foto del día – 11.9.11

yesterday afternoon at about 7pm i received a message from one of the IFSA program staff warning us about the zonda alert that had been put on the city of mendoza. the last time the zonda came to town, i really didn’t think it was that bad, i thought the locals were just overreacting and looking for an excuse to cancel class or the couple hours of post-siesta work. well, i will admit, i was wrong. the zonda is terrible. i was making my way downtown yesterday afternoon when dust started flying around and creating tornado like clouds on the streets and sidewalks, leaves and small branches started falling from the trees, and the entire trolley system shut down around town. i actually understood why carlos had insisted that we try to stay inside and that if we go outside we should be careful for cables and trees. i arrived and my destination eyes full of dirt, mouth full of little particles, and my nose filled with nasties. everyone was miserable. since i was inside most of the night away from the windows where i could have watched the zonda take over the city, i didn’t really understand how truly bad this week’s version of the zonda was until i got home late last night and noticed a large tree had been uprooted across the street from my house. a LARGE tree. just lifted right out of the ground. that’s how bad the zonda was.

didn’t believe me when i said the zonda was bad? well here are  a couple pictures to prove it.

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foto del día – 11.7.11

my beautiful friend shelby and i hiking the the valle grande of san rafael, mendoza province, argentina.

this weekend we went on a IFSA sponsored excursion. highlights included: staying in beautiful cabins in the valley, swimming in the man-made lake, nighttime mafia games, trekking through the valle grande and learning about the geography of the area, running down the sand dunes, rafting down the río atuel, constantly eating, and last but not least having a broken down bus along the highway in the middle of nowhere as the sun is setting and a storm is approaching.

foto del día – 10.22.11

SANTIAGO POLICE: authentic authority.

During our short trip to Chile, I couldn’t help but notice the positive presence of the Chilean police for, or the Carabineros. The Chileans are incredibly proud (rightfully so) of their local police force and actually respect their authority. With their incredibly sharp uniforms, their smiles and kind welcomes to us tourists, their well groomed and not to mention beautifully bred canine force, and their incredible mounted force atop impeccable horses, the Carabineros area hard force to disrespect.

MENDOZA POLICE: pathetically present.

What a change from Mendoza. Not that I’ve ever felt incredibly unsafe here, I’ve just never felt like I could approach a police officer to ask for directions, something I feel like you should be able to do with any police authority. Although they drive around at all hours of the day with their lights flashing, I’ve never seen them pull over one car. I’ve never really noticed them around Aristides on the weekends, despite the thousands of people that are celebrating the arrival of the gorgeous weather. One thing they do for sure, however, is stare and turn their heads as I stand at the bus stop clearly not from these parts. And occasionally as I walk home from the grocery store in the dark, they slow down and drive next to me until I reach my door. I never know whether to feel protected or scared for my life. No police on horses here. And the dogs? Stray street dogs who just follow the officers around. Lets just say our canine force is not about to stop any crime.

foto del día – 10.18.11

Festival de Mil Tambores. Valparaiso, Chile. Each year, Valparaiso, Chile serves as home to the Mil Tambores festival. This years weekend of celebration was dedicated to Chilean artistic creative genius, folklorist and popular singer Violeta Parra. For the long weekend we were staying in Viña del Mar, but thanks to the new found Chilean instincts of a friend of mine from DU and her Chilean host mamá, we hopped on a micro and made our way to Cerro Mariposa, one of the many hills of the port city of Valparaiso where the festival was supposedly being held. When we got off the bus at the top of the hill and followed the directions of  a local to where the festival was supposedly taking place, the deserted soccer stadium didn’t have me convinced this celebration was anything special. Thank goodness for the help of Gergana’s host mom we asked for directions from a couple kiosko owners and then jumped in a collectivo (the Chilean version of a taxi, more or less) towards where the festival was actually being held. Heading down the hill and more towards the heart of the city, we began to hear music, and the streets slowly began to fill with life. The collectivo driver dropped us off at the bottom of the hill and directed us to ‘keep walking that way.. follow the sound, and all of the people’. Still not exactly sure what to expect from the festival, we followed the masses of people – some costumed, some partly naked, and others completely there for the show like us, and hoped for the best. We rounded the corner of one of the streets closest to the ocean in  the port city of Valparaiso and I fell in love. The street was FULL of people, full of energy, and full of life. As we walked along this street, alongside thousands of Chilean hippies, basically integrating ourselves into he rhythm of the parade (at one point I literally was wrapped in a boa and was dancing with a group of clowns), we got to hear the songs of the different groups of musicians and the dances of local dance troupes. Chilean passion and liveliness was overflowing onto the street, to say the least. About an hour later, my body having integrated into the rhythm of few dozen costumed groups, musical performers, clowns and most importantly fantastic drum lines, I realized there could be no better name for this festival as Mil Tambores translates literally to ‘A thousand drums’. The costumes, the bright colors, and the wonderful music was the perfect combination and a wonderful glimpe into Chilean culture.

//if you want to find out a little more about the festival, here is the official website http://www.miltambores.cl/inicio/

foto del día – 10.16.11

Spring is in full swing here in Mendoza. Flowers all around are blooming like crazy. The walls of our backyard are completely covered in bright green leaves, the bouganvilla plant in the front yard is getting massive. It just feels more like Spring around here and I’m loving it. Its getting hotter. That I don’t love so much. The desert climate makes it extremely warm during the day but brings the temperature down quite a bit at night still. I’m still learning how to dress properly for my sometimes twelve hour days away from home.

Here’s a little glimpse at how much things have changed here in the past month or so! Same bodega, clearly a different season.

foto del día – 10.2.11

It’s already October? Where has the time gone? The weather is becoming more and more spring like here everyday, this morning  I sat outside to soak up some sun and do some reading for one of my classes as midterms are coming up soon! This afternoon I went to the park to have some mate (a popular local tea-esque drink, shared among friends, family, classmates, and sometimes strangers, at any and all hours of the day) with a friend. Being that it is Sunday, the park was absolutely FULL of people. So great to see so many people outside, enjoying this beautiful time with family and friends!