’m not a big meat eater, especially beef, but here I could eat it all the time. We also had licuados, which are kind of like fruit smoothies. These were perfect for the heat of the day and delightfully refreshing and for only 5 pesos (US$1.25).

It was definitely an experience that most tourists or people who visit this country do not get to see. A legit traditional Argentine activity. A great experience with great friends.

At the Halfway Point

Friday, April 30th, 2010

So I am close to halfway done with my time here in Buenos Aires and I am not sure how I feel about it. I arrived in February not speaking much Spanish and not knowing what to expect at all. Now I am conversational in Spanish and feel like this city could be my home. While I may never totally fit in here, I know my way around, I have mastered public transportation, and I find myself hanging out with porteño friends on the weekends instead of English speaking friends.

So far this experience has taught me many lessons.  Now I can empathize with others who may not fit into a culture or who are the minority. It is a totally different feeling when you look different than the rest of the people or are used to a totally different culture. Although, assimilating (or trying to assimilate) into another culture has taught me a lot about myself.  Also, watching others assimilate or fight it has taught me at times how I do not want to be. I even find myself liking certain aspects of this culture better. Before coming here I never would have thought of American culture as cold, but looking at it now I find myself agreeing with the people here. In the US we don’t touch each other much or show much affection, whereas here the greeting is a kiss and with people you are close with an embrace also and you do the same when saying goodbye. Whereas at home it may be a handshake or just a verbal acknowledgment.   This physical contact and effort to come together can be very reassuring and shows how you feel about a person. The culture here just seems so warm and inviting, even the greeting is a part of it.

This experience has also shown me a lot about the true meaning of being independent and truly removed from your immediate support system. While I have always thought of myself as independent I have never been in a situation where I lived on my own and was responsible for most every aspect of my life. At times this has been overwhelming to me, such as when I first got here. But I am now able to cook a fair assortment of things, I have learned how to get around, and discovered that I can manage on my own- in a foreign country! I think one big factor in all this is that while I am removed from my support systems they are still able to function through e-mails and skype which both make me feel not as far away. To be honest I can count the number of times I have been truly homesick on one hand but I would account this to lots of e-mails. We all know no matter how much I may love it here it would be impossible to not miss home. I think the hardest thing about being here and the thing that can make me homesick fairly easily is not being able to fully express myself or be understood as a person. Sometimes what I want to say or how I am feeling just does not translate into Spanish and in times like this I feel very very alone. While I have some close porteño friends sometimes I just cannot communicate what I want to and this is extremely frustrating. Sarcasm and commentary can be hard to put into a context that they can understand, or even just common phrases in English that don’t have a Spanish equivalent. I never realized how important it can be to have friends who get you inside and out, who you have inside jokes with and who always know when you’re kidding and when you’re serious- being here has made me realize how valuable those people are and how hard life can be without them. Just to be understood- sometimes I would give anything. But on the other hand, when I go on trips with my American friends and we only speak English I feel like I am missing something. I think this will be a hard transition to being at home. I don’t want to lose all the Spanish I have gained while being here. But more than not wanting to lose it I just love this language and I want to keep learning and eventually be truly fluent. I will have to find a Spanish buddy. Or get mom and dad to the speaking stage- get ready!

This transition would have been impossible without my friends here in Buenos Aires- both other foreigners and porteños. While my other American friends and I can make each other feel more at home and understand each other, my porteño friends have taught me about the city, the language,  and the culture– invaluable knowledge.

Hopefully my next 2 months will be as good as the last 2! Here’s to living the dream in Buenos Aires!!

At the Halfway Point

Friday, April 30th, 2010

So I am close to halfway done with my time here in Buenos Aires and I am not sure how I feel about it. I arrived in February not speaking much Spanish and not knowing what to expect at all. Now I am conversational in Spanish and feel like this city could be my home. While I may never totally fit in here, I know my way around, I have mastered public transportation, and I find myself hanging out with porteño friends on the weekends instead of English speaking friends.

So far this experience has taught me many lessons.  Now I can empathize with others who may not fit into a culture or who are the minority. It is a totally different feeling when you look different than the rest of the people or are used to a totally different culture. Although, assimilating (or trying to assimilate) into another culture has taught me a lot about myself.  Also, watching others assimilate or fight it has taught me at times how I do not want to be. I even find myself liking certain aspects of this culture better. Before coming here I never would have thought of American culture as cold, but looking at it now I find myself agreeing with the people here. In the US we don’t touch each other much or show much affection, whereas here the greeting is a kiss and with people you are close with an embrace also and you do the same when saying goodbye. Whereas at home it may be a handshake or just a verbal acknowledgment.   This physical contact and effort to come together can be very reassuring and shows how you feel about a person. The culture here just seems so warm and inviting, even the greeting is a part of it.

This experience has also shown me a lot about the true meaning of being independent and truly removed from your immediate support system. While I have always thought of myself as independent I have never been in a situation where I lived on my own and was responsible for most every aspect of my life. At times this has been overwhelming to me, such as when I first got here. But I am now able to cook a fair assortment of things, I have learned how to get around, and discovered that I can manage on my own- in a foreign country! I think one big factor in all this is that while I am removed from my support systems they are still able to function through e-mails and skype which both make me feel not as far away. To be honest I can count the number of times I have been truly homesick on one hand but I would account this to lots of e-mails. We all know no matter how much I may love it here it would be impossible to not miss home. I think the hardest thing about being here and the thing that can make me homesick fairly easily is not being able to fully express myself or be understood as a person. Sometimes what I want to say or how I am feeling just does not translate into Spanish and in times like this I feel very very alone. While I have some close porteño friends sometimes I just cannot communicate what I want to and this is extremely frustrating. Sarcasm and commentary can be hard to put into a context that they can understand, or even just common phrases in English that don’t have a Spanish equivalent. I never realized how important it can be to have friends who get you inside and out, who you have inside jokes with and who always know when you’re kidding and when you’re serious- being here has made me realize how valuable those people are and how hard life can be without them. Just to be understood- sometimes I would give anything. But on the other hand, when I go on trips with my American friends and we only speak English I feel like I am missing something. I think this will be a hard transition to being at home. I don’t want to lose all the Spanish I have gained while being here. But more than not wanting to lose it I just love this language and I want to keep learning and eventually be truly fluent. I will have to find a Spanish buddy. Or get mom and dad to the speaking stage- get ready!

This transition would have been impossible without my friends here in Buenos Aires- both other foreigners and porteños. While my other American friends and I can make each other feel more at home and understand each other, my porteño friends have taught me about the city, the language,  and the culture– invaluable knowledge.

Hopefully my next 2 months will be as good as the last 2! Here’s to living the dream in Buenos Aires!!

Happy Weekend!

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Guess what! I’m going to get a roommate! She’s coming May 21st for one month. She’s from New Jersey but goes to Virginia Tech. Maria asked me if I liked the idea of having someone new. Yes, I do. But after 3 months of being the only child I am going to have to share the attention!

I miss doing my own laundry. Yes, really! They don’t do a good job. So I hand wash all my nice clothes. And I now hand wash the clothes I got here too because they are not of good quality and they will be ruined.

I also miss driving SO MUCH. When we came back from the Lujan Zoo we had to sit on the side of the highway for 45 minutes waiting for the bus. As a car that looked exactly like mine drove past…

Hmm…what else can I add? We got a new oven but it’s just been sitting in the middle of our tiny kitchen for 2 days. And my flight to come back to the U.S. was cancelled, so it looks like I’m never coming home!

Today was Mary Wash’s last day of finals! Happy summer?! Does that make me a senior?

The Lujan Zoo

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Saturday I went to the “World’s Most Dangerous Zoo,” according to Google. It is also the world’s most depressing zoo, according to myself. But I am glad I had the experience and might even sign the online petition to shut it down..

It was here I also learned that I am afraid of animals. I never realized this until recently, because I like them so much, but really sometimes I am scared. Or just think they are really dirty and won’t touch them when other people will.

I hope you all don’t freak out at the end but I can assure you I am alive and whole in my bed and it will probably never happen again. So enjoy the pictures!

We finally made it! The bus was dangerous too, I had to stand at the front for awhile just past the stairs, crammed inside as we were speeding down the highway.

It is also a tractor graveyard. Very bizarre place.

I rode an elephant!

And a camel!

We saw baby lions:

And baby tigers:

And bears, but I didn’t take a picture of the bear because he was on a lot of drugs and it was sad.

And then, the highlight of the trip, and the reason for this blog entry:

I fed a tiger!!! Above, I am scared and doing it wrong

Below, he is licking my hand! AHHH!

San Rafeal

Monday, April 26th, 2010

My third weekend trip recently was to San Rafeal in province of Mendoza. We were outdoorsy adventurers and went to two different wineries.

The hotel…

…and around the hotel. We had a free morning and then went hiking that afternoon.

Labs!!!!

My dog Lizzie would not have lasted 2 minutes with these guys. They were insane.

Day 2 we went repelling!

Here you can see someone else repelling:

And my friend who has an amazing camera took this picture of me on the zip-line:

That afternoon we visited two wineries.

Delicious Cabernet grapes!

And then, look who I found beside a pile of grapes!:

And that’s when I decided I was adopting a kitten.


The next winery was more “family-oriented” than the first, which was international instead of local.

They also had more animals.

The last day we went rafting. That was quite an experience…I had no idea class 2 rapids could be INTENSE. Very early on, one of the guides from the other raft pulled up close to ours, grabbed my life jacket, and tried to pull me out! Into the water! I am seriously afraid of rocks, probably due to a previous traumatizing rafting experience, and wasn’t a huge fan of this. It was really unexpected and I didn’t know what was going on. It turns out we were in for a pirate rafting tour, so to speak, including “stealing the girls” from other rafts and capturing them. I didn’t read the pamphlet, but I don’t think that was what I signed up for. There was also a lot of yelling involved and our guide purposely leading us into the sides of cliffs. It was actually fun though, in a scary sort of way. But I would rather have had previous knowledge of the surprise. I probably wouldn’t do it again considering how I felt afterward, which was freezing cold and really tense and banged up. I still have bruises on my legs to this day!

Here is an after picture. I am happy to be alive:

This blog post is so long. My trip is almost over though. We headed back to the hotel and I took a hot shower in the middle of them serving lunch (yes the service was that slow, sorry Mom for being rude- I didn’t have that much time! It had to be done).

I was super exhausted and wanted to go to lay in bed, finally safe and warm and dry, but I knew I had to sleep as best I could on the bus ride home so I went on a trip to the dam instead. We fit 23 people into a 13 passenger van.

I’m glad I went, because this is what I saw!!

Gorgeous! The End. The bus arrived back at our University 9am the next morning.

Castellano 101

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

So Castellano (Cas-te-cha-no) is the name for the dialect of Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires. They pronounce certain letters differently and use lots of words that are different from the rest of the Spanish speaking world.

The biggest difference is the pronunciation. In Spanish classes in the U.S. you learn that a “ll” is pronounced like a “y”. Well here a “ll” and “y” are pronounced as “ch”. Examples, street in Spanish is calle so in class you learn to pronounce it “ca-ye” but here it is “ca-che” or when you say “my name is..” you learn to say me llamo (ya-mo) but here it is pronounced me cha-mo. This is crazy to get used to and I still have to be conscious of it sometimes to remember to make the “ch” sound.

The three biggest phrases used here are: che, jaja and dale. Che is kind of like for a joke or with friends. Jaja is the same as haha in English. The most Argentina phrase of all: Dale. I feel like there is no clear definition of what this word means and it can be used as anything but mainly:  lets go, it’s ok.

Different words(word in Castellano, word in regular Spanish, word in English):

Chamoyero- Mentiroso- Liar

Pomelo- Toronja- Grapefruit

Chocla- Maize- Corn

Manteca- Mantequilla- Butter

Chau- adios- Bye

Chico- Pequeno- Small

Medias- Calcetines- Socks

Remera- Camiseta- Tshirt

Pollena- Falda- Skirt

Aca- Aqui- Here

Barbaro- Fabuloso- Great/Fabulous

Re- Muy- A lot

Boliche- Disco- Club

The also like to rearrange letters to make new words. For example pizza can be “zapi” or cafe is “feca.”

Sometimes they give a word a whole new meaning such as jodar which is spanish is to have sex but here it is to go out dancing or with friends (imagine my shock when I typed that in google translator from a text from a friend, lol).

The other huge difference in the colloquial language here is that they do not use the tu (you) verb form. They use the vos form which is not taught in the US and is only used in the region of the Rio de La Plata. It is actually easier to form than tu but means the same so I kind of like it. Just wonder if my classes back at UMW will let me use it when I get back or not.

Punta del Este

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

My trip to Punta del Este was over Semana Santa. I didn’t take that many pictures of this weekend, but it was very chill, I caught up on reading and slept on the beach.


We experienced a little mix-up getting there. We went through Buquebus and were supposed to take the ferry to Colonia and then a bus from Colonia to Punta del Este. We thought the time on the ticket next to the bus meant the time the bus was going to leave, but really it was the time to arrive. Whoops. They very helpful in fixing the situation (a reminder that I wasn’t in Argentina anymore) and it all worked out anyway. Although it took a lot longer and included a trip to Montevideo. Here we are wasting time at dinner in Colonia, waiting for the bus that had already left:

I promise this is not what I thought I ordered.

The first day on the beach I could wear my bathing suit! Well, it was a little too cold with the wind. Definitely didn’t have appropriate clothing so I basically wore the same strange mix of layers everyday.

Day two at the beach was a little different. This is how I found my friends:

That’s our hostel! My bed in the hostel was more comfortable than my bed at home. Although I’m sure much dirtier. On that note, I like hostel living a lot more than my Mom would think.  (Okay maybe only for a few days). And you can meet a lot of interesting people. Punta del Este was really expensive (compared to BA) so we made pasta one night and had tomato soup and grilled cheese for Easter dinner!

Marisa and I both bought this tapestry. There was only one left so we fought over it but then the guy said he could go get another one from the store. It turns out there are many uses for a tapestry. Towel, blanket, decoration, cape, slipcover, bedspead…the list goes on.

Iguazu Falls

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Well here it is!! I kinda already talked about the Iguazu trip before so this will post will be mainly pictures…


Woke up to the sunrise after a long bus ride (15 hours maybe? I don’t remember now) to loud, obnoxious ’80s music. Also the bus driver had opened the door to the outside and our bus was infiltrated with mosquitos. Lovely.

We had stopped at San Ignacio Mini, a site of Jesuit mission ruins of the Guaraní indigenous peoples

That afternoon we went to an estancia and had an asado, swam in the pool and relaxed in hammocks!:

Mate fields

We finally checked into our hotel that night, after another bus ride that took a lot longer than it was supposed to. Apparently there was a strike and the streets were blocked on the road, but I’m not sure if that’s true. It could have been an accident too. I think it took 3 hours (or was supposed to take 3 hours). We were late for dinner at our hotel but excited to sleep and go to the falls the next day!

So it rained. A lot. All morning. Even though it looks really bright and sunny in this picture, it wasn’t until the afternoon when we were leaving. Luckily I carry a poncho with me around everywhere, so I finally got to use it! Kidding, I don’t carry it everywhere…but I have had it for a long time now

So close!

Argentine side. “Argentina is the stage, Brazil has the seats.” It would cost me $131 dollars to get into Brasil

The boat in the above picture is the boat I was on in the pictures below!

That’s the end of Day 2!

Ready to go to the Guaraní village

Really cool experience- he showed us animal traps they used to use for hunting. They don’t hunt anymore but they still teach it to the children. There is a bilingual school there too- Guaraní and Spanish.

Precious baby.

Sunset on the flight home!