Friday, October 29, 2010

travel (for real this time)

Argentina is so underrated.

My Rotary club asks me what it was that made me want to go to Argentina, my classmates ask me what stereotypes Americans have of their culture, our cook Alicia asks me what were my favorite Argentinian foods before I came down and tried the real thing... To all of them, I am almost too embarrassed to admit that we don't talk about Argentina enough back home for me to have had stereotypes or favorite foods in the first place. 

A year ago, I knew an embarrassingly little amount about it here. I knew that Argentina had Messi and Maradona, tango, and a bunch of meat... but didn't know much else. Now I've realized that there isn't much Argentina DOESN'T have. In terms of natural beauty, they have waterfalls, desert, glaciers, the Andes, fields and grasslands, beaches, and jungle. I feel like the luckiest exchange student in the world because not only am I in such an incredible and diverse country- but I've gotten to travel and see so much of it already!
aren't they adorable?
Last Friday my amazing host parents Vito and Graciela generously took a week out of their busy work schedules, loaded up the pick up, and took the other American exchange student in Formosa, Jim, and I on a big grand adventure. At about 7 Friday night we jumped in the car and drove through: star-studded nights, tiny villages, modern cities, wide open corn and wheat fields, salt flats, miles and miles of vineyards, amazing rock formations, and the Andes. Two days and almost 2000km later we arrived in Mendoza, Argentina. 

Ashley and I finally reunited
Fifteen minutes later I was sprinting around the front of Vito's truck to jump in Ashley Tollefson's arms. For the entire time I have been here, every person I have been in contact with has been someone I have met through Rotary, and so I can't explain the rush of emotion and excitement to suddenly find myself in the middle of Mendoza with someone who has been practically family for the past 12 years- since I became best friends with her little sister, Erin. Ash has been studying abroad here since July and was an amazing guide for our stay. She would take Jim and I around the city whenever we weren't winding 9000m up narrow roads to get a look at Aconcagua (the highest mountain peak outside the Himalayas), taking tours through vineyards on la Ruta de Vino, or eating at outdoor cafes, and it was so good to catch up with her again! 

Saying goodbye was really hard, but fortunately I have a million and two things to look forward to right now. I just got back from a week to Mendoza, am going to be back in Formosa for my last (okay, and first) complete week of school, and then will be taking off on a three week trip down to Patagonia with the other exchange students! Then summer break starts once I get back, I'll have Christmas and New Years in the summer (SO bizarre to think about!), and then I take off again for a month long trip through Brazil! I can't believe how lucky I am!! These next few months are going to absolutely fly by and I can't even imagine the awesome experiences I'll end up with once they are done!

because even if it wasn't exactly the easiest or smoothest drive, it was certainly beautiful. 
Cows in the clouds. Of course I would find this in Argentina.
Mama, you may have needed some serious dramamine for this drive 

I am SO thankful Vito paid attention to road signs

still climbing. 

Vineyards and vineyards all the way until the base of the Andes
Plaza IndependencĂ­a in Mendoza

wine country

Puente del Inca


Erin said...

oh my goodness, maria i miss you! your pictures are incredible- i wish there were a million more of them! and i can just hear you saying everything from your blog. reading it is almost as good as talking to you. but not quite as good so let's skype ASAP. and as for you and ash being together, i am SO jealous. keep having the best time ever... i love you so so so so much:)

Sam Estenson said...

I can only echo what Erin said!! We miss you two mucho mucho back here in the boring old United States, haha
So glad that you're having all of these fantastic experiences, I'll try to suppress all of this jealousy!
Can't wait for you to be here at DU. Hannah and Aryn are both taking a freshmen seminar now on photography and love it! You can take it once you're here too =)

Kristy said...

Maria! I am so glad you got to go to my dear Argentina home MENDOZA! How I miss the mountains, plazas, Parque San Martin and my dear Mendocino friends. In two weeks I'm going for a wedding. I can't wait!

Tracy said...

I know that many of the things that people know about Argentina have to do with the food: steaks, wine, pasta, etc. But there is much more to discover. Last year I travelled there, I had an apartment for rent in buenos aires and I was able to explore the city like noone else did before. let me tell you I was surprised to see how great is the resemblance to paris. The streets, the architechture and even the people. Now I want to go back and head to Mendoza, it sounds like an amazing province to go to!