Monday, July 28, 2008

Chillin´ out in Chile

Hey everyone - I was hoping to be writing this to you from Seattle a few hours from now first flight in my 3 step journey was delayed, which meant that I missed my other two connections back to the states. Therefore, I am currently typing this from a hotel in Chile. To tell a long story short, I had 3 flights to get back to the US - one on Aerolineas Argentinas to Santiago, Chile, and then two more on Delta to Atlanta and then to Seattle.

Unfortunately, Aerolineas was just bought by the state (Argentina), and is going through a WHOLE bunch of turmoil. This means flights really aren´t that on time. The organization isn´t there. As well, this weekend happened to be the start of the winter vacation for all of Argentina, so everyone, their kids and their pet cocker spaniels were travelling (no seriously, cocker spaniels too).

So, needless to say, after waiting for 2 hours to go to the check in, and a 2 hour wait to even GO to security, and then an hour wait at the gate, I missed my connecting flight to Atlanta. This whole time, Aerolineas was saying that Delta should be the ones to help us, and Delta obviously said that it´s Aerolineas´fault for everything (and delta was right), so there was alot of back and forth. When we finally took off to Santiago, I was preparing to really fight for accommodations from Aerolineas for the night, since we were missing our next flight.

However, in the end, we got off the plane and someone was waiting for us with a slip of paper which is a voucher for a hotel here (literally across the street from the airport), for dinner last night and breakfast and lunch today, and our tickets already bought for Delta´s next flight tonight.

This is all a long winded way of saying that I have a new stamp on my passport (Chile!), and I get to stick the area until my flight tonight at 9pm. So, 10 hours to go until I´m in the air, on my way to Atlanta and then Seattle.

I´ll post some final thoughts and pictures once I get there! Thanks for reading my blog while I was in Argentina!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One week and a day left

Hey everyone! I apologize for the long period of time between this post and my last one...the main reason that I haven't written anything is that I've unfortunately been sick this week. This means that any time I might have otherwise used to put a post here went to extra sleep in an effort to get better. I was hit earlier this week with a fever, body aches and a chest cold, which wasn't too nice of a surprise. I'm just getting over it now, thankfully.

This past week, therefore, hasn't been stellarly exciting. There is one story to tell from some other people in the group which, unfortunately, isn't necessarily good news. We all had a Tango Show night on Wednesday night in a neighborhood here in Buenos Aires which is called La Boca. And, if you talk to anyone here at all, that is NOT a place you want to be during really any time during the day by yourself as a tourist. There is one part of this neighborhood that has a bunch of brightly colored buildings that is somewhat touristy, but the rest of the area is very dangerous. And, unfortunately, none of us really knew it was that dangerous of an area ahead of time (it certainly was new news to me when I heard people mention this on Wednesday night). Well, 4 members of our group were walking through Boca at about 5 pm (I was not with them - I was sleeping), and one of the girls in the group was robbed at knifepoint by 4 guys about 19-21 years old, who took her purse and everything in it. One of the 4 guys then chased my other 3 friends with a knife, in an apparent effort to separate them from the girl being robbed. In the end, only her purse was stolen (camera, student ID, some money), and everyone was ok. But, really, in the end it shows that all of us just have to be a little more conscious of where exactly we are in such a large foreign city. The combination of unfamiliarity and being a tourist can sometimes be a bad combination.

I went to the tango show later that night (the people involved in the robbery did not come, they just went home), and that was interesting to watch, but there definitely was a little damper on the night from knowing about a robbery occuring involving our friends in that same neighborhood a few hours earlier. The photo you see here is from a little skit-thing that the people did before we went to the tango show itself. This whole thing was kind of touristy, which bothered some of us (yet again), but it at least was an interesting night out.

The story I will dubb "The Mostly Funny" story of the week involved me on Wednesday. In the morning, instead of going to class, my teacher took us all on a walking tour of the life of Eva Peron in downtown Buenos Aires. I went to her grave and mentioned her in my last post. Anyway, after that tour, I was walking back to the train stop and a bird decided it'd be funny to poop on me. And, by the way, I'm not talking about a little poop. I'm talking about a supersoakering of bright-green and runny poop. All over my back and laptop case. I counted at least 15 distinct splotches of lime green bird poop. I remember walking and felt wet all of a sudden on my back, and after reaching back there my hand was all green. Disgusting. Everyone in this park saw it, and they were all laughing, and this one lady offered me a napkin in vain, because there was no way I was cleaning this mess up. Apparently, though, a bird pooping on your is good luck? Everyone in the park kept telling me that. "Que suerte!!" I'm pretty sure the only reason that's said is because, one day, someone was walking down the street, got pooped on, got angry, and then turned to his friends, who are currently laughing at him, and went "Hey! I know! Getting pooped on is good luck! Take that you suckers this means I have good luck!"

It was just a bitter outburst that became something people say now. I'm pretty sure that's how it went down.

Anyway, this is my final full weekend here, I head out next Sunday, but at least for now, I am going to enjoy the weekend, at least as much as I can with the amount of homework I have. Tomorrow is "Friend's Day" here in Argentina. It's kinda like Father's Day and Mother's Day, except for friends. So everyone makes a point to go out and see their friends. It always happens on July 20th, every year. Very interesting. So anyway, I'll be going out with Tomas and his friends tonight to someone's house to hang out and enjoy Friend's Day. It should be fun.

I'll update a couple more times most likely, and then it'll be time to head home! My trip here is nearing its end.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Over halfway done...

A few days ago, I marked the halfway point in my study abroad trip down here to Argentina. I leave the country two weeks from now - and it actually makes me a bit sad to think about that. I was talking with Marta last night at dinner, and she was describing to me how, once you travel enough, you no longer have a single place you feel you belong and call "home". Essentially, once you travel, when you're in one place, you want to be somewhere else, but once you're at that new place, you want to be where you were before. I can see that happening to me too - I am going to miss Argentina when I get back to the states.

Anyway, since my last blog I had my first birthday in a foreign country. I turned 21 on July 9, which also happens to be a national holiday in Argentina (Independence Day). There are many streets with July 9 as the name, as you can see in this picture. I think that's pretty cool. So, I went out with some Argentine friends for dinner to a place in Palermo, which is the "cool" part of town for college students to go, apparently. We were all joined up by the other people from the UW program, another of whom had the same birthday. After dinner, we all tried to go to a local nightclub that one of the Argentines had a connection at. However, that didn't quite pan out - the girls got in really easily (and for free?!), but us guys didn't have such luck. So we gave up on that and ended up going home. Moral of the story that all of us guys learned: You can't get into a club easily in Argentina unless you have boobs.

Birthday-day there was no school so we all hung out at my house here first, and then later at Mark's, for some good food and cake and all the wonderfulness that comes with birthdays. It was a relaxing day. One of the host brothers here had an American football, which we played with, but he ended up impaling it on top of a pointy fence at a neighboring house due to a bad throw, thus ending the life of the only American football in this entire country. We all mourn the loss of this football.

The pictures you see below are from a recent trip to the Recoleta - which is essentially a gigantic collection of family/individual tombs in downtown Buenos Aires. They are absolutely gigantic, and I could have spent much longer looking at everything than the hour I had there. The picture of the black tomb with flowers on it is of Eva Peron, an Argentine political hero who was the first lady to President Juan Peron from the mid-40s to the early 50s. Essentially, she is somewhat analogous to Princess Diana in terms of popularity here, and also had an early(ish) and sudden death. Anyway, lots of people go to her tomb every day to pay respects, and this was easily the most busy place in the entire Recoleta while I was there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Uruguayan 4th of July

Hello everyone!

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Fourth of July with friends or family this past weekend. This was the first 4th which I have missed attending, but in the end I had a great weekend, as well. I went to Uruguay with 10 other people from the study program here to get away from the city and just relax. We took a 3 hour long ferry over to a little city called Colonia and just took a couple days off - Friday and Saturday. The weekend consisted of walking around town, taking pictures, eating long meals and other restful, tranquil activities. We slept in a house which a woman rents out as a hostal, and the whole thing ended up being (ferry and all) about $70-80 USD. Not too bad in my book.

Saturday was an absolute gift of a day down here. It's the dead of winter, but it just happened to be an 82 degree day, which they apparently have every once in a while here. So, we ended up spending nearly all the day at the beach (who wouldn't do that?). We are all missing the summer up in Seattle, so to have at least one summer-like day was absolutely wonderful. We took full advantage of a Uruguayan beach we found here and relaxed. There was even some karate going on, as you can see from the picture note the fact that I still have some mad hops:

The end of the day consisted in a pretty amazing sunset, a picture of which you can also see here, with a lighthouse in the foreground. Pretty neat.

My birthday is coming up tomorrow (the big 2-1...except that really doesn't matter down here?), along with Mark's (another guy in the program), so we are all trying to plan some things to do tonight and tomorrow. Tomorrow is also the Independence Day for Argentina, so there is no school and the country basically shuts down. There aren't fireworks or big family get togethers - as one person put it, everyone "just sleeps". It's kinda boring, but we are having pizza at my house for lunch, and then empanadas at Mark's house in the evening. I'm quite looking forward to that.

I finally made my way to a protestant in-Spanish church service Sunday evening, and I really enjoyed it. It was sparsely attended (as it seems most protestant churches are here), but it had a guest speaker from Colombia who did the sermon and I loved what he had to say. It was on the passage of the rich man who asks Jesus how to get to Heaven, and the speaker had a great grasp on exactly what that passage was saying. He was very knowledgable. I was also able to understand about 90% of what he said, so I was very pleased with being able to follow the sermon. My Spanish had kind of hit a plateau in terms of improvement the past week, but I feel like I'm starting to learn again. It was kind of odd how I hit that wall - but with more Spanish saturation I feel like the more nuanced complexities of the language are finally starting to seep into my speaking ability. It's so much more fun to speak a language when you can actually articulate what you want to say.

I'll end off with this photo of the lighthouse in Uruguay - a bunch of pigeons were flying around it, so I thought it was a pretty cool picture. Once again, I hope all of your summers are going fantastically!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I have to wake up in 4 hours....

But even though that's true, I'll still write up a quick update of this past week. :)

I haven't had any stellarly exciting events that have happened, but I just realized that I've failed to mention that my trip here to Argentina has involved weekly lessons for Tango dancing. Yes, I know you probably think that's hilarious, but myself and a few other people from the UW program have classes every Wednesday night, and we've had two so far (with 3 more to go!). It's just a fun side thing to do, and is something Argentina is famous for. I won't be anything near a proficient dancer by the time I get back but I do enjoy the lessons. It's also kind of nice that they are 15 pesos ($5).

most everything is cheap here. I went to the theater today to see Get Smart (in Spanish it's Super Agente 86) and it only cost me 10 pesos (which is roughly, and keep in mind this is a complete guesstimation, $3.33333333333333). That's not too bad of a cost if you ask me. the exchange rate is fantastic down here. You have have a huge meal for under $5-6 easy. It's gonna be tough getting used to US prices when I get back, for certain, and even more back breaking when I head to Spain in the fall. The Euro and the dollar don't have the best exchange rate for US citizens at the moment.

This weekend (i.e. in 4 hours as I mentioned in the title), I am heading to Uruguay with some friends from the program. We'll be there from tomorrow until Saturday night, so that'll be a fun excursion. I'll take pictures and let you know how it went when I return!