So, I have been avoiding blogging because I didnt think I would be able tackle the huge trip that our group went on at the beginning of the month. And by huge, I mean it started out with a 20 hour bus ride. 20. 20 hours. Like a day. A day spent on a bus. Now don’t get me wrong, I have traveled across the world, down the world, but a bus? not an airplane? Roads are NOT smooth in Argentina. Especially the farther you get from BA, when the billboards cease, you are in for it.
So if this is any indication of the “vacation” that I went on, I am going to be blogging for half my life, so I will split it into locations so its easier to understand, and for my own sanity. Honestly the bus ride on the way to the northwestern part of the country wasnt that bad. They feed you lots of food, lots of snacks, and most importantly, lots of alcohol. Like courses of drinks. Who would have thought there would be a night cap on a 20 hour bus ride…not me. They also play as many pirated movies as your heart desires…but sometimes they play the same one. Three times. So after the drive we arrived in the beautiful city of Salta, located in the providence of Salta.
Salta offered something that you will seldom find in Buenos Aires…nice people. People who don’t want to steal your things. Men who dont catcall every female that crosses their path, and women who don’t pass out dirty looks to anyone who weigh more than 100 pounds and dont have hair down to their butt. The Salteños were very welcoming and they have so much to offer in their city. As far as sight seeing goes, of course we visited the Cabildo-town hall and the giant cathedral that was covered in gold. Another thing the north has, an indigenous population, and the further north you go, the more you can see it. The relics in the cathedral were downright terrifying-but for a reason. The spanish couldn’t communicate with the Incas, so they just scared them into “understanding” the way of the spaniards.
We had the opportunity to go to the MAAM, which translates to the museum of tall mountains (creative on someone’s part). If you ever get the chance to go anywhere near Argentina you have to visit this museum. No one would tell us what was inside of this small museum, but when we walked in, we knew something was up. What the hell is there to put in a museum about tall mountains? Rocks? Snow? No and No. Just bodies. Yea, bodies. Surprise! Incas buried children’s bodies in the top of mountains. Yea, I was shocked too. The Incas would select the most attractive, rich children, in this case a boy and a girl of about 5 to 7 years, and an older girl as a caretaker and sacrifice them to the gods. They would craft amazing things to also offer to the ancestors and perform ceremonies, then they would give the children strong alcohol (moonshine-like?) and they would go to “sleep” and while they were “sleeping” they buried them in the top of the mountain. The altitude is so high that within hours of being placed inside the mountain they died of the cold. For this reason, the bodies were perfectly preserved, by the cold and the mountain. So, logically scientists went and found these specific sacrifices and dug them up, and stuck them in a museum. SCARIEST thing I have ever seen. In my life. 5 year old mummy. I saw her face. They only display one at a time to preserve them, the other ones are in the refrigerator “sleeping” some more. They also play (scary) andean music, the kind with the pan pipes (my new most favorite instrument). I was just sitting there in this haunted house, waiting for this little girl’s eyes to open. I kept looking at Carolina out teacher and trip guide (to her dismay), like WHERE DID YOU BRING ME? I see dead people. But it was awesome. Besides the dead thing. I’ve seen really mummies, in the flesh. (hah, I had to)
For dinner we went to a wonderful restaurant and I ordered steak, an argentinean one, better than anything you have ever had in your life. And we got to see traditional dances from Argentina and some from Bolivia also, they were so cool to watch. One of the boys that was dancing was a huge fan of Michael Jackson and he was very excited to hear that we were from America…yea I’ve been to California before and I listen to MJ so therefore I basically knew him. This young dancer was named miguel. HAH. perfect. Miguel Jackson. After we finished our steaks and many bottles of wine (red for the meat and white because I’m thirsty), we got roped into dancing to some Andean music- the fast fun kind, not the slow scary kind. We were literally running through the streets holding hands and the whole restaurant was on their feet dancing and singing. Salta knows how to get down.
On the way home we encountered about a million stray dogs, but one especially that we had seen about 10 times already that day. Binti, our friend! So to be a nice person, I decided to give this dog some of the food that I happened to have in my purse from touring during the day. Peanut Butter Crackers. Every dog’s dream. These weren’t just any crackers, American crackers, that I have had since I left in August. (they taste fine so don’t get any ideas about me poisoning dogs.) And this dog REFUSED to eat them. He had one in his mouth and spit it out. So I figured, oh he is just confused he can’t taste the peanut butter let me open the cracker for him. NOPE. this homeless street dog was too good for my peanut butter crackers. I tried to offer some crackers to other dogs I though might appreciate them more. but no. apparently dogs in Salta have not gotten the memo that peanut butter is the most delicious food in the world. Last time I waste my food on a bunch of ungrateful dogs. Especially American delicacies.
We also made a good friend on our trip to Salta, Eduardo a gaucho. He is a real cowboy, and was the president of the cowboy club in Salta a few years ago(it has a more official name in spanish). He ran the hostel that we stayed in, little did he know that would have to take 10 ladies all over the city. What a lucky guy. People kept coming up to him and being like Eduardo, what are you doing with all these young girls? Que Suerte! Eduardo is like 60ish and he is the man. I’m pretty sure he knew everyone in the whole town. He also plays the guitar. Dreamy. Don’t worry we are friends on facebook. Because the modern Salteño is connected. But he was a wonderful host, and I appreciate his openness and willingness to answer our questions. And the large amount of media lunas he gave us at breakfast.
Our last day, on the way back from farther north we came back to Salta for another day. We woke up early and went to go to the cerro in Salta, because we wanted to take the cable car to the top and see the panoramic view of the city. But, guess what, the cable cars were closed, for maintenance. TYPICAL. of course they are doing “maintenance” on the day we want to go. But, no big deal we just took cabs to the top and walked around. The view was breath taking and Im very glad that I got to visit Salta la linda. The way down, oh just a 30 min jont. down stairs. cobblestone stairs. Down a mountain. And it was a race. Easy peasy. I don’t think I have cursed Juan Ignacio and his bright ideas so much as in that hour long descent. Runners (freaks) were going up and down the hill in the time it took us to drag to the bottom. I love exercise, and glad I was able to get my semester’s worth. Thank you cerro. (also for the record cerro means hill. They should rename this cliff, with stairs that are really hard to walk down).
Soon I will continue the vacation. I know you are dyinggg to know what happens next on this week long adventure!
So I have some exams coming up on lunes y martes (Mon and Tues) and of course I am doing everything else possible that I can think of rather than study. Weird. I never do that. But I had a pretty exciting week so I wanted to share it! I am going on vacation this Thursday to the Northwestern part of the country, Salta and Jujuy. I’m really excited because its really hot there and more like a desert. Argentina has every different kind of weather you could imagine all in the same country (like the good old stars and stripes?) So its going to be great experiencing something different than the big city life. They told us when packing that we “wont need to impress anyone” so dont bring normal clothing. FINALLY I can wear my lacrosse shorts without getting dirty looks and my tshirts too. wonderful. Maybe I can even open my ENTIRE GIANT SUITCASE of untapped clothing because I was “planning for a warm spring” and I have NOT gotten it yet. Whoops. Lots of clothes. But seriously how many of you have packed for three months of changing weather? And for me, that was all but impossible. I could need anythingg! Im such an idiot I didnt even think to bring a halloween costume. Should have planned so much better! I guess I will know for next time :)
But back to the exciting week. Last weekend I got the grand tour of Buenos Aires from Stella and Carlos. We drove all over the city doing some very “porteño” (people from buenos aires) activities. Much like Baltimore, BA has a long coastline and is a port city. And also like Baltimore the water is smelly and disgusting and if you fall in your skin will melt off from all the pollution. Fantastic. Back to nature, Just like home. The weekends here are big business and everyone goes on outings with their families. While trying to enjoy the view of the river from the car, I realized that we had stopped near a long chain-link fence. Where are we, oh near an airport. The focus for the next 20 min was the small airplane that was taxiing around the runway and getting ready to take off. My eyes kept moving back to the view of the water and the fishing and boating but Carlos was quick to remind me what we had come to see. airplanes. And then it took off. woohhhoooo. The plane is going, it is lifting off, it is in the air, everyone quick get against the fence so you can see this grand spectacle. and then it went, into the wild blue yonder. What a sight to see. Nowhere else can you see, wait a min, you have seen planes before? airports are 40 times the size where you live, and the planes have 2 levels? Sorry Carlos. I have BEEN on at least 10 planes this year. Yes thats right. I have experienced the magic that is an airplane from the modern world. But, when in Rome, watch planes take off.
We ended our tour at the Costa Sur, at a weekend fair on the river. We walked around and enjoyed music and crafts and all sorts of goods. The food smelled delicious, there are always churros and desserts and hotdogs (panchos) and they look soo good! There was a dance lesson going on in the middle of the park and probably about 50 people were participating. The instructor, wow, all I can say is that his hips did NOT lie. We ended our exploration in the beginning of the park, watching people dance to Argentinean music of all kinds. One thing that I admire so much about these people is that they just live their lives and do what they want. Carlos kept trying to drag me into the middle where everyone was dancing but I firmly refused, about 6 times. These feet are planted and not going anywhere. (The when in rome thing only applies to things I want to do…) You could not pay me enough to go dance in front of all those people, but people here 1. are all really good dancers, especially the men 2. Don’t really care if 200 people are watching them, they just want to have fun. When the rock and roll came on Stella and Carlos went out and were shaking their groove thing.I always thought that the appropriate dancing to rock was air guitar, but boy was I wrong. It was awesome. Good day at the plaza.
Tuesday was the first day of Spring and here they celebrate the right way. With no school! High schoolers get off of school and everyone goes to the park and eats and drinks (alot) and plays futbol and spends time with their friends. There was loud reggaeton playing and lots of vendors. The best part…NO PARENTS woohooo. wow. pathetic. but seriously, it was all kids. We need to get some holidays like that in america, besides senior week. Suzanna and I got butterflies painted on our faces to “assimilate with the culture”. Everyone kept staring me down because I had a headband with flowers on it and a pink scarf on. Sorry BA, but Newsflash. Spring has Sprung. I am going to enjoy it. and wear this beautiful headband to celebrate. Mora had a celebration for spring at her school, to which she wore a belle halloween costume with tissue paper flowers all over it, and a matching headband with more tissue paper flowers. I mean honestly I was only taking fashion/flower tips from the best, and if she can wear that getup in public I can wear a subtle flower headband and a scarf. With a glittery butterfly on my face. No problem.
Yesterday I took a short trip outside the city with Stella and Carlos to a nearby town, Tigre. (It probably would have been longer had I not woken up at 3 in the afternoon. My bad) The town was so interesting and had a really European feel, but it also kind of felt like Hawaii to me, so that is a strange combination. The town has a river running through the middle of it. There are tons of boats that you can take up and down and through the town just like venice (smaller scale), or you can take a motor boat. It was pretty different from BA, there were hardly any skyscraper apartment buildings, mostly houses, and that is the draw of this town. The houses were all really pretty and looked like vacation homes. There was a really beautiful art museum that was a renovated rich person’s house. It looks like a castle. Argentinean version of Versailles (sorta).
So this shall be my last blog until after vacation and Im sure I will have the good, the bad and the ugly to share. Have a wonderful week and wish me luck on my exams! That I really am going to study for now, after I go do something else. Just Kidding Mom I have been studying for days ;) Love you all!
So, apologies that I have been so bad at this whole blogging thing. But I will try to give you a crash course of my month of september so far. We are deep into our language class at the Language school CUI. We have class every day for three hours. When I heard this I though I was going to die. 3 hours. That is worse than St. Mary’s. And like I used to tell my mom when I got to college…”Senior year I only went to school for 3 hours! I can’t do one thing for THAT LONG.” But three hours in Argentina is different than that amount of time anywhere else. We start 10 minutes late without fail (which is considered on time or early usually) and after an hour and a half of “working” (talking about what we did yesterday, what clubs we went to this weekend and who got robbed recently) we get a break. A long break. I have a reputation in our class because one day I accidentally took a 40 min break. Whoops. It takes me a long time to drink my coffee. Which really was only 10 min longer than everyone else, but my teacher reminds me every day of this long break. And tells me that I can only have break for 10 min, in hopes that I will return around the time of the rest of the class. Anyone who knows me, if you thought I was late in America, South America is like a whole different ball game. I’m not even encouraged to arrive promptly. And if you are late you can always blame the public transportation so you never get in trouble!
With the St. Mary’s group we took a field trip back to the Plaza de Mayo with a teacher and were forced to learn the history of the site and more about its historical relevance. Basically anything important that you have ever heard about happening here, happened in the Plaza de Mayo. We got the chance to go tour the Casa Rosada, where the president works and see all of the rooms inside, and her office. Unlike the white house, Cristina Kirchner does not live at the Pink house, she has a private residence, that is enormous, and she is flown by helicopter each day to and from her house. And I know what you are thinking, Kimmy did you get to meet the president? No. She is the president of a country. And although I am an extremely important person, I was not automatically invited to meet the most important person in the country that I am studying abroad in. But I did get to go into her office! (so did everyone else). My favorite part was going out onto the balcony where Eva and Juan Perón gave some of their most famous speeches.
One thing that I have noticed is that Argentineans, like Americans, like to learn through cinematography. Carlos, my host mother’s novio seems to believe that American history can be summarized by one captivating film. The Patriot. Our history teacher even referenced the movie in class. (after which I laughed). I would like to think that the United States has more to offer, but I guess you can’t argue with Mel Gibson or the revolutionary war. Sorry england. I was also trying to explain to someone what lacrosse is. Turns out it is extremely difficult. Especially when you dont know how to say stick in spanish. I usually just tell people it is like soccer and basketball, but its played in the air with a “stick”. Which leaves them confused. But a few people I have met know what it is! How you ask? Another more accomplished work of American film, American Pie. Wonderful. Not only is lacrosse grossly misrepresented in movies like american pie, but THESE PEOPLE ARE WATCHING AMERICAN PIE. And thinking that is what america is like. No wonder they hate us…or maybe they should like us more? But lets be honest. The most that any average person knows about Argentina is from Evita, and she was played by madonna. so…i cant really talk about standards here. But who doesn’t love that movie. I won’t cry for you Argentina, anytime soon.
Something that has also been going really well for me here is my name. Kimmy does not exist in Argentina. Neither does Kimberly. But most of all, neither does K. Which is great. It works really well when you are in a new place and introducing yourself to every person you meet. It is extremely difficult to pronounce, so to most people I am Keeemmmmberrrrrlaaaeeeee. And yes. it does take them that long to say it. Its either that or quimi, so I take the former. Sometimes when I meet people that I don’t think I will meet again, or don’t really care to talk to, I just tell them my name is Maria. It’s much easier, but then they ask why im laughing about my “name”, so they think I’m a weirdo. Just can’t win the name game. Also someone saw my passport and saw that my middle name was Speed. I responded with yea, Speed. Velocidad, rapido. you got me. I think I won the argentina name lottery.
This is a novela, but I have one last story that I wish to share. Mora, Stella’s grandaughter, aka my only amiga, is a wild woman. And this crazy kid loves coffee. We drink coffee together at breakfast. Her in a little cup and me in a big one. She usually fills half of the cup with sugar too…just the way she likes is. And when I come home from school in the afternoon she has her tarde fix. Coffee. In a bottle. Yes, feel free to reread but there was no typo. She loves her café in a baby bottle. She is after all only 4. (her age right now is up for debate because sometimes she tells me she is 3 and sometimes 5 so 4 is a safe bet.) And Stella wonders why she runs around like a crazy banshee. Shes all doped up on caffeine. The other day we were eating chicken nuggets for breakfast (heaven right?) and she was dipping her nuggets in coffee. It was so gross. And of course I am making a disgusted face like what is wrong with you little girl, you are RUINING that chicken nugget! And she thinks its hilarious so continues to munch on soggy chicken. ew. She also decided to put my deodorant in her mouth because its “like a giant lip stick”. She is a special one. But beggars can’t be choosers so I will take what friends I can get in this country. Even if they destroy chicken nuggets and consume deodorant and mass quantities of caffeine.
I will keep you updated and be a better blogger I promise! Más aventuras soon to come!
Love, Kimmy (Maria to those who dont know me well)
My spanish is slowly, slowly getting better, or I am just remembering everything that I have learned about 100 times. Every teacher we have encountered here says that we can understand and write fine, but our conversations sound like we are the equivalent of a small child. So thats what 8 years of spanish gets you. I was hoping it was something more like fluency, nope. We continue our first days learning about the city and visiting different sights, hoping to grasp some sort of identity of the city and its historical relevance.
The first thing that we did as a group was to go to the world tango championship quaterfinals. Each year in the birthplace of Tango they select a new champion to represent the dance and now the UN has deemed tango as bettering humanity and sees the need to preserve the dance. We watched about 20 couples from around the world compete, but most were from Argentina and the best from Buenos Aires. The champions from last year are from Japan which surprised me, but I guess like math, dance is a universal language. A much better one of you ask me. I was a little disappointed because honestly I was expecting to see someone from dancing with the stars there, but no luck. These people were so much better though! It was amazing to watch and the dance has so much emotion and sensuality that you can only feel in person. It was great. I think this was some sort of brain washing that our program directors thought up though because instantly we were all hooked to this place. Finally I can pursue my professional dancing career.
We also took a visit to Plaza de Mayo, a very important place in Argentine History and politics now. The plaza is home to the pink house, not as impressive as the white one, but it is the center for the president and where she does all of the work. If you have ever seen Evita, you may have seen the pink house before because both Eva and Juan Perón have given speeches on the balcony. We also went into the national cathedral that is the most impressive church that I have ever seen. Ever. It is clear that these people had money, at some point. And When I marry an Argentinean soccer player thats where we will get married, but we think that when your daughter is born you have to put her on the list to get married there because the list is probably so long! On another note there is also the tomb and tribute to San Martín, the liberator of Argentina from España. They guard his tomb like their lives depend on it and they had a sort of changing of the guards ceremony where they stop around the plaza then the church and finally to the tomb that is under lock and key. The one thing they guard around here.
Probably the most exciting part of the Plaza, or the most distracting was the pigeons. They were everywhere and they definitely did not understand English because we kept yelling for them to leave us alone and they wouldn’t. Kids were letting them jump on their arms and shoulders and little babies were getting way too close for comfort. Tensia, mi amiga, found a bird with a broken wing and convinced Carolina our teacher to “help if fly” which meant she chased it around as it hobbled on one leg until it got so scared it managed to fly. But NOT before she touched it, with her hands, in front of a large group. gross. But a good deed none the less. The problem is that I don’t think Antibacterial or frequent hand washing translates to spanish because they do not seem to care about subway hands or pigeon fingers.
I will try to post some pictures so you can get a visual of what Im describing!
I have been in Argentina for almost a week now, and I am becoming more acquainted to my home for the next three months. The city is divided into many different neighborhoods, the one I am living in is Belgrano. The smaller neighborhoods make up the city and the city combines with an even larger area outside to make the Province of Buenos Aires. One third of the population of Argentina lives in Buenos Aires. This place is huge. So basically Buenos Aires is the polar opposite to St. Mary’s College. It’s loud, lively, full of normal people, stays up late, and there are huge building around very corner. So I would say that culture shock isnt exactly the right term to describe the transition. Culture explosion is a bit more accurate.
Our group has spent the week learning how to travel and how to get from home to school and other points of interest in the city. Public transportation here is a must, its cheap and effective. But that doesnt make it less scary. Coming home from school one day this week, I did not have to hold onto anything on the train. Everyone was so close that you could stand straight up without falling over no matter what the train did. The streets here are a joke. There are hardly any lines, Stop signs are a suggestion and the horn is used at least 10 times per trip anywhere. Pedestrians are an after thought, so walking across the street is dangerous. So your either risking your life crossing the street or taking a subway with a million people in your car. Welcome to the city.
My host family is great. My mom’s name is Stella and she is a really good cook. She used to be a caterer, so I have been fed so many great things mostly steak, everyday. So I’m not really suffering. Stella has two granddaughter, one baby and one five year old. The five year old is so funny and just walks around my room and asks me what things are. When I was unpacking she really wanted to play with my underwear. I was trying to explain to her what they were but I couldn’t remember the word…so I just grabbed them and hid them. I gave her some silly bands, so now she loves me and looks through my stuff for other presents she can have. She seems to think that wristlets are toys and like to wear them around and eat with them on her wrist, 3 at a time. But she likes princesses and Hannah Montana so we are becoming fast friends.
I have lots more about my first week, so update you all soon!
Chau! (thats how you spell it here)