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 hours..at 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.

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menos sol, más vino.

they say mendoza is the tierra del sol y buen vino, the land of sun and good wine. although the moments of sunshine were few and far between this week, mendoza definitely still delivered on the good wine part of its namesake. i have yet to figure out where the sun went the one week of the year my parents decided to come to town. but it could have been a lot worse. it could have been much worse. less sun than usual? no problems here, we made up for the lack of rays with an abundance of malbec.

keeping with the alphabet theme. here goes nothing. e is for…

emociones. yes, for you non-spanish speakers, it’s what we like to call a cognate. a word that sounds similar in both languages. emotions. what a rollercoaster of a week it has been in terms of these bad boys. here’s how i’ve been feeling lately. i apologize ahead of time for the assured sappiness of this entry. remember, rollercoaster.

monday 11.14ansiosa [anxious] knowing that my parents were to be arriving the next afternoon, i spent all day monday nervous about the week that i had planned for them. would they like what i had planned? am i missing anything? how can i be the best host to the two people who have raised me for the past 2o years. will they like it here? its supposed to rain all week, i sure hope to god it doesn’t. didn’t sleep well monday night and woke up at 8am tuesday morning thankful the night was over and my parents were actually on their way.

tuesday 11.15alegre [joyful]. my parents arrived tuesday afternoon. susy and i went together to pick them up from the airport.  yes, skype works wonders. there is nothing better, though, than a familiar hug from your parents.

wednesday 11.16dudosa [doubtful]. clouds, wind, rain. lousy weather. the forecast looks like this for the rest of the week. a majority of the plans i had made involved the outdoors. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? type a personality syndrome really killed my spirits this day. we also spent a few morning hours and a few post siesta hours walking along las heras looking for the ‘perfect’ mate (mah-tay, not meight) for my parents. didn’t think we were ever going to find it. 7 hours later, we did.

thursday 11.17energizada [energized] kayaking in the tranquil lake in portrerillos and ziplining in the pre-cordilleras of the andes? crossing the river UPSIDE down on the last zipline? WONDERFUL. i think we all felt like we could take on the world.

friday 11.18entretenida [entertained]. friday morning we got up and headed to maipú to do a biking tour of the camino de vinos. a set of at least a few dozen vineyards and wineries, mapiú is famous for its bike and wine tours. we rented bikes from mr. hugo, a large friendly man who has established himself among the tourist crowd. we set out by about 10.30am and by 6pm had made it to about a half a dozen of these bodegas. a couple of tours, a few wine tastings, a wonderful lunch among the vines, and a good 20 or so kilometers on bicycle, we had an entertaining day to say the least. we met a bunch of interesting people from all around the world, tried some wonderful wines, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the argentine vineyards.

saturday 11.19agradecida [thankful]. saturday afternoon we rented a car and headed about an hour and a half south to luján de cuyo, a department within the province of mendoza. i booked my parents and i a night at a posada (cabin like getaway) at the beautiful bodega salentein. it was so nice to get away from the hustle of the city, the craziness of my host-family’s house, and be able to fully relax. saturday evening we were able to go on a horseback ride at sunset through the vineyards and a walnut farm. later that night, we were served a delicious four course meal that had been paired with a few of the bodega’s own wines. i walked around our place in a robe, slept like a princess in a comfortable bed, and woke up more relaxed and more content that i’ve felt in the past four months. the next morning we got up, had a wonderful breakfast again in the posada’s restaurant with a view of a beautiful part of the vineyard, and then headed back down to the main part of the bodega for a tour of the actual production part of the vineyard. what a wonderful experience.

*also saturday, i realized how incredibly thankful i am for the (somewhat) sane parents i have. my parents, susy and i went to the grocery store on saturday morning to pick up a few things for the asado (barbecue) we were planning on having for my parents sunday afternoon. susy was running around the store, leaving her cart here and there, picking up items, losing her cart, asking me to help her find it, and asking the store clerks to comply with her impossibly requests. after we had finished our shopping, i found susy and asked her if she was ready to check out. she said yes. we got in line. she put her cart in line and went back into the store to pick up a few more things. the closer her unoccupied cart got to the front of the line, the more nervous i got. i knew that if she didn’t make it back in time and if someone would have moved her cart off to the side, she would have made a big deal about it. couldn’t wait to prove to my parents the fact that i have been living with a crazy for the past few months. well, i was right. she didn’t get back before her cart got to the front of the line. and she made a big deal about it when she did get back. my parents and i had a good laugh about that one from a couple of aisles away.

sunday 11.20abrumada y frustrada [overwhelmed and frustrated]. sunday was an incredibly overwhelming day. during our tour at salentein it started pouring. the beginning of our drive home was the same way. we got home around two in the afternoon and i was overwhelming happy to see that susy had almost everything ready for the asado. the table was set, the meat was just about done cooking, her homemade empanadas smelt wonderful and looked perfect. all that was missing was my friends, my parents, and a couple of susy’s friends. everyone arrived around 2.30 and we started serving the meat – blood sausage, ribs, some sort of gland, and any other part of a cow you could possibly think of. nothing like exposing your parents to the local culture than through a little gastronomic adventure. it was so good for my parents to meet my friends, a couple of susy’s friends, and get a little glimpse into the things i’ve come to love about argentine culture. the frustration didn’t set in until susy’s friend insisted on taking us on a drive into the mountains. having not done anything all week, i actually needed to sit down and prep for an oral presentation, and just relax a little after a jam-packed week. my parents, too, wanted to get back to their hotel, pack up their stuff, and just relax a little bit as well. after what turned into an hour and a half journey around town into the foothills of the andes, and an insistent invitation for tea, what would have been another 2 hour commitment, at least, i was more than frustrated with susy’s persistence. the tears, of course, started streaming. so, with my parents who were just as frustrated, i hid in my room, trying to avoid having to explain through my tears why we didn’t want to sit down for afternoon tea. its nothing personal, susy, i promise, it’s just we’ve been here since 2pm, it’s now 9pm and we’ve had enough. ugh.

monday 11.21 triste [sad]. i would have loved it if my parents could have stayed just a few more days. there is so much to see and do in this wonderful country, we could have traveled around for months. and even though our time together was short, it sure was nice though to have them in town, to be able to have adult conversations in my own language over numerous bottles of wine, and to be able to share with them the life i’ve been living in mendoza this semester. just a few more finals, a trip to uruguay and some time in buenos aires and before i know it, i’ll be home in mn, curled up on the couch under a blanket, packing up my room to move into my new house, and preparing for the first day of the winter quarter back in denver. i’m torn. HOME sounds wonderful.  however, this experience has been the best 5 months of my life. even just in these past couple weeks, i’ve re-encountered my love for this city, this country and its people MULTIPLE times. i don’t know how i’m going to live without it. 

today.

today i paid a peso to use the microwave in the cafeteria. today i had a good laugh about that one.

today susy accused the maid of stealing a wig. today i told her i didn’t understand why the maid would steal the wig, she tried to rebut my argument but had nothing solid to argue.

today i took an incredibly LONG exam to hopefully certify my spanish language skills.

today i had my last class of literatura hispanoamericana II.

today is also friday.

and if today is friday, tomorrow is saturday, the next day is sunday, the day after that is is monday, and the day after that is tuesday. tuesday is when my parents come. which means today i’m really happy.

‘don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.  -cherokee indian proverb’

election day.

today is the day. today is that day, according to the first primary election in argentina’s history, that the current president christina fernandez kirchner will be re-elected for another four years in office. i guess we’ll find out later tonight. i know it will be the only thing on the news for the next week or so. although politics is normally a completely taboo topic amongst friends and family here in argentina, lately i’ve heard more and more about the presidential race and dirty politics of this country. the dirt includes: parties driving people to the ballots and then paying them $25 to vote for said party, gifting computers to 17 year olds who would be 18 at the time of elections, going into poor slums and giving members of the villas miserias (as they are referred to here) one shoe, promising to bring the other half of the pair once elections are over. i’m not a history buff and couldn’t properly explain to you some vital information that would help you understand a little more the significance of this election and the meaning of argentine politics as a whole, so take a look at emily’s blog, a friend of mine from the program who does a really great job explaining the mess that is this nation’s political system.

despite all of the dirty politics, insane campaign propaganda, required cut off of said propaganda as of yesterday morning, and the cut off of liquor sales as of 6pm last night (a complete wrapping off with caution tape of the liquore aisle in the grocery store to assure that there is ABSOLUTELY no drinking and voting. ha) i think the thing that is really getting to me is the obligatory vote. yes, i think that voting is an incredibly important part of our civic duty as citizens of a country and believe that everyone, if able, should take part in a country’s elections. i’m just having a hard time grasping how argentina, a country of about 42 million people is capable of organizing and maintaining a non-electronic election (as far as i’m aware) when the sunday afternoon rush of 50 people at the grocery store is too much for them to handle.

this, too, shall pass.

They warned us plenty of times that when studying abroad, there would be good weeks, and there would be bad weeks, happy days and sad days, frustrating moments and rewarding ones, too. This week was a rough one, without a doubt.

I started this post sitting home alone on a Friday night having ordered pizza (my Spanish skills are to the point where I can have a solid phone conversation and that’s something I’m incredibly proud of) from a restaurant which delivers some of my favorite foods including some delicious papas fritas, some super good empanadas, and my favorite Sunday meal, pollo con chimichurri. After devouring my fair share of the pizza muzzerella, I searched through the online movie database Cuevana and found a movie called ‘The Better Life’, a story of Mexican immigrants in the US, a tear jerker to say the least, just what I wanted. I pulled out all of the stops in order to try and overcome my terrible case of homesickness that’s got me loca this week. How could I be homesick and bumming around in such a beautiful place where I wake up in the mountains, speak Spanish all day long and occasionally sip on wine from local grapes? Here’s why.

After a great weekend in Chile, we got back into Mendoza Monday night around 8:30pm. After a long day of travelling and a near death experience on the edge of curve number 22, I was exhausted and happy to be home. I was happy to be home, but not excited to retell the tales of my weekend. Along with the explanation of the fact that we went to Chile without any real plans and therefore ended up walking around the city of Viña del Mar on Saturday for a few hours looking for a place to stay, apparently came the invitation to Susy for all sorts of critiques of our so called ‘winging it’. ‘I wondered why you didn’t plan out where you were going to stay, what you were going to do, and when you were going to come back before you left for Chile. Especially with the long weekend.’ Okay, yeah, maybe we overlooked the fact that it was a long weekend and it might be a little hard to find a place to stay in the beautiful resort town of Viña with all the Argentines have fled across the border to celebrate Día de la Raza, but also we were a group of 6 intelligent 20ish year old girls and we figured we’d play it by ear so we wouldn’t be so restricted by a schedule. After all, that’s what travelling is all about, improvising. It’s nice to see you too, Susy.

Here’s what I’ve discovered this week. Living in someone else’s house is really emotionally restricting. I can’t cry, I can’t go to Susy and explain to her how I’m feeling. My problems are nothing compared to the emotions I know she is feeling because of the recent death of her novio. I have no one to go to and just vent. And I’ve tried with Susy, but it doesn’t work. She’d rather tell me about the latest gossip within her circle of friends or the most recent drama of Tinelli (the name she gives a scandalous local dance show). She’d rather talk than listen. The fact that emotions are incredibly hard to explain in another language doesn’t make it any less restricting. ‘I just had a really rough day and  don’t feel like sitting and chatting with you and the 5 other sixty-five year old friends that are here for afternoon tea’ just doesn’t sound the same in Spanish. I haven’t figured out how to explain to Susy that the fact that I don’t really want to sit and talk for an hour is nothing personal. It’s just that I’m exhausted and would love a nice little siesta after a long day of class. Because of these obstacles, I just have to keep it all inside. Let’s just say that’s not helping my slight wave of homesickness.

So, in the spirit of Argentine Mother’s Day (3rd Sunday in October) and my realizations after this long week, here’s a shout of to my WONDERFUL Mom! Thanks for always being there to let me cry. Thanks for listening. Thanks for paying attention to me when I have something to tell you, regardless of the fact that half of the stories I tell you, you probably aren’t entirely excited about. Thanks for taking my side (most of the time) when I tell you about something that happened to me. It’s really hard to not get annoyed when every five seconds the person you are trying to tell your stories to has to run off to let the dog in, go to the bathroom, call a friend, or remember to take her antibiotic for her sore throat. So thank you, Mom from the bottom of my heart, for always being there.

Here’s what else I’ve discovered this week. Living with someone who is not your mom is not only emotionally, but also socially restricting. I think I really take for granted the fact that I go to school out of state and live by myself. It’s a whole different world when you live with your family and commute to school. Here’s why I couldn’t live at home during college. After a long day at school this week; a CELU Spanish exam placement test, Spanish class, Improv rehearsal and Improv class, I headed straight from UNCuyo to meet up with a couple girls from Social Control and Violence class to study for our midterm that we had to take Thursday afternoon (My first midterm exam, mind you. An exam that covered almost three months of material on argentine political history, criminal law, current legislation, human rights, the Argentine constitution and all sorts of other related and equally challenging topics). I totally spaced and didn’t send Susy a message letting her know that I was studying and wouldn’t be home until later. When I got home she made it clear that she was not happy not only with the fact that I hadn’t been home all day, was getting home late, and hadn’t sent her a message letting her know my whereabouts. Okay, so maybe I should have sent her a short message letting her know I would be home late. But to be fair, she also never sent me anything to see if I was okay or if I was coming home soon. Like I said, I really take for granted my independence. That afternoon, I had plans to meet up with a friend that night as well and when I suggested to Susy that I just wanted to have something light for dinner before I went out she was appalled, and she didn’t think twice to make it obvious. She didn’t understand the fact that I didn’t need an extensive meal and that an omelet would be perfectly fine. So I sat and waited patiently while she gasped at the fact that all I was going to have for dinner was a ham and cheese omelet and got frustrated when I told her I was heading out to hang out with a friend. I know I’m an old soul, but hanging out with Susy wasn’t on my agenda for Wednesday night and I think I hurt her feelings. Too much to handle this week. Too much.

To top off all of my emotional distress, it just happens that this week I got to deal with the head of the theater department. How in the world could I have done that, you ask? Well, I didn’t think it was possible either. Until I showed up at my Improv class on Wednesday and the first thing the professor says is, ‘Tito, el director, quiere hablar con voz.’ Great, just what I wanted to hear, the director of the theater department wants to talk to me. As I walk up the stairs to his office, I already know what he is going to talk to me about. I made a comment to one of the IFSA program staff who is the tutor for the classes in the facultdad of artes y diseño. BAD IDEA. I told her about my not so great experiences in the class, the fact that the professor not only corrected my use of the improper article (its un corazón, not una corazón… yeah I’ll never forget that one) but also proceeded to say, ‘No entiendo porque me mandan chicos norteamericanos queines no pueden hablar el español.’ (I don’t understand why they keep sending me American students who can´t speak Spanish.) Last time I checked, Claudio, my accidental mistake regarding the proper article of the word heart didn’t invalidate my language skills. But then again, what do I know. Regardless of whether or not corazón is feminine or masculine, I think yours might have gone missing. Seem a little harsh? Eh, no. When I mentioned to him that I didn’t want my acting skills (or lack thereof) or my language difficulties to affect the grade of the other members of my group, he oh so kindly suggested that we come up with a creative way to avoid these problems. What was his suggestion? That I play the dead guy. NOT KIDDING. Needless to say, I’m a little bitter. So after a recap of all that had happened in the class and my frustrations with the professor, who also shows up at least a half an hour late every class, demands that we silence our cell phones, and then interrupts his completely unorganized and unplanned lecture to not only take a phone call but have a full conversation with a friend during class, I walked into Tito’s office prepared to explain my frustrations. Easier said than done. I asked him, trying to sound like I had no idea how he found out about my frustrations, what he wanted to talk to me about. He asked me what had happened in the class and why I was feeling frustrated. I told him a couple of the stories, the one about the misuse of an article and the anti-American sentiment. He insisted, without hesitation that his comments were meant to be lighthearted, jokes I guess you could say. I explained to him that regardless of whether or not those were jokes, the comments didn’t exactly make me want to perform in front of the class. Why don’t you just go back to class, enjoy the rest of the semester and have a better attitude about the class. Talk to your professors; let them know how you feel. I talked to them already and they didn’t mention anything about your difficulties with language, the only thing they mentioned is that you talked to them at the beginning of the class and you are going to be here until the end of the semester so you won’t have any problems getting a grade for the class. Hold on, wait, WHAT? You talked to the professors to get their side of the story before you talked to me. Okay well, thanks a lot. Now I look like an idiot who has been talking behind the backs of my professors. And, yes, I have been. But I really didn’t need for them to find out. Lesson learned, I guess. When I talked to the IFSA staff member, my only true intentions were to advise them not to have any future IFSA students take the course. Not only is the professor not the biggest fan of American students, the class is only worth 3 credits and I’m spending 5 hours in class each week and another 4 hours minimum outside of class rehearsing. All of that and I’m not even guaranteed a Hollywood debut? You’ve got to be kidding me. We do have to present our version of a Latin American short story at a bar, so at least I will be having my Argentine theater debut. Whatever that’s worth.

I apologize for the extremely bitter and pessimistic tone of this post. Please forgive me a have a good laugh. I’m sincerely trying.  Today was better; we had an excursion with our program to a couple of local vineyards. The weather was perfect, the wine was wonderful and the lunch they served us outside amongst the vines under the beautiful Argentine sun was spectacular. I’m so incredibly blessed to be living here and even more blessed to be learning. I’m Learning not only the proper articles for my slowly expanding Spanish vocabulary (corazón is masculine, don’t forget that one!), but I’m also learning a lot about myself. As cheesy as it may sound, I’m learning how to be patient, how to be understanding, how to be humble, and how better to live in a culture that is not my own. And that’s what I’m here for, to STUDY abroad, to LEARN. Regardless of what I’ve actually learned in my classes, I’ve learned a lot. Period. So here’s to the ups and the downs, the good days and the bad days, the happy moments and the sad ones, all for learning’s sake.

CHILE, po.

I’m heading to Chile this weekend. We’re hopping on a bus in about 4 and a half hours and heading west across the Andes. First stop, Santiago. We’re hoping to make it to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Flying by the seats of our pants on this trip. I absolutely cannot wait to see another beautiful country in South America! Check back next week for lots of pictures and updates!