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. 

foto del día – 8.26.11

The Chilenos are in town, and they brought their chilean slang. Five students from DU, including one of my best friends, Kristin (pictured above) are here in Argentina this weekend. Because of the nationwide shutdown that occurred on Wednesday and Thursday as a result of the national riots for better public education, the IFSA students studying in Valparaiso were given a five day weekend. So, instead of sitting on their couches and watching countless hours of trashy US television online, they decided to make the what turned out to be eleven hour bus ride across the Andes. Yesterday, they got to spend some time walking around the city, checking out local restaurants and a chocolate factory. Today, they are headed to Portreillos to hike and do the zip-line tour that I did a couple weeks ago. Tomorrow they have a bodega tour planned that includes a couple local vineyards and an olive oil farm. A few of us who live here in Mendoza are going along for the ride!

It’s so nice to have visitors in South America and see familiar faces! When Kristin and I sat down in our freshman seminar class about Popular Poetry two years ago, I never would have thought we would meet up in South America. But, here we are, speaking Spanish, eating empanadas and laughing over a wonderful glass of Argentine vino.

please forgive me, i’m converting.

Dear gods of type-A-anity and all of my fellow type-A followers,

Please forgive me; I’m converting. Why, you ask, would anyone give up order, reason, and planning for disorganization and chaos? SANITY. It’s nearly impossible to live a type-A life in a predominately type-B country. As I sit  here at one of my new favorite cafes (recommended by my host mom) and try to create a color coded excel spreadsheet of my schedule for the entire semester (I blame my accounting brain for this), the Argentine’s are busy living perfectly successful lives sans aforementioned carefully calculated spreadsheets and to-do lists. So as I realize I’m missing out, I’m slowly (very very slowly) converting to what I like to call type-B-anity. Who knows… by December, I may be a fully fledged type-B. BEWARE.

Sometimes I wonder how a country can function with so little planning and a great lack of internal organization. Although I haven’t quite exactly figured out how, one thing I have figured out is somehow, it just does. As I try to explain to my host mom how much I have to learn when it comes to living my life so haphazardly all she can do is laugh and mutter, “María, somos un país MUY desordenado. Pero por lo menos, funciona.” (Mariah, we are a VERY disorganized country but, for the most part we get by just fine.)

There are a couple parts of my new life where this lack of order has been incredibly prevalent and also somewhat trying. First off, figuring out my classes has been a struggle, to say the least.

Reason #1.The US education system allows most students to take classes in multiple disciplines from different colleges within one University and allows students to choose professors and a schedule they like. Argentine students on the other hand decide long before they even attend university what they will study. After choosing a carrera (similar to a major), they are given a strict set of classes that they must pass in order to receive their degree. Each semester, students in each carrera take a number of classes; all together, in the same building with the same professor. Their schedule works because they all take these same classes; hopping from one materia or class within the same college is NO problem at all. You should see their faces when I try to explain the fact that I’m taking classes in the theater department (Improvisation – stay tuned for HYTERICAL accounts from this class), the school of social work, and the school of language and philosophy. As American students with a very different system of credits and various requirements, integrating into this system automatically creates problems.

Reason #2. I have to find classes that will actually transfer back to the University of Denver.

Reason #3. Because I am taking classes in various carreras, I have to find classes that don’t overlap. This has proven to be one of the most difficult feats. WHY?

a. At any moment professors have and take full advantage of their right to change the time and location of his or her class.

b. Although all of the facultades or colleges fall under the umbrella of the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, each college functions completely independently – each with its own politics and personality.

c. The only place to actually find class schedules is inside of each individual facultad, usually posted on a wall on the second or third floor on some arbitrary wall or bulletin board.

–I’ve made it through the week and have figured out a schedule that works, more or less..I don’t start class until 1pm at the earliest but I also don’t finish with class until 7 or 8 at night, 9pm on Mondays. I’ve had some great encounters with local students; they say they can pick out exchange students immediately (the fact that I arrive 20 minutes early to each class may have something to do with it) and have been great at  helping me integrate into their facultades. I’ve also had a good laugh about the fotocopiadora (copy center) which produces thousands and thousands of (illegal) sets of copyrighted academic material each day. Students here don’t buy books, instead, at the beginning – or at least within the first month- of each semester each professor creates a folder of all of the required reading material and bring it to the fotocopiadora. From this master set, each student requests a copy and pays almost nothing for material that would normally put them out thousands of pesos. I can’t do anything but laugh and hop in line to get my very own copy.–

When else did my type-A personality kick my butt? This past weekend was especially type-B-esque. A few of us from IFSA had planned to go to Potrerillos, a small mountain town with hiking and beautiful hiking and a crystal clear lake. A few of us tried to go Saturday but unfortunately didn’t get spots on the bus. So Sunday, we tried again; set our alarms for the break of dawn and made our way to the bus station by 7:00am to secure a spot on the bus that was set to leave at 8:25am. After a brisk morning speed walk to the bus station about 35 minutes from my house, we were able to purchase out tickets ($AR 8.70 a piece. I’ll let you Google that conversion!) for the 1.5 hour ride to Potrerillos. The catch? We couldn’t purchase return ticks. The man behind the counter insisted we could just purchase tickets with the driver on our way back, when the bus was headed back from Potrerillos at 4:30 that afternoon. The fact that this bus has somewhat of a set schedule was a miracle as I should have been extremely thankful but the fact that one girl in our group has been sold a return ticket that morning made me somewhat skeptical. We made it to platform 48 just in time. Our bus, schedules to leave at 8:25am was pulling out of the terminal at 8:05, ahead of schedule. After an absolutely wonderful day in the mountains, we headed to the bus stop around 3:45 to ensure that we didn’t miss the 4:30 bus (the next one wasn’t going to leave until 6:00pm). As promised, I was able to purchase my ticket and secure one of the last seats on an over-crowded bus back to Mendoza.

“La vida pasa mientras hacemos planes.” (“Life happens while we are making plans.”) I couldn’t have stumbled upon a better quote as I try to make what has proven to be a difficult cultural adjustment. In Argentina life happens – without notice, without careful planning, and sometimes without reason. And although I’ve never been comfortable living like this before, I’m learning (slowly) to fly by the seat of my pants and to live on the edge. I’m becoming a born-again TYPE-B.

foto del día – 8.7.11

A bunch of us took the bus to Potrerillos today, a small town nestled in the mountains about an hour and a half bus ride (only costing $AR8.70 or US$2.12 each way) away from Mendoza. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking; snow covered mountains, crystal clear water, and the rocky cliffs all within arm’s reach. I would say this is one of the most beautiful places I have been in my life. The pictures don’t do it justice but because I loved this place so much, here are a few.

i figured out how to use the panoramic feature on my camera & this is what i was surrounded by all day today.

ziplining over the beautiful crystal blue water!

beautiful lake in the middle of potrerillos

Cat (also a student from the University of Denver) and I after our AMAZING canopy tour through the Andes.