Today I learned…
1. Finding an ATM at which I can actually get money is just short of impossible.
2. My brown hair and green eyes make me a rubia (blonde) here. What does that mean? I get constant whistles, smooches, and stares.
3. I am incredibly thankful for central heating. It is supposed to snow this weekend. I definitely should have packed a warmer jacket.
And lastly, I LOVE cafe con leche. A few of us girls found a cute little coffee shop/bakery this afternoon called Clementine!
This wonderful park (El Parque San Martin) is less than a block from my house. One of the universities where we will be taking classes is located within the park; no more than a ten minute, 1,40$AR ($0.34) bus ride from my house.
Here are a couple pictures from my room. I am feeling a little more settled now that I have had a chance to unpack my things. The paintings on the walls were all painted by my host mother who is an artist. At the end of the garden, there is a small room with windows where she often paints. I’ll try and get some pictures of the rest of the house tomorrow.
Also, tonight at dinner I tried to explain the Mall of America to Susy and a couple of her friends who were over for pizza, to no avail. They couldn’t understand why people would be so interested in visiting such a place. The fact that I compared it to a hospital probably didn’t help, but that is beside the point.
I haven’t gotten settled in quite enough or found an appropriate moment to post a picture of my new home, my new room, or my host mother. However, still striving to post one foto each day, I decided to go with this one; an old couple dancing the tango on the streets of San Telmo, one of the neighborhoods we visited in Buenos Aires on Sunday. I’m posting this picture is in memory of Norberto, the late novio of my Argentine mother.
*Also, I’ve started a new page (foto del día) with a slideshow of all of these pictures, enjoy!
Less than twenty four hours ago, I stepped off of a small plane with two suitcases, two carry-on bags and a boat load of anticipation and excitement. Our program director, José had prepped us for the ‘esliding glass doors’ of the small Mendoza airport, where we were to be ‘birthed like babies’ into the arms of our Mendocino host families. Nothing could prepare me, however for the rollercoaster of emotions that I was about to experience. After making my way through the ‘esliding glass doors’, I was greeted by Sabrina, the secretary at the IFSA office here in Mendoza. She told me, as I did my best to listen intently to each Spanish word she spoke, “You’re host mother’s novio or boyfriend had an accident this morning. She is not able to come and get you. My mom is a good friend of hers and so I will take you to her house.’ We arrived, about a half an hour later, at my new home; gated and heavily locked, yet incredibly cozy. I walk inside to a table of 5. I cannot help but feel conflicted as I remember that these people are gathered not for celebration, but instead to mourn. From the small amount of medical terminology I could understand, Norberto, el novio, had suffered a stroke early in the morning and had not made any monumental progress during the day. As I try my best to keep collected, I sit quietly and listen contently as they tell stories of Norberto and their lives around Mendoza. Throughout the night, family members and friends came by the house to check on Susy (my host mother). For Susy, who has no close family members; no siblings, no children, and no living parents, friends are her life. Despite all of the grief, the importance of relationships for los mendocinos (the people of Mendoza) was incredibly prevalent. Dealing with death is not an easy feat in English and it was quite a struggle to come up with the words to comfort Susy who was about to lose the love of her life; a man, she said, who always cooked delicious food, took her on wonderful trips, and always treated her incredibly well. Before bed, we take out a small book of prayers, and together, we recite Ave Maria. As I sit beneath the covers in my upstairs room, I understand clearly only one thing; WE ARE FAMILY, somos familia.
This morning, just as Susy and I were about to sit down for breakfast; cafe con leche (basically milk with a little bit of coffee) and pan tostada con dulce de leche (basically toast with caramel) she received a call, and was told that Norberto had passed away. As I sat there, hugging her as tight as I could, I couldn’t help but shed tears. Bilingual drops of water for someone I have never met. Here are a couple of things I have come to better understand within the last day.
La vida es tan fragil.//Life is incredibly fragile.
Lo que llevas contigo cuando vas no son cosas, son recuerdos.//When it is our time to go, we bring with us only memories, never things.
Despite all that has happened in the last twenty four hours, Susy has provided me with a phone, cooked me a wonderful dinner, served me dulce de leche (my new favorite food) and cafe con leche for breakfast this morning, and made me feel like I am at home – the most important thing I could have asked for.
It is amazing to me how quickly people are willing to take me under their wing. This afternoon, Sabrina came to the house to pick me up so that I could have lunch with her family. They not only cooked me a wonderful meal (during which I tried to explain American eating habits and failed to find the Spanish words for bagels (for which there IS NO WORD.) and cranberries (arándano)), but made me a part of their family. This afternoon, Sabrina and I went to visit a friend of hers who lives near downtown and has a 3 year old daughter. Again, in her small apartment, I felt like family, playing with the little one, chatting with the girls about their lives, and trying mate, a bitter Argentine tea and an integral part of Argentine culture. I feel so at home here, and despite all that has happened this is going to be the best five months of my life. I’m staying here at Sabrina’s house tonight to give Susy a little bit of space as she grieves, but was again comforted by the fact tha she wanted to see me tomorrow; I’ll be heading back to her house for lunch tomorrow and will spend some time with her and Topito, our dog before I attempt to take the micro (the local bus) to orientation tomorrow night.
Tell your loved ones you love them tonight. And every night; for although we must live for only today, we never know what tomorrow may bring.
Besos. ¡Hasta Pronto!
In Buenos Aires, there are no beaches, but there are certainly playas. These playas are parking lots, where the citizens of the city can, for a small cost, park their cars off of the incredibly crowded streets.
As we were venturing around this wonderful city of Buenos Aires, I couldn’t help but think how cool it would be to have a ‘foto del día‘ or a picture of the day thoughout the course of my 5 months is South America. I will try to post a foto as often as I can so that all of you reading this blog, wherever you are in the world, can share in the beauty Argentina.
This picture is from the barrio or neighborhood called La Boca, (the mouth) for its location on the Rio de la Plata. Here is my understanding of the history of La Boca (according to our incredibly handsome tour guide, Marcelo); La Boca is very well known for its colorful houses AND of course their fútbol team, the Boca Juniors who are international superstars, apparently. When the barrio was first being constructed, the locals would approach owners of ships parked in the harbor to see if they had any paint on board. Becaue the ships themselves had been travelling and doing their own work, most of the time, they only had cans of paint with little paint remaining. With that, the locals they painted sections of their houses, whatever they could. After painting just a small portion of their house, they continued through the port and asked other ship owners for more paint. Again, they were given just a small amount, whatever was left – and continued to paint their houses until they were fantastically colorful; doors one color, windows another. La Boca, also an energetic tango neighborhood has become a staple for visiting tourists and locals alike.
I made it here safely to Buenos Aires and from the little I have seen, I can tell this city is a WONDERFUL place; full of life, character, charm and beautiful people! The streets are crowded with busses, taxis, motos, and lots of people. EVERYWHERE. I’ve been told many times that Buenos Aires may just be one of the only cities I’ve been that truly never sleeps. Now, I can see why. After a full three course meal with the rest of our group (38 students from around the United States) we had a short siesta before we headed out for the evening; orientation and dinner at one of Buenos Aires’ most famous pizzerias; La Cuartita. Tomorrow during the day we will be exploring Buenos Aires by bus, and tomorrow night we will have free time to explore the city by foot!