Good Days and Goodbyes

My final week here in Córdoba has come and gone, I returned from a trip on Monday around noon and completed my final papers, Tuesday was a day in due to the rain, Wednesday was my final day of classes and presentations along with a dinner at a friend’s house, and yesterday I ran some errands, got some lunch, went to a “goodbye” event hosted by the international office, and joined some friends at a bar to finish the night off. All-in-all this week has been a quick and reflective one.

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A look at my academic building for at least part of the last 5 months

Sometimes I look back on what I thought when I first got here in July and how much my view of the city has changed, how familiar the streets once unknown now are, how different my relationships are with the people in my program and even with my host family. So much has happened in 5 months and I truly am so grateful to have had this experience. I know that’s something I’ve said many times but I really am. I’m sure there have been times in conversations with my family and friends where I sounded a little less than happy about how things were going, aspects of my life here, etc. but now, standing here at the end of it all I appreciate all that I’ve learned here and all of the opportunities this semester has offered me.

Leaving tomorrow will be bittersweet and I don’t know when, or if, I will be making my way back to Argentina but I know that this is an experience I will never forget. The memories made here will stay with me forever. I have been lucky enough to see many parts of this country and experience some of the various cultures found here. This was a once in a lifetime semester and I can’t wait to share all about it with everyone back home when I return.

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Palacio Ferreyra, while running errands I decided to stop for a moment and take a picture of this building in the center of Córdoba. It once was a family home but now serves as an art museum. One of the more notable buildings in the city.

I hinted at writing about my last trip in the previous blog post and I figured I would just drop a little blurb here at the bottom summarizing it, rather than create yet another solely travel-based entry.

I traveled to San Carlos de Bariloche in the Río Negro province of Argentina, just barely making it to Patagonia before my departure. The town was peaceful and quaint, an odd mixture of Alpine architecture and Argentine culture. The city was settled mostly by German-speaking immigrants in the late 1800s and continued to be a destination for western European immigrants in Argentina throughout the twentieth century, including serving as a haven for Nazi war criminals. Aptly nicknamed “Little Switzerland,” the town sits on the beautiful the Nahuel Huapi Lake and is surrounded by places to hike and trek, hosts some of the best-known chocolatiers in Argentina, and breweries. It is also a ski-destination during the winter months.

While there, Sierra and I hiked to the top of Cerro Acompanario, worked on our final papers, sat by the lake, ate some chocolate, walked almost 10 miles through Llao Llao national park to get from the famous Hotel Llao Llao to the Patagonia Cerveceria lodge on the opposite side of the lake. It was a truly wonderful weekend and in my opinion a great way to close out this semester.

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Chairlift down Cerro Acamponario

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A happy doggo

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Finishing Up

My time here in Argentina is quickly coming to an end which I realized all too well this past week. This Tuesday I took my first final exam, Thursday (Thanksgiving) I presented on the five research projects I was a part of during this semester.

The research projects were a big part of the PECLA semester curriculum for international students, for each class a student was registered for, they had to complete a project relating to the subject (all of my classes had group projects), which fell under one of four general topics: cities in Latin America, social and environmental problems in Latin America, Latin American universities, and intervention by Latin American universities to resolve diverse problems in the region. The five presentations I was a part of were: deforestation in Latin America, the architecture of Córdoba as a window to its history, land use in the city of Córdoba, New Córdobes Cinema: an analysis of the film De Caravana, and Argentina through the senses: a look at several cities in the country and their distinct environments. The day was long but I’m so happy that the presentations are complete, now I just have to finish writing some final papers and the academics for this semester will be over.

 

Thursday evening we also had our “goodbye” dinner. The dinner was originally supposed to be Friday night but do to travel plans and other factors, it was moved. I personally really enjoyed it, although it wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner, I liked being with some of the people who made my semester here in Argentina what it was and have a good time together before our time here ends.

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About half of the Spanish Studies Abroad semester group after dinner

I leave Argentina in almost exactly one week and I feel like there’s still so much to do and see, but, you can only do so much in 5 months. As the end approaches I have realized how gratefully I truly am for this semester and the opportunities it has provided me and I know that the goodbye will be bittersweet. I am, however, looking forward to some crisp weather and the upcoming holiday season when I get back. I’m having a bit of a difficult time believing that it’s almost December when it’s 95° out…

My last month here has been packed full of things so I’m just going to drop a quick update here at the bottom:

  1. October 25: the US Ambassador to Argentina made a visit to Córdoba and the American students studying in the city were invited to meet with him briefly during his stay to discuss our experiences here44934657_1848359238615016_6713145045991555072_o
  2. October 26-29: Weekend trip to see Iguazu Falls in the northeastern province of Misiones. I was accompanied by Lauren on this adventure to one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. While there we played quite a few rounds of Speed and Phase 10, ate some rather sad plain raviolis, visited the tres fronteras (only to be very jealous of the ferris wheel on the Brazilian), and watched people be stalked by coatis (the South American raccoon.)

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    Paraguay to the left and Brazil to the right with their ferris wheel

  3. November 8-11: Trip to Santiago, Chile complete with two reunions, one with my friend Cony and another with one of my Danish host brothers. I climbed a cerro, visited one of the famous houses of Pablo Neruda (La Chascona), went to the top of the tallest building in Latin America, and tried mote con huesillo, a typical Chilean treat.

     

     

     

     

     

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    Mote con huesillo: grain, dehydrated peach, and a sweet syrup like drink

    4. Wandering around Córdoba and going to some of the places and things I haven’t seen yet in the city (for example going to the Paseo de Artes, an artisan market that takes place every weekend in the city)

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    My obsession with ceilings continues: the dome inside Paseo de Buen Pastor in Nueva Córdoba

    5. One final trip which I am currently on as I write this blog post!! After a couple of hiccups this trip was a-go and I’m so excited about it, even if I will be spending a good portion of the weekend working on my final papers! Here’s a sneak peek at what could be the main theme of another blog post (I’m not making any promises).

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Three and a Half Months and Many Feelings

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“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent, it is that which is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

So, it’s been about three and a half months since this journey began and now I’m staring down a mere 43 days left in Argentina. Lately, I’ve been chatting with some of my friends/fellow program members about their thoughts and feelings throughout these few months as a way to try and process everything myself. It’s a little difficult for me to fully articulate how I’ve felt since being here, and, how I feel about going home. Before I dive into this I feel that it is necessary to point out that everyone experiences “studying abroad” and living abroad differently, and I am only addressing my own point of view in this post. Before you get too far into this post, I want to warn you that this won’t be what I would consider a particularly fun or positive read, but a real and honest look at my thoughts.

First and foremost, I want to talk about an expectation that I think is common among college students prior to studying abroad, and that is the perception that those months spent on your program are going to be “the best of your life,” or will be “life-changing.” There is a pressure to enjoy every moment, develop a really deep love and appreciation for your host country, and basically thrive in every possible way. This is just flat-out unrealistic. If anyone has that experience I would like to know what their secret is or how much they had to sell their soul for to guarantee that everything went smoothly. That may sound very pessimistic of me, it’s not meant to be, but I think it needs to be acknowledged that life is bumpy and not everything can be sunshine and rainbows. Studying abroad shouldn’t be seen as an easy, breezy, semester of all peaks and no valleys in terms of emotions. In all honesty, I think it’s in those moments where things aren’t going so great or are really difficult, the valleys, that you learn more about yourself and grow as a person. Just because you’re studying abroad doesn’t mean that life and the feelings that accompany it stop, it’s important to recognize that whatever all feelings are valid and you shouldn’t feel guilty for not being happy all the time. I have not loved every moment here, far from it, yet I am still so grateful to be able to experience this with all the ups and downs. This entire semester is a learning experience, all of life is a learning experience. Not all learning experiences need to be positive, you can only grow if you find the lessons held within each moment.

Another point, I would like to make is that I think that it’s ok to just feel “ehh” about things. In the interest of complete honesty, I will say that I am not head over heels in love with Córdoba, or with Argentina for that matter – in fact, sometimes, I really don’t like it- but, I’m ok with that. I’ve still grown and learned and I can appreciate the city for what it is. I still enjoy myself and have fun here, but I’m not dreaming of settling down here long-term. This city has opened my eyes to a lot; I have seen and experienced so much here that I wouldn’t have elsewhere.

Always doing something is overrated. For awhile I felt like I needed to be doing something anytime I wasn’t in class. After a slow first week in Córdoba, I tried to do something, anything after classes. I tried to keep up with that for a few weeks, maybe even a full month, but for me, that kind of lifestyle just wasn’t sustainable. I needed time to recharge and now I recognize that sometimes it’s for the best if I just take a break after class and go home to relax, watch some Netflix, read a book, try to do homework, or whatever it is that I’m feeling like doing that day and not feel so stressed about being in my house “too much.” I still experience Córdoba and I think spending that time away from my house really did help me in the beginning, but I don’t think that slowing things down a little bit is taking away from the experience either.

I really like talking things out. Having people who are going through the same things you are and who can empathize or sympathize with you changes so much. While misery may love company sometimes sharing whatever you’re feeling, even if it’s not positive can be just what you need to move forward. I really enjoy discussing my thoughts and feelings with my friends here because we have this shared experience and knowing that I am not alone in my feelings is not only reassuring, but in some ways uplifting as well.

I have spent a lot of time trying to compare this experience to my time in Denmark as it is truly the only thing that I have that even comes close to what I am doing here, and there is some overlap, but in truth not much. The two are unique and in many ways incomparable. I am now 19, I’ve spent a year living in a college environment, I am more mature (maybe?), and Argentina and Argentine culture are very different beasts. I changed a lot during my time in Denmark, I changed after, and my time in Argentina has changed me as well but that’s just part of life. I personally welcome these changes because I know that they come from new experiences and new perspectives which play a part and influence my outlook on life during a specific time. I’m compiling my experiences to form a new approach to life and a view of the world around me and I am lucky to be able to draw from several areas to do so.

Spring is here and the new life reminds me of how important change is, but also that everything has its own time. What I’m feeling may only last for a moment or it may last for many months, but I can learn from it and be grateful for its lessons.

A Weekend in Mendoza

Alternate title: Safety Regulations Might be a Little Different in Argentina

The first weekend in October brought the final planned program trip of the semester: Mendoza.

We all met at the Cordoba bus terminal at 8:30 pm Thursday evening and arrived bright and early to the city of Mendoza. Although I had a relatively sleepless night, the day was packed full of activities. After a small breakfast and an hour or so of rest, we boarded a van to our first of three wineries of the day.  The province of Mendoza is to Argentina’s wine production as I assume Napa Valley is to the United States? Basically, it’s the place to go for any and all things red wine. The region has the highest concentration of wineries in Argentina and is best known for Malbec, the national alcoholic beverage. The region is dry and high in altitude which makes it optimum for wine production.

The first winery we visited was a small, family-owned, organic operation founded in 1959 called Familia Cecchin. We were provided with a tour of their facilities followed by a taste-test of three varieties the winery produces. Aside from their normal lines, the winery produces two “special” varieties. One, called “Nice,” is made for a wine club in Texas while the other which had a name somewhere along the lines of “Five Fingers” is sold in Miami. Both can be found in their facilities but are otherwise on limited distribution.

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A look at Familia Cecchin’s plants

Next came the true test, the part that set this wine tour apart from all other wine tours, a bike ride. This is the first moment in which I thought, “hmmm, maybe some different safety regulations,” considering we were all at least a little sleep deprived, without helmets, 3, albeit very small, wine tastes in, biking along a highway to get to the next vineyard. To each his own, the bike ride was nice, I enjoyed it, I had a good time, I saw some people almost get hit by a car, but you know what? We all lived, we arrived at the next location, we were enjoying ourselves. With the all those endorphins from riding bikes in the fresh air flowing through us, we walked up the steps to the next location, a “boutique” winery called Vistandes. This name, you may be very shocked to know, refers to the fact that it has a view (vista) of the Andes! Who would have thought? Right away, it was apparent that the operations at this winery were different. We had just come from an organic operation that uses various natural ways to prevent the invasion of insects and still uses a centuries old barn as their main production area to a new, modern facility which had a person spraying the plants with something as we were making our way inside. A similar tour and wine-tasting procedure followed, and then it was off on the bikes again, only this time we were on the trail for lunch.

I had, I am almost positive, the greatest pizza I will ever have in the country of Argentina at the little beer garden/restaurant we feasted at that day. It was perfect, crunchy crust with just the right cheese-to-sauce ratio. My Central Catholic Music Department New York City Pizza Tour knowledge served me VERY well on this day, so shout out to that. On our trip to the third and final winery we all rode in the van, we didn’t make this decision for ourselves, however I supported it. The last winery was my personal favorite, it is called Domiciano. It’s a fairly young company and does not distribute its product widely, at all, but it was a really nice environment and a good close to the tour, in my opinion. In production, the winery harvests the grapes at night as the temperature drops the possibility of the grapes bursting or becoming damaged prior to processing is minimal. This unique practice translates to the company’s logo which features a man, the owner, standing under five stars, one representing his wife, and four representing his children. The star/night theme continues in their packaging and I really like their ~aesthetic.~

Despite being exhausted after everything, myself and two other girls in my program, Lauren and Elizabeth, decided to head up to Cerro de la Gloria, a hill in Mendoza which features a monument to the Army of the Andes at its top. The three of us along with our tour guide, program coordinator, and another member of the PECLA team were the only six who decided to make the journey. Although our tour van took us to the top, we were on our own to get back to the city center, so, after about a half an hour, we began the winding descent to the main road where we caught taxis and returned to our hotel.

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Saturday’s activities were a little different. Our tour coordinator told us that they try to fit three different kinds of trips into our one, three-day tour and I would say they definitely follow through on that point. The second day was a trekking and thermal springs adventure. The activities really started with a trek (think a more intense version of hiking) up Cerro de la Virgen about 40 minutes outside of the city. It was hot, I was sweaty, my asthma did not like me, but, it was pretty! The descent was full of slides, slips, and some splits, which is everything you want when close to a little drop off – but once again, everyone is alive and well!! The pinnacle of this adventure was repelling 40 meters (130 feet) down a sheer face. It was one of those experiences which I didn’t particularly enjoy in the moment, but it was worth it. I am really glad that I stuck with it and completed the little trekking adventure situation that occurred. By far, in my opinion, the best part was repelling. The adrenaline rush of the morning was followed by a relaxing afternoon in thermal pools near the base of the cerro. The spring water has been somewhat commercialized in that there are many locations nearby that have created spas with man-made pools in which to channel the spring water and make popular weekend getaway locations. All-in-all it was a really fun day.

Sunday ended up being a lot of sitting in our little van, but all of that sitting, was totally worth it. First, we went to a dam just past the thermal pools we swam in the day prior. Damn, it was a nice dam. It was incredible, the “lake” at the top is used for boating and swimming and truly was so beautiful. I was in awe of it the entire time and couldn’t believe that it was man-made. Beautiful, tranquil, an incredible feat. Continuing on our adventure east, we stopped at El Puente del Inca, a natural bridge which has been around for many years. Once upon a time, on the other side of the bridge was a hotel used by the wealth Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) who went east on vacation. The main attraction of the hotel were the thermal pools right below the bridge. Unfortunately, the swanky hotel was destroyed in an avalanche in the 70s and only its ruins remain. There are many legends regarding the bridge and its origins. The one our tour guide chose to share was the story of an Incan emperor and his sick son. In order to heal the son of his illness, the emperor was instructed to take him to the thermal baths, however, when they arrived, after much traveling, they couldn’t reach the pools as they laid on the opposite side of a river. In order to help the beloved son, the Incan companions formed a human bridge so that he could cross, upon the bridge’s formation, the Incas were covered resulting in a solid bridge to the other side. The river water is high in sulfur and other minerals which coat any objects submerged and create thick crusts around them. Vendors display shoes and other personal belongings pulled out of the river which look as if they could be wax formations of the covered objects. The next, very windy stop, was the look out of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Andes and tallest mountain in the Southern and Western hemispheres. Truly incredible to see. We continued a little further east to a small town which lies on the border to Chile for lunch before heading back to Mendoza and eventually the bus station to head home to Cordoba.

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Puente del Inca with the thermal bath structure at its base

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6960.8 meters above sea level = 22,837 feet

It was all-in-all a really fun trip and I only say safety regulations are different here, because, I never had to sign a waiver or receive any kind of serious instruction prior to doing some of the activities featured on this trip, however, I never felt unsafe so, there’s that. I’m so glad this trip happened, it was a nice break from life in Cordoba and a good opportunity to just hang out with other people in our program. It also marked my official third month in Argentina and time is continuing to fly by.

Also a fun note, this past weekend I went to Oktoberfest in a little town called Villa General Belgrano, about two hours south of Córdoba capital. The Fiesta Nacional de la Cerveza (National Beer Fest) was started by the German immigrants in Argentina 55 years ago. Personally, I think my favorite part of this trip was the fantastic star visibility at our little cabin just outside town, even more so than the festival.

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The whole town is constructed to look like an Alpine village

A Break from Classes

Buenos Aires and Beyond: A Recap of My Spring Break in Argentina’s Capital and More

by: me

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Probably the prettiest picture I took all week. Sunrise, after leaving Buenos Aires on the 5:50 plane.

  1. Went to a tango show and marvel at the dancers’ abilities to move quickly and flawlessly to the music. 42304091_2064500340248470_3305490217791651840_nimg_7601Dinner followed by an incredible show
  2. Found serenity in the quiet city gardens 
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    There was a mate garden

    The Japanese Garden is a lovely stop and offers a quaint oasis in the midst of the city. The botanical gardens are beautiful as well and include pathways with benches perfect for little picnics in the midst of lush greenery and flowerbeds.

  3. Fell in love with Eva Perón at the Evita Museum 

    Photos are prohibited in this museum, with the exception of the Spanish-style courtyard on the second floor. In the old mansion’s rooms, the life of Eva Perón is laid out, from childhood, to her early acting career, her romance with Juan Perón and their marriage, her campaigns for the rights of women and main projects during her time in politics, and finally her death and legacy. The artifacts of this iconic woman are on display as well, including several outfits, pins, and letters.

  4. Wandered the Sunday San Telmo Marketimg_7348The sprawling market features stalls with hand made jewelry, artwork, leather goods and more. T-shirts, mates, books and trinkets are easy to come by here. You can even see some of the vendors working on new pieces while they sit in their stall. It’s a popular attraction so don’t be surprised if it’s a little crowded and congested when you go!
  5. Took a short ferry ride across Río de la Plata to the historical, tranquil, picturesque Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguayimg_7466 

     

    A day trip to this city was a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. It’s a small community full of charm and history. The city flipped between Spanish and Portuguese rule several times and this is reflected in the distinct building styles in its historic quarter which is a UNESCO world heritage site. The flat roof buildings are Spanish built and the gable tiled roofs are from the Portuguese. Even the street construction differs. Small shops and art stalls feature fair-priced and beautiful trinkets to pick up during your time there. The city juts out on a small peninsula so the river is almost always visible and makes it very difficult to wander too far in the wrong direction.

  6. Saw (or just heard) a performance in Teatro Colón 

    Our chosen performance was a the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and despite not being able to see the stage from our [very cheap] seats, the theatre was magnificent and definitely worth the visit.

  7. Learned about the 30,000 disappeared and the military dictatorship at the Ex-Esma Memorial Museum 
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    Abuelas

    This fascinating museum is located in the old Navy Mechanical School and served as a detainment center during the military dictatorship in the late 70’s and early 80’s. An estimated 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured, and “disappeared” during this time period. The museum includes testimonies from family members of the disappeared, photos of them, the officials who perpetrated these events, and details of the detainment and torture that occurred in the centers. Perhaps the most harrowing part of the museum is an exhibit to the children who were born to detained mothers and adopted by military families. Today, those children are in the 30s and 40s and the vast majority of them do not know their true identities. The Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, is a group of grandmothers working to identify the grandchildren they lost to this system of family-seperation. Highly recommended for anyone interested in human rights issues.

  8. Wandered the Recoleta Cemetery 
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    Despite her request, Argentina did cry for her

    See the mausoleums of the old Porteño families and visit the final resting place of Evita in the Familia Duarte tomb.

  9. Visited an old theatre turned bookstoreimg_7572Not much explanation needed, this El Ateneo bookstore location is a great place to look for books and enjoy the old architecture.
  10. Looked at beautiful art 
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    Sculpture by Rodin

    The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is just a short walk from the Recoleta Cemetery and features works from some of the most famous artists including: Rembrandt, El Greco, Picasso, Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and others. There is also an exhibit featuring sculptures by Rodin.

  11. Visited the Presidential palace and nearby landmarks.
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    Casa Rosada

     

  12. Walked the colorful streets of La Boca 

    La Boca was a major neighborhood for immigrants early on and is the birthplace of tango. El Caminito is a famous little street bursting with bright colors and life. Personally, I found the area to be too touristy for my liking, as restaurants spilled out into the streets and promoters switched between Spanish, English, and Portuguese as quickly as possible to get the attention of visitors and convince them to eat at their place. Still, it was an interesting stop and on the way their you may walk past La Bombonera, the stadium for the Boca Juniors Athletic Club, which hosts the most successful Argentine soccer (football) team.

  13. Ate some great foodIMG_7323.JPG42353746_2064499953581842_6484379625924329472_nTake advantage of the great food scene, from little cafes to underground bars, the city has so much to offer for anyone who enjoys food. Asian street food, Italian, tacos, sourdough pizza, waffles, etc. everything was good, nothing was average.
  14. Celebrated milestones
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    The Obelisk, Buenos Aires

    To be honest, I don’t really have a photo for this one, but during this trip I crossed the half-way point of this journey in Argentina.

  15. Enjoyed the company of some pretty great friends

 

A BIGGGGGG thank you to the people who let me use their photos in this post, you’re the greatest and I appreciate you a lot, also thanks for being Evita and Uruguay fans with me, I love these new obsessions.

 

Political Activism in Argentina

This post is a little different than previous as it will address a more general topic and not my own experiences. During my first two and half-ish months here, I’ve witnessed quite a few marches and demonstrations in the city center, as well as movements on the university’s campus to address current political and social issues. I have tried to stay up to date and informed on these issues, however, I do not feel that I can properly explain the reasons and demands of these movements in this post, so I will be including links to articles that cover some of these topics if you would like to read further. I would also like to thank my friends, Lauren, Grace, and Sierra, who allowed me to use some of their personal photos in this post.

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“The town that resists is the town that exists.”   *people may be used in place of town in this case*

When I first arrived in Córdoba, the legal abortion movement was in full swing. Everywhere in the city center you could find vendors selling bandanas in two colors, blue for the pro-life camp and green for the pro-choice. Although the vote has passed and abortion was not legalized, people continue to carry their bandanas with them, they remain tied on backpacks and wrists. Buildings, sidewalks, and monuments all around the city still have aborto legal ya spray painted on them. People still march. Following the vote, members of the pro-choice movement focused on the cause for separation of church and state in Argentina as many believe the strong presence of the Catholic church affects procedures in the national government.

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I have had a more first-hand experience with a different movement happening all over Argentina, the defense of public education and increase in teacher salaries. The movement against the privatization of universities manifests itself in various forms of protest, from marches and strikes, to artwork and university building occupations, people are speaking up for their rights. This kind of activism is nothing new to Córdoba, as a city full of students it has been a hotbed of political movements for quite some time. In fact, the national university, the oldest in Argentina and the fourth oldest in South America, is celebrating the 100th year of its reform, which made it more democratic and accessible to the people and started a wave of university reforms in South America.

The teaching strike lasted over a month and affected not only UNC (the national university) but affiliate high schools in Córdoba as well. Some professors still offered classes and students were able to continue with their semester but in a less predictable fashion. Whether or not a class would meet was determined on a day-to-day basis. The demand was for an increase in the salaries of professors in the midst of the financial crisis in Argentina. Prior to the resolution of this demand, it was becoming exceedingly difficult for faculty to support themselves off of a salary that did not rise to account for the high inflation rate in the country. One of the more interesting aspects of this to me was the idea of “public classes.” Many professors or groups of professors would offer a class in a public space, away from the campus, for anyone interested in “attending;” this was a a way of showing how important the work of teachers and professors is to the community and how much they do in their jobs. A major march took place on August 22 with thousands of people turning out to support the cause of the professors.

 

Today, after exactly one month, the occupation of a major university building, the Pabellon Argentina, has ended. The decision to take a building is not one made lightly, but is an extreme form of peaceful protest and is done when people fear their rights are in danger. In this case, students are concerned about the possibility of a future without free and public higher education in Argentina and have taken the opportunity to address other problems in the country. In general, opinions about the occupation differed, at the beginning, when the professors were still on strike and the salaries had not been raised, people seemed more supportive, towards the end, less so. For some people, the longer the occupation went on, the more they felt it lost its true meaning. The occupation meant that several offices and programs were displaced, including the PECLA program which I am a part of, and meant that some people were unable to do work, including the owner of the small cafe which services the building.

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“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

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What would you do if university was not public and free?

A Set of Photos Which Follows the Occupation

Public Classes (In English)

Article About a General Strike on September 25 (In English)

I thought that I would include some of the opinions as well as stories I’ve heard regarding from Argentine citizens regarding the extent of this activism:

  • The amount of marches and protests that occur make the act mean less. There are marches sometimes several times a week, for various causes, seeing events like this so frequently, and for any kind of reason, decreases outside interest and support.
  • Politics influences so many choices. The daughter of a friend of Grace’s host mom chose to attend a private university because they strike less often. There are certain university departments that are more politically active than others, such as her chosen school of communication, and, in her opinion, it was better to pursue a degree in that field through a private university than a public. The proneness to mobilize of a department can affect how long it takes students to complete their degrees, as they may not have class for long stretches of time due to strikes.
  • Argentina has a difficult political climate, but that’s why people fight. Going out into the streets to defend the rights and express the opinions of the people is the responsibility of the citizens.

 

Here’s another photo flood of signs, marches, etc. that I’ve seen here which aren’t directly related to other topics addressed in this post:

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Sierra

 

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Macri (President of Argentina) and the International Monetary Fund need to go. – Argentina is in the midst of a financial crisis and intervention by the IMF isn’t widely appreciated and has caused a quick and devastating devaluation of the Argentine Peso

*This post is only intended to show some of the political and social movements I have seen in my time here, not to reflect my own personal views or opinions on these topics.

Salta and Jujuy – El Norte

I recently made the trip to the northern provinces of Salta and Jujuy, to experience another side of Argentina and get out of Córdoba.

It was a really great trip, I learned a lot, saw some stunning landscapes, strengthened my relationships with others, and continued to grow in my appreciation for nature, kind-hearted people, and the things that have made this experience possible.

This trip took place in between the close of our intensive period language course and the beginning of the semester long classes. I went with two other girls from the program, Sierra and Grace, and we frequently saw Lauren and Elizabeth, also from our program, but they planned their trip separately.

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We arrived in Salta the evening of Tuesday, August 7, went to our hostel, and met up with the nephew of Grace’s host mom who agreed to drive us to a couple of the destinations we had in mind for the week. After dinner he took us up to the top of Cerro San Bernardo to look out over the city. All cities kind of look the same at night, just a lot of lights, but it was still really cool. I always get a funny feeling when I do stuff like that, I just start thinking about how I’m looking out over a place with so many different people, living different lives, and all that jazz, which promptly starts an existential crisis, but whatevs. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, everyone go find a good lookout spot and enjoy.

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The next morning we woke up early to hit the road for Jujuy. We stopped a few times to see dams on the way out. We took the more scenic route in lieu of the highway to see more of the nature of the area and drive through the mountains. The change in climate was really interesting as we went from dry Salta to lush mountains. We stopped for a few moments before continuing on our way to the Salinas Grandes, expansive salt flats which are all that remain of what was once a sea.

Then, we backtracked to Purmamarca, where we had stopped earlier for some lunch and entertainment. We tried humitas, tamales, and had some empanadas as a sort of introduction to the dishes of Northern Argentina, all the while listening to a live musical performance of traditional music. We walked around the square and went in some little shops before hopping back in the car to head back towards the hill of 7 colors. The road was just a tad bumpy but eventually, we parked, got out, and took a little trail up to look out over the town and see the colorful hills better. Some photoshoots occurred and then it was back on our way. We drove a little further up the road to a town called Tilcara, where we tried a few places before finally getting a room in a hostel. It was super chilly! We went to get some dinner at a local restaurant, I tried llama, had a lovely quinoa dish and then promptly returned to our room to sleep.

Our first stop for the day was Humhauaca, a little town where we were able to explore a little, see the Monument to the Heroes of the Independence (the monument’s main feature is a native Argentine leading a charge so it’s sometimes called Monument to the American Indian,) while here I also purchased what I would refer to as a fantastic alpaca sweater. Next, we drove up to El Hornocal (aka the hill of FOURTEEN colors, we just doubled colors from the previous day people.) I would say it was one of the more uncomfortable car rides of my life as the road was just an unpaved, rocky, bumpy stretch of road leading up the mountain, which you drove on for approximately 40 minutes. Anyway, moving on, the sight of the mountain was truly incredible. For most of the trip Grace, Sierra, and I were trying to come up with something that we could compare the landscapes to and I think we settled on a mix between Utah (but on a whole other level) and Mars. I encountered the first American tourists in Argentina that at least I’ve met, it just doesn’t seem quite as popular with Americans tourists as it is with others. They were nice, we had a good little convo before I had to hike up a very steep incline at more than 15,000 feet above sea level which left me more than a little light headed and very out of breath (not a very great moment for one’s self-confidence, but, everyone was out of breath too so that makes it a little better.) After the long drive back, we clapped when we reached pavement again, went to get lunch, and kept on going to get back to Salta.

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El Hornocal

Friday we decided to take a tour recommended by our hostel to Cafayate. Argentina is a big wine producer, Mendoza is best known for Malbec but Cafayate is mostly white wines. The bus tour was great, with the exception of two girls from Colombia and our tour guide, the other members of our tour group were all above the age of 60 and were super fun to talk to. We watched some incredible landscapes pass by, made a couple of stops at landmarks, and then took a maybe 15 minute tour of a winery. Then, we had about two hours to grab lunch in the town, explore the markets and meet up with the bus to head back. That night we decided to go to a Peña, a bar where visitors can watch folk music and dancing. After a rather interesting first attempt which ended with a little lie and scuttle to leave, we decided to go to the Peña people in our hostel had been to before. Right away, it was really cool, it’s a really big house that’s been converted into a restaurant and each room has a few tables and a musician playing music. It was a bit of a maze, we sat outside, found out that we couldn’t sit three at a table near the walkway, moved some chairs around, sat at a different table, became very confused about the differences between two kinds of meats that you could order, I spilled some wine everywhere, we all were still laughing at random times about what had happened at the previous Las Vegasesque Peña, and eventually, we moved to a table inside.

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Painting in the artisan market of Pachamama  — Mother Earth

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The main cathedral in Cafayate

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All five of the PECLA students on the Cafayate tour together

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Sierra and I disgusted by wearing tourist llama sweaters to the Peña

Saturday was a very relaxed day, we took our time leaving the hostel and decided to just walk around Salta. We spent most of our time walking around the main plaza, toured a super cool and interesting museum which is best known for its collection of three well-preserved mummies found at the top of a mountain along the border to Chile in 1999, explored the center for culture, got  a little snack, and bought some food to make for dinner. After we got back to the hostel, Grace and I talked to two girls from Buenos Aires who were staying in our room. Over mate we chatted about a lot of different things such as: the recent vote on the legalization of abortion in Argentina (the vote was very close, 60/40, but it didn’t pass), how history is taught in our respective nations, what we think of Argentina so far, how Argentina is viewed in the US, etc. The conversation flowed really well, and I’m so glad that it happened; it was the first time I really sat down and talked with Argentines about these topics and it resulted in a really great exchange of opinions, experiences, and ideas.  Later, Grace, Sierra, and I started making dinner, we chose to create our own version of mac’ n ‘ cheese and it was soooooo good.

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El Cabildo – Salta

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Cathedral in Salta

Sunday morning, we got up and headed out to the airport for our flight back to Córdoba, and on Monday our semester classes began.

As it’s been a few weeks since this trip happened, I’m going to do a quick recap of some of the things I’ve done since then:

  • Saw Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
  • Went to an EnglishTalk meeting where we discussed various issues regarding the topic of sex and gender
  • Watched a march for an increase in salary for the professors in national universities. The professors have been on strike for more than 3 weeks. The demonstration was so interesting to watch and has received so much support from people here in Argentina.
  • Went to a choir concert
  • Met up with an exchange student who was in B/N this past year
  • Went to a birthday party for a 21 year-old male which happened to be at a bar that has a target audience of divorced parents and parties

 

Alas, you have reached the end of another blog post, hope to see you here again soon!

Some Thoughts about One Month

My first month in Argentina has just come to a close and I figured I would take this time to look back on three major aspects of this journey and my first impressions/experiences.

First and foremost, Spanish. Prior to the start of this semester I didn’t expect to be fluent one month in, but, I didn’t expect to feel the way I currently do about my Spanish abilities. I have definitely noticed an improvement in comprehension. I’ve grown more accustomed to the Cordobés accent and I feel much more comfortable with my ability to understand what’s being communicated to me. However, the speaking hasn’t been quite as notable. But, you know what? I’m okay with that. I think even though I haven’t noticed a big difference, I’m confident that I am improving daily, even if it’s just a little bit, and I won’t let myself get discouraged. It’s not like I can’t speak any Spanish, for the most part I’m able to carry on conversations with my host and I can communicate things that I want/need, it just isn’t quite as smooth as I would like for it to be. But, at least I have something to work toward. I’m here to learn and there’s still so much time! We’re starting the continuation period courses this coming Monday, August 13, and I’m signed up for courses that I’m genuinely interested in, which may help me work harder to participate and be engaged in classes. I recently took a step in the right direction and purchased one of my favorite books in Spanish. It’s not a very difficult read, but, it’s something, and, it made me happy.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

I honestly didn’t have any well developed expectations of Córdoba before arriving, mostly because it’s really hard to find a good picture of the city on Google images. It’s been a month of learning. What has struck me as being kind of odd though is that despite the city’s size, (Córdoba is the second largest city in Argentina) but to me, it’s starting to feel small. Many days after classes end I’ll walk to the city center or do something in the more popular parts of town and I’m starting to feel more and more comfortable with it. I usually can figure out where I’m at without needing to use a map and I have the walk home well memorized. I’ve started branching into buses as well so now we’re looking at three forms of transportation people, between my feet, taxis, and the colectivo I’m going places. Those little things that seem like they’re just wasting time are actually really important for me. I think that just spending time outside of my house, away from my computer, and trying new things has helped make this transition easier. I’m more comfortable with the city at this point than I had anticipated, which I’m pretty pleased with. It’s still dusty, there’re still a lot of dogs, but it’s more alive than it was a month ago, and I see more and more aspects of its character everyday.

Third and final, happiness. This is kind of a complicated one to address. I am finding that as time goes on I enjoy my life here more and more, however, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. I’ve met some really great people and I’m excited to see how those relationships grow over the next four months, however, this month hasn’t been easy. I truly believe that by the end of my time here I will be so grateful for this opportunity, the people I met, the things I learned, and the places I visited, but, in this moment it seems so distant. This is just all part of the process, the feelings aren’t new, they’re just happening in a different place for different reasons and I think I just have to keep reminding myself that these feelings aren’t permanent. I’m optimistic about what’s coming up and I’m continuing to fill my time with small activities and looking for new things to try. Mate and good conversations with new friends continue to be some of the brightest spots in my journey thus far.

One-fifth of the way through this journey and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

The last photo is a sneak peek at a trip that I’m currently on which I hope to tell you more about in another blogpost soon! Thank you so much for reading, chau!

I Went to the Sierras

Yes, hi, it’s me, I’m back.

Friday morning (July 27th) all semester students went to a government office to be fingerprinted as a part of the visa process. Immediately after the meeting five of us made our way to the Alta Córdoba train station to catch the “Tren de las Sierras” to a little town called Cosquin. The train ride was interesting, on the way to Cosquin we passed many smaller, rural communities and enjoyed the changing landscape as we entered the Sierras Chicas to the north of the city. Once arriving in Cosquin we encountered a closed supermercado, as well as many businesses which were closed for siesta. After a brief moment of confusion regarding buses to our final destination, La Cumbre, we bought our tickets, got some snacks, and were on our way.

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This isn’t my photo, it isn’t even from our trip, but it’s the train we took on Friday! It also includes two members of our group Sierra and Lauren (The arrow is how Sierra sometimes names herself in groups!)

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This is me just being me, going about life in the world!

Now, this was not what I would typically describe as a “smooth” trip, actually, there were quite a few bumps in the road. Upon reaching the bus station in La Cumbre, we decided to find the hostel we made reservations at and see if we could maybe drop off our stuff before walking around town. We started down several roads before finally getting oriented in the right direction and as we approached the hostel, something didn’t seem quite right. The windows and doors were completely shuttered and the place looked absolutely dead. We circled the building to make sure we hadn’t just missed the entrance, rang the doorbell, and finally found the hostel’s phone number and made a call. The third party website which we had used to make the reservation failed to mention that the hostel was closed due to heating problems. In this moment we discovered that we were in the presence of Lauren “the Phone Queen” aka the girl you need when making a phone call in Spanish. We were 60 miles from Córdoba and our options were to find somewhere else to stay or try and catch a bus back the same night. Luckily we spotted a tourist info center across the street from the bus terminal and when we asked about potential lodgings they happily provided us with a name and a map with directions to the small hotel. Luckily, we were able to catch the owner on his way out and managed to talk him into letting the five of us stay in the same room because we weren’t particularly interested in splitting up. We then decided to walk around a little bit in town and then went to dinner at a pizza bar. The ‘za was good and I also tried a bite of a lomito, a pretty popular kind of steak sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and egg, which was also pretty tasty and I may try again.

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Hi! It’s me Libby here with the Gran Escritor!

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Lomito

That night we played a game called tri-bucket. It was fun because all of us had said some kind of random things throughout the day which were great to revisit and just laugh about the situation again. For anyone who hasn’t played before, tri-bucket is a three phase game (you may or may not play a super secret fourth round, but due to its supersecret nature not everyone is privy to its rules), all the players write down  words/phrases/people on a sheets of paper and add them to a vesicle in which the slips of paper can be mixed. The first round, players have to get their teammates to guess what their slip says, exactly as it is stated, using no proper nouns or words from the paper; the second round’s hint is a single word; and, the third round you have to act out your slip (these may be out of order but you get the gist.) We also did partake in the fourth round, because clearly, we’re in the know.

I also had to introduce some people to a very important musical work, “Rock the Casbah,” by The Clash. When we were walking through town earlier in the evening, I happened to spot a restaurant called “The Kasbah” which prompted a somewhat impromptu solo performance of the aforementioned song, which NOBODY KNEW. I had to rectify this travesty and played that song for everyone to hear and threw in some more classics from the playlist I have titled, “Sport Dad Jams,” as I figured it was just worth it to sprinkle some more of my favorite musical works into their lives.

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The restaurant which started a new chapter in the four other girls’ music journeys

In the morning Elizabeth, Sierra, and I, hiked up to “Cristo Redentor” in the hills. The statue overlooks the city and it’s essentially just a smaller version of the more well-known Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. The walk up wasn’t too bad, it was broken up by the stations of the cross and the view from the top was incredible. We also went into a small chapel which is located at the base of the hill when we were finished.

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Info about the trail

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One of the first things you see on the trail up, I assume it’s just a place to sit and reflect before starting up

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One of the stations

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  • I would like to use this platform to also express my sincere gratitude for the inclusion of stairs on this hill, I needed there to be stairs to redeem myself for a rather idiotic comment made the night before. Someone in our group asked how you get up to the statue and my knee-jerk reaction was just to say “there’s stairs,” you can tell it was completely out of nowhere because it’s not even proper English, but you know, who cares about that?
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Proof that there are, in fact, stairs

We returned to the main area of town in search of some sweaters and ways to kill time until Danielle and Lauren, the other two members of our group, returned from paragliding. Unfortunately we did not find any sweaters, but we did see a church, so it was a good tradeoff? We were all pretty much ready to get out of town when Lauren and Danielle arrived so we caught the first “express” bus back to Córdoba, but if that was the direct bus, I do not want to even think about what the indirect one is like.

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I gotta be honest, this church was really talked up in tourist materials and it didn’t quite live up to my hopes and dreams

 

I was really happy with this trip, as most it was my first opportunity to get to know some of the people in my program on a more personal level. We took some breaks from Spanish (sorry Spanish-only policy), but I think that those moments were essential to getting a better understanding of the personalities of people in our group, and seeing a different-side of everyone’s multi-faceted life in our first language. Also, we let out what Lauren referred to as our “English demons” which was just an added plus. For example, now this entire group of people now knows that I am just a very weird human and that my passport photo looks mildly like a mugshot.

During the week I went over plans for a trip that you’ll all get to hear about pretty soon (maybe), went to an event called EnglishTalk! where I met some really cool people and got some truly incredible pizza afterwards, ate at an Italian restaurant that I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks now, took a proficiency exam, and bought some banana chips.

Friday night we had a get together with our speaking-partners at a bar in Barrio Guemes. I met up with Elizabeth and Lauren before and we walked from Plaza San Martin to the bar. It ended up that there really wasn’t space for us in the bar we wanted to go to so we just ended up walking down the street to a place that wasn’t quite as busy. I didn’t make it a late night but I enjoyed hanging out and chatting with some new people. Also, the bars here play some great music, I frequently hear “Roxanne” and music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and it’s really quite entertaining.

Saturday, August 4th, we took another program trip to Alta Gracia, a little town to the south of Córdoba Capital in the Sierras Chicas. Our first stop was a Jesuit estancia. The Jesuit presence in Argentina can be seen in many ways but this was an enjoyable stop. To be honest I did not pay quite as much attention to our tour guide at some points as I probably should have, but the building and the church were both very beautiful. I don’t really feel the need to regale you with all of the history of the place; I know it’s very selfish of me, but, if you want to know, just go to Alta Gracia yourself, or Wikipedia it; I’m sure there’s some great info available to you there.

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Our second stop was the childhood home of Ernesto Guevara, better known as Che. “Che” is a pretty popular word in Argentina, it pretty much means “dude” or can just be a casual interjection, it is what you make of it; but, supposedly Ernesto acquired the nickname because he used “che” so much in conversation. (Please don’t trust me this, it’s probably not true, maybe I just imagined it; but… it’s also possible.) The Guevara family moved to Alta Gracia for its dry climate, which was meant to lessen the severity of Ernesto’s asthma. The family moved a few times but the home we saw became their more permanent abode. Following a recap of the life of Che Guevara we walked through the home and looked through each exhibit. Personally, I found the museum very interesting. During my last Spanish course we watched a film called Diarios de Motocicleta, which documents one of two major “road trips” Che Guevara took in his life, the first being a bicycle tour through several provinces in Argentina and the second being a motorcycle turned backpacking trip through South America with one of his friends. The film, which recounts the motorcycle journey, was one of my favorite movies during the semester and there was an entire room in the home dedicated to that trip, including the same model of motorcycle they began the journey with. The home was beautiful and knowing what became of the man who grew up there just made it all the more engaging for me.

  • Also, I really tried to hold it together when I overheard one of our trip coordinators talking about how when she was growing up she thought that Che was very attractive and how she still finds him quite good-looking.

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“To always think the worst is the sign of a mean spirit and a low soul…” or something like that

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Just another addition to the “Famous person on a bench + Libby” photo series

To finish the day we went to an estancia for lunch. We got to enjoy another asado, followed by horseback riding. So, honestly, the horseback riding was beautiful, we went further into the Sierras than the last estancia we visited; however, my feelings about horses haven’t really changed, I’m not a big fan. This sentiment was not aided by my horse’s lack of response to my commands, i.e. pulling back on the reins, and at the end of the ride my horse started running, I was not into it, I pulled the reins, it did not stop, I required some assistance, and I was not all that upset when I got off the horse and the experience was over. It ended up being fine, but I think I’ve decided that I will never be one of those people who goes horseback riding on a beautiful beach during vacation, I’m just gonna walk it.

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The grill for the asado

Thanks so much for tuning in! Hopefully I’ll have another blogpost full of more grammatical errors and bad photography soon!

 

Gauchos, Asado, Vino, & Walmart?

So, in an effort to make this blog more enjoyable to both read and write, I’m abandoning the day-by-day format and aiming for the highlights.

(Some of the photos need to be hovered over in order to read the captions.)

The majority of my classes this week were normal, nothing crazy with the added stress of an exam on Thursday.

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This is a photo of mate from a study session the night before our exam. It’s rather blurry, but, the evening was fun and I hope included the start of some new friendships.

Friday morning saw a very tired Libby wake up at 6:30 in order to arrive at school completely ready for what the day had in store by 8. At 8:30 everyone loaded onto “buses” bound for Ascochinga, a little town north of Córdoba in the Sierras Chicas. After a rather uneventful hour and a half we turned down a very small road which led to Estancia El Rosal, Salsipuedes, Córdoba. It was a tad chilly but luckily there were some fires going to keep warm.

Our first “activity” was a tour around the estancia, led by a gaucho. This may just be my own ignorance, but, I couldn’t quite figure out what the estancia could be equated to in the United States, I assume that it’s essentially an estate, but I’m not entirely sure. This particular estancia was visited by the President of Argentina a few years prior, due to an innovative housing project. The project offers a low-energy, cost-effective approach towards construction by compressing used plastic products into a brick-like form and piecing them together like legos to make a dwelling. The property also serves as a wedding/special events venue and boasts some very beautiful locations for anyone’s special day. (If you are looking to get married in the Sierras Chicas I 10/10  would recommend.) There is even a small hotel where guests can stay following a night of festivities.

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The little river.

Following the tour, our group was split up and rotated through a few more activities. I started with making empanadas. In truth, this wasn’t a very taxing time for me, the dough was pre-made and precut and the filling sat, prepared and ready on the table when we sat down, still, we got to work. First you grabbed the pastry circle, then placed a spoonful of filling in the middle, next used your fingers to spread a little water along the edge and folded the dough in half, encasing the filling, and finally crimped the edges tightly to ensure that no filling escaped during the frying process. These empanadas were great, I thoroughly enjoyed them and look forward to eating more empanadas in the future. After making many, many empanadas, my group went on a horseback ride. This was a great opportunity to get a better idea of this region’s landscape and enjoy the natural beauty that exists near the city. I am not a huge fan of horses just due to their size and occasional lack of concern for the nerves of the person atop them, but, all in all I’m glad I went and my horse really was trying its best.

Upon our return we enjoyed the sunshine and each other’s company until we were served lunch. This was probably my favorite part of the day because our lunch was asado, which is kind of like an Argentine barbecue. We saw the meat cooking on the grill throughout the day, watched it be prepared and finally were served it along with some potatoes, vegetables, and Malbec. It was great.

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Asado, it doesn’t look super appetizing here, but, it was good

In my food coma stupor I sat down and listened to some live Argentine folk music and watched some people learn how to dance along (I did not partake as dancing is not my favorite pastime.) Mostly, I was enjoying the general atmosphere and the sun’s wonderful presence. At about 5:30 we loaded up on the buses and returned to the city.

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Everyone outside enjoying the sun and music

The next day I woke up with a mission. I walked from my house into a new part of the city to meet Sierra and Lauren, two girls from the Spanish Studies program, bought a bus card, used it, and arrived at the holy land, aka Walmart. So… basically, there are three, I repeat three, Walmart’s in Córdoba and I was on the hunt for some snacks to tide me over for the 7 hours between lunch and dinner, and maybe some more clothes to layer up since I’m basically a walking, talking, block of ice at this point. The search for clothes didn’t really pan out, but I was able to get my hands on some snacks and enjoyed the little adventure to a store that in all honesty felt very out of place in the middle of Argentina. Later that night we met up at a bar called Peñon to hang out and enjoy some cheese fries and a brownie.

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Three Americans stoked about being at Walmart

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I felt it necessary to point out that in Argentina it’s “Ahorrá dinero. Viví mejor.” which translates to the classic: “Save money. Live better.” motto

Sunday was mostly just a relaxing day; although, I may or may not be an accessory to a crime, but, that’s a story for another day. This week has mostly been about catching up on sleep and trying to not get too wrapped up in extrinsic motivation, aka grades. I realized that I’m kind of a flake, which is not stellar, but also doesn’t surprise me as much as I wish it did, and I met my speaking partner. All of the students with Spanish Studies are paired with an Argentine student as a part of a language and culture exchange. The first meeting was a little overwhelming but I’m looking forward to getting to know my speaking partner better throughout the semester and future events.

Basically, I’m starting to get more acquainted with the city and the people and everything is picking up the pace. My Spanish is still a work in progress but that’s the entire point of this semester; so, I’m trying to accept that everyone learns at their own pace and language acquisition is no exception.