Friday, December 10, 2010

home sweet home

Back at the end of October, I remember having conversations about the heat or how much people in Argentina go out at night, and being told "Oh Mia, just you wait... this is nothing." I would laugh and make a joke about 'nothing' in English must mean something very different, then... but after a few days of 90 degree temperature differences between here and Northfield and not being able to quite remember what it was like to not stay up till morning, I finally am realizing that I should never doubt a Formoseño again. The time since returning from Patagonia has gone by just as fast (if not faster) than the trip itself. While all the traveling I've been able to do so far has been absolutely amazing, I can't tell you how good it feels to be "back home" again. And Formosa really does feel that way- like home. Not in the sense that it feels like my home back in Minnesota, in fact, it doesn't feel like Northfield even slightly. It feels like home in the sense that I can give directions and know which bus line to take to get from place to place, I know which banks allow me to take out the most money at a time, and of course have the ice cream flavors at both Grido and Gnomo practically memorized (not that deciding on just two flavors is any easier that way). My family here really does feel like family and, despite being 5'7" and blonde, I feel like I fit in with them perfectly. There's not a doubt in my mind that I hit the jackpot with where I am right now- my family, my friends, my home, my city, everything. But the four month mark came out of no where this time and with the way December is going so far, I can already tell time will only pick up from here. So how bout a few highlights from the past two weeks, eh?

Festival de Folklore
The night we arrived back in Formosa, Mauricio (my future host brother) had a performance at the amphitheater in town. Not knowing anything else, but convinced it would be adorable, I tagged along with Carmen (future host mom) and Jim (other American). As we found our way to our seats, we were surrounded by little boys dressed as gauchos and girls in bright colored dresses running around in every direction. The south may have been stunning, but there was nothing like three-hours of traditional dancing and singing to make me appreciate how unique and rich Formosa's culture really is. 

Back in October, I started taking these art classes at the theatre downtown. For 10 pesos a month (virtually nothing), you can take as many classes and subjects as you want. Besides the buck fifty double-scoop-chocolate-dipped-crunch-topped ice cream cone downtown, it's the best deal around. So naturally, I was just itching to start classes back up in December. Once I walked in the art institute, however, I realized they were taking everything down- and was told by Roque (the incredibly nice man that works there) that unfortunately there aren't classes until February because the air conditioning is too expensive during the summer! I was bummed but fine with this knowing how busy December was going to be and the fact that I'll be in Brazil all of January, but Roque wouldn't let me leave without being able to offer me something to do. So I am currently on a team of artists working to construct and paint a mural for a nature reserve here in Formosa! Can't believe my luck on landing that one. 

Basketball games
Formosa's basketball stadium is just a little over three blocks from my house, and I have been running around it all year long, but over the past two weeks my friends and I have really made the most of it and are becoming true Union fans. Their star player, David Jackson, is from the States and naturally Jim and I are determined to go to enough games and cheer in enough English to catch his attention and become chums. While that plan is still in action, we did end up meeting Meaghan Mikulas from North Carolina. She is married to another of the players, is super sweet, and in her very Argentinean way has already invited us to go to the beach or out to an asado! Only in Formosa, I'm tellin you. 

Asados, Poker, Mechanical Bulls and Flood Football

All separate highlights, of course, just all with the same crazy Argentinean group. One of my closest friends here in Formosa comes from a big family with even bigger personalities. They are all so extremely generous and friendly, and although I never know what exactly a night with them has in store, I can always be sure my cheeks will literally sting from smiling once it's over (so usually around 6 in the morning). With their backyard and patio as the stage, they bring the entertainment with nights of dancing cumbia, playing poker, singing karaoke, playing football in the middle of a downpour, or even renting a mechanical bull just for kicks and giggles. Fortunately Lucas and his girlfriend Cele are two of the few from my course staying in Formosa to study next fall (March, that is), so I know the memories made with this family will keep coming all year long. 

Summer Heat
The days here in Formosa can get hot. And I mean really hot. There have been a number of days where has showed an 80 or even 90-degree temperature difference between here and Northfield. It feels absolutely nothing like December, and naturally- I'm loving it. My favorite pastime has become laying out in the sun in my backyard, listening to music and eating the fresh fruit I bought from the corner. (side note: the fruit itself should deserve it's own highlight bullet point- I am pretty sure I eat my body weight in papaya, pineapple, mango, watermelon, kiwi and strawberry every week here). Add in some cool tereré and talks about life with Graciela and it becomes a truly perfect day. The sun is stronger down here, though, which meant that I got my first non-snow induced December sunburn, but it was well worth the red, and since my goal is to become more tan by February than I ever have been in August, the strong summer sun with work in my favor by the end. 
"one serving"

It took me two tries, but I am officially done graduating from high school! I walked out the doors of Colegio Nacional for the last time this morning after the ceremony and couldn't help but to think back to my real graduation back at NHS. The two ceremonies were almost nothing alike. Of course there were the inevitable similarities between every graduation: the principal or superintendent that gives the long welcome, the parents that patiently wait through the list of students until their child's name is called so they can cheer loudly and snap a dozen photos, and
my diploma
the student speaker that begins their speech with "Well, class of (insert year), we did it." Here, however, there was neither the graduation song nor caps thrown in the air at the end. Instead, the ceremony went something like this: at 8:15, students began to gather in the courtyard of our school. The 'patio' (or big open area with a stage on one end) was covered in plastic chairs and had been decorated by sheets of fabric strung overhead. Of course millions of pictures were taken as people gathered around the classmates they would soon part with, and the excitement in the air was mixed with that all too familiar feeling of nostalgia. About 15 minutes before the ceremony was supposed to actually begin, the sky opened up and everyone climbed over each other to escape the pouring rain. The students then took full advantage of the extra 45 minutes without power to take more pictures, chant more songs, and clap and dance all over the patio. Finally, the lights came back on and the ceremony began (see long welcome/waiting through list of students/sentimental speech, above, for info on that) but instead of patiently sitting through all of this- there were chanting and clapping, constant cheering, and 'the wave' was even pulled out a few times as student after student went up to receive their certificate.  It was nice to see Colegio Nacional was as much of a chaotic fiesta the my last time there as it was my first, and while I can't deny that I'm happy to be on summer vacation for a number of reasons, I think I might actually miss that crazy place. 

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas (sorta)
Although it seems impossible to believe this is December, and that X-mas is just (check the countdown) 15 days away- I love that I am finally able to blast Christmas carols and hang lights in the middle of summer without getting the usual eye-roll from Sam! And though it seems bizarre to see the decoration-section snowman-free, the fact that there are palm trees hung with ornaments completely makes up for it. I think that if Christmas weren't completely new and different this year, the homesickness would kick in a lot more- but I won't EVER have a Christmas anything like this one again, so I'm going to make the most of it.

Sam and his ginger beard, a christmas tree, and santa ornaments... ah the holidays

Plus, with my very good friend Skype, I was able to take part in the Estenson holiday traditions this year as well! Last Sunday, I sat down with my computer and skyped the fam as we had part 1 of our family Christmas. We hung up our santa and angel ornaments (a tradition our family has- throughout the year we keep our eyes peeled for a santa for Sam and an angel for me that represents our year in someway. Sam's ornament this year was a Santa with a yellow lab, in honor of our new dog, Abbey, and mine was an angel that I had bought with Erin and Lizzie on our spring break trip down to Mexico) we set up our Dickens' Village, and mom even read me a Christmas story by the fire. It was exactly as it always is each year, (which is also a clear display of how Grandma Beske passed the sentimental/tradition loving gene straight through Mom to me) but I couldn't help but to be reassured that despite not being there this year, that there are some things that will never change.  I love those three so incredibly much- I think I could travel the world twice and still not come up a better crew.


Rick Estenson said...

Oh Mia,
I was doing so well until I got to your last paragraph! We are in the middle of a full-blown Minnesota snowstorm. Such a contrast to your sunbathing-palm tree setting. Enjoy everything about your summertime Christmas in Argentina, because next year I want you snowed in with me in Minnesota!! Love you so- Mom

Samantha Weaver said...

the combination of last paragraph and comment above put me over the edge...i have tears in my eyes. dios mio mia! i'd tell you to live it up but it looks like you've got that covered. xoxo

Kristy said...

I love that you got to participate in your family Christmas traditions via Skype while sweating in a tank top. Fun to have somebody that gets my world!

Rachel said...

Merry Christmas, Maria!
I'm enjoying relaxing at home and reading your more recent posts. It's so fun to hear about all your adventures. I am glad you were able to enjoy the traditions of home via Skype. New experiences are amazing and teach you so much, but I couldn't agree with you more; it's nice to know that home, family, and traditions will stay the same:)
Best wishes to you for a wonderful start to the New Year!! I'm off to Vienna at the beginning of the year, so will check in and see how life in Argentina is when I return!