Saturday, September 18, 2010

la vida argentina

3 things you never see down here, 3 things that aren't the same, and 3 things I am going to miss back in the States! (If I have to crunch it down to 3 of each.)
Things you never see in Argentina:
1) stop signs.
Its first come first serve down here. If the road is busy, the cars, busses and motorcycles play a giant game of Tetris to see how they can fit. I'm still not sure if there are speed limits, taxis don't have seat belts, and pedestrians in no way have the right of way. I'm not trying to scare you mom, even though it seems like there is no system or organization to me, everyone down here seems to know what to do! Lets just say it’s a very good thing that no driving is one of the four D's, or I would certainly crash.
2) girls running.
And my siesta runs have become one of my favorite routines down here. The weather right now here in Formosa is perfect for a good run, and while the air is thick and will likely get thicker as the year goes on, I've begun to love just getting out and exploring... but so far it's just been me and the men out there. In fact, as far as sports go- there are not many options for girls. As far as I can tell it's dancing (which is my 'gym' every Mon. and Wed.), volleyball, and swimming. My soccer cleats are getting lonely:(
3) babies. Okay, we have babies in the states too... but not babies on scooters. Here it's not uncommon to see a mom and dad driving a motorcycle with a little baby just sandwiched in between for the ride. This isn't something I'm judging either- for many of these people the cost of transportation any other way just isn't an option. Even for me, the cost of the taxi ride to school every morning is starting to take a hit. While taxi fees are not even CLOSE to what they are in the states, I end up dishing out two bucks each ride. Good thing my school has so many days off!
things that are just different here.
1) fruit.
Papayas, mangos, oranges, bananas, grapefruit, pineapple, you name it. SOO fresh.
2) emotions.
I’m not sure if it is the Argentine culture or if, since apparently some 2/3 of the population are from Italian descent, the credit should go to Italy... but between exaggerated hand motions, tones, and facial expressions- it is not ever too hard to tell exactly how someone is feeling. Even from a block away. This has been fun since for the most part this is one of the happiest cultures I have ever known.
3) school.
I know I've said this before, but I can't stress enough how different it is! I have yet to have a full week of class, in fact I have yet to even have four consecutive days of class! Next week is no exception either, Tuesday is 'the day of the student' (one of the many school-related celebrations in September) and we all have the day off. Ahh Argentina:)
things we don't have back home (and that I'm going to miss dearly!)
1) yerba mate. One of Argentina's most traditional customs, more popular than tango and cheaper than a good steak, can be served in two ways: mate or tereré. To drink mate, simply poor hot water over the grassy herbs. For tereré, fix ice water, lemonade, tang, whatever you want and again, pour over the glassy herbs. Top either off with a metal spraw (spoon/straw), friends and/or family and enjoy! The result is a refreshing herbal tea of sorts with a bitter taste that has grown on me to the point of addiction.
2) siesta time.
This is Argentina's nationwide naptime! The actual siesta varies in length and hours, but generally takes place after lunch in the early afternoon. For many of my friends here, they can hit the sack from 1 till 5/6 on days when there isn't gym or something going on. I, on the other hand, cannot nap (which has kind of turned into a bit of a curse in a nocturnal culture like Argentina's) but it is still a part of my life down here I am going to miss. Especially when I am crunching to finish my term paper for college and am trying my hardest NOT to drift into a siesta!
3) cumbia music!
This music (which is blasted from restaurants, cars, cell phones, gas stations, you name it) takes on a "che, che-che che, che-che che, che-che..." rhythm is super popular down here. I'd also like to clump reggaeton and salsa into this category and warn my future room mate that a fair share of my itunes library next year will have incredibly fast, sexy Spanish lyrics!
Note: the popular American music down here has such a funny variety: Lady Gaga, Guns N' Roses, John Lennon, Greenday, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are some of my friends' favorite artists.
There are sooo many more differences that I could list, I just thought 3 was a good number. I still can't believe that all of this is real! I'm off to La Fiesta del Pomelo, or the Grapefruit festival! Formosa is known for having some of the best grapefruits and in true Argentine fashion, that calls for a fiesta! So I'm headed out to Laguna Blanca for a night of live music, dancing, and of course food to kick off this weekend's festival. We are going to dance 'hasta la madrugada' meaning until we see the sun in the morning. So lets see: fresh fruit, music, and staying up all night...yup, looks like I'm in Argentina!
besitos a todos-

Thursday, September 9, 2010


So the 'one month' sum up is much harder than my weekend trip sum ups, so I'm going to just say a few things in bullets and leave the rest till another time.
  1. In no way does it feel like I have been here a month. I have experienced SO much so far in Argentina and can't wrap my head around the fact that I did all that in just one month... yet I also feel like it was just last week that I slipped on my blazer and walked through MSP security!
  1. is SOOO different.
  2. Uniforms! As far as I can tell, there are about 8 or 9 colegios (or high schools) in Formosa and all of them have a unique uniform. At my school the girls wear white shirts under a grey jumper, high navy socks, and school shoes- and the boys simply wear dress pants and a white t. Compared to most of the other schools, it really isn't so bad. The only problem is there isn't much of a way to adjust to weird weather, but that's a small complaint when I think about easy my morning routine is!
  1. Almost all of the exchange students in Formosa go to my school- Colegio Nacional now represents Iceland, France, Germany, Australia and the US. Jim from Iowa is actually in my course- so our curious classmates are quickly learning every detail they can think of about the United States. It's hilarious the misconceptions Hollywood and the NBA has given them.
  2. Unlike High School back home, the students don't move from one room to the next, the teachers do. I'm still trying to figure out the class schedule, it seems really random to me so far. Oh, and teachers have absolutely no control over the class- it is always a crazy fiesta and not uncommon at all for the class to play cards, listen to music, or just start clapping and singing/chanting.
  3. Speaking of clapping, singing, and chanting.... Today my 1 month mark was celebrated by a 'sentado' led by 2 students in my course. Instead of going to class as usual, half the school stayed out in the patio for the whole day in protest of the lack of money the government gives to education. It awesome to be apart of something that those students were so passionate about... and apparently these protests are going to be scattered about for the next 40 days, or until the Governor grants the school the money it needs. We are marching tomorrow at 9:30 and who knows what next week might bring!
  1. Labor day has come and gone, meaning that poor Rick and Kris are officially empty-nesters back home. Sam moved into his dorm at the University of Denver on Monday! I am SO extremely excited for him and can't wait to hear all about his exciting, social, and obviously very over-achieving and successful school year. I really wish I could have been there to help you move in, Sammy:( And to all those back home- stop by Ibson Ave whenever you can and dump some shoes by the front door for mom and dad, I know they are going to miss all those those loaded-questions nights and bonfires. I can almost guarantee cookies, milkshakes, popcorn and fancy oranges will be provided!
As far as everything else, I'll just have to squeeze them into blogs throughout the year.
Besos y abrazos to all-

Monday, September 6, 2010

My weekend as Maria Von Trapp

Whenever I'm asked "so, why did you decide to do Rotary?" my answer hardly ever lacks the phrase " see new things, meet new people, and to get to experience a new culture..." Needless to say, this past weekend I accomplished all three.
Last week my host mom invited me to go on a retreat with her to Victoria, Entre Rios, Argentina. Eager not to miss an opportunity to explore- I readily accepted, no questions asked. And I mean that literally.. Wednesday night I packed a suitcase with clothes for every weather and hopped on a (very comfy double-decker Mercedes-Benz coach) bus with no idea what the long-weekend would really bring.
13 hours later I awoke to see the landscape was no longer the tropical palm trees of home, but rather what my host mom called an "Argentine-Tuscany," cathedrals and villages tucked between valleys of rolling hills. I then watched in surprise as we turned into the driveway of one of those incredible cathedrals, grabbed our suitcases, and piled out. I soon learned that the name of this place was La Iglesia de la Abadía del Niño Dios, and that it was the first Spanish speaking monastery in all of the Americas... and that we were going to be staying there till Sunday! Through conversations I had with other members of the group, I quickly got the impression that this wasn't something many people got the experience to do, but because Celia (this happy, little 87 yr old who led our group) had a son in the monastery we had an 'in.'
The whole trip turned out to be one new experience after the next. I spent the weekend relaxing and exploring the pueblo and countryside around the monastery- a complete 180º change in pace from Formosa. My host mom played the "she's from America and wants to learn about the realities of all aspects of our culture- and might never get an experience like this again" card to get our very own private tour of the garden and workshop where the monks make cheeses, jams, liquors, and most importantly... Dulce de Leche!! It was fantastic :) On the tour I asked if I could go for runs the 'arb-ish' area behind the workshop and got the thumbs-up from Padre Nestor. This park turned out to be gorgeous, and I can now officially say I have run over the Río Paraná since a branch of it runs through the park!
The clear highlight of the weekend wasn't tasting incredibly fresh Dulce de Leche or even running across waters that came from the great Iguazu Falls. It was the mass Saturday night- something I know I will never forget. Late Saturday afternoon the sky started to chance from pure-blue to cloudy, and when winds really picked up and a thunderstorm rolled in half the pueblo (and all of the monastery) lost power, and the service was held at candlelight. It seemed that no matter how loud the wind and thunder grew outside, they were still humbled in comparison to the songs of the monks absolutely resonating through the cathedral. With each flash of lightning, the stained glass windows were illuminated and it was incredibly beautiful. I wish there was some way I could have gotten it on camera- though I think this more than anything was a "you had to be there" type of night. I'm so glad I was.
Before I go, here are a few photos from the weekend. Unfortunately I either didn't have my camera
or wasn't supposed to be taking photos, so I don't have many- but here's a peak at what I've been up to.
La iglesia
inside the first Spanish speaking monastery in the Americas
Argentina- the only place where the countryside is lined with palm trees
"search for peace and follow it"
My view out our window. It's so weird to see spring again!
the monks apparently make the best limonchello liquor around haha