the world is beautiful.

i was in st. paul yesterday at a store that i rarely get to but really love, the bibelot. and i found a wall hanging with this quote. and although my broke college student wallet couldn’t afford the wall hanging, the quote itself says a lot.

‘learn something that is not in front of you. love someone who doesn’t look like you. go somewhere you’ve never been. the world is beautiful.’ 

today is chrsitmas eve. that means that new years is coming. and with new year’s, typically come resolutions. so make a resolution. get out there and see the world.

a world away and the sun still rises.

i’m in america. back in my homeland. back at my parents house with the wonderful comforts of home – my bed, too many cable channels and access to pandora, netflix and hulu. here are some of my thoughts. just a few post-study abroad ramblings. first things first, and a i believe that others returning from developing countries would agree. america is OVERWHELMING. in all sorts of ways. you can choose between 3 dozen different types of soda and even ask for ice on the airplane. you have dozens of choices for places to eat breakfast inside the walls of the airport. each place with a good 35 different menu items to choose from. the bagel shop has 3 dozen different bagel flavors and 15 different cream cheese flavors? that’s 540 options if i did my math correctly. way too many for 10:30 in the morning. and actually, way too many options for any time of the day. what happened to simplcity? what happened to minimalism? i miss my cup of cafe con leche and tostada with dulce de leche. people don’t speak spanish at the grocery store or the coffee shop. when someone bumps into me they say ‘excuse me’ and not ‘perdon’. there is no such thing as a siesta. and it is not 85 degrees at 8:30 at night. in fact, it doesn’t get above 40 (fahrenheit) and the sun sets around 5pm. its the dead of winter. my world flipped upside down overnight. even the stars in the night sky are different. and its been harder than i expected, all of these changes.

maybe one of the less educated decisions i made during my first two days home was a shopping trip to the mall (on the only remaining saturday before christmas eve) to try and get my christmas shopping both started and finished. overwhelmingly crowded parking lots. festive christmas music. extreme sales. spoiled 15 year olds filling their parents arms with clothes and clothes and clothes and more clothes. lots of blonde people with blue eyes and stick straight hair. winter jackets and ugg boots. people out shopping in their favorite christmas sweaters, sweat pants, and slippers. sales people wearing festive holiday pajamas and santa hats. for not having seen any christmas decorations or thought about the consumerist aspect of the holiday season in mendoza, i had almost forgotten what this season was all about. not what it necessarily should be about, but regardless, what is celebrated. now i remember. and as much as i hate it, the truth is, its hard not to get swept back up into the lifestyle of this place. but its the little things about life in south america that i really really miss. i tend to forget that life hasn’t stopped, its just i’ve been missing a while.

i forgot how lucky i am, too. lucky to have traveled this world so extensively. lucky to speak another language than my own. lucky to be curious and willing to learn about other people. yesterday i had both a haircut and a dental appointment. and both my stylist and my dental hygienist were people that have never travelled. my hairstylist said she wished she had gone to college to have the opportunity to study abroad. my travel bug and love of other cultures in hand, i suggested that she look into short term programs volunteering abroad. she looked at me as if that was impossible. and maybe for her, it was. but i see no reason to stay within the borders of the united states, let alone the borders of minnesota or the borders of eagan. there is so much wonderful to see around the world. so many people to meet. but its hard to explain that to people who have never travelled, who have never explored. and don’t even let me get started about the hygienist. ‘so do they speak spanish down there?’ and ‘i would only go to a country if i could stay in a resort where everyone spoke english’ are a couple phrases that come to mind. bit my tongue but almost screamed after that one. my argentine friends and family always reminded of how lucky i am to speak a universal language. but i don’t think that english gives us an excuse to not learn another language. or two. or three. and as i come home to express my frustrations to my parents, they remind me how lucky i am. how lucky i am to have traveled the world. to have seen the good, bad, and the ugly of this magnificent world. to have stayed in both nice resorts and less than ritzy hostels. and to have met some of the most wonderful people this world has created. i am so so incredibly lucky. and i hope to continue travelling, to continue learning, and to continue teaching people about what this world has to offer. so get out there and explore. there is more to this world than the confines of your hometown.

and just because there is a lot to see in this world, i have also learned that there is something to be said about loving where you come from. being proud of your roots. and being excited about what the streets you grew up on have to offer. just last night i went to a new coffee shop that i never knew existed, a short 8 minute drive from my house. in the freezing cold and short days of winter, i watched the minnesota sunset for the first time in 5 months on friday night. and it was beautiful. the 5 o’clock sunset was a brillant orange, pink and purple, just like the wonderful argentine sunset i saw on the bus to iguazú. here i am, a world away. well at least 5,500 miles away. and the sun sets beautifully, regardless. and each day here, the sun rises, just like it did the last 5 months in argentina. i have so much to be thankful for.

one small grain of sand.

42 hours on a bus, a total of about 10 hours at las cataratas del iguazú and almost all of that time spent alone, reflecting. here’s what i’ve come up with.

almost four and a half months ago, i arrived in the very foreign capital city of argentina, buenos aires. today, i am in that capital city again. and although language, culture and food are a little less foreign after having lived in mendoza, this city still takes my breath away. and life, as it always seems to do, has come full circle. i am staying with a family friend who lives and works in buenos aires. right across from the street from her apartment is one of the most famous [and most delicious] pizza restaurants in town, el cuartito, the same place i mentioned in one of my first posts after having arrived in the country. thursday afternoon erin took me on a walking tour of the city; showing me the most famous buildings, sculptures, and vendor filled streets. i don’t remember exactly all of the landmarks we saw when we were here doing our whirlwind tour of buenos aires in july, but i did recognize quite a few places and names. my life has changed and has been impacted in so many ways during the past four and a half months but yet the city has remained unchanged – save for the countless new construction projects around the center and the sparce but existent christmas decorations. after our last breakfast and cafe con leche together [a hysterical one to say the least] the girls i had been travelling with during the past week decided to do a little walking tour of our own on our way back to the apartment where i’m staying. the area looked oddly familiar. turns out, it was. we walked around, finding the kiosk where we bought our first bottle of agua con gas, the restaurant where we ate our first meal and opened out first bottle of quilmes, the wine store we had passed by hoping to try our first bottle of malbec, unsuccessful at least four times during our first stay in buenos aires, and the other little shops and cafes that we had seen but hadn’t actually noticed during our first crisp july days in south america. we even passed by the hotel where we had stayed: the spot of the infamous first lunch during which everyone was telling their ‘best’, ‘most interesting’ and longest story from home. the spot of the first of what would be many places of argentine cuisine – meat, bread and potatoes. the spot of our first argentine cultural encounters; bidets and leche con a little bit of café. the spot of early morning breakfasts preparing for long days of bus tours around the different nieghborhoods of buenos aires. the spot of what seemed like endless hours of orientation (practicing besos and animal party come to mind specifically), and the spot where my four and a half month whirlwind relationship with the peope, language and culture of argentina began. i wouldn’t have had it any other way, this experience, that is. the fact that i was never 100% settled kept me on my toes. with each sunrise [whether i was just waking up or just going to bed] came with the opportunity for a new lesson, a new challenge, and new rewards. sitting there on my 20 hour bus ride i think i came to better understand what this last 5 months has meant for me. now i wont take the time to share with you all of the mushy gushy stuff.. how i’ve grown as a person, how my priotities have changed etc. but a couple things i will share. i absolutely love this country. i love its people, its places and its culture. argentina will FOREVER hold a special place in my heart.

as i was writing this for the first time, i was also watching the beautiful sunset out the bus window on a sunday evening on my way back to buenos aires after a great trip to iguazú falls, a marvel that has been recently voted one of the new natural seven wonders of the world. on top of the falls being absolutely breathtaking, this weekend which included about 42 hours total travelling by bus, great conversations with new faces at my hostel, and lots of thinking time, i realized a few things. driving from the capital of argentina up into the far northeast corner has been incredible. not only did i witness a wonderful bright orange and purple sunset, i also realized how vast this country really is. in little nooks and crannies of the country are sprawling towns – each with their own unique character. families sitting outside on woven lawn chairs just like the ones my grandma has in iowa, sipping mate and watching the busses pass by, observing the quaint yet interesting movement of their town. susy always said that’s what it used to be like in mendoza…i always wanted to see this evening people watching tradition in action. mission accomplished. in other towns, although small, there are bustling businesses – car dealerships, hardware stores, family run kiosks and aromatic roadside parillas. in a small town called el dorado there was an overwhelming amount of christmas decorations – something i didn’t see much of in mendoza. we arrived at one bus station and four or five men and women greeted us selling sandwiches, sodas and fruit salad. at another bus station at which we arrived in the wee hours of the morning, a man greeted us selling warm pastries. its the little things like this that make me fall in love over and over again with argentina. it is amazing to think that every country in every corner of this seeming neverending world has its own idiosigncracy just waiting to be discovered. if anything, the bus ride was a humbling one. i realized what a small microorganism each one of us is in this booming place we call earth. sunday morning i went on a 7km walk within iguazú national park; away from the countless tour groups and fannypack wearing tourists to a small waterfall with a natural pool at the bottom. the forty-five minute walk to and from the falls was exactly what i needed. self reflection in nature, something i don’t do often enough. i saw ants larger than silver dollars, thousands of beautiful butterflies, four or five of which were meticulously pollenating a beautiful native flower. i saw all sorts of lizards and on my way back i saw six or seven monkeys. the complexity of this world never ceases to amaze me. i overheard that afternoon a conversation between two visitors of the falls; one speaking portuguese and the other speaking spanish (another thing that really got me thinking this weekend – humans’ ability to communicate without speaking the same language). what i essentially got from the conversation was their awe at the magnificance of the falls, the same awe that i felt. the argentine woman said something that realy stuck with me. ‘365 days a year’, she said, ‘the falls are this powerful, this beautiful, this stunning each and every day of the year’. what a thought. nature doesn’t rest, ever. the sun rises and sets for every population of people around the world, EVERY SINGLE DAY. the moon does the same. and what is most magnificent is the way it all works together. on saturday night i did the full moon walk of the falls. what an amazing sight. and although the moonlit walk to garganta del diablo was probably the most romantic thing i’ve ever done alone, it was absolutely beautiful. the falls under the full moon, the bright sky and the brilliant stars were even more magnificent than during the day.

this weekend i came to quite a humbling realization. i am one small grain of sand in this constantly growing, changing and expanding world. my new challenge is to truly learn how to live like that. a little ego killer and cup of humility each morning would be good for all of us, i think. and because of my recent revelations and the fact that i’m no longer mariah in mendoza, i’m going to change the title of my blog. because i hope to keep travelling, to keep learning, and to keep writing. so here’s to more delicious meals, here’s to new encounters with new faces of all races, here’s to plenty of new words in new and unfamiliar languages. here’s to never-ending adventures as one small grain of sand.

a beautiful rest.

how beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward.

its amazing what five days full of sunshine, good food, good conversation with great friends, full nights sleep in a comfortable bed, and jumping around in the ocean’s waves can do for one’s soul. thank you uruguay for the exact rejuvenation i’ve been needing. this week, without a doubt, i’ve been taking full advantage of the truth of that wonderful spanish proverb.

alguien me quiere.

after two flights, a bus, and a taxi ride but absolutely no travel hiccups, i arrived yesterday afternoon to our hotel, greeted by three lovely faces – three of the wonderful girls i met from my program in mendoza. here i am, 10am, sitting on the balcony of our hotel, overlooking this beautiful property in punta del este, uruguay. i just slept for ten least. i’m eating papaya and kiwi for breakfast and last night for dinner had the MOST gorgeous greens in my LIFE. this place is gorgeous. and although its not quite high tourist season, yet, i can just imagine how great this town will be in the next couple of months. if you need me, i’ll be by the pool or at the beach until the 8th.

thursday around 4pm i officially finished up all of my academic duties for my semester abroad in mendoza. relatively speaking i had quite an easy semester in mendoza, but was thrown multiple curve balls at school with the language and cultural differences that affected all aspects of my time in argentina. wouldn’t change it for a thing. and even though i complained, the classes that i chose to take really enhanced my experience. taking a literature class was something i will never do again, but thoughout the course of the semester i greatly improved my ability to understand entire novels based on their google resumenes. my social work class was a challenge, simply because of the heavy influence of law. having a professor who is a human rights lawyer turned out to be one of the most eye opening experiences of my time in mendoza. and my improv class. well if you’ve been following my blog, you know that class was one of the hot topics of my semester. turned out not so bad, after all. yes, i got by with the minimum passing grade on my midterm, yes, i made a fool out of myself PLENTY of times and yes, i worried and worried and sometimes dreaded going to that class. but, all in all it was a great experience.

i just planned a trip to visit one of argentina’s most prized national landmarks, iguazú falls. not only did i plan that trip, i just happen to be making it up there during the full moon, so i’m planning on witnessing their splendor under december’s full moon. i absolutely cannot wait.

after the falls, i’ll be wrapping up my south american adventure in buenos aires. exactly where my experience started almost five months ago. i can’t believe how fast time has gone by. time flies when you are having fun, there is no doubt about it. hopefully it’ll be less of a whirlwind this time around. i won’t be quite as thrown off by the porteño accent, and i’ll have gained a few navigation instincts in order to conquer argentina’s beast of a capital, hopefully!

i don’t have the words to express all of my love for the city, the people, and the culture of mendoza. these last five months have been full of ups and downs, countless laughs, a few tears, a little studying, lots of travelling, meeting new people, seeing new places, countless bottles of wine and nights on aristides – all of which i never want to forget. thanks to those who have been a part of my experience – for showing me mendoza, for sharing meals with me, for discussing taboo topics, for teaching me about the latino value of family, and for having unconditional amounts of patience on days where i struggled to produce coherent spanish sentences. i owe my experience to you.

no tengo las palabras para expresar todo mi agradecimiento para la ciudad, la gente y la cultura de mendoza. estos cinco meses han sido llenos de muchos momentos buenos y unos momentos malos, risas ilimitadas, unas lagrimas, pocos estudios, muchos viajes, conocimientos de nuevas caras, visitas de nuevas lugares, muchas botellas de vino y noches en aristides – todos momentos que nunca quiero olvidar. gracias a todos quienes han sido parte de mi experiencia – por haberme mostrado mendoza, por haber compartido cenas conmigo, por haber discutido la politica y la religion, por haberme enseñado el valor latino de la familia y por haber tenido paciencia incondicional en días que no podía crear no una oración completa en castellano. les debo mi experiencia.

also, thank you to all of my wonderful friends and family at home, and around the world, for that matter. thanks for skyping and letting my vent when i was having a bad day (that one’s especially for my parents). thanks for the kind words and support of my personal journey these past five months. i am looking forward to being stateside again and catching up with all of you. thanks again, also, to whoever is taking care of me upstairs. alguien me quire mucho. someone really loves me.