I can’t get over how beautiful this city is, nestled among the foothills of the breathtaking Andes mountains. It was a little cloudy today but yesterday morning I went for a run around and the snow-covered mountains were BREATHTAKING. I can’t believe this is my backyard. This afternoon my host mom, her novio’s daughter in law and her two daughters (Matidle is the little dark shadow in my picture) and I went on a walk in the park. It’s the little things that make me feel more and more like I belong here; after lunch I brought out my Crayola’s and colored with the little ones, teaching Matilde the colors in English (adorable…you should hear her say orange). I ran through the park playing games and admiring birds. With little moments like these, I feel at home here, I feel comfortable, a feeling I had never expected to come so soon.
Another thing that makes me feel at home here, the Mendocino way of life. Let me tell you, some things have been hard to get used to (wait for my upcoming post.. I’ve got lots to share) but other things I can’t help but love. The fact that the Medocino’s are so welcoming is one of my favorite things about this city. Having a conversation with someone you just met in the street or in the park is not uncommon and unlike it often seems in the United States is not (most of the time at least) the slightest bit creepy. Also, as some of you may know, besos, or gentle kisses on the cheek are the cutom greeting here in Argentina. The best part about these kisses is that they are not reserved for only those you know and love. In fact, they are quite the opposite. A kiss on the cheek is the Argentine handshake, the first interaction between two strangers. Germaphobes beware. It happens ALL THE TIME; take note:
a. I didn’t have class today so I went to check out a little store I had passed by a few times before it closed for siesta. I walked inside and was instantly greeted by the young lady working. After she noticed that I clearly wasn’t from here (my North Face jacket, ‘blond hair’ and stance give it away within 30 seconds) she asked what I was doing here. I told her I was going to be here fore 5 months and would be taking classes at UNCuyo. She then told me that she, too, studies there in the school of Political Science. One of the classes I am taking is located in that school. The store she works at just happens to be located in the front room of her house and so, with such wonderful Mendocina spirit, she told me to come by if I ever need anything, if I want suggestions on where to go, or if I need help with any of my classes. With a beso for my new friend, I left, knowing that if I ever need anything I have at least one place where I can go.
b. This afternoon on our way through the park, we stopped at a little exercise park so the girls could climb around. As the girls and I played around the equipment, two men were doing sit-up and pull-ups on our makeshift ‘playground’. After the typical 30 second observation period, the older of the two asked, ‘De donde sos, no sos de aca, ¿no?’ (Where are you from? You’re not from here, are you?). After giving my automatic response and general biography, we continued talking for quite a while. I found out that the son is studying at UNCuyo and, like me, is studying Accounting. The older man, the father was a Physical Education teacher and they are from the far Southern tip of Argentina. After about ten minutes of great conversation, they decided to get back to their workout regimen and we decided to head home. Not without, of course, besos; kisses to two strangers I just met.
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.