I’ve been meaning to tell you…

Think of this as a bunch of mini blogs of all of the things I’ve been meaning to tell you guys about:

Cafes: Cafes are amazing, omni-present, and fairly cheap. Some of the best pastries I’ve ever had come from cafes. Also some of my moments of greatest contentment and greatest serenity.

The chocolate for the submarino is shaped... like a submarine!!!

The chocolate for the submarino is shaped… like a submarine!!!

Plazas: The city center of Mendoza is set up with the huge Plaza Independencia in it’s center and four smaller plazas (Italia, España, Chile, and San Martín) off of each corner. People meet in plazas, chill in plazas, do homework in plazas, every weekend there is an artisan fair in Plaza Independencia. They are beautiful places

Plaza Independencia

Plaza Independencia

Cat Calls: When you are walking along minding your own business and an idiot boy cat calls you. When I first got here I couldn’t understand what they said. Now I do and I wish I still couldn’t. You do not respond. You do not make eye contact. You walk faster and look at the ground. I hate cat calls.

Pollution: Outside of the city (and in the plazas or park) the air is fine, normal, even clean. Inside the city, depending on the day, the air can be fairly polluted. It’s gross.

Smoking: While we are on the topic of air quality, lots of people in this country smoke. They have very little consideration for people who don’t smoke. If they want to kill themselves slowly, fine, but do it away from me.

Micro: The bus system in Mendoza is called the Micro (Me-crow). They are an experience, as is all public transportation. The Micro is the great equalizer. I was talking to a friend here the other day about Micro-economics. I pronounced it Me-crow not my-crow. I’ve been here for two long.

Boxed Milk: So apparently a lot of the rest of the world doesn’t drink milk from jugs like we do in The States. They drink it from boxes or bags. I’m not talking a carton, I mean a box- like what chicken broth comes in, except without the pour spout thing. My host mom buys about 10 Liters of milk at a time and it is so pasteurized that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it has been opened. It also tastes sweeter than milk in the US. I have it with my cereal and I don’t mind it, but I’m still not sure how comfortable I am with the whole thing. Yogurt also comes in bags.

Walking and eating: They don’t do it. They don’t drink coffee and walk, they don’t eat and walk, they don’t eat on the Micro, they will barely sip from a bottle (almost always using a straw) on the Micro. They sit down and take time for things, which is nice, but it’s also irritating because sometimes you are busy and need to eat on the go.

The Argentines: Are extremely nice people! They are generally very willing and happy to help you. They are also, however, the most laid-back people ever, which like walking and eating has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I do love how giving these people are though and how much they like to share things. It’s something we’ve picked up while we’ve been here.

Autumn and the Andes- a view from one of my classrooms.

Autumn and the Andes- a view from one of my classrooms.

Weirdness: It will be weird to go back to the states (T-48 hours) for a lot of reasons but one thing that will be really weird is not seeing the people that I’ve seen, at times constantly, for the past semester. Particularly Janelle, with whom I have shared so many of my adventures. I knew none of these people 4 months ago and now some of them are very important to me, but I will probably never see some of them again.

Finals: Finals have been interesting. For the most part no problems and respectable grades, but never have I seen the disorganization of this country more than during exams. Also at Gettysburg Professors don’t proctor exams, something I didn’t realized I loved so much until I took exams here and the profs were in the room staring at you the whole time.

Time: Before I left one of my friends, Anna, and I jokes that I should call my blog The Life of a Punctual Girl in Argentina. That sums things up pretty well. It bothered me more at first, now I’ve gotten used to just going with the flow and to be honest, I’m not sure I’m going to like waiters coming up to my table every 10 minutes in restaurants or not being able to just sit and sobremesa (after dinner conversation) for an hour or two after every meal.

Politics: The good people of argentina love their politics and unlike in the US it is not taboo to talk about them. In fact they do talk about them with any and everyone. I have had people I just met tell me about their politics and who they usually vote for. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. To make matters more interesting it’s an election year.

“How do we solve the poverty problem in Argentina?”
“What poverty?” “Welcome!!”
*President of the Nation*

Knitting: I’ve knit before, but small things like scarves or hats (on a loom) but this semester a bunch of us knit blankets for charity. I had some extra yarn at the end so I also decided to knit a hat for my host mom (because she is always freezing) and a baby hat to go with the  blanket! It was fun! Right now I’m trying mittens, I have no doubt I will post them on Facebook if I ever finish them.

Post completion, pre border.

Post completion, pre border.

Adult hat and baby hat!

Adult hat and baby hat!

Getting ready to donate the blankets!

Getting ready to donate the blankets!

Health Center: We went to a Centro de Salud with one of my Professors, a physician, in a very poor, but clean, neighborhood a few weeks ago. It was amazing, they have a general practitioner, a pediatrician, a nutritionist, a dentist, three nurses, a physiatrist, a pharmacist, a OB/GYN, and a cardiologist that came a few days a week. The building was slightly small and older, but like the neighborhood it was clean and generally sufficient. By the way, it’s all free. They might have to get up before dawn to get an appointment but they receive good medical care, that otherwise they would have absolutely no access to as many of them must stretch every peso to afford food, and they don’t pay for it beyond paying their taxes.

Chair in the consultation room, again well used but sufficient and clean.

Chair in the consultation room, again well used but sufficient and clean.

Introspection: in the last few weeks we have all been pretty introspective. I love this. Reflecting on how privileged we have been to study in the place with such great people, processing our experiences and how they have changed us, promising that we will see each other again on day, trying to process our crazy bittersweet emotional roller coaster, and about a million other things.

Reverse Culture Shock: Is a thing that happens when you’ve been abroad and you come home and things are different than they were abroad. It’s like when you go to a new place and experience culture shock, but reversed. I’ll let you know if this happens to me once I’m home.

My travel buddy trying to fix her glasses with a knife: welcome to study abroad!

My travel buddy trying to fix her glasses with a knife: welcome to study abroad!

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San Martín Who?

You may have noticed from my blog that a lot of things here in Argentina are named San Martín. In every city I’ve been in Avenida San Martín is either the main street or is a very busy street, almost every city has a plaza called San Martín, there is a province of Argentina called San Martín de los Andes, and in many provinces of Argentina, including Mendoza Province there is a department (think county) called San Martín, and the major park in the City of Mendoza: Parque San Martín . So who the heck is this San Martín guy?

****If you don’t like history skip to the below asterisks and pick up reading there****

General Don José de San Martín; that’s who. I know, I’d never heard of him either, before I came to Mendoza. He was a contemporary of Simon Bolivar, except in southern Latin America, where as Bolivar was mostly in northern Latin America. For various reasons San Martín doesn’t get as much press, or time in history classes as does Bolivar, so here is a super brief summary. San Martín was born in Argentina but his parents were from Spain. They went back to Spain when San Martín was about 5 years old. He stopped school when he was 12 and entered the military, where is father and big brothers were already serving. He received high quality military training and fought in the Spanish Army (against the French, no less) to help reclaim the Spanish Throne from the Bonapartes. He suffered from poor health his entire life, so after the war he took a few years off to rest before traveling to his birth place of Argentina. In Latin America he fought against the Spanish to free Argentina, then Chile, and finally Perú from Spain. While independence didn’t stick in Chile and Perú it did here in Argentina. They still love San Martín in Chile and Perú but as he was [born] argentine, Argentina has a special love for the man. He is also particularly special to Mendoza because it was from Mendoza that San Martín launched a very special plan to attack the Spanish in Chile by crossing la cordillera de los Andes. That’s right, San Martín and his army crossed the Andes in 1817 for the first time in known history. In our travels, both Janelle and I have notices that the further away you get from Mendoza the slightly less San Martín hero worship there is.

San Martín is really a lot like George Washington in many ways. For my history class I wrote an essay comparing San Martín to the US Founding Fathers. Over half of the essay was spent comparing San Martín and Washington. The big difference I can see, which I also think contributes to the good press the Bolivar gets, is that after the war of independence San Martín went back to Europe. He didn’t stick around to try and start the new government. He did what was, comparatively, easy: he came, he fought, and he left. Despite not really wanting to have much to do with politics, much less be President, Washington accepted and fulfilled his duties as the First US President to the best of his abilities. He set precedents that the US Presidents still use today, over 200 years later. Bolivar, similar to Washington stuck around and tried to form governments and maintain Latin American independence from Spain. I believe this is part of why he get’s better press outside of Latin America. Also San Martín lived to be an old man who died slowly of illness and age in far away France. Bolivar died a relatively young man in Venezuela, after a long fight to form and maintain the governments of various Latin American countries.

What San Martín did was, truly, remarkable, I’m not trying to belittle that. I am trying to be honest about who I feel he is though. If you had heard of him before now, as person who grew up in the US and has never studies Latin American history outside of the classroom, I would be surprised. US public schools teach us very little about Latin American history and certainly not about more modern Latin American history, which the US government played a fairly large role in (but that is it’s own blog, with it’s own associated angry emotions).

****Non-history lovers restart here****

It’s funny because the longer I am here the more I realize how much we, in the US, ignore Latin America in favor of Europe. I also realize that here in Argentina they ignore the US also in favor of Europe as much as they can. The US dominates the global economy, global entertainment, and global politics, so it can only be so ignored, but they do what they can. I believe they also have mixed emotions about the US, the government has done some pretty nasty things to Latin America, but as I said, we are a very dominate country and many people want to be a part of such success. Catch 22, much?

This blog turned into a history lesson, more than anything, but what I meant to write about was how when you go to another country you might have a general understanding of the culture, but until you live there you are missing a lot. You know how in the States, even if you don’t like American Football, you know at least a few teams, you probably still watch the Super Bowl, you might even know who has a serious rivalry with who. When you go another country you don’t know any of that. You know nothing about the soccer teams and who is who or who you should support. You likely don’t know about all of the national heros. The gestures are different or they mean different things. The slang is unique to the country and even the region and you have to ask about words that everyone here uses or for a word that is equivalent to slang you use constantly in the US.

Long story short study abroad is weird and shoves you so far out of your comfort zone you occasionally need a telescope to find it again. It it’s ok, that’s how you grow.

Beautiful Expressions

Hello my dear readers!

This is going to be long, but I shall reward you with a lot of pictures of the most beautiful place I have ever been if you stay with me!

Last week was our “spring” break (it’s actually fall here), so my wonderful travel buddy and I decided to go a-travelin’! We started our journey with a 13 hour bus ride to Rosario, Argentina- the third largest city in Argentina after Buenos Aires and Cordoba (both of which I have already visited). Mendoza is the 4th largest city, if you were wondering. Since we were using Rosario mostly as a stopping point on the way Puerto Iguazu, our primary destination, we only gave ourselves a day and a half there. The city itself I didn’t just love, but the walking path along the Paraná river, that lead to the National Monument to the Flag was very pretty!

Selfie at the Paraná!

Selfie at the Paraná!

Roses on the river.

Roses on the river.

The ship in the distance is floating on the river, but it’s hard to tell from this picture because the river is very red from all of the sediment in the area. One huge change between Mendoza and Rosario is the climate. Both Rosario and Iguazu are very humid, sub-tropical zones. After the dryness of Mendoza they proved to be an interesting change!

As we always do, we found plenty of time to goof around while we were visiting the city!

We climbed some trees!

We climbed some trees!

We played on the playground!

We played on the playground!

We took some selfies with some pretty cool art displays!

We took some selfies with some cool art displays!

As much as I love murals, paintings, and sculptures my favorite kinds of art are the kinds that are functional, that serve a purpose. I think that is why I like plazas so much, they are very pretty and fun to sit in, but they also serve a purpose. In the event of a severe earthquake plazas would be free of debris, so people could use them as a meeting point and as an open area to stay in until the rest of the city is cleaned up or declared safe. Much like the plazas of Argentina, in Rosario we found these little road block poles.

Pretty and Functional!

Pretty and functional!

They serve to keep cars from turning down the walking path, but they have been beautifully decorated with mosaic tiles!

After our walk by the river we decided to visit the National Flag Monument.

Obelisk at the Monument

Obelisk at the Monument

It was pretty cool and reminded me a bit of Washington D.C., which made me happy!

View from a distance.

View from a distance

The Monument is also houses the crypt of General Manuel Belgrano, an Argentine Revolutionary who fought during the Argentine War of Independence and also designed the flag of Argentina.

Some people say that when Belgrano chose the colors for the flag, the blue he choose was the blue of the sky of Argentina: celeste.

The Flag of Argentina over the Paraná River.

The Flag of Argentina over the Paraná River.

Looking at this picture, it’s not hard to see why many people believe that, the colors are almost identical.

Despite neither of us really caring for Rosario as a city we had a pretty good time there, with one very important exception: Ice Cream. We asked at least 4 Rosarinos (people from Rosario) where a nearby ice cream shop was. They all gave us directions, but either these ice cream shops didn’t exist, could only be seen by Argentinians, or the people could not give directions. After hunting for almost 2 hours we finally decided to go to the grocery store and just buy a 1/2 kilo of ice cream. After waiting in the checkout line for 20 minutes (not atypical here) and walking back to our hostel we finally had our ice cream! It was pretty good, but not as good as from the shops!

With our time in Rosario done we headed back to the bus terminal to get on a bus for another 20 hours to go to Puerto Iguazu, in north-eastern Argentina.

Pre-trip selfie!

Pre-trip selfie!

As has become tradition, we took a pre trip selfie on the bus. We both look so happy, so optimistic. That’s because this was before we found out the AC on the bus was broken. When we got onto the bus it was, as my Paternal Grandmother would say, stifling. It was hot and humid and gross. We just assumed that the bus had been sitting in the sun all day and that it would cool down shortly. When it didn’t cool down at all after about 10 minutes the guy in the seat across the aisle from ours when to go ask what was going on. That’s when we found out about the AC. For the next two hours we sat there and dripped sweat on a very hot bus, with very little warm air blowing on us. The only saving grace was that we were in the front row on the second level of the bus, this meant that we had lots of windows to look out of.

About an hour into the first two hours of the trip we realized that their was a thermometer on the bus. It read 38 degrees centigrade. As I am a physics major I know the conversion equation between Celsius and Fahrenheit. Turns out that 38 degrees C is a blistering 100.4 degrees F. It was a very long two hours. Thankfully while stopped to pick up more people a technician got on the bus and fixed the AC so over the course of the next hour and a half the temperature went down to something more reasonable. That night we even used blankets while we tried to sleep. I’ve never been so happy for AC in all my life.

We got to Iguazu at about 9am the next morning and then the real fun began. The city of Puerto Iguazu isn’t anything very special, just a rather expensive, though clean and quiet, tourist town. But one doesn’t go to Iguazu for the town. One goes for this:

Cataratas de Iguazu

Cataratas de Iguazu

But I get ahead of myself, before we went to see some of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls in the world we took a walk around the city of Puerto Iguazu. We walked along the Iguazu River, with Brazil directly across from us until we got here:

Tri-Country Border

Tri-Country Border

This is the place where three countries border each other. I am standing in Argentina, to the right in Brazil and to the left in Paraguay. At no point does the US border two other countries at the same point. It was very cool and also made country lines seem very subjective. Janelle and I talked a lot about how just over the not terribly wide river was another country, where they spoke another language, and that we would need to have our Passports to go to. After our mini-existential crisis we finally found some ice cream! It was some of the best I’ve had in this country too!

After a relaxing recovery day in the town of Iguazu we were ready to go to the main attraction. The next day we got up early to go see the most beautiful place I have ever been to. Parque Iguazu is a 30 minute bus ride away from Puerto Iguazu. Once you get to the park and buy your ticket you take a 10 minute train ride up the the falls.

We can't wait!

We can’t wait!

Iguazu is different from anything else I had seen because, while it’s technically all one waterfall but the river is so wide and the cliff face curved, they appear as a series of separate falls. We chose to go to the biggest of the falls first: La Garganta del Diablo– the Devil’s throat. As you walk over the river to Garganta you are surrounded by rich, green jungle vegetation. A far cry from the much sparser vegetation in Mendoza, which is a desert, if you will recall.

On the path to Garganta.

On the path to Garganta.

Once we got about halfway there we could see mist in the distance.

Mist from Garganta visible long before the falls themselves

Mist from Garganta visible long before the falls themselves

You can just see the rainbow formed by the sun and the mist. There were rainbows all over the park from the same combination! As we got closer we started to hear the rush of the water, then all of the sudden we saw the very top of the falls.

Blue turns white as the river meets the cliff

Blue turns white as the river meets the cliff

This glimpse itself was impressive, but not so impressive as the view we got at the end of the path:

Panorama of Garganta del Diablo.

Panorama of Garganta del Diablo.

The mist coming off of the falls was so thick that you could only see the river below if there was a strong wind to move the mist away quickly.

A misty river valley

A misty river valley

After Garganta we took the train halfway back down and started walking on the upper of the two paths the park has for viewing more of the falls! This means that at times we were walking over the tops of some of the smaller falls. They say pictures are worth 1000 words, I think these must be worth even more; I’ll let them speak for themselves.

A first view through the jungle

A first view through the jungle

My favorite part of the falls!

My favorite part of the falls!

Rainbow over the falls

Rainbow over the falls

Rushing water

Rushing water

After we finished with upper trail we decided to walk a little into the lower trail, which means you are more at the middle or the bottom of the falls, and eat lunch with a view of the falls. What happened next was both amusing and terrifying. We had both eaten our apples and were about 2/3s finished with our sandwiches when it occurred to me that I should put our tupperware container back into my backpack so we could leave if any animals came up to us. I asked Janelle to hold my sandwich while I did that. Just then, in an a maneuver that wass worth of the military one of these guys came up in front of us:

The raccoon like Coatie

The raccoon like Coatie

They are called coaties and they are like sort of like raccoons. Except eviler and smarter. The coaties feed off the food left behind (or sometimes stupidly, intentionally given to them) by the human tourists. They are also smart enough to know that food comes from backpacks. When one of them approached us Janelle ran away from them, to protect our sandwiches, naturally. We had seen signs warning that coaties will bite and scratch to get food so we were reasonably afraid. I zipped up my backpack getting ready to run when two more little beggars came up behind where we had been sitting and started to try to open my backpack. I had nothing to beat them off with so I started clapping and making noise but they wouldn’t leave. Fortunately another tourist girl saw our distress and beat them off (literally) my backpack using her backpack. I grabbed my bag and we left. I finished my sandwich while we walked. For the rest of the time we were very weary of the coaties, some of which were about the size of beagles.

There were some nice animals there too though. There were thousands of butterflies all over the park!

Mariposa!

Mariposa!

We also spotted Capuchin Monkeys a few times. In spanish the they are called Monos Capuchinos so for the rest of the trip I called them capuchinos.

He doesn't look like coffee!

He doesn’t look like coffee!

Aparently the monkeys will also attack, but we had no problems with them. Poor Janelle really wanted to see a Toucan, but we never did see one! We did see this cool looking guy though!

Pretty bird in Iguazu!

Pretty bird in Iguazu!

The views from the lower path were even better than the views from the upper path! Again I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves (more or less).

Salto San Martín

Salto San Martín

Selfie with my favorite falls!

Selfie with my favorite falls!

Goofing around on the lower path!

Goofing around on the lower path!

Same falls, different view!

Same falls, different view!

After taking in the lower path we decided to cross half of the river to Island San Martín in the middle of the river, for an even better and closer view of Salto San Martín and it’s nearby brothers. Do you guys see a naming convention in this county, or it is just me?

View from the beach of the Island

View from the beach of the Island

Stairs up to the top of the island. They were not nearly as slippery or as plentiful as the stairs down the mainland to the boat.

Stairs up to the top of the island. They were not nearly as slippery or as plentiful as the stairs down the mainland to the boat.

Rainbow on top of the Island!

Rainbow on top of the Island!

Vale la pena = it was worth it!

Vale la pena = it was worth it!

The river valley was almost as pretty as the falls themselves.

The river valley was almost as pretty as the falls themselves.

After the Island we left the park and went back to the hostel for the night. The next day we came back to the falls once again. This time we decided we weren’t going to take very many pictures and just enjoy the falls! We also went on the Grand Adventure: a 1.5 hour excursion that took us into the falls themselves! We started out on a 30 minute ride through the forest with a guide who told us about both flora and fauna typical to the area. Then we walked down yet more stairs to the docks where we got on a boat and sailed 6 kilometers up river to the falls. Along the way we got to enjoy the river valley and see some smaller hidden falls and beaches.

One of the hidden falls!

One of the hidden falls!

Then the real fun began.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

Having been warned that we would get soaked on our trip we wore rain jackets and clothes we didn’t mind getting wet. As it turns out rain jackets do nothing when you take a boat as close to a waterfall as you can without it being dangerous. A log flume ride has nothing on this! There is water all around you! You can’t see anything, you can only hear the constant spray of the water and the screams of joy of yourself and those around you! We got to go into a waterfall four times and each time it was beyond amazing! If I could take a dip in a waterfall daily, I happily would!

The aftermath of our boat ride- we are both soaked!

The aftermath of our boat ride- we are both soaked!

The Grand Adventure ended our marvelous time in Iguazu and thus our spring/fall break! We flew back to Mendoza early the next morning and we got back into the rhythm of classes and studying, but Iguazu left it’s impression on both of us.

Allow me to go ahead and assure you that all of the picture in the world will not prepare you for the splendor of Iguazu. If you can go, go. It’s beauty is beyond anything I have ever seen.

For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

Have you guys ever heard of Aconcagua? I hadn’t before I came to Argentina. What is it, you ask? I’m so glad you asked. Aconcagua is a mountain. But it isn’t just any mountain; Aconcagua is the tallest mountain on Earth outside of the Himalayas. It’s massive and breath-takingly beautiful. In Quechua Aconcagua means Stone Sentinel and you can see why:

The Stone Sentinel guarding it's post.

The Stone Sentinel guarding it’s post.

Let me take you through our trip from the beginning. Parque Aconcagua is a 4 hour bus ride from Mendoza. The bus left at 6am, so I got up around 4:30am for this glorious day. I got to the bus terminal and met up with my travel buddies, we got on the bus, napped and chatted for a few hours, drove through the Andes, and all of the sudden we were dropped off in the remote feeling Parque Provincial de Aconcagua.

Our first stop at the park was a ranger station where they had bathrooms (very important) and gave us a map. It isn’t really clear why, but they didn’t charge us any kind of entry fee, even though they were supposed to, but I’m not complaining. Given that we are in autumn here in Argentina and that we were very high up in the mountains it was brisk that day, but perfect for some light hiking!

We started on our day hike and one of the first things we came across were these giant boulders.

Each one of these chunks of rock was about the size of the entire Lincoln Memorial (or Penn Hall, for you Gettysburgians).

Each one of these chunks of rock was about the size of the entire Lincoln Memorial (or Penn Hall, for you Gettysburgians).

A nice sign informed us (in both spanish and poorly translated english) that these boulders had been left here when the glaciers swept through the area during the ice age. Water moved these enormous rocks.

When you first start your hike you can’t really see Aconcagua yet, but you can see the two also very large mountains that flank it’s sides. One of them is Mount Almacenes.

Mount Almacenas in shadow.

Mount Almacenas in shadow.

Since it was too late in the season to climb Aconcagua at all without some crazy gear and serious training, we never got that close to the big mountain. It’s nearby brothers on the other hand we were at the base of for most of our hike. They towered over us like a never ending gateway to Aconcagua.

I believe I have talked before about how I miss silence here in Mendoza, because I live in the city center and can always hear road noise or people shouting. This park was different. There were very few people visiting the park that day because it was cold (a condition the majority of Argentines abhor) and because it’s off season. So we got to enjoy silence, the rush of the river, and a view of the mountain. It was extremely refreshing.

The beauty and size of the mountain was mind boggling and we spent a large part of our day just staring at it, but I can’t have you thinking we were serious and reverent the whole time. Oh no, we goofed off too!

We came to a bridge that basically said “go no further”, we did continue, just in a different direction, but not before we made that bridge our playground.

It was just begging to be played on.

It was just begging to be played on.

We also played a good amount of Queen of the Rock: AKA we climbed a lot of really big boulders and hopped across the river quite a few times.

My travel companions, Beth and Janelle, are really fantastic and their company made everything even more fun!

Beth and me doing who knows what.

Beth and me doing who knows what.

About half way through our hike we stopped and ate lunch. We had a view of Aconcagua and the sound of the river in our ears. It is the second most beautiful place I have ever eaten lunch (stay tuned for the most beautiful place).

Janelle and my's chosen lunch spots.

Our chosen lunch spot.

Of course I took a selfie with one of the biggest mountains in the world. What kind of Millenial would I be if I didn’t.

Laguna and the mountain

Laguna and the mountain

When we got back to the rangers station/visitors center we we had about an hour and a half before our bus came so we decided to drink some mate (pronounced Mah-tey), since we’d brought all of the materials for it with us. We asked very nicely and the rangers filled our Thermos with piping hot water for us. Nothing like mate and friends in the middle of Argentina.

Enjoying the (should be) national drink of Argentina

Enjoying the (should be) national drink of Argentina

So the method for getting back on the bus is simple: go stand outside on the side of a major highway, endure lots of idiot male drives honking and shouting things at you, and wait until your bus comes. When you see your bus coming, you stick your hand out to get it to stop. This is (from what I can tell) a universal method of stopping a bus or taxi. It is however strange when you are flagging down a long distance bus on the side of the only major rode through the Andes.

All in all it was an amazing day. I couldn’t have asked for anything more!

Welcome to Argentina.

Beautiful mountain and good friends

Beautiful mountain and good friends.

Pesos and Peanut Butter

This post comes to you in the form of lists.

Things I miss about the US:

  • Peanut Butter: yes, Dulce de Leche is yummy, no it is not the same thing as Peanut Butter. I’m sorry I’m a stereotypical American girl who found American Peanut Butter in Chile and bought it for more than she should have. So sue me.
  • Free Water: I mean in restaurants- free, never ending water. This does not exist here. You buy an expensive bottle of water and that is all you get for the whole meal.
  • Not losing water to your building: The water has been cut off at least 3 times since I’ve been here, usually it’s because they need to fix something and it’s only for a few hours, nonetheless I like water. It’s very important. I’m going to support water based charities in the future.
  • My family: Does this really need an explanation. They are cool people. I like being with them; I miss them.
  • My friends: See “My family”
  • My cats: See “My family” and “My friends”
  • Gettysburg: I’ve told you about classes here, they are different. They are not what they are at my beloved College of choice. Never fear, I have adapted, I am fine here, but I’ve also never been so sure that I chose the right school for me when I enrolled at Gettysburg.
  • Lack of Siesta: The fact that the city doesn’t close down for 4-5 hours every afternoon.
  • Giant Department Stores: With reasonable prices and most pieces of clothing in a large variety of sizes and possibly colors. If something like that exists here they prices are so high all of the clothes should come with little masks and guns.
  • Ice Cream: Specifically all of the crazy flavors we have like Mint Moose Tracks, cookies and cream, cookie dough, etc.
  • Brownies: Really dessert in general. My host mom is of the opinion that fruit is dessert. I disagree. Unless the fruit has been baked into a pie, crisp, or cobbler, or is served with chocolate or on ice cream, fruit is not dessert.
  • Cooking: It’s nice to be cooked for, that’s part of my host-mom’s job, but I also like to help, something she doesn’t really let me do, and cook for myself. That being said her food is quite yummy.
  • My own space: I have my own room and my host family is very nice, but I am still a guest in someone’s home, and I try to be very considerate of that fact.

Things I will miss about Argentina:

  • Milanesa*: Think chicken fried beef, chicken, soy, eggplant, etc except better.
  • Fruit: I know, we have fruit in the US too- it’s better here, sweeter, juicier, fresher, and eaten with a view of the Andes. Have I rubbed in my view of the Andes enough yet or should I keep reminding you that I have a view of the Andes?
  • Homemade Pasta*: Some Argentine families have an Asado (Argentine version of a barbecue) every Sunday. My host mom is a vegetarian so instead we have homemade pasta for lunch every Sunday. This is a skill I am determined to learn for it is fun and delicious.
  • Mate*: Oh mate. It is not just the drink that I enjoy, (more or less- it’s an acquired taste and I’m still acquiring it) it’s the whole culture.
  • Being of Age: could also be listed under Fernet or Compari, among others.
  • Plazas and parks: They are beautiful like bits of oasis in a very big city.
  • Siesta: The fact that the city closes down for 4-5 hours every afternoon, everyone goes home and eats lunch together, and then we all take naps.
  • Boutique Shops: They have their perks too, you just have to find the cheap ones.
  • Helado: Means ice cream in spanish (I know, I’m riddled with contradictions). Can you say Dulce de Leche with Brownies flavor? Why is it that of my three favorite Ice Cream flavors, one you can usually get on the east coast (Delani Mint Moose Tracks), one is at least 1000 miles away from my house, in the mid-west (Brahm’s Brownie Batter), and the other will, soon enough, be 5000 miles away from me, across the equator and require a passport to get to (Dulce de Leche with Brownies)?
  • Submarino*: Their version of hot chocolate- a mug of very hot milk served with a small bar of chocolate. You then submerge the chocolate in the milk (hence “submarino”) and stir. It is delicious and fun. I’d like to borrow someone’s small child so I can see if it’s as much fun for them as I think it would be. Any offers?
  • Media Lunas: Don’t tell me they are croissants. They are better and there is a bakery next to my building that sells them for 40 cents.
  • Traveling*: What are almost all of my posts about? I had a long weekend, I got on a bus and went somewhere, had a really good time, and got back just in time to get to class (or go to bed).
  • Lack of Stress: This country is so much more laid back than the US. I have yet to meet someone here who lives to work. This county works only to live. That means this country is less stressed in general- something that trickles all the way down to the students. I enjoy not being so stressed all the time. It also drives me crazy how seeming lazy people here are (they aren’t truly lazy, it would just look like that compared to our culture, the whole culture just functions differently than ours does). I need to strike a balance between the two cultures.
  • Alfajores*: Dulce de leche sandwiched between two lovely cookies and then rolled in coconut (alternatively then bathed in chocolate, but that’s not a good)

*Things I will be continuing to do/make/eat in The States.

There are probably about 1000 other things that I miss about the US and will miss about Argentina, but these are the highlights. I realize that many of these things revolve around food. On this matter I plead the 5th.

Other random factoid of the day for you: I love grocery stores. I’ve always liked to walk around US grocery stores and see what they have there, but foreign grocery stores are so interesting!!! Shout out to my travel partner, Janelle, for putting up with me going into grocery stores for basically no reason (in fairness I do check for peanut butter at each one) every time we travel to a new place!

Cordoba, Argentina

More stories of more trips! Last weekend we went to Cordoba, Argentina. Cordoba is the second biggest city in Argentina and is in the middle of the country. The landscape just outside the city is actually very similar to that of the US Midwest (particularly Kansas).

Just outside of Cordoba Ciudad.

Just outside of Cordoba Ciudad.

My travel buddy and I explored the city a lot and went to a ton of museums while we were there. one of the most interesting museums was El Museo de la Memoria which commemorates the people, call Los Desaparecidos (the Disappeared), who were killed during the military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s.

Outside the museum, flyers of those who were kidnapped and presumably killed, but whose whereabouts and fates are still unknown.

Outside the museum, flyers of those who were kidnapped and presumably killed, but whose whereabouts and fates are still unknown.

I also really liked the Plazas in Cordoba. They are slightly bigger than the ones in Mendoza (which I also love), but they were also more artsy and less classic, which made them more interesting to talk about. For example this plaza had 200 giant rings in it. Each ring represented a year since Argentine independence and told a little bit of the history of the country from that year.

Very colorful and fun to play on.

Very colorful and fun to play on.

The main Plaza in Cordoba is called Plaza San Martin (what else would it be called, after all?) and the floor of the plaza was really cool. It was a reflection of the buildings right around it.

Reflection of a church on the floor of the plaza.

Reflection of a church on the floor of the plaza.

While exploring the city we also stumbled upon a huge slide that little kids were sliding down on pieces of cardboard. So we made like to locals and slid. It was super fun and would’ve never been allowed to happen in the US.

Down the slide!

Down the slide!

We also took a day trip to the small town of Alta Gracia. Alta Gracia in very small in comparison to both Cordoba and Mendoza and is known primarily as the childhood home of Che Guevara, who played a major role in the Cuban Revolution. His childhood home had been turned into a museum that was interesting. But better than the museum was the tranquility of this sweet little town!

A park in Alta Gracia

A park in Alta Gracia

Janelle and I both really enjoyed it because it was so cute, the air was fresh (not that it’s terrible in Mendoza, but it is still a city), there was tons of open space, and for the first time since I have been in Argentina we heard nothing but silence for a few minutes. No road noise, no people, nothing. It was a welcome break from the noise of the city.

Obligatory trip selfie!

Obligatory trip selfie!

I should also mention our hostel. While I have no pictures of it, it was amazing. The travelers we met there were super interesting and nice! One of them decided to cook an Asado (Argentine version of a Barbecue) for the entire hostel! The owner of the hostel was super nice, younger woman who took care of us very well! She always made sure to ask how we were doing, if we needed anything, how our day was. It was fantastic! If I go back to Cordoba, I would for sure go back to that hostel.

We did our 10 hour bus ride back to Mendoza overnight again, but I found this bus very uncomfortable, so I slept very little, and was so bus sick by the end of it that I didn’t go to our first class the next day. However because I couldn’t sleep I did manage to get this amazing picture just as the sun was rising, very early in the morning, somewhere in the Mendoza Province.

Beautiful country.

Beautiful country.

You have to look at the silver linings of things. Trust me it was more beautiful in person than this picture shows.

Chile!

Over Easter Break I went to Chile with two of my friends from the Program! We started with a 10 hour overnight bus ride, through the Andes, to Chile. This was all well and fine except that I got super bus sick and we spent no less than 5 hours sitting in chilean customs for no reason other than that’s how long it took to get through customs at that moment. The normal wait time is about 2.5 hours. We were somewhere between 5 and 6 hours. It was such a long wait it actually made the news back in Mendoza. But we made it through and a few hours later I took this picture as we were driving between Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, where we would be staying.

Valpo in the distance and the Pacific Ocean on the right.

Valpo in the distance and the Pacific Ocean on the right.

Valpo is a pretty cool port city with lots of street art (some of which I will show you here, but you should check out Facebook for all of it) and Viña is like Valpo’s beachy little sibling.

We stayed in a hostel (Yay for hostels!) that was in the center of town, more or less.

These are the steps up to our hostel!

The steps up to our hostel!

These steps are actually a street. Valpo isn’t a very wheels friendly city, since a lot of streets are actually stairs and all of the roads are narrow and curvy. It makes for super beautiful photos, but the whole weekend was a leg workout, to be sure. Basically we wandered around the city a lot.

Me and my travel buddies (Rachel and Janelle) hanging with a street dog.

Me and my travel buddies (Rachel and Janelle) hanging with a street dog.

We did two city tours.

Van Gogh inspired street art.

Van Gogh inspired street art.

We went to Pablo Neruda’s house (a famous chilean poet).

With a view like this, I can understand where much of  Neruda's inspiration came from.

With a view like this, I can understand where much of Neruda’s inspiration came from.

We went to Viña to the beach for one afternoon.

Viña del Mar. Just look at how perfect the day was. Not a cloud in the sky. Have you noticed how much I love the sky here. It's a different kind of blue than I've ever seen in the States. But sometimes I do miss the clouds.

Viña del Mar. Just look at how perfect the day was. Not a cloud in the sky. Have you noticed how much I love the sky here. It’s a different kind of blue than I’ve ever seen in the States. But sometimes I do miss the clouds.

We had a tendency to “pick up” street dogs while we were walking around the city. We had three that followed us around for hours one day. There were also random ones that would join us for a little bit and then leave before they got too far from home. We also had the biggest ice cream sundae that I’ve ever eaten. It was lovely.

It was called the XL and it actually had full chocolate bars sticking out of it.

It was called the XL and it actually had full chocolate bars sticking out of it.

The really amazing thing about the street art in Valpo was that there would be this beautiful intricate mural and right next to it, or possibly the building itself, was abandoned and overgrown.

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A beautiful and meaningful mural on the fence of an abandoned lot.

After three lovely days in Chile we had to head back to Mendoza, but this time we traveled during the day so we could see the breathtaking Andes as we traveled through them on Easter Sunday. Don’t feel bad for me for having to be on a bus, far from my family, all day on Easter. I had some chocolate Easter eggs we had bought for the bus ride, good friends, and this glorious view.

A view of the Andes and the Mendoza river. Such a beautiful country.

A view of the Andes and the Mendoza river. Such a beautiful country.